Mission Born: Space Twins - Chapter 6
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Jess strode quickly to the command deck. As the entry door slid open, she could see the fleet out the viewport. The warships were aligning. They would make a translight jump soon, and the chase would be on! She wanted her brother back. Those orcs would pay for everything they had done, especially abducting Wally! The captain motioned her over to his command chair. As she approached, Captain Argent moved his hand in a ‘quiet down’ motion, and then whispered to her, “Jess, you need to get a fast shuttle ready. We have problems….”
Her eyebrows shot up in alarm. “What do ya mean Cap’n?” She enunciated her words low and slow.
“The Admiral is planning a full bombardment of the orc planet once we’ve pinpointed their main base. Nothing is going to live through it. It will take a bit, but we will find it, and then your brother is in trouble. The fastest shuttle we have is a prototype ether-energized shuttle. We were going to use it for recon. In and out missions. This looks like your best bet to get your brother, but…you won’t be able to come back.”
“Why won’ we be able ta’ return?”
“You will have to steal the ship, Jess. After that, I will have to make it seem like you were the traitor that worked the software into the system, since I would like to continue captaining this ship.”
He looked her squarely in the eyes, “I’m sorry Jess, but this is the best I can do for you.”
Sighing, Jess nodded weakly, “You’re right….When d’ya wan’ me to take the ship? I mean it can’t be ‘til we get to th’ orc planet right?”
“Jessica, make preparations now, we hit orc space in about one hour. If I don’t see you again, keep each other safe. May God be with you….” He straightened up in his seat and returned his voice to full level. “Lieutenant, please check on the Landing Bay, and make sure all systems have been repaired. We might need the crafts that are left in the upcoming fight.”
“Yes, sir!” Jess saluted in Navy-fashion, and then turned about and walked out the door.
Captain Argent saluted and watched her walk off. His face contorted into a fragile smile and then fell away. “That girl has more guts than any marine I have ever seen.” He commented to himself under his breath. “Good luck, kid”
Entering the main command area of the citadel, Walter could see massive columns of sanded stone sculptures. The pillars looked like serpents entwined around massive arms with fists raised to hold the ceiling in place. At the back wall, there was a large command chair with plush upholstery and a leather backing. On either side of the command chair sat huge displays of global and orbital readouts. Two smaller orcs operated these systems, and continued talking quietly into their headsets, obviously giving orders and carrying out the business of the fortress city. The person, sitting in the command chair was ominous, in size and aura of command. The orc leader looked like he could literally eat Walter in one bite, if that was their way, which Walter hoped it was not.
The leader turned to him, and his manner seemed too calm. His hands were folded in his lap, and his face was solemn with a thoughtful look in his eyes. “You are the one they brought from the cruiser?”
“Um, yes…look I don’t know what….”
“Silence!” It was a command, not shouted, but in a normal tone that conveyed more authority than Walter had ever heard. Walter quickly closed his mouth. “You are to be our guest for a while, child. We have need of a bargaining chip. Hopefully, your people will listen.”
He nodded to the four guards surrounding Walter. “Take him to the guest chambers near my office and post a guard.” The guards stamped their right foot down in unison, and maneuvered Walter toward an elevator in the wall to his right. He did not like his prospects, since he knew his people well, especially the council and its military leaders.
As they dropped out of translight speed, Jess flipped on several switches on the prototype shuttle’s dashboard. Most of the lights lit up green, and when one showed red, she got agitated and hit it with her fist. The light turned green in affirmation of her query. She smirked and then strapped herself in tight. The maneuvering thrusters were very responsive, and she was able to make her way gracefully out of the cruiser. Once she hit open space, she kicked in a small translight boost to get her right on the envelope of the planet’s atmosphere. She glided down quickly, which saved her from a large amount of the defense cannons’ fire. Yet, the cannons, though late, started nonetheless and she had to use all of her piloting skill to dodge and weave past the defenses. Once she hit the treeline, she was too hard for the cannons to target, and the barrage of cannon fire stopped abruptly. She realized that the orcs had given their base’s position away in firing at her, so she glided the shuttle into a small meadow, and kicked all systems off quickly. The shuttle door was opening as she unstrapped herself and slid to a compartment to get the things she would need. As she left the ship, the doors closed with the use of a remote and the ship made a whirring noise as a camo net spread itself over the hull of the ship. The remote had quite a few other functions, but only one was needed to save Walter, and she would use it only when she had him in custody. The hike to the base wouldn’t take too long, but she had planned this to the ‘t’, and it would take less time than walking.
