Finally! Here is another chapter.
Jordan and Owen woke early and prepared to leave Twilight Station. They had seen the local schedule of shipping and traffic, and noticed the large number of ships leaving during the day. With illegal trade a problem in Twlight Station, more ships were scanned and watched the days the freight convoys left the station. Leaving the station before traffic was at its peak had the risk of being noticed with fewer ships flying, but would have the advantage of being able to leave the station quicker without being heavily scanned.
Owen checked out of the hotel using an automated system; the early shifts at the desk hadn’t begun. The two then rode the train to the hub where the Perseus was docked. Jordan and Owen boarded, undocked, and began to fly through Twilight Station’s network of tunnels and passageways. The ship’s computer reported a scan of the ship from a nearby drone when the Perseus was halfway to the exit point, but a message received detailed that it was a routine scan and Perseus was free of any suspicion. The only other communication from the station was at the exit passageway, where a prerecorded message wishing them a safe journey was received. It was likely to something every ship received on the way out of Twilight Station.
Once the Perseus had left Twilight Station, Owen plotted the course to Altaria and activated the warp drive. “One and a half days to Altaria,” he said. “Let’s plan this little rescue mission.”
After they had slept for several hours to make up for the lost sleep leaving Twilight Station, Jordan and Owen went into the Perseus’ small galley area and began accessing files that could help them in their tasks through laptops.
Owen leaned back and took a bite out of an apple. “There is no way we can even get close to Tresia’s estate,” he said, his mouth full of food. He swallowed and continued. “There’s just too much security, even if we get people to help us.”
“Exactly,” said Jordan, looking at Tresia’s journals.
“This really isn’t a helpful question, but what do you suppose we do?”
Jordan continued to study the journals. “It would be easier to come up with a solution if this damn translator could figure out Altarian shorthand. Half of the stuff this bitch wrote seems to be just a bunch of letters. It looks like she wanted to write in a way that only she could read. Tresia is pretty paranoid, but people that are paranoid also tend to be clever.”
“I know the translators aren’t good at reading Altarian abbreviations and stuff like that, but every language is different. Can I see it?”
Jordan handed Owen the laptop, who began to type on it. “Some of this stuff is apparently unique to the way Tresia writes, but some of it isn’t. You just need to be more familiar with the language. English has its own quirks that confuse others that don’t understand it.”
“What can you understand?”
“Everything that we need to proceed with this scheme. What mighty plan do you have?”
Jordan leaned forward. “Like you said, Tresia’s estate is essentially a fortress. We can’t go in to get her, so she’ll have to come out somehow. The only way she can do that is if someone brings her out, since she’s essentially imprisoned on the property. There’s only one time that she’ll be out of that house, and that’s when she’ll be put on Tresia’s ship to be taken to that ritual on Wisp.”
Owen typed something on his laptop. “I’ve got the ship schedule for that day she leaves. Tresia’s ship, the Supremacy, is going to be docked on a public landing pad, meaning there won’t as much security.”
Jordan and Owen looked at each other, knowing that they had found their opportunity to rescue Aelytha.
“Contact some of those contacts once we’re in orbit, Owen. That ship leaves tomorrow. If it gets to Wisp, there’s no way we can get to her there.”
Owen nodded, knowing the security of the planet Wisp, which was home large military installations, the commanders of which were rumored to be aligned with Uslynthinis.
“Entering orbit of Altaria,” chimed the ship’s computer.
“Call Hyro Sahna from contact list,” ordered Owen. “Disguise signal location.”
“Calling,” said the computer.
After a few seconds, a shady looking Altarian with a facial tattoo in the shape of a wolf appeared on the screen. “Who are you, and what do you want?” asked the Altarian.
“Are you Hryo Sahna?” asked Owen.
“Yes, but who are you?”
“My name is Owen Derekson. Are you familiar with Altos Carniss?”
“I’ve known the man all my life. Now what do you want?”
“Altos said you could help us. Judging by what we know about you, you lead a small group of freelance mercenaries, is that true?”
“During the war I did, but now me and my buddies do various odd jobs. Now, if you don’t tell me what you want, I’m going to hang up.”
“We would like to use the services of you and your men. Can you infiltrate a docked starship?”
“Depends on what it is,” said Hryo, still appearing uninterested.
Owen sent the details of the Supremacy to Hryo.
“Hmmm. A Shonyn-Class personal transporter. With enough people to do the right things, this ship is fairly easy. The info says this ship belongs to none other than the queen of political idiots: Tresia Kholonus. That woman ripped me off, and I want back at her. What are we going to steal: the ship, money, what else?”
