WARNINGS: Some scenes contain strong violence, actual and implied.
Those of a sensitive nature may find some portions disturbing. There
are a few instances of alien language (Regalian), I’ve provided a brief
glossary at the end.
"Okay, this looks like a real sleeper.” Kris looked around at the quiet
park, the sizable pond and the clear, nearly cloudless sky.
"Kris, do you ever stop complaining?" Mark sighed and looked out over
"Nope." Matt walked over and leaned against the fence next to his
cousin. "You should hear her when she thinks the Chief is trying to get
us killed." The look Kris gave her partner would have melted frozen
butter in Siberia within a few seconds.
"Think of it as a working vacation." Key suggested.
"I don't do "working" vacations." Kris grumbled.
"Or real vacations for that matter." Paul grinned and ducked behind Pet
to keep Kris from hitting him.
"All right, people, can we please try to get some work done?"
Kris flashed Paul a vulgar sign and made the pretense of turning her
attention to Mark.
“The Chief is concerned about the dearth of communication and periodic
friction between the teams, which appears to stem from a lack of
familiarity. To that end, he would like us to become better aquatinted.”
“Say what?” Yale gave Mark a blank look.
“Let me try, Mark.” Matt chuckled. “Guys, Anderson thinks we don’t play
well together. He wants us to try to get know each other a little
“Are you serious?” “Er, we’ve known each other for at least eight years
now.” “Is he aware that several of us hang out together off duty?”
“Man, just because we cleaned up the gym with each other last week.”
The responses were varied, but the reaction was much the same: amused
“We may know a little about each other off duty, but face it, folks, we
don’t know how the other team works or thinks.” Matt half laughed.
“Think about it, every time we work together, we usually pair off with
someone from our own team. Hardly ever do we work with one of our
"To help rectify that,” Mark resumed his briefing, “We pair up with a
person from the other team, each pair taking a section of the city, look
around for a couple of hours then meet back here to compare notes."
**Gee, what a unique approach. What's he going to say next .. stick
together and stay in contact?** Kris telepathically laughed.
**Kris….** Paul stifled a laugh.
**Of course it could be worse, he could be suggesting we all stay
together, make one big target.**
**Better yet. Remind us not to go nosing around in Battlesuit.** Paul
"If you two are done." Mark glowered at the twins. He couldn't hear
what they were saying, but he could tell they were talking to each other.
And knowing them, it was at his expense.
Matt laughed softly and said something to Mark that prompted a brief
conversation in Rigan.
Mark sighed and reminded them why Chief Anderson wanted the two strike
teams to become more accustom to working together. The way some of the
newer factions of the Alliance were moving, it was becoming more and more
necessary to mix the two main teams. While it was not unheard of for
them to back each other up in the past, and they had worked as one team
on a few occasions, there was always some friction. The Chief thought
throwing them together on fairly simple assignments would improve working
relations and increase efficiencies amongst the team members.
**Okay, place your bets, kiddies,** Ellie cut in, **how long before the
'common good' line?**
**Within the next minute.** Ellie relayed Ben's bid, inflections
**Nah, give him at least three. Two just to get warmed up.** Yale
**Guess I'll take minute and half.** Pet smirked.
**I’d say five minutes.**
**Why five, Paul?** Pet queried
**Three minutes for the "common good" reference, two minutes explaining
why he had to make the "common good" reference.**
**Three and a half to get to the line and a dirty look when we all start
laughing.** Kris quirked an eyebrow and smothered a grin.
**Okay, my turn,** Ellie jumped back in. ** Less than a minute. We're
already getting the dirty look.**
"All right, enough already." Mark shot a dark look around as the Force
Seven team, with the exception of Matt, started laughing. You know, it
is to our mutual benefit if we can learn to merge the two teams."
**Mutual Benefit. Close enough. Damn, Ellie.** Kris sniggered.
Matt reached out and patted his cousin's shoulder as the rest of his team
doubled over in laughter. "You get use to it after a while, Cousin."
“I’m surprised you haven’t killed them yet.” Mark shook his head. “Are
they always this, er, insolent?”
“Not once we hit the field.”
“Ok, lets grab the equipment and get moving. We meet back at the Command
Craft in four hours. Try not to kill each other, people.” Several
members of the unit moved to where several cases of photography equipment
was stacked, knelt down and started gathering up gear.
“As long as we keep Kris and Jason apart, I think we are safe.” Pet
Key smiled and picked up a camera bag. “They’d kill each other in less
than five minutes.”
“I don’t know, Squirt, we’d be more likely to get something done then you
two. I half expect you to find a video parlor and waste the day away.”
“You may expect Key to, but I don’t expect Pet to do that.” Yale
straightened up slowly, scowling at Jason.
“You would be surprised how much the local children know.” Ben added
softly. “Young people often know more than the adults think.”
“This is exactly why the Chief wanted us to take this trip,” Jun sighed.
“He wants us to try and learn to get along, become a bit more
Paul smirked. **Gee, is she saying the Chief is trying to get the bull
to behave in the china shop?**
**No, I think she is saying he only wants to lose three place settings,
not five.** Ellie smiled.
**The breakage of china is directly proportional to the price of said
china.** Ben added via Ellie.
Kris looked up at her brother, rolled her eyes and started laughing.
**Long as the store owner is alive when the bull leaves, who cares how
much damage he causes?**
Mark shook his head in abject frustration as the members of Force Seven
started laughing at the telepathic joking.
Tiny held his hand out to help Kris up, smiling softly. “Care to let
Kris looked at him, the extended hand, for a second, right eyebrow
arching slightly, then reached up and grasped his hand and pulled herself
up. “We were wondering why Neal thinks he can convince the bull to leave
the china shop without causing any damage.”
Tiny cocked his head and started chuckling. “Maybe he is simply trying
to convince it to leave the other bull alone.”
Kris and Tiny moved along the historic district, dutifully playing the
naive tourists, making general small talk. When they paused for a moment
just off the main square Tiny apparently decided to see if he could find
out something about his current partner. "Hey, can I ask a question?"
Kris tipped her head back and stared at the cloudless sky and looked at
Tiny from the corner of her eye. "Sure. I make no guarantees about the
lucidity of the answer, but you can ask."
Tiny smiled slightly. "You and Paul, do you guys like know everything
the other is doing?"
Kris brought her head down and studied the stout Polynesian for a long
second then tipped her head indicating they should start moving again.
They walked for a few moments in silence.
"The short and simple answer," she finally spoke up, "is no and yes. The
long answer is, it is difficult to explain. If you mean can we always
hear or see what the other is saying or doing? The answer is no. We don't
hear or see what the other is doing, unless we deliberately allow it. I
mean, Paul can't hear what I am saying, or thinking, unless I purposely
let him, and vice versa. Although sometimes we slip up and one another
gets fragments, nothing in this world is perfect, even our control of our
gifts. A distraction, like pain, or whatever can sometimes lead to
leakage. Can we see or hear through the other one? Not in the way you
might think. We can pick up mental images from each other. If Paul were
to see something he thought I would be interested in, he would contact me
and show me an image. It would be kind of like looking at a photograph.
I cannot see through his eyes, I would see a representation of what he
had seen. Same with hearing, I would hear an echo. Can we talk to each
other any time we want? Anyone who has sat through a staff meeting with
one or both of us knows the answer to that one." Kris smiled at Tiny's
soft chuckle. "We keep each other company, entertained, most of the time.
Are we aware of the other's presence? That's the one that is hard to pin
down. We are, but rather in the way you are aware of your left hand. It
is there. It has always been there. You know it is there, if it were
missing you would notice its absence, but most of the time you are not
consciously aware of its presence. I know that really does not make a lot
of sense, but that's the best way I can explain it. “She shook her head.
"Paul and I are aware of each other's presence in the back of our minds,
we can even use the presence to track each other, not an exact location
mind you, just a general direction and distance, but as a rule we don't
pay the presence any more attention than you do your left hand.”
"Hun? Track each other? How?"
"The link, or presence, can serve as a kind of low band locator beacon.
It is there, like a soft white noise, rather like the air circulation
system at Alpha. You hear it, but ignore it, unless it is not working. We
can get a general idea of direction and distance by how loud the 'beacon'
is. If we're under fire or hurt the 'beacon' gets more intense and the
location is more precise.
"So, you see, the answer is no and yes. We don't know exactly what the
other is doing or exactly where they are standing, but we are always
aware of the other and their physical and mental state. And we can, and
do, share experiences, but rarely is it involuntary."
"I was just wondering. I'd heard that you two shared pretty much
everything." His cheeks turned a dark rose color as he looked away.
"I see Jennie has been talking again." Kris kept her voice neutral. "Yes,
we can pick up extreme emotions from the other. Strong emotions and pain
can be hard to block in fact, which is how we always know when the other
has been hurt. But do I get a "backseat" view every time my brother
decides to bed someone? No. We can and do screen things so the other is
not disturbed." She pointed towards a large building, and the
'fascinating design', resuming their role as tourists. "I'm going to kill
that bitch yet," she added softly in Regalian.
