This one is shorter than the last few. It is also a cliffhanger! Oh no! Enjoy. The next one likely won't be up until tomorrow. Also, sorry about the long gap. But now I am back on track and will endeavor to keep these daily updates coming! As always, feedback is appreciated as I am going to be looking at using some parts of this for my Uni applications.
The Agent sat up rubbing his temples. He did not like these dreams. They had not bothered him for the past year, but now, with the Butcher, with Lian, they were back. He had had three in the past three nights.
It was getting in the way of his sleep. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, and got up. Today was the day. Today Kral and Lian would be arriving with Lian’s passenger, her person to meet.
He stood up and pulled on his clothes. The war was going so very slowly.
Callion’s new wonder fleet had been delayed by constant harrying from Earth Council fleets and raiders. The battle for Mars had remained stagnated, stalemated, no winners on either side.
The entire war had stagnated. Maybe Lian’s person to meet would bring an end to the war, one way or another.
He shook his head as shrugged on his coat. He only pulled on the one gunbelt. He didn’t need to carry his weapons aboard this ship. He was safe here, and even if he wasn’t, he knew that much of the crew would die for him. They all carried weapons. And he knew this ship well enough to get the better of any pursuers.
He knew that he was getting complacent, but right now he didn’t care. This war was the greatest complacency of all.
He buttoned his coat up the front as he stepped out the doors of his chamber. He needed to prepare a secure landing bay for Kral and Lian where he could greet them in peace.
Kral dropped the ship out of the slipstream, and oriented it on Jor’s flagship. He had spent a frosty three days with Lian aboard the ship. She had continually tried to engage him in talk, but it was not working for him. She was friends with the Butcher. That was, at the moment, too much for him.
He could sense her behind him now. She would be sitting in the chair to the left of him and back a ways, third row, as she always did. He knew why she sat back there.
Far enough back that he couldn’t see her without turning to look. On his left side because he was right handed and would have a harder time drawing and shooting her if she betrayed him. Behind him to try and acclimatize him to her presence, make him feel safe with her around and no knife in his back, third row not second so that, as he said before she was far enough back to be hard to spy on, and so that she would have more room to kill him if need be.
And, that seat had direct access to a computer terminal. Direct and easy access. That allowed her to use her extensive slicing skills on the ship, and using that as a booster to get into the Arcernment systems.
But he was fine with that. He had placed an alert into the system, a small snooper program that would follow, trace, tail what she did. It automatically saved it to an external hard drive that was ejected the moment it was tampered with.
It would also set off an alarm if it was tampered with. The system was secure should she prove dangerous to the Arc.
“I deactivated your tracer by the way Kral. It evaded me for a day or so, but then I found all the different features and disconnected them. Sorry”
Kral shook his head in annoyance. The trip had gone much thusly.
“Well, we are landing soon. Go get your cargo ready. I need to get clearance”
“I can get the crates ready when we land. I want to see the approach”
Kral sighed. There would be no getting rid of Lian. He opened a channel to the ship.
“Attention Redeemer, this is Agent Kral. I’m aboard the MET. Please do not shoot it. Requesting clearance to land”
“Attention Unregistered MET. Agent Kral, we were told to expect you. Stand by for docking instructions”
He leaned back in his chair and gripped the controls firmly. In military landings he always landed the vehicle manually. You could never be sure when the fleet might need to jump, or leave, or perform some type of emergency maneuver. You could never be sure when enemies would arrive and throw everything into disarray.
In short, you could never be sure. And the autopilot guidance system could theoretically react to such an event faster than a human pilot could, but when it was locked into a landing Kral just didn’t trust it.
It would try and land his ship through a firestorm if need be. And he preferred to be able to, at any time, take complete control in an instant, know exactly how the ship would react, and not have to deal with another pilot’s meddling as he reacted to the situation.
So he didn’t let the AI take over when landing these ships. It had payed off more than once. He was hoping that it wouldn’t have to pay off this time.
“Attention Kral. You are cleared for docking bay 6. It has been cleared of personnel, so do as you please, but, try not to scratch any paint”
“Will do Comm. Agent Kral out”
Kral smiled as he rolled the ship over onto the right heading. He had thought that Jor would have the bay cleared, and apparently he had been right. Jor would want to have the conversation as soon as possible.
“Why don’t you let the AI take over? Do you not trust computers?”
“Not when I know what you, and people like you can do with them no. But mostly because in a combat situation I want this ship under my control”
“And you always do this?”
Kral didn’t take his eyes off the approach, but he wanted to glare at Lian.
“Why the constant questioning Lian? You’ve been doing it ever since you got on board. I know that you want to be sure that you can trust me before you try and recruit me into whatever crazy terrorist, anti-Arcernment scheme you have going on” he knew that he was being unfair; he was pretty sure that she wasn’t really interested in being a terrorist, but he was pissed “But I’ll save you the time. I don’t like you. I don’t trust you. The only reason that I am doing this is because Jor asked me to. And I trust him with my life. I’d trust him with the lives of most of the Arc’s citizens. But I don’t, can’t, and won’t trust anyone who claims that the Butcher is their friend”
There was a moment of silence before Lian spoke again. When she did her voice was frosty.
“If that is how you feel Kral, then so be it. I won’t ask you again”
Kral didn’t respond. He was looking into the bay. Jor stood atop the gantry, watching the ship come in for a landing. The plastic atmo-shell was down now, but Kral knew that as soon as the bay doors were closed Jor would be opening that shell and coming down to meet them.
“I’ll go check the cargo now. You’d better land the ship and go meet your beloved boss”
Lian got up and marched off for the cargo bay.
Kral ignored her as he spun the ship around to land. It began to settle onto the landing gear when it rocked with an explosion.
As the ship was flung onto its side and Kral’s head smashed against the dashboard, he had the time to think that he knew that Lian was no good. Probably his declaration of loyalty had been what made up her mind to kill him.
But how was she going to escape the exploding ship? Then his head cracked against the dashboard again, and everything went black.
Lian staggered as the ship began to tilt, and threw herself into a roll. She landed against the wall, which was no level, and pushed herself back to her feet.
What had happened? Had Kral hit something? Or was it more sinister? Had they been attacked?
She reached for her gun, then remembered that she had left it behind on the Arc.
“Dammit” She looked both directions down the corridor. To check on Kral, or to check on Iris’ box. Every moment that she hesitated could mean the end of all of them.
Iris. Kral could take care of himself.
She took off down the hallway, jumping over the doorways, not wanting to risk them falling open beneath her. She continued down the corridor until it curved down. She tried to pull to a stop, but she had too much momentum, and ended up sliding down the wall, grabbing at door handles to try and stop herself.
But, she couldn’t catch any of them, and crashed into the divider painfully. Her legs were like fire. She had probably sprained something, but she pushed herself to her feet and limped to the door into the cargo bay. She punched the button to operate it.
It refused to open.
She pushed it again. Again. It refused to open.
She pressed it again, and looked at the readout.
“Containment breach: Area depressurized”
“But, why would it be depressurized? The doors should have closed and… oh no. Jor!”