Mission Born: Space Twins - Chapter 14

During the last chapter, Jess and Walter met Kat, an acquaintance of Winterlocke's who does not seem to pleased at their arrival.  If you need to catch up, find links to all preceeding chapters below:

Chapter 1 Ghosts
Chapter 2 The Adventure Continues
Chapter 3 Sound the Alarm!
Chapter 4 Will Wally Make It?
Chapter 5 Twins Divided
Chapter 6 World's Apart
Chapter 7 Escape from Planet Orc
Chapter 8 Twin's Flight
Chapter 9 Docked in Space
Chapter 10 Knowledge Unbound
Chapter 11 Decisions
Chapter 12 Training
Chapter 13 An Unexpected Adventure

Otherwise, let's pick up right where we left off - entering Kat's house.

Chapter 14 of Mission Born Space Twins.

“So, Old Man, why you gotta be in my house when everybody is all nerves?  I hear ya been workin' with the Gnomes.  Well, ya better start thinkin' about the others out there.  I’m hearin’ that there’s an armada out there, and they’re a’huntin' all races that ain’t their own!  You got the gifts Old Man, but ya don’t use them…!”  

Both Jess and Walter looked at Winterlocke, wondering what she meant.  Winterlocke ignored them and engaged fully into the conversation.  “Look Kat, I know you’re disappointed, but I gotta look out for myself and the Gnomes gave me a place to stay during a rough time in my life.  They helped me get straight… And they want to help in this fight.  They are just being cautious before stepping into battle.  They like to know their enemy.”  

He turned, pointing at the twins, “These two have been key in letting the Gnomes learn their foe.  They are here to learn espionage, and I knew you were just the one to explain Trader ways to them.”  

Kat turned her head toward them and squinted, “They seem kinda young Winter….  You sure about this?”

“Yes, Kat, I’m sure.”

“Okay, Old Man, let’s take ‘em down to the Market.  It’s the best way to get them understandin’ what their steppin’ into.  Come’on kids, it’s time to work.”  

Kat turned and started walking out the door and downstairs.  She took the flights two at a time and came to the bottom with a small thud.  Winterlocke sighed and followed much slower.   The twins ran past Winter and down to Kat, they seemed to be loving this woman who antagonized Winterlocke so much.  All three were standing at the bottom of the steps smiling up at him.  

“Alright. Let’s go.”  He opened the back door and walked into the alleyway.  The smells were a mixture of rich cooked food and garbage.  Not a great mixture, but it made them all hungry nonetheless.  

“I think we can afford to take a side trip to Mog’s, dontcha think Old Man?”  Kat elbowed him in the ribs, trying to get him going.  At the same time, Winterlocke’s stomach grumbled in hunger.  Looking a little embarrassed, Winterlocke smirked and said, “Okay, fine Kat, whatever you say…”  

Kat led them down multiple avenues and alleyways.  The pace was quick but measured, and when they finally rounded a corner, they saw a huge sign with ‘Mog’s’ above a small cafeteria.  The sign was possibly three times the size of the eatery, which was quite ironic to the twins.  Kat looked over her shoulder at the twins and chuckled, “You two don’t know nothin’ yet.  Ya see, in Trading Halls like this one, you pay for space, all of it.  So wastin’ space above yer lot is not smart.  Mog is just usin’ all the space he has, but he’s got a fear of heights, so he never built above the first floor.  He uses the rest for advertising.”  She waved her hand at the enormous sign.  “He’s probably one of the smartest businessmen here, and he’s definitely the best chef I’ve ever seen.”  She walked up to the worn-looking door, made of a metal that looked like a rusted tree trunk.  She opened it and ushered the others inside.  

Once they were all inside, Kat put two fingers from one hand in her mouth and gave a loud whistle.  Every head in the place turned to them.  She just laughed and yelled, “MOG!  Get out here ya old galoot!  I ain’t got time ta wait fer Netty ta seat us!”  

A tall, thin robot made of green metal rolled toward them.  “Ah, Katarina, you know your outbursts may cost us customers….  Please follow me.  Mog is busy cooking, as we have a multitude of customers waiting….as you can see….”  The robot swiveled its body in one deft motion and started guiding them back the way it had come.  

“A booth or table?”  The robot asked for their preference.  

“A booth, please.  Netty…”  Winterlocke answered.  

“Your inflection shows you are misinterpreting my name.  I am Net-E, named for the ‘E’ version of the popular Net brand robots.  We are highly popular….”  Net-E sounded off the information quickly and precisely, yet with a hint of irritation.  

“Here is your booth, Katarina.  I will take your order after your friends and you have read the menu thoroughly enough.”  Net-E dropped the menus onto their table, which was surrounded by a large couch-like seat.  They all sat down and scooted into the confining, yet comfortable, space.  Winterlocke made sure he was sitting on the end, seeming to want to be prepared for something.  

