Approx. 3600 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
Lana sat thinking about her escape plan. Even if everything worked perfectly, she was at least five kilometers away from the city. The man and woman would come after her, and she didn’t know what kind of weapons they had...other than her 9.1s. Waiting was the best plan at the moment.
Then someone came up behind her. It was the woman; she could tell by the sound of her foot steps. Lana’s heart beat a little faster as she felt the woman’s breath on the back of her neck. Shortly afterwards, Lana felt a hand on her forehead, and her head being forced back, at the same time the sharp blade of a knife against her neck. Lana gasped only slightly.
“What are you doing? Stop it!” That was the man.
Lana made a shallow grunt as the blade cut into her neck drawing blood; then it was taken away. The woman showed the man the bloody knife then spoke. “I need some blood from this woman to continue my ceremony.”
He sighed as the woman left.
Lana’s eyes were still wide as the man looked at her. She swallowed once as blood ran down from the cut on her neck and onto the top of her blouse. He looked at her seriously. “The only way I can save you is if you tell me where the treasure is.”
As Lana swallowed again, she knew she had to change her tactics, asking, “why do you think I know where the treasure is?”
He stared at her, frowning. “You said you knew where TWO treasures were.” He sighed. “But I don’t believe that. There’s only ONE treasure.”
“But, why do you think I know where it’s at?” Lana demanded.
The man made a fist, and for a second Lana thought he was going to hit her. Then he spoke, his voice sounding rationally irrational as he explained. “S’hawna has the Key to the treasure. She stares into it every day. It’s making her weird, but it tells her things.” He thought to himself. “I’ve stared at it and it’s never told me anything.” Then he addressed Lana directly. “Apparently, the Key only responds to women. It’s why we need a woman to find the treasure...”
He stared at her for another several seconds, then spoke again, in the same tone of voice as before. “S’hawna said we will find a Terran woman; SHE will show us were the treasure is. That’s YOU!”
“What is this Key?” She tried getting some information. “Have you seen--”
“Shut up. Only S’hawna uses the Key. Your only job is to show us where the treasure is.”
Lana was tired. Arguing with the insane was exhausting. She had only one card left to play. “Okay. I’ll lead you to the treasure--”
“NO!” He shouted. “It goes like this. I’ll show you a map, then you’ll point where the treasure is on it. S’hawna will check the location with the Key. If it’s correct, we’ll go.” He gave her a deadly look. “If it’s not correct, then, well...I’ll show you what I have in store for you.”
The man quickly left.
At this point Lana felt she needed to get away, NOW. She started working with the nylon restraints until she almost had one hand out. However, Rand was returning...and he was bringing someone with him. Lana could feel the floor shake as that someone walked.
Once she had one hand out of the restraints, it was too late. The man had already entered and was standing in front of her, his expression that of expecting her to be afraid. Next to the man, standing just short of the ceiling at a little over eight feet was an ogryn.
Lana had read about ogryns before she came on this mission. They were mostly friendly creatures. She couldn’t figure out what the man was expecting her to do. And she was tired of trying to guess. Looking back and forth at the two of them, she couldn’t resist making a joke. “What are you trying to say? The butler did it?”
He became angry. “I’ll show you what he can do.”
She had seen numerous videos and photos of ogryns. Most of them, no matter how large or monstrous, looked at peace with themselves, and others around them. However, the one that stood before her now didn’t have that feel to him; he looked troubled.
Rand ordered, “grab her, Cardo.”
The ogryn frowned and reached for her. Lana wasn’t in any position to get away at this point. All she could do was to put up one of her arms.
The large hand of the ogryn grabbed her by the forearm and yanked her up roughly, dangling her about one meter off the patio floor. She grunted loudly in pain, almost screaming, kicking her feet and knocking over the chair as she tried to hold on to the ogryn's grip with her other hand. It felt like her forearm was being crushed, and her shoulder being pulled out of its socket.
She continued to cry out in pain as the main spoke, demanding. “Tell me where the treasure is or I’ll order Cardo to pull your arm off!” After a couple seconds, he realized the woman couldn’t answer while she was in so much pain, so he ordered the ogryn to drop her.
