Dragonstar – Part 04
After dumping Korodo in the alleyway, it took Trace nearly ten minutes to skirt around the city core. The flight from the noble’s penthouse had left him on the opposite side of the city from the guild garage where he needed to take the jumper. He could have taken a short cut through the core, but in a stolen and damaged vehicle, it was not worth the added risk. So he had been forced to fly a circuitous route avoiding the known police hot spots. Eventually he arrived at one of Jurrika City’s sprawling industrial zones. Although traffic here was relatively light at this time of night, there was still activity taking place below. Alchemical furnaces belched noxious fumes into the night sky and robotic manufacturing complexes operated without biological oversight. The scarcity of people at night made this particular area a haven for illicit activities.
As he flew over the industrial sprawl, certain that any danger of pursuit had passed, Trace failed to spot the assault jumper close rapidly from behind. Before he had even realised that he was being followed, Caldrin’s jumper had fired its plasma cannons. The bolts of superheated matter struck Trace’s jumpcraft, shearing off the remaining thruster pod and disabling the vectored-thrust lift fans. Robbed of its propulsion and lift, the jumpcraft tumbled out of the sky, careening towards the ground. Emergency levitation enchantments tried to slow the descent as Trace struggled with the controls but it was all in vain; the vehicle was already flying low and it lost altitude rapidly, clipping an exhaust vent. Caldrin watched as the jumpcraft smacked onto the low roof of a warehouse, scraping across the top before tumbling into an alleyway and out of sight. After circling around the crash site, Caldrin landed his assault jumper nearby.
Trace dragged himself out from under the upside-down wreck of the jumpcraft, still dazed by the crash. Crying out in pain when he tried to stand, he looked down at his left leg. His leg was broken below the knee, the fractured bone piercing the skin, blood flowing freely out of the wound. He glanced up as Caldrin entered the alleyway. Trace immediately recognised his black body suit as the same type as the one worn by the assassins earlier, although the drow’s appeared to be significantly bulkier. Drawing his pistol, he brought it up in an attempt to fire at the approaching figure.
Caldrin was quicker, bringing up his weapon and shooting the gun out of the boy’s hand. As he strode towards him, Trace reached down and pulled small knife that had been tucked into his sock. Before he could do anything with it, the knife was kicked out of his hand. The drow picked up the boy by the collar of his top, the muscle enhancers of his suit making it seem like he weighed almost nothing, and threw him down the alley.
He grunted as he struck the ground, rolling twice before coming to a rest against a support pillar. The drow was on him in a second, binding his hands behind his back. As he lay slumped against the pillar, Caldrin knelt down in front of him. “Hmm, compound fracture to the left tibia. I expect that’s extremely painful.”
As Caldrin leaned in close, Trace recognised him. He had seen the drow at Dorga’s bay two or three times over the last couple of weeks. Rumour had it that he had been an ISPD agent and it looked like for once the rumours were right. “Screw you snakehead,” muttered Trace painfully, using the street slang for an ISPD agent.
Caldrin merely smiled as he leant forward, grasping the broken bone and applying pressure. Trace screamed as Caldrin gripped the wound tightly, the sudden and intense pain bringing unwanted tears to his eyes. The drow released his grip and stood up. “Where is Lord Korodo?”
“Who?” Trace responded, failing utterly in an attempt to look innocent.
Caldrin slapped Trace across the face angrily. “Don’t play games with me boy,” he hissed, “you know exactly who I’m talking about.” He punctuated his point with kick to Trace’s side. The boy grunted with the strike.
“I ain’t telling you nothing,” he answered defiantly.
The drow stamped on the broken leg, causing Trace to scream again. “Fine,” he said unclipping a length of black rope from his belt, “we’ll do this the hard way.” Placing one foot firmly on Trace’s chest in order to prevent the boy from crawling away, Caldrin looped the rope around a crossbeam connected to the support pillar. Hoisting Trace up on to his feet, he tied the loose end into a noose around the boy’s neck, pulling the rope taut. Trace was forced to half-slump against the pillar, placing all his weight on his right foot. If he slipped or fell, the noose would quickly tighten and strangle him. “Let’s try this again,” Caldrin said quietly, menacingly, “where is Lord Korodo?”
“Get bent!” The ISPD punched him twice in the stomach and chest hard enough for Trace to feel at least one rib crack. The blow caused him to stumble slightly, the rope tightening around his neck.
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know, the last time I saw him was ten minutes ago. He could be half-way across the city by now!” The answer failed to satisfy the drow and it earned Trace another blow. This one to the face, breaking his nose with a wet crunch and smacking the back of his head against the metal support. The questions continued, as did the beating. Blow after blow, alternating between his body and his head. With each blow, Trace got dizzier, finding it increasingly hard to stay on his feet. “Please,” he begged, “I don’t know where he is, I swear.” In truth, he could no longer remember where had had left the noble, he was having trouble thinking clearly through the pain.
Caldrin paused and looked at the boy. Blood was pouring from his broken nose and several gashes to the face. One eye had already swollen closed and with every breath, he seemed to cough up more blood. He leaned in close and whispered in Trace’s ear.
