Sorry for the delay.
Previous installments in Winter Kill:
Previous installments in The Azren Chronicles:
Want to browse through my other stories? Go to this post where there is a comprehensive list of them. Feel free to look through them at your leisure.
On with the story!
“E-enzo?” Bond choked out.
Enzo gave them a dim smile. “Was visited by a protection detail and ordered to do this video conference. D-don’t know why, though,” he replied.
Bond noticed that Enzo’s face went as hard as stone and his breathing quickened. “And you want any information that I can offer?” he snapped, quickly pulling himself together. Mooney nodded. “It would be more helpful if I knew exactly what information you wanted,” Enzo added.
Bond noticed out of the corner of his eye that Rue sat up a little bit straighter. He focused on Mooney, who was smart enough not to allow any reaction or hint appear on his face…except for his lips being tightly pressed together, almost imperceptibly.
“Very well,” Mooney agreed. “We want to know what Ver’thad had you do.”
Enzo was silent for a little while, his eyes boring into Mooney. Bond sensed he was studying Mooney, weighing what he said and whether or not he should say anything or not.
“Okay,” Enzo said slowly as he let out a sigh at the same time. “Here’s what happened…”
Bond stroked his chin as Mooney clicked off the video call. Mooney leaned his hands against his desk and he faced Racquel. “Well, that confirms everything,” he said.
Racquel nodded. “Yes, it does. What do we do?”
“What are you two talking about?” Rue demanded. “Explanation. Now.”
Racquel raised her eyebrow. “You can’t talk like that to the Prime Minister.”
“Who gives a damn?” Bond snapped, coming to Rue’s defense. “We deserve to know.”
Mooney and Racquel looked at each other and Mooney nodded. “Yeah,” the Prime Minister agreed. “It’s time.”
“Enzo has confirmed a suspicion we’ve been having for a while,” Racquel began.
“What suspicion? Enzo said that Ver’thad was getting him to store parts – nothing out of the ordinary,” Bond pointed out.
Racquel glanced over at the Prime Minister and then back at him. “Those ‘normal’ parts that Ver’thad had Enzo store and catalogue for him were all the things that Ver’thad has been stealing,” she continued.
“So that’s the recent scares with Ver’thad,” Rue realized.
Racquel nodded. “Yep. But I don’t think that Ver’thad had him store and catalogue everything as there were also electronics and blueprints for top-secret technology that were still in the baby stages that were stolen as well. And Enzo wouldn’t call that ‘normal.’ ”
“Not to mention the data chips,” Mooney remarked. Bond’s ears perked up.
“Yeah, what were on those data chips?” he enquired.
“List of all of Azren’s politicians and leaders, their residential addresses, and information on Azren’s power grid and stock market,” Racquel replied.
“Wow. Glad that we got it back,” Bond remarked.
“Funny about that,” Rue muttered. Bond turned to her and saw that her eyes were narrowed and she had a frown on her face.
“What do you mean?” Bond enquired.
“Well, that’s pretty important information, right?” Rue began. Everyone nodded. “And Ver’thad had it in the middle of a storage room, with nothing else in it. Straight in plain view. Why would he do that?”
“Maybe he wasn’t expecting anyone to take them,” Racquel offered.
Bond frowned. “No, that’s not like him,” he replied.
“He wanted us to take them,” Rue muttered. Bond realized why just a split second before Rue did. “Because he wanted us to follow a red herring! Racquel, you said you guys have had a suspicion about what he was doing for a while. My guess is, Ver’thad found out about that so stole the data chips and let us take them back to distract us from what he is really doing. To throw us off track.”
“It’s the only explanation for him allowing us to get away with it,” Bond added.
“So, how do we know what’s real and what’s just a red herring?” Mooney questioned.
“We can’t know for certain,” Bond said carefully, “but I think it’s a fairly safe bet to say that all the technological stuff you mentioned that were stolen and the parts that Enzo mentioned are genuine.”
“Okay,” Mooney agreed.
“So what’s the suspicion that you guys had about what Ver’thad’s doing?” Bond questioned.