Jordan spoke up. “Tresia has someone important held aboard that ship that we need to rescue.”
Hryo smiled. “Before the war, I excelled in hostage rescue for law enforcement. You found the right guy. This should be fairly easy. Get aboard, mess up security, get the person, and get out.”
“How much do you charge?”
“For something like this, I’m asking ten thousand credits.”
Owen sighed. “Wiring the money now.”
“Got the funds. Where do we meet?”
“I sent in a docking request to Ilykos City. We’ll be at Hangar 04 in less than two hours. Be there.”
“I will.” Hryo closed the channel.
Owen groaned. “That was out of my personal funds. Altos or someone else better compensate me for this.”
“Hopefully,” said Jordan. “Beginning atmospheric entry.”
The Perseus dove through the layers of clouds in Altaria’s atmosphere, speeding towards Ilykos City. After one last cloud, the city came into view. One of Altaria’s “Island City-buildings”, Ilykos was essentially a giant skyscraper holding an entire population of around three hundred thousand. From an oval shaped base, two thick spires emerged, tipped by large statues. Balconies and landing pads stuck out in neat rows throughout the building. The glass of the city appeared turquoise from the ocean surrounding it, whose waves gently washed against a seawall and marina far below. The city was ringed by several rock formations, which had arches made to accommodate access by water. Jordan and Owen had been the city before during military missions, but it was still an impressive sight to behold.
Jordan found the hangar that they had been allowed to dock in and moved the ship towards it, preferring to dock internally to avoid the chance of the ship being spotted and potentially recognized. After checking the local time, he released the controls to the autopilot, which flew the ship into one of several access tunnels that ran throughout the building. As the ship continued towards its destination, Jordan observed Ilykos. There was a great deal of empty space inside, honeycombed by various walkways and internal towers. Plants grew everywhere, looking as much of a part of the building as all the windows. Most of all, however, Jordan noticed a distinct lack of things that made up many Terran cities, such as billboards.
Eventually, the Perseus arrived at the hangar, deployed its landing skids, and settled on the surface. Jordan and Owen pocketed their guns, and several other weapons. Owen chose a compactable nightstick, while Jordan chose his knife. After disembarking, Jordan and Owen looked around and saw several Altarians standing around, including Hryo.
“About time,” said the Altarian, walking up to them, “We’ve been observing Tresia’s ship. She seems a bit overconfident, because there isn’t nearly as much security as she usually has. Unless they were all aboard the ship, this should be fairly easy.”
“Don’t get overconfident yourself,” said Jordan.
“I didn’t say I would be,” said Hryo in an annoyed tone.
“Back to this little rescue,” said Jordan. “Altos provided me with a lot of useful equipment, such as codebreakers, lockpicks, and elimination devices, as I call them.”
“I know the first two, but what the hell is the third?” asked Hryo.
“It will put even the toughest guards to sleep, enough electricity to cause unconsciousness or even death.”
Hryo smiled. “Nice.”
“I also have several other important things like these fake badges. Only a Yor could tell the difference between the real thing and this.”
Owen spoke up. “Every moment we stand around is less time to get to the ship. Let’s go.”
After taking several elevators and shuttles to the upper part of the city, the group walked onto the platform where Tresia’s ship, the Supremacy was docked.
One of Hryo’s men said something in Altarian. Hryo translated in a low voice, saying that the man was wishing that he owned a ship like the Supremacy.
Jordan smiled slightly. “This piece of shit is nothing compared to the Perseus.”
The group continued towards the ship. They were almost at the entry ramp when several guards stopped them. Hryo walked up the guards and began to talk. Eventually Hryo showed the fake badges to the gurads, who examined them and stepped aside, allowing entry into the ship. At times like this, I really wish I had a decent audio translator, thought Jordan.
“I just had to give the little story to get aboard. If you knew me longer you’d know I’m an excellent liar. He said to be careful of High Priestess Kresta. She’s performing a ritual on one of the prisoners right now. He said it was something about one of the prisoners resisting. He said it was the girl,” muttered Hryo. “The ship sure smells like the priestess, that’s for sure. What a foul woman.”
“If I’m right, that girl is the one we’re rescuing. Send your men to disable the holding cell cameras.”
Hryo listened to his earpiece. “They already have security under control. They can do anything with the ship now.”
“Where are the holding cells?”
