The second story in the On the Run series.
Luc and Kristin continue their fight against the Snakeheads, making startling discoveries about Luc's past along the way.
Categories: Battle of the Planets Characters:
Mark, Original Character, Other Canon Character
Action/Adventure, Character Study, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, RomanceStory Warnings:
Adult Situations, Blood, Guts & Gore, Death, Mild Adult Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual References, Mild Violence, Sexual Situations, ViolenceTimeframe:
On the Run
This story continues on from Fugitive, and refers to events that occurred in that fic.
1. Chapter 1 by TransmuteJun
2. Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
3. Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun
4. Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun
5. Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun
6. Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun
7. Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun
8. Chapter 8 by TransmuteJun
9. Chapter 9 by TransmuteJun
10. Chapter 10 by TransmuteJun
11. Epilogue by TransmuteJun
Chapter 1 by TransmuteJun
The morning was bright and sunny, and the young woman smiled to herself as she awoke, her brown eyes twinkling as she looked at the young man lying next to her in the bed.
Luc was still sleeping, and Kristin hoped he would stay that way for a while. He had been working on too many assignments for Mattieu, of late, and was utterly exhausted. He deserved a little pampering.
Silently, she slipped out of the bed, tiptoed into the kitchen, and quietly shut the door behind her. Once she was alone, she began pulling things out of the cupboards: flour, sugar, cinnamon, a mixing bowl and spoon. From the cooling unit she took out butter and some blueberries she had purchased at the market yesterday.
Kristin hummed softly to herself as she mixed up a batch of batter. Luc loved her blueberry muffins, and it was the least she could do for him, today. While they were baking, she prepared two cups of café au lait, and sliced a fresh nectarine.
Once the breakfast had been prepared, she put everything on a tray, padding back to the bedroom on bare feet and opening the door as quietly as she could.
Luc was still asleep.
How handsome he looked, with his delicate features and wavy auburn hair. Her eyes lingered on his bare, muscular chest, and her thoughts wandered to the rest of him, hidden beneath the thin cotton sheet. They had begun sharing a bed three months ago, but every time they had engaged in physical intimacy was like the first: fascinating, intense, and overwhelmingly pleasurable.
Kristin blushed at these thoughts, as she carefully set down the tray. She crept back to the bed, leaning down to give him a kiss when suddenly, his strong arms shot up, grabbing her and pulling her down to the cool sheets. In one quick movement, Luc was atop of her, his blue eyes staring intently into hers.
“I caught you.” he grinned.
“I noticed.” she giggled. “And now that you have, whatever will you do with me?”
“I know what I’d like to do with you.” Luc smiled, leaning down to kiss her. Kristin sighed happily, running her palms over the powerful muscles on his back before sliding her hands beneath the sheets to his hips. Luc’s fingers brushed across her flat stomach, exploring upward under the nightshirt she wore, until they tickled and teased at her breasts. His other hand was tangled in her red hair, caressing the silken strands.
“You’re very tempting.” he gasped, rolling back onto his side and pulling her with him. “But something smells even more tempting.”
“I baked blueberry muffins for you.” Kristin smiled at the pleased expression on Luc’s face. “I figured it was the least I could do. I know they’re your favorite.”
“Thank you.” he said gratefully, leaning across her to grab one of the soft muffins and taking a bite before he had even returned to his previous position. “I haven’t eaten much in the last two days, and this is exactly what I needed.”
“I thought that might be the case.” Kristin replied, pulling herself up to a sitting position and picking up the tray. She placed it gently between them on the bed, so they could both partake of the simple meal. “Mattieu plans these operations, but he never thinks about the basics.”
“We could have used you on this one.” Luc said, even as he finished off his first muffin and reached for another. “Henri is good, but he came across a new sort of encryption code. I think the Snakeheads are actually attempting to block our attempts to hack into their systems.”
“Imagine that.” smirked Kristin.
“Amazing, I know,” smiled Luc, “but it shows that they’re onto us. We need to be more careful.” He sighed, looking Kristin straight in the eye.
“I think you should be the one to accompany us, next time.” Luc told her. “Damn Mattieu and his desire to train new agents. We need the best, if we’re going to continue to come home.”
“Home…” Kristin whispered. Luc was right. This place was home. And if they wanted to continue calling it home, they had to protect it… and protect each other.
It had been five months since they had arrived in Corsica. Kristin recalled the first moment she had stepped foot here, nervously clutching Luc’s arm as Andre, the boat captain who had transported them from the mainland, had led them into the town of Calvi. Dawn had been breaking, and the soft orange-pink light had given the houses a delicate halo, and she had found her breath catching at the beauty of it all. Until that moment, she had been afraid: afraid that Andre was an informant, afraid that they were being led into a trap, afraid that she and Luc hadn’t truly escaped from the Snakeheads. But as she had gazed upon the picturesque town, her fears had vanished, and she had known that she had at last found the peaceful place she had been seeking for nearly half a year.
Calvi was different from Paris, in so many ways, not the least of which was in its Mayor: Mattieu Canton. Andre had introduced Kristin and Luc to Mattieu, and the Mayor had greeted them warmly, without hesitation. But when the boat captain had told Mattieu about the Snakehead uniforms they carried, the Mayor’s face had taken on an expression of barely concealed excitement. Luc and Kristin were needed here, in Calvi. Mattieu had been searching for people such as they.
Amazingly, there were no Snakeheads in Calvi, nor in all of Corsica, as Mattieu liked to boast. Of course, after the Invasion, the Spectrans had sent troops to ‘maintain order’, but the island was small, and had fewer than 300,000 Terrans living on it, so there hadn’t been that many soldiers. Throughout its history, Corsica had always been a haven for fighters and revolutionaries, and it had been to the Snakeheads’ detriment that they had discovered this far too late. The Corsicans had dispatched them swiftly, and silently, while at the same time making good use of their communications equipment. A rotating group of volunteers manned the Snakehead ‘base’ on Monte Cinto, the island’s highest peak, regularly communicating with Spectran authorities to assure them that everything was ‘fine’. From time to time, they even requested supply drops, keeping the Terran rebels well supplied with enemy weapons.
Of course, such covert actions were dangerous, but due to the ‘unimportant’ nature of the island, the alien planetary occupying force so far remained unaware of the true state of government on Corsica.
It was this aspect of the French region that made it so suitable for rebel activities. The major Terran rebel strongholds in this part of the world were all located on Mediterranean islands: Corsica, Sicily, Crete… to some extent, these groups coordinated together, but often they simply acted on their own, doing whatever they could to thwart the Snakehead forces. The mission Luc had just returned from had involved commandeering a shipment of uranium that had been enroute to the spaceport in Milan, for transfer to Spectra. Rather than allow the aliens to usurp Earth’s resources, the loose alliance of Terran rebels had decided that the uranium should be diverted for their own use. Each group took turns absconding with the various shipments, and this time it had been Corsica’s turn. The ore Luc’s team had returned with would provide power to the entire island for years.
“The Snakeheads are clearly frustrated that we are constantly making off with their shipments.” Luc revealed. “They had changed their route, as well as their communications protocols. Henri was unable to crack the codes until the very last second, and we nearly walked into an ambush.” Kristin could hear the controlled anger in Luc’s voice. Normally he was calm, and kept his head about him, so this kind of emotional spillover was significant.
“We nearly all died, Kristin!” Luc said angrily, pounding his fist into the pillow. “And for what? A few truckloads of uranium! If I hadn’t been able to regroup and change our strategy…”
“But you did.” Kristin replied soothingly, setting down her cup of café au lait and placing her hands on Luc’s arm. She gently massaged his shoulders, working out the tense knots, desperately trying to ignore the fear that had surged up inside of her at the thought that Luc could have been killed.
“Why am I risking my life for this?” Luc countered. “I would sacrifice anything to drive the Snakeheads away, but for this? It’s not worth it, particularly if I can’t even pick my own team and know whom I can rely on!”
The anger in Luc’s voice frightened Kristin, but deep down, she agreed with him. Their activities hurt the Snakeheads and bettered their own lives, but in the grand scheme of things, they were only as irritating to the occupying force as a gnat, and nothing they had done would truly cause the Spectrans to ever consider abandoning the planet.
Life on Corsica was close to ideal: people smiled, laughed, and enjoyed life. They looked up and said hello to each other when they walked down the street. Children played in the parks. The townspeople met for social gatherings at the beach, or hiked in the nearby mountains. They were self-sufficient, growing their own food, providing their own power, schooling their own children, and taking care of their elderly. But had they been selfish?
The lives of the Corsicans were peaceful, but at whose expense? Luc and Kristin had both gone on numerous missions against the Snakeheads, but those tasks had all been to keep the Spectrans away from Corsica, or to procure resources for the benefit of the Corsicans. Luc and Kristin had been welcomed into the town of Calvi, and Kristin felt an attachment to its people.
But she had lost sight of their goal.
She and Luc had come to Corsica to join the men and women fighting for freedom. Yet the freedom for which they fought was their own, and not that of the entire planet. Certainly she was doing more to fight the Snakeheads than she had when working with Father Richlieu, but she wanted to do more still.
Kristin saw that same desire burning within Luc. He wasn’t looking at the small, immediate problems; he was looking at the ultimate goal.
Luc wanted to drive the Snakeheads away from the Earth, sending them back to the Crab Nebula, never to return. That was what she wanted as well, yet often she had difficulty seeing the big picture, when confronted with these more pressing tasks that presented themselves from day to day.
“If you feel this strongly about it, you should speak to Mattieu.” she suggested. “Perhaps even the Corsican council. I will support you.” Whatever he had done in the military, Kristin knew that Luc had deserved his Commander’s rank. He was a natural leader, and someone the others immediately looked up to, and even deferred to, despite his youth.
Luc smiled at her, relaxing somewhat.
“Whatever would I do without you, Kristin?” he asked. “You always help me see more clearly; help me find the solutions to my problems.”
“You are the one who sees the problems.” Kristin pointed out. “Without you to lead us, Calvi would have lost many more men, in the past few months.”
“I couldn’t have done it without your help.” Luc smiled. “I don’t ever want to be apart from you, Kristin. I love you.”
“I love you too, Luc.” she replied happily, winding her arms around his neck and kissing him lightly.
“I wish I could promise you forever.” he said regretfully. “With our fight…”
“Shhhh…” Kristin laid a finger on his lips. “I know. But we have as long as we have, and we’re going to enjoy whatever that is.”
“If I were to die tomorrow,” he said seriously, “I would want my last memories to be of you, with me, like this.”
“Then, let’s make those memories.” she suggested flirtatiously, and he grinned playfully at her, capturing her mouth with his own.
His hands moved over her body, and before long, her nightshirt was discarded with the remains of their breakfast, as the two of them found pleasure in each other.
It was mid-morning before Luc and Kristin left the house, smiling shyly at each other and holding hands as they walked the short distance to the Mayor’s home. Mattieu Canton lived in a home no bigger or grander than anyone else’s. He was a man of the town, and he worked to better the lives of its citizens.
Luc knocked politely on the door, which was answered almost immediately by Susi, Mattieu’s wife.
“Luc, Kristin! Come on in!” she greeted them. “How nice to see you! Are you here for that marriage license, then?”
Kristin blushed to the roots of her red hair. Susi often teased her about this particular matter, but it was much more embarrassing when she did so in front of Luc.
“Perhaps, soon.” Luc smiled back at the Mayor’s wife, and Kristin felt a thrill run down her spine. She had never heard Luc respond in that way, before. “But today, we need to speak with Mattieu.”
“I understand.” Susi nodded, gesturing for them to come inside. “Please go upstairs. He is in his office.”
“Thank you.” Luc replied, taking the familiar path up the steps.
The Mayor’s office bore little resemblance to the ‘official’ work chamber in the City Hall that Calvi Mayors had used for centuries. Instead, this room was more like a command post, with various computer terminals and monitoring equipment scattered about in a seemingly haphazard fashion. Mattieu was frowning at a display readout as they entered. He looked up to see them standing in the doorway.
“Luc, Kristin, I wasn’t expecting you.” he said. “Is everything all right?”
“Not exactly.” Luc said, sitting in an empty chair while Kristin did the same. “I wanted to speak with you about yesterday’s operation.”
“Yes, well, I am very pleased!” Mattieu said happily. He leaned back in his chair, stretching out his ample frame. “You recovered even more uranium than we had hoped. And there were no major injuries.”
“There could have been.” Luc said seriously. “If Henri had been a few seconds slower…”
“But he wasn’t.” Mattieu interrupted sharply. “I know he wasn’t your first choice for the team,” the Mayor’s eyes darted toward Kristin, “but everyone needs experience to improve, and I think he will make an excellent operative some day.”
“They nearly killed us all, Mattieu.” Luc’s voice was quiet, but there was something in it that set the hair on Kristin’s head prickling. She could tell that Mattieu felt it as well, because the older man immediately sat up, his jovial demeanor disappearing.
“I realize that.” the Mayor responded. “But I need more than one team. I need backup personnel, in case we lose someone…”
“I understand.” Luc nodded. “But there needs to be a better balance on these teams, so that a more experienced person can compensate for someone newer.”
“You are right.” Mattieu sighed. “I would appreciate your input when planning the next mission, Luc.”
“I am always happy to help.” Luc replied.
Kristin sat silently in her chair, watching Luc work magic with his words. It amazed her how he always knew what to say, to get directly to the heart of matters, and he never let anyone prevent him from doing what he thought was right.
“And speaking of the next mission,” Mattieu brightened, “it seems that another squadron of Snakeheads is due to arrive tomorrow, on the government ferry from Nice to Ajaccio. The Mayor there has requested your assistance in dealing with them.”
“I cannot.” Luc sighed. “This is the other matter I came to speak about, with you.”
“What?” the older man was clearly shocked. “But, you have never turned down a task before!”
“I have taken on many tasks.” Luc admitted. “I have done whatever it was that you required of me, in my desire to fight the Snakeheads. But I need to do more.”
“More?” Mattieu was confused. “What more do you wish to do?”
“Don’t you see it, Mattieu?” Luc asked, leaning forward and staring at the Mayor intently. “We are bogged down, in these petty details, while the citizens of Earth are being subjugated by this alien menace!”
“You may call these ‘petty’ details,” Mattieu huffed, “but I am seeing to the welfare of the citizens in my town. We are all safe, and have everything we need, thanks partly to both of your efforts over these past few months.”
“But what about the people in Paris?” Luc asked. “Or those in other parts of France? Or in the rest of Europe? Or in the Americas?”
“We are a small group of men and women.” the Mayor protested. “What can we do on that grand a scale?”
“G-Force was made up of only five people.” Luc pointed out. “And they held the Spectrans at bay for years.”
“And where are they now, hein?” Mattieu retorted angrily. “They died defending us, they were heroes, but they were all we had! They are gone, and we common folk are left to fend for ourselves!”
“We need to do more.” Kristin said quietly. Both men jumped, clearly having forgotten that she was in the room. “G-Force may be gone, but their ideals need to live on. We must fight, not for the good of Calvi, or Corsica, but for the good of the entire planet.”
A heavy silence blanketed the room, as the two men digested her words.
“God is watching us…” Mattieu muttered slowly, running his hands through his graying hair in a distracted fashion. “I never thought that I would actually consider…” His voice trailed off.
“Consider what, Mattieu?” Luc pressed the Mayor for more.
“Two days ago, I received a request for assistance from Chamonix.” Mattieu revealed. “It was a general distress call, sent out to all of the Islands, using our secure communications systems. I had simply put it aside, assuming that it was for someone else to answer; someone with more resources available to them.”
“What is this request?” Luc asked.
“I will show you.” the Mayor said, calling up the file and displaying it on a large monitor on the wall. “It is from a Professor Tremblay. She claims to have worked with Galaxy Security, before the Occupation.”
Luc’s eyes scanned the contents of the message, while Kristin automatically reached for the control panel.
“May I?” she asked politely, to which the Mayor nodded.
Quickly, Kristin began tracing the message, examining all signs and markers it had left during transmission. As Mattieu had said, it had come through the secure communication system, bearing a pre-Occupation Galaxy Security passcode.
“It seems to be legitimate.” she informed Luc. “If it’s not, then the breach occurred because the person doing the transmitting was attempting to deceive us.”
“That’s always a possibility, of course.” Mattieu acknowledged. “We all know that the Snakeheads have many informants, and spies in various places as well. But I find it unlikely that Professor Tremblay would have been investigated. She has no record in the Snakehead files. I’m not sure they even know she exists.”
“The message states that she used to work at a secret underground Galaxy Security laboratory.” Luc related. “The laboratory was closed up during the Snakehead Invasion, to prevent their discovering it, and the valuable data it contains.”
“So what’s the problem?” Kristin asked.
“The laboratory is located underneath Mont Blanc.” Luc told her. “Apparently, the Snakeheads have discovered large uranium deposits near there, and she is afraid that they will come across the facility through their mining operations.”
“So what does she want us to do?” Kristin asked.
“She requested that we send a team to disrupt the mining operations.” Mattieu said.
“That’s not a long-term solution.” Luc mused. “We would somehow have to convince them not to mine there. Create a reason for them to abandon the mine permanently.”
“You are going to do this, aren’t you?” asked Mattieu sadly.
“I must.” Luc told him. “This is important. Who knows what kind of technology was researched there? But if the work was being performed in a secret underground base, you can bet that it was important to the war effort. If the Snakeheads found it…”
“They would use it against us.” Kristin finished for him. “You’re right, Luc, this is important. I… it feels like this mission is calling to me. Does that make any sense?”
“Perfectly.” Luc grinned. “I feel exactly the same way.”
“I’ll transmit a response.” Mattieu sighed. “When do you want to leave?”
Chapter 2 by TransmuteJun
Luc and Kristin stood at the bow of Andre’s boat, approaching the Nice harbor. Soft moonlight filtered through the clouds, giving the city an almost peaceful appearance. But they both knew better. The mainland, nearly the entire planet, was under the control of the Snakeheads. They had to be on their guard, most especially because they were certain that they were wanted by the ‘authorities’ for questioning, due to their somewhat hurried departure from Paris more than five months before.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Andre asked them.
“Yes.” Luc nodded, but he did not say anything more. It was better for all of them if as few people as possible were aware of where they were headed, or why.
“Good luck, my friends.” Andre said quietly, as they hid in the shadows of the deck. A yawning Snakehead hailed the boat from the dock, and demanded that a gangplank be lowered so that he could board.
“If you are going to wake me at this unreasonable hour, you might at least be ready for me!” he growled menacingly, waving his rifle in a threatening manner.
“I apologize, Sergeant.” Andre said in an ingratiating manner. “I did not mean to inconvenience you. But I was hoping to arrive here before the latest storm. It is predicted to hit within a few hours.”
The Snakehead grunted, apparently somewhat mollified by the boat captain’s fawning tone and the cup of hot coffee that was being pressed into his hand as he boarded. Andre led the soldier off to the hold.
The moment they had disappeared from view, two figures slipped silently over the side of the boat, lowering themselves to the dock with thick sailing ropes. Hidden in the darkness, they crept by the patrolling Snakehead guards, carefully scanning the area for their contact.
Kristin spotted the man first, tapping Luc silently on the shoulder and indicating the direction in which they needed to go. He was bent down, examining one of the wheels of his truck. Slowly, Luc and Kristin approached the man from behind. Luc coughed sharply once, then once more.
