Maria held Niarith’s hand in her own as they descended the exit ramp of the FIC ship. “What model of ship is this, anyway, uhm… Testrilnilak was it?” Niarith asked.
The tall thin man walking beside them removed his helmet, revealing a full head of thick, messy black hair, sharp features, and bright green eyes. “Call me Ryani, it’s my first name, easier to remember. Bosslady says it’s unprofessional, but man, we’re out here by ourselves for ten fucking years, I gotta breathe a little, ya know?” He laughed a bit at that, then continued “Anyway, this here’s a Baltrax X1-460, a bit old, but she runs like a dream,” he smiled “Thanks in large part you yours truly!”
As they reached the bottom of the ramp, Maria took in her surroundings. They were in a large hangar bay, not unlike the hangar they’d stolen the Epsilon VI from over a year ago. It was dimly lit, and looked as if it were only half-functional. Ryani led the pair through the hangar to a set of two doors at the other ends.
They passed through the doors and into a dimly lit corridor with shining metal walls, where panels hadn’t been removed, which was in very few places. Bare wiring and pipes snaked in all directions, mixed in with several screen interfaces. Behind the mess of wiring and pipes was a drab brown backdrop, made of a material Maria couldn’t place. Sparks sputtered from several places along the walls and ceiling.
“This place is in bad shape. You guys live here?” Niarith asked, a concerned expression on her face.
Ryani chuckled “It looks worse than it is. It’s mostly just that the team before us had to scavenge material from the walls to shore up some damaged exterior panels. This place got hit by a swarm of micrometeorites”
“Where are we going, exactly?” Maria asked, her body slightly bowed in the small corridor.
“You’re going to our meeting room for debriefing, I’m going to get some lunch. Next door on your left, good luck with the bosslady!” He smiled, then added, more quietly “She’s... kind of a bitch.” He started jogging down the corridor, turning a corner and disappearing from sight.
“He seems nice!” Niarith said, after a few moments of silence.
“Overly so, if you ask me. Suspiciously so.”
“Mari, they don’t even know who we are. I doubt they’re planning on executing us with a smile or anything.” Niarith pressed a button on the wall next to the first door on their left. The door slid open, revealing a room much like the hallway had been. It was windowless, with only a table and four chairs in it.
Niarith made her way to the table and sat down. Maria followed, but instead of sitting, leaned back against the wall. Immediately her entire body was buzzing with sensation, intense, electric, good. She heard a beeping inside her head, and yellow flashing text boxes began to fill her vision. Maria found it hard to pay much attention, it felt amazing, incredible, orgas- Her vision cut out, and she dimly heard her body clang to the floor. The text was still there, and she finally read it.
<ERROR: ELECTRICAL OVERLOAD DETECTED>
<SEEK IMMEDIATE DISCONNECTION>
<VISUAL SENSOR STATUS: EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN>
<MOTILITY STATUS: EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN>
...oh. Maria thought, now feeling rather embarrassed, as she realized that she had inadvertently leaned against some sort of exposed wiring or similar, causing her to begin taking in power from the station.
“Mari?” Maria faintly heard Niarith’s voice. “Maria!” Maria’s vision abruptly returned, and she regained her ability to move.
“Hey, Nia. I’m alright.” Niarith wrapped her arms around Maria’s rough metal frame, and Maria did the same to her soft, smooth, beautiful one…
“Maria, what the fuck just happened?” Niarith looked extremely concerned, on the verge of tears.
“I think I must have leaned against some bare wiring in the wall. But it didn’t hurt.. I uhm… it felt good. Really good.”
“I… are you sure you’re okay, Mari?”
“I’m fine, some of my systems just shut off to avoid being damaged. I’m okay, dear.”
Niarith smiled, and said “So that’s why you were uhm… moaning.” Maria instinctively blinked at that, her vision switching on and off, it was much more disorienting than human blinking. “Gotta say, Mari, with that new synth voice of yours? Your moans sound good.” She climbed atop Maria’s metallic frame. “Maybe we need to invest in a taser, hmm?”