Lana lay on the floor of the patio, moaning. She could barely move the fingers of her right hand as she held on to her forearm, keeping it tucked in. Her ability to climb over the back wall of the mansion had just been lost for an indeterminate period of time. And that didn’t include her shoulder, which felt sprained.
“Tell me, tell me!” He shouted, laughing dementedly. “Or I’ll have Cardo rip your arms off.”
At this point, all Lana could do now was buy some time. She breathed hard. “Okay...okay, show me the map.”
He started to leave, but then ordered the ogryn to break her legs if she tried to get up. Then he was gone.
As Lana slid back so she could sit up against the back wall, the ogryn raised his foot.
“Don’t step on me.” Lana pleaded. “I’m just sitting up. See.”
He slowly lowered his foot, but continued to stare at her.
She stared back at the ogryn, trying to look into his eyes, trying to read what was wrong...why he was acting this way.
In another minute, the man came back holding a map. He knelt down and showed it to her. It was a map of the city sewer system.
Lana’s arm and shoulder still throbbed, but were starting to feel better. She stared at the map wondering how she was supposed to go about this. Was there a specific area of the map. Where?
When she didn’t do anything right away, he shouted, “point...where is it?”
“I need a pencil, don’t I?”
She had to straighten herself up a little more so she could use her left hand to point. Then she had to ask. “What if I’m wrong?” She looked at the man. “Will I get another chance?”
His eyes were as cold as black ice. “Sure. Right after Cardo crushes both your legs.”
She sighed. All she could do now was point out a spot on the map and hope her team got here in time to make a rescue. She tried to find a place where it would take longer to get to, assuming they would go anywhere at all. When it seemed like he was getting ready to lose his temper, she pointed.
When she took her finger away, he pointed at the same spot, verifying. “Here, right.”
Lana nodded, yes.
As he left, she could hear him saying, “I knew I’d get it...”
When the ogryn and she were alone again, she looked at him. As she did, she had the same feeling as before, like something was wrong, like he didn’t really want to be here, but had to--no choice.
Lana’s eyes and voice became sympathetic as she asked. “Why are you doing this?” She sighed. “What’s wrong?”
While Rand was here, she listened while he talked to the ogryn, calling his name in a derogatory-like manner.
Lana tried to smile a little. “My name is, Lana. What’s yours? Is it...Cardo?”
The ogryn frowned. He took a deep breath then spoke. “Ricardo. My name is Ricardo.”
She smiled a little wider. “Ricardo. I like that.” She frowned, wondering. “Why does he call you, Cardo?”
Now she new something was wrong. “Ricardo, why are you doing what Rand tells you? Why are you obeying--”
“I have nothing left.” The ogryn began opening up. “He’s all I have. My parents are both dead, and my relatives hate me.” He leaned closer, explaining. “He says...when he gets the treasure--he will make me Terran. That’s the only chance I have.”
“You don’t like being an ogryn?”
“I have nothing left as an ogryn.”
Lana honesty felt sorry for him. And she certainly understood the loss of a family. She sighed, then spoke frankly. “Ricardo, he can’t make you Terran.”
He glared at her.
“I don’t care what he’s told you, he can’t turn you into a Terran...or any other race. You are what you are.”
The ogryn stood thinking, frowning. After almost a minute, it was like he had an idea; then, he looked Lana in the eye and asked. “Can you...do you know how to make me Terran? Maybe you know people, smart people who can make me Terran?”
Lana sat on the floor of the patio looking up at the large creature. It was like she was no longer looking at a mean ogryn, but a person...who was hurting inside. She answered his question honestly. “No. I can’t make you Terran. And I don’t know of anyone that can. The technology simply doesn’t exist.”
Ricardo looked disappointed as he turned away from Lana, thinking, breathing heavily.
She could no longer look at his face and see what he was feeling. But, she decided to mention, her voice sincere. “Ricardo, I lost my family. When I was two years old, they all died on Mars.”
There was delay, then the ogryn turned around, leaning down, facing Lana. His frown appeared sympathetic. “You really lose all family?”
