At least she recognized the room. Once again they had undressed her. She hoped that it was Aish who got the honors and not servants curious about human females’ anatomy. Everything was exactly like before, even the suit’s placement. She remembered everything up until her head hit the table. Her fingers felt her face for a swelling, but the skin seemed as smooth as usual. Something startled her, coming into her vision. She felt stupid to realize it was the ring. But where was the box?
Her body got up easily enough, no dizziness or anything.
There was the odd feeling that she had not just woken up, but was more turned on, as if there was no transition between sleeping and waking. Whatever had happened, it could not be too serious, since they had left her here. She found the box under her suit. The data crystal was still there. She put it in one of the inside pockets of her suit.
There was a servant waiting outside this time.
He started walking the moment he saw her. They went through a series of doors and corridors, and finally he stopped. He beckoned her to go through the door. She did. The ambassador and Aish were alone in a room, both glaring at something she couldn’t make out what to be, except it seemed old.
“Emma!” Aish said and came towards her and gave her a big hug.
The ambassador gave her a brief smile, which didn’t reach his eyes.
“How are you feeling?” Aish asked.
“Fine, I guess. Disregarding the fact I have passed out two times now, I feel very fine. What happened this time?”
“We are not sure, but we think it’s related to the nanoes in your body. They don’t respond to anything we do, apparently because they are military grade.”
Aish raised one eyebrow and the ambassador stiffened at the word military.
“It’s a long story, not one for now, and it’s probably my own fault. I thought it was worth it at the time.”
“And there is also something strange going on in your body, but it’s not dangerous it seems. Here, take my report. And it was worth it! I don’t know what they expected, but definitely not what you did. I think the Lady took a risk coming here and you helped her. And it was bloody marvelous to see you go toe to toe with him.”
Emma could not help smile herself, while downloading the report to her Glas.
“Stop praising her. It was a monumental risk to take, one that could have ruined everything,” the ambassador said.
“But it didn’t,” Aish said.
“That’s not the point. Did you know about the ritual before we arrived, Ms. Acord?”
“Of course not!” Emma said.
“So the fact that you weren’t on the original team and have military grade upgrades suitable for such a ritual was all just one big coincident? Ms. Acord, I don’t know which game you are playing, but I don’t like it. What we are doing here is much too important.”
“Ambassador. I honestly did not know about the ritual.”
“So you just happened to volunteer and enter the ritual long before I had any chance to agree to it? Ms. Acord, I’ve been called many things, but never a fool.”
Emma looked at Aish, who was looking down into the floor.
“Ambassador. If I told you I had military grade upgrades back then, would you have believed me? Do you really think any one of you would have believed me?”
“So how come the Lady knew?”
The ambassador was definitely no fool.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh, you know something, but this is neither the time nor place. We have orders to return as soon as possible to our ship. The presence of this ship is creating a problem. Now that you are up, we have the permission of the Lady to leave. The transport is ready and waiting for us.”
Orders? Clearly that had annoyed the ambassador as well.
“Let’s go then. I’m perfectly fine.”
They were escorted to the hangar, where Kri was waiting for them with more of his guards. The ambassador tried to refuse the company, but the Knifemaster stated that the Lady had instructed, and that was that. Emma was sure that the ambassador would dump every ounce of his frustration on her later. The trip was made in silence and gave Emma the chance to access her Glas and see if she could figure out anything about her upgrades. She established contact and issued a diagnosis run.
She tried again with the same result. The implants seemed to acknowledge her access codes, like saying hi and then ignoring everything else. For all she knew, they could be initiating a self-destruct. The ambassador would probably have mixed feelings about that one. The fact they didn’t respond was bad, but that was the Advocacy’s problem. They sent her into this mess, so they had to clean it up. So far it was a successful mission. She opened the report Aish had sent her. Everything injected into her body was violently attacked, to such a degree that even blood samples were difficult to analyze. The results were inconclusive, due to DNA inconsistencies that could only have been caused by contamination during the samples. It felt almost like one of Kri’s hits. She was sure, but didn’t know how. There were no contaminations. What the hell had that thing done to her?
The transporter docked with an unusual loud clang.