Maria smiled inwardly, and roughly grabbed Niarith’s bodysuit by the chest, hefting her up and off of her easily, and then carefully shoved her to the floor, leaning over her, her tail twitching dangerously. “Let’s not forget who’s in charge in our dynamic, dear.” Maria said, her voice gaining a seductive edge. Niarith involuntarily whimpered.
The door opened, and both Maria and Niarith turned to see Meltrusia standing in the doorway. She had removed her armor, and was wearing a blue bodysuit similar to Niarith’s, only hers had the small shoulder cape attached. For the first time, Maria saw her face. She had dark tan skin, and light brown eyes, almost orange. Her hair was short, reaching to just above her shoulders, with errant strands over her forehead. Her expression was an unhappy one.
She stared for a moment, then simply sighed “What in the fuck are you two doing?”
Niarith wriggled out from beneath Maria and began to speak as she stood up. “We-”
“No, don’t answer. Just… just sit down. And you, uh…” She gestured toward Maria “stand behind that chair.” She calmly walked further into the room, taking a seat without another word. Once Niarith and Maria had arrived in the indicated positions, she spoke again. “I am Commander Hellani Meltrusia, of QED Observation Station X-TD-45891, Homeworld Orcalli II. You know who I am, so I find it’s only polite for you two to state your names, occupations, and homeworld. This is not a request.”
The room was quiet for a moment, only the soft thrum of the station’s life support systems could be heard. “ as I said, it was not a request. You first.” She pointed at Niarith.
Niarith jerked as if struck by something unexpectedly, then answered, her voice wavering slightly “U-uh… Niarith Velnazranak, PTED Officer, Homeworld Xia IV.”
Meltrusia nodded, then took out a tablet, and began tapping it. “Okay, that checks out according to our records, though they are five years out of date. For simplicity’s sake I’ll take your word that it’s still accurate.”
“Yep! Sure is!” Niarith’s grin would have been unconvincing if Meltrusia had been paying any attention.
She had already turned to Maria “You, same thing.”
Maria simply froze, unable to think of any way of answering that question that wouldn’t implicate her in a crime in some way.
“I’m waiting. What, do you need to charge or something?” Meltrusia was visibly irritated.
“No I just uh… It’s… You see I… Uhm…” Maria was panicking more by the second
Teal text appeared on her HUD <Very eloquent, Maria. Well done.>
“My name is Lucia… Calramor. I’m uhm.. Unemployed, and my homeworld is… Lyricab... VI.”
Silence. Meltrusia just stared, her expression unreadable. After several more seconds, she cleared her throat and said “That was the least convincing lie I’ve ever heard. Tell me the truth, now. Don’t think your augments are gonna give you an edge, we’re more than capable of detaining you.”
Maria played the sound of a sigh, and told the truth “My name is Maria Carlena, used to be an assassin, now I’m unemployed. My homeworld… doesn’t have a name in your records, because I’m a primitive.”
“Actually it’s Planet XJ-18 III.” Mirideth suddenly spoke. “If you’re going to tell the truth and ruin our chances of escape, you might as well go all the way.”
“I see. So, you’re an escaped primitive, and Miss Velnazranak here is a PTED officer, and you seem to be in a relationship. I have to say, ladies, this doesn’t sound good for either of you.”
“Listen, I can expla-” Niarith was cut off by Meltrusia speaking over her.
“You, the other voice in that.. Thing. Who are you?”
“Mirideth Kellian Asazlaiyn. Occupation: Empress, and fugitive. Homeworld: Lyrion VIc.”
Meltrusia’s eyes widened a bit, and she quickly tapped the information into her tablet. After a moment, she calmly stood, and pulled out her pistol, not aiming it, but holding it. “Okay, I don’t know what kind of fucking game you three are playing here, but I’m not fucking having it. Both of you, hands up, now!” She aimed the gun somewhere between the two of them.
Niarith immediately put her hands up, looking terrified. Maria began to comply as well when more teal text appeared on her HUD <Not to worry, darling, watch this.>
The edges of Maria’s vision suddenly lit up with teal light, which spread from the edges until it reached the middle. It began to pulse inward, over and over, forming a strange pattern. The light was bright enough that Maria could see it shining into the room, tinting everything teal.
