The truck nearly had air time as it rocketed from the underground entrance, the computer incessantly warning of the stress on the jets. Derrik was bent on doing what he could to buy Siyyu the time she needed for her allies to arrive. They had already returned an acknowledgement to the distress beacon, so it was only a matter of time. He just hoped he could stall them long enough.
We have a confirmed signal above ground, sir. one of the crew said aloud.
Home in and make for it once we enter the atmosphere. Jeremiah Innes, or Jerry to his friends, paced around the small bridge, looking over the shoulder of every crew member.
Agent Innes, you may be with Intelligence, but I'd prefer to stay in charge of my own ship. the Captain said with a moderately annoyed tone. Four days of orbiting a gas giant, and now they were chasing a lone traitor across a barren moon. He felt like a detective on stakeout.
The medium-sized reconnaissance ship entered the atmosphere at the edge of the dark side, but only moments later and they made their own sunrise. They crossed over a mare, long since covered by the windswept sand and soil, little more than a flat, featureless depression on the surface.
We've found the source of the signal. Model SR14-B Scientific Utilities truck, used in retrieval/transport of research specimens. came one of the bridge crew.
Not a very rational one, is he? No place to run, just wasting our time. Captain Andrew Thin observed before the crew member from before spoke up.
We have another signal! A second SR14 has just left the underground entrance, this one heading North.
A diversion? Which one should we go after? Agent Innes asked, apparently ready for action.
Neither. Chances are he's sending out decoys to put us on a wild goose chase. He has no where to go, and even if he were to be on either of those trucks, he'd be forced to return unless he wanted to die of asphyxiation. Agent Innes, might you have the override commands for this base? the Captain queried.
I do. Jeremy replied, producing a hand-held device from a pocket and moving to one of the panels. It was still a few minutes as they homed in on the bases remote signal, but in that time, another truck was detected leaving the base. Jeremy shook his head, didn't this guy realize his situation? Regardless, he was essentially a collaborator, and he and any alarians in the base were going to be put under lock and key, in both senses of the term.
As they finally flew over where the base was buried, they began to circle around the expanse the the entrances were spread out. Agent Innes finally had the confirmation of the locking with the bases computer and input the command to open the dock. At the center of the 8-mile network of tunnels, the ground opened up into a large square, sand falling in as the platform slid away.
Captain Thin gave the go ahead for the ship to enter and they began to descend into the dock. Moments later and the supports for the ship fastened them in. What's the dock look like? Thin asked aloud.
The view screen opened to the external cameras, and the only thing out of place was a retrieval truck. What's that in bed? Innes pointed out to the massive chunk of rock in the back, but before an answer was given, Captain! We're picking up a signal, encryption points to alarian origin!
Trace that signal! Is it coming from the base again?
No sir, it...it's moving! Scans also confirm a fourth truck right on top of the alarian signal, making for the South-most exit!
Damn it, this was the diversion! Detach from the dock! We might not have much time before what ever acknowledged the signal shows up! seconds of hectic activity among the crew and Innes ensued.
Captain Thin, it's no good. The override codes aren't doing anything, the mechanisms are locked. Jeremiah responded at length.
Get that team out there, and send someone to unlock the supports! at the same time, the communications officer informed him of a hailing signal from the base, Put it on, let the traitor talk.
One of the external camera images changed to a rust-haired young man, a look of grim determination on his face, Could I please talk to the Captain of the vessel 'Springboard' and the Intelligence Agent, Jeremiah Innes?
The Captain almost laughed at how he said 'please', This is UECSF Lieutenant Andrew Thin, Captain of said vessel, and I'm to believe you're the conspirator, Derrik Hunt? Innes stepped next to the Captain's chair, looking to the image of Derrik with silent exasperation.
I'm just making sure my friend doesn't get locked in a cell because she's not human. he glared at the two of them.
This time, Andrew did laugh, This is War, Hunt. They opened fire on a settlement and have been attacking colony after colony, destroying bases and taking hostages. I bet the only reason it kept you alive is because it would have been unable to call for help on its own! Innes shifted a bit uncomfortably at that.
Derrik's eye twitched, then glanced off screen. He started doing something with the panel and suddenly the ship tilted to the right as the supports adjusted and locked again, sending most of them sprawling I'd think twice before you send an away-team, Captain Thin. I'll come to you once she's safe in her allies' hands, til then, I wouldn't try firing your way out of there. After all, you might set off the meteorite. the panel changed to a view of the truck with the rock he referred to from one of the bases camera views.
You're threatening us with a rock? What, does it have a Pulse Cannon ready to fire? Thin mocked adjusting in his seat while Innes held himself up against the chair.