Tiny had the grace not to ask her to repeat the line in English. He
dropped back a step, letting her point the camera at the building. "I
apologize if I said something that upset you."
"You did nothing that requires an apology, Randy. It would be very
foolish, and immature of me, to become upset over an honest question from
someone seeking information." Kris angled the camera to pick up the
building they were standing in front of and most of the one to the left.
"Then why did your voice get so tight? I've noticed that you tend to do
that when you are angry and trying to refrain from seriously hurt
someone, like the Chief."
”I get aggravated at people assuming they know something and then
broadcasting that 'information' as fact, when in reality they don't know
anything. Yes, Paul and I are very close, but we also respect each
other's privacy. Something that little andarn never learned. Trust me, I
am far from disappointed that she is out of his life. The only thing that
would make me happier is for her to vanish completely from the known
universe, taking her lies and distortions with her.”
**Something wrong, Kris?** Paul interrupted the conversation, amusement
and mild concern tingeing his mental voice.
**Not really, why?**
**I just got the impression you wanted to do bodily harm to someone.**
"Andarn. That is an interesting word. You two use it for any and all,
regardless of gender."
**Interesting…that’s a funny way of describing THAT word.** Paul teased
as he caught the echo of Tiny’s comment.
Kris shook her head, reshielding herself with an admonishment to her
brother to quit eavesdropping and lowered the camera, giving Tiny a thin
smile. "Randolf, if you are asking for a translation, the answer is no.
Besides, I've heard you muttering something I think was none too polite
at Jason in your mother tongue."
"Having a second language can be useful," he agreed. "By the way, we are
"I noticed." Kris pointed towards the sculpting at the roof of the
building. "Can you get a better look at them?"
"I think so." Tiny pulled his camera out and started fumbling with the
lens. "Two males, about 20 to 2five years earth time, dressed in loose
fitting clothes, one has a triangle pendant on."
Kris turned to look down the street in the opposite direction. "Can you
see anything inside that triangle?"
Tiny reached around to refocus the camera and almost dropped it. "Yeah.
Something almost like an inverted cross."
"Or a sword?" Kris calmly turned back towards him and reached out to turn
the zoom on the lens.
"Yeah, that would work." He scowled down at his camera and let it hang
from the strap around his neck.
Kris glanced at the concealed top viewfinder of her camera and swore
softly. "Kevas. That's Tan-Meit." She brought the camera up to look
through the lens, swinging it up towards the building roof, snapping a
shot as it arced.
"Tan-Meit, that's the "new" group." Tiny casually glanced down the
street, seeming indifferent.
"Yep. Fanatical religious zealots with sociopathic tendencies."
"Our way or death, real charmers." He laughed humorlessly.
"Two people do not an invasion make. Let's move on, give our friends over
there something else to look at."
They moved on to the left, studying the fascia of the buildings as they
Tiny just finished explaining the relationship between him, Key and Jun,
which Kris quickly compared to her and Paul, and Pet and Yale, when Kris
stopped to retie her boot.
"We have company again."
Tiny glanced back down the street. "I see."
"Notice how they are watching all of the tourists?"
"Yes, like they are watching for something, or someone, in particular.
Not the same group though. These guys are wearing some kind of black and
white device on their collars."
Kris straightened up slowly. "Black and white? Can you see any red?" Tiny
shook his head and started to turn. "Kevas! I wish Paul were here." She
gave Tiny an abashed smile. "He has something like 20/10 vision. He's the
smart-ass that actually read the "Printed in Cleveland" line on the eye
"Oh." Tiny's eyes widened. "I thought that was just a joke."
"No, the snot really did it. And right about now, we could use that. If
I'm right, we not only have Tan-Meit, we also have Bantiel here." She
started moving down the street, no longer paying attention to the
buildings. "I don't care to mess with those guys again."
"Hang on a sec, I want to get a shot of that mural." Tiny pointed to a
painting not far from where the observers were standing. "I think I saw a
third person standing behind them," he added softly as she paused,
looking over her shoulder.
Kris nodded, leaned against a lamppost looking around with a bored
expression while he fidgeted with the lens of the camera. "Yep, third
person alright. This is weird,” he snapped a couple of frames. “He looks
like he is wearing the same kind of clothing as our Tan-Meit friends."
Kris raised her head and looked at him, "Diathair."
"Maybe I'm wrong."
Kris didn't bother with a pretense of looking at the painting; she
pointed the camera towards the three men. A long string of swearing
followed two quick photos. As the string got longer, Tiny's eyes widened.
"Er, how many languages can you swear in, anyway?" Kris gave him a faint
scowl. "I thought Jason's Rigan / Sicilian fusion was interesting."
"Four, if you count the odd Terran Japanese words I picked up from Ben,"
Kris quirked an eyebrow at him and started opening the memory port of her
camera and removing the memick. "I didn't know Jason knew Rigan." She
slipped the memick into the pocket of her jeans.
"Only the swear words." Tiny chuckled.
"We need to get back to the rendezvous point." Kris looked at her watch.
"It's about Two klicks north-northwest of our current location. Pull the
memick and put it in your pocket. What ever you do, don't lose it."
"Okay, care to fill me in?" He glanced up from opening the memory port.
"You were right. The third guy is Tan-Meit. And, I think I got a shot of
him handing something to one of the Bantiel boys. Either way, between us
we have got shots of them together."
"You mean .."
"We have one HELL of a problem."
**Kris, What's wrong? You just tripped all the way to “Condition Red”,
never mind “Orange”.**
**Paul, pull back to the rendezvous point.. We need to get out of here,
now. We just got evidence of a possible Bantiel and Tan-Meit
collaboration.** Kris jerked her head, indicating Tiny should start
Paul's swearing lasted almost as long as Kris' had. **I'll pass it along.
We're fairly quiet here so I can afford the distraction. You two just get
out of there.**
**Thanks, bro. I'll see you on the Falcon.**
Tiny and Kris started casually strolling back down the road in the
direction they had come from, only this time they were paying more
attention to glass windows. They paused for a second at the intersection
that lead back to the main square.
“I’m going to suggest that we split up when we hit the main courtyard.”
Kris flicked a glance towards at a nearby window and watched the tail
they had picked up stop in a doorway.
Tiny stretched, looking towards the building tops. “Uhm, ok.”
“You go left, I go right. We have a small lead on them, so we’ll have
about thirty seconds to get to the T-split before they round the corner.
We need to make sure we are clear of the visible path before then.”
“It’ll take us just under thirty to reach the split,” Tiny frowned.
“Which means once we hit it, we need to kick it in, clear the area as
fast as possible.” Kris quirked an eyebrow at the hesitant,
unenthusiastic, look on Tiny’s face. “Don’t give me that look, I’ve seen
you go after a quarterback. I know how fast you really are.”
Tiny gave a low, sardonic, laugh. “I didn’t think you watched sports.”
“You’d be surprised at what I pay attention to, Randy.” Kris took
another surreptitious look around, making sure their tail was still
‘occupied’ and there were no other followers. With a slight tip of the
head, she indicated they should start moving again. “I just don’t watch
my brother’s races live. He says it distracts him too much. Something
about watching him go nose first into the wall, makes me a bit nervous.”
She grinned slightly at the low chuckle. “Not that I don’t worry about
him during the races, but I worry less if I can’t see what he just
“Like other drivers hitting him?”
“Yeah.” Kris nodded faintly, glancing behind them. “We’re clear.” She
reached up and thumped him on the shoulder, grinning evilly. “Go get
your quarterback, Harper.” She was rewarded with a chuckle disguised as
Kris waited a few seconds, watching Tiny before turning and headed in the
A few minutes later Kris was fervently hoping Tiny was having better luck
then her. She hadn’t been able to go more than a block without seeing a
member of either the Tan-Meit or Bantiel. Twice she had come within
seconds of changing to her battlesuit only to breathe a silent sigh of
relief when a Bantiel member walked past without looking at her a second
time; never mind that changing in public was very much against
regulations. She would vastly prefer to deal with Chief Anderson, and
his never-ending stack of paper work, than try to fight any of the
Alliance factions without the protection of the suit.
‘The problem with aerial maps,’ Kris thought darkly, ‘is the lack of
ground perspective. I know I have problems with ground base navigation,
but this is getting ridiculous.’ She eyed the warehouses grimly. ‘A
left, a right, second left and another right should have brought me to
the secondary route to the rendezvous. So, why I am I standing in the
middle of the warehouse district?’ She backed up a few steps, leaned
against a nearby wall and looked around. The tourist routine wouldn’t
work for long in this area, so out came the ‘historical’ map. She had
almost figured out what wrong turn brought her to this area when the
sound of voices drew her attention.
Two men dressed in rough work clothes were walking from a nearby alley.
One glanced in her direction. The young Regalian decided to play a
“Excuse me, gentles, Ah seem ta ‘ave gott’n a bit lost. Cou’d either
a’ya tell me how ta ge’ back ta tha main squ’re?”
“Girly, you are kilmils from there.”
Kris’ eyes narrowed briefly behind dark lenses, both at the condescending
tone and the sight of a certain black and white pin on the collars of the
men. ‘Kevas, these andrans are as thick as hounds with a tick.’ “Well,
kin ya show me where ah am?” She held out the map. “If ah know where ah
am, per’aps ah kin fin’ ma why back.”