The man did not turn around, merely removed the red scarf he was wearing as a means of identification and tossed it into the back of his Spectran cargo vehicle. Luc and Kristin followed the scarf into the hold of the truck.
Once inside, they settled themselves in the corner, covering their bodies with a canvas tarp. Approximately thirty minutes later, the vehicle came to life, vibrating underneath them and moving away briefly, before coming to another stop.
“What do you have in there?” came a harsh voice from outside the truck.
“Self-sealing stembolts.” came another, this one from the driver’s cab. “They’re scheduled for delivery at the manufacturing plant in Saltzburg.”
This received a grunt in response, and there was a long pause.
“Your documents are in order,” the first voice said, “but I have to perform a visual check.”
“Of course.” replied the second voice.
Luc and Kristin held their breaths, staying as still as possible underneath the tarp as they heard the back door to the truck open.
“Looks like I’ll have to make a closer inspection.” said the first voice. “Although, I know you’ve got a schedule to keep. Perhaps I could ‘hurry it up’…”
The suggestion was not lost on the owner of the second voice, as the distinctive beep of a monetary transfer was heard.
“That’ll do.” said the first voice, and the back door of the cargo vehicle slammed shut. Kristin sighed with relief, sagging against Luc’s body underneath the tarp as the truck began moving again.
“No matter how many times we do this, I’ll never get used to it.” she whispered softly.
“It’s amazing how corrupt the Snakeheads are.” Luc noted. “The drivers never even have to offer a bribe. The Snakeheads always ask for one first.”
“Hopefully, that corruption will be their undoing.” Kristin replied. “A force as rotten and self-centered as the Snakeheads are has to be defeated, sooner or later.”
They passed the journey talking softly, playing a game of ‘what if’. Their version of this pastime involved guessing about Luc’s past. Despite searching any database they could find over the last few months, they had not been able to discover anything more about Luc’s history than they had learned from their work at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. One night Kristin had invented the ‘what if’ game by laughingly suggesting that Luc had been a hairdresser in his previous life. Luc had countered with the supposition that perhaps he had been a professional athlete, and the speculation had gone on from there. The game was usually silly, and without any basis in known fact at all, but Kristin could tell that it made Luc more accepting of his missing memories, when they engaged in this playful banter.
"I think you were a chef.” Kristin declared. “Chef Antoine de Luca! Your specialty was a California Spring Roll, filled with asparagus, Portobello mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, and topped with a creamy parmesan sauce. Presidents and celebrities would come from far and wide to taste your exquisite creations!”
“More likely, I was a waiter in the restaurant.” Luc replied, amused. “Doing my best not to spill wine onto anyone’s lap and remembering not to stick my thumb in the soup bowls.” Kristin laughed at the image of Luc as a harried waiter.
“If you had been my waiter, I would have left you a big tip.” she teased. “And if you had turned those big blue eyes in my direction, I would have left you my communications number, as well.”
“And I would have contacted you the minute I had arrived home!” Luc declared.
“Really? And what if it was late and I had already gone to bed?” Kristin pretended to pout.
“All the better for me to join you.” Luc grinned, kissing her playfully.
But his playfulness vanished as the cargo vehicle came to a stop. Kristin was always amazed at how quickly Luc could transform himself from the warm and loving person she knew, to the professional, hard-nosed, militaristic strategist she privately called ‘the Commander’. At Luc’s order, they held themselves still as they heard a voice coming from the driver’s area.
“Think I’ll stop for some lunch.”
Kristin waited silently with Luc, hearing a door open and close, and footsteps walk away. After a few minutes, he nodded at her.
“He’s early.” Luc noted quietly, looking at his watch. “More than a quarter hour. We made good time.”
Quickly, they got out from underneath the tarp, moving toward the rear of the cargo hold. Luc opened the door a crack, peering outside.
“We’re next to a high wall.” he reported. “All clear.” Kristin nodded, following him as he slipped outside, crouching low to the ground behind a row of parked cargo and transport vehicles.
Again they scanned the area, looking around for their next contact, and the identifying red garment he or she would be wearing. This time, it was Luc who spotted the man first, but just as Kristin was about to move, he held her back with an iron grip.
“Wait.” he ordered her.
Kristin had learned not to question Luc’s instincts, so she remained by his side, crouched down behind the row of trucks, watching and waiting.
Their location was a rest stop along the main highway. Individuals and truck drivers walked around the area, particularly in and out of the restaurant that was the main building in the service area. However, the man, who wore red gloves signifying him to be their next contact, was merely leaning against a wall.
It was too obvious.
Luc and Kristin had benefited from pre-arranged rides with many truck drivers since they had begin their covert activities against the Snakeheads, but those contacts had all given the appearance of being busy… doing something as they had waited for their pickups. Never had they boldly waited out in the open, as if they had nothing better to do, forcing their illicit passengers to approach them in full view.
“It’s a trap.” Luc muttered. “It’s too easy.”
Even as Luc said this, their ‘contact’ stepped forward, moving out from behind a parked car and coming into full view. Kristin drew in a sharp breath, while Luc squeezed her hand tightly.
The man with the red gloves was wearing a long overcoat, typical of what French drivers donned to protect themselves from the inclement Fall weather. But underneath that coat, the man was wearing green pants.
No one attempting to avoid patrols would be wearing green pants. It was much more likely that this was part of a Snakehead uniform.
“This way.” Luc mouthed, moving in the opposite direction, away from their ‘contact’. Kristin hurriedly followed.
The other side of the long row of trucks opened onto the individual vehicles parking lot. Long rows of cars stretched out before them, but these were at least seven meters away. There was a good chance that they might be spotted while moving between the line of trucks and the car parking lot. Luc quickly assessed the situation.
“We’ll take one of those.” he said, pointing to a line of motorcycles along the wall, next to the trucks.
“That one.” he indicated a bike mostly hidden by the large trucks, with two helmets hanging off of the back.
Kristin gulped nervously. She didn’t like this.
“I think I’ll be able to start it.” Luc told her. Ever since their first mission together, extracting prisoners from a Snakehead Penal Complex, Luc had spent his spare time learning how to start a vehicle without a key or passcode. On that first mission, they had needed to do so, and it had only been with the help of one of the prisoners they had been rescuing that they had managed to start the vehicle in which they had escaped. Ever since they had arrived in Corsica, Luc had been learning this skill, although he was still relatively clumsy at it.
“No, that’s not it…” mumbled Kristin. “I’m sure you can do it, but…” she paused. How could she explain something she couldn’t understand herself? All she knew was that the closer she got to that motorcycle, the larger the knot of fear inside of her stomach grew.
She was terrified of this machine.
Why, she didn’t know, but the thought of riding on this vehicle was nearly enough to send her screaming and running in the opposite direction. Motorcycles were so exposed… there weren’t even any seatbelts, for goodness’ sake! Kristin played nervously with her hands as Luc approached the bike. He examined the controls and reached down, fiddling with some wires.
“I’ve got it!” he grinned, looking up at her.
Kristin could only smile weakly, her knees trembling as she realized that she was truly going to have to ride this machine… no barriers… nothing between her and splattering herself all over the road at one hundred kilometers per hour…
“Are you all right?” Luc whispered, seeing her fear and squeezing her hand. She nodded in response, but the movement was jerky and wooden.
“It’s okay.” he told her reassuringly. “I can drive this. All you have to do is hold onto me. It will be safe. I’ll take care of you.”
“I know you will.” she said in a trembling voice. “I trust you.” She forced herself to reach for one of the helmets.
“That’s my girl.” Luc smiled gently, taking the other helmet and placing it onto his head.
Kristin stared, her mouth agape, and her nervousness at riding a motorcycle temporarily forgotten. The helmet Luc wore was round in shape, almost spherical, and was colored white. A clear plastic visor covered his face, and the way Luc looked in the headgear sent a shockwave through Kristin’s brain.
There was something so familiar about his appearance.
But she couldn’t put her finger on it. Still pondering this mystery, she placed her own helmet on her head, her fear vanishing completely with this new revelation.
“Looks good on you.” Luc smiled, before swinging his leg over the seat and mounting the motorcycle. Kristin mimicked his action, getting on behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist.
For a moment, all that mattered was the feel of Luc’s body in her arms, and the security it offered. Then the motor rumbled, and the machine vibrated beneath her, but before she could become overwhelmed by her fear, Luc had taken off.
They were supposed to be heading north, through Turin and toward Mont Blanc, but Luc turned in a southerly direction, moving back the way they had come. Kristin quickly realized that he was attempting to throw the Snakeheads off of their trail.
They drove for about twenty minutes, Kristin glancing back nervously the entire time, but there was no sign of pursuit. Luc took an exit onto a lonely country road, driving a few miles from the main highway and then turning again at an intersection to send them back in a northerly direction.
After another hour or so, he pulled off to the side of the road, bringing the motorcycle to a stop in a grove of trees.
He turned off the motor, and they sat in silence for a few moments. All they could hear was the sound of birds chirping in the trees, and their own nervous breathing.
“I think we lost them” Luc said quietly.
“Technically, I don’t think they were ever following us.” Kristin pointed out.
“True.” Luc said. “I’m guessing that they didn’t know exactly whom they were waiting for. They probably got a tip from an informant, and were hoping to find some rebel hitchhikers to interrogate. But we were early, and I don’t think they were paying attention to us when we left. Still, I think it’s a good idea to take the backroads the rest of the way to Chamonix.”
“If the second driver was compromised, then the Snakeheads probably knew that our next stop was to be Ivrea.” Kristin mused. “So it wouldn’t hurt to change out route, and go through France, instead of Italy…”
“I agree.” Luc nodded. “That sounds like a good plan. And perhaps we should travel by night, as well.”
“That’s not a bad idea.” Kristin replied. “If we rest now, we can probably make it to Chamonix by morning, even with the extra time it will take to stay off the main thoroughfares.”
“Sounds good to me.” Luc said, dismounting. Kristin followed him, taking off her helmet and stepping off of the bike with a relieved sigh. It felt good to get away from the motorcycle. A nervous tension she hadn’t even been aware of began to ease from her shoulders.
“I didn’t realize that you were scared of motorcycles.” Luc observed, watching her carefully.
“I didn’t know myself.” Kristin shrugged. “But when you said we should take one, suddenly I felt like running as fast as I could in the opposite direction.”
“I’m glad you were able to overcome your fear.”
“I’d do anything for you, Luc. You know that.”
“Just as I would do anything for you.”
He stepped closer to her, pulling off his helmet and cupping her cheek in his hand. Slowly, he bent his head to hers, sending an electric thrill through her as their mouths met. They stood together for a moment, before pulling apart.
“Let’s move further back into the trees.” he suggested.
Kristin helped Luc walk the motorcycle back further into the woods, and into a thicket of bushes. Once this had been accomplished, she covered the bike with a few fallen tree branches, while Luc sat down beside her, pushing dry leaves together to create a makeshift bed for them.
“It’s not likely to be too comfy, but it will do, just this one time.” he smiled ruefully.
“I’m sure it’s comfier than the stone floor of that underground tunnel we took to Marseilles.” Kristin said practically. “It will be just fine, as long as I’m with you.”
They settled down on the leaves, Luc spooning Kristin from behind, wrapping his arms around her and cradling her against his chest as she drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 3 by TransmuteJun
It was far from a peaceful rest. Images of Luc filled Kristin’s dreams. He was riding a motorcycle and tearing off down the road at breakneck speeds, making her stomach lurch in fear for his safety. He was running through a parking lot, avoiding Snakeheads charging at him from left and right. He was hiding in a cargo truck, attempting to conceal himself behind an unstable tower of boxes, not noticing that they were about to come crashing down on top of him.
And in every dream, every scene, he was always wearing that white helmet, looking so familiar, tearing at her heartstrings… but she just couldn’t figure out why.
Kristin woke with a start, the crack of a twig breaking jolting her back into awareness of the current reality. Luc lay by her side, his mouth by her ear.
“It was just a fox.” he told her. “It’s gone now.”
“I’m not as afraid of a fox as I am of a Snakehead.” she muttered, brushing bits of leaves and dirt from her arms.
“I don’t think they were able to follow us.” Luc said confidently. “But it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”
Kristin nodded, sitting up and beginning to pull some supplies out of their packs. She handed Luc a roll and an apple.
“Breakfast?” she offered.
“Don’t mind if I do.” he accepted, taking the food and beginning to eat while Kristin did the same. The temperature had dropped significantly as the sun had set, and now in the dark they wiggled their toes and shifted the position of their legs to keep warm.
“Luc,” Kristin said thoughtfully between bites, “What if… what if you had worn a helmet… before? Like an American football player? Or a race car driver? Or a police officer?”
“You mean like this helmet?” Luc asked, tapping on the headgear he had worn while driving the motorcycle. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
“Yesterday, when you put it on… it looked right on you. And somehow… familiar. Only, it wasn’t familiar. Am I making any sense?”
“Yes.” Luc replied, “I had the same feeling. When I put it on, it was… it was like I was doing something automatically. Like it was second nature. As if I was used to wearing a helmet like that. But it wasn’t quite perfect… as if there was something different about the one I usually wore…”
“Well, we know that you were in the military.” Kristin thought out loud. “In what branch of the military would you wear a helmet like that?” She pondered the question while chewing on her apple.
“Maybe I was part of one of those Interplanetary Federation Forces.” Luc suggested. “If I was traveling in space, going to unfamiliar planets, then I might have had to wear an atmospheric helmet.”
“Maybe.” Kristin responded. “And don’t jet pilots wear helmets too? The ones who fly high up in the atmosphere, so they can have oxygen?”
“That…” Luc paused for a moment, staring off into the distance.
“That might be it.” he admitted. “Back after I escaped from the prison, I used to have dreams of flying… enough that a couple of times I wondered if I had been a pilot.”
“Perhaps that’s it, then!” Kristin said excitedly. “You were a pilot… in the UN Air Force!”
“Maybe…” Luc’s expression was pleased. “You know, I think we might be onto something, here!”
Kristin smiled as well. She hadn’t seen Luc this much at peace with his missing memories since she had first created the ‘what if’ game.
They finished their breakfast and went back to the motorcycle. It wasn’t nearly as intimidating to Kristin now, but she still hesitated before climbing on. Luc turned, smiling encouragingly at her, and that was enough to convince her to try it again.
They took off, the cold night air whipping at her hair, pulling the long red strands out from underneath her helmet, and sending a chill down her spine. Kristin snuggled closer to Luc, slipping her stiff fingers inside of his jacket. November was a cold, rainy month here in Italy, as well as in France, and going into the mountains meant that it wouldn’t be long before they started to see snow. After all, there was a year-round glacier at Chamonix.
They took less frequented roads through the north-western edge of Italy, coming back into France via the Tunnel de Frejus, then turning east, ignoring the signs to the international motorway and electing instead to take the regional carriageways, despite the additional time that would involve. There was no question that this was the ‘safer’ route.
It was better to be cautious. They had both seen Penal Complex 624-Alpha for themselves, and neither had any desire to be captured by the Snakeheads.
Just past Bonneval-Sur-Arc, Luc turned slightly toward her, pointing to a flickering light on the motorcycle’s dashboard.
Kristin nodded, keeping her head down as Luc pulled into the rest stop, moving to the most isolated row of petrol pumps.
Cautiously, Luc stepped off of the motorcycle, pulling out the fuel nozzle and placing it into the bike, before punching in the monetary funds code Mattieu had provided to them. It was connected to an untraceable prepaid line of credit attached to a Swiss bank account that had been opened by a now-dead Sardinian rebel. It was only one of many such accounts used for expenses by the loose alliance of Terran rebels in Europe.
Kristin wanted top remain on the motorcycle, close by to Luc, yet nature called and she glanced longingly at the restrooms.
“Go.” Luc whispered. “Just be fast.”
She nodded, retracting the visor on her helmet and slipping off of the bike before making her way to the facilities. She hurried as much as she could, and less than two minutes later was heading back through the rows of petrol pumps.
But as she approached their motorcycle, she heard a harsh, unfamiliar voice from behind the pump.
“That license plate is very interesting. It belongs to a motorcycle that was reported stolen just outside of Turin, this morning.”
Kristin froze. She couldn’t see Luc, or the owner of the unknown voice, but the menace in its tone frightened her. It had to be a Snakehead.
“Must be a mistake.” she heard Luc reply nonchalantly. “I’ve had this bike for about six months.”
“All the same, that is an Italian license plate.” the other voice sneered. “I think I’ll have to bring you in for questioning.”
“That won’t be necessary.” Luc replied calmly. “I’m sure we can come to some kind of ‘arrangement’.”
“I can’t do that.” laughed the other man, a tinge of regret in his voice. “You’ve been recorded on the security camera, and I’ve already been ordered to take you in.”
Kristin looked around nervously, spotting the cameras high above her, hidden in the protective overhang that covered the petrol pumps. Damn! The Snakeheads had gotten a good look at the two of them, along with their stolen motorcycle.
“What do we have here?”
She whirled around, only to find another Snakehead behind her. Before she could blink, he had grabbed her arm, pulling her toward him and pressing his rifle to her temple. Her back was forced against his chest, and she could feel his fetid breath on her ear.
“I don’t think you’re going anywhere.” he leered, clutching at her breast as he held her in a strong grip. Even through her coat, Kristin recoiled at the soldier’s touch.
The Snakehead kicked at her calves, knocking her feet out from under her and dragging her around the pump, into full view of Luc and the other soldier.
Luc stood unmoving, a dangerous expression on his face as he stared at her, while the other Snakehead pointed a rifle at his chest.
“This must be your girlfriend.” taunted the one pointing the gun at Luc. “Looks like we could have some fun with her, before we bring you in. If you come quietly, we might even let you watch.” He grabbed the hair that hung out the back of Kristin’s helmet, yanking her head backward and down for a rough kiss.
Kristin gagged and spat at the stench of sour beer and rotting meat that assaulted her as the soldier mashed his mouth against hers. She struggled in the grasps of both men, kicking wildly at anything she could reach and desperately trying to ignore the feel of their roving hands. She twisted her body, and suddenly found that she was falling…
A sharp bang exploded near her, and her vision cleared to see Luc slumped on the ground, clutching at his side. A bright red stain was blossoming on his jacket.
The Snakehead who had been assaulting her was on the ground next to her, his neck clearly broken. The other was holding his rifle, pointing it and laughing at the wounded Luc, who was obviously struggling not to fall into unconsciousness. The Snakehead did not appear to be concerned at all with the recent death of his comrade, but merely sneered at Luc.
Something inside of Kristin suddenly snapped. All she saw was a red haze across her vision as she grabbed the fallen Snakehead’s rifle, turned it on the other soldier and pulled the trigger, shooting at point blank range.
A small black hole appeared between the Snakehead’s eyes, and he stared blankly at her before falling to the ground in a heap.
Kristin was suddenly brought back to the night of the Snakehead Invasion, when she had killed two soldiers who had attempted to rape her. For a moment, she stood frozen in time, staring at the dead Snakehead in front of her, but remembering another. Had she just damned herself for all eternity, by taking yet another life?
The click of the petrol pump shutting off jarred her out of her shock, and her eyes fell on Luc’s prone form.
