Monday, October 1, 2018

Chapter 12

Jane, Yeager, and D’Arcangelo left Dives to his fate and met Jordan and Bhutto standing next to the boy and a crowd of slaves around them, arguing. “This kid is Warden spawn, tell us why we shouldn’t send him where his father went?

“Because,” Bhutto said, “who the hell cares whose spawn the kid is?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jordan said. “As soon as he’s all growed up, he’s going to want revenge.”

“Against the entire colony?”

“Against me! You know, the guy who started all of this?”

“I think you are mistaken on that count,” a familiar voice said from just outside of the doorway out from the conclave. “Revealing both your paranoia and your arrogance.” The sickly bald man gingerly stepped across the threshold, flanked by two miners in vac-suits holding him by the arms.

“Who the Hell are you?” Jordan asked.

“This is Father Ezekiel.” Jane announced. “He is one of the miners from the outside camp. “And he is the one who started the strike that drew the Warden’s men away from the fields. He could almost be considered your counterpart.”

Jordan scoffed. “He doesn’t look like much.” He didn’t, of course, but that is part of what made him formidable. He would be underestimated.

“You will let the child go,” Ezekiel said.

“And if I don’t? What are you going to do about it?” Some of the farmers announced their agreement. They gathered around the slave boss.

“Our people have not sacrificed themselves only to slaughter innocents. If the child wants revenge, then so be it.” Some of the miners stepped forward, picks and energy drills brandished prominently on their shoulders.

“We are taking him off this rock,” Bhutto said. “He has no reason to come back.”

“I just want to go home,” the child muttered.

Jane sighed. Whenever they had settled one issue, another one sprung up. “I thought you were coming with us? Wasn’t that the plan, Jordan?”

A murmur rose among the crowd of farmers. Jordan held his arms up high. “I would never leave my people after all we’ve been through.” He cleared his throat. “There is much to do. We have to rebuild.”

Jane nodded. “I must have been mistaken. Perhaps we can discuss this privately?” She asked.

“I don’t see why we can’t discuss it in the open,” he replied. “I have nothing to hide.”

“Perhaps I do,” she said. “Please, if you’ll indulge me?”

Jordan grimaced. “All right, girl. We can talk. I don’t know how it will change things, though.” He led her into one of the private chambers where the Warden’s vassals would stay.

Bhutto followed. Apparently "privately" included her. Jane did not protest.

“If you insist on this, you will end this day having to fight two wars.”

“Then we will fight them,” he replied. “And we will win.”

“Perhaps,” Jane replied. “Perhaps not. What if I agreed to have the child mind wiped?” The Collective would require it anyway.

Jordan stared at her long and hard. “How do I know that you will keep your word?”

“You’ll just have to trust me.”

“Look, lady, I don’t trust anyone. I want to see it with my own two eyes.”

“Look,” Jane hissed. “Why don’t you come and see us off. Once we are out of sight of the miners and their preacher, we can deal with the child.”

Jordan regarded her with surprise. “All right, girl, we’ll do it your way. I want to see it done, though.”

Jane nodded. She was heartened that some people could see reason.

“Red, you can’t be serious,” Bhutto protested.

"Whatever it takes," Jane replied.

Bhutto was seething, but she ultimately relented, as Jane knew she would. When they exited, Jane nodded at Ezekiel. “Jordan has agreed to allow us to take the child to my home of Freyja. The Authority has strict control of all relocation, and the boy will be unable to cause any trouble.”

Ezekiel considered her words, and nodded his assent. “You have shown great wisdom, Jordan.”

Jordan raised an eyebrow, but gave the old man a smile. The rest of the crowd seemed to calm down as well. Some of the miners and the farmers even intermingled, congratulating each other on their victory, slapping each other on the back, and trading and sharing resources they had looted from the Warden’s men.

When the festivities had reached their height, Father Ezekiel asked to perform a religious invocation. Even the farmers treated the ritual with respect. The solemnity of the gang of prisoners greatly impressed her.

That was the perfect time to slip out. With Ezekiel was bowed in prayer, Jane took hold of the Warden's son by the hand. She gestured to Bhutto and Jordan, and they quietly moved down the tunnels to the nearest airlock. Yeager and D'Arcangelo followed. Jane knelt down in front of the little boy.

