== ?? 2064: Northern Logistics offices, Aristillus, Lunar Nearside
Mike yawned and pushed the button on the machine for another espresso. He’d been up late worrying about the lack of word from the rescue mission, and he’d overslept as a consequence. Crap. He’d wanted to get up early and talk to Javier over breakfast and tell him about his conversation with the Dogs, but now the day was already underway.
He was pouring in a splash of milk when two uniformed Defense Force soldiers ran past the Northern Logistics kitchenette.
That was odd.
Mike sipped his espresso.
Several more men ran past.
Mike stepped out of the kitchenette into the corridor and tried to wave down a scurrying aide. When he didn’t stop Mike stepped in his way and blocked him. “Hey! What’s going on?”
“The Deladrier just landed!”
Mike put his espresso down on the arm of a a nearby chair, where it immediately fell over and spilled. He ran for the door.
As he approached two ADF guards stepped into his way. He recognized them. “Guys, the Deladrier -”
The burly one shook his head. “Absolutely not. We’ve got orders.”
“No. Listen to me. Darcy -”
The burly one held up one hand. “Stop. General Dewitt was clear. He said that you IN PARTICULAR had to stay here. We don’t know anything yet. All we’ve got is reports. The snatch teams are still out there, somewhere, and this might be an attempt to grab you.”
Mike fumed. “Where’s Dewitt right now?”
“He’s at the port. He’s supervi-”
Mike paused for a moment “OK, I’m going to call Dewitt and get him to give you specific -”
His phone rang. He looked at the front – it was Dewitt. He blinked, then answered it “Matt, I was just about to -”
The voice at the other end was a whisper. “Mike, it’s me -”
“Mike, Matt lent me his phone -”
“Are you OK? What are you -”
“I’m dehydrated. My head is killing me, and I – look, Matt is telling me to tell you to stay where you are. Will you do that?”
“Darce, I need to get -”
“Promise me, Mike. It’s not safe right now.”
Mike balled his fists, then reluctantly agreed. “Fine. But when will you -”
Her voice was drifting off as if she was falling asleep “They’ve got me on an IV. Fluids and electrolytes. Give me 12 hours and I’ll get some clothes and meet up with you. Love you, bye.”
“Clothes?” Mike blinked. “What the hell do you mean?”
Dewitt’s voice answered. “Mike, it’s Matt. You hang tight there. You’ll see Darcy soon enough. Now stay the fuck in place, OK?”
Mike grimaced and hung up with out answering.
God damn it.
Dehydrated? Clothes? What the hell was going on? And he was supposed to just stay here and do nothing while Darcy was out there, recovering from – whatever the hell had happened to her in that prison camp?
He paced back to his office. He brought the plans for the D-class TBM up on the wallscreen, spun it around to different angles, zoomed in on the ring placement arms, then shut the whole file. He flipped through news channels and blogs and skimmed the rumors of an earthquake in Haiti, faked video purporting to document a terrorist attack, and more faked video “proving” that it was a laser attack by Aristillus.
He shut the browser in disgust and started to stand to get a third cup of espresso when of the the ADF guards knocked at his door. “Mike? We’ve got a guest for you.” What? It couldn’t be Darcy, could it? She’d said “hours”, and it was only –
The troops maneuvered a woman in, then took the blindfold off her. The woman pushed a few strands of stray brunette hair behind one ear then stuck out her hand. “Selena Hargraves. It’s nice to meet you.”
“I – who are you?”
Selena’s face fell a bit. “Selena Hargraves. Free lance journalist. I set up an interview with your people a week or so ago.”
Mike stared at her uncomprehendingly. “I -”
Selena stammered “I really hope can do this interview. I went through a lot to get here – your people took away my phone, drove me around for an hour in the back of a van -”
Mike had his moorings now – yes, he remembered. This was the kid who’d been friends with that little shit Hugh, the senator’s kid. But then she’d done that other thing. “Right – Selena, was it? You’re the one who did that great video exposing Hugh and that bi- uh, and that woman. Louisa. The one who hit me with my own helmet?”
She beamed when Mike praised her expose video but let the grin fade when Mike mentioned the bar fight. “Yes, that was me. Ummm…I’m really sorry about the helmet thing. I was there. I had no idea she – I mean, I wish I could have prevented it…” She stopped stammering, closed her eyes for a moment, and composed herself. “If it makes a difference, that’s one of the things that made me realize that I didn’t really like the crowd I was hanging with.”
Mike nodded. “OK, apology accepted …anyway, those last few videos you’ve released were excellent. Have you thought about entering them into any of the prize contests that the committee has set up?”
“Uh, actually, my expose of Louisa already won one of the prizes…and I’m hoping to get another one with this interview.” She smiled. “Which provides as good a segue as anyway.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a small camera module and put it on the desk. “The ADF guys went over this before I got into the van and deactivated the locator – ah, you probably don’t care about that. Anyway, I know you’re a busy man, so I’d like to get down to the oral history as quickly as -”
At that moment there was an explosion in the corridor, then scattered gun fire.
Mike’s head snapped around.
An explosion? What the –
Suddenly Mike knew. This had to be a snatch team. Their timing was perfect – three quarters of the guards were down at the docks helping with the Deladrier.
Mike turned to the second exit from the room, the one behind his desk – then realized that he wasn’t in his office at Morlock Engineering. The Northern Logistics office he was squatting in had only one door.
He turned back to the one door.
Run or hunker down?
But wait – damn it! The girl. He had to get her out too. After that video there might be a bounty on her too.
He looked at the door –
– and suddenly there was shouting and shooting in the corridor immediately outside it.
What her name? He couldn’t remember. “You! Get under the desk!” Selena, eyes wide and face drawn, nodded and hurried to comply.
Mike unholstered his pistol and racked the slide to chamber a round. Selena was crawling under the desk and he was about to follow her under when the door was kicked in.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The soldier in the door was wearing a black insignia-less uniform – armor, straps and equipment, a black helmet and a black balaclava. Mike felt like he was a kilometer away, watching it through a long tunnel. His pistol seemed to take long minutes to rise into position and then, finally, there it was. He was squeezing the trigger. His sight picture – was it good enou- ?
Mike distantly heard his own shot. Was this really happening? The soldier kept coming forward. He tried to squeeze the trigger again. Was the gun working? Mike couldn’t hear anything. The soldier tripped forward and fell. Mike watched him fall, then looked up – a second soldier. Mike tried to squeeze his trigger and –
Mike screamed and convulsed as he fell, his body racked with electric pain. All of his muscles tensed and he felt the grip of the pistol grinding deep into his palm. He couldn’t breath. He was falling. Then suddenly, the pain was gone and he felt the pistol being ripped from his hand. Then a soldier loomed over him holding a long black prod. He tried to fend off –
Mike convulsed and screamed again.
“Roll over, hands behind your back!”
The pain ended and Mike tried to roll over but he wasn’t fast enough. Another prod, another convulsion, another scream ripped from him.
Mike managed to roll onto his stomach. A knee was driven into the small of his back and his arms were wrenched behind him. HE twisted his head and screamed as something tore in his shoulder. And found himself looking through the small gap under the desk. Where he saw Selena’s hands and knees as she crouched in hiding.
There was a tug on his wrists and his right shoulder screamed. On the desk he saw his slate and Selena’s camera module and then a hood was pulled over his head.
As he was dragged out of the office he heard the gunfire continue.