« on: 29 September 2013, 21:57:17 »
Word of Blake Protectorate?
For Sandra, the worst part of her imprisonment was simply not knowing what was going on.
She was in a small, bare cell, the only furnishings being a simple bunk, a toilet and a sink. There was one light and a door, but no other features to suggest where she was. She’d assumed that she was still on the same planet, but the truth was she had no way to tell that either. There were no windows, while the room’s cool temperature suggested that it was underground, which further confused the passage of time.
Sandra hadn’t even been led to this cell, rather woken up in it. A quick self-inspection (one that was complicated by not having a mirror) told her that she’d been stripped of her makeup and prosthetics. Her captors had provided her with a plain, simple jumpsuit to wear and, as a token gesture of comfort, an eyepatch, but that was it.
Food was delivered through a slot in the base of the door. There had been no communication from outside when it arrived to tell her who was bringing it, and only a small tap to say when they were retrieving her tray. Even that hadn’t helped. Attempts to track time had simply told Sandra that the meals were coming at irregular intervals, and the time between delivery and retrieval was also random.
In short, they don’t give me anything to tell me how long I’ve been here, she’d concluded. By my figuring, this is three days since I woke up here, and god alone knows how long since they put me under in the first place.
She had no clue if there were any other members of her team here, even. Disarming Elezha would take a long time and a lot of work, but then the damn Robes are the masters of freaky cyborg tech. They probably know more about what’s in her then we do actually. Of course, she’s probably freaking out herself. Whatever it is about the toasters that she doesn’t like isn’t going to be helped by being stuck on a planet full of them.
She snarled at herself again, realising that she was deliberately letting her mind wander. As much as she was trying to focus on her situation and devising a way out of here, she couldn’t. Every time, she came back to the same point, the reason why she was in here to begin with. Sandra couldn’t put it aside as much as she wanted (no, she corrected, needed) to.
She flopped back onto her bunk, her good eye staring up at the ceiling. She didn’t know if she was counting cracks or trying to make a structural assessment or figuring a way she could blow the roof off with the power of her mind. All she knew was that she had to think of something, no, anything else rather then that one thing.
No, that’s the worst part, she realised. That I’m less worried about myself or any other members of my team then I am about where one of them might be. She sighed to herself. And what I’m going to do to them if I ever catch them.
Reg nodded to Lynne as she stepped into the ruined building that had become their shelter, the technician stamping her feet and rubbing her hands together in front of their small campfire. “So what do we have?”
“Ain’t no change on the last few days.” She replied, shivering. “The bunkers are locked down tight an’ they have guards on all the droppers around the place. I know they’ve evacced the ones we came in on, but they’re still guardin’ them no less.”
“Hmmm…” Reg tapped the small fragment of concrete he had in his hand against a slab of fallen wall. The ancient building they’d taken refuge in was neither comfortable nor warm, but it had provided them with some degree of shelter and certainly protection from the Word’s patrols. “And the other Union?”
She shook her head. “Still shut up. Robes don’t wanna let anyone off of there if y’all ask me.”
“Site security.” Reg spoke up. “You minimise the number of bodies in transit to keep the headcounts low. They’re locking up both our people and the VV guys, so they are trying to keep the Defiants separate while they sort things out.”
“And that means they know we’re out here.” Jake grimly added. “They probably found that dead body or ran a headcount or the like and came up short one tech and two MechWarriors. That’s going to be enough to set off alarm bells.”
“But they don’t know about our secret weapon.” Reg spoke up. “Which is a bonus.” He glanced up to the top of the roofless building where the newest member of their team, Victoria Hagen, was perched. She’d been there for hours, her rifle pointed out over the vast expanse of the ancient drop-port.
“Yeah, well I’d feel a bit better if we knew about it.” Jake muttered. “No offence, Vic, but none of us have ever heard of you before.”
“An’ if y’all escaped Reg’s notice, that’s big.” Lynne helpfully added.
“You’re not meant to.” Hagen simply replied, not moving in the slightest. “I’m a ghost, even in a unit of ghosts. My job is to provide clean and neat solutions for awkward problems. One squeeze of the trigger and… piyong. It’s gone.”
