Mistaken Identity - Part One
Three men strode through the door, heavy boots echoing against the grated floor underneath them. The lead man's movement would have been perfect if not for him favoring his left leg. Still, he moved with a grace that spoke of years of practice. His stringy black hair washed over his shoulders; a thick beard sprouted from his face. As he bee-lined straight for the strange woman, the other two men lingered behind with the occasional glance at Alex and Katlyn.
The bearded man planted a foot on the fallen officer's shoulders and yanked the blade from the back of his victim's head. After swiping it against his leg on either side of the blade, he slipped the knife into a holster attached to his belt--right next to his gun.
Hard eyes met the woman's gaze. A moment passed. "Is good day for rescue, niet?" Despite the man's stature, his voice stayed low as if speaking aloud might shatter the escape. Alex noted the Russian accent.
"Took you long enough," the woman said.
The Russian snatched a small device from the dead officer's belt. A series of grooves rose and fell in the curve along the top of the device. Without a second thought, the man whipped out his knife and sliced off the dead cop's thumb. Too horrified to look away, Alex watched as the man brought the thumb up, pressed it against the curve with his own thumb, then connected device at random to the glowing green wire. The wire immediately deactivated. The woman's arms fell into her lap and she toppled toward, nearly falling if not for the Russian standing in front of her. He unwound the wire, then tossed it aside with the thumb and the device.
"Lost one of the engines in battle with support," the Russian said. "Two men, too."
The woman looked hopeful. "Any chance of salvaging any of the support ships?"
The Russian just shook his head. He passed over one of those sheets of foil Alex kept seeing. As much as he wanted to ask what exactly it was, he refrained. It is not every day he watches a group of criminals escape from a prison ship. Right about now, Alex felt vulnerable, and he wasn't about to do anything to draw attention to himself. Not that he had to.
The woman gazed at the unfolded foil, then her eyes rose to meet Alex's eyes. "You two have a choice. Come with us or stay here." To the Russian she asked: "Are the explosives set?"
Such a grand display of subtly almost brought a tear to Alex's eye.
"Da. Space debris in little over thirty minutes."
"All right. Get what you can. Take these two, unless they want to stay. Keep them secure, though. I want to talk to them once we're underway."
The transfer from ship to ship went as smooth as possible. They passed through a jagged rip in the side of the ship's hull, both ships connected by a short corridor. The new ship belonged in a junkyard, probably several centuries earlier. Through a passing window, Alex saw the various "fleet" ships that rescued them. A mass of chunky, thrown-together ships out of mix-matched parts that didn't look too much like they belonged together hovered at random intervals. Some of them had long black scorch marks blasted into their hulls.
Down several corridors, Alex witnessed the hodgepodge crew flying about, accessing damaged panels and other strange computer stations along the walls. Overhead wires hung down, exposed and in no immediate need of attention judging from the non-existent looks toward them. The air stank of sweat and electricity.
The short walk ended when they reached an isolated room somewhere in the bowels of the ship. Not much for decoration, the crew saw fit to only furnish the room with a table and a few chairs. Wood hadn't gone out of style. The oak finishes on the furniture were quite refined. Alex slid his fingers over the tabletop, the smooth, polished surface seemed oddly out of place to him in this decrepit ship.
Now alone with Katlyn, Alex sunk into a chair and sighed.
"You don't get to sigh," Katlyn said behind narrowed eyes. "This is all your fault. What have you done to me?"
"I'm still figuring that out. Nice move back there. Where'd you learn it?"
"Still figuring it out? Still figuring that out?" She repeated the words as if she wasn't sure she actually said them or heard them. "What do you mean 'still figuring that out?'"
"You have no room to blame me. What kind of person snoops around other people's homes? After I gave you shelter from the weather, no less. And don't think I didn't notice your little fear. You were screwed had I not let you in. Fear of lightning is a bit ridiculous, dont you think?"
Katlyn flushed. "I just didn't want to get wet!"
"Sure. And I was--" He stopped himself, suddenly suspicious of listening devices. "You should have stayed upstairs. None of this would be your problem had you stayed put. So don't go getting all high and mighty, okay?"
Crossing her arms, Katlyn stared at the door in silence. After a few minutes of silence, dark eyes switched back to Alex. "Martial arts."
"My father taught martial arts. I learned it from him."
"A Chinese woman that knows martial arts. Go figure."
"Japanese," she said through gritted teeth. "My father is Japanese, my mother is American." That explained the subtle nature of her features. Alex studied her face for a moment, slightly embarrassed at his mistake.
