You know who I’ve completely forgotten to include – or even mention in this story so far? Amelia, Jones’ (a.k.a jmshistorycorner’s) girlfriend that was mentioned at the end of The Trouble with Pies (And Why they Are Necessary). I can’t believe I forgot. So I have updated ‘Winter Kill – Chapter Three‘ to include a mention of what’s happening with her after what happened to Jones in chapter one. You can go back and reread it if you like. On with the story!
Rue pushed open the white door and stepped inside.
The walls. Roof. Floor.
Even the effin’ bed was white.
Could well drive a person insane.
Her eyes focused on the pillows on the bed and was relieved to see the face wasn’t pale.
He has regained some colour. Thankfully. Couldn’t stand any more pale or white stuff.
His eyes cracked open – the skin around his eyes were pale red, the blue veins prominent – and he seemed to flinch. Then recognition flared in his eyes and he relaxed – slightly.
“Y-you,” he rasped.
Rue nodded. “Yes, me. Are you alright?”
He went to nod, but winced in pain. He opted for an oral answer. “Y-yes.”
Rue sat down on a plastic chair by the bed, without waiting for permission. She fully faced him. “Racquel explained what had happened to you. I’m truly sorry,” she began and motioned at the scar she had. “He did this to me.”
Enzo nodded, a mutual understanding passing between them. Both of them, Rue noticed, did not trust the other, but both shared something in common – something that would cause him to answer some more questions Rue had…hopefully, anyway.
“So, Mr Lorenzo-”
“It’s not a nickname?”
“Is ‘Enzo’ your first name or last name?” Rue interrogated.
Huh. Like Racquel said. “Your name is Italian in origin. Where you born in Italy?”
A small shake of the head. Then a gasp of pain. The doctor came into the room and Rue watched as he gave Enzo a shot and his breathing went back to normal and he relaxed. The doctor nodded at her and then left the room, probably to tend to other patients.
“No, but my mother was. I was born and raised on the planet Eshana in the Flavian System. A desert planet with only small seas and lakes – one large land mass. It wasn’t much, but…it was my home. I loved it.”
He had a faraway look in his eyes as he talked about the past. Rue simply sat and listened, even though she already knew what he was going to say. You learn more when you’re not talking was one of the motto’s she tried to live by. She thought she might get more information by talking to him herself.
But he remained silent.
And the silence became unbearable. “What was Ver’thad getting you and the others to do?” she asked. It was the main reason she came. And the question that she was very reluctant to put forth. She knew it would be painful and very hard for him to talk about what he had went through, but it was a question that she needed an answer to. His answer – if he answered at all – might very well hold the answer (or a decent-sized clue, at the very least) to the question of why Ver’thad tried to steal Azren’s data chips, why he was after some energy-pulsing thing called a Polychora, and what the other ‘scares’ with Ver’thad were all about. If not, she figured, I will ask Racquel.
Pain etched his features. Terror. Anger.
“S-sorry. Don’t want to t-talk about-” he broke off into a fit off coughs. “-it.”
Rue restrained a sigh. She understood and nodded, giving him a sympathetic smile. “I understand. That’s fine.” She pushed herself onto her feet. “I’ll leave you alone,” she said quietly as she left the room.
Racquel shut the toilet door as she exited the cubicle and headed towards the room where the others were. Bond had come across her on his way to the cockpit and explained what he was going to do. As she turned a corner, she bumped into somebody.
Rue rubbed her forehead. “You alright, Racquel?”
Funny. I should be asking her that. “Yes,” she half-chuckled. “I’m fine.”
Rue let out a sigh. “Good. Because there’s something that I need to ask you and I need you to be One. Hundred. Percent. HONEST. With. Me. Okay?”
Racquel nodded slowly. “Okay…”
Rue looked her square in the eye. “Just what the hell is going on?”
“Roger that, Control. Please confirm that the tugboats will be arriving in an hour?”
“Yes, they will be arriving in an hour along with a fleet of small transport ships to take you all to Photoria.”
“Roger that. Thanks, Control. Over and out,” and Bond ended the call. Someone tapped his shoulder. He glanced up. “Oh, hey Rue.”
“G’day. Need a co-pilot?”
He shrugged. “No…but you’re quite welcome to join me,” he replied. Rue muttered an ‘Thank you’ and sat down in the co-pilot’s seat, fastened on a radio headset, and took hold of the yoke infront of her.
“What did Photoria say?” she asked.
“They’re sending out a fleet of small transport ships to transport us to Photoria safely while they use their tugboats to pull this ship in.” The tugboats were space versions of…well, tugboats. “They’ll arrive in an hour, but they told me to keep piloting the ship closer to the planet, anyway, to make the distance shorter as the tugboats engines start to become inoperable if they are too far from Photoria.” She nodded and for a while the only sound that could be heard was the beeping of the controls as they steered it towards their destination.
“I talked to Racquel,” Rue announced.
His ear’s perked up. “Oh, yeah? What she say?”
“That this is some kind of ‘test’.”
Bond frowned. “What does that mean?”
