“We’ve all got the power in our hands to kill, but most people are afraid to use it. The ones who aren’t afraid, control life itself.” – Richard Ramirez, AKA The Night Stalker. Human serial killer.
“Are you sure this is okay? We can’t be seen?” Cicepia asked nervously as she stared at the small display in the Endurance’s cockpit.
“Only if they look up and can see through clouds,” Elias said. “Or if they’re actively scanning using something old school, like radar, but we’d be able to detect that.”
“And how are we supposed to find them through all this?” Cicepia asked. “Normally we’d be using a ground search or cameras, but they’re not feasible here. And this area is a known hideout for all sorts of criminals fleeing the law.”
“Well, it is a dark and stormy night,” Elias said far too brightly. “Hopefully they’ll all either be laying low or out doing their criminal crimes somewhere that isn’t here.”
“Criminal crimes?” Sync asked.
“Okay, it’s a tautology, I still like the way it sounds,” Elias said. “Maybe I’ll use it as an album title one day.”
Sync shook his head and refocused on flying the ship through the storm, or rather, above the storm clouds. Beneath them, Cicepia could see a sea of roiling black cloud, with the occasional flicker of lighting arcing across from one area of cloud to another. “Cicepia, Elias said you had a vision?”
“Something like that,” Cicepia said. “Talia seems to have the ability to share what she’s perceiving with someone else. She did it with Elias back at McTurians and shes shared some of what’s been happening with me. I don’t know if she knows she’s doing it though.”
“She did at the restaurant,” Elias said. “Horoponia scolded her for it. She couldn’t get Talia out of the restaurant fast enough after that.”
“And you saw a man come and take Talia?” Sync asked.
“I’m pretty sure it must have been the same man. They were in the kitchen, the blood was already there. And he said something about them playing a game. Him and Horoponia. But… ‘the only problem is she forgot to say “Simon Says”’.”
“Simon Says, eh?” Elias said. “Sounds like an old earth game.”
“Yeah, I played that as a kid.”
“I can add it to my search filters, but I don’t know if that’ll turn up anything,” Elias said.
The world flickered.
She was cold, and the van had come to rest in the middle of a dark place with high stone walls. The man left the car and came around to her side of the vehicle, opening an umbrella to shield her from the rain. He was tall. Maybe not as tall as mother, but taller than grandma.
“It’s all right,” he said. “It’s all right little one. I’ll get you something to eat and I’ll read you a story before before bedtime.”
The man’s omnitool cast a dim light before them, and what Cicepia first took for a large rock turned out to the the side of an old ship, battered and not well maintained. She wasn’t even sure if it was spaceworthy. The man walked up to a panel, and his fingers went to punch in a code on the numberpad. She strained to see the numbers but the light was bad and Talia looked away into the darkness behind her.
No Talia, look at the panel, the panel—
The world flickered.
“It happened again, didn’t it?” Elias asked.
Cicepia nodded. “She’s still with him. He’s right near some run down ship. I don’t know if it’ll fly. I’m hoping it’s as much of a junker as it looks.”
Elias hit a one of the comm buttons. “Hey Drimi, are you any good with the sensor array on this thing?”
“Sensors, yeah, I know a thing or two about them. Why?”
“We need to find an old junker hidden somewhere in this network of caverns. Can you help with that?”
“I’ll see what I can do. Any idea what class or ship type it is?”
Cicepia pushed forward. “It’s an Athabasca class freighter. Old.”
“Sure… give me a sec.”
From the other end of the comm link Cicepia could hear the rustle of fabric as Drimi worked away on his virtual console. “I think I’ve got something – there’s a metal mass that could be an Athabasca class freighter less than 3 clicks from our ground position. I’ll send you a nav point.”
“Thanks Dree,” Sync said.
“Anytime, bossman. Hey, if this is the ship you’re looking for, we might want to approach discreetly, you know?”
“Noted,” Sync said. “We’ll land back from its position and approach on foot.”
“I’ll suit up.”
“I’m coming with you, Sync. From what I’ve heard, you’re walking into an unknown ship with a bunch of potentially deranged biotics. I’m good on both counts.”
“Okay man, it’s your funeral.”
“Hey, you don’t get the monopoly on pulling dangerous shit, boss.”
Sync laughed. “Noted. Just be careful.”