Meltrusia’s eyes widened and she stepped back, now fully aiming at Maria. “What the fuck is that? What are you doing? Stop right now or I’ll… I’ll.. I..”
“You’ll lower your weapon, Commander Meltrusia.” Mirideth’s voice had an odd, even more synthetic tone to it, and it was loud, amplified somehow.
“I… Why the fuck… I.. would I do.. That? What’s happening I’m… What is this?” Her aim was wavering, and her expression was one of fearful confusion.
“Just stare at it, Commander. Stare at it, focus on it, and you’ll find out what it is. Just look at it.” Mirideth’s voice sounded… so odd, Maria couldn’t place what it was, and it was hard to focus fully on what was happening with that… pattern.. in her face.
“Focus.. On it. I… if I focus, I’ll see what it is.” Commander Meltrusia’s aim wavered more and more as the seconds passed by. Her face relaxing more, the teal glow of Maria’s faceplate reflecting in her eyes.
“Lower your weapon, Commander. You don’t want to fire it anymore.”
The Commander nodded, and lowered her pistol to her side. “I don’t… want to fire… why would I.. have to focus… find out what’s… going on..”
“That’s right, darling. You don’t want to fire, you need to find out what’s going on.” Mirideth’s voice sounded… so nice to listen to.
<Walk up to her, Maria>
The text appeared, and Maria did as it said, barely thinking about it. Why should she think, the text said to do something, she should do it. She walked around the table and stood directly in front of Meltrusia, who now looked somewhat unsteady on her feet, and was drooling slightly as she stared into Maria’s faceplate.
<Take her gun>
Maria did as the text said.
<Step back behind the table>
Back behind the table.
“Now, my darling Commander. You’re going to forget the information you’ve been told.”
“That’s right, forget. And you will delete all searches you have done on your device, now.”
“Delete...” She limply stepped forward and picked up the tablet from where she’d left it on the table, and tapped at it for a moment. Then she simply let her arms fall limply to her sides, still holding the tablet.
“Good girl, Commander! You’re doing so well. You don’t even care about what’s happening anymore. You just want to be a good girl, don’t you?”
Meltrusia smiled sleepily and said “Goood girlll….”
“Now, when the pretty pattern goes away, you’re not going to remember any of this. What you will remember is that the debriefing went smoothly, and no problems were found with our story. And you’ll feel oh so bad for us and our lost friend, you’ll want to do whatever you can to help us get her back. Won’t you?”
The Commander shuddered slightly, before slurring out “Yesss, I’ll.. help… with whatever you need...”
Mirideth giggled “Very good. Bye now, Commander!”
The pattern slowly faded, as did Mirideth’s presence, and as it did, Maria found herself carefully sliding the Commander’s gun into a metal holster at the small of her back. She wasn’t sure how she knew it was there, nor was she entirely sure what had just happened, but she tried to look casual as Meltrusia slowly regained her senses.
Meltrusia shuddered, shook her head, and then looked around the room, seemingly confused. She then turned to Niarith and Maria and said “Anyway, I’ll do what I can to help you, but most of it is out of my hands. Quarantine restrictions are clear. No one is to set foot on the surface unless lives are in imminent danger. That’s why we rescued you in the first place.”
“Any help would be greatly appreciated, Commander.” Maria said, trying to sound calm and professional.
Meltrusia’s eyes briefly unfocused “Right. Maybe I could get you two on our ship, and allow you to undock, to go rescue your friend. It is highly illegal, but I feel it is… important that I help.” Her speech was oddly devoid of tone. With that, she turned and walked out of the room.
As the door slid closed, leaving only the two of them in the room again, Niarith spoke “Mirideth… That was… so fucked up. But, I don’t know what we would have done if you hadn’t… I… I hate that you’re making me have to say this to you but.. Thank you.”
“I think she burned herself out for the time being, doing.. Whatever that was.” Maria replied, resting her weight on the table, causing it to make an unsettling groaning noise.
“So I guess we’re headed back down there then. To get Lolanene. From… that thing.” Niarith
Grimaced as she mentioned The Intigrelt Organic Will Suppression System, TIOWSS.
“Guess we are.” Maria agreed.