“Sure, for a price,” the one that had first seen her laughed.
*You must not like living,* Kris answered in Regalian, smiling gently.
“Enough,” the second man, silent till then, shoved his partner in the
shoulder. “We have more important things to do.” He jerked his head
towards the far left end of the street. “Back that way, you should be
able to find your way.”
“Thank ya.” Kris nodded and took a few steps in the direction he had
pointed. She looked down at the map and allowed her peripheral to widen
enough to follow their movements. She watched as they continued down the
grimy street, opposite from the route they had pointed her towards. A
bolt of adrenalin flashed through her when she noticed the second man
pause and look back in her direction. Pocketing the map, she
surreptitiously touched the memick and started walking away. A few steps
farther along she relaxed a fraction when no sound of approaching
footsteps reached her ears.
The relief was short lived. At the intersection of the next alleyway she
caught sight of five men standing around listening to a radio. Dropping
back a half step to get behind the corner of the office building, Kris
cocked her head slightly and half closed her eyes.
Paul was the one with the reputation for seeing small details at long
distances. For Kris, it was her hearing that was sharper than normal.
During one of the screening tests, she had driven the otologist near
insane with her insistence that she could hear something the entire time.
They had gone so far as to have Paul leave the room, in case he had
somehow been cuing her. Finally they brought in an acoustic meter and
discovered that the testing equipment was emitting a very faint hum. The
hum had been transmitted through the headset into the examination
Kris turned her attention to trying to hear the radio conversation.
Distant sounds of the city masked portions, making it difficult to follow
the entire dialogue.
**Hold on a moment.**
“Return .. base … target …lost. Tourist .. heavy.”
“..we had one .. section 46.”
“We had .. tourist who .. lost in .. 46.”
“Advise .. last seen .. description.”
“Female, young adult … wearing tinted glasses .. wide brim. Pointed her
… main square. .. be there now.”
“Wundebah,” Kris sighed to herself and moved to the far side of the
building, leaning against the wall a few strides around the corner,
watching the narrow alley and the main road at the same time.
**What’s wrong?** Paul took her apparent relaxed concentration as
indication he could finally speak.
**Try what isn’t; it would be a shorter list. Listen, these mis-borns
are looking for someone. They haven’t found them yet. They are pulling
back to their main base for now.**
**Okay, and you know this how?**
**I’m just within range to hear part of their radio traffic.**
**Terrific. Look, Matt is wondering when you are going to grace us with
**Tell Wolf I said to sit on it and rotate.**
Paul stifled a half chuckle at his sister’s growl. **Okay, so what’s the
**I took a bloody wrong turn and ended up in the warehouse district.
It’s going to take me a few minutes to get back to recognizable ground.
And I have a suspicion I may have been made.** Kris tipped her head back
and eyed the roof of the building next to her. ‘Maybe one and half
stories, with a local grav field of 1.16, could be tricky.’ She noticed
a stack of packing crates about five0 feet away. **Hang on, I have an
**You are not going to go find the base by yourself.**
**I’m may be crazy, Paul, but I am not stupid.** Kris mentally chuckled.
**Since part of the problem is I lose perspective on the ground, I’m
going to try taking the taking the high ground, so to speak. I saw what
appears to be packing crates a few yards to my left. If I can get a
boost of several feet, I should be able to make the ledge with little
difficulty. I don’t think our friends here would think to look on the
roof for a lost tourist. I think I better get moving. Sounds like my
would-be playmates are done talking and headed this way.**
Whatever reservations Paul had, he kept to himself. **Be careful.**
**I will. Pass on what little we have, will ya.** Kris broke contact
and started moving towards the stack of crates, pausing once to pull back
into the shadow of the building when the group she had been monitoring
passed in front of the building. Once they had passed, she moved to the
stack of crates and lightly vaulted to the top. She swore softly to
herself when the plank under her left heel cracked and splintered. The
sudden shift in weight caused the crate to tilt and fall off the stack,
landing its occupant ingloriously on the ground.
Kris levered herself up, shoved her right boot against the crate to free
her left foot, and shook her head to clear the ringing. She started to
reach back and pick up her hat, wondering how much worse the day could
get, when the sound of people running reached her ears. Disregarding the
hat, she scuttled over next to the crates and peered through a crack. A
group of Tan-Meit soldiers were moving down the alley in her direction.
Casting a glance over her right shoulder Kris made sure no one was close
by, or in direct line of sight. Once she felt she was unseen she tapped
two buttons on her watch.
A faint shimmer of light glowed behind the stack of crates. When it died
instead of worn jeans and a loose fitting open collared shirt, Kris wore
an outfit that almost resembled a stereotypical Terran Japanese Ninja
costume. The similarity was purely superficial though. The battlesuits
were designed not only help conceal the wearer, but also to protect them
from most types of common battle injuries. Made of ultra lightweight
fibers and nanites and virtually seamless, they would stop standard
bullets up to a 60 caliber, could stand up to fire for several minutes,
and even offered some protection against laser weapons. They didn’t stop
the wearer from getting hurt, blades or shrapnel sharp enough to pass
between the fibers would still cut and strong acids would burn through,
guns shots would still hurt, possibly even break bones and the heat from
direct flames would cause burns, but they would keep most injuries from
being life-threatening. As one team member had once said, they kept the
wearer from leaking copious amounts of body fluids.
Once the energy pulse from the signal transformation passed, Kris shifted
position to where she could see a little better; trusting in the limited
chameleon effect to shift her grey, charcoal and black to something close
to the wood and shadow of her environment. She peered around the crates.
A group of soldiers had stopped in front of the crates and were scanning
the area. She thought they would move on when one that had crossed the
alley to look around spotted her hat laying a few feet from where she had
“Crov,” the young soldier called to his group leader as he moved towards
the abandon hat, “someone was here.”
Kris swore mentally as the senior moved in her direction. The suit might
keep her from being noticed from several yards away, but it wouldn’t work
up close and this guy was about to cross with a few feet of her. Before
he got close enough to detect her she unholstered her gun and started
firing. The first two went down in rapid succession as she came out of
her crouch and started moving, the soldiers scattering in confusion.
Shouts from around the corner warned of more soldiers enroute. The
swearing became audible as she dove to avoid return fire and made a rough
count of the incoming forces. Five to one odds was turning into about a
dozen to one.
“Save your ammunition,” one of the new soldiers yelled, “that suit will
stop standard fire.”
“What do you suggest, Der? Talking him to death? And how do you purpose
to get him to stop firing at us?”
“Ya don’,” Kris responded and promptly shot him. “By tha way, i’s her,
Der signaled for his team, and what was left of the first team, to circle
Kris backed up and almost stumbled over Crov’s body as the circle closed
in around her. A fast check of the gun showed a three-quarter charge.
Leveling the gun at mid-waist level she pulled the trigger, holding it
while she pivoted around, hitting three in the chest before she was
tackled from behind. An elbow to the face convinced the man to relax his
hold enough for her roll from underneath him and scramble to her feet.
Another sustained burst from the gun hit one more in the face and backed
off two others. A second glance at the gun showed the charge had dropped
below half, any more sustained discharges and she would need to replace
the power pack.
The soldiers, except one, back up a half step, eyeing her warily. The
one, older by several years, held his ground and met her gaze unblinking.
He sidestepped, trying to circle around and come on a blind side. Kris
shifted to follow him while trying to watch the others at the same time.
The man behind her stepped forward, a large plank in his hand. Before
she could get turned around, he swung and hit her across the back of the
head and shoulders. Kris dropped face down, her gun falling to the
Blackness gradually gave way to hazy awareness, accompanied by pain and a
persistent echo in Kris’ head.
**Kristen! Damnit, answer me.**
Kris bit back a groan and tried to get her feet under her. **Paul, I’m
okay, I think. Please, don’t yell.**
**Sorry, I didn’t think I was yelling,** Paul’s mental voice was only
slightly less intense and it still had an odd echo. **How bad are you
**Not sure yet. I feel like Yale and Tiny parked the command jets on top
“Der, I think she is coming around,” a voice to Kris’ left spoke. She
muffled another groan as the voice seemed to bounce around her skull.
“Good, the Phardon will want to talk to her.” Der voice drifted from
**Where are you?**
**Off hand, I’d say the Tan-Meit base, and not by choice.** she told him,
slowly opening her eyes after being roughly jerked to a stop. **How long
was I out?** Kris carefully raised her head and tried to look around the
**Not more than a few minutes. Sounds like the base is in the warehouse
district if you’re already inside.** Paul was using a mammoth effort to
**Yeah, leave it to me to trip over the bloody thing.** Kris mentally
sighed and took in as much as she could without moving her head. Computer
banks dominated the right edge of her vision; a half circle of chairs was
directly in front; to the left she could only see a wall. **This is no
fly-by-night job. They’ve been here for a while.** She took a deep
breath and tried to pull herself erect. **Air smells recycled.