It was up to her now.
No one was going to save them. She was the one who had to help Luc. He was still alive… he had to be.
“Luc,” she whispered frantically, bending down and pulling him into a parody of a sitting position, “wake up! Come on, Luc, you have to wake up!”
Luc moaned softly, and inside, Kristin rejoiced. He was alive, and from some place deep inside of herself, she knew that she could save him.
She just had to have faith in herself.
Quickly she pulled off her scarf, tying it around Luc’s side to help staunch the flow of blood, even as she addressed him again.
“Luc, you need to hold onto me.” she instructed him. “That’s all you have to do. Just hold me.”
She repeated these words over and over again, helping a dazed Luc onto the back of the motorcycle and then getting on herself, taking the front position. She wrapped his arms around her waist, and her hopes skyrocketed when she felt him grasping her, albeit weakly.
“Just hold on, Luc.” she repeated again, starting up the motorcycle and taking off into the darkness, leaving the two dead Snakeheads behind her in the night.
Kristin didn’t even think about what she was doing, but merely raced down the road as fast as she could, her only concern being to put as much distance as possibly between the rest stop and themselves as she could. Fearing pursuit, she took the first turnoff on the carriageway, then again the first turnoff on that road, and so on, until she was eventually speeding down tiny backroads that were little more than dirt paths, the motorcycle tearing through the darkness of remote areas with hardly a sign of anyone or anything.
The motorcycle ate up the kilometers one by one, passing through farmland and an occasional tiny village as the wind whipped by, drying the frightened tears that streamed down her face. She forgot everything, except her need to be safe, and to get Luc to safety.
Nothing else mattered.
After some time, Kristin saw that Luc’s grip around her waist was slipping, and she realized that he needed medical attention immediately. She looked around the surrounding landscape, seeing a small building in the distance. It was somewhat back from the path she was following, and only barely visible in the moonlight. She headed toward the structure, her headlights now illuminating what turned out to be a small house. She was amazed that she had even found it, hidden by the blackness and so far away from the road. It had been an incredible stroke of luck that she had seen it at all.
Kristin pulled the bike up behind the house, ensuring that it was well-hidden from the road before getting off and pulling Luc with her. His head lolled to the side, and a cold fear rose up in her as she noted his barely conscious state.
Kristin rapped impatiently on the back door, but there was no reply. The exterior of the tiny dwelling looked as if no one had been there in some time, with overgrown plants beginning to take over the side of the house. Even the couple of meters between the spot where she had left the motorcycle and the door were covered with knee high grasses.
She tried the door, and found that it opened easily. A flash of understanding passed through her mind. This must have been one of the thousands of homes that had been abandoned during the Snakehead Invasion, nearly a year before.
As quickly as she could, she scanned the interior for signs of life, but found no indication that anyone had been there in some time. There was really only one main room, with only one other room leading off of it. She closed the door through which they had entered and locked it, then quickly dragged Luc into the other chamber, which turned out to be a small bedroom.
Kristin laid Luc down on the bed as gently as she could, before taking off her pack and pulling out the emergency medkit she carried. She opened up Luc’s jacket and shirt, pulling back the bloodied fabric so that she could examine his wound. She held her breath as the injury was revealed before her eyes.
The cloth of his shirt was already sticking to his skin as the blood dried, yet there was still a lot more blood seeping out of Luc’s side. Additionally, Luc’s breathing was rapid and irregular, and his skin was cold and clammy. Kristin instantly recognized that he was going into hypovolemic shock from the blood loss.
She grabbed a stack of blankets from the edge of the bed to elevate his feet, then tilted his head back to open up his airway for breathing. Next she ran into the tiny attached bathroom, grabbed some towels from a closet and wet them in the sink. Fortunately there was still some water in the pipes, and it was running clear. She then brought the wet towels back into the bedroom and began cleaning the wound, washing off as much blood as she could so that she could see how bad the injury was. Kristin held her breath as the torn flesh was exposed, but to her immense relief, she quickly realized that it was only a surface wound; the rifle blast had grazed Luc’s side, causing only soft tissue damage and not hitting any vital organs.
Without hesitating, Kristin grabbed antiseptic pads from the medkit, thoroughly disinfecting the wound before applying sterile dressings over the area, being careful to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. To be on the safe side, she applied a second dressing over the first, increasing the pressure even more.
Once Luc’s wound had been dressed, Kristin gently rolled him over to remove his bloody clothing, then laid another blanket on top of him. She noticed that his skin was now dry, and his breathing had returned to normal, and she said a small prayer of thanks as she cleaned up the mess she had made during this entire procedure.
When Kristin had finished, she came back to check on Luc again. His chest was rising and falling in a soft, regular pattern, and she realized that he had fallen asleep. She leaned down, pressing a tender kiss onto his forehead. To her surprise, Luc’s eyes opened, and they focused on her face as he weakly whispered to her.
“I guess we made it…”
“Yes.” Kristin laughed softly with relief, “We’re safe… for now.”
“I knew you could do it.”
“You inspired me.”
A silent tear ran down Kristin’s cheek.
“All I need is you…” he murmured, his eyes closing again.
Kristin smiled, relieved and astounded that she had somehow managed to pull them both out of that terrible situation and ensure that Luc remained alive. She lay down beside him, snuggling against his body so that he was spooning her. Kristin smiled to herself when Luc sleepily threw his arm over her waist, understanding that he needed the comfort of her presence just as much as she needed his.
But now that she was able to relax, the events of the past few hours raced through Kristin’s mind.
Stopping for petrol… hearing the Snakehead threaten Luc… being grabbed by the other soldier… being forced into that horrid kiss…
She relived the terrible moment when Luc had fallen to the ground, and she hadn’t been certain if he was alive or dead. She had simply grabbed the fallen rifle and used it instantly; no thought, no hesitation, just rage and an instinctive reaction.
Even more troubling than this, was that afterward she had somehow gotten Luc onto the motorcycle and taken off into the night, speeding down the road like a professional racer, rather than a timid university student who had never been on a bike in her life before the last forty-hours.
Yesterday, she had been terrified at the mere idea of getting on that motorcycle, and yet only a few hours ago, when she had needed to, she had been able to pull something out of herself that she hadn’t even realized was there.
How much more about herself didn’t she know was there?
Just now… she had taken one look at Luc’s condition and had instantly known that he was suffering from shock, and what to do. She had seen his wound, and had understood immediately how to treat it, without even looking at the emergency first aid booklet that was part of the medkit.
As far as Kristin knew, she had never had any medical or first aid training. So where had this knowledge come from?
As she thought about it, a fuzzy image flashed through her mind…
She was a child, learning how to bandage wounds and control bleeding…
Where had that come from?
Kristin eventually fell into a fitful sleep; strange dreams taking over her mind. She was driving a motorcycle, Luc holding on behind her. But he wasn’t injured; he was laughing. Then she was waitressing in a small restaurant, and then she was in a classroom learning how to read the Spectran language…
The man next to her awoke, pulling her body close to him and burying his face in her hair. And suddenly, everything was all right. The confusion in her mind was gone and she knew exactly who she was.
She yawned delicately, snuggling up against the man beside her, whispering softly.
“I’m glad you feel better, Mark.”
And then she went back to sleep.
Chapter 4 by TransmuteJun
Kristin awoke again a few hours later, feeling rested and content. She stretched lazily, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and feeling a pair of strong arms encircling her.
“Good morning, Kristin.” came Luc’s voice in her ear. “Or should I say, good afternoon?”
A sense of unease filled her. Something wasn’t right. She looked at Luc, her concern quickly reflected in his blue eyes.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her.
“I… I don’t know…”
“But, you feel that something’s not right?”
“Yes… but I can’t explain it.”
“Do you think the Snakeheads have found us?”
“No… at least, I didn’t. Are they here?”
“Not from what I can see. I took a quick look around this place. There’s no sign that anyone but us has been here in months.”
“Oh, Luc, you got up? Maybe that’s not such a great idea, with your injury and all.”
“I’m feeling much better now.” he reassured her. “Thanks to you, Kristin.”
“That’s what’s wrong.” she whispered.
“My name.” She looked at him, completely bewildered, yet instinctively knowing that what she said was the truth. “Kristin isn’t my name.”
“So…” Luc paused, attempting to digest this information. “What is your name?”
“I… I don’t know. I just somehow sense that ‘Kristin’ isn’t right.”
“What’s happening, Krist…” he stopped suddenly, unsure as to how to address her.
“It’s okay, I don’t have any other name right now. You can still call me Kristin, if you want.” she sighed. “I just wish I knew what was going on.”
Briefly, Kristin explained to Luc the new skills she had discovered she possessed, just the previous night.
“It’s like… like there are parts of myself that I never knew existed, and now suddenly, here they are, surfacing.” she said. “Do you know how it feels to be discovering strange new things about yourself, that you never knew before?”
“You mean, like I did yesterday, when we discussed my possibly being a pilot?” Luc laughed.
“Yes.” Kristin acknowledged sheepishly. “I wasn’t thinking. Of course you understand, Luc.”
“I am surprised, though.” Luc admitted. “You’ve told me of your family and your past… is all of that still there?”
Kristin thought for a moment. Was it still there?
“It is… and yet, it isn’t.” she attempted to explain. “I remember it, but it’s like there are two sets of memories… one superimposed over the other… but this other set is new… as if past memories could actually be ‘new’…”
“Well, what do you remember?” Luc asked. “Maybe if you try to think about it, it will make sense?”
“Okay.” Kristin agreed, thinking hard. “Part of me just remembers my family, and the last time I saw them on the farm. I remember hearing that the farm was destroyed in the Invasion, and that they were all dead. Those are the ‘old’ memories. Now with the ‘new’ memories… I can remember my father’s face quite clearly… his glasses, and his mustache… but my mother’s face is blurred, as if she never really existed. And my little brother… he’s clear. I can see his mop of messy brown hair, and remember how he used to tease me something fierce…” Kristin looked tearfully at Luc.
“Why can’t I remember my own mother?”
“It’s been a long time since your family died.” Luc pointed out. “Almost a year, now. It’s only natural that you might have forgotten some of the details.”
“But then, why do I remember my father and my brother so clearly?” Kristin asked, confused. “This is what I mean by two sets of memories. What’s happening to me?”
“It’s like the life I’m living isn’t even my own!” she burst out.
Saying the words out loud somehow made the idea seem more real, and Kristin blanched.
“Luc… the Snakeheads took your memories, somehow.” she said in a frightened voice. “Do you suppose the same thing could have happened to me?”
“I think it’s possible.” Luc said. “Clearly the Snakeheads were subjecting me to some kind of strange torture, or experimentation, before I escaped, or I wouldn’t have had so many unexplained bruises and marks on my body when I escaped. For all we know, something like that could have happened to you as well.”
Kristin was horrified. To discover that there may be some part of her past that had been lost was bad enough, but not understanding why…
For the first time, she could truly grasp the pain that Luc lived with every day. She fell into his arms, crying for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry, Luc, I didn’t understand…”
“Shhh…” he whispered, softly stroking her hair. “I understand… for both of us. You’ve always been there for me, Kristin. I don’t know how I would have gotten through these last few months without you. Not to mention what you did for me last night.”
Luc pulled back slightly from Kristin, to allow himself to look her directly in the eye.
“What matters is that we are together now.” he told her firmly. “Our future is together, and we are taking the same path. That’s how I’ve managed to deal with this: by focusing on the future and not the past.”
“You’re right, Luc.” Kristin said, wiping away her tears as a resolved expression appeared on her face. “We are together now, and our future is what’s most important.
“That’s my girl.” Luc smiled.
And when he said that, it felt just as good as it always had.
They looked around the small house now that they had a little more time to do so, and found it surprisingly undisturbed. They guessed that the remote isolation of this rustic dwelling was likely what had kept it from being looted by Snakeheads. Based on the pictures they saw scattered around the home, it had apparently belonged to an elderly couple, before the Occupation.
Luc insisted that once it got dark again, they should be on their way, despite Kristin’s protests that he had lost a lot of blood and needed another day to rest. He brushed off her concerns, insisting that he was a fast healer, and given that he outwardly appeared to be completely fine, Kristin reluctantly agreed. But when she went to change his dressing, she was astounded to see that he was right.
Luc’s wound was almost completely healed.
“How…?” Kristin couldn’t even find the words to ask what was happening. She had seen the mess his skin had been the night before, but now his wound looked as if it had only been a small scratch.
“I’m not sure.” Luc admitted. “I’ve discovered strange things about my body, during the last few months. My hair grew in completely overnight, while I was escaping the Penal Complex; a year’s growth. I can see in the dark extremely well. When I want to hear something far away, I usually can. And I do seem to heal very quickly.”
Kristin thought about this for a moment.
“Last night, I saw this house, from the road.” she recalled. “It was nearly pitch black outside, and the area was beyond the range of the motorcycle’s headlight, but I saw it. And when we got here, I was amazed that I had spotted it at all, because it was so well concealed from the road…” She looked fearfully at Luc.
“We may have more in common than we thought,” observed Luc, “but it is nothing to be worried about. These things are helping us, and I’m happy to use any advantage I can get.” His tone was firm and compelling.
“You’re right.” Kristin replied slowly. “It’s nothing to be afraid of. We’ll just use it to our advantage, that’s all.” By the time she was finished speaking she felt much more confident. It was amazing how Luc could always do that, for her.
“Then, it’s time to go.” Luc said, and she nodded, putting the fresh dressing on what was left of his wound, and helping him dress in some spare clothes they had found in the closet. They went out of the house, and Kristin brought forth the motorcycle from its hiding place.
“I’d like to drive.” she said shyly. “It feels like I should.”
“I understand.” Luc nodded, climbing onto the back of the bike. “Go ahead.”
Kristin paused for a moment, as the license plate on the back of the vehicle caught her eye. Last night it had been that plate that had brought them to the attention of the Snakeheads.
Quickly, she grabbed a handful of mud and smeared it onto the plate, obscuring the numbers before wiping her hands clean on the tall grass.
“Good thinking.” Luc complimented her, as she mounted the bike and started the engine. They both put their helmets on, and then she took off down the road in a northerly direction.
They traveled down the unmarked laneway for some time, eventually coming to the outskirts of a small town.
“This is Les Contamines Montjoie!” exclaimed Kristin as she read the marker at the side of the road. “We’re across the foothills! We’re not far from Chamonix at all!”
“Unfortunately, we’re going to have to get back on the international highway now.” Luc reminded her. “We’ll just have to hope for the best.”
“We can do it.” Kristin said confidently. “We have each other."
And she was right. They were able to merge into the traffic on the highway, and made it to Chamonix well before dawn. They had been afraid to visit another fueling station again, and their gas tank had been blinking ‘Empty’ for the last few miles, but they had finally arrived.
Despite the early hour, Luc thought it best that they enter Professor Tremblay’s home under cover of darkness. They had no trouble finding the Professor’s home on a small side street. They coasted on gasoline fumes into the driveway, then turned off the motor and wheeled the motorcycle around to the rear of the house, so as not to attract attention. Only after they had concealed the vehicle to their satisfaction did the knock on the back entrance.
To their surprise, the door was answered almost immediately. A middle-aged woman peered out at them before opening the door and quickly ushering them inside.
“What are your names?” she asked brusquely.
“We are Luc and Kristin.” Luc made the introductions calmly. “Mattieu Canton should have contacted you and informed you that we were coming.”
“He did.” the woman confirmed, her tone somewhat less harsh. “I just had to make certain for myself.”
“That’s perfectly reasonable.” Kristin assured her. “Then, you are Professor Tremblay?”
“Yes.” the woman nodded. “I’ve been waiting on you for the last twenty-four hours.”
“We apologize, Professor.” Luc said. “We ran into some unexpected difficulties.”
“I can understand that.” the Professor nodded. “You can call me Marie. What matters is that you are here now. Why don’t you rest for a few hours until morning, and then we can discuss matters?”
“Okay.” Kristin agreed, her eyelids heavy.
Professor Tremblay led them to a small, windowless room that contained little more than a bed and a single chair.
“Thank you, Marie.” Luc told her, before he and Kristin collapsed onto the bed.
Only a few seconds after the door to the room had closed, they were asleep.
Chapter 5 by TransmuteJun
They awoke to the click of the door opening. Kristin looked up to see Professor Tremblay staring curiously at her.
“You two are much more trusting than I am.” the Professor commented.
“How so?” Kristin asked, rubbing her eyes.
“You don’t even realize I had you locked in this room.” Marie shrugged. “You just went to sleep. The only reason I opened the door is because your fingerprints checked out in the database.”
“Database?” Kristin sat straight up. “What database?” She glanced over at Luc, who lay unmoving and stonefaced.
“I have… resources.” the Professor smiled knowingly. “But you both checked out; at least, you did as far as I’m concerned. You, my dear, are wanted by the Snakeheads for questioning in Paris, but your boyfriend… well, let’s just say he’s a much more interesting case.”
Luc was sitting up now, but he still hadn’t spoken a word. He only stared intently at Professor Tremblay, his blue eyes fixed on her in a way that demanded attention.
The Professor apparently wasn’t immune to this, as her gaze immediately dropped to the floor, in an attempt to avoid his.
“Your record with the Snakeheads is much more serious.” she noted. “There’s a world-wide warrant out for your arrest. Seems that you escaped some kind of high security Snakehead prison. Only, when I went to access your records there, the information turned out to be classified. All I could get was your picture and your name.”
“So, how come you lied to me, Mark?”
“That’s not my name.” Luc said flatly.
“The Snakeheads seem to think it is. And judging by the way they’ve got your records locked up tight, I’m guessing that you were someone of great importance to the Federation. Yet, you’re so young…”
“He doesn’t remember.” Kristin blurted out. “They did something to his memories.” She neglected to mention that she was having issues with her own recollections of the past. The Professor might think they were truly insane if they both came up with stories of unremembered pasts.
Professor Tremblay appeared thoughtful for a moment, and then she nodded.
“I can see that. It’s been done before. I should know.”
“Why would you know?” Luc asked curiously.
“Because before the Snakehead Invasion, I was researching higher brain functions for Galaxy Security.” the Professor revealed. “My team was working on the next generation of cerebonic implants for the G-Force Team. Memory blocking is child’s play, compared to what we were accomplishing...”
“Is that what’s in the laboratory?” Kristin questioned her.
“You’re thinking of my little problem.” Marie smiled thinly. “At least I know that you’ve got your mind on the job. Yes, that’s just one of the things I’m worried about.”
“What are the others?” asked Luc.
“This was a highly classified lab. I’m not sure even President Kane knew where it was, God rest his soul. Most people weren’t even aware that it existed. We lived down there, about a hundred of us, on twenty-four month rotations, researching the most delicate and dangerous technological advances we could come up with. Our primary mission was to develop technology for the G-Force team, but we also researched various weapons and such for other Galaxy Security forces as well.”
“I can see why the Snakeheads would be interested in this research.” said Kristin. “Is the data still there?”
“When the Snakeheads attacked, everyone was immediately evacuated to an above-ground facility, in case the laboratory needed to be destroyed.” Marie revealed. “Unfortunately, the transport they were using was hit by a missile just as it was surfacing. Everyone aboard died instantly. The order for the laboratory to self-destruct was never initiated, as it was supposed to be.”