Lana didn’t really like to talk about it; but, she made an exception this time as she nodded. “Yeah. I was raised by my Aunt on Pavonus. But, she died a little while ago also.”
The ogryn grit his teeth and snorted, as if he had made an important decision. “I believe you!” He took a deep breath and explained. “You could have told me you knew how to change me into Terran. You could have lied...and I would have believed you.” He almost smiled. “But you didn’t. You NOT lie.” He frowned angrily. “RAND LIED! I no longer serve him! But...what we do?”
The ogryn’s sudden change of alliance surprised, Lana. She quickly stood up and spoke. “We have to get out of here before he comes back.”
“I not know were I am. Where we go?”
“I know were we’re at and where we should go.” Lana was ready. “We just need to get out of here.”
“I’m going to SMASH Rand--” The ogryn made a move toward the door leading inside the house.
“No, Ricardo! We need to go out the back way. They might have guns in there. They have to have my 9.1s.” She looked at him sincerely. “You’re part of my team, now. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
He gave her a crooked smile, listening.
She pointed at the back yard. “This way...”
Lana had expected the ogryn to lift the patio panel door up. Instead she watched as he grabbed it from the top and tore it down, ripping it apart like it was tissue paper, a massively loud noise, almost bring down part of the roof.
Once she and Ricardo had exited to the backyard, she got her bearing and pointed in the direction of where she knew the city would be. “That way.”
She was going to explain to the ogryn to give her a lift over the wall. Instead, he grabbed her like a football. In a couple leaping bounds, he was up and over the wall, running across the hills behind the mansion up toward the street.
Lana struggled. He was holding her too tight--the pressure on her abdomen to the point so she couldn’t breath. Once he reached the street, he let her go.
She doubled up on the street and gasped for air, catching her breath as she tried to explain. “Ricardo...you can’t hold me that tight.” She got to her hands and knees and looked up at him, repeating. “You can’t hold me like that. You’ll crush the life out of me.”
The ogryn had easily scaled the wall and ran up the hill north of the mansion. Lana looked down and saw Rand in the backyard; the man spotted them, then ran back into the house.
She got Ricardo’s attention and explained, knowing he could run much faster than she could. “Ricardo, GENTLY, put me over your shoulder and run in the direction I tell you.”
He nodded, then picked her up.
Lana knew they had been spotted. She expected Rand and S’hawna to arm themselves, then try and chase them down in a car or a speeder, so she instructed Ricardo to stick to the hills.
She pointed and held on as the ogyrn made his way down an embankment, then up another hill, a higher one that had a good few of the mansion. After he had let her down from his shoulder, she spotted the garage, the door open; then she saw a Piranha Light Skimmer come out, probably the same one the city’s Pathfinder team had allocated to it, and very likely the same one that had been in the repair shop...the one that had a big hole in it.
The Skimmer was armed with a forward-mounted burst cannon, and two gun drones, each with twin-linked pulse carbines. Lana sighed--their trip to the city was going to be a little more harrowing than she thought.
As the Skimmer sped up to come after them, she noticed it had no crew, probably being operated remotely by Rand. She quickly directed Ricardo to go down the hill and over to a medium-sized building, probably some kind of meeting hall, where they made their way along one side, then around to the front next to the street.
Peeking around the corner, she tried to spot the Skimmer, but then saw one of its gun drones instead. When Ricardo peeked also, the gun drone came after them, firing as it did.
The twin-linked pulse carbine easily blew large holes in the building, debris flying in all directions as Lana and Ricardo took cover. They quickly made their way around to another side of the building as the drone gave chase. She was trying to think fast, find a new place to hide.
But, the ogryn had already made up his own mind what to do, and ready to do it in his own way. He had found a heavy metal pole. When the drone came around the corner, he swung, striking it in the twin-linked pulse carbines, which shattered, the drone itself tumbling as it flew, pinballing off a coupled trees and coming to rest against a large rock, smoking, sparking.
She smiled at him and sighed a silent--good job. From the other side of the building, she expected to see the second drone, but there was nothing. Now she understood: Since Rand was operating the Skimmer remotely, and since it was doubtful he had any combat software for the drones, he would have to operate them all separately.
