Nova Force Season 2: Episode 4 Part 2
Johnny peered out of the cockpit window, his brow arched and his mouth sneering crookedly, "This is the capital?" He asked. Before him lay a red landscape of dusty, tall buildings which were lined together like great canyon walls, the streets appearing to be a ancient dried up river bed, only flowing now with ships and the eerily scarce civilian on foot. The capital of this small, relatively new moon was given the name Grall, a Marlek word that seemed oddly fitting even on the human tongue. The skies were clear, the sun shining brightly over head scorching the outside temperatures to over one hundred degrees. However a red hue hung everywhere as the thick atmosphere, while sustainable, took on nearly the same red color as the dirt of the earth. Here fresh water did not fall from the sky, for even the clouds were tinged with dust.
Sangela nodded slowly, "I was researching before we came here. This planet was corporately funded, a mining company. This desert is rich. I guess planting the main city here cuts down expenses."
Johnny stood, placing his hands on the small of his back as he stretched. He turned towards Sangela, "So what now?"
"My contact is supposed to meet us here." She said, scanning over her computer screen, opening displays to reveal a view of the ground just outside of the landing ramp. A figure stood there, undistinguishable from anyone else due to the thick trench coat like jacket and protective face and eye gear, but Sangela presumed that it was him.
"Do we trust him?" Johnny asked as he made his way towards the human hallway.
Sangela shrugged, "I don't know. That's why I made sure we were meeting in here."
~ ~ ~ ~
Sangela stood rigidly as she lowered the landing ramp. Her eyes squinted as a sudden burst of hot air washed around her. Her hair flew from her shoulders to her right as she raised an arm to block the red, dusty atmosphere that suddenly bombarded the ship. The figure on the ground quickly hopped on board, Sangela began lifting the ramp before he had even made it all the way inside. She coughed and wiped her sleeve across her mouth as she could taste the air on her tongue. "Is it always like this?"
The Fanacta shook his head as he removed his head gear, a mask that covered his muzzle and a large hood that covered the rest. Circular goggles still hid his eyes behind blue tinted lenses, "Only on windy days. Which is most days."
Sangela smirked, "Sounds lovely. Follow me." She said, twirling around as she continued to try and wipe the dust from her skin and clothes. The found there way to the ships relatively small living quarters which contained only a few chairs around a semi-circular table that was connected to a wall where there was a human access. Johnny sat in his own section already awaiting their informants arrival. Sangela leaned on the wall beside the table and offered a seat to the Fanacta.
"So this is our guy?" Johnny said, nodding towards the towering creature who sat down at the larger table beneath him. Suddenly he felt just a little smaller now that he was surrounded by two individuals so much larger than himself.
"You can call me Lorth." The Fanacta replied, he pulled the goggles off of his eyes. His fur was a dark brown for the most part, a gray strip ran from under his chin, disappearing behind his thick clothing. "Now, I have forged a warrant for you that claims that you are here on routine inspections."
Sangela's brow furrowed as Lorth slid a sheet of paper onto the table. "We...don't use paper warrants."
"It will work. Roko wont know the difference."
"Roko?" Johnny asked.
"The president." Sangela replied as she examined the paper. It looked official enough with signatures and insignias.
"And owner of the mining company here." Lorth added on.
"What exactly are we dealing with here?" Johnny asked, "What's with all the secret plans?"
Lorth breathed heavily from his nostrils, his clawed fingertips tugging at a tuft of fur under his jaw, "It is not a story I enjoy telling. But it has gone on for too long. When we first took control of the mines on this planet Roko was very fast to establish it as a settlement, not just a mining camp. A city sprung up and it attracted more workers, because we were here first we were able to establish a local government. Which means anyone else moving to this moon would be paying taxes towards us, we received government funding to establish more advanced terraforming stations throughout. We had achieved so much, we had enough money to even branch out and establish one, or even two more settlements. But Roko always demanded that I find more, and more ways to get more money into our pockets. I will admit that I am not an innocent party here, but I still have my lines. Our human population in the settlement grew drastically because we just had so many jobs. I had no idea Roko had plans for them, I swear. But soon enough he forced the population into specialized facilities. He raised taxes to the point where their paychecks could hardly provide for their meals and clothing. He trapped them financially at first, no human could afford a ticket out of here-"
"How could he get away with that?" Sangela asked, "There are strictly enforced laws?"