“How do you know all of this?” Luc asked suspiciously. “If you were a researcher in the lab, why weren’t you with the others?”
“I’m glad to see that you have some brains, Boy.” the Professor laughed. “That’s a very good question. The reason is because I was up here, on the surface, attending my mother’s funeral. She was my only remaining living relative, and I had been granted special permission for a short leave. When the attack occurred, I hid with everyone else, of course, but afterward, I did what I could to investigate what had happened to my colleagues… my friends.” The woman’s eyes glistened, and Kristin’s heart went out to her.
“It must have been devastating for you to hear that their transport had been destroyed.” she said. The Professor’s expression turned from one of grief to one of frustration.
“Not as devastating as discovering that the laboratory was never destroyed, as it should have been. I’m fairly certain that until now, I’ve been the only person still on Earth who still knew of its existence. I’ve been unable to access the laboratory systems remotely, to initiate the self-destruct. Physically, the entire facility has been sealed off with bulkheads. And now, my worst fears are about to materialize, because the Snakeheads are mining down there. Sooner or later, they’re going to discover the lab.”
“So, you want us to destroy the lab?” Luc asked.
“I don’t know.” The Professor suddenly appeared tired, and she slumped down to sit on the chair in the corner of the room. “For the first few months, that’s all I could think of, but now, I have to wonder if the data locked away in there could prove to be too valuable to be destroyed. The Snakeheads have been occupying Earth for nearly a year now, and there’s no sign that the Federation is going to make a decisive move to regain control of the planet. But, perhaps, if they had access to this technology…”
“You think the Federation could use this research to develop new weapons against the Snakeheads?” Luc asked.
“I know they could.” the Professor nodded emphatically. “The question is, could we possibly retrieve the data and get it safely to them, while at the same time preventing the Snakeheads from discovering it?”
“It’s worth a try.” Luc said emphatically. “If there’s any chance at all that this could result in kicking those smug bastards off of our planet, then I’m all for it.”
“But, how do we get it to the Federation?” Kristin asked. “Even if we recover the data, the Federation government is now centered on Riga. That’s a long way to travel, and getting out of Earth’s atmosphere without the Snakeheads noticing… I’m not sure how it could be done.”
“Let’s retrieve the data first.” Marie suggested. “Then, after you return with it, I can use the few connections I have to arrange something.”
“I suppose…” Kristin wasn’t entirely certain that this plan was well thought out, but Luc’s and the Professor’s excitement was contagious. The three of them began discussing specific details.
“The bulkhead system is nearly impossible to get through.” Professor Tremblay revealed. “But I suspect that you could get around it by entering via the ventilation shafts. That would allow you to bypass the blockages.”
“What makes you so certain that way hasn’t been blocked off as well?” Kristin asked.
“It would still be working, just in case anyone had remained inside.” the Professor replied. “I’m fairly certain no one did, but the safeguard is in place, all the same.”
“How do we access these ventilation shafts?” Luc questioned Marie.
“I can show you the outside vent.” the Professor said. “I know where two of them are, because I had to check them once for blockages, and to ensure that they were secure and appropriately hidden.”
“So, once we’re in, we just crawl down into the laboratory?” Luc asked. “That doesn’t seem very secure.”
“It’s not,” agreed Marie, “at least, not as much as the rest of the lab. But you’ll still have to bypass a few force fields at various access points. I can give you the passcodes for those.”
“What do we do once we’ve entered the facility?” Kristin wanted to know.
“After entering, you will make your way to the main Data Storage Center.” the Professor instructed them. “You can download the research information from there. Once that’s complete, you’ll need to start the self-destruct sequence with the appropriate delay to allow yourselves to get out.”
And on it went. The Professor continued to give them detailed instructions, access codes, maps: everything they needed. The more the three of them spoke, the more excited Luc grew. His eyes were shining, and Kristin had never seen such an expression of anticipation on his face. And yet, he was methodical, even when clearly excited by the implications of this mission. He didn’t let his enthusiasm for the project blind him to the small details, and he was meticulous in mapping out their strategy.
Even more, Professor Tremblay was clearly noticing and approving of Luc’s attitude. Kristin could see the older woman gaining more and more confidence as they developed their plan.
They stopped for a break to eat, and while Luc was occupied, Professor Tremblay took Kristin aside.
“Luc…” she said quietly, “you don’t know who he is? And he has no idea?”
“No.” Kristin shook her head. “We tried to find out, but the only ones who seem to have any idea as to his true identity are the Snakeheads, and we haven’t really been able to access much of their information.”
“I might be able to help.” the Professor replied, a contemplative expression on her face.
“You know!” Kristin deduced. “You know who he was, before the Occupation!”
“I don’t know,” Marie clarified, “but I have strong suspicions. If I’m right… I don’t even want to think it, for fear my hopes will be crushed, but dear God, if I’m right… it’s the answer to all of our prayers…”
“Tell me!” Kristin urged her. “Better yet, tell Luc! He needs to know!”
“No.” the Professor replied adamantly. “I don’t want to scare him, particularly if I’m wrong, and there’s no need for it. But there’s something you can do, to help us find out for certain, one way or the other.”
“What’s that?” Kristin asked.
“Bring back this calibration device when you leave the laboratory.” Marie instructed her. The Professor pulled up a diagram of the instrument on Kristin’s computer pad. “I can use it to confirm his identity, if he is who I hope he is.”
“I can do that.” Kristin agreed. “Is there anything else?”
“Yes.” the Professor nodded. “When you get to the last access point before entering the facility, rather than use the codes I gave you, have Luc place his palm on the handprint reader. If he is the man I suspect, it will grant him access. If not, you can then use the passcode I supplied.”
“Are you sure you can’t tell me now?” Kristin asked. She knew that she was begging, and she hated to do that, but she just had to know, for Luc’s sake.
“Just get that calibration device and all of our questions could be answered.” the Professor stated firmly. It was clear that the subject was closed.
Over the rest of the day, Kristin attempted to get the Professor to change her mind, but to no avail. She got the distinct impression that the older woman was excited about her suspicions, but did not want her hopes raised too high. Kristin was also excited by the potential knowledge of Luc’s true identity, but frustrated to be so close, only to come up against a brick wall in the form of the middle-aged Professor.
They all retired for some rest, and a few hours later, less than two hours after midnight, they awoke and made their way to Professor Tremblay’s car. The Professor thought it better to approach the surface access to the ventilation system under cover of darkness, and Luc and Kristin agreed.
“The laboratory lies far beneath the ground’s surface,” Professor Tremblay explained as she drove, “underneath Mont Blanc. The facility was built secretly, when the tunnel was rebuilt at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but not used until much, much later. By that time, anyone who had been part of the original construction had long since forgotten about it.”
“Sounds like a good hiding place.” Kristin commented.
“It was,” the Professor replied wryly, “until the Snakeheads decided to mine the area for undiscovered uranium deposits.”
“We can do this, Marie.” Luc assured Professor Tremblay.
“If anyone can, I know it will be you.” Marie smiled, and again Kristin wondered what the Professor thought she knew about Luc’s identity.
Professor Tremblay drove them up into the mountains, into a remote area well off the beaten path. She pulled over and instructed Luc and Kristin to get out of the car. Once outside, they followed the older woman to a small, unmarked walking trail through the rocky landscape.
After about thirty minutes of hiking the Professor stopped, indicating an unremarkable outcropping of rock.
“Under there.” she said, pointing.
Luc crept forward, examining the outcropping. Underneath was a small hole, approximately one meter long and half a meter wide.
“Tight fit.” he observed.
“It gets bigger further in.” Marie assured them. “You’ll join up with the Mont Blanc Tunnel ventilation system for awhile, then branch off and down toward the laboratory.”
“Thank you for all of your help, Marie.” Kristin said gratefully.
“No, it is I who should be thanking both of you.” the Professor replied. “I wish you luck. Hurry back as quickly as you can.”
“We will.” Luc smiled, holding out his hand. To his and Kristin’s surprise, the older woman grabbed it in both of hers, and clutched it to her heart for a long moment.
“My prayers are with you.” she said, before turning away and heading back down the mountainside. Luc turned to Kristin.
“Time to get this show on the road.” he smiled.
Chapter 6 by TransmuteJun
They crawled into the hole feet first, Luc entering before Kristin. Their only illumination was a faint green glow from a tiny watch on Kristin’s wrist, but after a few moments of getting used to the dim light it provided more than enough for their vision to work optimally. Neither of them commented on it, but they were both aware that normal human beings would probably not be able to see in such a dark environment. There was no longer any doubt in either of their minds that this was an enhanced ability that they both shared.
They were in some kind of air shaft, and they quickly reached a horizontal tunnel, but it was so low that they ended up crawling through the passageway. After about half an hour Kristin’s knees ached fiercely, and another twenty minutes after that the heels of her hands went numb. But they kept moving onward, using the map on Kristin’s computer pad to guide them.
After they had been crawling for about an hour, they came to the first of the force fields Professor Tremblay had warned them about. They had been carefully designed to let oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules through, but nothing larger than that; the fields were effectively acting as a membrane over the ventilation shaft. The first field was bypassed quickly and easily by transmitting the access code the Professor had given them. The field turned off for five seconds, which was more than enough time for Kristin and Luc to pass through. A few minutes later they entered into a large chamber that housed the air filtration and circulation equipment for the Mont Blanc Tunnel. They did not linger, but moved on through the room and back into the ventilation passageways.
Beyond this area, the shaft widened, and they were able to stand up and walk in single file. Kristin rose up gratefully, glad for the chance to rest her knees and hands. They continued in this fashion for another hour, bypassing three more force fields of increasing complexity. Each one was located shortly after a seemingly innocuous turnoff that was not marked on the official blueprints of the Mont Blanc Tunnel Ventilation System, but which Professor Tremblay had indicated on the altered map she had provided for their use.
Kristin could tell by their directional angle that they were descending slowly. Occasionally, there would be a straight drop, and she and Luc would have to lower themselves down, hanging by their fingers from the edge and then falling the rest of the way. Kristin wasn’t looking forward to the return journey, when they would have to use a rope and grappler to ascend these vertical shafts.
Eventually, they entered a tunnel that was clearly not part of the Tunnel System ventilation ducts, and the size of the shaft decreased, forcing them to crawl once more. They passed through two more force fields, and after some time came out into a maintenance room, full of fans and air filters.
“I think we made it.” Luc grinned.
“Only one more door.” Kristin said, holding her breath. This was the last of the force fields: the one that Professor Tremblay had told her about.
Luc and Kristin carefully made their way around the still-operating equipment, coming to a door on the other side of the room. A handprint identification pad was set into the wall near the door.
“Try it, Luc.” Kristin suggested.
“Are you sure?” he asked uncertainly. “What if it doesn’t accept my handprint, and sets off an alarm, or something?”
“Marie didn’t think that would happen.” Kristin revealed. “But she wanted you to try.”
“Me?” Luc was confused. “Why me?” Why not you? Why…?” his voice trailed off as an expression of hopefulness emerged on his handsome features.
“She knows who I am, doesn’t she?” he asked excitedly. “She knows that the system will recognize me!”
“Not quite.” Kristin replied. “She thinks that she might know, but she’s not certain. She said that if this door grants you access, then she is right.”
“Who does she think I am?” Luc questioned her. “Why didn’t you tell me about this before?”
“She won’t tell me.” Kristin answered dejectedly. “I pleaded with her to do so, quite a few times, but all she would say was that she didn’t want you to know until she was certain she was right, because she didn’t want to scare you.”
“Scare me?” Luc was taken aback by this statement. “What would scare me? Surely, if I worked for the Federation, at a high enough level to have access to this facility, and be imprisoned by the Snakeheads in their high security Penal Complex, then I shouldn’t be scared.”
Luc stared at the handprint reader for a moment, but the look on his face clearly stated that his mind was somewhere else. After a couple of minutes, he spoke again.
“I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
Cautiously, Luc stepped forward, stretching out his right hand and gingerly placing it into the imprint in the wall panel. The device glowed a soft blue color, humming as the access system came to life.
“Greetings, Commander.” stated a computerized voice. “Codes rerouted. Entrance granted.”
Luc and Kristin stared in awe as the formidable metal door in front of them slid open, revealing a brightly lit corridor beyond. But it wasn’t the entrance to the facility that had astounded Luc the most.
“It called me, ‘Commander’.” he whispered, looking curiously at the panel as they passed through the entrance to the base. The door shut behind them with a soft hiss.
“We already knew that was your title.” Kristin pointed out. “Clearly, you were granted access here because of your Federation rank.”
“Of course.” Luc nodded. “I just wish I knew…”
Luc didn’t get to finish his sentence, because his mouth was otherwise occupied as his jaw dropped to the floor. He and Kristin had entered what looked like a massive aircraft hangar. It had to be the size of at least ten American football fields. In the very center of the chamber was parked a sleek silver jet.
“Wow…” was all Luc could manage to get out as he approached the aircraft. It was apparently incomplete, as various outer panels we missing, and engine parts were strewn all over the floor. Still, the UN logo on the sides could clearly be seen.
Tools were scattered all over the floor, and it looked as if whomever had been working here had left in a great hurry. However there was also an abandoned air to the scene, suggesting that no one was going to return anytime soon.
“This is a supersonic jet.” Luc breathed, walking underneath the plane and running his hands reverently over the exterior. “I didn’t know that they were making these for the UN! This has to be a prototype…”
“Well Marie did say that this was a research lab.” Kristin grinned. She was amused by Luc’s reaction to the aircraft. They had suspected that he had been a pilot, and now she was certain of it.
“Too bad we can’t fly it out of here.” she joked, and Luc turned to look at her sheepishly.
“Should I admit that I had already seriously considered that possibility?” he laughed. “But you’re right, of course.”
Kristin gave Luc a few more moments to examine the jet, then firmly encouraged him to move on. They had to find the Data Center.
But the laboratory proved to be too fascinating for them to resist. Once they had bypassed the living quarters of the facility’s personnel and found the main corridor in the research area, they came across room after room of fascinating objects: body armor, hand weapons, vehicle parts, computer systems… all seemingly cutting edge and under development.
In one room, Kristin spotted the calibration device that Professor Tremblay had requested. She picked it up quickly and put it into one of her many jacket pockets. Fortunately, it was quite small: literally just an expansion chip for a computer pad and an accompanying scanning nodule approximately three centimeters long.
“It seems like such a shame to destroy all of these things.” Kristin commented regretfully. “They could be of so much help to us… to Mattieu… and to the Federation…”
“That’s why we need to download all of the data we can, and bring it back to the Federation.” Luc said confidently. “Perhaps, with this research information, their scientists can build a fighting force to take back control of the Earth.”
But Kristin barely heard a word Luc had said. She was standing in the doorway of another laboratory, staring at something.
“What is it?” Luc asked, but Kristin didn’t answer. She stepped slowly into the room, reaching out and tentatively picking up an item from a workstation table.
A myriad of emotions passed through her: shock… fear… nervousness… joy… familiarity…
Slowly, Luc approached Kristin, gently pulling her hand away from her body and lifting her fingers so that he could see what she was grasping so possessively.
The item was a bright red disc, with a thin yellow triangle… no, more like an arrow… on its surface. Luc examined the object closely while Kristin held it in her hand, feeling a surprising closeness to this strange device.
“It’s…” Luc attempted to describe the object, “a throwing disc?” He appeared bewildered.
“No.” Kristin said, her mind in a strange fog. She felt as if she were on the verge of discovering things she had never known, or even suspected, about herself, and she was fighting to grab ahold of the distant images.
“It’s a yo-yo.” she said woodenly.
“A yo-yo?” Luc was clearly surprised. “Why would the scientists here be working on a yo-yo? Were there children present…?”
“It’s a weapon.” Kristin replied, her mind still functioning separately from her major mental functions. It was as if her hidden self was doing the talking, while her conscious self was searching within her thoughts for insubstantial clues to the source of her true memories.
“It’s mine.” she said, clutching the yo-yo to her chest like a child obsessing over her favorite toy. “I need it.”
“How do you know it’s yours?” asked Luc curiously, studying Kristin intently. It was clear that he didn’t understand what was going on, and his face wore an expression of concern.
“That one is yours.” Kristin said suddenly, not even aware of where the words had originated.
“What?” Luc’s head swiveled back and forth.
“That one.” Kristin repeated, pointing her hand toward a different laboratory workstation.
Cautiously, Luc stepped forward, examining the toy that lay upon the table. It was in the shape of a metallic bird, the wings coming down to razor sharp edges and deadly points. Luc hesitated before gingerly picking it up.
“Are you certain?” he asked. “It doesn’t seem familiar to me…”
“It’s yours.” Kristin confirmed. “It goes in your pocket, along your leg.”
Luc looked down, confused. He was wearing cargo pants, and indeed, there was a pocket on the outside of each thigh. He reached down, opening the pouch on his right leg, automatically retracting the bird’s wings and sliding it inside.
“What are these things?” he asked incredulously, looking around the room. There were five laboratory workstations, one of which was bigger than the other four. Moving to this large table, Kristin looked down at the objects being developed there. Two black guns were lying side by side. One was slightly bigger than the other, and had a strange crescent-shaped blade on one end, but otherwise they appeared to be similar. Kristin touched the weapons briefly, but they didn’t feel right to her, and so she moved on.
The next workstation held what looked like two blue and white balls attached by a long string. She picked them up curiously, letting the cord dangle between her fingers, the balls swinging like small pendulums as a flash of memory came to her.
“Those are called bolas.” Luc said. “They’re a South American weapon, used by the Patagonian Peoples.”
“These were my brother’s.” Kristin said, a tear slipping down her face before she reverently placed the bolas back down onto the worktable and stepped away. She stared at the weapon in silence for a moment before finally moving on.
The last laboratory workstation held what looked like a pile of white feathers.
“What are these doing here?” Luc asked suspiciously, reaching out to touch the quills.
“Careful, the tips are poisoned.” Kristin warned him. Luc nodded, picking one feather up by the fluffy end.
“I used these occasionally.” Kristin said. “You did too.”
“Do you want to take some?” Luc asked. Kristin contemplated her answer for a moment.
“Yes.” she finally nodded. “You should too, Commander.”
Luc’s already astonished face whitened in shock, but he did as she asked, placing the strange darts in his left thigh pocket.
“Kristin,” he said slowly, “who am I?”
“You’re the Commander, of course.” she laughed, as if nothing could be more obvious. “”You’re my Commander.”
“Your Commander?” Luc repeated. “Did… Kristin… did we know each other… before?”
Images of Luc whirled through Kristin’s mind; too many to interpret in the rush of thoughts. She nearly screamed in frustration as she clutched at her head with the agony of it, but after a moment, she found that she was able to deal with the flood of sensation. She glanced down, catching sight of the yo-yo in her hand, and the memories suddenly cleared.
She was in a practice room, shooting her yo-yo out at a holographic Snakehead, sending an electric charge down the wire and felling him easily.
“That’s my girl.”
She turned to see a young boy with bright blue eyes grinning at her. He couldn’t have been more than ten years old, but she recognized him instantly…
“Yes,” Kristin breathed, “we did. I remember, now.”
She gasped, and suddenly she was back in the laboratory, Luc staring at her, amazed.
