About an hour later, the Epsilon VI landed on the roof of a building not far from the target facility. “Don’t we need like, clearance to land here? This is a random building isn’t it?” Lucia asked.
“Luci, there’s nothing in this building. I picked it specifically because it looked abandoned. Besides, there’s no ‘officials’ on this moon. It’s essentially in a state of impoverished semi-stable anarchy.” Niarith pressed several buttons as she spoke, and not often heard voice of the Epsilon VI’s automated systems said
<SELF DEFENSE PROTOCOL ACTIVE> <INITIATING EXTERNAL PROXIMITY HEATSINK SYSTEMS>
“That should deter anyone wanting to steal or salvage our ship. Anyone gets too close, it’ll vent all heat being generated by the ship’s systems to the outer hull, making it too hot to touch or otherwise mess with!” Niarith spoke cheerfully and she stood up from the pilot seat.
Lolanene was leaning against the wall next to the cockpit door. She blew her hair off of her face and said “Ain’t that gonna kill ‘em? Seems a lil extreme for theft deterrence.”
Niarith giggled “It has an audio warning. Plus the hull will heat to a fucking glow before they’re close enough to it to hurt them. If they get closer after that, I can’t really say I see it as our fault.”
Lolanene nodded “Fair ‘nough. I think I’m gonna stick around here though. I ain’t exactly an infiltrator.”
Niarith nodded. “Alright sweetie. You stay here and make sure the ship stays safe. Lucia and I can handle this.”
Lolanene stopped in the cockpit doorway, an irate expression on her face. “‘Rith, I’ve told ya so many times, not to treat me like a child. I’m fuckin’ nineteen. I ain’t yer daughter. I ended up with y’all outta necessity. I love ya like family, but ya don’t got a hierarchy on me. Stop actin’ like ya do.” With that, she turned and left the cockpit, without waiting for a response.
Niarith looked down at the floor and sighed. “Damn it.” She looked up at Lucia “You know I don’t mean to, right? It just… happens. I know she’s an adult and she can make her own decisions but… I just feel so protective..”
Lucia stepped over to her without a word and hugged her tightly. “It’s an admirable trait, Nia. You care about people. It’s not wrong to care.”
Niarith pulled out of the hug “Wish she saw it that way.”
“I think on some level she does. Just need to watch the way you phrase it, dear.”
Niarith sighed, then nodded. “Yeah. You ready?”
Lucia nodded. “Let's do it.”
Lucia and Niarith gathered the equipment they’d need for the mission. Niarith wore the armor she’d stolen from Loriol Ninia, while Lucia wore the strange skintight bodysuit she’d worn on their first mission to Ninia’s compound. Lucia insisted that they wear the sensory nullification devices, she wasn’t about to take any chances with the possibility of yet more mind control. Niarith had seemed to think that was unlikely, Lucia couldn’t fathom how at this point.
As Lucia strapped her gravitic dagger to her thigh, Niarith said “Luci, you’re not gonna need that. The room we’re after isn’t even heavily guarded. This is a simple sneak in, sneak out situation.”
Lucia said nothing as she finished. As she made her way to the equipment room door, she turned “I’m not taking any chances. You shouldn’t either. The line of work we’ve chosen is dangerous, Niarith. People die. I kill people. It’s what I’m good at. Get use-” Niarith suddenly and unexpectedly slapped Lucia across the face. Hard. The sudden shock and pain shook Lucia from her focus. And she noticed the words she had been saying continuing in her head, in that strange combination of her own voice as well as Mirideth’s. Niarith had a look of intense concern on her face.
“Your eyes were glowing. Teal.” She said, quietly, fear evident in her voice. “Not brightly, just small points. But it was there. Are you okay, Lu- no, I’m not following along with that bitch did to you. Are you okay, Maria?”
Being called by that name shook something in Lucia’s mind. It was like a wall came crumbling down. The things she’d told Niarith, the thoughts she’d had, it was all clear now. No longer was it empty and disconnected. These things had happened. She was Maria Lucia Carlena. Not the other way around. She had… She.. Don’t listen, darling. You’re Lucia. She can’t take that away from you. You don’t want her to take that away from you. You love to ki- Maria abruptly smashed her head against the wall, which quieted the whispers, but also hurt like a bitch.