“Same to you.”
Five minutes later, they assembled by the personnel ramp, everyone nervously fiddling with their gear.
“Does anyone else find this ship design strange?” Cicepia asked. “There isn’t an armoury and you’d think the exit would be in the cargo hold.”
“This one thinks this ship was built for civilian use.”
“Technically I am a civilian,” Elias said. “Drimi did you get anything on the scanners?”
“About eight humanoid lifesigns on board. Mostly up the front end or near the centre of the ship.”
“Everyone stay sharp,” Cicepia said. “He could be pushing drugs onto these kids and if he’s got hold of some Minogen X we could be in trouble.”
“Minogen X?” Elias asked.
“A biotic booster, but it’s easy to overdose—and overdoses are usually fatal. It can also induce hallucinations. We had an issue a while back with a ring smuggling it in from Omega.”
“Right, note to self, avoid Minogen X.”
“Good plan,” Cicepia said. “Based on how this man was talking to Talia, I’d suspect he’s building himself a cabal of pliable biotics. I don’t know if he sells them or is creating a replacement family though. If he’s been keeping them around for a while, they may be indoctrin—brainwashed.”
“If they’re lucky,” Sync said. “Brainwashing is often reversible.”
“So, um… anyone have a way of blocking biotics? You know, preventing them from being used?”
Drimi nodded. “I can create opposing fields to damp their use of biotics. I showed Sync how to do it too.”
“I’m not great at it but I’ll try my best,” Sync said.
“I suggest killing them dead,” Arkara said. “It’s the best way I know.”
“Which way are we going in?” Anar asked, his mech creaking as he walked towards the ship exit. “The Athabasca typically has three. Passenger entry, cargo and emergency side port.”
“Did anyone buy that Cison Pro Mark Four toothbrush?” Elias asked brightly. “No? Well, guess the emergency side port is out.”
“Well, if the life signs are up front, it makes sense to sneak in the cargo hold.”
“Going in guns blazing worked well at the factory,” Sync said.
“This madman isn’t a reaper though, and he has my kid.”
“Fair call. What do you want to do?”
“We should go in as stealthily as possible.”
“This one is very stealthy. Especially if this one floats up towards the ceiling.”
“I just got my tactical cloak working again,” Elias said. “I haven’t had time to test it, but that’ll help keep me out of sight, at least.”
“These are kids we’re dealing with,” Cicepia said. “I’d like to avoid bloodshed if possible.”
“Except for the one who took Talia,” Arkara rumbled.
“Except for him, yes.”
“So, cargo hold then?” Elias asked.
“Unless…can you hack into their systems to open the doors and prevent any alarms going off?”
“Well, you’d have to be on the other side of the doors for that typically,” Elias said. “Unless they have really insecure wifi.”
“They might, the ship is really run down,” Cicepia said.
“Or it might just looks run down,” Anar said. “When this one did mercenary work, we liked ships that appeared to be old and battered. It made them less noticable.”
“I was thinking that too,” Sync agreed.
“Well, we won’t know until we get there,” Cicepia said. “Let’s move out.”
The outside of the ship was exactly as Cicepia had seen—as Talia had seen. It was battered with streaks of rust and chipped paint, and there were no external lights on at all. There had been some attempt at disguising the craft with netting, branches and painted canvas, and to the casual observer, it probably would have been enough to disguise the craft, lying as it was in the shadow of a canyon wall. The cargo doors were large, heavy and set to open outward, providing both a ramp in and cover from the elements. As Elias pushed ahead towards the door, his armour flickered and shifted into the grey-blue patterns of urban camouflage. For a moment, he crouched by the door, and then padded over the left and side of the doors. A flash of lighting cast him in stark relief, almost washing out the glow of his omni-tool as his fingers flickered over the virtual display before the doors opened smoothly on well oiled hinges and swung open, the gloom inside the ship only being different from the gloom outside in that it was drier.
The room inside was dusty, and it tickled the back of her throat, making her want to cough. Then the doors closed up behind them, plunging them all into complete darkness.
“Anar, any time you want to start glowing that would be great,” Cicepia said. “Actually, your mech has floodlights, right? You can maybe get in your mech and turn on the floodlights?”
There was no answer. Taking a step forward she heard her footstep echo around the room. No other footfalls fell to greet hers.