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  • Mark Meier

Saving Cayn 7

A few minutes later the four William Placard crew members clustered around the airlock. Goofball had no problem bypassing the colony’s external security.

“Yes.” Goofball pumped a fist. “And there we go.”

The hatch swung open. The airlock easily held the four infiltrators, and when pressure built up their support belts switched off.

Carnifor pointed to an access terminal. “Goofball – go.”

The fighter pilot’s eyes glazed as he tried connecting with the internal Node. “Most systems have safeguards, but out-of-the-way colonies don’t have the resources for tight security.” He grinned. “After all, why would anyone come to Cayn to steal something? They don’t have anything.”

The colony’s Node popped up a message hologram asking for a password.

Goofball continued. “More than likely they left the passwords set at the default.” A virtual keyboard allowed inputs, and the third password he entered was accepted. “They didn’t update after installation.” He moved on to schematics, sensors, traffic flow, and finally he pointed to the holo. “He’s in the Admin Dome. That way.”

Carnifor’s eyebrows raised. “Thirty seconds. Not bad.”

“Rare praise. I prefer mine medium-well.”

“Make mine soy,” Carnifor quipped. “There’s a lot at steak.”

Lannetay snickered at the byplay, glad to see Carnifor loosening up. She waved her hand to open the inner airlock hatch and the four entered the colony.

“We should be good for at least a hundred meters.” Goofball followed Lannetay as closely as possible. “Nobody’s in this dome and probably won’t be until nearly the next shift – about two hours.”

They crossed the dome filled with mostly residential buildings a single storey high. A smattering of two-level buildings were clustered toward the center where the dome was higher.

Directly opposite their entrance point was another airlock leading to a dome connected to one of the two central habitats. The larger of the two was the depressurized farm dome. A ring of four domes surrounded those two.

The infiltrators used a nonchalant pace. If someone came across them, sneaking would draw attention.

At the airlock Goofball checked the Node for status updates. “Scanners just cut out. I can’t tell where anyone is, but I still have the colony details.”

Could be a glitch.” Carnifor headed down the corridor toward a residential dome. “Young colony, limited resources, and fixing the farm dome has a much higher priority than maintenance.”

Lannetay didn’t believe in coincidence. Scanner malfunctions right when invaders happened to be crossing the first dome never happened outside of entertainment dramas.

They skirted the edge of that dome, skipped one passage, and edged through an airlock to the corridor leading to the admin center. Olthan kept watch at the end of the four-person parade. He hadn’t brought his rifle, but his massive disrupter pistol rested within reach in its holster.

“That leads to the admin dome.” Goofball pointed to the airlock ahead. He pecked at a nearby virtual keyboard. “I still have access to colony hatches, even if I can’t access their scanners.” The airlock hatches both opened to admit them.

Six buildings filled most of the volume enclosed by the dome. The center structure – a five-sided tower four levels tall – dominated the other five edifices. Those were tucked into the space between the middle building and the dome walls.

Carnifor gave a derisive laugh and pointed to the tallest structure. “Bet that’s the admin center.”

“Either way, that’s where Hyanto is being held.” Goofball pointed up. “Third floor – at least as of the last sensor reading I got from the Node.”

“Why din’t they skip the dome and make the buildings pressurized?” Olthan asked. “They’s close enuf to just stick ‘em together.”

Carnifor threaded his way between two stubby buildings, leading the rest of his compatriots to the central building.

“Less expensive to make one pressure dome and cheaper buildings.” Lannetay was still uneasy at the lack of anybody moving around. Their infiltration was too easy.

Goofball grabbed the handle on the main door to the admin center and paused. “Looks like they managed to make this workplace safe for vacuum.”

The main entrance consisted of reinforced transparent double doors. A portico with numerous access panels suggested space suits and support belts hidden out of sight. Another set of doors three meters within made the vestibule look suspiciously like a rather large airlock.

“Let’s go.” Carnifor slid open the door next to where Goofball waited. A faint sucking sound and brief resistance indicated the seals were airtight.

Beyond the inner doors stood a reception desk. A bored clerk, wearing an outlandish outfit – even by Lannetay’s standards – sat staring into nowhere as he worked with the colony’s Node. His billowing blouse printed with a jungle motif must have included miniature holographic projectors. Small wild animals pranced around the man in a ludicrous ballet, with an elephant performing impossible leaps, caught by a chimp and swung around the man’s back.

He blinked twice as his eyes cleared. “Can I help you?” The creatures stopped dancing and all turned as one to look at the four who had just entered. A giraffe peered over the man’s head.

Olthan and Carnifor leaped at the same moment, the lower gravity letting them easily arc over the chest-high barrier. A quick strike from Olthan, and the clerk slumped in his seat. The animals glared at Olthan – particularly the giraffe.

“Nice job, lance-” Carnifor cut himself off. One of the chimps turned its scowl at him.