Hryo asked the question quickly into his earpiece in Altarian, then quickly motioned for Jordan and one of the others to follow him. After a few seconds of sprinting they arrived at the entrance to the holding area without meeting anyone. Jordan used a codebreaker to get past the locked door, and the three stepped inside.
Two guards were looking over the three cells, their backs turned towards the entrance. The door to the middle cell was open, and a raspy-voiced woman was chanting something in Altarian wearing a brown cloak was seen bending over the cell’s cot. Jordan could hear the groans and muffled half-sobs of the girl who lay on the cot, whose voice he recognized as Aelytha’s. His heart began to pound, and he looked at Hryo and nodded.
Hryo and other Altarian quickly and noiselessly subdued the guards. Jordan stormed toward the woman who was likely Priestess Kresta, quickly came up with a plan of attack, and struck. He quickly and violently cuffed the woman’s throat, using a military technique designed to suppress a scream. He then threw a right hook into the woman’s side, and followed up by driving his knee into the woman’s hip. Jordan intended to use another move to create total unconsciousness, but his moves had so much force behind them that the priestess flipped sideways, nearly head over heels, and landing hard on her neck, making a loud crack.
After checking to see if the woman was dead or alive, Jordan stood up. Aelytha was partially sitting up, looking at the priestess’ body and trembling with fear. Once she saw Jordan, she simply stared, several tears rolling down her cheeks. She opened her to speak, but Jordan put his hand over her mouth and helped her stand up. Hryo muttered something to his henchman in Altarian.
“Let’s get out of here, Aelytha,” said Jordan in a low tone.
“Jordan, we need to hurry,” said Hryo. “I got an update from my men. Some more of the ship’s crew is coming aboard. We need to be off before they get here.”
“Got it,” said Jordan. He pulled the cloak off the priestess and gave it to Aelytha, who wordlessly put it on, pulling the hood over her head.
After Aelytha was sufficiently disguised, Jordan checked in the other cells, but there was no one in them. The other prisoners were likely with the remaining part of the crew. Before leaving, Jordan and Hryo lifted the body of the priestess onto the bed, pulling up the thin sheet and tilting the face away from the visible security camera.
“Our work here is done, Hryo. Let’s get off this damn ship.”
Hyro gave the orders to his men over his earpiece. After meeting up, Hryo checked outside, then waved everyone else out. The group made their way back the elevator at a slower pace to avoid attracting attention. As Jordan was about to step aboard the elevator, he saw the guards that were stationed at the entrance ramp appear from behind to ship and take their usual places. As the elevator door closed, Jordan saw Tresia emerge onto the landing pad.
Once they were out of sight, everyone moved rapidly through Ilykos back to where the Perseus was docked. Owen checked around to make sure nothing that changed, then opened the entry hatch.
“Well, this is it,” said Hryo. “We had quite a bit of skill and luck getting that girl off Tresia’s ship.”
“A pleasure working with you,” said Jordan, and turned to enter the ship.
“Wait,” said Hryo.
“Yeah?” asked Jordan.
“You never told me your name. What is it?”
“My name is on a list of those that people want in jail right now, to put it lightly,” said Jordan.
“Same here,” shrugged Hryo. “I’m no angel.”
“Fine. I’m Jordan Locke.”
Hryo raised his eyebrows. “I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you before. Look, people that Tresia has under her boot secretly love you. I won’t tell anyone about what happened today. Man, I just did something with the man himself…”
“Look, Jordan. This may sound weird, but if you need a place to lay low if you’re in Ilykos again, just let me know. You’re my kind of scum,” said Hryo with a laugh.
Jordan was about to say something when an alert over a public announcement system sounded. As expected, it was in Altarian. Hryo listened briefly, then shouted, “You’d better get out of here fast! They just discovered what we did. The usual trade convoy is leaving about now. Fly with them for a while, and go to a different city on the other side of Altaria before you leave the planet. They’re going to be watching the air and space over Ilykos for a while. Good luck, and watch yourself out there!”
Jordan quickly ran aboard the Perseus and closed the hatch as Owen began the takeoff procedure. Jordan took his seat in the cockpit in time to see Hryo wave briefly before the ship left the hangar and sped out of Ilykos.
“I cannot believe we just did that!” said Owen. “Tresia’s probably screaming with rage right now.”
“Good,” said Jordan. “I just wish we could have helped those other prisoners. Problem is, what would we do with them after we freed them?”
“True,” said Owen.