Rue shrugged. “I don’t know. She isn’t allowed to tell us anymore than that.”
“Oh. So she’s under an oath of silence?”
Rue nodded. “Yep. Says we’ll know more when we arrive in Tarlyle. Sucks, actually.”
“Yeah,” Bond sighed. “What about that guy? He churn out anything important?”
Rue shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it. He says that his name is ‘just Enzo’; mother’s Italian, but he was born and raised on some desert planet called Eshana in the Flavian System…before Ver’thad attacked it and took everyone who was strong enough to be his slaves. Enzo’s the only one that’s still alive.”
“That’s horrible. What…what happened to the people who weren’t strong enough to be slaves?”
Rue shrugged again. “I presume he killed them all,” she replied, sadness creeping into her voice. “I asked him what Ver’thad was getting him and the others to do, in case it held a clue to what’s going on with Ver’thad, but no dice.”
“Doesn’t he want to talk about it?” Rue shook her head. “Understandable. It must have been a very painful experience for him. Give him time.”
“So, I then went to Racquel, and we both know how that turned out. Still in the dark,” she continued, the last four words she said quietly, as if she was talking to herself.
So true. We’re just going to have to wait until we arrive at Tarlyle…if we can stand the wait that long.
PHOTORIA’S SPACE PORT
A while later…
Rue exited the transport ship and looked around. The space port was bustling and noisy – due to all the reporters, cameras, and regular what-have-you that were trying to rush over and get them on the air for the fifteen-seconds-of-fame. We’re not saying a bloody word, Rue thought as she turned around – away from the cameras that were already snapping photos – and watched as Bond, Racquel, and the ever-sassy Britchy exited the ship along with all the other passengers.
The roar of the engines of the other transport ships filled the space port as they landed and the rest of the passengers began disembarking, thankfully protecting them from the media horde – for now, anyway.
“Well, I’m off,” Britchy announced.
Rue’s ears perked up. “Oh? Where are you going?”
“To finish my vacation. I’m not about to let some minor explosion get in the way of me having fun. Me grandies will not allow it.”
“Oh. Hope you have fun.” And I’m gonna’ miss you.
“Have a safe trip,” Bond said as he shook her hand. “You’re a gem. I’ll definitely look at your shows.”
“It’s your funeral,” Britchy said.
“Be careful with the war path,” Racquel said and jerked her head towards the hordes of media.
“They won’t handle me,” Britchy promised, with a mock salute. Rue smiled.
“Hope we see you again,” Rue said.
“Oh, don’t worry. You will.” Before she could ask Britchy what exactly she meant, she had picked up her luggage and disappeared into the crowd.
Rue scratched her head and turned to the others. “Well, I guess we better find some other transportation to-”
Huh? Rue turned and saw that behind her was a dark-skinned man and woman in sharp black suits, dark-tinted glasses and communication devices on their ears. Looking at the others she saw that there were quite a few others in the same attire standing around, diverting the crowd away. A man with grey hair approached Racquel. He flashed some ID and Racquel relaxed. “Hello, Gerald,” she greeted.
“What’s this? The FBI?” Bond asked.
“No, sir. We are your protection detail instructed to escort you safely to your destination,” Gerald responded, his voice professional and void of any emotion.
Racquel nodded at Bond and Rue, in an attempt to reassure them. But it actually did the complete opposite. “Yes.” She then lowered her voice. “In light of very recent events, I contacted them, asking them to take us to Tarlyle as quickly – and safely – as possible.”
Why didn’t she tell us?
Rue went to voice that question out loud, but Gerald, with military precision, turned around on his heel at that moment and motioned for them to follow him and his subordinates. Bond and Rue looked at each other and then followed Racquel, Gerald, and the others.
One good thing about this, Rue reflected as they walked through the airport, we now don’t have to worry about the media. I hope Britchy made it through without any hassle. Then again, she didn’t have to worry. This is Britchy I’m thinking about.
They went through customs without being stopped. The people-in-black flashed their badges and they were all allowed through. Rue and Bond were led away from any of the gates and taken to a launching pad where a sleek back USS Challenger was waiting for them.
Rue nearly stopped in her tracks to admire the ship. The USS Challenger was of the Ne’Flav Daeli-class courier type – reserved only for the richest of the rich. It had a side-mounted Neo-Laser turrets, Discharge Plasma guns, Valkyrie Fusion Electron Equalizers, Light Ray Cannon, and Eclipse Fusion Blasters along with energy shields that made it virtually impregnable and safe.
She ran her palm along it’s hull. Smooth and cold. Flawless. It’s engines went faster than the speed of light – light traveled at the speed of 299,792 kilometers per second!!! – and Tarlyle was 166.1 million kilometres away. So, it would take this baby only…9.2 minutes to reach Tarlyle. If you round off all the decimal points.
“Impressive, isn’t it?”
Rue turned and saw one of Gerald’s subordinates – a brown-haired woman – was watching her admire the spacecraft. Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Bond was gawking at it. She turned back to the woman and nodded. “Yes, it is. We’ll experience some serious G’s, though, won’t we?”