“Thanks, s-” Olthan’s reply was accompanied by a smile of camaraderie.

Goofball moved to the display panel the attendant had been using. “No sign of alarm. The Node is still quiet according to what I can access.”

Olthan brought up a set of virtual controls and tapped out a series of commands. “This building’s on a separate Node. Ain’t hardly nobody here. Two guys in the basement, thirty more here and up.”

Goofball connected to the desk. “We can take a lift to level three. There’s three men – unarmed – watching the corridor outside the room with Hyanto.”

“Whattabout him?” Olthan prodded the unconscious clerk with his toe. The man moaned, but otherwise didn’t react. A faux panther licked the man’s cheek, then bared its teeth at the Marine.

“Leave him.” Carnifor marched toward the lift. “We’ll be gone in a minute or two. He should be out for at least that long.”

The lift whisked them to the third floor. Carnifor, Goofball, and Olthan boiled out of the lift car and engaged the three guards. In moments the sentries, each wearing azure unitards, dropped to the floor, senseless.

Lannetay looked at the three. “I thought you said there were three men, Goofball.”

A look of confusion crossed his face. “One, two, three.” He pointed as he counted them off.

“That one’s a woman.”

Carnifor heaved a sigh. “The military now counts everyone the same. Just like they call female officers ‘sir,’ they call every service member ‘men.’ They started that years ago.”

“After I left the service.” Lannetay shrugged. Times changed. It’s only offensive if someone allows themselves to be offended. She was secure enough in her identity.

They pushed open a door, and inside found a nicely-appointed suite – as far as a new colony could have “nice,” at any rate. The sitting room sported three love seats and a recliner. Three doors no doubt led to a master bedroom, guest room, and sanitary facilities. In the middle of the room rested a crib, where a baby less than a year old slept.

“A baby?” Carnifor growled. “We came to rescue a baby? I thought we were after a kid.”

Lannetay picked up the baby. He squirmed a bit, but kept sleeping. Lannetay whispered, “We should go. They’re expecting us.”

“Why do you say that?” Goofball asked.

Holding up an index finger, Lannetay put it to her mouth. “Quiet. We’ll discuss this later, but we need to move out. Now.”

The four filed out into the hallway and stopped. A trio of armed colonists in beige coveralls stood in the hall to the left, another set to the right of the suite entrance.

“Too late,” Carnifor said.

Olthan’s hand twitched toward his side arm, but his weapon remained holstered. Of the six disrupter rifles, four pivoted to cover him.

A man’s voice came from within the suite. “Come back inside, and we’ll discuss your situation.”

Carnifor motioned the others into the suite. Once the rest were inside he edged in and closed the door.

A man in a paisley coverall stood within. He was hunched over due to extreme age. With medical nanites so advanced, Lannetay estimated he must have been nearly two hundred years old.

Lannetay walked half the distance to the man. “Okay, we’re here. What’s the issue?” She patted the back of the baby leaning on her left shoulder.

“The issue is that you’re here to retrieve the child.” The man’s voice remained strong, though his bone structure had deteriorated significantly. His green eyes with red flecks reflected a deep wisdom.

“Yes, we’re here.” Lannetay didn’t offer to replace the baby, and the man didn’t reach for him. “What is your name, and who are you?”

“Interesting choice of questions,” he observed. “Most would think the two are the same.”

Carnifor stepped up beside Lannetay. “You didn’t answer the lady’s question.”

“My name is Gorsh Welling. I’m the governor of this colony. That you’re here is very telling.”

Lannetay sensed Goofball and Olthan spreading out behind her and Carnifor.

Welling glanced from one to the other, then continued. “You notice I didn’t ask for your weapons.”

“Irrelevant.” Lannetay wasn’t in the mood for verbal fencing. “You have us at a disadvantage, so keeping our weapons means nothing.” She tried sending Carnifor a message on their implants. Nothing went through.

Someone must have notified Welling, however. “No, your implants won’t work for the time being.” Welling carefully lowered himself into the overstuffed recliner. “Your ship might have hidden weapons, and I don’t want anyone left aboard flying to your rescue.”

Lannetay bristled. “Then you’d better let us communicate, because our ship will be on the way. They probably lifted off the second our connection broke.”

“We forged a signal.” Welling gave a polite smirk like only the truly aged could. “No Core would be able to tell the difference.”

“How about an AI?” Carnifor asked. “Our ship is on the way.”

For the first time Welling’s eyes betrayed unease. “You have an AI? Who does that?”

“I do.” Lannetay cooed to the baby who had begun to squirm. “Let me talk to my ship.”

Welling waved a hand. “Go ahead.”

Bill?

Lannetay?

Affirmative. If you’re on the way, stand down. We’re condition Tan.

Tan confirmed.

Lannetay moved to put the baby’s crib between herself and Welling. “We’re okay for the moment. Care to tell us what’s going on?”

If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.



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