If you haven't already read the Prologue and previous chapters, here are the links that will lead you to them:
Prologue: Freeground Alpha
Chapter 1: Day One
Chapter 2: Patrol
Chapter 3: The Message
Chapter 4: Parallels
We're more than half way through the preview chapters for Spinward Fringe Broadcast 9: Warpath, and I hope you've been enjoying it. Here, for your perusal, is the early draft version of Chapter 3!
Prologue: Freeground Alpha
Chapter 1: Day One
Chapter 2: Patrol
Spinward Fringe Broadcast 9: Warpath
Written by Randolph Lalonde, 2014-2015
Copyright © 2015 Randolph Lalonde
Spinward Fringe is a Registered Trademark of Randolph Lalonde
All Rights Reserved
Since he’d arrived in the Rega Gain system, Terry Ozark McPatrick had seen many things. They ranged from the marvellous to the horrific, but he made sure he observed everything he could, regardless of how much he might want to turn away. The injustices visited upon the average Tamber citizen outside of Haven Shore’s embrace were truly difficult to hear about. The number of times he wanted to lower the Triton over a city and wipe out the gangs so normal people could live in peace were beyond counting but he had to pick his war carefully.
There were Order and Regent Galactic forces slowly edging towards Rega Gain, testing their perimeter, and finding that they could come a little closer to the solar system each day. The Triton was ready, and in one week three mid-sized ships would be ready to accompany the carrier when Oz guided it towards Regent Galactic territory with the purpose of pushing back. That was the war he chose, and everyone in the Rega Gain solar system – gangster and citizen alike – would benefit if they managed to hold.
He was a military man, trained to be a problem solver, and he still enjoyed that kind of problem. The kind of problem where there were only one or two enemy flags to watch for, and the objective was to force the people carrying them to retreat or surrender. That was the kind of problem he enjoyed, not the kind of complicated situation that awaited him in the Triton’s Medical Centre under heavy guard.
‘They are deeply traumatized, I’m helping to keep them calm,” remarked the Triton’s overseer, a being created in the Sol System to serve as the ship’s heart and advisor. Oz had come to depend on the telepathic link they shared. Thank you, Geist, I’m going to have to take it from here. I want to hear the interview in their words before you play back any of their memories for me. Oz thought in response.
‘You don’t want these mental images, I do not want to do that to you,’ Geist replied.
The guards standing in front of the male victim’s room parted and Oz stepped inside. He was thankful that the man was covered by the medical support bed, because the chart behind him marked that half of one arm, the better part of a leg, and his entire other arm had been removed. Oz assumed that they had frozen unevenly while he was stuck in the storage compartment aboard the spaceliner. The fellow was awake though, and noticed Oz right away.
“You look important,” he said. “I’m Dom, short for Dominick.”
Oz pulled a rolling stool to the man’s bedside and smiled. “Hello, Dom, short for Dominick. I’m Admiral Terry Ozark McPatrick, you can call me Oz. How are you doing here? They treating you well?”
“Well, just got a new nose, they fixed my chin and cheeks, and I barely felt a thing. Things are good. Well, except for a few other missing parts, but they tell me they’re growing those for me, and I’ll be getting them for free?” His question revealed uncertainty and doubt.
“You are, but if it makes you feel better, you do have something you can trade for our services. I need you to tell me what happened to you and your partner.”
“The woman that Wheeler person put me with?” Dom asked. “I only know her name, Antonia Chandler. We never met before he put us together. Is she going to be all right? No one will tell me.”
“She’s going to be fine, but she got the worst of the injuries, even though, from the looks of how you were found, it seems like you were trying to keep her warm.”
“When we woke up in that closet, she said that Wheeler cut off her legs so we would both fit in that emergency bag together. I still don’t get that though, that closet had dozens of bags and suits for decompression. The seats even had decompression safety features built in.”
“Okay, can you start at the beginning? From when the trouble started to happen.” Oz would never forget the name, Wheeler. It belonged to a man who did not care who he betrayed, as long as he did what he wanted and got what he wanted.