“And where’d you come from anyway?” He continued.
“Right, this is the part where I tell you about all the crazy awesome things I did before I was recruited.” Hagen continued. “Like fighting dinosaurs on the moon or stuff like that.”
“So why are you here?” Reg asked. “You said something about a contingency plan…”
“Ayup.” Victoria agreed, again not moving or even glancing away. “Sandra told me that she expected this op to go bad. She just didn’t know how bad. Of course, I can’t say why because… well, that’d be telling.”
“And then I got lucky and found out that…” Reg shook his head. “Let’s just say that I’m glad I got out when I did and grabbed you along the way.”
“Yeah.” Jake nodded, then glanced at Lynne.
“Wha?” She asked. “I jus’ needed to smoke an’ have a pee.” The technician glanced around again. “Shoulda bought more then one cig with me too. Could use one right now.”
“So then what’s your plan, Vic?” Jake asked.
“Don’t have one.” She admitted. “One-Eye threw me out here because she wanted a spare and couldn’t trust anyone else to not be compromised. Though I guess that you three also qualify for that now.”
“Well that’s just great.” Jake muttered. “So now instead of Word deathcamps, we get to freeze to death on this rock.”
“I could provide a mercy kill but…” Hagen trailed off. “Waste of good bullets.”
“Fantastic. You’re insane, you know that?”
Jake glanced back at Reg, who was instead trying to ‘draw’ on the fallen wall with his concrete. It was slow going, but as near as he could tell, Reg was trying to build a map of the area. “Something on your mind?”
“Sort of.” Reg admitted. “See, I’m thinking that getting into that bunker is our first goal.”
“Makes sense.” Lynne nodded. “They dragged our people into there an’ all. Took the VV guys two, minus a few what got brewed up.” While nobody knew for certain, it looked like there had been a fire or something within the dropship they’d arrived on. “Then they started unloadin’ yer ‘Mechs too.”
“Definitely not good.” Jake grimaced.
“I’ll say.” Lynne nodded. “I got a sensitive maintenance routine what needs to be followed right or else stuff gets messed up. Also, I had a beer stash in one of ‘em. Nobody gets my beer.”
“I like the way you think.” Hagen smirked.
“Right. So let’s assume that dropper is no longer useful.” Reg crossed it off his map. “We have no idea of its interior condition, which means that we shouldn’t use it as a way out. We don’t want to get there only to find that the bridge is burned out of the like.”
“So we try and get the Defiants’ Union instead.” Jake offered. “Little bit of Grand Theft Dropship.”
“Something like that… though that’s stage three.” Reg noted. “Stage two is clearly ‘rescue our guys’.”
“But that depends on stage one.” Jake countered. “And we don’t have a way to get to stage one.”
“Actually…” Reg tapped his map. “I have an idea.”
Both Lynne and Jake looked at him. “Well?” He asked.
Now it was Reg’s turn to grin. “Lynne, that may have been the best-timed smoke and toilet break in the history of humanity, as it’s given me just what I need.”
“I like the sound of this plan already.” Victoria commented from her perch.
It hadn’t taken much for Sandra to figure that all the recording gear she’d been given as a part of her disguise had been removed. What did surprise her was that she still had her two artificial fingers. Either the Word had failed to notice them (Something she figured to be incredibly unlikely) or they felt that they were harmless. Either way, it was a small relief knowing that she still had them.
Of course, having all my fingers while still being stuck in a concrete hellhole is not that much of a bonus. It means that I’m merely at the same standing as anyone else in a concrete hellhole with all their fingers.
Her contemplation was shaken by a loud rattle on her door. “Move to the back of the cell.” A voice on the other side demanded. Between the door and the obvious modulation, she couldn’t identify it, but also had no doubts that it would be wise to do as ordered. Play it smart, Sandra. Don’t lash out, don’t try something stupid and don’t be a tool. Use this as a chance to learn more. She saw the slot in the door was open, but there was no way of telling what was on the other side.