To her surprise, the woman laughed. “No, no! This ride has been designed so that you don’t feel a thing. Just one smooth, comfortable – and quick – ride,” she assured Rue and Bond.
“Wow,” Bond whistled.
The woman then ushered both of them onto the ship and instructed them to sit down and buckle up. She then stood rigid-straight against a wall nearby, her face instantly transforming into a cold stone mask. Rue then noticed Racquel was sitting in a chair further down the cabin, looking over some papers.
“This is your captain speaking. We are about to take-off.”
SPACE PORT, PLANET TARLYLE
A little bit later…
They were ushered out of the space port very quickly upon arrival and taken into a limousine. Becoming seated, Rue saw a stack of magazines on a seat nearby and decided to browse through them. Picking one up, she saw it was a celebrity magazine and put it down. She couldn’t read at that point – her mind was in a turmoil.
“So, where are we going?” she enquired casually, talking to nobody in particular.
Racquel glanced at their protection detail, then turned to her and Bond. “We’re in Blackridgepool,” was all she said. Rue searched her memory, pretending to ignore the fact that her question wasn’t answered. Blackridgepool was the capitol city of the planet Tarlyle. Filled with skyscrapers, one of the most heavily populated cities on Tarlyle and home to Tarlyle’s Prime Minister, it was also nicknamed ‘The City of Eternal Light’ by many others due to the fact that it was filled with light practically all the time as Tarlyle rotated very, very slowly in it’s orbit, resulting in prolonged sunlight shining on the city.
They finished the rest of the drive in silence – and Rue and Bond kept looking out the windows, searching for any clue as to where they were headed.
There wasn’t any.
Rue noticed there was some sort of festival going on. She noticed a banner that said something about the Prime Minister. She saw a photo of the Prime Minister on a magazine pocking out from the bottom of the pile of magazines and pulled it out.
On the front cover was a photo of the Prime Minister standing on a platform infront of a crowd. The title caused her raise her eyebrow.
WAR HAS BEEN DECLARED!!!
“Not bother reading that,” Bond whispered in her ear. “The usual political what-have-you.”
“Thanks,” Rue said and put the magazine down. She then noticed Racquel was peering out of one of the windows. “What is it?”
She turned to them with a smile. “We’ve arrived.”
Before any of them could say ‘Where have we arrived?’ the car pulled up alongside a curb. “Let’s go,” Gerald said and opened the door for them to climb out.
Once they were out, Rue took a stock of their surroundings. What are we doing at the Parliament?
The place was pretty impressive, he had to admit that. But as Bond followed Gerald and Racquel through the Parliament building, he couldn’t help but replay in his mind all those spy, chase thrillers that he really loved. What sort of conspiracy have we landed into now? Racquel seems pretty calm and collected about all of this.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” Rue muttered out of the side of her mouth to him.
He could only shrug. Wish I knew.
“Am I the only one whose thinking about Olympus Has Fallen and similar style thrillers here?” she continued.
“Same here,” he whispered back. “Although, I was thinking more along the lines of James Bond.”
“Or the Jack Ryan movies.”
Then he noticed that they had stopped infront of two golden double doors and watched as Gerald pressed his thumb to a plate and his eyes to a retina scanner. There was a beep! and the doors slid open and they were all waved inside.
Stepping inside, Bond saw Prime Minister Merv Mooney sitting a brown leather chair behind a desk. Tarlyle’s national flag hung from the wall behind him. Large French windows allowed sunlight to filter into the office, but this time, the curtains were drawn. Like he doesn’t want anyone to witness this, Bond thought.
Gerald went over to the Prime Minister and whispered something in his ear. The Prime Minister nodded, all the while keeping his eyes on them, studying them intently. Bond saw out of the corner of his eye, Rue’s fingers were twitching nervously. Gerald then pulled away and stood in a corner of the room. Two of his subordinates – one of which was the woman he saw Rue talking to earlier about the USS Challenger – stood in two other corners. He tried to ignore the fact that they had drawn their guns and were holding them infront of them, ready to be used.
“Please sit down,” Mooney instructed, motioning towards three red plush seats directly opposite him. His voice was deep and firm. There would be no arguing with this man, Bond noted. Bond sat down warily, along with Rue. Racquel seemed quite relaxed, but Bond noticed there was tension in her posture.
Mooney then pressed a button on his phone. “Mira, please connect us to the hospital.”
“Yes, Mr Prime Minister,” an older voice acknowledged. Suddenly a rectangular holo-screen flickered to life right between them and the Prime Minister. Bond could see that it was a two-way screen – the Prime Minister would be able to watch what was on the screen easily as if it was directly facing him and not them, and vice versa.
He heard Rue gasp when she saw what – or, as Bond realized, who – was on the screen.
IVs, and other medical equipment snaked out of him as he sat up in a white bed. Doctors and nurses bustled around him and then they seemed to receive instructions from somebody off-screen, as they all suddenly left the room.
Bond was surprised, to say the least, at who he was looking at.
What’s going on here?
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