Underground you think?**
“Well, what do we have here?” a silken voice purred from off to Kris’
“Phardon, we were unable to locate the intended target, but we found this
person prowling around the area.”
A figure, rivaling Pet in height, dressed in black and gold, glided into
view. “One of the Federations elite Strike members. But which one?”
**By all that is Holy! The Tan-Miet base commander’s female? I didn’t
even know they had women.**
**Neither did I, this is the first I recall any of us getting close
enough to see the commander,** Paul sounded slightly distracted, as if he
were trying to talk to her and one of the other team members at the same
time. **Kris, do you remember which way you turned? We’ve got the map
out, trying to get a better idea of where you are.**
Kris closed her eyes and let her head droop. ** A left, a right, second
left and another right, starting from the point where Tiny and I split.**
She noticed that the guard on her left seemed to relax his grip a
**Ah, sis, I think you reversed something,** Paul tried to interject a
small note of humor.
**Hun?** Kris ran the route through her mind. **Oh, bloody hell. Just
the entire thing. Ok, so I’m a dolt.** She relaxed her knees a
fraction, giving the appearance of capitulation or passing out. As she
half expected, the guard shifted slightly but didn’t tighten his grip.
With a hard wrench she pulled her left arm free and pivoted on her right
heel, stepping back she threw her weight against the guard to her right,
shoving him off balance a fraction. Pushing her right elbow into him,
she shifted center of balance, reached over her shoulder and grabbed him
by the throat. A dip of the shoulder combined with a jerk on his
windpipe sent the guard rolling past Kris into his companion. As he flew
past, she grabbed the knife from his belt. Straightening up she drove
the knife into the stomach of the nearest guard. Yanking the knife free
she spun to the left and came face to face with a pack of three charging
The soldiers pulled up and studied her, surprised by the speed and
ferocity of the attack. Two shifted to form a semi-circle as the third
slowly advanced. Kris narrowed her eyes and lowered into a half crouch,
attention tightly focused on the group. A sharp pain lanced through her
left side as the first guard came up behind her and drove a rifle butt
down on her shoulder. A sharp intake of breath preceded a choked cry as
she fell forward, She barely managed to catch herself with her left hand
before she ended up face down.
One of the guards kicked at the knife that had fallen from her grip,
reached down and roughly jerked her to her feet, pining her right arm to
The base commander moved to stand in front of Kris and tipped her head
up, took in the anger behind the pain and smiled. “Very nice. You have
a brutal fighting style. Too brutal to be Gazelle and you’re not quite
tall enough to be Swan, so that leaves Coyote, Hawk or Mongoose. Which
**Kris? How bad are you hurt?** Butterfly light, Ellie touched her mind.
**Paul’s in some obvious distress here.** The question was answered
before it could be asked.
“Phardon?” Der stepped to Kris’s left.
**Shoulder. Butt stroke.**
“There are five known females who are Federation Strike member, Der.
Based on our intelligence, I am thinking we have one of the last three.
Swan and Gazelle have never been noted to carry, or use, a knife.” She
released Kris’ chin and started to turn. “And this one just showed us
she knows how to use a knife quite well.”
**Kris, English, please.** Ellie quietly requested. **I know you’re
hurting, but I can’t help if I don’t understand you.**
Der moved to pin Kris’ left arm behind her back, almost smiling when she
visibly winced as her shoulder was forced back.
**Left shoulder, doubt anything’s broken, but Blessed Father it hurts. I
can hardly feel my hand.**
“Gi’e me fi’e minutes, wi’ou’ yer guards, an’ I’ll intraduce maself
Der jerked up on her arm. “Enough of that.”
Kris grimaced and stomped on his right instep with her left heel.
**I don’t think provoking them will help, Kris.**
“Bitch!” Der snarled and twisted her arm, putting pressure on the
Kris’ knees tried to buckle and she closed her eyes, stopping the audible
gasp. **Fucking asshole. No, but you guys figuring out where this
damned base is would.**
“Der, be calm. You are almost falling for her ploy.” The Phardon sat in
the center seat and smiled at her prisoner. “I never knew the Federation
taught such tactics. Get your guards angry enough and they just might
work against each other.”
**We’re working on it, Pei.** Paul sounded like he was in pain.
“Phardon,” a velvety voice drifted from off to Kris’ right, “you may wish
to remind your men that some of the Federation’s Strike Unit are from
heavy gravity planets, and as such they could be faster and stronger.”
**I’m ok.** Paul tried to put a small smile in his voice. **Just a
**Riiight. Want to try that again, Brai?**
“I would strongly recommend you remove that band from her left wrist.”
The owner of the velvet voice moved around the computer bank to stand
next to the Phardon.
Der looked at Kris’ wrist then looked back at the two at the front of the
room. “Her watch?”
**Kris, we have a general idea of where you lost the trail. Can you
remember anything about the area to narrow the box?**
**If you follow the course I took, starting at the main concourse, you
should find an alley between two of the warehouses with a stack of
packing crates that have been knocked over.**
**I take that is when you fell?**
“That, my micro-encephalic friend, is not a watch. It is a communicator.
We suspect it also has a locator beacon.” Der shrugged and fumbled with
the catch on Kris’ communicator and dropped it in his pocket.
**Only if you have the sense the Father gave a gnat and remember to turn
it on,** Kris added, mentally berating herself.
**Hey, you were busy,** Paul countered. **Besides, we should have a
fail-safe, something that will activate it when we can’t.**
“I might also remind the Phardon that we have intelligence reports
indicating at least one of the Strike Unit is a telepath,” the newest
addition to the conversation moved past the seat, in Kris’ direction.
**Oh, loverly. You guys catch that? They seem to know a hell of a lot**
Kris asked Paul and Ellie.
“I would recommend placing her in the isolation chamber until we have the
time to have a chat.” He moved to stand in front of her, giving Kris her
first good look.
Kris’ eyes flicked over his uniform, taking in the various insignia.
‘Bantiel, lovely. Just what I wanted to see. Kia, even better. Twisted
sons-o-bitches. Ju?’ Kris looked back over the rank, felt her blood
turn cold and wave of fear bordering on panic. **Father God protect
**Sis, what’s wrong?!**
**Bantiel, Paul. They’ve got a Bantiel Kia-Ju. Get me out of here!
These guys are the ones that Turned those marines.**
**Guys, En-gl-ish, please.** Ellie sighed. **I got Bantiel Kia-Ju.**
The Bantiel Kia-Ju studied Kris, noted her eyes widening and the almost
unconscious straining against her captors. “I see you recognize the rank.
You just don’t have the respect for it, yet. You soon will. The
question is, how uncomfortable do you want to be in the meantime?”
**These are the one that turned Marine Force Eight. We have to get my
sister out of there.** Paul growled to the assembly.
**We have a Kia-Ju present?**
**No, fucking shit! He is breathing in my damned face!**
“We could give her something to help her be more accommodating.” The
“No, I don’t want to risk it. Our intelligence information suggests
several members of the Strike Unit are not Earthlings. We don’t have
enough information to avoid an accident. Just put her in the chamber for
now. And let her contemplate her fate.” The Phardon nodded and waved
her guards to remove the captive. As they started to turn the Kia-Ju
added, “cooperation has its rewards, Federation.”
**As I live and breathe, and Father God allows me, I am on my way.**
Kris blinked in dumbfounded surprise at Paul’s forceful tone, her brother
sounded dangerously like her.
As they walked down the corridor, Kris watched for any openings or
indications of where the base was located; mentally growling when nothing
presented itself. She balked a couple of times and received a blow to
the back for her efforts. **Sorry, guys, nothing yet. I still think we
are underground and not far from that alley.** Kris didn’t care if she
sounded like she was rambling. **Ok, this is getting damned annoying.
Don’t these guys believe in side corridors? And I thought Alpha was laid
out weird. Ah, guys? Anyone there?**
**Right here, sis.** Paul gave her a mental hug. **Keep talking.**
**We think we found that alley, Kris.**
**Great! That means I won’t have to accept their hospitality for long,
**Shouldn’t be too long,** Ellie assured her. **Yale is talking about
making a pass of the area in the Falcon. Matt’s trying to convince him
that is not really a good idea, that we’d attract attention, let them
know we were here.**
**Ah, they already know I’m here, and considering we tend to travel
together, don’t you think they suspect the rest of team is here?**
**Suspect and know aren’t the same, Sis.** Kris could hear Paul’s sigh
of frustration. **The commanders don’t want to advertise that the entire
unit is here.**
Kris wrestled fear and anxiety, trying desperately to at least look clam.
**Fine! I’m stuck here, unarmed and hurting, without my communicator,
while we play with semantics. Bloody hell, I don’t even know where
Mama’s gun is.**
**We’ll look for it, Kris, but the first priority is finding you.**
At the end of the seemingly long corridor stood a lone guard along side
of a door. A guard walking behind Kris and her escorts called out for
the door to be opened. Using an open-handed salute, the guard keyed in a
sequence and the hiss of the door swinging reverberated down the long
hallway. Der muttered to one of the guards in the rear to take his
position on Kris’ left. Smiling evilly, he ordered her shoved into the
room after he had taken position in front of the open door, hand holding
the knob. As her feet cleared the threshold, he casually extended his
right foot out intending to trip the Federation Strike Team Member. Kris
looked up from the floor snarling obscenities in English. The maniacal
laughter of Der was the last thing she heard as the door closed, leaving
her in a dark room of stillness and quiet.