“I remember…” she repeated, “not everything, but a few things…” Kristin began to laugh softly.
“No wonder I trusted you instinctively!”
“Kristin, if you remember me, then please tell me who I am!” Luc asked of her, clearly desperate for answers. But she had to hang her head in response.
“I’m sorry, Luc.” she whispered. “I don’t know. You were my Commander. I was on your Team. That’s all I remember…”
Luc growled in frustration, slamming his hand onto the wall.
“It’s something.” he said at last. “We knew each other, before. I guess that explains why we can do some of the same things, and why both of us have problems remembering. But why can’t I recall anything, like you just did?”
“I don’t know.” Kristin replied helplessly, hating the familiarity of those three words. “But I promise, I’m going to do my best to remember more, including who you are.”
“That’s all I can ask.” he said quietly, embracing her in the abandoned laboratory. They clung to each other for a long moment, knowing that they were all each other had in a world that was far from how it was supposed to be.
But they had both vowed to do whatever was necessary to make it right again. And in that moment, their promise weighed more heavily upon them than it ever had.
“Let’s go download that data.” Kristin suggested finally. “The sooner we’re done, the sooner we can get back to Marie for some answers.”
“I like the sound of that.” Luc agreed.
They forced themselves not to look in any more rooms as they made their way down the corridor. They had already been delayed for far too long, and Professor Tremblay was waiting for them back in Chamonix. There was also the risk that the Snakeheads might discover the facility at any moment. Now that they understood the massive scale upon which this research base had been built, it was easy to see how a piece of it could easily be accidentally uncovered during the Snakehead mining operations under the same mountain range. Neither they nor Professor Tremblay knew exactly how far the Spectran search for uranium deposits had progressed underneath Mont Blanc.
Once they were ignoring the distractions of the research laboratories along the corridors. they found the Data Center in less than five minutes. As soon as they arrived, Kristin walked over to the main control panel, using the passcodes that Professor Tremblay had given them to access the files.
“I see the last backup of the data system.” she reported. “It looks like it was done the night before the Snakehead Invasion.”
“How long will it take to copy all of it?” Luc asked.
“It’s been compressed, so it should only be about ten minutes.” Kristin told him. “I think I can even fit it all on one of these high capacity data discs.” Luc nodded, then began looking over the command systems, searching for the self-destruct function that Professor Tremblay had assured them was there.
A few minutes later, Kristin’s copy procedure was well underway and she moved over to glance at what Luc was doing. He had located the self-destruct function, but the codes they had been given were apparently not working, and Luc was unable to initiate the sequence. His brow furrowed and Kristin could see that Luc was extremely frustrated by his lack of progress.
“Why won’t it work?” he asked angrily, running his hands through his hair in an irritated fashion.
“Those are the correct codes.” Kristin said slowly, analyzing the problem in her mind. “You’re doing exactly what Marie told us to do.” She looked thoughtfully at the error messages that had been displayed during Luc’s many attempts to activate the self-destruct sequence.
“It says that these codes have been overridden.” Kristin reported. “Apparently, a higher authority took control of the facility, and the codes were automatically disabled.”
“What?” Luc asked anxiously. “Do you think the Snakeheads somehow…?”
“No!” Kristin was astonished by what she had just discovered. “Luc, it’s you!” She turned, staring at him in amazement.
“Look,” she pointed at the relevant data on the screen, “it says that forty-five minutes ago, control of the facility was transferred to a new Commander, who initiated emergency procedures while entering the Laboratory Complex.”
“You mean, by using that stupid handprint panel, instead of just transmitting the final access code, we changed all of the control procedures for the entire facility?” Luc was both shocked and annoyed.
“Well, the high-level procedures, anyhow.” Kristin confirmed. “And initiation of the self-destruct is definitely a high-level procedure.”
“So, what do we do now?” Luc asked. “Can you bypass this new command structure?”
“Well…” Kristin chewed absent-mindedly on a fingernail as she pondered their options.
“I don’t think subverting the system would be very easy to do.” she said finally. “But maybe we can work within the system. Let’s try this.” She pointed at another handprint panel set into the control desk.
“Let the computer recognize who you are, and then give it the appropriate commands.” she suggested.
“It’s worth a shot.” Luc agreed. He reluctantly placed his hand on the panel.
“Activating…” hummed the computer. After a moment, it spoke again.
“Uh…” Luc hesitated briefly, before speaking more authoritatively. “Initiate self-destruct sequence.”
“Voice command recognized. State delay for self-destruct.”
“Four hours.” Luc ordered.
“I guess it worked.” Luc shrugging and removing his hand, just as the computer spoke again.
“T minus two hundred forty minutes before self-destruct is initiated. Two hundred thirty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds, fifty-eight, fifty-seven, fifty-six…”
“Silence audio countdown.” Luc said quickly, placing his hand back on the panel once more. The computerized voice immediately ceased.
Kristin’s backup procedure dinged softly to announce its completion. She retrieved the data disc, testing it in another terminal to confirm that their copy had been successful.
“Time to go.” she grinned, placing the disc in her jacket pocket, next to the calibration device. She paused, then quickly checked the main pocket on the other side of her jacket, assuring herself that the yo-yo was still there.
“We should have enough time to make it to the surface.” Luc said as they walked out of the room. “I don’t want to be anywhere near this place when it blows.”
“Well, it’s about a three hour climb, so I guess we had better hustle.” Kristin suggested.
They made their way back though the facility, and despite Luc gazing longingly at the supersonic jet as they passed by, they did not stop or slow their pace until they had arrived again at the door through which they had entered the Research Base. Luc and Kristin exited through the door that led to the ventilation system chamber, and Luc used the handprint pad one final time to give a voice command to lock the door behind them. Then they went back the way they had come.
When they approached the first vertical shaft on their return journey, Luc stopped and began opening their pack, looking for the rope and grappling device that they would need to climb up, but Kristin placed a hand on his arm.
Luc looked at her curiously, but did as she had asked.
Kristin wasn’t entirely sure why she had stopped Luc. They certainly didn’t have any time to waste getting back to the surface. But something in the back of her mind was telling her that there was a better way.
She put her hand into her pocket, and the cool, satin-smooth metal of her yo-yo caressed her palm. Kristin drew the weapon out, examining it closely.
She closed her eyes, running her fingers lightly over the yo-yo, marveling at the way it felt so strange, and yet at the same time, so familiar. She let her conscious mind relax, and without warning, her arm shot out, throwing the weapon straight up into the air, while her finger held onto the end.
Through the cord, she felt a sharp tug, and she knew without a doubt that the yo-yo had attached itself to a wall at the top of the shaft.
“Hold me.” she instructed Luc, her eyes still closed. It was easier this way.
She felt Luc’s arms encircling her, and when she was certain that his grip was sufficiently firm, she pulled lightly on the cord, not surprised at all to find it retracting upward, lifting the two of them into the air.
She heard a sharp intake of breath from Luc, but he didn’t say a word as they rose up the shaft. Kristin smiled to herself, then laughed softly, enjoying the sense of freedom this maneuver gave her, and she felt Luc’s body relax slightly, next to hers.
She sensed when they were close to the end and she opened her eyes, swinging slightly and stepping lightly onto the floor at top of the shaft. Luc let go and stared at her in amazement.
“I told you this was mine.” she winked, pulling on the cord and snapping the yo-yo back into her hand.
“I guess so.” Luc nodded. “Makes me wonder what mine can do…”
“It’s a boomerang.” Kristin said, a vision of the metallic bird swooping around the room flashing across her mind. “You throw it out, and it comes back to you.”
“I think I’ll practice, before trying it out for real.” Luc grinned. “But in the meantime, I like the ascension method you’ve discovered. It’s faster, and certainly has other benefits.” He squeezed her hand for emphasis.
“That’s the best part.” Kristin flirted, as they began moving again towards the exit.
Kristin found herself looking forward to the vertical shafts as they moved on, and with each ascension she became more and more confident using her yo-yo. On her third attempt she was able to keep her eyes open during the entire procedure. Thanks to her discovery, they made excellent time, and in thirty minutes they had returned to the main ventilation chamber for the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
As it had been only a few hours before, the room was dark, but Kristin and Luc made their way across, quickly approaching the exit on the opposite side of the chamber. Suddenly, Luc put his arm out, halting Kristin’s progress.
A flash of someone dressed in green edged at the corner of her vision, and suddenly, a blast of pain erupted over Kristin’s back, and she found herself falling to the floor.
Chapter 7 by TransmuteJun
Her back was in pain. It felt as if her skin had been badly burned, but she didn’t sense that her clothing had been damaged. Likely an energy blast, then. There had been Snakeheads inside the Ventilation Chamber and she had been hit from behind…
Where was Luc?
Kristin realized that her eyes were still closed, and she slowly eased back one eyelid until it was barely cracked open, taking in her surroundings as quickly as she could.
Luc lay unmoving, directly in front of her, only centimeters away. His eyes were closed and he appeared to be unconscious.
They were in some kind of slowly moving vehicle. She could tell this by the vibration of the floor beneath her body, and the passing of the rock walls outside of the open top of the container in which she lay. She didn’t see any Snakeheads, but she didn’t dare risk turning her head or opening her eyes further to get a better view.
Kristin closed her one eyelid again, assessing the situation. All she could hear was a dull rumbling noise, presumably from the vehicle in which they were traveling. She had no idea how long she had been blacked out, and therefore no concept of how far they had been taken from the Tunnel System Ventilation Chamber.
She didn’t seem to be restrained in any way, but she didn’t dare attempt even the slightest movement to find out for sure. Presumably, the Snakeheads who had hit them with the energy blast had dumped them in here, and were transporting them back to their base. And once they had arrived there…
Kristin didn’t want to think about that.
But it seemed as if she wasn’t going to be given a choice in this matter. She had to figure out a way to escape. And if Luc was actually unconscious, then it was only going to be that much more difficult.
The element of surprise had always served them well in the past. If she simply jumped up and attacked any soldiers around her, it might work, even if she had to drag Luc along with her.
But she needed to know what she was dealing with.
Kristin was about to risk opening her eyes again when the vehicle stopped without warning. She decided to continue feigning unconsciousness as she heard two men speaking in the Spectran language, very close to her position.
“Where did they come from?”
“Shinto saw them sneaking around the ventilation equipment.”
“Ah, they were probably just looking for a place to get some ‘privacy’.”
“In the middle of the Tunnel? Nearly a kilometer below the surface? I don’t think they could have ‘wandered’ that far. I suspect that they’re Terran Rebels, and Shinto agrees. He ordered me to bring them in for questioning, and that’s just what I’m… Ack!”
This last sound was clearly one of surprise and pain, and it was quickly followed by two muffled thuds. Kristin’s eyes popped open as she heard Luc’s voice whispering in her ear.
“Are you awake?”
“Yes.” she responded, slowly sitting up and gazing upon the two dead Snakeheads. “Which way is out?”
“I’m guessing that it’s the opposite direction from the way this vehicle is pointing.” Luc suggested, as he helped her out and onto the ground.
But just as Kristin’s feet touched the floor, they heard a noise from behind. They turned to see an entire platoon of Snakeheads standing only a few meters away, all with their rifles pointing in their direction.
One Snakehead wearing a Sergeant’s stripes stepped to the fore.
“Well, what do we have here?” he asked in strongly accented English. “Prisoners who are attempting to escape?”
“We are no one’s prisoners.” Luc replied proudly.
“Interesting.” sighed the Snakehead in a bored tone. “My analysis of the situation seems to be quite different.” The Sergeant gestured toward his men.
“They’re quite eager to shoot, you know.” he commented. “I think you Terrans call it… trigger-happy’? I wouldn’t make any sudden moves, if I were you.”
Kristin saw Luc grimacing, and knew that for now, they would have to go along with the Snakehead soldiers. Perhaps their identities wouldn’t be checked immediately, and they could find a way to escape later. She knew she was clutching at straws, but she had to hold out some hope.
Luc and Kristin were marched into what appeared to be a control room. A giant viewscreen dominated the wall, and displayed on it was the image of an effeminate-looking man in a purple mask. The purple-masked man was speaking with one of the Snakeheads on the other side of the chamber, but he clearly had a view of the entire room, because he looked up and pointed at Kristin and Luc as they entered the area with their troop of escorts.
“Who are those people, Sergeant Kerta?” the man in purple asked. He spoke in Spectran, and his tone was one of disgust, more than curiosity.
“Terran Rebels, my Lord Zoltar!” the Sergeant next to Luc replied loudly. “We caught them sneaking into the Base. But don’t worry, this time we will question the prisoners before executing them. “
“I’m glad to know that you finally have a grasp on that concept, Kerta.” Zoltar sniffed condescendingly. Then he paused, staring hard.
“Bring them closer.” he ordered brusquely.
Luc and Kristin were pushed up to the front of the room, almost directly underneath the giant viewscreen that bore the masked man’s image. Zoltar’s presence was nearly overpowering as his larger-than-life visage towered above them.
At a flicker of Zoltar’s red-gloved finger, the soldiers nearest Kristin and Luc stuck the mouths of their rifles underneath their prisoner’s chins, forcing the Rebels to look up at the Spectran Leader.
Zoltar’s eyes widened in momentary shock, and then he began to laugh. The pervasive sound sunk deep into Kristin’s body, chilling her heart and touching her soul. She had to swallow hard to prevent a surge of bile from rising up into her throat.
“Well, Commander,” the Spectran Leader gloated, “it seems that we have finally caught up with you at last! You can’t imagine how much I’ve missed out little ‘chats’ since you departed Penal Complex 624-Alpha. I’m so delighted that you have returned to us!”
Kristin choked back a gasp. Zoltar, the Leader of the Spectran Empire, knew Luc personally? She found herself desperately wishing that she could recall exactly who Luc was. The only good news in all of this was that it appeared that Zoltar didn’t recognize her.
Luc glared up at the viewscreen defiantly, his rage pouring off of him in tangible waves. He did not speak, but the menace in his icy blue gaze was enough to constitute a clear response.
“Send him back to 624-Alpha.” Zoltar ordered. “Kill the girl.”
Before she could act, Kristin saw Luc break free of the hold the Snakehead guards had him in, ducking their rifle fire and sending his leg out in a sweep, causing the soldiers nearest him to crash to the floor.
“Restrain him!” screeched Zoltar from the wall, his hands clenched in frustration.
Kristin threw herself at the ground, tumbling across the floor while reaching into her pocket and withdrawing her yo-yo. She threw it from her hand, even as she was still rolling, squeezing the end of the cord tightly, just as the body of the weapon hit the control panel directly underneath Zoltar’s image.
A surge of crackling silvery light flew down the wire, igniting the panel and causing a large explosion. The Spectran Leader’s image was instantly gone as the viewscreen went dark. The blast from the exploding panel caught four Snakeheads with its strength, sending their charred bodies falling to the ground. Kristin tumbled out of the way of the flames, gracefully rolling to a standing position and throwing out her yo-yo again, this time detonating another blast within a group of eight soldiers who were rushing toward her. They crashed to the floor, screaming and clawing at their burned and blackened skin.
Kristin turned to see Luc’s body whirling and flashing as he dealt death to all of the Snakeheads approaching him. He appeared to be more than holding his own, based on the stack of green uniformed bodies piling up around his position.
Kristin felt someone grab her from behind, and instinctively she thrust her left elbow back and up, feeling her assailant’s throat give way under her attack. Another Snakehead ran at her, and she lifted her leg high into the air, smashing her heel into his nose. She didn’t even stop to watch the man crumple to the floor, as more soldiers were rushing toward her. She whirled to face them, sending out her weapon to greet one group of opponents while simultaneously punching and kicking the Snakeheads attacking her from another side. Her conscious mind retreated, watching the entire scene unfold in front of her as her body acted on pure instinct and memory alone.
She was not going down without a fight.
The sea of green uniforms blurred in front of her, but after a few moments she realized that it had lessened, and within minutes she stood alone, breathing heavily while scanning the area for any further threats.
There were none.
She and Luc had defeated them all.
Astonished at what they had somehow managed to accomplish, Kristin’s wide eyes took in the devastation in front of her. Dozens of Spectran bodies littered the room, and the computer panels that only five minutes before had been operated by Snakeheads were now charred and twisted hunks of smoking metal.
“Let’s go!” Luc called, bringing her mind back to the situation at hand. He grabbed her arm, and together they ran from the room.
“We have to get out of here.” Luc said urgently, his eyes moving in all directions at once, assessing their position and all potential exits.
“We’ll go that way.” he pointed using a Snakehead rifle that he held in his other hand. Kristin nodded, grateful that Luc was capable of higher brain function at this moment. Her mind was still reeling from what had occurred back in the control room.
Just as they had started down the hallway that Luc had indicated, the entire base trembled, knocking Luc and Kristin to the ground. The rock tunnel around them shifted, and they were helplessly drawn into the power of the massive earthquake that appeared to be shaking the entire mountain.
“The self-destruct!” Luc shouted.
Kristin understood. They must have been blacked out for longer than she had thought. The four hours had passed, and the destruction of the Laboratory Complex had resulted in an earthquake below the mountain. It was more intense than she might have expected, but perhaps the Snakehead mining operations had weakened the structural integrity of the surrounding rock.
The shaking slowed, and Luc and Kristin scrambled to their feet, moving again as much as they could, despite the aftershocks rumbling around them. As they ran down the corridor, they realized that most of the Snakeheads in the base were too occupied with the unexpected tremors to pursue them. They were now coming across only occasional soldiers whom Luc easily smacked in the face with the butt of his borrowed rifle, often knocking them so hard that their masks flew off and hit the walls of the passageway.
“I think the Vehicle Bay is back in this direction!” Luc told Kristin, dragging her down a series of turns that she could only barely remember from their forced march through the base as Sergeant Kerta’s captives. But Luc’s recollection was clearly sound, as they burst into the Vehicle Bay only moments later. Three soldiers were in the Bay when they arrived, and these Snakeheads ran to meet them, only to be taken out by Kristin’s yo-yo before Luc could react.
“That’s my girl.” Luc grinned at her.
Luc pulled Kristin toward a vehicle that clearly had rock-cutting mechanisms on its front. It was shaped in the form of a mole, and Kristin was amazed at the horrific amount of weaponry that this small mecha seemed to possess.
But they weren’t in a position to be picky, and she jumped aboard, sitting down at the controls with Luc and immediately activating the ignition sequence. She wasn’t certain how she had enough knowledge of Spectran mecha to accomplish this, but her mind put that question aside for later contemplation.
Luc input a series of commands, and the mecha began moving forward, making its way toward the edge of the large chamber. Just as they were about to impact with the rock wall, Kristin found the controls for the digging apparatus and activated them, causing stones, dirt and debris to go flying in every direction. They burrowed through the ground, but their display screen indicated that other vehicles were pursuing them.
“We’ve got to go back!” Luc declared, turning the mecha around even as he spoke.
“Are you insane?” Kristin asked him. “If we go back, they’ll kill us!”
“If we don’t go back, they’ll just keep on pursuing us, and we’ll never get away.” Luc pointed out. “We need to destroy them all. Let’s see what these weapon systems can do.”