"There are ways around the system." Lorth said, "As I said, I am not innocent here. But I am no slave trader...nor am I a murderer."
"Well...Then what?" Johnny asked.
"Once the human population was unable to escape on their own, Roko made it official. The human salaries were replaced by food rations and rarely new shipments of clothing. He had gone insane with power. He took humans out of their original jobs and put them into degrading...sometimes terrifying lines of work...I don't think I need to divulge the details."
"If you can prove all of this why did you seek out a single hybrid team?" Sangela asked, "Why not go directly to the Alliance?"
"Because Roko has gone mad. If he suspects the Alliance is onto him he can eliminate the entire human facilities, along with most of the population, with a few strokes of his hand."
"That couldn't possibly hide the evidence!" Johnny protested.
"But Roko is not reasonable. He has formed himself into some kind of unstoppable king in his mind." Lorth shook his head, "The entire population fears him. He has killed before, perhaps more times than I would like to imagine. But he has gained stability through fear. He doesn't know that his empire hangs by mere threads, believe me I have tried to tell him that this cannot last much longer. But if we do not act quickly, and in secret, I fear many lives will be lost."
"So what do we do?" Johnny asked.
"Sangela needs to keep him occupied. For at least an hour. Without his knowing I have implemented an exit on the roof of the human facility. I have a few close friends ready to escort the population out of there through a ship."
"How many people are we talking here?"
Sangela cursed under her breath, "So...what I make him show me around the place while you guys unload everyone into the ship?"
"There is one more step before we can do that." Lorth continued, "He has a rat in the human facility. A woman who he had brainwashed from a young age. His own mistress, it would seem. She gets special treatment, and in return she makes sure nothing goes on without his knowing. If we were to try and evacuate she would surely contact him. She needs to be silenced before we can make our move."
Johnny rubbed his chin, "Are you implying that I...kill her?" The words felt strange rolling over his tongue. He could hardly imagine himself carrying out the act.
"If there is no other option."
Johnny's mind raced over the many non-lethal solutions he had in his arsenal, "I think I can do it clean." He said, mostly assuring himself.
Sangela folded her arms, "Well then. I suppose we should get started."
Lorth nodded, "He is already expecting us."
~ ~ ~ ~
Kikata slumped down on her bed, her chin lowering to her left shoulder to see Richard still laying upon her pillow where she had left him about fifteen minutes ago. "Atrix finally left her room." She said softly before slowly lowering her side down onto the bed, her head resting on the pillow so her eyes could look Richard nearly straight in the face as he got to his feet.
"That's an improvement." Richard said. He felt sorry for Atrix, though he couldn't help but worry what complications she would be bringing to their journey. It did not help that Prila's situation, whatever it was, had already unearthed a universe of new and unexpected problems and questions. He glanced towards Kikata's eyes, able to see the image of himself staring in the golden reflection. "Issac hasn't done much other than sit in his room himself. I've been trying to get him into the gym, or something but he only seems interested in working or goofing around online."
Kikata giggled, "The way you describe your brother makes it surprising that he was able to get into bed with La'ala in just one night."
Richard shrugged his shoulders, "I don't think I am capable of describing Issac. He's always been a little over my head. One minute you think he is the biggest geek in the universe, and then the next you think he is some sort of genius that must have everything figured out. He will freeze up if you try to introduce him to a girl at the bar, and then later on that night he will go on some profound and mind blowing rant that changes the way you see things forever." Richard shook his head, "You know he was one of the reasons I dropped out of University."