“Have you ever been outside these walls before?” She asked.

“No, ma’am.” 

Always with the titles. Jane smiled at the boy and glanced up at Bhutto.

“We have to wear these suits to protect us.”

“Like the soldiers?” he asked.

“Yes,” Jane said. “We get to wear the same suits as the soldiers. Even you.”

The boy smiled at that.

Jane helped the boy suit up, and then gave him a helmet to put on. It was oversized, and looked comical on his small frame, but he wore it with enthusiasm. 

D'Arcangelo raised the airlock door and crammed into the chamber. The inside air was vented, then the outside atmosphere let in. Jane glanced at Jordan. With his visor down, it was difficult to tell his state of mind, but his body language was relaxed. He did not even touch the pistol at his side. 

Perhaps he was having second thoughts. Or perhaps he wanted Jane to do it herself. She had taken care of all of his dirty work thus far.

The outer airlock opened and they stepped out into the corrosive atmosphere of Loki. The door closed behind them, and D’Arcangelo made the call on the net to a certain ship whose captain’s palm Yeager had greased, allowing them to get off the rock. He gave the coordinates they had agreed on, along with Yeager’s passcode.

“All right,” D’Arcangelo said. “It’s done.”

There was a flash and a sudden thump of a pistol being fired. Bhutto stood behind as Jordan fell to the ground. Blood flowed from the hole in his suit, and his skin began to dissolve under the harsh atmosphere.

Bhutto put two more bolts in the back of his head. 

Jane glanced down at the body. “Feel better now?”

“Yeah, I do,” Bhutto said. The boy looked down, but paid almost no heed to the man who just lost his life in front of him.

“You don’t seem too upset about it,” Bhutto pointed out.

“I planned on it,” Jane replied. “You had made it glaringly obvious what you intended. Jordan was too much of a fool to read it. I'm just glad you could get it done with as little disruption to our mission as possible.”

“What about your revolution?”

“He would have only become another Warden in populist garb.”

“I guess you have a plan for everything,” Bhutto said, and holstered her pistol. Then she paused, and held her hand in place on the holster. “Um, Red?”

Jane turned around to see Yeager with his pistol out and threatening her.

“Yeager, what are you doing?” Bhutto asked. “We got your guy, we got who we came for. There is a shuttle on the way. Everyone wins.”

Yeager shook his head. “I haven’t been completely honest with you. Dives was never my target; not that he didn’t deserve what he got.” Yeager turned to D’Arcangelo. “Tell me, do you remember a boy by the name of Benjamin Soon?”

D’Arcangelo shrugged. “Not especially.” His words were cold, nonchalant.

“Now you will,” Soon replied. “For the rest of your short life, you will remember that name. I know you are afraid, D’Arcangelo, despite your efforts to hide it. I’ve looked into you. I know all about your dreams of immortality. I know the people you’ve sacrificed for that chance. 

"All of those efforts have now been pissed away. Imagine my delight when I received financial backing from the Freyjan Collective itself. It was as if it were providence.”

“Yeager,” Red said, calmly as she could manage. “We need him.”

“You need me,” Yeager corrected. “I am the one with the contact inside Vegacorp. I am the one who can get you home. Did you really think that they would allow one of their convicts off this moon? One as deranged as your friend here? You would never be able to find an agent that corrupt, as hard as you tried.”

“What about the boy?” Bhutto asked. “Were you just going to leave him?”

“He will remain here. It may not be fair, but that’s life.”

Another shot rang out. Jane lowered her pistol. D’Arcangelo stumbled backwards. Yeager fell to his knees. The pilot dropped his pistol. “They’ll never let you on board without me,” Yeager gasped. “You’ll be stuck here. Forever.”

“We’ll have to make do,” Jane replied. She pulled the trigger twice more, and the man slumped over and into the dark gray soil.

“That was cold, Red.” Bhutto said.

Jane had not realized how tense D’Arcangelo was until he finally relaxed.

He let out a sigh. “I owe you one.”