Kristin nodded silently, understanding Luc’s logic and trusting his judgment call instinctively, despite her initial skepticism. They dove back into the Vehicle Bay, surprising a horde of green-uniformed soldiers who were in the process of boarding all of the remaining mecha in the area. Kristin instantly realized that Luc had been right. They would never have escaped with this many Snakeheads on their tail. She opened fire, literally spraying the entire Bay with bullets and laser fire, watching the astonished Snakeheads dropping like flies before them.
Luc moved on, crashing through the walls of the base, the digging apparatus aiding their progress considerably as they broke through walls and passageways. Kristin manned the weapons systems and took out any resistance they encountered. She had lost count of how many men they had killed in the last hour, but she was coming to realize that it numbered in the hundreds, at the very least. Her unconscious mind rebelled at this figure, but she quickly quashed those emotions, knowing that this was not the time for such sensibilities.
“That’s what we need!” announced Luc, as they broke into another large chamber filled with mining equipment and supplies. Kristin saw piles of containers and gear, including a giant stack of explosive materials.
“No problem.” she grinned, shooting a missile from the rear of the mole mecha just as they exited the room. Luc accelerated to full speed, surging forward even more as the force of the blast propelled them away from the base, through giant, empty caverns that were clearly the recent location of uranium deposits.
More explosions detonated behind them, but the tracking systems did not indicate any further pursuit. They had clearly left the Snakeheads with more pressing issues to occupy their attention. Still, Luc and Kristin didn’t stop to celebrate, but continued to move toward the surface as quickly as they could, desperately fleeing the wrath of the Spectran Army behind them.
It wasn’t until they broke through to the surface of the mountainside that Luc and Kristin realized that they had escaped. The tracking system showed no signs of anyone following them, and the viewscreen image displayed only the surrounding mountainside, although some minor damage from the recent earthquakes was clearly present.
“We’re about six kilometers from Chamonix.” Kristin reported, looking at the mapping systems on the vehicle's computer panels. “That way.” she pointed in a northwesterly direction.
“We’ve walked further.” Luc told her, grinning when she looked up questioningly at him. “It’s not like we can drive this thing back to Marie’s house.”
“Right.” Kristin nodded, looking around. “We lost our pack somewhere in the tunnels. Maybe I can find some rations around here, to replace our supplies. We’ll be on foot for a couple of hours, at least.”
“As long as they’re better than that slop we were forced to eat at Penal Complex 624-Alpha.” Luc joked. “You nearly blew our cover, choking on that stuff!” Kristin laughed, recalling her first mission with Luc, when they had impersonated two Snakeheads and infiltrated the prison to free two of the inmates. The happy sound echoed around the small interior of the alien mecha, and instantly she felt more relaxed.
“Are you ready?” Luc called, as Kristin grabbed a pack labeled in Spectran as being full of ‘emergency supplies’.
“Yes.” she said, heading to the exit door. She stepped out of the mole-shaped craft, moving away. She had only gotten a few meters from the mecha when she realized that Luc was no with her.
Kristin ran, bounding down the mountainside in response to Luc’s shouted instruction. At first, she didn’t understand why she was running, but it became immediately clear when she heard an explosion behind her.
“Get down!” Luc ordered, pushing her under a nearby tree and throwing himself on top of her. He covered her body with his own as chunks of rock, branches and metal debris began to rain down around them. The deadly hail lasted only a moment, and then Luc rolled off of her, speaking softly into her ear.
“Are you all right?” he asked solicitously.
“Yes,” she answered, “although I am amazed at how much destruction we have been responsible for today.” She lifted her head to look behind her, spotting the blackened crater where the mole mecha had been only minutes before.
“I didn’t want the Snakeheads to get it back.” Luc shrugged by way of explanation. “One less mecha for them means less trouble for us.”
“Not to mention, one less mining base.” Kristin pointed out. “But it was a high price we paid, Luc. That entire research laboratory is gone…”
“No.” Luc shook his head. “We have the data. The lab may be physically gone, but we still have the hard-won discoveries that were made there.”
Kristin sat up, unzipping her jacket pockets, feeling the data disc inside its protective case, and the calibration device next to it. She reached for the yo-yo in her other pocket and sighed in relief.
She had everything that was of any importance to her, including Luc.
Quickly, Kristin assessed the rest of her few possessions, while Luc did the same. Kristin’s watch was broken, but she still had a handful of the feather darts in the leg of her cargo pants. They had lost their pack with climbing supplies and rations, but the Spectran pack she had picked up from the mecha lay only a couple of meters away from their position. She got up and retrieved it, glancing inside. Walking back to Luc, she sat down next to him and began inventorying its contents.
“It looks like we have a lantern, some dried nutrient bars, water packs and a small medkit.” she told him, looking up into his face and smiling. “This could last us for a few days, if we made it stretch. We should have no problem making it to Chamonix.”
Luc did not respond, but merely stared at her, an astonished expression on his face. His mouth was open, but no words were coming out. Kristin doubted that he had heard anything she had said.
She looked around carefully, but didn’t see anything that would be cause for alarm. Slowly, Kristin put the pack down and placed a soft hand onto Luc’s shoulder.
“What is it, Luc?” she asked fearfully.
“Your eyes…” he whispered. “What happened to your eyes?”
“My eyes?” Kristin was taken aback. Her eyes felt fine, and she wasn’t having any vision problems. She dug the medkit out of the pack and opened it, locating a small mirror attacked to the back of the lid. Curiously, she stared into it.
The eyes that stared back at her were green.
“What…?” Kristin mumbled, confused by the vision before her. “What’s going on?”
“Your eyes changed color.” Luc stated the obvious. “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve had brown eyes. I remember looking at you as we left the Research Facility, and your eyes were brown. But… now they’re green.”
“But my eyes have always been brown.” Kristin protested. “How can they just suddenly change color?”
Luc was silent for a moment before speaking again.
“Maybe… the same way my hair grew back overnight.” he whispered.
“You mean, my body did this… because it went into some kind of overdrive?” Kristin asked skeptically.
“Well…” Luc was obviously thinking aloud, “I was bald, and I knew that having no hair would make me stand out; make it easier for the Snakeheads to find me. And I was worried about it when I went to sleep. The next morning I woke up with a full head of hair: about a year’s growth. My body did what I needed it to do.”
Kristin stared at herself in the tiny mirror, fascinated with what she saw. The emerald eyes staring back at her seemed somehow familiar.
“This is right.” she said suddenly. “These eyes… this is me.”
“I can understand why they were different before.” Luc said. “If you were on the team that I commanded, then you needed to hide from the Snakeheads just as much as I did.”
“That makes sense.” Kristin nodded, brushing back strands of red hair from her face. She was still unable to tear her gaze away from the mirror’s reflection.
“So the question is, why did your eyes change back now?” Luc asked thoughtfully. “What is it about now that is different from yesterday, or last week, or last month?”
Kristin looked away from the mirror, silently shutting the medkit and standing as she replaced it in the pack. Luc stood as well, moving over to her and taking her hand in his. As they began walking, Kristin spoke again.
“My memories have been returning.” she repeated. “Yesterday, I didn’t realize that we knew each other before the Occupation. I didn’t know about our weapons. Two days ago, I didn’t even realize that I even had memories missing. I think my eyes have returned to their natural state, just as my memories are returning to their natural state.”
“I think you’re right.” Luc responded slowly. “But why is this all happening now?”
“I’m not sure.” Kristin replied. “Hopefully, once more of my memories return, I’ll find out.”
“It’s just so frustrating!” Luc burst out. “You can remember things, but why can’t I? What makes my situation different from yours?”
Kristin had no answers for Luc, so she just squeezed his hand, attempting to communicate her sympathy for his plight through their physical and emotional connection. She knew how frustrated she was at realizing that some of her memories were missing. She could only imagine how much worse it was for Luc to recall nothing at all.
They walked in silence for some time, their fingers interlaced, communicating through touch alone. After about ninety minutes they reached a road, and they began following it from about twenty meters back, staying out of sight of the passing traffic. They moved along, lost in thought, but not slowing their pace until they came across something completely unexpected.
Far off the highway, in a ditch well hidden from the main road, a car was crushed against a large tree. The fresh tire tracks behind the vehicle made it clear that this accident had occurred within the last few hours.
Shocked, Kristin and Luc ran over to the car, checking to see if anyone was still inside.
A sinking feeling crept over Kristin as she approached the car that seemed eerily familiar. Luc reached the vehicle first, and as she arrived he turned, his eyes confirming what she had already realized.
Inside the car was Professor Tremblay.
Chapter 8 by TransmuteJun
“Was she in an accident?” asked Kristin, horrified.
“This wasn’t an accident.” Luc replied grimly, pointing at Professor Tremblay’s temple, where a bullet hole was clearly visible. “I think she ran into the Snakeheads after dropping us off and returning to her car.”
“But, why would they kill her?” Kristin exclaimed fearfully. “Surely she wouldn’t have given them any trouble.”
“Do they need a reason?” Luc asked bitterly. “Perhaps they didn’t like her answers. Maybe they just shot her because she was driving away from the main road. Whatever happened, they probably didn’t hesitate for a second.” Luc’s anger was clearly evident in his words.
“We can’t go back to Chamonix.” Kristin said, understanding the implications of the situation immediately.
“No.” Luc agreed. “For all we know, they’ve already figured out that we were with her, and they’re waiting for us at Marie’s house.”
“So… should we go back to Calvi, then?” Kristin asked, confused. “We completed our mission, after all. Mattieu will be happy to see us again.”
“I think that’s our best option, right now.” Luc said. “Although, I’m more interested in getting that data disc to the Federation government on Riga.”
“But, how do we do that?” Kristin asked helplessly, tears of frustration running down her cheeks. Luc embraced her, pulling her close against his body and softly stroking her hair. Kristin could feel her tension easing away as he held her, and she clung to him as the only safe anchor in her stormy world.
“It’s getting late.” he eventually noted, glancing at the setting sun. “Let’s find a place to spend the night, and we can approach this with a fresh perspective in the morning.”
Kristin nodded, knowing that he was right.
They both agreed that they had to leave Professor Tremblay’s car where it was, in case the Snakeheads came back to check on it. Zoltar knew that Luc was alive and in the area, so he would have every man possible out looking for them. But they took a moment to look through the car. Luc found some maps in the glove compartment, while Kristin was relieved to find some blankets inside the trunk. However, Luc was clearly disappointed that they hadn’t discovered anything that might give him more information about himself and his true identity.
When they had finished their search of Professor Tremblay’s car, they headed off into the trees and back up the rocky mountainside, in an attempt to find some shelter.
By now, the sun had almost completely set, and even with their enhanced vision they knew that they needed to find something soon. After about thirty minutes of searching in the near-complete darkness, they discovered a small cave hidden in the mountainside. Finding it free of any signs of recent habitation, they gratefully crawled inside.
Physical and mental exhaustion overtook them, and as soon as they had crawled back far enough to be well-concealed from any casual glance they wrapped themselves up in the blankets and each others’ arms, falling fast asleep.
Kristin awoke the next morning with a bad headache. Her sleep had been troubled, and she couldn’t remember much of what she had dreamed, although from what little she could recall, it seemed as if she had been having the same dream all night, over and over again.
She stirred, and Luc tightened his arms around her, murmuring sleepily and burying his face into her red hair, nuzzling at the soft skin of her neck. Kristin smiled, her headache easing somewhat with the pleasure of this close, loving contact. She was safe, and with Luc, and that was what was most important.
While Luc drifted back to sleep, Kristin found that she could not, and so instead she pondered all of the strange events that had occurred the day before.
Finding their weapons… discovering that Zoltar knew Luc… her eyes changing color… Not to mention the destruction of two different bases, and discovering within herself a heretofore unknown ability to fight in hand-to-hand combat nearly as well as Luc did. She guessed this last wasn’t really surprising, given that they had been on the same military team. They must have been trained in the same fighting styles.
But what were they going to do now? Somehow, the thought of returning to Calvi seemed wrong; as if it would be taking a step backward. There was somewhere else they needed to be.
There was a place.
A meeting place.
A rendezvous point?
Kristin didn’t know where that idea had come from, but the fact that it had surfaced in her mind now, when her memories were returning, led her to trust this instinct. She was certain that this place existed.
If only she knew where she had to go.
She needed a map. If she could look at a map, then she knew that she could figure out where they were supposed to be.
They had picked up some maps from Marie’s car!
Luc had stuffed the maps into the bottom of the Spectran pack they carried. Kristin pulled away from Luc’s warm embrace, moving over to the nearby spot where the pack lay, ignoring the cold mountain air and Luc’s mumbled protests. She found a driving map of eastern France, and spread it out on the stone floor of the cave, studying it intently, moving her finger back and forth as she read the names of every place marked there. It didn’t take her long to find what she was looking for.
Technically, of course, Geneva wasn’t in France. It was set on the shore of Lake Leman, just on the other side of the Swiss border. But that didn’t matter. She had found where they were supposed to go.
Kristin looked up, her eyes glowing with excitement, only to see a bleary-eyed Luc staring at her in confusion.
“What’s going on?” he mumbled.
“Geneva!” Kristin exclaimed. “We’re supposed to go to Geneva!”
“Switzerland?” Luc scratched his head, but it was clear that he was now fully awake. “What’s in Geneva?”
“We’re meeting someone there.” Kristin told him. “It’s a rendezvous point.”
“Whom are we meeting?” Luc asked, confused. “And when?”
“When…?” Kristin’s eyes clouded over for a moment as she thought about this. When? A strange urgency took hold of her, and she suddenly found that she knew the answer.
“Tomorrow?” Luc repeated in disbelief. “You’re certain? We’re supposed to meet someone in Geneva tomorrow, and you’re just remembering this today?”
“This feels right to me, Luc. It’s what we have to do.”
Luc sighed, but slowly nodded in agreement. “I trust you, Kristin. So far, your memories seem to be right. And it’s not like we have anywhere else we have to be.”
“We’re going to Geneva.” Kristin smiled.
“How do we get there?” Luc asked.
“Uh…” Kristin looked up blankly. “Do you have any ideas?”
“So, you tell me what to do, and I’m the one who figures it out?” Luc grinned. “Doesn’t seem like this ‘Commander’ position is that great a job.”
“We’re a great team, Luc.” Kristin said seriously.
“I know.” Luc smiled softly at her. “We’ll figure it out.”
“We could walk, but we don’t have enough time if we have to be there tomorrow.” Kristin said regretfully.
“I don’t like the idea of ‘borrowing’ another vehicle either.” said Luc. “The Snakeheads are looking for us, and they know that we did that before. We should stay off of the roads.”
“What about a train?” Kristin suggested. “We can’t go into Chamonix, but we could walk to Saint Gervais-Les-Bains and catch a train early tomorrow morning to Geneva. Hopefully the Snakeheads won’t be watching for us outside of Chamonix.”
“It’s risky, but at this point I think it’s our best shot.” Luc agreed. “All right. Saint Gervais-Les-Bains it is.”
They ate a couple of the nutrient bars from the pack and washed them down with some water before leaving. Kristin regretted the loss of their basic toiletries, but they couldn’t risk going back to Marie’s house for those things. They could pick up replacements elsewhere. Still, she wished that she at least had a hairbrush, and she knew that Luc would have liked to have access to a razor about now.
Once they had eaten, it didn’t take them long to pack up and go. They were able to strap the blankets to their bag, but even so, they were not overburdened. The day was sunny and bright, if somewhat chilly, and they made good time heading down the mountainside.
“Saint Gervais-Les-Bains is only about fifteen kilometers away,” Kristin said, “but since we’ll be walking through the foothills, it may take us all day.”
“We can make it.” Luc said confidently. “If we can escape from a Spectran base full of Snakeheads, then surely we can do this.”
“Luc…” Kristin’s voice was thoughtful. “What exactly happened, yesterday, in the base? How were we able to do that?”
“You mean, fight?” Luc asked. “I’m not sure. I just let my body move by instinct. If I try to think about what I’m doing, it doesn’t work as well. That’s what I’ve always done before. It’s as if I’m programmed to make those moves, even if I can’t recall how or why. But what really surprised me was the way you were able to do it as well.”
“You weren’t the only surprised one.” Kristin replied. “I shocked myself.”
“The way you used that yo-yo… to think that at first, I thought it was a toy! It makes me wonder…”
“It makes me wonder what my ‘toy’ can do.” Luc said thoughtfully, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the metallic bird.
“Why don’t you try it?” Kristin asked.
“Why not?” Kristin shrugged in response.
Luc hesitated only for a second, then closed his eyes, laying the bird in his right hand. He touched it gently, and the wings snapped outward again. He held it up, over his right shoulder, his movements slightly awkward.
“Just relax.” Kristin suggested. “Like with the fighting. Don’t think about it. Just do it.”
Luc nodded, and the tension seemed to flow from his body. Without warning, his arm snapped, and the boomerang shot from his hand, flying off into the distance. Luc’s eyes opened, and they both saw the metallic bird making a graceful arc out to some distant trees, lightly cutting off a few branches before returning right to them. Luc caught it easily in his outstretched hand.
“It’s sonic…” he whispered, amazed. “It can slash and cut as well, but just now, when I sent it out, it did sonic damage. I had no idea…”
“I had no idea that my yo-yo could cause explosions, or transmit electrical charges the way it did yesterday.” Kristin agreed. “But when the moment came, I didn’t even think about it. I just did what came naturally… going on instinct, as you say.”
Luc nodded, carefully putting the boomerang back in his pants pocket.
“Your instincts are very impressive.” he told her, his eyes sparkling. “Do you know how sexy you are, when you’re fighting off hordes of attacking Snakeheads?”
Kristin laughed. It felt good to joke about this, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for them to be engaged in that kind of combat, using these strange weapons.
“You’re pretty hot when you’re fighting as well.” she said shyly, winking at Luc.
“I guess we really are perfect for each other.” Luc grinned. “Missing memories and all. I’m just glad that we found each other, Kristin.” He took her hand and squeezed it lovingly.
“I am too.” she smiled in response. “I don’t know what I would have done without you, these last few months, Luc. For all I know, my memories might never have started coming back if I hadn’t met you.”
“I’m not so sure about that.” Luc replied. “I don’t think it’s coincidence. I think your memories returning has to do with the timing of this ‘meeting’. It seems that you’re recalling things just in time for us to get to Geneva to make this ‘rendezvous’. What if it’s this meeting… this time…? What if that’s what triggered all of this?”
“I never thought of that,” Kristin said slowly, “but it makes a lot of sense. Why would my memories be gone but then return just before I had to meet someone? I think your explanation is as good as any other.”
They walked in silence for a moment, pondering this idea, until Kristin suddenly gasped.
“Luc!” she said excitedly. “Do you know what day it is today? It’s November 17th!”
“Yes. So?” Luc was confused as to the significance of this fact.
“Tomorrow is November 18th!” Kristin pointed out. “Tomorrow, it will be exactly one year since the Snakeheads invaded.”
“One year…” Luc was astounded. “It’s been one year… both of us with memories lost, and now a meeting, exactly one year after the world we knew disappeared.”
He turned and looked at Kristin intently.
“It’s got to mean something.” he said. “This isn’t co-incidental. It’s all connected, somehow.”
“But, why would the Snakehead Invasion cause us to lose our memories?” Kristin asked. “Even temporarily?”
It was a question neither of them had an answer to.