"That's hard to believe." Kikata said with a smirk, "He graduated with two degrees."
"No really. I remember I was talking to him after I had come home during the winter session. And I was sort of ranting and raving about how I felt like my life was going no where with college, and he was just sitting there nodding and listening...he's really good at that, and then once I finally shut up he says, 'I don't know, Richard. Maybe you are just driving on the wrong road." Richard rubbed his chin, "I felt like the road reference made more sense then. But, he said what was so obvious...but not obvious. If that makes any sense."
Kikata closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply, nodding her head as she did, "Yeah it makes sense. And look where that road led you." She smiled, she was a sucker for analogies about life. Prila always had more than a few up her sleeve to try and help make sense of things.
"Did you know Richata is a toddler?"
"Like a three year old little person."
Kikata's eyes flickered back open and stared towards Richard with an arched brow, "Um, no?"
"That's what Issac told me."
"Is that so? I'm not sure how I feel about that."
Richard laughed, "I guess it's not as bad as it sounds...or at least he tried to assure me. He said that the ships personality was showing surprisingly similar growth to that of a humans. Granted the ship is doing it much faster. He said it might be the cause of the little incident with Atrix. The ship simply doesn't realize when it is being rude, it just wants to know why things are. Or what things are."
"Does he have any guesses on how long this phase will last?"
Richard shrugged, "I don't know...Issac said it would be easier to advance the ships mind, or whatever, if it had more people to interact with...he mentioned something about letting it browse internet forums."
~ ~ ~ ~
Issac ran over the lines of code one last time. "There." He finally said with a sigh, spreading his fingers tips out as far as they could reach to give them some relief from tapping away at the keyboard for more hours than he could remember. He had been coding, and recoding, while taking occasional breaks to do other tests with Richata, in order to create a program that she could use to use the internet on her own while still being restricted by Issac's guidelines. She would only have access to a few websites, and for now would not be able to interact with them more than following certain links and reading the text. Certain links would trigger an alert to Issac's computer and he would have to allow or disallow Richata access to that link. He was curious to see how quickly she would be able to pick up on internet terms and lingo that would not be found in her language databases, and then how she would go about figuring these things out, whether it be on her own or if she would simply come to him for help.
"Okay, Richata." Issac said as he entered the program into the computer, "Do you have the program?"
"Yes." She replied.
"You may use this program whenever you want. As long as you continue to maintain peak performance in your other functions." He said before rising to his feet, "That will conclude testing for now."
"Okay. I am looking forward to using the program." Richata replied.
Issac breathed deeply as he walked away from his computer chair. He rubbed his eyes and continued to massage is fingers as he made his way towards his dresser. His hands fell onto the smooth white surface before a few drawers slid open. He pulled on a pair of loosely fitting gym shorts and managed to find a pair of running shoes that he rarely ever used back home and put them on. Richard had urged him earlier to go work out, and he had finally just now got a little drive to do so. He left his room, cringing at the brighter light of the hallway. He made his way to the shuttle, usually Richata greeted him personally, but it seemed her mind was occupied with his new program and his interactions with the ships computer was very generic. He was starting to get a grasp of how her mind worked, or at least he thought he was. It was as if some functions were automatic for her, such as working the shuttle, the basic landing functions, regular engine functions, life support, and so many other processes. And then some functions she had to use her mind for, like personally talking to the crew members, or doing her tests with Issac. Yet if she wanted she could interject her conscious, at least partially, to other parts of the ship. Like how she fine tuned the engine systems on her own. In a way it was almost like the ship was turning into a living organism, though an organism very different from a biological being.
The shuttle came to a stop at the community quarters, the human gym equipment was located within one of the rooms that connected directly to the human balcony there. Even though it would be possible for the human quarters to contain an entire gymnasium full of equipment due to the ships size, tax regulations as well as Alliance protocol dictated that the human quarters be somewhat equal to the larger ones.