The researcher appeared once more and sighed through his nose, No, but of its 35 tonnes, six of them are pressurized Hydrogen, and this, he pulled up a small hand-held pad, is locked with the frequency of the charge on it. If I don't confirm a signal every five minutes, it'll enter a two-minute countdown. So I'd advise against jamming anything. Derrik looked dead serious.
Captain Thin seethed an exhale, You're not going to make it out of here alive, Hunt.
It's not my life I'm concerned about. he countered.
Siyyu blinked as sunlight filled her view, half of it untinted giving her a hard time to adjust. She was in the back of the last truck, a section of the escape pod under her hand as the vehicle tore across the surface. She failed to control her breathing as she blinked tears from her eyes, the filter in her helmet nagging at the extra intake.
She turned back towards the entrance as it closed back up, wishing that Derrik hadn't insisted that he had to stay, and again she felt the person she loved being torn from her life. She sobbed loudly in the helmet, huddled against the empty cockpit of the vehicle as it pulled her further and further from him. Unbeknown to her, as the helmet severely dampened her hearing without the aid of the external receivers, the panel from the escape pod started to beep at a rising pace until it was a long drawn out whine.
Several minutes later, Siyyu heard a crackling on her radio, ...Ves...rin...onta... gasping in surprise, she lifted her head and started calling back, This is Siyyu Sen! Technician, 2nd class, stationed aboard the Fasganin! I'm...I'm stranded and possibly being pursued by human forces! Do you read?
There was a moment of silence, but then, It is you! Siyyu, your alive! She almost felt like her heart would stop, unable to to believe what she was hearing.
J-J-Jeuno?! Fathers be saved! Jeuno is that you?! her tears of joy and relief mingled with the sad ones, but her filter complained nonetheless.
I'm in a drop ship with a team that's picking you up. We've locked the signal, but it's moving pretty fast...is there any way you can stop? before she had even suggested it, Siyyu banged on the front of the vehicle, hoping there was a way Derrik would know to stop.
Then she saw movement from the edge of her visor and turned to on the spot to find what seemed to be a camera on a manipulator arm. In her excitement, she couldn't remember the word to slow down or stop, so she pantomimed as best she could, My friends are here. I need to stop, so they can land! Almost right away, the truck began to slow until it finally came to a stop.
Siyyu looked to the sky for the faintest trace of the ship, then blinked. She slowly turned back to the camera as it watched her, Derrik on the other side of the feed. Gazing through the camera, she could see him in her mind's eye, looking right back at her.
Siyyu! Jeuno's voice returned, The pilot says she can see where the vehicle is stopped! and that sent the technician's eyes skyward once more. Her eyes scanned until they locked on to the quickly growing shape of the off-white craft. She stood up and hopped down from the back of vehicle, waving her arms over her head to make herself more noticeable.
The dropship lowered and swooped over, beginning to land a short distance in front of her transport. She started to jog to it, then stopped, looking over and spotting the camera once more. She stepped close, trying to position her head so the camera could see through the transparent plastic stuff that made up more than half of her faceplate. She gazed longingly into the camera, wishing he could have been there with her, that they might stay together through the war, until the day their peoples could see past the differences as they had.
Again, she started to cry, but she looked to Derrik on the other side, and trying to emphasize with her lip movements, Tonk hyoo...Aye...luhv hyoo... With that, she backed away from the vehicle, keeping an eye on camera until she heard the door to the dropship start to open, then turned and approached at a light jog.
Two armored soldiers jumped down with weapons ready, looking side-to-side. As soon as Siyyu was close, one patted her shoulder and led her in, the other covering them and entering backwards. Right away, another figure in a survival suit nearly bowled her over as they tried to wrap her arms around the armor plating, but Siyyu returned the affection and held Jeuno close.
I almost gave up...I held out for so long...but you're alive. That's all that matters to me now... Jeuno held her close for a moment and sat them down as the ship started to take off. She finally sat back and took a good look at her friend, By the Fathers, Siyyu, your helmet! Jeuno tentatively ran a finger over the plastic, How did you fix it?
She averted her gaze for a moment then looked up with another tear, Derrik...he saved me. she started, My faceplate broke on entering the atmosphere. I would have died if that human base hadn't been there. He was all alone in that base, probably secretly depressed under his smile. she laughed, remembering when she first woke up, We learned so much from each other, Jeuno, and I know, I know our two peoples can work this all out sooner than later.