Kri was unfazed by it, but several of his guards were suddenly a lot more alert. It was a rooky mistake by the pilot. One that could easily lead to accidents and most definitely would bring the pilot grief afterwards. The airlock opened and four of the guards took point. A few moments and one shout later, Kri followed and gestured for them to follow. The ambassador shook his head. Emma stepped out last, before the rest of the guards followed. Only the captain waited for them, the rest of the team probably deep into their research by now.
“It was interesting to meet you, Emma Acord,” Kri said.
“I guess I have to say the same, although I think it could have been better circumstances.”
“I hope we have met your expectations, ambassador,” Kri said.
“Met and exceeded, Knifemaster. You have given much, just by giving us.”
Kri gave Aish a nod.
“May you all find your place,” Kri said and bowed deep.
He turned around and walked back towards the airlock. The captain went over to the ambassador, while Aish stood looking after Kri, as if the other side of the airlock was heaven. Emma felt for the little crystal inside her suit. If she could take the ship home right now, she would. The ambassador was busy with the captain, so perhaps she could get to her room before he wanted to talk to her.
It was the odd sound that saved her.
She turned around and could feel the air pressure from whatever just passed her face. Reflexes took over. She fell to the ground into a roll and once again he missed. The alarm of the airlock started the same moment and in her peripheral vision she could see one guard with his hand on the emergency override. Steel plates slid down fast, sealing the non-existing breach. It would also disconnect the other side, meaning that the transporter was now exposed to vacuum. She flicked her head and looked at the others. The ambassador, the captain, Aish - they were all on the floor, blood spilling too fast on the floor. Part of her wanted to scream, but all she did was sprint. Metal clanged with metal just beside her as she threw herself around a corner. The bridge would know what was going on by now, thanks to the ship’s AI, but this ship didn’t have any counter measures, like navy ships. She wasn’t even sure they had weapons onboard. Every ship nearby could see what had just happened, and the AI had long since alerted the nearby navy ships, but what could they do? Before anyone was here, those four guards could have killed everyone aboard, twice at least. She had no doubt that they had come for her, but it didn’t seem to matter to them who died. If they wanted to hide the fact that they were after her, they would kill everybody no matter what.
“Glas, page bridge, emergency code red.”
Nothing happened. Then a voice.
“What the hell is going on?”
She could hear a lot of comms in the background.
“Seal the ship, except for the route I’m taking to the hangar. They’re after me, but they will kill everyone as well.”
Of all the stupid questions.
“Just do it! Keep them away until someone comes to help. Get weapons if you have them. And release the controls for the P52, I have to get away from here.”
“What?! I can’t do that!”
“Then I’m dead.”
She took that as confirmation he would do it.
“You do know to actually fly a P52, right?”
“Better than anyone around here. Release the clamps already, and start opening the doors as soon as I’m inside. If anything, perhaps the vacuum will take a couple of lizards with it.”
“Ok. The navy is asking what’s going on, and quite a few ships out there have fired up engines.”
“I don’t think anyone will attack the ship from the outside.” That reminded her. “What’s going on with the transporter?”
“They lost some crew to space I think. They have sealed their own airlock, but they have hailed us for an explanation, just like every other ship around here.”
“Ok, share all information to everyone around. Hide nothing, you understand?”
“But the navy says to…”
“I am the navy! Do you want to get blown out of the sky because some idiot thinks we are hiding something? Share the feeds. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir. I mean ma’m.”
“Good. Now send a message to the navy that I’m taking the P52 down to Orion 3 and they better be prepared to stop whatever’s going to follow me.”
“What’s going to follow you?”
“This day I wouldn’t be surprised if the god damn Horde ship followed me.”
For once there was no reply. She ran as fast as she could and every time she had to wait for a door to open felt like a heart attack. Her pursuers would be faster than her, but hopefully the guy on the bridge was smart enough to delay them. The clamps were still moving when she came into the hangar. The P52 opened up as she ran towards it. She jumped into the seat and flicked the controls so fast that the responses were faster than she could follow. Normally one would do it by voice, but this was much quicker. She didn’t wait to check the hangar doors, but started up immediately. Thankfully the guy did as instructed. The hangar was not intended to be opened this trip, something visualized when the doors opened. Things were flying towards the exit, and had she not been prepared for it, it could have caused an accident with her ship as well. Two guards manage to open the door as she sped out of the hangar.
It was no consolation that they would be dead within minutes.