Kris looked up and peered around the room. Not that she could see
anything. It was still as pitch black as when Der had closed the door.
Leaning her head back against the wall she took mental inventory. The
ache in her head had died down to a dull throb, her shoulder ached and
she noted a slight loss of feeling in the last two fingers of her left
hand, a sure sign that the blow to her shoulder had caught a nerve. It
would be a while before she had full feeling again. Various other aches
and pains made themselves known; ribs and side hurting indicated to her
that Der’s men had not been gentle bringing her in, a slight twinge in
her right ankle told her she had managed to injure it yet again. All in
all, she was hurting, and probably would be for a while, but still alive.
Sighing she stood up to make another circuit. The first pass had produced
little results. The room was slightly longer than wide, not more than six
feet by eight feet, if she had to guess. The walls were neither hot nor
cold, there was no visible light, and she could hear nothing from
outside. She had ended up sitting in the corner she thought was opposite
the door and, between pain, waning adrenaline and stress, shortly dozed
off. Now she was inclined to examine the room a bit more closely. She
kept her right hand on the wall, slightly to the front, and counted
paces. When she found the next corner, she turned left, and followed
that wall. Slowly she made her way around the room. Once she had
determined the size of the room, eight by six was pretty close; she
started checking the walls, trying to find any indication of seams that
could be doors or panels of some kind. ‘Good thing I’m not
claustrophobic,’ she mused.
The wall material continued to confound her. She knew there was a wall;
there was a physical object directly in front of her. But there was no
sense of temperature of any kind, nor could she feel any vibrations such
as she had been known to detect at Alpha. It wasn’t stone or metal, some
kind of synthetic, but nothing she could recall coming across, either in
person or in one of her science magazines. There was only one
discernable seam. Running her hands up the wall she found where it
stopped and turned left. So the only break in the wall was the door.
‘If I had my knife,’ she thought, ‘I might be able to pry it open, if
only enough to get hold of it. But the buggers found both of them.
Trying to replace Widow Maker is going to be fun.’ More than anything,
save the gun that had belong to her mother, Kris regretted the loss of
the knife she nicknamed Widow Maker. It was a one-of-a-kind custom job;
one and half edges and perfectly balanced for fighting and throwing. The
person who had made the knife for Kris had left the department some years
back. He never got around to telling his replacement how he had
constructed the knife. Rumor was there was a float of some kind inside
pale colored, fitted, hilt.
She sighed and tipped her head back and looked in the direction of the
ceiling, some unknown height above her. Using the wall to steady her, she
reached up; finding nothing she figured the ceiling was over seven feet
high. She wasn’t inclined to try a vertical leap to gauge the height.
There were too many ways for that to go wrong and end up with her getting
even more injured.
Leaning against the wall she closed her eyes, half laughed derisively to
herself since she usually did that to block sights or sounds that could
distract, and tried to contact Paul again. Silence answered her. Since
there had been no indication of trouble at the staging point, nothing
that would cause Paul to be unconscious, she could only presume the
Bantiel had found a way to block telepathic communication. Never mind
that, even unconscious, there was still a sense of someone being there.
Right now there was nothing, it was as if the link didn’t exist. That,
more than the absence of light and sound, bothered her. Ever since the
link had fully developed, not quite ten Terran years ago, the twins had
been able to sense the others presence. As she had told Tiny earlier
that day, usually they paid it very little attention. It was there, it
indicated general mood and physical condition of the other twin, and
sometimes served as an anchor when one of them was upset, but generally
no more regarded then a hand. She dug though her memory; trying to
recall any other times she had been unable to feel the link and came up
empty, as empty as the room in which she now stood. Unconscious,
drugged, drunk, even separated by several light years, she had always
been able to feel something. There were times when it was faint and
required direct attention, but it was always there. In frustration she
balled up her fist and hit the wall behind her. The impact jarred all
the way up to her shoulder. Shaking her hand and rubbing her shoulder
she growled to herself. “Bolta.”
Once the tingling had died and she could feel something in her hand
again, it occurred to her to see if she could find the spot she had just
hit. While she was nowhere near as strong as Paul, wasn’t really even as
strong as Tiny, she was stronger than several other members of the
department, and there was a wall in Alpha that had a small dent she had
left after punching it in anger when she had been fifteen, granted that
section of the wall was hollow, not like the dent Paul had left a few
years later. Leaning back against the wall, she tried to gauge where the
impact had happened. Carefully turning around she ran her hands over the
wall, searching for any sign of damage. After a minute she stopped. A
‘light’ tap hadn’t damaged it. A stray thought crossed her mind. Most
of her strength lay not in her hands, but in her legs. The room was too
small, too narrow, for her to execute a proper round house, but one
didn’t need a lot of width to pull a nice side-kick; not her most
powerful kick, but usually strong enough to knock most of the guys off
their feet during sparing sessions. She back up to wall across from the
door, pivoted, putting her right side to the opposite wall, side stepped
a pace and drove a hard kick at the door. She spent the next few seconds
rubbing her leg and swearing in Terran English, Regalian, and Rigan,
throwing in the odd Terran Japanese word for good measure. Once her leg
stopped stinging she moved over to check the door. As she had half
expected and feared, there was no sign of damage to the door. She fought
down a wave of pure frustration.
‘Think, Kris, don’t just react. There’s no apparent point of egress, so
that means you wait for the others. In the meantime how can you best
help? Staying calm would be a good starting point.’ Stepping back, she
crouched down next to the wall facing the door and looked around the
room, taking full note of the complete lack of light and sound; even the
ventilation system was silent. ‘Okay, they are using Sen.Dep. That
means they feel they have time. That could work to my advantage. We’ve
been trained in basic tactics of resistance.’
“I am supposed to teach you, babies, techniques of dealing with
interrogation,” The voice of one her instructors, Col. Shumaker, echoed
through her mind.
“I am paid to stand here and talk, whether or not you learn anything is
up to you.”
“The most important thing you can learn in this class is ‘No one is
unbreakable’. Everyone has a breaking point, the question is, how much
can you endure, how much are you willing to take, before you reach that
point? I can offer you some suggestions for coping with confinement.
For those of you snickering in the back, saying “Not me”, I expect you to
break first. If you go into an interrogation thinking, “I can’t be
broken,” you will fail! If you go in thinking, “how long can I hold out
or what can I do to increase the odds of resistance?’ You might be able
to hold out till someone pulls your sorry ass out.”
“Your captors will do anything and everything they can to you. If you
are captured with someone else, they will keep you isolated. They will
try to use other captives against you, make you feel responsible for what
happens to the others. They will break your body and spirit. You girls
can expect to be raped, unless they plan on keeping you in chastity
belts. Boys, you can expect to have your genitals abused. They will
humiliate you, defile you, and play games with your minds. Understand,
they have nothing to lose, and you have everything to lose. The odds are
in their favor.”
“So we shouldn’t try to resist?”
“Did I say that?!”
“You said it was futile to resist.”
“No, that is only what you heard. You can sing if you want to, sing
loud. No one is going to burn you for breaking, but don’t be surprised
if your friends kill you themselves, if you freely give them up.”
“What are we suppose to do then?”
“You tell them what they want to hear, you make them work for it though.”
“So, it’s ok to give in, as long as we let them beat us up?”
“No. You are still hearing only what you want to hear! I said tell them
what they want to hear, not what you know. They ask for security codes,
you given them one, an old one. They want the name of your department
head, you tell them David Anderson. They probably know his last name so
don’t change that. If they tell you that is not what is in their
records, you tell them that is the name you know him by. Put enough
truth in the lie to make it believable. Just remember to repeat the
story exactly the same way, each and every time. The slightest variation
could be noted.”
The next few weeks had been literal hell as Col. Shumaker had them put
through what he called the sanitized versions of various interrogation
sessions. By the time they were done, everyone had a new respect for the
former POW. While no one had been seriously injured, no one walked away
unshaken. Even the strongest, the most self confident, had had
difficulties dealing for a few hours with what the man had dealt with for
Sensory Deprivation, Sen.Dep. for short, had been one of the techniques
they had been through. Ellie had lasted the longest, in part because she
had actually fallen asleep in the tank. Kris had made it just under
three hours back then, Paul made it at five flat before he bailed.
Keeping yourself distracted was the first tactic. The less you noticed
what you couldn’t see or hear, the longer you might be able to hold out.
She settled into the corner, making herself as comfortable as possible,
closed her eyes and started singing songs from one of her favorite
albums. Paul had said, no he had promised, he would come for her; all
she had to do was wait. In the far recesses of her mind she wondered how
long she had to wait, would Paul and the others arrive before they came
in to “talk” to her.