“I didn’t do it for you. I'd just as soon let Yeager take his revenge. I just don’t let my personal feelings interfere with our goals.”

“I appreciate it nonetheless.” 

Jane wished she could have put the bullets into D'Arcangelo instead. She kept reminding herself of the mission. Eventually, he would be mind wiped like all the other degenerates. 

Or sent back to Loki. Or killed. Any one of those would be fine with Jane. She looked at the man lying in the barren dust, the man she had just taken everything from. Jane could not fault him for his need for revenge. D’Arcangelo was despicable. But he was useful. Essential.

If Yeager could only have waited, Jane may have been able to arrange for him to get what he wanted. He was desperate, and impatient, blinded by rage. So, he forced her to kill him. Jane wished she did not have to.

“So you saved the mission,” Bhutto said. “I am guessing that Yeager wasn’t lying when he said the corporates wouldn’t pick up any extra passengers. How are we planning on getting out of here?”

“I could play his part,” D’Arcangelo said.

“He would have some way of identifying himself,” Jane said. “It might be worth a try, though.”

“What about the kid?” Bhutto said. “What if they don’t want to take him?”

Jane bit her lip. They could try to appeal to the Corporate’s humanity, but they barely had any. 

“I suppose we will just have to see what happens."

“Let’s say the shuttle did end up picking us up,” Bhutto continued. “And it took us to the Caroline. Do you know how to fly that ancient piece of junk? Because I don’t.”

“No,” Jane admitted. “Maybe something you should have thought about before blowing away our only pilot, don’t you think? But then, thinking things through isn’t really your strong suit, is it? You just keep pushing and pushing, without regard for anyone else, leaving a path of destruction in your wake.”

“It might not have been the best call shooting Yeager. I reacted too quickly. But if I hadn't, D’Arcangelo might be dead, and we’d never find the Leviathan. Let’s just go to the rendezvous point and see what happens.”

“And if they decide to start shooting us?”

“I’m one of their clients. I’ll show them my badge. If they don’t want to pick us up, then they don’t have to pick us up. We’ll find some other way to get off.”

Bhutto nodded. “Okay.” She was not convinced.

There was a large flat plateau where Yeager had arranged for them to meet. Jane and Bhutto moved the two bodies away from the colony entrance and arrived at the site moments before pickup time. It was not long before a fiery light descended from the sky, taking the shape of a small Corporate shuttle. The shuttle hovered and slowly drifted to the planet, until it was only knee-high above the ground. It never let itself touch the surface, instead opening the hatch while the engines were still engaged. 

Bhutto scooped up the child and rushed through the door. Jane and D’Arcangelo followed.

After they had jumped in, a man came from the front of the shuttle. He activated the intercom inside the airlock. “Which one of you is Yeager Soon?” He asked. The three looked at each other.

“I am,” D’Arcangelo said. His confidence was enough that the Corporate should believe him, all things being equal. All things were not equal, unfortunately.

“Alright, great. Show me your scar,” he said.

D’Arcangelo looked at Jane, then back to the Corporate.

“You know, where your neural implant was. Like we talked about.”

Jane tried to think through a quick excuse.

More quickly, D’Arcangelo raised his pistol and fired directly through the viewport. The bullet narrowly missed the Corporate agent, but it broke through the translucent barrier between the corrosive air of Loki and that of the inside of the shuttle. The agent began to scream as the outside air seeped in, and his face and hands began to bubble.

“Jesus Christ,” Bhutto said.

The shuttle’s airlock doors opened, and D’Arcangelo stepped over the gasping man on the floor of the craft. Somehow, D’Arcangelo had gained neural control of the ship. Vegacorp surely had security measures in place to prevent that. How had he managed to circumvent them?

He kicked the agent through the open airlock and shut the door. The man choked and gagged, and as the shuttle gained altitude and the air pressure lessened, he was blown straight out the back. The Warden’s son put his face to the window to watch the man fall, arms flailing, to the moon below.

Jane held her breath for the inevitable barrage from the security ship that had to be orbiting above, but it never came. Soon’s arrangements had worked out. They made their way into orbit without harassment. 

Jane finally breathed, and bid good riddance to the retreating moonscape.

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