Lucia awoke to Niarith gently petting her hair whilst sitting on the bed near her. Lucia’s head was pounding, her entire body ached. She groaned loudly “Nia? You okay?”
Niarith smiled down at Lucia “Not really, the programming is still there, but I’m lucid for longer as time goes on. Hopefully I’ll be okay given enough time. And hey, I got some badass armor out of it!” She laughed, and to Lucia it was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard. She closed her eyes and simply enjoyed being there with Niarith. She was home, with Niarith, and everything was okay.
Lucia awoke again to the shuddering thump of the ship landing. She sat up in bed, feeling much better than before. The bedroom was empty except for her, and someone had undressed her. She hoped it had been Niarith. She got up out of bed and quickly dressed in her usual light green crop top and athletic pants. As she finished dressing Niarith entered the room. “Oh Lucia you’re up! Good! It’s been a few hours, and we’re back in our old neighborhood. About to get the pendant back to Mr. Brocktazrolo and get paid.”
Lucia sighed “We better get paid well for this.”
“Oh believe me we will. I’m not accepting what he offered originally, not after all that. C’mon, lets go get this done!” Lucia followed Niarith out of the bedroom and down the hall. Lolanene came out of the equipment room and joined them. She blew her hair out of her face and nodded to Lucia.
The trio made their way out of the ship, the pendant in a locked metal case Niarith was carrying. “Whoa… This shit is amazing!” Lolanene stared in wonder at the cityscape at dusk. “This was up here my whole life? And I’ve been living in a dark hole? What the fuck, man.”
“Yep. Class divide’s a bitch.” Lucia said as they walked down the pedway. “Hopefully this Bracktazrolo will pay us enough so we can get off this rock.”
Niarith glanced back at Lucia. “Brocktazrolo, and he will. Trust me, he’s got a lot of money, and we’ve got a lot of… persuasiveness.” Lucia’s hand idly moved to rest on the hilt of her dagger.
Several minutes later, they came to the entrance of one of the millions, if not billions of skyscrapers that populated Xia IV. They entered the building, into a lavish lobby. The walls were made of smooth natural stone of a cream color, ornate columns stood a ways out from each of the four corners of the massive room, holding up a balcony on the next floor up. Columns up there held up the next balcony, and so on and so forth, seemingly into infinity.
Around the large room were various groupings of chairs, staircases, and desks. Lucia simply followed Niarith, as she seemed to know where she was going. She looked around for Lolanene and saw her standing at the door, her mouth agape.
Lucia tapped Niarith to indicate the need to stop and walked over to Lolanene. "You okay kid?"
"Holy shit… I've never seen nothing like this. I don't … I.. I don't belong here. This ain't for me. I’m just some fuckin’ peasant diggin’ for scrap in the dirt."
Lucia placed a hand gently on Lolanene’s shoulder “Lolanene, do you think I belong any more than you do? I’m a primitive. You know how to fly a starship. If anything you belong more than me.”
Niarith came up from behind. “Both of you belong anywhere you want to belong. The idea that you don’t belong someplace just ‘cause it’s fancy is bullshit, don’t buy into it. Now let's’ go get paid.”
Lolanene sighed and blew her hair out of her face. “Not sure I believe that, but yeah, lets’ go.”
They made their way to one of the several elaborate desks in the lobby, and Niarith asked the thin, wiry haired man sitting there “Hello sir, we have an emergency appointment with Mr. Brocktazrolo, is he ready for us?”
The man looked exhausted, and it took him a moment to respond, not taking his eyes off the screen in front of him. “Elevator G3.” Was all he said, and indicated a vague direction.
“Well that was helpful.” Lolanene said, crossing her arms.
“I’ve been here before, it’s fine.” Niarith began to walk in the indicated direction. Lucia and Lolanene followed. “Oh, there it is!” Niarith pointed to an opulent looking elevator, and they boarded. The car began to ascend, and ascend, and ascend, and ascend.
“Are you sure this buildin’ has a top?” Lolanene looked genuinely nervous.
“Won’t be too much longer. Don’t worry.” Niarith said with a smile. The elevator finally slowed, and then stopped. Lucia wondered what incredible opulence she was about to witness, as the doors opened and revealed… a plain off yellow tinged hallway with linoleum flooring. To the left was a large square window with a bench and a plant in front of it. Outside the top of the cloud layer was visible, as well as the glowing lights of the other skyscrapers that pierced it. The twinkling lights of dozens of transport ships drifted between ‘scrapers. The sun had already set. In front was a featureless off yellow colored wall. To the right was a long hallway with multiple branch offs. It was not well lit, it looked as if half the lights were out.
