Everybody's Got Something to Hide
Lovelace was sitting at the flight console of the Starcrossed. Wolf entered the cabin and pulled his helmet off.
“That’s my seat,” he said.
“Really?” Lovelace replied and continued flying.
“That means get up.”
“Sure,” she remained seated, “You know where your daughter is? By all means, fly us there.”
Lovelace felt the barrel of a blaster pressed against the back of her head.
“Tell me where my daughter is,” Luna said.
“No,” she replied and heard the blaster power up, “Would you relax? That’s where we’re going. There’s just one thing I need to take care of first.”
She laid her hands on the console and phased into it. She re-appeared out of the navigation console behind Wolf and Luna.
“But first the blindfolds,” Lovelace drew a bulbous gun with a wide barrel and fired at them. They dropped to the deck like two ragdolls, “So to speak.”
Luna’s eyes fluttered open. She could see two blurry figures standing over her, looking down, at either side of her. She reached for her gun and pointed it at them, wavering.
“Cool off, Barbarella,” one female figure said.
Luna clawed at the figure what spoke and gripped onto her lapel and pulled her down toward her, jamming the gun into the blur’s temple.
“I thought you guys were friends,” the other figure said.
“We parted on good terms. I guess the rescue slash kidnapping isn’t sitting well.”
Luna squinted, “I know your voice.”
“How could you forget it?”
As the blur resolved into the form of Cheryl Ellers, Luna tightened her grip and drove the gun harder into her temple.
“Take me to my daughter or I swear I’ll blow your head off.”
“Go ahead,” Cheryl said, “I got a million of ‘em. As far as Holly goes, just turn your head.”
She turned her head to the right and saw a door. Wolf emerged crunching on a sandwich he had constructed out of ham, cheese, and tortilla chips.
“‘Eh, ‘on,” he said munching on a prodigious mouthful.
“You’re in no condition to see that,” Cheryl said and pushed Luna’s head to the left. Luna saw Holly standing over by a workbench, tapping on a tablet.
“Hi, mom,” she said, “You can take the gun off Miss Eller’s…”
Cheryl gave a dramatic throat clearing.
“...Cheryl’s head. I’m fine. You’re fine. Dad’s fine, We’re all fine.”
Luna holstered her gun and hopped off the table. She ran to Holly and they embraced.
“Is there a mark there?” Cheryl asked Lovelace, pointing to her temple.
“There’s like a dent,” Lovelace said.
“I’ll be right back,” Cheryl’s eyes went dead and she dropped to the floor. Moments later she reemerged, primping her sleeves, “Has Mama Bear cooled her jets?”
Luna aimed her gun at Cheryl.
“Jesus, Jones, would you get off it?” Cheryl snapped.
“She’s always a little cranky after waking up from a good stunning,” Wolf said, sucking mustard off his thumb.
Luna re-aimed at Wolf.
“Go nuts, girl,” Lovelace said.
Luna swung her gun to Lovelace.
“Relax,” Cheryl said, “Lovelace is on your side.”
“Um, excuse me?” Lovelace said.
“If she wasn’t Holly would be in Englebert’s fat, little mitts or worse.”
“Go eat, mom,” Holly said, “You know what stun guns do to your blood sugar.”
“There’s plenty in the larder,” Cheryl said, “It’s all yours. Lovelace and I don’t eat.”
“C’mon, there’s tons of shit in there,” Wolf said holding his hand out.
“Are you sure you left anything?” Lovelace said.
Ray was at his desk, his head in his hands, elbows on the table, eyes tired, as he watched a hologram of a blonde woman, dressed flashier than one should be to rob a high security, data center. The image flicked to one of Lovelace extracting the Joneses. Then flickered to a display of the Starcrossed exploding 15 GIA agents, from three different angles. He rolled his eyes up toward the grunt standing beside his desk.
“First I’d like to know why Data Security engaged on Intelligence,” Ray said.
“Sir, their data feeds were hacked. The received a false communique warning of raiders masquerading as GIA operatives,” the grunt replied, “The source of the signal is still unknown as we were unable to track it, sir.”
“Have you been able to identify the human female working with Lovelace?”
“Sir, not as such, sir.”
“You’re in Intelligence now, corporal, you can drop the ‘sir,’”
“There’s scuttlebutt spreading among the personnel, that the human female is CE127.”
“CE127 is a fairy tale. That’s the Galactic Administration's official stance. Work on getting me an ID. As for the Joneses, my position hasn’t changed. They are to be recovered alive. Understood?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“Dismissed and cut out the ‘sir’ stuff.”
The corporal departed and closed the door behind him. Ray opened the bottom drawer of his desk and removed a cut crystal decanter ¾ full of a sparkling, golden liquid. He laid out a glass and splashed some Ichor into it. He watched the hologram again and took a swig.
“C’mon, guys,” he groaned as we watched the Joneses disappear with Lovelace. The hologram flipped to the human female charging the GAI agents and opening fire. Three fell before she was gunned down, “What’s your deal Eller’s? What’s in there that you’re looking for?”
“Why were you breaking into a GA data facility?” Luna asked Cheryl.
“Because I want what’s inside,” she replied.
“The way I see it, there’s no such thing as secret information. Just information that powerful people don’t want you to see.”
“I’m one of those secrets. Holly is one of those secrets.”
“How’s life been treating you?”
“You’re existing. It’s brutal existence too. Do you enjoy killing for your supper?”
“I don’t kill unless it’s necessary.”
“That’s a pretty subjective criterion. Not judging, you saw me, but if you didn’t ever need to again.”
“It would be nice. How do propose to pull that off? Especially, now. After what Lovelace pulled, I doubt even Ray is our corner anymore.”
“Was he ever? I mean, forcing you into hiding and keeping your daughter in a box?”
“He didn’t force us, we had no other choice.”
“Robbing people of their choices is force.”
“You think he robbed us of choice? We agreed to the project.”
“I suppose he didn’t strong arm you, but that procedure should have never been a thing. He was pretty reckless with your lives.”
“We knew what we were getting into. He told us the risks.”
“Fair enough, but as soon as shit went haywire he swept you under the carpet. And don’t think that you’re the only secret the GA is keeping that’s making lives miserable.”
“And exposing the secrets is going to make it all better?” Luna asked.
“It’s more strategic than that. I’m not a loose cannon. I’m not…” Cheryl looked over at Wolf, who was making a pencil sketch that looked like a low budget Frazetta on the top of the canteen table.
Luna shook her head, “Okay, but what about Lovelace?”
“She’s fine. She just had a bad spell.”
“She was one of Yalda’s flunkies.”
“Sounds like a pretty bad spell, huh?”
“I guess. You trust her?”
Cheryl nodded, “She’s a bit wild, but not ambitious, she just wants a partner. As long as she has that she’s down for anything.”
“Even Yalda’s psychotic whims.”
“Down for anything. She just needs the right people around her that don’t ask her to do psycho shit. She was broken up and adrift after Yalda went down like she lost a family. Getting into mostly petty mischief. I reached out to her and here we are.”
“Where are we anyway?” Luna waved her hands around.
“Far away and safe.”
Engelbert’s mechanical spider legs clanked along the deck of the bridge of his ship. His head swung from side to side dangling from the end of its crane.
“Has Lovelace taken Joneses to CE127?” he barked and spit drool in arcs off his overhanging bottom lip.
“Yes, sir,” a Zeta Reticulan said, sitting at the end of a long bank of blinking controls, “The beacon we planted on the Joneses has come online.”
“As I calculated. Chart our course for CE127.”