Jordan and Owen sat silently for a few seconds, then Jordan spoke. “Hryo is right. We need to find a place to lay low for a while. Tresia probably has the political influence to make the local military forces comb the area for any suspicious ships. This ship stands out somewhat.”
“Agreed. We’ll fly with this trade convoy for a while. We can figure out where to hide later.”
“Got it,” said Jordan, who got up and left the cockpit, leaving Owen to fly the ship. He climbed down to the Perseus’ lower and entered his cabin. Aelytha sat on his bunk, her head in her hands. Jordan sat down next to her. “Aelytha?” he asked.
Aelytha gave no response.
“Are you okay?”
Only silence came from her.
“Aelytha, I’m sorry that all this happened. If I could have come here to rescue you earlier, I would have.”
“I’m not mad, Jordan,” said Aelytha in a small voice.
Jordan put his arm around Aelytha, and she leaned against him and began to cry. He held her for a while, comforting her. What did you do to her, Tresia?
After Aelytha had calmed down, the two went back up to the cockpit. Jordan slid into his usual place, while Aelytha sat in the seat behind them.
“What’s the situation at Ilykos?”
“The translator’s having a hard time understanding the chatter from the security forces. They’re talking very fast, and over each other.”
“You’ve got a translator, Owen,” said Aelytha. She listened to the radio for a while, then spoke. “They’re practically turning Ilykos City and the area around it inside out looking for us. The skies and space above the city are being watched. I overheard you and Jordan talking about a place to hide. I know a place we can stay for a while.”
“Where would that be?” asked Owen.
“It’s an extra apartment my parents own. It has fake registration and papers. My parents had some enemies when they were in the Altarian Senate, so this is a place that they could retreat to when the Senate threatened to break down.”
Jordan and Owen both looked at Aelytha.
“Your parents were Altarian Senators?!” asked Owen.
“Well, my father was a major one. My mother was sort of his representative.”
“Where are they now?” asked Owen.
Aelytha looked down at the cockpit floor. “They’re dead. They died as I started to study at a university.”
“I’m sorry,” said Owen.
“No, no,” said Aelytha. “Don’t worry.” She quickly entered the coordinates of where the apartment was.
Jordan leaned back in his chair. During their time together on the Independence, he knew that Aelytha’s parents worked in the Altarian government, but Aelytha never told him that they were in the Senate, or that they were dead. He also noticed Aelytha was clearly bottling her emotions. The time that her parents died was still fairly recent, less than eight years, given Aelytha’s age.
After two and a half hours of traveling at top atmospheric speed, the Perseus arrived at its destination as the sun was beginning to set. The name of the settlement was nearly unpronounceable, but was situated on a group of islands like Ilykos. However, the town was tiny compared to Ilykos, with only around eight thousand people. Several white high-rise buildings rose above the lush islands, which formed a ring-like shape around the clear blue water.
The Perseus touched down at the docking area on one of the islands, landing between several other ships. The three disembarked and took a hovercraft shuttle to the building where Aelytha’s apartment was. They entered the lobby, where the receptionist droid scanned Aelytha’s retina to confirm her identity, giving a card key afterwards. After an elevator ride to the near top, Aelytha unlocked the door to the apartment, and the three stepped inside.
“Nice place,” said Jordan, looking around. “We should be able to stay here for a while.”
After settling in, the three eventually ate and watched local media through a translator. After Owen went to bed, Jordan checked the local Earth time and called Altos.
Altos’ faced flashed onto the screen. “Jordan?”
Aelytha saw what Jordan was doing and stood next to him, smiling at Altos through the connection.
Altos returned the smile. “Glad to see that you rescued her, Jordan. That explains the news story going on at Ilykos. There aren’t any suspects yet. You and whoever you worked with did a good job.” He then looked at Aelytha and said something to her in Altarian.
Aelytha smiled and put her hand and Jordan’s shoulder.
“Jordan, where are you right now? I can’t trace your signal.”
“We’re at Aelytha’s family’s apartment.”
“She told me about that place. Stay there for a few days until the buzz about what happened at Ilykos fades. However, if anything about a suspect comes up that concerns you, get out of there, and come back to Twilight Station as quickly as possible.”
“I have to leave to speak with several Admirals soon, so this will be it for now.”
“All right, Altos. Bye.” said Jordan, closing the link.
After Jordan had shut off the computer, he quickly went to his room and went to bed. After he had turned off the light, he saw heard someone enter, and quickly figured out it was Aelytha. Before he could speak she got in bed with him. He moved slightly and held her, ecstatic at their reunion.