“So, kids, what’s Winter got ya doin’ now?  Other than botherin’ a nice old lady like myself….”  She gave Winter a hard glare and then smiled warmly at the twins.

“Well, it’s kinda secret… He’s coaching us…”  The next words Jess spoke in a whisper, “to be…spies…”  She looked around the place carefully, like she could spot other spies.  Winterlocke just looked at her and then rolled his eyes back in exasperation, putting his hand to his forehead.  Walter watched it all out of the corner of his eye as he looked through the menu.  Kat smirked and seemed to be loving Winterlocke’s irritation.  

“Okay, let’s just order and then get on with things.  Kat we need to have them learn the trader ways, the lingo, and the customs.  Can you help me with that?  The Gnomes will pay good money….”  Winterlocke slapped his hand onto his still unopened menu.

Kat looked Winter square in the eye and sighed, “Okay, Old Man, I’ll take ‘em under my wing.  But, you need ta stay outta my way, got it?”

Winterlocke smiled and nodded while picking up his menu and opening it.  Kat nodded back surreptitiously and opened her own menu.

The meal was surprisingly good.  Winterlocke had a steak from an alien-like cow called karaka, which supposedly was found on the Dwarven home world.  Apparently it had a metallic aftertaste which Winter seemed to enjoy.  Jess had a version of Eggs Benedict, but with a huge egg from a predatorial bird on the Elven home world.  She couldn’t stop raving about the sauce, which was spiced perfectly.  Walter had a fish steak from the Mermen home world, the thing was quite large as well.  He finished it with no problem and had a dessert from the same area, which ended up being sweetened fish eggs.  Kat had a hamburger, made from one of the original cattle breeds on Earth, which were now found on multiple planets in the frontier.

As they walked out of Mog’s, they could see that the spacedock was making its way behind a moon.  The trajectory of Spacedock 79 took it around a planet of swirling winds.  The planet had three moons, and each was almost like the other, dead and boring gray.  The orbit was to allow the spacedock to have a day and night cycle.  The gravity of the planet and the moons were tenuous, and that meant the spacedock actually used fuel to burn itself into the alternating orbit.  It was night cycle when they came out, so they could see the splendor of all the lit-up signs surrounding the marketplace. 

As they started across the street, they could see a light swirling its way through the mob of people.  The twins could hear people yelling at the nebulous blue light.  Apparently, the light was attached to some kind of object that could maneuver quickly.  A humming started to catch up to the twins as the light swung its way into their view.  Now the blue light was strobing between blue and gold.  “Um, guys… that thing is coming towards us!”  
Winterlocke looked the way Jess pointed.  A shocked smile made its way onto Winterlocke’s face.  

“No way!  Buddy!  There’s no way you’re still alive!  Doo-dad!  Come ‘ere dood!”  The lights swelled then settled down as a small robot the size of an old-world paperback book.  It had stabilizers underneath it and one attachment at the bottom that looked like a crystal formed from molten gold.  A soft, light yellow glow emanated from the crystal formation.  The top of the robot had a disc about six inches wide and two inches thick; it was from this disc that the lights were gleaming.  

“Oh, Buddy, it’s been way too long!” Winterlocke looked like he had just gotten the best news of his life.

The robot moved in close nudging against Winterlocke.  A small needle protruded from Doo-dad and Winter put his finger to it, letting it prick him slightly.  A digital blue-green glow flowed over Winterlocke’s eyes.  “Okay, Dood, I got it.  We’ll leave as soon as possible.”
“Um, what the heck was that!” Jess watched in awe and anger of what she did not know.

“Well, I know what the eye thing was… That thing just transmitted a high security communication to Winter.  It only activates in the blood of the intended recipient.”  Kat folded her arms, not looking happy. 
Walter, looking worried, turned to Winterlocke, “Is it bad news?”

Winterlocke turned to everyone somberly, “We have to go, the training can wait.  My brother needs our help. But we can’t help him at his location….  We’re going to be putting ourselves in harm’s way again.  Follow me back to the ship and we can talk there….”

Kat stood firm and glared at him as she uttered her next words, “I said I would help train, not ‘venture with you… again!”

Winterlocke walked over to her and took her hands in his, “I know what you lost Kat.  I can’t bring it back, but this is a new future.  We have friends we can help, and I’m not going to fail them this time.  I promise….”

Kat bowed her head in thought, then sighed heavily, “Fine, I’ll come.  But, no secrets Winter, none at all, or else I’m out.”

Winter grinned and shook her hands gently.  “You got it Kat.  This is going to be just like old times!”

Winterlocke started down the street with Doo-dad floating next to him.

Kat turned to the twins and cracked a sarcastic grin, “Hmmm, it better not be.  Last time our ship blew up….”

(Click to "turn the page" to Chapter 15)

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