She had finished one album and was half way through a second when concern
started worming its way into her mind. Could it really be taking this
long to find the base? She didn’t know how long she had been asleep but
the she did know the album was close to an hour in length. It had to
have been close to two hours since she had lost contact with Paul. Where
were they? Was it possible that she was being considered expendable? It
wasn’t as if she had access to that much classified information. All the
codes she knew could be, and frequently were, changed. She didn’t know
what the battlesuits were made of or how they worked and without
schematics in front of her, she could hardly explain anything about the
command jets, or Chameleon for that matter. The only thing she knew
that might give anyone at Alpha any real concern were the true identities
of the Strike Unit and a handful of the Intelligence agents. And they
could always be pulled in, have identities altered and be reassigned.
Anderson could very well consider it too risky to send anyone in to find
Kris bounced abruptly to her feet, shaking her head and growling soft she
started pacing. ‘Get a hold of yourself, girl. This is exactly what
they want. The doubt. Paul gave his word he would be here and my
brother has never broken his word. Besides, you have no reason to think
they have been in touch with Alpha.’ She stopped pacing and leaned her
head against the wall. ‘Just wish it wasn’t so quiet in here.’
Kris paused in mid-motion as the door swung open, interrupting her kata.
She blinked in the sudden light flooding through the door, unable to see
anything except shadows in the doorway. Before her eyes could fully
adjust, one of the guards stepped in and grabbed her arm, yanking her
towards the door.
“Come on, Federation slut, the Kia-Ju wants to have a ‘chat’.”
Kris allowed them to lead her down the hallway, watching for signs of
doors that might lead to an exit. She didn’t really expect to see
anything, since it was the same corridor that lead from the main chamber
to the cell she had been in. She also tried to reach her brother, let
him know what was happening. There was a faint hint of presence but no
actual acknowledgement, suggesting great distance or unconsciousness. On
the off-hand chance Paul was unable to respond, and not too far away.
Kris tried reaching their team’s telepath. No one had really ever tried
to telepathically communicate several light years, but it was worth a shot.
By the time the guards stopped in front of a well disguised door and
waited for it to be opened, Kris had tried Paul and Ellie several times,
to no avail. She thought at one point she had gotten Paul’s attention,
but wasn’t sure. She couldn’t tell if Ellie had heard anything.
She was forced into a chair that seemed to form around her. She found
she could not move anything from her shoulders down.
“I wouldn’t bother fighting it, if I were you,” a voice came from the
shadows behind a small table in front of her. “It is designed to hold
people far stronger than you.” The voice came a little closer but stayed
in the shadows. “You will only succeed in harming yourself if you
persist in struggling.”
Kris narrowed her eyes and tried to see past the light. She had her
suspicions as to the source of the voice.
The Bantiel Kia-Ju settled casually into the chair opposite her. “What
is your name?”
“What’s yours?” Kris retorted. “I doubt that Bantiel Bastard or Kia-Ju
fuck-wad is what your mother calls you, assuming you have a mother and
didn’t just crawl out of a slime pit fully formed,” she added with a
“What Strike team are you with?” he asked, ignoring her comment.
“Strike? Boy, do you have the wrong person. I’m just a courier.”
“I know you are Strike. Let us not play games. Your teammates have
left, abandoned you. We tracked the departure of a large craft just an
hour ago. I am the only safe haven you have now. Look upon me as your
advocate. As long as I deem you of value, your life is assured. The
second you become a burden I will terminate you myself. Now, what is
your name and rank? What Strike team are you with?”
Kris stared at him. It was possible the teams had left, since she could
get no response. The one effort she made after coming in the room had
only gotten the same dead feeling she had in the cell. Of course that
could work to her advantage, since any psi-dampening field she had run
across worked indiscriminately. If she could not reach her team, then
these jerks could not read her. As to this guy being an advocate, that
was a joke. Soon as he got what he wanted he’d kill her. “Teammates? I
don’t have any teammates. I’m a courier. I work alone. Nor do I have a
rank.” She gave a half effort at a shrug. “I go by Tinker Bell.” ‘Man, I
hope no one is actually using that call sign right now. Never mind how
stupid it is,’ she thought.
“It is useless to resist. The longer you continue to do so, the harder
it will be on you. We know what you are. We just don’t know who you
are. But we will figure it out eventually. You can hold out only so
long. You will come to realize you are alone and that truth will come to
reveal to you that the Federation doesn’t care about you. You are
completely and utterly alone and your very existence is at my sole discretion. Where is Alpha base?”
‘Does this guy talk just to hear himself? Talk about arrogant. You
think you know, but you don’t. If you did you wouldn’t be going through
all this trouble.’ Kris mentally rolled her eyes. “Yeah. I’ve been
alone since I was a kid, when my parents and brother were killed. I’ve
come to like it. I don’t have to worry about anyone and no one has to
worry about me. Nice and simple.” ‘And I only need to try and hold out
till Paul gets back.’ She added to herself. “Alpha base is on Earth,
somewhere.” Shumaker had said it was pointless to lie about stuff that
was common knowledge. Everyone knew that Federation Security
Headquarters, commonly known as Alpha base, was on Terra. “The few times
I have been there, I was blindfolded, unable to see where we were.”
“You are alone you say? How did your parents and brother die? How old
were you when your parents died? Your brother?” The Kai-Ju continued in
a detached tone.
“Zoltar murdered them when I was eleven,” she answered in a flat voice.
The years, and seeing the sorry excuse for a being dead, had dulled that
pain some, but she still ached in her heart.
“So that’s who you are. Alright, do you prefer Hawk or Lady Hawk for an
‘What the fuck?’ Kris slapped down a bolt of panic. “As I said, I go by
Tinker Bell.” she pushed to keep a calm note in her voice. “I’ve heard
of this Hawk, but I’ve never met the woman. I’m honored to be confused
with her though, since she has a reputation for being a major ass kicker.
I heard that her family, like so many others, were murdered by Zoltar and
“Where did you hear this, Tinker Bell?”
“Hell, half the Federation staff knows it.” There was no lie there.
Anyone who had crossed paths with ‘Hawk’ during the early years knew she
had it in for the Spectran leaders, and many knew why. “According to the
gossip, most of the Strike unit lost their families to them or their
allies.” Again, common knowledge. Any mole in the Federation would have
learned that in short order.
“What is it like at Alpha base?”
“Honestly, it’s boring. Plain, dull, grey walls.” ‘Ever seen a base,
military or otherwise that isn’t boring to look at?’
“Can you elaborate?”
“What are the rooms like?”
“The ones I saw were kinda small. Although not as small as the room I’m
being kept in.”
“Are the doors keyed, do they have a keypad or use smart cards?’
“If I remember correctly, the guards had to type something into a panel
next to the door.” ‘And then there is Mycroft.’ She thought. ‘If he
doesn’t recognize you, your voice, any thing, all the right cards and
codes won’t get you anywhere. He can, and will, lock down the part of
the base you were in, tightly.’
The session continued in a similar manner, him asking seemingly random
question, Kris giving back vague answers, for what felt to her like an
eternity. She did her level best to return the same answers no matter
how he tried to disguise the question. At one point she rolled her head
back and looked at the ceiling.
“Look, how many times do I have to tell you, I am not Strike. I am a
courier. I realize that Terran English isn’t your first language, by
that accent, I’d say you weren’t even from the Kentraian system, but you
have to have understood me at least once. Besides,” she looked back
across the table, “do you really think that one of those guys would have been so careless, so stupid as to let themselves get into this
situation?” ‘Damn, am I glad Assidi isn’t around to hear that. He’d be
laughing his ass off.’ She thought disgustedly.
Finally it was over. The Kia-Ju stood up and walked to the door. He
motioned for a guard to come in, waved them towards the chair Kris was in
and left without farther acknowledging her.
One of the guards moved to the table while the other came over and stood
behind her. A few quick keystrokes and Kris found she could move. She
stood up slowly, partially due to stiffness from having sat motionless
for at least an hour and partially to avoid sudden movements that might
alarm the guards. She let the guards take hold of her arms and escort
her to the door.
She meekly followed them, half watching the guards and half watching the
hall. To the left the corridor lead back to the cell, to the right was
the main chamber. They turned to the left and started walking. Kris
gave no sign of resistance. She seemed quite amenable to go where ever
they led. As she had expected, the guards were lax in their efforts to
restrain her. Giving them just enough time to become complacent, she let them continue towards the cell.
As they reached a point about halfway between the two ends of the
corridor, Kris seemed to stumble. She fell slightly forward, pushing the
guards off balance. As they continued forward she pulled backwards. A
fast grab at the left guard’s gun, at the same time she was driving an
elbow into the other guard’s ribcage, had Kris now armed and facing one
guard since the second was on the ground gasping for air. One fast round
to the first guard’s face stopped any arguments he may have had about her
leaving. The second received a round in the chest, ending his attempts
to remember how to breathe correctly. She pivoted around and started for
the central chamber. She had seen enough while listening to the Phardon earlier to make an educated guess about which door led out.
Kris got a few strides towards the main chamber before a loud siren rang
throughout the base, warning staff of an attempted escape. She swore
loudly and doubled her speed. Of all of the members of the Strike Unit,
none could match her in a footrace, especially when the adrenaline
started running high. But outrunning a radio signal was not possible.