Siyyu looked towards the ground, through the floor to the moon's surface, He's down there now, Jeuno, all alone once more, and saving me again; risking his life and holding off his own military...just so I can get home. She looked to Jeuno who hadn't said a word yet, I do love you back, I really do, but my heart is broken, leaving behind another person I love, and not knowing if I'll ever see him again. she embraced Jeuno, seeking comfort. Her close, close friend did not disappoint, gently wrapping her arms around Siyyu and holding her close through the plating.
You'll see him again, I'm sure you will. Jeuno held her, patting her warmly, glad to have her safe, sad to see her torn, and wondering what all had happened that led her to love a human so deeply. Despite her curiosity, she knew Siyyu would tell her when she was ready, so Jeuno was only concerned with returning to the mothership.
Derrik watched her board the ship and followed it into the sky, only turning off the monitor when he could no longer see it. He sat back, and after a moment, wept for Siyyu and his parting. Once he cleared up, he purged the computer of any remaining input and recordings then powered down the terminal. He walked out and began to shut down each section one at a time, leaving the central lab for last, glancing one last time at the mess they had made in covering the painted letters and symbols all over the walls.
With a sigh, the researcher took the elevator to the airlock to the locked-down ship, putting on his helmet and opening the view screen to speak with Captain Thin and Agent Innes, Gentlemen, I'm at the airlock. I'll be fixing the dock supports to allow us to disembark.
Us? You're just handing yourself over? No demands, no escape plan, no NOTHING?! What was the point in all of that then?! Are you just going to destroy the facility when that bomb goes off?! the Captain declared, evidently irritated.
Derrik shook his head, I got what I wanted, and there's no bomb. I just played Solitaire every 5 minutes. with the portable terminal, he corrected the ship and opened the doors to the docking platform, walking down it and tossing away the terminal as a squad of unpleased troops ran towards from the ship.
What the hell kinda story is that? Huh? You find a giant blue alien woman, hide her away for three weeks, teach her English, get her to 'phone home', threaten a military vessel with nothing less than terrorism, then waltz into the ship to be arrested once she's off planet, er, off moon. Mr. Hunter, did you forget to pack your medication when you got stationed on that base? a youngish man with short, black, squared-off hair inquired.
As for Derrik, he had seen much better days. He had a black eye, swollen cheek, busted lip, and was worried one more punch might break his rib. He was currently in questioning at...some military base, the name of the system escaped him. He was partially amused that the whole 'good cop, bad cop' routine was well and alive into the 2300s, a little annoyed at the 'bad cop' for getting his name wrong, and rather irritated at how much he was riding him for getting emotionally close to Siyyu. As for the question, he didn't care to answer and stayed quiet.
Come on, Hunter, it's pretty funny if ya think about it. the officer sat down in the chair across the table from him, All because of some big blue face, you're looking down a lifetime incarceration, and then some. I think it was pretty generous of Captain...Thick, was it? To not just have shot you on the ship. After all, no one's gonna hear from you for a long, long time. he sat back, then started chuckling after a moment.
Ya like'em 'tall', Mr. Hunter? the other officer in the room rolled his eyes at his partners immaturity, Did she have a nice figure? 36, 24, 36? Feet, I mean. he continued to chuckle, not really noticing Derrik's face turning red and his breathing becoming harsh, Oh, oh! What's that really old song? Umm...You like big bu-HERGK!
Derrik had had enough and bolted up, dashing forward with the table and ramming it into the officer, tipping him over in his chair and bashing the jerks chin on his way down. The researcher dropped down, pulling back his fist when three guns cocked. He froze for a second then let himself get yanked off. The officer got off the floor and was held back by two soldiers himself, his partner asking them to get him out before turning to Derrik, Mr. Hunt...While we have no control over when our furniture attacks our men, I must ask you to please control yourself. While he didn't seem to be amused by Derrik's outburst, the portly, mustached military police officer did not appear to have approved of the other officer's heckling.
The table was moved back to its original position and the chairs were set up once more were Derrik was deposited again, two of the soldiers keeping close tabs on him this time. The apparent 'good cop' sat in the other chair across from him, Now, Mr. Hunt, or would you prefer Derrik? but he received no reply, Well, Derrik, you have severe charges against you. Normally, there would be no hesitation in sending you away with the others, that comment caught the researcher's attention, implying that he wasn't the only one to have gone out of his way for contact with the Alarians, but you have something most of them don't.
Knowledge. You couldn't have taught that Alarian English without learning some of her language in return, could you? You alone must have more knowledge of their language than what the entire UEC has figured out so far. Derrik looked up at him, knowing where this was going, but he still didn't feel like talking, Derrik, you can help the war effort, translate at a listening station. They're bound to have books and files, and with your help we could start turning this stalemate around. All you have to do is say you'll help military intelligence and you have yourself a deal.