“Honestly, I think you’re telling the truth.” He began to walk back and forth in front of Trace, cracking his knuckles. “It was supposed to be a simple operation. Hire someone from the Guild to bypass the penthouse security system so that my men could perform their mission. Afterwards, planted evidence would point to a bungled theft and the Guild thief would be blamed for Korodo’s murder.” He fixed Trace with a smouldering glare. “You were perfect, a no name street punk with a record a mile long. No one would care when they frog-marched you to a firing squad without even bothering with a trial.”
“Dorga set me up.” Trace whispered.
“Not quite, I doubt he even had an inkling of what the plan was. In fact, he actually seemed concerned about your welfare.”
“Nevertheless, the plan is dead now. All that’s left is to eliminate any loose ends that might lead back to the agency,” Caldrin said, smiling cruelly. Trace realised at that moment that he was one of those loose ends. The realisation made him struggle even more in an attempt to free his hands. A blow to the side of his head stunned him, almost knocking him off his feet. Without being given a chance to recover, more blows followed. Trace could feel himself starting to pass out but he struggled to keep awake and on his feet. If he lost consciousness and fell, the noose around his neck would tighten and then it would all be over. He started to panic, crying out for help. Desperately hoping that someone, anyone, would be able to hear him. At the back of his mind however, he knew that the chances of anyone being nearby were slim indeed. Eventually he fell silent except for the occasional plea for mercy, his vision starting to blur from the pain and blood loss. He knew that he only had a few minutes left until he could no longer stand.
Fastening the straps on the body armour, Korodo turned to the orc at the controls of the jumper. “Barak, are we still locked onto the homing beacon?”
Barak tapped the small screen in front of him and nodded. “Yeah, we’re still getting a strong signal. It hasn’t moved in the last ten minutes though.” Like Korodo, the orc was wearing body armour. Unlike Korodo’s, which was relatively clean, Barak’s was scuffed and scarred; a veteran of many battles, like its wearer. “ETA two minutes, I’ll set us down some way off. No telling what sort of situation we might find, this area is not a good place at night.”
“That’s why I employ you and your big gun,” Korodo said, smiling.
Behind the two of them, in the armoured passenger compartment, sat a young human women, also in body armour. Her armour only barely fitted he slight form and she didn’t appear comfortable wearing it as she played nervously with her pendant. Korodo leaned round in his seat to look at her. “Tsukiko, when we land, stay here in the jumper in case we need you.”
“You got it L K,” she responded.
“I mean it, no heroics. You’re the only one with proper medical training and I’ve already lost one person tonight.”
“Activating stealth mode,” Barak reported, tapping several buttons on an overhead control panel. “Time to see if that enchantment was worth the money we paid for it,” he muttered under his breath. Magical energy flowed through special conduits to a series of small crystals embedded beneath the bodywork. Together they created a field around the jumper rendering it invisible. The enchantment also dampened the sound of the jumper’s engines.
The now silent and invisible jumper approached the location of the source of the homing signal. Luckily for them, although the security system and tracking device on the stolen jumpcraft had been disabled by Trace, the manual homing beacon that he had activated as they escaped the penthouse was still transmitting. After being picked up by Barak and Tsukiko, they had tracked the jumpcraft into the heart of the industrial zone. As Barak piloted the jumper, Korodo looked down at the warehouse and saw the damage inflicted on its roof. “Looks like it crashed onto that warehouse and slid into that alleyway.”
“I’ll set us down a short distance from the alley’s entrance.” Barak said as he brought the jumper in for a landing. “You remember our little talk on the buddy system?” He asked Korodo.
“You lead, I follow.”
As soon as the jumper had landed, Korodo and Barak jumped out, weapons ready. Barak took the lead, advancing stealthily towards the alleyway, assault blaster in hand. Approaching the alleyway, he held his fist up, signalling to the following Korodo to stop. He could hear sounds from around the corner. Barak signalled again to Korodo, his hand a blur of signals. The half-dragon responded with a blank look unable to understand the complex military signals. Barak rolled his eyes and, as clearly as possible, indicated that they would enter the alleyway on the count of three.
With their weapons ready to fire, they quietly ran into the alleyway. Halfway down its length, they ran up behind the wreckage of Korodo’s jumpcraft, using it as cover. Korodo looked over the top of the jumpcraft, shocked by what he saw. Barak, a former imperial legionnaire, acted as his training took over. He fired a warning shot, a single blaster bolt striking the wall near the drow. “Step away from the kid!”
Caldrin slowly turned, facing Barak and Korodo. At the sound of the voice, Trace forced himself to look up, his blurred vision focusing on the figures behind the jumpcraft. Confused, he recognised one of them as Korodo. For a few brief tense seconds, no one moved or said anything, and then Caldrin turned his head slightly towards Trace. A sly smile was on his face, a smile that only the semi-conscious boy could see. In a blur of speed, his foot lashed out and connected with Trace’s right ankle. With a sickening crack, Trace’s ankle snapped under the force of the muscle-enhanced kick. The pain caused him to scream, but as he fell, the noose tightened choking off his cry. Caldrin rolled to the side as Korodo and Barak opened fire, blaster bolts and gyrojet rounds streaking down the alleyway. Crouching behind a dumpster, the drow fired his own weapon at his attackers, the yellow beam of his laser gouging rents and pits in the crumpled bodywork of the jumpcraft.