As Issac stepped out onto the balcony he felt a slight nervous twinge in his stomach as he spotted the white haired Neko girl sitting in one of the chairs down below. Her ear twitched yet she did not look up from whatever it was she was doing, only her head was visible above the balcony wall. He debated simply putting his head down and scurrying into the gym, but curiosity took him over towards the balcony's edge. He leaned his elbows on the wall and looked out across the great expanse of the Neko sized room towards her, and what appeared to be a large book in her lap. She looked rather cute with her feet curled up under herself, her white tail wrapped up around her side so that it brushed slowly along the page that she was not reading. Her upper canine, longer and narrower than a humans (relatively) dug into her lower lip as her oddly light colored eyes scanned over the text. She seemed content, even happy, which were not emotions that Issac had seen from her during his very few encounters with her. However he was quick to rub the contentedness from her face.
"Hey!" He called down. For him it took some mustering to get the single word out. He immidiately regretted it when the book suddenly slammed shut on her lap, her happy eyes widening into what almost looked like fear as she looked up towards him. "S-Sorry I didn't mean to startle you." He apologized. Feeling strange using such a loud voice to communicate, but she was so far away.
She seemed to force a smile, "Hello." He said, "It is okay." He sat very still, her eyes darting away from him whenever they spent more than a few seconds transfixed on him.
Issac cleared his throat, "So...uh, what you reading?" He wasn't sure why, but he felt that he had to start some small talk with her. He felt terrible that Richata had thrown Atrix into a bad place with her condition, he couldn't help but feel mostly responsible for it being that he was supposed to be a sort of mentor for the computer.
"Das Yo'tun Vrocia" Atrix said very quickly, "I-I think it translates to...um, How the Great Sea was Won."
"Oh." Issac said, of course he wouldn't know the book. "That a Neko book?" He nearly wanted to slap himself in the face for asking such a rhetorical question.
"Yeah...I guess that was a dumb question." Issac said as he forced a laugh. Atrix smiled back, it was hard to tell if it was genuine or as forced as his laugh, regardless it did not last very long. And there was yet another awkward silence. "You don't see many books anymore." Issac said.
"Yes. I like it though." Atrix said.
"Yeah, I mean I never had paper books growing up other than at my grandmothers house, but I always liked to read those ones especially." Issac felt as though he were trying too hard to force the conversation by this point. He felt as though he were doing more of an interview than actually having a conversation. "But, um, hey! We should be friends. You know, hang out and stuff...I spend all day with the ships computer." He forced another laugh, wondering why he had to bring that up, "But um, I promised Richard I would start working out. So, yeah, I'll talk to you later?"
Atrix nodded, "Okay."
~ ~ ~ ~
Atrix sighed as the human disappeared from view. She reopened her book, the unsettledness in her chest subsiding slightly, "You did good. You did good." She told herself. She had spent the past couple days in her own head hidden in her room. She managed to finally clear her mind a bit and practiced some techniques that Prila had taught her. Ever since her teachers disappearance it had been harder and harder to break away from her body and into her mind, which made her panic attacks even more severe. As she started to read over the lines of text she had read so many times before from her favorite book her mind started to drift back to the cycles that were now long gone....
~ ~ ~ ~
Many cycles ago, before Atrix had been assigned to Prila to be her official student, she had been taking classes under Prila that were designed to train her mind rather than her body...
Atrix stared at the woman who sat before her with a disapproving scowl, her arms folded across her chest. The dark haired woman had a serene smile spread across her lips as she sat cross legged on the floor. Her eyes opened revealing a soft, yet seemingly always playful blue gaze, "What's wrong?" She asked.
"I don't see the point." She said. School was not as bad for Atrix as being out in public. She felt a little more sure of herself and was able to converse with her instructors more freely, even having the courage to question them.
"We are training your mind to be one with your body and your surroundings."
"You are just sitting on the floor."
"Or am I?" Prila asked, grinning now.
Atrix huffed breath between her lips and dropped to the floor. "So what do I do then?"
