“The Good Doctor”
Planet: Vetarid (Grey Union)
Location: Harbor Warehouse District
The motorcycle rider revved the engine and tapped an anxious foot on a pedal. The visor on the helmet reflected several warehouses stacked in long rows alongside a waterway. The afternoon heat ratcheted up, and the long wait only meant something wrong had happened. More time ticked by.
The door to a nearby warehouse slammed open. The rider reached for a pistol on the bike but stopped, recognizing the woman racing out. She clutched a backpack looped around her shoulder and charged at the bike.
“Go, go, go!”
The woman jumped on the back of the motorcycle trying to keep her floral dress out of the way. Three men charged out of the warehouse blasting away with their guns. Bullets hit the rusty side of a building a few feet from the pair on the bike. The cycle screamed away.
Catherine lifted the visor of her helmet and looked back at the woman holding on to her waist.
“Thought you said ‘nice and easy’?”
“I got it, didn’t I?” Paul said grabbing the strap around his shoulder even tighter.
He tore off a blond wig and tossed it. His blue and pink dress fluttered in the wind. Behind the cycle, a car spun around a corner, crushed the wig under its tires, and sped after them. Paul snatched the pistol from Catherine’s side and blasted behind, but the shots went wide.
The warehouses were a critical part of the ocean harbor with a few narrow waterways winding between them. Over these small canals, arched bridges no more than ten feet across spanned the water every few hundred yards. The bike launched over each of these bridges landing hard. The car giving chase bottomed out after the first few leaving behind sparks and some piece of the undercarriage.
Catherine jerked the cycle hard to the right where a boat was being loaded with cargo. She spun the bike around containers and surprised workers until reaching the end of the line. Cables lifted a container just a few feet off the dock and the cycle had nowhere else to go. Catherine yanked the bike on its side, and sent it spinning under the dangling container. Both her and Paul scraped and rolled across the metal beams of the dock. The motorcycle slid off the edge and splashed into the sea.
The car slammed into a container not far from where Catherine lay. Two men jumped out of the wreck and were on her. Cole, still wearing a torn dress, fell upon the men with a vengeance. The first was slammed senseless into a metal container, and the second was tossed after the motorcycle at the bottom of the harbor. A third man stepped out of the car and put his hand on a gun at his waistband.
“Not so fast,” Catherine said with her own pistol leveled at his head. “Toss it.”
The man threw his weapon into the ocean and glowered. With the sound of police sirens closing in, Paul and Catherine quickly disappeared between the traffic and warehouses.
Planet: Vetarid (Grey Union)
Back at Polera, the scraped up pilot tore off the dress and tossed the backpack at Bill.
“I hope this was worth it,” Paul said.
Bill reached into the pack with grimy hands and pulled out two plastic air filters.
“These are them,” the engineer said. “Now we takeoff in a couple of hours.”
The crew set about contacting their business associates to stir up work. Dangerous jobs, each one profitable yet quick to get them killed, trickled across the computer screens. A wealthy man looking for protection was turned down. Catherine’s contact, Niche, offered up coordinates on a new shuttle to replace the one lost just weeks back. It would be a difficult job involving the Ruins and a specialized computer interface.
However, it was simple message sent to Doctor Graham that caught everyone’s attention.
Message: Dr. Graham. It’s been a few weeks since you left and everything has fallen apart here on Isonen. The Embriss authorities have shut down the work camp and arrested most everyone involved. Don Mattle has weaseled his way out of responsibility and now places my name at the top of a short list of those responsible for the deaths of hundreds.
Message: I have to get off of Isonen before they find me, before Mattle convinces them I am the monster that he truly is. I know you have been through a lot and want to stay as clear from this mess as possible, but I need your help. You and your friend would not be alive if it were not for me, and now I need you to return the favor.
Message: I am going to sneak aboard a transport returning hundreds of the workers back to their own worlds. The ship’s name is Owed Score. It’s heading to the edges of the ruins. I will try to blend in with the workers, but I need you. Come find me, Daniel.
Though good money needed to be earned, and the prospects of a new shuttle were appealing, Polera folded into space to pay back a debt. Catherine reluctantly asked for details on the transport, Owed Score, from Officer Ben Cowl. The Embriss policeman shared the location of the ship but did not have his friendly offer to reunite with Catherine returned in any way.
Polera folded twice to reach the outer edge of the Ruins to intercept the Owed Score. Being so close to a possible virus ship, everyone was on edge and waited. Nervous hours ticked by. Two days of patience paid off when the Owed Score folded into the system to unload its cargo of rescued slaves.
The captain of the Owed Score was understandably wary of another ship in deep space, but his tone changed when Dr. Graham appeared on the communications screen.
Graham glanced at his friends before sitting upright in front of his screen and said, “Of course, yes, that’s me, the hero of Sarech. I, am uh, taking care of the last of this Isonen business, much like yourself. You see, we’re looking for a woman, a medic named Angela Loret, and we believe her to be on board your ship.”
The Owed Score explained they had dropped her off with dozens of former slaves on a world named Puroc just one fold away. The crew of Polera thanked the transport for their help and then blasted into fold space along the edge of the ruins for seven days.
Planet: Puroc (Ruins)
Location: Wooded Hills
The coordinates given took the ship to a small community in the ruins amidst towering trees and rolling hills. The town was surrounded by walls of cement, rusted iron, and local wood. Catherine brought some liquor from storage as a gift to the people, but they quickly turned on her and shouted curses from the walls.
“Your drink is the devil,” yelled a local. “You took our people, brought only a few back, and now you want our help?”
“Please just tell us where our friend is,” Graham said. “She’s one of us and was returned with your own people.”
“Your woman and a few others went northwest. Now go, before we send you bleeding.”
Polera circled around the hillsides to the northwest and spotted a lone farm amongst the trees. The ship landed some distance away and the crew set out on foot in an effort not to scare any more locals. Several men from Isonen were hiding in the farm, and they were quick to tell Angela’s story. A week earlier, they had stumbled across the farm but were ambushed by several snake-like aliens of a purple color and mean disposition. The aliens killed one of them, injured the farmer, and captured Angela and another man.
The crew grabbed their weapons and armed a former Isonen worker named Tim who felt guilty about Angela’s abduction. Before they headed out, Tim walked them over to the adjacent barn.
“The farmer, the one who the aliens injured,” Tim said. “He’s sick. There’s something real wrong with him. He went nuts and killed his own son.”
Tim took the crew to a locked, wooden door in the floor of the barn where horrible animal sounds emanated. The thing inside, what once was the farmer, clawed at the door and squealed to get free. Two full clips of Cole’s sub-machine gun cut through the door creating a mess of wood splinters and dust. Once the smoke had cleared, they found a monstrous figure lying dead beneath the barn. Strange quills stuck out of its upper arms and back.
“Everybody stay close,” Paul said. “This…this we don’t need.”
The crew, led by Tim, hiked to Angela’s last known location. They followed an overgrown road through the trees until arriving at a canyon. The steep cliff sides dropped several hundred feet to a shallow river below. Not far from their side of the canyon stretched a concrete bridge across the span. It was an enclosed structure that once sent a monorail across the chasm but now struggled to hold itself together.
Scanning the bridge to see if it was stable enough for walking, Graham spotted an alien ship clinging to the underside of the span like a parasite. It was a small purple vessel that sparkled in the sun. If Angela was to be found, this was the place.
The crew walked along the canyon to the bridge entrance. The rail ran from the trees down the canyon straight into the opening of the concrete span. Cole snapped on his light, peered into the darkness ahead, and led the way through the bridge.