She did as commanded, pressing her back to the far wall. Moments later came the clatter of locks (More then one, Sandra noted. Not taking any chances here) followed by the door opening with a reluctant creak of under-used hinges. Sandra tensed up, ready for whatever might come through the door. After all, they could have decided that I was no longer necessary to them.
Even then, she was surprised as Ogel stepped into the room.
“Well.” She managed, blinking as she did. “Okay, you got me.”
“I’d apologise for the accommodations, Ms Blackmore, but we both know why you’re here.”
“Fair.” She managed. “Though I’m also gonna apologise for not cleaning up the place or myself. Wasn’t expecting company.” She hadn’t bathed since getting into the cell, and save for a few brief experiments with the sink, not had much of a chance to even wash. She tilted her head, trying to glance past Ogel.
“In case you were wondering, that’s Smasher outside.” Ogel offered. “The same agent that so effortlessly disabled you the last time we met.”
“Fair.” She shrugged. “And he’s under orders to do that and worse if I try anything stupid, right?”
“You’d notice that in order to shoot you, he’d have to go through me.” Ogel simply stated. “Both of us are aware of this. I will also point out that my modifications include self-destruct charges in case you were entertaining any thoughts of using me as a hostage or a shield.”
“You’d still be dead.” Sandra offered.
“I would.” He agreed. “And so would you. And more to the point, you would have sealed the fate of your men with such an action.” His icy demeanour gave the slightest crack, the smallest tug of a smile at the corner of his mouth. “And despite all that, Towne would still be alive.”
Sandra visibly winced. Okay, he got me there. He’d taken the one thing that she’d been trying to avoid thinking about it and stabbed her with it straight away. “So we’re both agreed that I won’t do anything dumb. What the fork do you want then, Robe?”
He didn’t rise to her quips either. “To make you an offer, Ms Blackmore”, he simply stated, his posture and tone neutral. “I meant what I said about you making an impressive Manei.”
“You flatterer.” She shot back.
“I’m not just referring to your looks, although there is a certain fierce strength to them.” He continued. “Rather, I’m referring to your skills and capabilities, Ms Blackmore. You’re a very capable MechWarrior, a budding commander, a skilled tactician and an excellent investigator. Not to mention rather skilled with a gun.” He looked her in the eye. “I’ve seen the footage from your operations.”
“Yeah, about that.” Sandra winced. “See, I’m just not that fond of the idea of ripping out huge chunks of perfectly good flesh and replacing it with bits of machinery for poops and giggles. I’m rather find of my perfectly good flesh, as battered as it may be.”
“Understandable, but consider this.” Ogel replied. “You have already qualified, in a way.”
“How so? I must admit, I don’t love Blake with all my heart.”
“I mean the sacrifice of flesh.” He explained. “You did not give of your eye or hand voluntarily, Ms Blackmore. This is the same as all of us. My first sacrifice was an eye, like yours, bought in the defence of humanity.” He tapped the side of his head, by the blank red optic that covered one eyesocket.
“That doesn’t mean we’re anything alike.” Sandra shot back. “We both got tooled up, yeah, but I didn’t turn myself into a machine afterwards. I’m not so tooled up in the head as to think that getting maimed was a gift from God or Blake or whatever else.”
“Very true. And yet, you freely associate yourself with a woman who maimed herself.” Ogel continued. “Your cyborg colleague chose to become what she is now. She excised four perfectly healthy limbs, two eyes and numerous other parts of her body not because of injuries or some cause, but because she wanted to. It’s something to consider before you condemn us.”
Misdirection? She asked herself. I mean, I still have no idea how Elezha ended up like she is now. For all I know, he could be right. Sandra gave herself a small, angry snarl. Don’t let him distract you. “I don’t care what she did to herself. I’m not like her, and I’m certainly not like you, Robe.”
“True that.” Ogel nodded. “However, let me leave you with something else we have in common.”
“Being what?” her words dripped with obvious disbelief.
“We were both manipulated, used and betrayed by the same woman.” Ogel stated as he backed out of the cell. “Consider that.”