“This is Upper District?” Lucia asked incredulously.
Niarith giggled “They call it The Top, actually. And yeah, this floor isn’t used much. Yldebrund Brocktazrolo values his privacy.”
“Doesn’t seem to value maintenance…” Lolanene said, mostly under her breath. The trio made their way through the yellowed halls, until finally coming to a battered wooden door with a gold nameplate on it. The nameplate read ‘Yldebrund Brocktazrolo, Landowner’. Niarith knocked on the door and a kind sounding aged male voice called from behind it “It’s open!”. The trio entered the office, which had the same yellowed walls, but polished wood flooring, an elegant wooden desk, and large dark wood bookshelves on the left and right behind. As well as a window between them. Upon the desk was a physical keyboard and mouse attached to a pair of metal rods with a holographic display between them. As well as various small decor items. Seated at the desk was a slightly rotund old man in a beige sweater. He had wrinkled pinkish skin, thinning white hair and a thick white mustache. He looked like a kindly grandfather, rather than a wealthy landowner. Upon seeing them enter, his face lit up “Niarith, my dear! So good to see you again! Looking as lovely as ever! I hope you’ve been well. Oh and you must introduce me to your two friends there!”
Niarith smiled kindly, but Lucia could see it was false. “Mr. Brocktazrolo, a pleasure to see you, as always, my good sir! I see you’re wearing my favorite sweater!” She gestured to Lucia “This, is Lucia Carlena, my business partner and the love of my life.”
Lucia smiled and gave a little wave.
“Wonderful to meet you, my dear!” The old man exclaimed
Niarith gentured to Lolanene “And this is Lolanene Castelliona, she’s… a new business partner!”
Lolanene leaned against the doorway as she had been, blew her hair out her face and said “Hey.”
Yldebrund looked a bit off put, but quickly put his fase cheer back on “Lovely to meet you as well, my dear. Now, to business. Niarith, I assume you’ve recovered the item?”
Niarith placed the locked metal case on the desk “We have it right here. But recovering it was not as smooth an operation as you implied.”
Yldebrund reached for the case, and Niarith unsubtly picked it up again. “Oh? How so, my dear?”
“You failed to mention that Loriol.. Ninia.. Th B- That he possesses mind control tech. I was brainwashed, and Lucia nearly died rescuing me. I think that level of risk requires greater reward, don’t you, sir?”
Yldebrund brought something up on his screen, and examined it carefully. “Well now, my dear, I don’t see anything in your contract that stipulates increased reward for your own failings. You were sent to recover the item. You recovered it. That was our deal. You will be paid the agreed upon amount, no more, no less.”
Lucia stepped forward “Listen you stuck up son of a-” Niarith placed a hand gently on her shoulder.
“Mr. Brocktazrolo. Yldebrund. Our deal was an easy retrieval of the item. In and out. That is not what transpired. Partly due to your negligence in providing information on the target. I think it is fair that we ask for a higher payment.”
“Fair as that may be, the terms of our contract do not include such a thing. And thus, it is out of my hands. Now, the item, please.” He held out a hand.
Lucia stabbed her dagger through it, pinning it to the table. “Fuck your contract! I nearly died. I nearly lost my girlfriend. Because you didn’t tell us what we were up against. So either you pay us for the job we did, not the job you falsely sent us to do, or I keep stabbing, and we keep your fucking item.”
Brocktazrolo didn’t scream. The hand didn’t bleed. He just glared. Staring right at Lucia’s face. “That. Was. Rude.” He said, simply. The hand dissolved into a massive cloud of nanites, enough to be seen with the naked eye. The nanites swirled and moved around and away from the dagger, as Brocktazrolo moved his arm. They reformed into the shape of his hand, and became solid again. He calmly stood and turned to stare out the window, his hands behind his back.
“Now, kindly leave my office. Leave the item. I suspect you won’t get far, the authorities were on their way before you arrived. Did you think you could just crash a ship through several buildings, buildings I own, and blow up a platform, large pieces of which cascaded down upon innocents living below, and face no consequences? Really now, ladies, you should be more careful. Anyway, tata.” The man simply dissolved into a gigantic cloud of nanites, which dispersed quickly into what seemed like nothingness.
“Wh-what just happened?” Lucia asked, dumbfounded.
“It was a decoy. Of course he wouldn’t meet us in person, damn it!” Niarith slammed the metal case down on the desk. “We need to go. Right now.”
“Go where? He said the authorities are already here.” Lolanene was noticeably panicked.
Niarith’s eyes began to glow with a teal light “He didn’t count on me, darlings.”