Chapter 9 by TransmuteJun
A couple of hours after they had started out, Luc and Kristin came across a small home nestled within the shelter of a grove of trees on the mountainside. Not wanting to draw attention to themselves, they were about to bypass the dwelling when they heard a frightened cry.
“No, please! Stop!”
Kristin froze. Luc stood next to her, his eyes hardening with suspicion.
“In God’s name, someone help us! Please!”
The plaintive cry carried on the wind, and was followed by the sounds of harsh laughter, and one equally harsh voice.
“There is no one here to help you!”
“Want to bet?” Luc muttered grimly, looking at Kristin. She nodded, and they both took off down the hillside, racing toward the sound of the cries.
As they approached the home, they saw the owners of the harsh voices. Four Snakeheads were standing in a circle, surrounding two women. Luc and Kristin did not stop, but continued to run at full speed toward the scene.
Even as they reached the group, Luc jumped into the air, thrusting out his leg and coming down for a landing on top of the closest Snakehead’s back, forcing him to the ground. Kristin pulled out her yo-yo, grabbing the two ends in each of her hands and crossing her arms, throwing a loop of wire over another soldier’s throat and garroting him where he stood. She lifted her leg, drop kicking the next Snakehead as Luc struck the last one in the jaw with his fist. Less than ten seconds after they had arrived on the scene, Luc and Kristin stood with four dead Snakeheads at their feet.
“God has answered my prayer!” sobbed one of the women. She appeared to be in her sixth decade, while the other woman actually turned out to be a young girl, perhaps about thirteen years of age.
“Thank you!” the older woman said, clutching the girl to her. “You don’t know what they were going to do to my Clara…”
“I think I do.” Kristin said softly. “I have been in the same situation.”
“I see…” the woman replied understandingly. “Then you have my thanks all the more.”
“I’m just glad we were here to help.” Luc said. “You’re pretty isolated out here.”
“That’s why Clara is here.” explained the older woman. “Her family sent her to me, hoping she would be safe. The Snakeheads have taken to hanging around the schools, and they have no moral problems with harassing the young female students.”
“I’m not surprised.” Luc growled. “They have no sense of decency, and no value for human life. They do not belong here.”
“I can see that you are no friends of the Snakeheads,” the woman said, “and that makes you welcome here. I am Ruth, and this is my granddaughter Clara.”
“I am Kristin, and this is Luc. We are glad to meet you, Ruth, and Clara.” Kristin held her hand out to each of the women, and Luc did the same.
“Grandmere!” hissed Clara, grabbing Ruth’s arm and looking wide-eyed at Luc and Kristin. “Do you think they’re the ones…?” Ruth nodded gently, patting the girl’s hand.
“Yes, likely so.” she agreed, then turned to Luc and Kristin to explain.
“Those Snakeheads were here because they were searching for two escaped prisoners: a man and a woman. They said that these two people were Terran Rebels, and were responsible for many terrible crimes against the Spectran Empire.”
“Of course, we told them that we hadn’t seen anyone!” Clara added quickly.
“But that didn’t stop them from wanting to ‘question’ my granddaughter more thoroughly.” Ruth added disgustedly. “I am very grateful for your timely intervention.”
“Are you two really Terran Rebels?” Clara asked in awe. “What did you do to make them so mad?”
“If you’re asking, ‘Do we fight against the Snakeheads?’, then the answer is ‘yes’.” Luc laughed.
“We like to make things ‘more difficult’ for them.” Kristin grinned at the young girl, who smiled back shyly at her.
“Can I get you anything to eat?” Ruth asked. “It’s the least I can do, after the way you helped us. And if you truly are on the run from the Snakeheads, food and shelter must be scarce.”
“We have somewhere to get to…” Luc began to speak, but stopped when Kristin placed a soft hand on his arm. She could see that it was important to the woman to return their assistance in some small way.
“We appreciate your hospitality, Ruth.” she said politely.
The older woman beamed, running inside the home.
“What should we do with them?” Clara asked hesitantly, looking down at the dead soldiers. The girl was clearly still afraid of these Snakeheads.
“How did they get here?” Luc asked. “Since you’re so far from the main road, I’m assuming they had a vehicle?”
“Yes,” Clara nodded, “over here.” The girl walked to the corner of the house and pointed toward the side opposite to the direction from which Luc and Kristin had come.
They went around the corner, only to see a small Spectran transport vehicle parked there. Luc approached the truck, but as he did, the control panel came to life, a disembodied voice speaking in the Spectran language rising from it.
“Squad Number 46952, report! You are late checking in! Have you found any sign of the Prisoners?”
Luc quickly moved inside the vehicle, speaking in flawless Spectran as he answered the transmission.
“Sorry.” he responded in a smug tone. “We got ‘distracted’ and forgot to check in.”
“There’s a time for that kind of thing, but not now!” the voice lectured him. “Lord Zoltar wants those two found! He’ll have our hides if we can’t locate them!”
“There’s no sign of them here.” Luc ‘reported’. “We’re going to head toward Chamonix, and keep up the search.”
“Just keep looking!” the voice ordered him in a frustrated tone, and the communication ended abruptly.
“What did he say?” Clara asked Kristin. The girl was clearly impressed by Luc’s ability to speak Spectran. Kristin briefly related the conversation for her.
“Hopefully, they won’t send any more men this way.” Luc told her. “But all the same, you and your grandmother may have to deal with the possibility that they might do so.”
“Are you actually going to Chamonix?” Clara asked.
“No.” Kristin shook her head. “That was to throw them off the track. We’re going to Saint Gervais-Les-Bains.”
“That’s where my family is.” Clara revealed. “I miss my mother and father, but they’re right. I’m safer here. At least… I was, until today.”
“There you all are!” exclaimed Ruth, coming around the corner. “I was wondering where you had gotten to.”
“Grandmere, you’ll never guess what they did!” Clara chattered excitedly, relaying the events of the past few minutes.
“I see.” Ruth nodded. “I hadn’t thought about it, but we do need to get rid of these men, and their transport, in case other Snakeheads come looking for them.”
“I think we can help with that.” Luc offered.
About an hour later, Luc and Kristin were dressed in two of the dead Snakeheads’ uniforms, Kristin’s jacket worn underneath hers to help disguise her feminine shape. They had helped Ruth and Clara drop the bodies of the soldiers over a cliff and into a nearby gorge, where Ruth had assured them that the wolves and mountain lions would feed on them. The other two uniforms had been burned.
“Thank you for lunch, Ruth.” Kristin said graciously. “It was delicious.”
“It was the best meal I’ve had since Kristin made me blueberry muffins for breakfast, back in Calvi.” Luc grinned.
“You are from Corsica?” Ruth asked.
“We were there for awhile.” Luc told her. “There are no Snakeheads on Corsica. If you and Clara want to get away from here, make your way to Marseilles or Nice and ask for Andre, the boat Captain. He will take you to Calvi and introduce you to Mattieu Canton, the Mayor there. Tell them that Luc and Kristin sent you.”
“We may just do that.” Ruth sighed, a troubled expression on her face. “You are right, Luc. Now that they know that we are here…” she sighed again turning to face Kristin.
“May I request one last favor of you?” Ruth asked.
“If we can help you, we will.” Kristin answered.
“I do not trust the communications lines, as the Snakeheads monitor them frequently.” Ruth said. “When you get to Saint Gervais-Les-Bains, would you deliver a letter to our family? I need to let them know that we are safe.”
“We will.” assured Kristin, taking the letter from the older woman’s hands.
They said their goodbyes, and Ruth and Clara watched from the hillside as Luc and Kristin drove away in the Spectran transport. The young Rebels both hoped that the Snakehead vehicle and uniforms would be an effective disguise. Eventually, of course, the Snakeheads would realize that their squad had gone missing, but this subterfuge should at least get them to the train station.
The journey to Saint Gervais-Les–Bains proved uneventful, despite coming across a Snakehead checkpoint on the highway. Luc and Kristin were lazily waved through by the soldiers there, but as they slowed, they were surprised to see their likenesses being broadcast on the monitors at the checkpoint station. There was an image of Luc from the Spectran prison records they had viewed in the Penal Complex databanks, as well as a somewhat blurrier image of Kristin that had clearly been taken from security camera footage at the Mont Blanc Base the day before. Seeing herself displayed as a wanted criminal on the broadcast, Kristin was glad that she was wearing the Snakehead mask, and that no one could see her real face.
When they got to the outskirts of Saint Gervais-Les–Bains, Luc and Kristin got out of the transport vehicle, electing to continue wearing the Snakehead uniforms, seeing as the Spectran efforts toward their recapture had become much more intense than they had ever anticipated.
Luc used a trick Kristin had seen before: programming the transport vehicle to move quickly in a straight line, and then sending it down a flat country road, to hopefully end up far from their current position. Luc had sent the truck in a southerly direction, and they both hoped that by the time it was located, they would be long gone to Geneva.
Saint Gervais-Les–Bains wasn’t a big town, and Luc and Kristin easily located the address Ruth had given them. They regretted the necessity of having to show up at the family’s home in Snakehead uniforms, but they couldn’t risk recapture.
It was late afternoon by the time they mounted the steps to Ruth’s family’s home. The dwelling was an apartment above a drug store, but fortunately the entrances to the living areas were in the back, and Luc and Kristin were able to enter the upper storey unnoticed. Kristin knocked politely at the apartment door, and after a few moments they were greeted by a frightened-looking woman.
“We’re not Snakeheads.” Kristin said immediately. Something in her tone, or perhaps her feminine voice, caused the woman’s fear to ease, and they could see that her expression was somewhat less guarded.
“We have a message for you, from Ruth and Clara.” Luc said quietly. “May we come in?”
The woman hesitated, then nodded, and Luc and Kristin stepped inside of the small, neat home. Luc bowed his head respectfully, and Kristin removed her mask, as a sign of good faith.
“You’re…” the woman’s face was no longer fearful, but she was clearly surprised. “You’re one of the Rebels the Snakeheads are looking for… and he is the other?”
“Yes.” Luc said, removing his own mask. “We hope you understand why we had to dress this way. We did not mean to alarm you. My name is Luc, and this is Kristin.”
“Your images are all over the broadcasts.” the woman told them. “Every Snakehead in the area is looking for you. And you just wandered into town, dressed in their uniforms!” She began to laugh.
“No wonder they want you so badly! It seems that the two of you are more clever and cunning than their entire army!”
“I don’t know about that.” Kristin grinned. “But I’m just glad we’ve escaped their notice so far.”
“Your letter, Madame.” Luc said gallantly, pulling the missive Ruth had given to him from their pack. “You are Jeanette, I presume?”
“Yes.” she said. “You saw my mother? And my daughter? How are they?”
“You can see for yourself.” Kristen replied, gesturing toward the letter. “They are well. They knew we were coming this way and wanted us to deliver a communication that would not be intercepted by the Snakeheads.”
“I appreciate the service you have done.” Jeanette nodded. “Would you care to rest for a moment? It must be hard work, dodging the Snakeheads wherever you go.”
“It’s certainly easier when they’re not actively out looking for us.” Luc admitted.
“You will need to get out of Saint Gervais-Les Bains.” Jeanette told them. “They are looking for you here, although I gather that most of the search effort is concentrated in Chamonix.”
“We’re planning on taking a train tomorrow morning.” Kristin told her. “Do you know what time they run?”
“I think the first train is at 6:30 am.” Jeanette answered. “It goes to Geneva. The trains to Lyon do not begin until the afternoon. Those are large stations, unlike here, and you will be able to transfer to wherever else you need to go.”
“Thank you.” Luc replied, refraining from mentioning that Geneva was their final destination. The less this woman knew, the better. He didn’t want to cause her any more trouble than they already had.
“Would you like something to eat?” she asked.
“Your mother asked us the same thing.” Kristin smiled.
“She taught me the rules of hospitality.” Jeanette smiled, getting up and moving into the next room. She returned with a plate of cookies, a pot of tea, and two cups, which she placed on a low table in front of them. Luc and Kristin thanked her graciously, then sat down.
While they ate, Jeanette read the letter they had delivered. When she had finished, her face was as white as the paper the missive had been written on.
“My daughter… they were going to hurt my daughter…” she whispered, clutching the paper to her chest.
“Clara is fine.” Kristin reassured her. She glanced nervously at Luc. Neither of them had realized that Ruth would describe exactly how Luc and Kristin had crossed her path.
“You saved her…” Jeanette said, rubbing at her teary eyes. “Those Snakeheads… my mother is right. God sent you their way, this morning.”
“We just helped someone in trouble.” Luc protested. “And we were glad to do so. We have been helping people in need for quite some time, now.”
“That’s why the Snakeheads are after you.” Jeanette smiled. “You’ve been helping humans by hurting the Spectrans. You truly are Terran Rebels.”
“Some people like to think so.” Kristin grinned.
“I want you both to stay here, tonight.” Jeanette said suddenly. “You can’t catch a train until tomorrow morning, and it’s better for you if you are off the streets.”
“We can’t do that!” Kristin protested. “The Snakeheads are after us! If they find us here, you could be hurt, and that’s the last thing we would want.”
“The Snakeheads are not likely to come here tonight, seeing as they haven’t followed you here already.” Jeanette said logically. “And this is the least I can do for the people who saved my daughter, and then risked their own safety to bring me a letter from my mother.”
“Are you certain, Jeanette?” Luc asked intently. “Despite what you think, you have no obligation to us.”
“You must stay.” she insisted. “I owe you that much.”
There was a noise behind them, and everyone turned to see a man walking through the door.
“This is my husband, Paul.” Jeanette introduced him. “Paul, these two people are Luc and Kristin.”
“I know who they are.” Paul said accusingly. “Their images have been all over the broadcasts today. How could you bring them here, Jeanette? Do you understand what kind of danger that puts us in?”
“That is what I was just saying.” Luc commented. “Jeanette, I think we should go.”
“No…” Jeanette protested. “Paul, you must read this!” She thrust Ruth’s letter into her husband’s hands. Paul reluctantly took the paper and skimmed it, his eyes widening with each word he read.
“You…. Clara…” he looked up at Luc and Kristin apologetically. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful, or inhospitable. But you know what these Snakeheads are like…”
“We understand perfectly.” Kristin nodded. “And that is why it is time for us to go.”
“Paul, they just need to stay one night. They will be leaving at dawn for the train station.” Jeanette explained.
“As you say, it’s not long.” Kristin said. “We will be fine.” She was uncomfortable coming between the couple, and it had not been their intention to make trouble for Ruth’s family.
“My wife is right.” Paul sighed. “You helped our daughter, and it is only right that we do this for you.”
“Are you certain?” Luc asked.
“Yes.” Paul nodded, more confidently.
“Then... thank you.” Luc replied graciously.
Jeanette excused herself to prepare dinner, and when Kristin offered to help she eagerly accepted. Jeanette’s kitchen was warm and homey, and Kristin enjoyed the time they spent there cooking the simple meal.
When they returned to the living room, Luc and Paul were fully engaged in a conversation about various aircraft, and it was clear that the two had hit it off. Kristin smiled, enjoying Luc’s pleasure in the conversation.
“Men!” Jeanette rolled her eyes. “Paul has always loved airplanes, and he flew the UN forces when he was much younger. Of course, we don’t talk about that much anymore, what with the Snakeheads taking away anyone associated with the military or the Federation. All we are now is a middle-aged couple running a drug store.”
“You own the shop downstairs?” Kristin asked curiously.
“Yes.” Jeanette confirmed.
“I don’t suppose I could buy a few things from you?” Kristin asked. “We had to leave our things behind in Chamonix.”
“Certainly!” Jeanette replied. “After dinner, I will take you downstairs myself.”
The meal was a pleasant one, and except for the green Snakehead uniforms Luc and Kristin wore, it was almost as if they were having a social dinner with old friends. Paul and Jeanette asked about the Terran Rebels, while Luc and Kristin explained about the loose network of people working to help humans who had been hurt by the Snakeheads, as well as the alliance of Mediterranean Islands where the alien soldiers had yet to take hold.
“But none of these things are permanent solutions.” Luc pointed out. “Our goal is to help the Federation retake control of this planet.”
“That would indeed be wonderful.” Jeanette remarked, while Paul hung his head.
“I am ashamed.” he admitted. “Here you are both risking your lives to help people like us, and I was too frightened to offer you a place to spend a single night.”
“You were afraid.” Luc said. “That is how the Snakeheads operate. If they can make others fear them, then resistance to their presence is lessened or eliminated. We have to show the citizens of the Earth… the citizens of the Federation… that the Snakeheads are weak, and unintelligent. That they can be defeated.”
“I believe you, Luc.” Paul replied.
There was a thoughtful silence around the table for a moment before Luc spoke again.
“Then tell others.” Luc urged Paul. “Let everyone know that these aliens are not infallible. They have weaknesses, and we will do our best to exploit them.”
“I will.” Paul promised, while Jeanette nodded emphatically.
After dinner, Luc and Paul continued to speak, while Jeanette took Kristin down to the shop. Despite Jeanette’s protests, Kristin insisted on paying for the few items she took, but afterward Jeanette pressed a new watch on her wrist, to replace the one that had broken underneath Mont Blanc.
“Take this, please.” she said. “And when you look at it, remember Clara, and remember us.”
“I will.” Kristin replied, touched. “Thank you.”
The watch was waterproof, and designed for mountain skiers. It was exactly the kind of timepiece that Kristin needed.
After Kristin and Jeanette had returned upstairs, Paul led his two visitors to a small guest room and bade them goodnight. Luc and Kristin began removing their Snakehead clothing, and Kristin took off her jacket. She had left purchases in her pockets and Luc poked through them, curious as to what she had acquired.
“Thanks for the razor.” he grinned. “And a toothbrush too! How did you know?”
“I get to kiss you, remember?” She laughed as Luc grabbed her, placing his mouth on hers. They spent a long moment just enjoying the feel of being in each other’s arms.
“I think I recall that, yes.” he joked breathlessly as they pulled apart. Then his eyes lit upon another item that had fallen out of Kristin’s jacket.
“What’s this?” he asked, holding it up.
“Oh, that’s a calibration device.” Kristin replied off-handedly. “Marie asked me to pick it up at the Laboratory Complex. She…” Kristin’s voice drifted off as she recalled exactly why Professor Tremblay had wanted the device.
“She said that she could use it to confirm your identity.” she whispered, as the realization struck. “Luc…”
“Do you know how to use it?” he asked intently.
“No… but I could probably figure it out.” she replied, immediately sitting down to examine the apparatus. She placed the chip into her computer pad, then attempted to interface with it, ignoring her state of undress in her eagerness to get the calibration device to work.
But after a few minutes, it became clear that this wasn’t going to happen immediately.
“Why don’t you take your shower?” she asked Luc. “I’ll work on it while you do.”
“I was hoping that you would come in with me,” Luc grinned suggestively, “but I guess I can give way to the better cause.”
“Do you want to know who you are, or not?” Kristin laughed.
“Not if I have to give up my time with you.” he growled teasingly, kissing her neck and making her giggle. She shooed him away playfully, laughing as he exhibited mock disappointment.
“Give her a computer to play with, and she forgets all about me!” he sighed dramatically, before wandering into the attached bathroom and leaving her alone. After a moment, Kristin heard the water begin to run. The sound was soothing, and without Luc peering over her shoulder every second, she found herself relaxing. Before long, she had managed to activate the chip. She picked up the scanning nodule and turned it on.