Derrik would have scoffed at the offer, but his cheek hurt too much, So you can ambush Alarian ships? Find their colonies and continue this pointless war? After so much time with one, I find it very hard to believe they shot first. I'm not going to help unless it involves peace talks. he crossed his arms and sat back, having nothing else to say on the matter.
After the remaining officer tried a couple more times to win his favor, making promises that they both knew were impossible to keep, he finally gave up, If you're not willing to cooperate, then you'll be turned over to Military Intelligence to...keep an eye on you. he stood up and exited the room, the four soldiers following him, leaving Derrik by himself...again.
Derrik sat back against the hard wall of the prisoner transport, a long sigh escaping him. The ship had come to a stop just a minute ago, so he simply waited for his escort to arrive and once they did, he let them lead without incident. He stepped out of the ship and immediately realized something was very off.
First off, it didn't look anything like a prison, more like a military hangar, but with a layout he'd never seen. The colors were definitely unfamiliar, or at least he thought so at first, and all the ships had an out of character sleekness to them. In the end, it was the flag and the logos that made him realize, This is an NSL base. and his comment was quickly answered by a familiar voice, and a familiar face.
That's correct, Mr. Hunt. Here, the UEC can't do anything to you here, and your linguistic knowledge can help us to try and smooth things over between the UEC and alarian government. Jeremiah Innes stepped forth, undoing the handcuffs.
Derrik looked at him dumbfounded, Innes? You...you're an NSL spy? he rubbed his wrists, looking at the man.
Innes returned a slight, uncomfortable look, I prefer 'Double Agent', but before I fill you in on everything, I'm sure you must be hungry. You can ask your questions while you get to know our other guests such as yourself. He led Derrik from the ship, knowing it would take time for the scientist to adjust, but once he did, the early efforts of trying to find common ground could begin in earnest.
As for the ex-researcher, he was confused, unsure how things would go from that point on. He didn't know how well he could trust Innes or anyone in the NSL for that matter, after all, he was the one that forced he and Siyyu apart.
"Oh! I just remembered. I managed to grab this from contraband." Innes pulled out a sealed plastic bag, and once Derrik caught sight of the contents he grabbed it from his hand and reached in to acquire a roughly foot-long tassel of pale green hair tied together by a torn piece of bed sheet. He gripped the hair and gave a sad sigh, glancing up to Innes who was watching him.
Derrik cleared his throat and stood up straight, holding the lock of hair to his chest, "Thank you...Agent Innes." he walked along side him, glancing around as they made towards the exit of the hangar.
"You can call me Jerry. Just promise me you won't go on and on about the difference between moss and funguses."
"Um...actually..." Derrik hesitated, and when Jeremy looked to him curiously, "It's fungi..."
It was the fifth day since Siyyu had arrived in the settlement, Jeuno still working to get them reassigned to another ship, having been shunted from the Fasganin after setting a course for the moon to pick up her lost friend. They had managed to find a kind woman with a spare room that was letting them stay until they could get back on a ship.
At present, Siyyu entered the shop of a craftswoman whom she had spoken to a few days prior. She patiently waited at the counter until the wisened, but still quite fair, woman approached, "Ah yes, I finished it last night. It was so interesting I put two of my other projects on hold to get it done sooner." she ducked and pulled out a box from under the counter, setting it down and revealing the contents of it, "It's certainly one of the more articulate ones I've ever made, but what really fascinated me were the proportions. I hope they're not-"
"No, they're perfect. Thank you very much." Siyyu smiled, setting out her payment and closing the box, taking it back to their room. She sat on the bed and opened the box, looking to the doll within and gently lifting it out. She couldn't help but smile, the painted brown eyes bright with life, and somehow, the craftswoman had even managed to make its red hair part to the left, which she playfully brushed to the right.
Giving a happy sigh, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny white coat, though it was covered in paint and other stains. With reletive ease she slipped on the coat over the arms of the rather mobile doll, then bent its legs and positioned it to sit, placing it on the end of the table, making it face her. Siyyu smiled fondly at it, a happy tear coming to her eye, "Well, Derrik, where ever you are now...it's too far away." She reached up and gently stroked the dolls neck, more than willing to believe that she'd see him again one day, but until then, she was just happy to see something like him every morning.
Reminiscing about everything, Siyyu grabbed the doll, holding it close and dear to her, knowing it wasn't the same as holding Derrik himself, but it helped. Her fingers carressed the coat carefully, as it was now easily her favorite treasure, from the human she loved.