Three strides later she hit an electrified field and dropped to the floor
with a scream.
Kris lay on the floor where the guards had thrown her, listening to the
blood rushing through her head. She didn’t try moving till the last of
the muscle spasms finally stopped. While she waited she took stock of
new pains. One of the soldiers had gotten violent when he discovered one
of the unpleasant side effects of a strong shock/stun fields; the person
caught in the field tends to lose control of all voluntary muscle action,
including the bladder. He had kicked her in the ribs a couple of times;
no doubt she now had at least one cracked rib, a bruised hip, and
contusions too numerous to count, all added to the already existing
headache and throbbing pain in her shoulder. She groaned and finally
rolled over to stare towards the ceiling. ‘At least I don’t have to worry
about needing a toilet anytime soon,’ she thought with grim humor.
Slowly she levered herself up to a sitting position, using the wall she
had rolled against to support her aching left side. ‘Ancients, I hurt.
I don’t remember hurting this bad when I broke the blasted thing,” she
grimaced at a bolt of pain lancing through her left shoulder. ‘Of course
that could very be because I was unconscious at the time,’ she half
snorted. Carefully she inched her way backwards till she found the rear
wall. Leaning her head against the wall she stared up into the dark
“The more times you can say “No”, the longer you can resist, the greater
your chances of getting out alive.” Shumaker repeated for what the kids
thought was the three hundredth time. “To that end, keep your mind
active. Sing songs, hell sing nursery rhymes...”
“What’re nursery rhymes?”
“I don’t have time for childish games. If you are not going to be
serious and play the smartass, you can leave.”
“Sir, she’s not. The Kimpels were not born on Earth. They’ve only been
here a couple of years. In fact, English is a second language to them.”
“You think in another language?”
“Er, yes. Regalian.”
“Good, that might prove to be an asset if they bring in a telepath.”
“So, what is a nursery rhyme?”
“Paul, Kris, did your mother ever sing songs, tell little stories that
used repetitive patterns, words that rhymed?”
“Like fun, run, sun, they have a similar sound.”
“You mean a cradle song? A tune sung to little children to put then to
“It’s something like that, but nursery rhymes can also be used to teach
children word patterns.”
“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down
and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.”
“We’d call that a child’s pattern song.”
“If the culture lesson is over; as I was saying, sing pattern songs, go
through your favorite albums, recite classic literature, it doesn’t
matter what you do, as long as you keep your mind active, and do not
focus on your captivity. That is what they want you to do. Therefore
you do something else.”
Kris sighed. She hurt too much to resume her katas, so she started
softly singing. By the time she had finished half the repertoire of one
of her favorite Celtic groups her voice had dropped to a barely audible
whisper. ‘How long has it been?’ she wondered. She tapped her fingers
against her left thigh as she did a rough count. ‘Two, three, another
two there, it’s been at least five hours. Have the others made it back
yet?’ She slowly stood up, using the wall to help maintain her balance,
and started pacing along the wall. ‘I wonder how they got Paul to leave?
Or Janari for that matter? I can’t believe that either left of his own
volition. I wish I knew why they left. I thought we weren’t supposed to
leave anyone behind. Can’t take no five hours to find this place.
Anderson must have recalled everyone. Figures he’d count me as
expendable.’ She half-heartedly punched the wall then leaned her head
against the surface. ‘I wish I could just go home. But home is twenty-
three light years away. Or is it? That’s from Terra and this is
Kentarus.’ Grasping at an opportunity to keep herself occupied, Kris
started working out the differential. ‘From Galactic center, it would be
plus nine on the X, minus sixty on the Y and Z is,’ she growled softly to
herself and she tried to mentally rotated a star chart in her head. ‘Z
would be minus 2. Ok, that converts to that,’ she mentally worked out
the formula, ‘and carry that down, which should give me 21.8five,’ she
finally worked out an answer after several minutes. She rolled around
and leaned against the wall, sighing. Knowing that ‘home’ was a little
closer didn’t make her feel any better. What was a light year, give or
take a fraction, when she didn’t have a way to traverse the distance.
She was tried, hurting, hungry and thirsty. She and Tiny had grabbed a
snack while the played tourist, but the last real meal had been close to
ten hours ago.
“Kris, time for dinner, come inside.”
“Coming, Mama. Soon as I put Jazerian up.”
Kris shoved herself away from the wall, shaking her head, then winced as
her head started throbbing again. Now was not a good time to start
listening to old memories. She paced around the room a few times, trying
to keep herself distracted. ‘Damn, it is too quiet in here. I can’t
hear a bloody thing. Hell, I’d put up with one of Neal’s infernal
lectures, long as it broke this monotony. Where in the name of the
Ancients is Paul? He said he was on his way.’ She stopped pacing and
leaned against the wall opposite the door. ‘It’s four terran light years
back to Terra, it takes four standard hours to get there from here. It
has been around five to six hours terran time since I found this blasted
place. Assuming they left not too long after I lost contact with Paul,
they should be back at Alpha. Given that Neal would insist on a
briefing, and refueling the ship takes half an hour, which could take
place at the same time, and they manage to convince him to let them come
right back, it would take about five terran hours for them to get here.
Nine hours total, at a minimum. That means I have to wait at least
another three to four hours. And that is assuming Neal doesn’t put up a
stall, forcing Paul to go against orders. In which case who knows how
long it will be.’ She slid her back down the wall, carefully sitting
down. ‘The best way I can think of the pass that time is to try and
sleep. I can’t do much about a lack of food and water, but rest will
help the pain and fatigue.’ She leaned her head against the wall and
started using the relaxation techniques they had been taught to get her
mind and body to go to sleep.
Kris bolted awake when the door to her cell opened. For a moment she was
confused as her mind tried to shift from a dream of being home on Regalia
to the reality of the current, all too real, nightmare.
“Time to go, whore. The Kai-Ju wants to see you.” The muscles in her
back and shoulder screamed in pain as the guard grabbed her arms and
roughly pulled her to her feet.
“S’soon? Ah though’ our nex’ date was tamarrow?” She shook her head
trying to clear some of the fog and immediately regretted the move; it
only made her head hurt worse.
“Move it, bitch.” The guard planted a hand in the middle of her back and
shoved her towards the door and a second waiting guard.
Kris stumbled into the doorframe and carefully straightened up. “Ya guys
busy la’er? Maybe we kin ha’e a drink, er somethin’.”
The second guard silently took her by the arm and pulled her out of the
cell. A moment later the first guard grabbed her other arm. Between
them they walked her down the hall, following the same course as earlier.
Kris didn’t bother trying to reach Paul or Ellie. Either they were on
their way, or she had been written off; trying to make contact would only
result in expenditure of rapidly depleting energy on her end and probable
distraction on theirs. A few moments later they walked into the
interrogation room. Once again she was pushed into the chair. This time
the Kai-Ju was already in the room.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Jus’ grea’. Tha bed is wonderful but tha room service is na too good.”
“I would offer you something to eat and drink, but that outfit of yours
does not seem to permit such.”
“Tha’s a’righ’, Ah onla ea’ once a week.”
“I find that rather implausible, but even if it were true, you still need
to drink. Maybe if you took the suit off?”
“Ya wanna strip show, ya gotta pay fer it.”
“Perhaps we can come back to that idea later?” he smiled. “In the
meantime, why don’t you tell me who you are?”
“Kin ya na rememba a thin? Ah told ya, Ah go by Tin’er Bell. Ah’m jus a
courier. Ah got los’ and ended up in tha warehouse distric.”
“I doubt your mother gave you that name. I’m sure you have another.”
“If Ah did, Ah don’ remember.” Kris gave a half shrug. “Did ya happen
ta remember yers?”
“My mother named me Gurkun.” He gave her another smile. “See, I really
would like us to be friends. So Bell, you don’t mind if I call you Bell,
do you? Tinker Bell seems too formal for friends. Why don’t you tell me
why you are here?”
Kris mentally groaned. Half of her regretted telling him that was her
call sign, the other half thought it was hilarious to hear him call Peter
Pan’s fairy. “Ah was on vacation, lookin’ at the legendary
“Any how did you end up in that alley?”
“Ah go’ bloody lost. Turned tha wrong way and ended up at yer back
“Now, Bell, do you honestly expect me to believe a trained person, such
as yourself, could get lost so easily?”
Kris managed a half shrug. “Ah ha’e problems with ground based
naviga’ion. Tha‘s why Ah make sure Ah know exac’ly where Ah need ta go
before Ah leave.”
“So your friends make accommodations for you?”
“Nah, Ah keep ta maself mos’a tha time. Na need fer anyone ta make any
“How do you find Alpha base if you get lost so easily?”
“Ah don’. Ah only been there twice an’ both times someon’ else was doin’
tha drivin’, so ta speak.”
The second interrogation ran pretty much the same as the first.