“That he’s building weapons, possibly a large one like a laser, which seems to be confirmed by what Enzo reported,” Racquel explained. “Which is why we went on that voyage. I was heading over here to discuss what to do with the PM here on behalf of His Majesty King Dritz, and the PM and His Majesty both agreed to quietly spread the rumour that there was going to be a Polychora onboard to test our theory about the giant laser.”
“But there wasn’t, was there?” Rue asked.
Racquel shook her head. “We didn’t anticipate all the people that would get injured. We didn’t even know if he would show up.”
“You did what you had to do, I guess,” Bond replied. “So, what’s a Polychora?”
“It’s a connected and closed figure, composed of lower-dimensional polytopal elements: vertices, edges, faces – which are also called polygons – and cells – or polyhedra,” Racquel explained. Mooney saw Rue’s and Bond’s blank expressions.
“This is the regular Polychora,” Mooney said and he brought up a holographic display.
“But here is the Polychora that we pretended was on the transport ship,” and Mooney brought up another holo-image.
“It’s a HUGE unit of energy. Infinite energy. Lasers nowadays are solar powered. This,” and Mooney pointed at the rotating Polychora, “will provide limitless energy, allowing it to be used 24/7.”
“Where is it?” Rue asked.
“On the planet Iota Parada in the Sigma Lumiere System,” Mooney replied. Bond did a quick calculation. The Sigma Lumiere System was the nearest star system to theirs – the Imdali Nebula System. “I’ve just broken a million and one rules by letting you know. But you need to know to help protect it whenever Ver’thad goes after it next.”
Racquel’s phone pinged, indicating a text message. Bond watched as Racquel unlocked her phone, the blue light reflecting on her face. She nearly jumped out of her seat. “What is it?” Mooney questioned.
“We have a lead on them!” Racquel exclaimed.
“Clue us in, please,” Rue demanded.
Racquel had a look of excitement on her face. “When those people boarded our transport ship, before I helped you guys, I secretly took photos of some of them with a tiny skin-coloured camera that I had slapped onto my forehead when the first explosion occurred and afterwards, I downloaded them onto my phone and sent them off to the Universal Protection Agency to find out who they are and keep tabs on them.”
Bond leaned forward. “What’s the lead?”
Racquel tapped her phone’s screen and a holographic image was projected out of her phone. It showed a screen shot of one of the men whom Bond recognized as having been with Winter. “This guy’s name is Sean Stone,” Racquel began. “His parents are of Australian descent and he was part of the Galatic Militia for four years before he was sacked and ended up bouncing around from job to job – banker, clerk, delivery man, repair work. You name it, he’s done it. He and a blonde-haired woman have just checked into a hotel – the Silver Sirius in Crystaldell in…Iota Parada!!!”
“Who’s the woman?” Rue questioned.
“Her,” and a holographic photo replaced the photo of Stone. The photo was taken infront of the Silver Sirius and a man with his arm around a woman was pushing open the revolving doors. The man was Stone and the woman was half turning away from the camera, as if she had been looking over her shoulder. The shot only got half of her face.
Bond’s eyes narrowed. No.
“Who’s that?” he stabbed a finger at the photo.
“They couldn’t identify her,” Racquel replied.
She wouldn’t recognise her as the woman was facing away from her and had red-brown hair, Bond realized. He turned to Rue, who, judging by the look on her face, had also recognized the woman. “It’s her, isn’t it?”
Rue met his eyes and nodded. “Yep. Winter.”
Who had dyed her hair since their previous encounter.
“The woman in the cargo hold,” Bond clarified, seeing Racquel’s blank face. Racquel’s eyes went wide as recognition flared through them and her mouth formed a perfect ‘O’.
“The two of them on Iota Parada,” Rue muttered. “We can guess what their after.”
Mooney nodded. “That’s where the Polychora is. The exact location, I don’t know. Only the general location. We need you two to go undercover to Iota Parada and find out for certain what they are doing. Protect the Polychora at all costs – minus civilians lives,” he ordered. They all stood up and shook his hand. “The USS Challenger will be waiting for you at the space port. And I’ll contact one of our agents to meet you there in Iota Parada.”
Bond and Rue glanced at each other quizzically. Bond turned to the Prime Minister. “Who?”
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