"Sorry," he said. "Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot here."
"Gee, you think. Mr. Wizard here plows me down with a lightning bolt, hurls me to the future--that is where we are, isn't it?--and now he thinks we got off on the wrong foot."
"It's futile to argue now. It happened. We need to deal with it so I can figure out how we're going to get back."
While a great deal of doubt filled Alex's mind as to the possibility of getting back, he felt it better not to mention it. Assuming he somehow managed to get access to a lot of equipment and had the time to work freely, there were too many unknowns at play here. He didn't know the technology, he didn't know how this happened in the first place, and he had absolutely no idea how long they were going to live. The technology bothered him the least. He'd always been a natural when it came to electronics and computers. With time, he'd be able to assimilate the knowledge and use it just as well as anything from his time.
"We need a story," Alex said. "I don't think claiming to be from the past is going to help our cause."
"How do you know? Maybe these people are proficient at time travel."
"Did you not see the same ships I saw? Here and back at Earth. Criminals that are using far outdated technology, from the looks of things, have kidnapped us. Somehow I doubt they're just going to let us go free, anyway."
Katlyn chewed on her lip. The action sent a shiver down Alex's spin. "L-like I said we need a story." He paused. "Assuming, of course, this room isn't bugged. If it is, so much for a story."
Alex rubbed at his wrists, grateful for the returned feeling in them. He tried to distract his mind, to keep from gaping at the beautiful woman sitting across from him, but failed miserably. His eyes kept darting up, daring just one more peek several times over.
Much to Alex's chagrin, Katlyn noticed. "What are you doing? Do I have a booger?" She swiped her nose.
"Did you think of a story?"
"No. Maybe we should improvise. If they keep us together, we can keep our story straight as long as pay attention to the details."
"Maybe," Alex said, unsure.
Sela Killigrew stalked around the bridge, listening to the status reports from the ships in her fleet. Her entire body continued to tingle with the lingering effects of the secure-wire. Those animals tried to contain her with that pitiful tech so preciously admired, but it couldn't keep her. Nothing could.
Two weeks ago she went to Earth after her informant discovered a seller desperate to off-load several millions of dollars worth of pure-tech. After wrangling the price down to less than five-hundred thousand--that's how desperate he was--she managed to get ninety percent of it shipped out before Interpol caught her. In the rush to get to the supplies before Interpol discovered this potential cache of goods, she miscalculated several things, particularly her need for more security.
What was supposed to be a quick in and out turned into the nightmare of her capture. Headlines blasted across the nets: Interpol's #1 Most Wanted Captured, Pure League Beheaded, Elders' Praise Interpol. She did manage to get a quick message to Yerik before they seized her, not that she doubted he'd find out. Nobody in the universe went to bed that day without knowing of her capture.
"How much longer till it blows?" Sela asked.
One of the technicians replied, "10 minutes."
"All right, tell the fleet to take off whether they're ready or not. I'll be below deck talking to our guests."
Interpol treated her better than she expected. Everything had been documented and uploaded straight to the nets, so anything they did to her had been witnessed by far too many people to count. The Elders and their "righteous act" wouldn't tolerate abusing prisoners, at least not where the citizens could see it. Therefore, it was no surprise when the video links were killed right before she was moved to the transport ship. The secure-wire had not been meant to suppress one's whole body. The danger in doing that could have killed her. Oh how people would have wept if that had happened.
Being vilified didn't bother her in the least. Being lied about, though, that pissed her off. The news stories were the worst, calling her everything from murderer to psycho cult leader. Anything it took to keep the majority of the masses from joining her cause. Anything it took to keep the truth from being exposed.
As Sela climbed down the stairs, she shook her head. She had a plan. A big plan to expose everyone to the truth and then denial would no longer be an option. The only thing she worried about at night anymore was whether it was too late. Had the Elders sunk their claws too far into society? If so, even the truth might not help.
She removed her SoftPAD from her pocket and unfolded it. The screen lit up with a list of nets accessible to her, which was all of them thanks to one of her rather ingenious technicians. Scrolling through the list with her index finger, she found the Interpol network and tapped it. After a couple of searched, she scanned over her guests' arrest records. Alexander Sterling and Katlyn Maruimatsu, both arrested on Earth for conspiracy against the Elders. A statement by Mr. Sterling verified their intentions of destruction. He built a bomb capable of destroying buildings while not harming people. This was exactly the breakthrough Sela needed. Death, while necessary at times, was never an easy choice for her.
She entered the access code to the room and stepped in.To be continued...