The nodule was a scanning device, and Professor Tremblay had wanted to use it on Luc. So clearly the Professor had intended to scan Luc’s body. Kristin decided to try it on herself first, to ensure that it worked, before using it on Luc and raising his hopes unnecessarily. Carefully, she moved the nodule over her body, then glanced at the resulting readout on her computer pad. What she saw caused the device to fall from her fingers and onto the floor.
“No…” she whispered, picking up the scanner again with shaking hands. “That can’t be right…”
She performed the scan again, yet the results were the same. She carefully read the data displayed on her computer pad.
Galaxy Security Implant detected
Identifying Officer G-3
Cerebonics operating within normal parameters
Execution of Command Code 3210 in progress
Comprehension flooded through her brain as Kristin correctly interpreted the readout from the calibration device.
She had been identified as Officer G-3…
There were five G Numbers that Kristin was aware of: one for each member of the G-Force Team.
And she was reading as G-3: the Swan.
Everything she had learned about herself over the last thirty-six hours came rushing back to her. It all made sense… driving the motorcycle… knowing emergency first aid… fighting the Snakeheads…
The yo-yo weapon.
How could she not have realized this? It was so obvious, so self-evident! Her mind must have been blocking out her other memories. But why?
Another realization hit her. Luc was her Commander. That meant…
Luc was the G-Force Commander! He was G-1: the Eagle.
No wonder Professor Tremblay hadn’t wanted Luc to know about this until she had been certain of his identity! Any normal man might easily be frightened at the thought of being such a high priority target for the Snakeheads.
The Snakeheads knew who Luc was!
Zoltar had called Luc ‘Commander’. Luc had been a Snakehead prisoner with a rank of five stars…
Kristin was certain that she was right. Everything fit.
Slowly, she stood up, dropping the calibration device onto the bed and moving into the bathroom. She walked to the shower, pulling back the curtain to see Luc standing there under the warm rain.
“So you’ve come to join me!” he grinned, pulling her inside, despite the fact that she was still dressed in her underwear and bra. He kissed her, running his hands over her body, and Kristin lost herself in the embrace of her lover: the G-Force Commander.
The most powerful fighter in the Federation.
Chapter 10 by TransmuteJun
Some time later, Kristin lay in Luc’s arms, her head resting on his chest as she listened to his heartbeat. It was strong and vibrant, yet pulsing with power just waiting to be unleashed.
She needed to tell him.
Hating herself for having to break the comfortable silence that blanketed them after their intimacy, Kristin spoke quietly. It was a futile attempt to break the news gently.
“Luc, about the calibration device…”
“Do you think you’ll be able to get it to work?”
“I already did.”
“You did? Then why didn’t you tell me?” Luc held Kristin’s arms to support her body as he sat up, his blue eyes sparkling with excitement. “Let’s try it out!”
“I already did…. on me.”
“I wanted to test it out, to make sure it was working.” Kristin explained. “And what I discovered…” she took a deep breath.
“Luc, I know who I am. And I know who you are.”
Luc did not say a word, but she could sense his impatience coming off of him in waves.
“You’re the Commander… of G-Force.”
Luc’s expression was completely stunned. This was clearly the last thing he had expected.
“But…” he protested, “you told me that the G-Force Team were all dead!”
“That’s what I thought, too.” Kristin admitted. “But it turns out that I’m a member of G-Force too. I am G-3.”
“You’re G-3? And you’re saying that I’m G-1?”
“Let me show you.”
Kristin got off of the bed, retrieving the computer pad with the calibration device still inside, and the scanning nodule. She turned on the nodule and scanned Luc’s body, as she had done with her own.
Kristin glanced at the results displayed on the computer pad, then handed the data over for Luc to read.
Galaxy Security Implant detected
Identifying Officer G-1, Commander
Cerebonics operating within normal parameters
Execution of Automated Procedure 4566 in progress
“Mine was pretty similar.” Kristin told him, watching Luc’s face drain of color as he absorbed the results.
“I am… the G-Force Commander…”
It was a lot to take in.
Kristin wrapped her arms around Luc, gently rocking him back and forth, just as he had done for her so many times in the past. He held her close, almost clinging to her. He seemed to gain comfort just from her close presence. Kristin laid her head on Luc’s shoulder, letting her mind drift…
She was flying… gliding on the warm currents of air that circled the cliffside. She had just leapt off of the edge, spreading her white wings, laughing with the exhilaration of truly flying for the first time, without a safety harness or the training mats they had in the gymnasium. She glanced over to her right, seeing another white form flying next to her. He turned and smiled at her, sharing in her joy.
His face was so achingly familiar, even through the blue-tinted visor. He was her brother… her teammate… her Commander…
“We can get through this, Mark.” she whispered. “We’ve always been able to manage before, as long as we’ve had each other…”
“We have?” His voice seemed distant, as if he were speaking through a fog. No… it was she who was in the fog, with strange memories swirling around her.
“Yes…” An image came to her mind, so vivid it seemed as if she were living it right then. “When Center Neptune was being flooded, and we thought we were going to die… it was all right, because I was with you…”
She could see herself sitting on the floor, back to back with him, his mere presence bringing her comfort in a situation where she would otherwise have been overcome with dread.
“You are my rock, Mark.” she murmured. “You always know what to do… you always take care of me…”
“You called me ‘Mark’.”
Kristin’s fog vanished, and she smiled at him. He looked just as he always had, and a rush of tender feelings enveloped her.
“That’s your name.” she said simply. “I’m Princess, and you’re Mark.” She kissed him gently, then snuggled against his muscular form.
“I love you, Mark.”
He paused, before tenderly kissing the top of her head and pulling her closer to him.
“I love you… Princess.”
They awoke while it was still dark the following morning, to ensure that they reached the train station on time. When the soft chime of the alarm on Mark’s watch sounded, Princess groaned, wishing she could sleep even a few moments longer, but knowing that she could not. She rolled over to face the edge of the bed.
Something wasn’t right.
Her pillow was soft… slick… her cheek felt as if it were sliding across the material. She reached over to turn on the bedside lamp and gasped at what she saw.
Her pillow was covered in long, red hair.
It wasn’t just a few strands; it looked to be every hair from her scalp. Horrified, Princess could only cry softly, instinctively reaching out to touch her head with both hands.
She had hair.
Confused, Princess ran her hands through her shoulder-length tresses, tugging on the strands and confirming that this was, indeed, her hair.
“Krist… Princess, what happened?” Mark asked.
“My hair…” she turned to him, a despairing expression on her face. “It’s all over the pillow… and yet, it’s on my head, too…”
“Your hair has changed color.” he told her, pulling some of it away from her face so that she could examine it. “It’s now black… almost… green?”
“But what’s all this?” she moaned, gathering the strands that lay across her pillow. “I have red hair…”
But even as she said the words, she began to wonder. The tresses in her fingertips looked foreign, as if it hadn’t been her hair at all. Unnerved, she got up, running into the bathroom and looking into the mirror.
Her hair was a deep ebony color, with subtle greenish highlights.
For a moment she could hardly speak, but then a strange calm took over her, and there was a sense of rightness about her reflection.
She was supposed to have black hair.
“This is what happened to me, when my hair grew in.” Mark told her reassuringly, appearing suddenly behind her. “It’s something your body needed to do. If everything really is focused on today, then it makes sense that the changes would culminate today as well.”
“One year…” Princess whispered, hardly able to believe it. “Today, it’s been one year since the Snakeheads invaded Earth…” She turned to look at Mark.
“We need to get to Geneva.”
“Then let’s get going.” he smiled at her.
They gathered up every strand they could find of Princess’ hair… Kristin’s hair… and tossed it into the kitchen incinerator before they left, wiping away all traces of her ‘old’ identity. Princess had to admit to herself that this new color came in handy, as the Snakeheads would be looking for a redheaded woman, and not one with ebony hair.
Dressed in their borrowed Snakehead uniforms, they crept silently from the apartment, so as not to waken Jeanette and Paul, then made their way out to the street. They had studied a town map the night before, and were easily able to find the train station. At 6:20 am, they walked onto the main platform.
One benefit of their Snakehead disguises was that no one wanted to look too closely at their faces, and there was no need for them to buy a ticket, thus leaving very little for the true Snakeheads to discover, if anyone tried to follow their tracks. Still, Mark and Princess played it safe, attempting to glower menacingly at anyone who approached them.
When the train pulled into the station two minutes later, they simply boarded, taking a private compartment for themselves. No one questioned their right to be there, and everyone left them alone.
“I guess this uniform has some advantages.” Mark noted quietly, once they had shut the door to their private compartment, to which Princess grinned and nodded.
During the ninety minute ride to Geneva, they discussed their new discoveries of the night before. Mark still did not remember anything of his life prior to the day he had escaped Penal Complex 624-Alpha, but Princess’ memories were obviously returning, and the concept of ‘Luc and Kristin’ now seemed very distant to her, despite the fact that she had been completely secure in those identities less than twelve hours before. Mark was clearly distressed that he could still not remember the things she had, but did not deny the evidence of who he truly was. He seemed to have accepted his name and rank, although he was not adjusting to this change nearly as well as Princess was.
But regardless of what their names were, or what memories they had, their goals, and their intent, had not changed.
They had to defeat the Snakeheads, and drive them from the planet. Their best chance at doing that was to somehow get the information on the data disc they carried to the Federation Government on the Planet Riga, and convince their forces to help liberate Earth.
But first, they had to get to Geneva.
There had been free tourist maps of Geneva in information racks around the train station, and Princess had surreptitiously grabbed one as they had walked up the platform. Now she spread the map over the seats, examining the city in great detail.
Mark held his breath as she slowly ran her finger back and forth across the downtown area, searching for something she knew was there.
She only needed to be reminded.
And then, suddenly, there it was.
“The UN.” she whispered.
“The UN?” Mark asked. “UN Headquarters?”
“It makes sense.” Princess said thoughtfully. “The UN Administrative Headquarters were in Geneva, even though the International Meeting Hall was in New York. As part of G-Force, we would have been familiar with the area.”
“Do you remember it?” Mark asked.
“No.” Princess shook her head. “But I think I will, once I get there.”
The train arrived promptly at eight o’clock, and the two imposter Snakeheads disembarked, striding purposefully down the platform and into the city. The Gare de Cornavin where they had disembarked the train was barely more than two kilometers from the Palais des Nations, where the UN Headquarters was located. Princess sensed where they were supposed to be, and moved confidently down the city streets, Mark walking next to her.
Before long, they were almost within sight of the gardens surrounding the main UN Buildings, but Princess suddenly stopped, pulling Mark aside into a small alleyway.
“We have to get rid of these uniforms.” she said quietly.
“The Snakeheads are looking for us.” Mark reminded her. “Do you think that’s wise?”
“It’s risky.” Princess sighed. “But the problem is, I don’t know who is meeting us. I don’t know if I will recognize their face. They have to see our faces. They have to recognize us.”
Mark nodded reluctantly, understanding the dilemma they were in. They moved deeper into the alleyway, hiding behind a slew of dumpsters to divest themselves of the green uniforms. Mark pulled a hat over his head, but Kristin simply let her fresh growth of hair hang down in front of her face. It was difficult to know how much of their true selves they could expose, without being immediately noticed by any Snakeheads.
The good news was that other than themselves, they hadn’t seen very many people in Snakehead uniforms since they had arrived in Geneva. On the surface, at least, it seemed as if the manhunt for their recovery was not nearly as intense here, as it had been in the Mont Blanc area.
Cautiously, they approached the Palais de Nations. The area was located within the beautiful Ariana Park, and Princess held her breath as they rounded the final corner.
What met their eyes was a scene of utter devastation.
What had once been the site of peaceful gardens and the United Nations Headquarters was now a blackened region of scorched earth. The buildings that had been there had clearly been destroyed for quite some time, and there had obviously been no attempt to restore the area.
“The Snakeheads…” Princess gasped, understanding and remembering what had happened there. In her excitement to arrive at their meeting place, she had forgotten that after the Snakehead Invasion, all of the Federation, Galaxy Security and United Nations facilities that could be located by the Spectrans had been destroyed, so that the Snakeheads could demonstrate their complete control of the planet. Mark and Princess bowed their heads respectfully, paying homage to the sacrifices that had been made as the Earth had suffered under the Snakehead Occupation.
They were not the only ones.
In defiance of the Occupying Force, small groups of Terrans had gathered at the site, some laying flowers upon the blackened earth where the UN Headquarters had once stood. The Snakeheads were suspiciously absent from the scene, but Mark and Princess understood that the area was likely being monitored by remote cameras, and continued to act with caution and suspicion. Princess was glad that she had insisted that they remove the uniforms they had been wearing. The green clothing would only have made them stand out in an unfriendly atmosphere.
Although the people at the site were scattered about, there were enough individuals in the area that it was not easy for them to see whom they might be meeting. They wandered slowly through the area, keeping their heads down and searching anywhere for a glimpse of anything… anyone… that bore the least bit of familiarity.
There was nothing.
After a couple of hours, Mark began to get discouraged, and urged Princess to leave. But she refused, insisting that they had to remain; that it was important, even if she couldn’t recall exactly why.
It wasn’t long after that when Mark noticed a Snakehead patrol vehicle circling the area. The former Federation citizens around them made faint hissing noises, but no one approached the car. Rather, everyone seemed to shy away from it. Mark and Princess did the same, but a few moments later they noticed the vehicle returning again, this time moving closer to their position.
“It's spotted us.” Mark whispered grimly under his breath.
Princess acknowledged his words with a small nod, intensely frustrated that the arrival of this one small vehicle was going to ruin their chances to rendezvous with… whomever it was they were supposed to meet. She sighed reluctantly, keeping an eye on the patrol car as it passed. The moment it had rounded the corner, Mark began to move, and she followed. They walked as swiftly as they dared away from the area, back into the city streets.
Mark turned sharply left, pulling Princess with him into an alleyway and pausing only for a moment before continuing through the narrow passage to the next block. He sighed with relief as they emerged onto the next street, with no sign of any Snakeheads in sight.
Princess was just contemplating how they could return to the Palais des Nations, when the patrol vehicle appeared at the end of the block. They had been spotted again.
This time, there was no denying that the Snakehead vehicle was making its way directly toward them. It turned sharply, heading to their position with clear intent. The time for subtlety had passed.
Mark took off like a shot, throwing himself into the street, heedless of the passing traffic. Tires screeched and horns honked as they wove their way through the sea of cars, until one of the automobiles slammed into Mark’s body, sending him crashing to the ground. Princess tried to scream, but before the sound could come out of her mouth Mark was on his feet again, grabbing her arm and physically yanking her body to the other side of the street.
The patrol car had been blocked by the suddenly stopped traffic, but Princess could see it maneuvering to get around the various obstacles on the road. Mark ran down the sidewalk, pulling them into yet another alleyway after running through the amazed pedestrians who stared at them as they flashed by.
Yet as they burst through the end of the alleyway to another street, the Snakehead vehicle appeared again, dogging their every move.
“Damn it!” Mark swore, dashing down the road in the opposite direction. They ran past a series of once-stately buildings, now boarded up and abandoned in the harsh environment of the Occupation. He turned back into another narrow passageway, but even before they had emerged at the other end, they could see the patrol car blocking their way. Quickly, Mark spun around, his eyes darting back and forth, assessing every situation.
“He’s got to have called for backup, by now.” Princess hissed. “More will be coming at any moment!”
Mark nodded, then moved to a nearby door off of the passageway. It seemed to lead into a run-down apartment building. He turned the knob, but it refused to budge.
Princess’ heart fell, but Mark refused to be denied. He raised his leg, delivering a powerful kick to the door, the heel of his foot landing next to the locked handle. With a loud crack, the door crashed open, and an instant later Mark had pulled Princess inside, and they were dashing up a staircase that lay directly in front of them.
As they rounded the second flight, they could hear footsteps behind them, and Princess knew they were being followed. She ran as fast as she could, her heart and her feet pounding with each step they took up the stairs, ascending four more flights until they reached a final door. Not even stopping to see if it was locked, Mark kicked out at this final barrier, nearly sending the slab of wood flying off of its hinges as it fell before his assault.
They found themselves on the roof, with no place to hide. The footsteps behind them were growing louder. Princess reached into her jacket pocket for her yo-yo, preparing for a fight, but Mark grabbed her arm, yanking her forward to the edge of the building.
“We can jump.” he told her. “We did it before, in Paris, remember?”
Princess nodded, much less nervously than she had on that long ago day atop her apartment building on the Left Bank. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she had been a quiet girl named Kristin, who had kept to herself and had avoided capturing the Snakeheads’ attention while carrying out simple tasks for Father Richlieu.
They backed up a few steps, then took a running start…
Princess stumbled, pulling away from the edge of the roof at the last possible second. Beside her, Mark did the same, only catching himself a little more gracefully. Princess wondered why that one word had been capable of stopping her instantly in her tracks. Had it been the note of pleading, rather than arrogant demand, in the voice? Or had it been the fact that the word spoken had been English, and not Spectran?
She turned, only to see a Snakehead on the roof behind them. He was not pointing his gun at the two of them, but rather just staring curiously.
Slowly, he put his gun down on the ground, then reached up to pull off his mask.
The last time they had seen this man had been in an underground tunnel, barely an hour after they had rescued him and his companion from Penal Complex 624-Alpha.
“Scott…” Mark said, recognizing the man.
“No.” Princess corrected. “His name is Jason.”
Once Mark and Princess had understood that there were no Snakeheads after them, they had left with Jason, accompanying him to a small room overlooking the Ariana Park and the Palais des Nations. He had apologized for his attire when searching for them, but he was also the subject of a Snakehead manhunt, although perhaps not on the same scale as the search for Mark and Princess.
Princess had used her calibration device to confirm that the man they had previously known as Scott was in fact Jason, otherwise known as G-2: the Condor. His appearance had changed as well: when last they had met, his hair had been blonde, and his eyes had been as bright a blue as Mark’s. Yet now his hair was dark brown, and his eyes were a grayish color, with only a hint of blue.
Jason had been in the small room for two days, having been drawn to Geneva for reasons he hadn’t understood. He had been monitoring the former UN Headquarters day and night: nearly every waking moment. He had been waiting for something, but it had only been when Mark and Princess had shown up that he had understood what it was.
Jason and Princess alternated watching the Park through Jason’s distant vision goggles, while the three former teammates took turns explaining the events they had experienced during the last few months. Princess and Jason were astounded that they had not recognized each other half a year before, when Mark and Princess had been responsible for Jason’s escape from the Snakehead Penal Complex. Mark was simply amazed that the other two recognized each other now, as he still could not recall either of them.
The subdued trio maintained their vigil well into the night, but no one else whom they recognized came to the Palais des Nations.
It was just the three of them.
The Snakeheads had boldly declared that the G-Force Team was dead, proudly displaying the image of their warship exploding over and over again on the planetary broadcasts. Yet here they were, three of them, reunited and all with the same goal in mind.
The looked at each other; a new excitement gripping their minds, and their souls. Their memories had shown them the way to find each other again, and now that they had, the power was theirs once more.
Each of them knew, deep in their hearts, that this was just the beginning.
The war had begun anew.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.