“Okay, I was having a great flight to the Rega Gain system. I wanted to apply to join whatever fleet was forming behind the Warlord. I’m a structural engineer, but I thought I could make my experience work for them, and the British Alliance wouldn’t have me because I got caught stealing a shuttle when I was fifteen. I didn’t think the Warlord staff would care. The guy sitting beside me was coming here to work in the jungle, he said he already contacted Haven Shore and they had a place for him, he was a botanical technician named John. Kind of a nervous guy, but nice, really smart. We’re talking about our families before the virus, I think everyone does these days unless it’s too fresh, but my husband has been dead since day one, my dad didn’t make it through the first week, so I just do it to keep their memory alive, but anyway,” Dom turned his head to take a sip from a water tube near his cheek, and Oz helped move it into position. “Thank you,” he said after a large gulp.
“No problem,” Oz replied.
“All right, so we’re talking up a storm, finally,” Dom said. “and this guy walks to the front of the cabin and starts talking, saying that his name is Lucious Wheeler, and he won’t be going all the way to Rega Gain with us. I could feel the ship slowing down, not like gravity, but the rumble of the retro thrusters. The safety restraints on our seats turn on, and we’re all stuck there. He says he’s sorry that only two people would be making it, and then singles me and Antonia out. Four guys, big, cyborgs from what I could tell, pluck us out of our seats, and drag us to the forward compartment where there were four dead attendants. Someone had shot them, as best as I could tell.
This guy, Wheeler, looks us over and says we’ll do, then looks at the bag he’s holding and says; ‘some alterations are necessary.’ One of his guys gets out this blade that’s glowing white hot and starts coming towards me, then Wheeler grins and says, ‘no, cut her legs off, if you cut his legs off, the two of them still won’t fit.’”
I’m no hero, but I see the cyborg turn towards Antonia and I go for the side of him that isn’t metal plated. No one caught me in time, so I try to tackle him, and he doesn’t budge. He may as well be a support beam for all the difference I make, and that metal arm of his backhands me across the compartment. Wheeler leans down and tells me; ‘give the people who find you a message for me. Tell them that they should have let me leave in peace, but they didn’t, so now I’m going to take or destroy everything they have.’ Then he knocks me out.”
Dom turned for another sip of water, and Oz helped him once again. Oz was piecing the story together, what Wheeler was thinking when he chose Dom. From the report he’d already received, Antonia was roughly the same shape, and had the same hair colour as Ayan. Dom’s complexion, height and hair matched Jake’s. Wheeler probably thought he was being clever when he chose them to deliver his message.
“Thanks,” Dom said as he finished sipping. “I woke up in the dark. The life support bag only had enough light for me to make out the top of Antonia’s face. She told me they took her legs, and I could feel the cold coming. I didn’t know what was going on, not really, but I wrapped myself around her as best I could. I couldn’t check to see if she was bleeding, but I could feel something wet, all I could do was try to keep her warm. She was in so much pain, but she passed out a little while later. I did too when the air got thin.”
“Whatever they used to cut her cauterized her wounds. They haven’t woken her up yet. You kept her face and head warm enough so she didn’t need the work you did though, her cheeks and nose are fine.”
“That’s something then,” Dom said. “I wish I could tell you more, Oz. The next thing I remember is waking up here.”
“That’s plenty,” Oz said. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
“Please, don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter who this madman was after, or what his reasons were, he’s the one who had it done. If I were the kind of man who could track down and punish people, I would make him pay, but I’ll leave that to people like you. You look like that kind of man.”
“He won’t get away with this,” Oz said, putting a hand on Dom’s shoulder. “He’ll get what’s coming to him eventually. Until then, I’m wondering if you could use a job on a large carrier. We’ll be under way by the time you’re on your feet. I’m sure you’ll find something worth doing aboard the Triton.”
“On one condition,” Dom said.
“You visit me while I’m stuck here,” he replied.
“You have a deal,” Oz replied.