Pointless repetitions and mind games. As the session wore on, the pain
and fatigue started to catch up with Kris. Her head was pounding and she
felt a sense of disassociation with her surroundings. It was getting
hard for her to stay focused anything. Twice she caught herself slipping
and saying more then she intended. The first hadn’t been too damaging,
it had been speculated with in various parts of the Alliance for years
that Alpha base was either underwater or deep underground. Mentioning a
mountain range had only narrowed that window down a little. Earth had
several large mountain ranges. The second had brushed perilously close
to giving away one of her friends. She closed her eyes and let her head
fall forward, anger and bitter disappointment warred briefly. “Do not
let your emotions rule you,” Shumaker’s voice echoed in the back of her
mind, “you rule your emotions. If you let fear and anger take over, you
will have already lost.” She raised her head and looked across the table
at the silhouette of the Bantiel agent, wishing the grey around the edges
of her vision would go away. Time was running out. The Father knew how
long she had been here; hours at least, maybe days. It was becoming
apparent there was no one coming to get her out. Her sense of honor and
devotion would not allow her to consider giving them what they wanted.
That left two options: find her own way out, or death. With no weapons
either option was going to be difficult.
The Kia-Ju watched his prisoner toss her head back and try to focus on
him. “I think perhaps you need rest.”
“Wha, don’ wan ta take advantage tha fatigue?” Kris taunted.
“I told you, I am the only friend you have, I would like you to believe
that.” He waved the guards over.
‘More like time to consider what else you are going to do to me,’ Kris
thought. As the guards moved in to remove her from the chair a
desperation driven thought flashed through her mind; she had managed to
provoke the last guards to violence last time. If she made a move
towards the Kia-Ju she might be able to get them to fire on her. At this
range it was unlikely even the battlesuit could protect her. Briefly
she wondered if provoking someone to kill you still constituted suicide.
Perhaps The Father and Son would over look it since she was acting to
save others. As the guards loosened the field she gauged the distance
between her and the Kia-Ju, closed her eyes and reached down to draw from
her inner strength as her old Sensei has taught years before, and waited
for the field to drop.
A heartbeat after the field dropped her eyes opened and locked on the
Bantiel agent’s position. Another heartbeat later she exploded into
action, ignoring the pain in her arm and head: one thought in her mind.
‘Forgive me, Paul’.
The Kia-Ju rolled in surprise as his prisoner, placid a second ago,
launched across the table with look of total determination in her eyes.
There was no question she intended to try and kill him with her bare
The guards reacted as Kris had expected. They turned and opened fire,
one shot was high, missing her back by a millimeter, the second caught
her in the left thigh. As she impacted with the Kia-Ju and the both fell
to the ground she rolled slightly to the left, forcing his body to move
between her and the guards. ‘Who would have thought these guys were
such lousy shots,’ she thought grimly. Wrapping her right arm across his
throat she whispered into his ear. “Ah’d tell them ta back off, unless
ya wan’ ta catch tha bullets.” Rolling to the left enough to get her
elbow on the floor she levered both their weights up enough to get her
left leg bent. A slight twitch from her captive attracted her attention
as she pushed herself into a kneeling position, dragging him along. “Ah
wouldn’a try that,” She growled softly. “Yer right, Ah am Regalian. Ah
kin kill ya righ’ here an’ now simpla by breakin’ yer neck.”
“As the Earthers say, we have stalemate then. You need me to stay alive
and if I do not cooperate you have no recourse but the kill me, but if
you kill me they will kill you.”
“As long as Ah ha’e you, or yer body, they won’ fire on me.” Pulling her
right knee in she slowly stood both of them up. The pressure on his neck
forced the Kia-Ju to bend his back, keeping him off balanced.
“You’re weakened. You won’t be able to make it to the surface.”
“If Ah kin take you ou’ with me, Ah’ll still ha’e won.” She began to
make her way towards the door, forcing him to shuffle along between her
and the guards.
The guards fell back a few steps, confused.
“You really think so?”
“Ah know so. Ah ha’e nothin’ ta lose. Ah walked in ta this knowin’ Ah
probably wouldna walk out alive.”
“I am going to enjoy breaking you.”
“Never goin ta happen, Onacar.” Kris growled.
“Oh, it will and then I will get the pleasure of watching you break your
A flash of anger, for a second she focused only on the Kia-Ju, tightened
her grip on his throat, cutting off his air. A few more seconds and he
might have been dead. Shumaker had warned them not to let their emotions
rule them. That brief second was all one of the guards needed to move in
close enough to swing his rifle at the back of her left knee.
The knee buckled as pain lanced up her leg. Kris fell to her knee, her
grip on the Kia-Ju loosened enough for him to break free. She looked up
in time to see the other guard aiming a rifle at her head, the rest of
the room grayed around him and all she could hear was the blood pounding
in her ears. ‘Now!’ She forced her body to stand and charged straight
for the guard. At the last second the guard turned the rifle around and
caught her in the solar plexus with the butt. The world turned grey
around her as she struggled to breath. She was only marginally aware of
Gurkun leaning over her telling her that she was only hurting herself.
The grayness slowly cleared as she was drug back to her cell and thrown
in. After a few moments Kris slowly pushed herself up to her knees, head
hanging down. It was pointless to look around, nothing ever changed in
the room. Dark and silent, the only sound was her own breathing and the
blood flowing though her veins. Whispers of half forgotten memories
danced with waking dreams and desires on the edge of her hearing, there
but not there. A few more seconds, or maybe half a life time, later she
straightened up a bit, pulling one knee up and tipping her head back to
look towards the ceiling, her right hand moved to touch a spot on her
neck where her cross would have been in her civilian clothes. She began
speaking in a soft whisper in Regalian.
“Father God, help me. I know you must have a plan, but I do not know why
I am here, what you wanted me to do. I hurt, I am alone and scared. I
can do nothing to get myself out and I do not think I can take much more.
I know I have not led a good life; I have broken so many of your laws. I
can only beg your forgiveness. Do unto me what you will, if I mange to
survive, please do not let me be the instrument that harms my friends and
family. If I am not to survive, please comfort my brother and friends.
I leave it in your hands.”
Reaching out a hand to feel around she slowly moved forward, seeking the
wall. Once she found it she followed it to the corner she thought was
opposite the door. Putting her back in the corner she pulled her knees
up to her chest and rested her head and let her mind wander where it
wanted. She sat, motionless, for a long time. At one point she had
jerked her head up, thinking she had heard something moving. Straining
her ears and focusing all her concentration she could only hear the
beating of her own heart, the blood moving in her veins and the rasping
of her breath through the face covering of her cowl. Finally she
realized it had only been the sound of her arm rubbing against her leg
when it had fallen from around her knees. Sighing she laid her head back
down, feeling the tears starting to form. In her mind she went back to
better times, the halcyon days of her youth when all she had to worry
about was class work and chores. Gradually she drifted into a semi-
conscious state, not really sure what was real and what was only her
She glanced up, groggily staring when she thought she heard the door
open. Three shadowy figures stood outlined in the doorway. One advanced
towards her, speaking softly. She barely understood them.
“G,way,” she half shook her head. “Yer, na real.”
A second figure stepped from the door, moved quickly across the room and
knelt down beside her and laid a hand on her shoulder.
*Sis, it’s okay. It’s us.* Paul’s soft telepathic voice filled her mind.
Kris looked at him, trying to make out her brother’s form in the dark.
His battlesuit had shifted to near black in the darkness, making it hard
to tell the difference between him and the wall behind him. *Paul? Is
it really you? You’re really here?*
*Yes, it’s really me. I told you I’d get you out. I’d said I’d never
leave you behind. Someone has to keep you from getting dead.*
With a soft whimper Kris buried herself in Paul’s chest, wrapped her arms
around his neck and sat there shaking. *I want to go home.*
*I know,* Paul hugged his sister. *I know. We will. Ellie?* he glanced
at their medic.
*Most of what I am getting is chaotic.* Ellie answered with an open
telepathic send. * It doesn’t help matters that I don’t speak Regalian.
She’s in pain and very disorientated but I don’t think there are any
The third person spoke up from the door a few seconds after a rumble
filled the room. “Guys, we’re running out of time.”
“A few more seconds Kodiak,” Paul looked back over his shoulder.
“Can you understand me now?” Ellie quietly asked.
Kris looked at her for a few seconds, trying to make sense of the
English, before nodding when the words translated themselves into her
“Good, I’m going to give you something for the pain. It is going to make
you sleepy. Don’t fight it, okay. Mustang, make sure she understands.
I don’t need her trying to fight me.”
“Alright.” Eliie nodded and pulled open her belt kit. Holding the
syringe and a small vial up in the light from the door she measured out a
dose. She put the vial back in the kit and leaned forward. “Small
sting,” she warned just before giving Kris the shot in her thigh.
“Mustang, Gazelle,” Tiny called from the door as another rumble reached
them, “we need to move. The others are going to run out of distractions.
“We’re coming,” Paul answered. “Hang on, sis, we need to move fast.”
Kris held on as her brother carefully stood up and turned for the door. One of her last conscious thoughts as they moved into the hall was that she was glad to be out of that room.
Short glossary of Regalian Terms
andarn insult name - no direct translation
bolta stupid, fool, foolish
Diathair Father God / God – The Father
kevas expletive (closest translation - damn)
onacar insult name (closest approximation, one without honor)