"Close your eyes. Breath. And feel, but not with your hands, see, but not with your eyes, and listen." Prila said, her eyes once again falling shut.
Atrix scoffed, "What does any of this have to do with fighting."
Prila frowned, "Is that all the Cho is for you, Nau'Zui."
Atrix folded her arms and looked away from Prila.
Prila sighed and rose to her knees, "Stand up."
Atrix did as she was told, though her arms remained folded. At her younger stature paired with Prila being fairly tall for a Cho she was only just slightly taller than Prila was resting on her knees.
"Do you think you could land one strike on me?" Prila asked, her gaze was stern which was not a very common sight.
"Maybe." Atrix said, her arms dropping to her sides as her fists clenched.
"What if I promised to keep my eyes closed." Prila continued.
"Then yes." Atrix said.
"Okay then, try it." Prila said as her eyes shut.
"I...can hit you?"
"If you can." Prila said, her eyes remaining shut.
Atrix smiled, thinking that surely her instructor underestimated her. She was more than happy to prove her point. She rushed forward, pushing the weight from one foot so that the other could rise up in preparation for a kick. She let out a scream as Prila's arm suddenly struck out against her ankle. Her body went horizontal and suddenly she found herself pinned beneath Prila, both of her arms pinned under Prila's hands while her legs were trapped between her knees. She squirmed as Prila stared down at her, her gaze still stern.
"Why did I beat you."
"Y-You are bigger than me." Atrix complained.
"You know better than that." Prila said, releasing Atrix's hands but continuing to kneel over her, "If your technique is sound with your..." She said, trailing off so that Atrix could continue her sentence.
"Mind..." Atrix said with a sigh in a defeated tone.
"Right. Technique, however flawless, will only get you so far. Your mind must be right with your body and your surroundings. That is what this has to do with fighting, Nau'Zui." Prila stepped away from Atrix and finally cracked a smile, "Now sit your little butt down and do as I say."
~ ~ ~ ~
Atrix smiled as she recalled the memory. The mind training and aided her so much with Prila's guidance, though with Prila gone she had lost her confidence. Without it she had relapsed under the weight of her condition. She glanced up towards the balcony, the engineer seemed friendly on the surface. Kikata and Richard only spoke fondly of him. But the thought of building a friendship made her uneasy, it was a task so simple for most but so daunting for her. Prila had been the one who arranged most of her friendships back home.
~ ~ ~ ~
Fourteen hours later...
"Are you ready?" Kikata asked.
Issac nodded, "Yeah, I think so." He said, staring up towards the titanic woman, "How are we doing this?"
"We decided it might be best that our friend, who runs this station, doesn't know exactly what we are doing. The less people who know about our situation the better...not that you will be in any danger if caught. We are just trying to keep a low profile, okay? If someone catches you, just mention us."
"Okay." Issac said.
"Good. Now, Richard and I will be going in plain sight, you will be riding in here." She said, lifting what looked like a small purse. "I'll do my best to hold it steady for you. How long do you need, and do you have all the information?"
Issac nodded again as Kikata lowered her hand beside him, "Yeah. I'm ready."
"Good, good." Kikata said watching as Issac climbed up into her palm. She gently curled her fingers so they nearly closed around him before lifting her hand from the balcony and into her purse where she opened her fingers so that he could climb out.
Issac felt himself fall into the cavern of fabric. He looked up to see Kikata staring in at him.
"You okay?" She asked.
"Yeah." He called back up. He braced himself as the bag was hoisted into the air, even as Kikata tried to walk steadily the bag still shook and swayed with each of her steps. Issac was grateful that he had a relatively strong stomach. His hand dug into his pocket and he produced a small device. On either end of a narrow plastic tube was what looked like a collection of loose strings. Though each string contained hundreds of near microscopic wires, he had never really gotten the chance to use this for anything useful, he hadn't mentioned to Richard or Kikata that he planned on using something that might not exactly be deemed as legal.