She made it about one mile from the ship when she heard motorized vehicles coming from the base. She swung her hands into the air, to let them know she was surrendering, and hopefully they would not fire on her. The moist air of this swampy planet made her hair stick to her face, and she tried to spit it out of her mouth as the vehicles emerged from the thick vegetation.
“Down! Get Down!” One of the guards shouted towards her.
“You got it buckaroo!” She quickly fell into a kneel, and the guard moved forward through the thick grass. She could hear someone rushing headlong at her from behind as well, and her hands were grabbed roughly by the reptilian hands of another guard. Her arms were forced behind her back and large shackles were placed around her wrists. As the in front of her approached, both guards grabbed her by the shoulders and guided her brusquely to the waiting vehicle. Jess looked at the archaic vehicle and realized just how low-tech these orcs really were. There is no way they could have boarded the Heavy Cruiser without inside help.
The ride to the citadel was quick. They came into the mesa from the other side, which Walter had not seen, but it was just as impressive. The entrance had metal and stone entwined to form a massive serpent mouth. Two large fangs protruded out and into the soil, on the sides of the entrance. The entryway and further in resembled an old-style warehouse from the Earth video clips she had seen from Wyatt’s own investigations of history. The three-tiered structure started further inside, and she was impressed with the massive amount of construction labor this place had to have required. They parked the gas-powered motorized vehicle outside of the structure and transferred her to an electric vehicle to take her further into the mesa fortress. She became enraptured with the artwork inscribed into the stone of this place. “Wow, you guys really go all out! Why’ya usin’ stone though? Metal ‘as ta be better’n stone.” The guards ignored her and kept their eyes straight ahead. This didn’t stop Jess from talking. “So…are we there yet?” She smirked, yet the guards kept their stern looks forward. “Okayyyyy…. So, my name’s Jess, and I can’t wait ta meet your leader. We ‘ave a lot of stuff ta talk ‘bout.” Suddenly, the vehicle stopped. They were in front of a large central area, where a building resided in an open cavern of rock and steel. Tunnel tubes extended from the upper parts of the building into the three-tiered monstrosity around it. “Woah!! Nice!!” Jess belted out her comment in sincere appreciation of the structure.
She was ushered into the same command room as Walter had been. The fists still supported the roof with ease. Natural light poured down into the room, and the rays of light rested on the ‘throne’ of the one she had been hoping to meet. The orc was massive, and though he was impressive, Jess decided she would not be intimidated. “We need ta talk, you and me, ‘ere and now!” The leader looked over at Jess and frowned. “Quiet child! I will ask questions, and you will answer!”
Jess looked at him sideways, “No, I need ta’ tell ya’ somethin’ before we get inta that! Your people are all gunna die, if you don’ listen!”
The orc seemed to draw himself up, but at the end of her statement he looked at her with a tilted head. “You have my attention, little one.”
“They are gunna bombard this place inta smithereens! They don’ care if you ‘ave Wally, and you will lose ev’ryone!” She knew this was a risk, but it was her only avenue to freeing them both.
The leader looked to his people on their monitors. “Well?”
“Sir, she may be right. They are aligning the ships in a bombardment formation, which we pulled from the data files…. The Heavy Cruiser is the only ship not aligning for some reason….”
“Hmmm, signal the evacuation, the tunnels are our only hope. Leave as many volunteers, as it takes, to make it seem that they were successful. Calculate the number, and make it happen!”
The realization of what he said shook Jess to the bone. Their people were so loyal as to sacrifice themselves in an attack that left no doubt that they would all be killed instantly. To make the bombardment look like it had been effective, would mean that they would need at least half to three-quarters of the people in the base to stay.
“Mobilize our own craft and be ready to defend the base with our cannons against any invading craft. This will not be our end, but we will let them think it is! It is good that you warned us child. I owe you a debt of honor, many of my people will be saved due to your warning. I will allow you both to leave, but make it quick!” He turned away from her, as he continued to manage the coming war. The guards around her took his words as a command and guided Jess into the elevator, keying the correct floor and waiting with her as the elevator ascended. Now, they just needed enough time to get out of the citadel and back to the shuttle. As the elevator slowly dinged at each floor, Jess felt the enormity of the real value of time.
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