Niarith stumbled forward in a panic “L- Maria! Are you okay?!” Maria felt Niarith Place her hands on her shoulders and turn her around to face her. “Maria. Are. You. okay?” Maria could tell Niarith was near panicking.
Maria still wasn’t capable of telling Niarith that Mirideth could directly manipulate her again. “I.. I’m fine, dear. This damn voice in my head won’t shut up, is all.”
Niarith had a small smile on her face. “You didn’t object to me calling you by your name.”
Maria smiled back. “I sure didn’t.”
They hugged, both realizing what had happened. Maria broke the hug first, saying “We need to get going, though. Let’s get this over with.”
Niarith nodded, and they headed out into the hall. The door to the living area was closed, Maria supposed Lolanene was in there brooding. Maria left her to it and headed to the airlock. The wall panel Mirideth had torn off hadn’t been replaced. Maria did her best not to look at it. Niarith used the card reader and opened the cargo ramp. Immediately a smell entered the airlock. It smelled like metal and grime. It was freezing cold, and once again Maria wondered why the heavens Niarith hadn’t bought warmer infiltration gear. Though she supposed Niarith had that now, what with her armor. Should fucking stab her in the neck again and again until the blood cove- Maria focused her mind, and tuned out those thoughts.
They stepped off the cargo ramp and onto the rooftop. Maria noticed the metal was rusted, and looked like it had come from several different sources. Parts of it flaked off when she slid her boot across it. There was a constant, and very odd breeze. It was moving upward. Had to be due to the atmosphere generators. She looked around. The area they were in was heavily built up, but felt almost abandoned. Few lights were on in any of the makeshift buildings. No one was in the street at all. Niarith motioned for her to follow, and she did.
They descended the very rickety external staircase down to the ground. On the ground level the constant upward breeze was even more apparent. The streets were made of a strange material that was like metal and normal ground fused into one. It had millions, probably billions of tiny holes in it, through which the atmosphere they were breathing blew. Small bits of trash blew oddly through the street, Flying up and then down, as they hit the various upward currents. The buildings on either side were made from either industrial concrete, or scrap metal.
They walked down the eerily silent, cold street for several minutes. Niarith motioned for Maria to stop. “That’s it, there.” She pointed at a building about a block away. It was made of concrete, with several floors made of scrap metal above it. Bright, light blue lights were hung above the entrance, where the words “Cyntron Cybernetics’ had been spray painted on the wall above the door.
Maria stared at the messy building and simply said “That’s a corporate headquarters?”
“It’s what passes for one here. C’mon” Niarith started walking toward the back side of the building. Maria followed.
“So how are we getting inside?” She asked, as they made their way toward it.
“We’re gonna open the back door, and walk in. You saw this place. It’s not a heavily guarded compound. It has a few rent-a-cops.”
They reached the back of the building moments later. It was unlit, and the alley was full of trash and broken tech. The back door was a simple wooden door, like Maria would have expected inside a house. It obviously wasn’t the original door. Maria reached out to touch it, and it slowly swung open. “Th- there isn’t even a latch. Niarith I have a really bad feeling here.”
“It’ll be fine, Mari.” Niarith stepped into the building without another word. Maria sighed, and then followed.
The interior of the building was entirely open, and completely dark. Maria donned her SND. She could make out a myriad of shelves, workstations, and industrial tools lying around almost at random in the white outlines the SND showed her. Directly facing the door was a stairway. Niarith turned to her and whispered “Okay, the thing we’re after is on the second floor, in a closed off room.” She immediately snuck her way to the stairs and began ascending, Maria made sure the first floor was clear, and then followed.
“Nia, put on your SND. Don’t take any chances. Not after the last job.” Maria whispered as they rounded the corner of the stairway. Niarith sighed and put it on. The second floor was much the same as the first, only it had a door on one wall. The floor was clear and they made their way to the door.
Niarith carefully opened the door, it wasn’t locked. Inside the room was a large drafting table, and on it was the blueprint they were after. Maria quickly and silently made her way over to it, rolled it up, and placed it in the tube they’d brought specifically to store it. The light sensors in the SND suddenly lit up. Five green indicators on the left side of the display. They were brightly lit.