Now she spotted the second gun drone. It had just come to a stop on the hill. It slowly searched, then began firing at the building they were hiding behind, shooting it to pieces. Lana quickly motioned Ricardo away from the building and behind a hill a little further away.
They were down by the street now. It was dark, but that only affected them. The drone had night optics. She decided to double back and stay on the street, hoping the drone would go to the building. In the distance, she saw another building, one with a parking lot and a couple parked cars. As they ran, however, the drone spotted them and gave chase.
It was obvious Ricardo couldn’t hide behind one of the cars. The blasts from the pulse carbine flew all around them as they finally got behind a much sturdier building than the last one.
The drone came in fast and fired again as they made their way to the back of the building, at that time, Lana discovering that Ricardo had been hit once in the upper right corner of his back; it was smoking, but he didn’t seem to notice. It was obvious he was mad as he gripped his makeshift club tighter.
However, Rand wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice as she spotted the drone swing wide around the building. It fired as they ran around to another side of the structure.
She was going to direct him back down to the front of the building, maybe find a way inside. But, the ogryn had his own idea.
He dropped his pole, then picked up a heavy cinder block. Lana was worried. What the ogryn was planning on doing seemed risky. But, she didn’t want to leave him alone. As the drone came around wide, it took it a second to aim its weapon; that’s when Ricardo threw, a fast ball.
The drone seemed to explode into pieces with a direct hit, the bulk of the drone flying backwards against a tree, now as dead as the first one.
Lana smiled at him, thinking: pitching as well as batting, an MVP.
They made their way to the front of the building, the parking lot. When she spotted the Skimmer itself coming after them, she now had to think of a way to avoid its burst cannon.
It was already lined up--why wasn’t it firing?
The Skimmer came in fast...still not firing. Before she had a chance to think again she had to duck, flattening herself on the pavement as the Skimmer flew over the top of her, ripping the top off of one of the parked cars. Her only conclusion now, was that the Skimmer’s burst cannon wasn’t operational, and Rand was trying to run her down.
By the time she got up, the Skimmer had turned around and was coming in again. But, Ricardo was still mad! She saw him pick up one of the large cement parking stops. As the Skimmer flew in, he hit it, smashing in the front, making it flip and land upside down. As it started to move, trying to right itself, Ricardo was already there, smashing, bashing, yelling--enraged!
He was like a one man (or, rather, one ogryn) wrecking crew. Pieces of the Skimmer flew in all directions as he continued to attack the speeder.
She watched...and began walking over to him.
Indeed he was mad. He had been exploited, betrayed, and lied to by someone he had trusted for a long time. The Skimmer barely looked like a vehicle any more. When there wasn’t anything left to smash, he yelled, spun around, and flung the parking stop through the air. Lana saw it land with a mighty splash in the lake of a small park.
Lana walked up to him as he breathed heavily, sweating profusely. She gently took his hand, her voice comforting. “It’s alright, Ricardo. It’s alright...”
Down the street, coming from the direction of the city, she saw emergency lights, several police cars, and one military speeder carrying five Pathfinders. They continued on as Lana, then Ricardo followed them, watching as they took position outside the mansion.
In the air, Lana spotted a shuttle (with emergency lights also) as it quickly came in for a landing on the street. She knew who they were as she ran over to greet them.
All three of her team members were there, each now armed with their military weapons. They were all glad to see her, but then stepped back when they spotted the ogryn.
“He’s on our side.” Lana sighed, then smiled. “He’s with me.” She briefly introduced Ricardo to the group as the newest member of her team.
The Planetary Government shuttle, along with Lana’s team and some security guards, had some medics also. She quickly directed them to Ricardo, who was now starting to feel pain from his earlier pulse carbine wound. One of the medics knew ogryn physiology and began working on Ricardo immediately. Melinda and Hank stayed with Lana, who now had a medic looking at her injuries.
Jennifer went with the Tau Pathfinders and the police inside the mansion, searching, finding nothing until they checked the basement. There, they found Rand, dead, blood coming from his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth--like he’d died from some kind of massive internal brain hemorrhage. However, the woman was no longer there, the evidence showing she had made her escape through some kind of tunnel.