As Barak stitched the dumpster with sprays of blaster fire, Korodo looked over at Trace. The boy was desperately trying to stand up, but with a broken leg and ankle, it was proving to be impossible. As he watched, his struggles were becoming weaker and less coordinated. From his position behind the dumpster, the drow had a clear shot at Trace. If he wanted to, he could shoot the boy in the head, but it was obvious that he wanted the boy’s death to be slow and painful. Realising that he only had one chance, Korodo took careful aim at the rope. Breathing out, he squeezed the trigger severing the rope with a single gyrojet round.
Trace dropped to the floor just as his vision darkened. Although his body weight was no longer pulling on the noose, it was still tight around his neck preventing any air from getting into his lungs. Unable to remain conscious any more, the boy passed out.
Caldrin looked to Trace as he fell, the boy’s lay still on the floor and his eyes were closed. The agent was considering shooting him in the head just to make sure he was dead when a burst of blaster bolts finally ripped through the metal of the dumpster and struck him in the chest. The armour weave of his body suit absorbed the energy of the bolts but the force of their impact drove him to the floor, gasping for breath and dropping his weapon. When he reached to pick it up, he discovered the barrel was a mass of melted plastic and burnt wiring. One of the bolts must have struck it, rendering it useless. Thundering footsteps heralded the imminent arrival of Korodo and his damned orc lackey. Unarmed and outnumbered, Caldrin sighed and activated his internal teleport web. Magical energy surged from spellware, erupting from his body like cracking electricity. In an instant, space around his form seemed to implode inwards and he vanished with a pop of inrushing air.
Barak rounded the dumpster, his weapon aimed at the spot where Caldrin had lain and cursed. Korodo meanwhile had rushed over to the unconscious boy. He quickly loosened the noose and removed the rope from around his neck. “Tsuki, we need you over here pronto.” Less than a minute later, Tsukiko ran around the corner clutching a medical kit. Korodo looked up as she knelt down “He’s got a pulse but I don’t think he’s breathing.”
“Gods, I thought you just wanted to ask him a few questions not beat him to a pulp!” She said as she began to treat him. Korodo scowled in response and was about to reply when Tsukiko continued. “These injuries are bad, I can’t treat them here. We need to get him to a hospital.”
Korodo nodded reluctantly and pulled out his comm. Before he could dial the number, Barak placed his hand over the comm. “Taking him to a hospital would be a mistake.”
“If we don’t take him, he could die from these injuries,” Korodo said.
“If we take him to hospital he’ll die for sure,” Barak explained, “because if his injuries don’t kill him that drow will find a way to finish him off.”
“Excuse me,” Tsukiko interrupted, “while I’m sure this is a fascinating conversation, whilst you two are dithering, this kid is probably bleeding to death internally.”
“What do you suggest then Barak?”
“We take him back to the ship; Tsukiko can use the facilities in the medbay to treat him.”
“Fine,” Tsukiko said as she began to make Trace ready to be moved using the force stretcher from the medical kit. “But I still say he should be taken to hospital.”
“We can better ensure his safety on board the ship,” Barak stated as Korodo activated the force stretcher generating a horizontal wall of force between the folding handles. “He’s still got questions to answer and he can’t do that if he’s dead.”
Tsukiko looked up at the orc, an amused smile on her face. “Aww, and here I was thinking you had gone soft on us.”
Helping her move Trace onto the stretcher, Barak smiled back. “Hey, beneath this gruff exterior lies a caring, sensitive soul that just happens to wear body armour and carry a very big gun.” The two men carried the stretcher to the jumper, securing it in the back with Tsukiko. As he sat down in the pilot’s seat, the orc picked up a communications headset and started the jumper’s systems. “Bolts, wake up.”
Back on Korodo’s luxury yacht, a man shorts, t-shirt and trainers had his feet up on the console. The three seat cockpit was cramped, almost every spare surface covered in controls. Bolts, the yachts engineer, put down his comic book when a voice came over the communicator. “Very funny; what’s up?”
“Launch prep ASAP, we’re coming in hot plus one. ETA 8 minutes,” responded Barak’s tinny voice on the other end.
Bolts paused, rubbing his temple before answering. “You know I’ve got idea what you’re saying when you lapse into military jargon.”
“He means,” Tsukiko said into her own headset, “we’re on our way back and you need to fire the ship up ‘cos we’re taking off as soon as we arrive. We might have someone following us, oh and power up the medbay, we’ve got an injured kid to take care of.”
“Then why didn’t he say that,” he said tapping commands onto a forearm-mounted computer. “See you in eight.” He accessed the ships control systems by remote, entering the codes to start up the main reactor and switch to internal power, disconnecting the starport umbilical.
Posted on Friday, June 27, 2008, in Dragonstar and tagged dragon, dragons, Dragonstar, dungeons, elf, fantasy, half, kid, noble, science fiction, space, street, thief, warrior, young. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.