Sorry this is a little late! It’s been a while since I’ve given you guys one of these (about two months I think), so here is chapter 4 FINALLY. Click the following links for the prologue, chapter 1, chapter 2, and chapter 3!
Disclaimer: these chapters have not yet been professionally edited so there will most definitely be mistakes that I didn’t catch. Also this series contains violence, moderately strong language, and a touch of gore. Reader discretion is advised.
After five days of order intensive soldier training—curtesy of Lucas Cain—Kira and Artemis were nearly ready to infiltrate the N.E.S. Bengal. They had both been taught how to salute properly, how to reply to a superior officer, as well as how to address people who ranked lower than them. They’d been through Obstacle courses designed by Cain to simulate military training and it was no surprise to anyone that they both passed the physical assessments with flying colors. It was true that Artemis was more physically inclined than she was, but she was still much more skilled at combat than most people her age. Regardless, she was expecting to be underestimated, thus she’d worked twice as hard as Artemis to see to it that she was at least on par with him.
Thanks to Artemis’s vast knowledge of multiple martial arts, he was able to flip and spin his way through Cain’s difficult laser trials, while Kira had to run and dodge to keep herself from getting burned by the beams. There were a few times that she’d been tempted to just shoot the laser projectors and be done with them; however, she refrained knowing that sort of exercise was good practice for beating more complex security systems that were ‘un-hackable’—although she had yet to meet a system that she couldn’t hack into.
Kira liked Cain. Yes, he was strict and at times difficult to get along with because of his severe personality, but he was very good at getting she and Artemis to give it their all in every task he had them do. It was hard work, but Kira felt as if she had learned a lot about how to be a convincing Tora Corp solider—she only hoped the Tora Corp staff would feel the same.
Another day of training had finally concluded and Kira and Artemis sat in the middle of the bunker’s vacant training grounds—a large empty section of the base that Cain had used to project his laser obstacle courses. Cain had since ended the projections and was in the midst of packing up his state of the art lightdrives and other modern tech which Kira envied. With a simple flick and swipe of his fingers, Cain opened up a translucent light screen in front of him, typing in a few things.
“I thought only data chips could support lightbeam interfaces,” Kira said as she watched him.
Cain paused in his type to point to the onyx band on his finger. “You’re not the only one with tech accessories, Ms. Chevalier. Unfortunately we at the Timber Organization must occasionally turn to empire technology to keep us ‘in the game’ as it were, but we make their tech our own. We try to keep up with our own ingenuity, but empire tech is advancing too quickly, even for our genius engineers and technicians. It’s strange really—the leaps the empire has taken with technology is almost supernatural…”
“What? You think ghosts and vampires are helping them out or something?” Artemis asked with a snort of a laugh.
Cain raised a brow at Artemis. “I don’t know what a vampire is, but no, I don’t think it has anything to do with people’s residual energy. The term ‘ghost’ is so archaic I couldn’t even remember what it was you were talking about for a moment,” he said before returning his attention to his light screen. “In any case, the sixth dimension plane has been barred off to the living for almost four centuries now, therefore, I don’t believe ‘ghosts’, as you call them, are the culprits here. Tora Corporation tech is advancing almost as quickly as empire tech—I want you two to find out why.”
Kira and Artemis discreetly glanced to one another, both looking reluctant to the idea. “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, Artemis and I are only going to the Bengal to steal a sample of Tora Corp’s new MCTA prototype. We’re thieves, not spies,” Kira said.
Artemis nodded, Hopping to his feet and stretching his arms out high above his head. “She’s right. We just wanna get in and get out.”
Cain frowned and swiped his light screen away, closing it out. “I thought there might be a bit of resistance from the two of you. So, I’m prepared to make you a deal. If you find out how Tora Corp’s technology is advancing so rapidly, the Timber Organization will donate all new tech to this bunker. You and I both know Noire is in desperate need of new equipment and so are you. Deliver to me the information that I require and the tech is yours—no strings attached.”
Artemis smirked, crossing his arms over his chest. “You’re gonna update this whole bunker just for some info? Man, you wolves must really be hard up.”
“It’s not every day that we get the opportunity to infiltrate a high-security facility,” Cain said, clasping his hands behind his back. “Even with the tech and means, most of our operatives have been reluctant to agree to precarious mission such as the one you are undertaking.”
Kira scoffed and shut her eyes, slowly shaking her head. “So, basically, you’re trying to capitalize on our stupidity?”
“Those aren’t exactly the words I’d choose, but, in a sense, yes,” Cain replied.
“Well, at least he’s upfront about it,” Artemis said with a shrug.
“If Mr. Noire believes you can successfully achieve what you intend to do, I have absolutely no reason to doubt you,” Cain said, cracking the smallest of smiles. “He’s a tough critic.”
“Yeah he is,” Artemis muttered sourly.
Cain picked up his stainless steel briefcase, typing in a code on the touchscreen lock. “Well, Mr. Flynn, Ms. Chevalier, I believe we’re done for today. I’ll see myself out.”
Kira got to her feet and shook Cain’s hand. “Thank you for all your help, Mr. Cain. Artemis and I really appreciate it.”
Cain nodded. “Anything for protégés of the Panther. I’ll see the two of you bright and early tomorrow morning.”
“Can ‘early’ be like ten-thirty?” Artemis asked, smiling hopefully.
“Nice try, Mr. Flynn. I’ll see you at six,” Cain said as he strode out of the white warehouse-looking room, leaving Artemis and Kira to stand there alone.
Kira took a deep breath. “Two days.”
Artemis nodded. “Two days.”
“I’m almost finished with your holowatch,” Kira said, waving to him and strolling to the exit. “I’ll drop it off at your room tonight after I’m done with it.”
Artemis was silent for a moment before jogging after her. “Hey wait.”
She stopped and turned around to face him. “Yeah?”
“You’re not freaking out are you?”
She shrugged. No she wasn’t freaking out, but she wasn’t confident about this plan either. But now wasn’t the time for those sorts of admissions. She offered him a weak smile. “Of course not. I’m fine.”
“Good. Me too,” he said, patting her arm. “We’ve got this in the bag, K.” He then brushed past her, whistling one of his favorite rock and roll tune as he too left the training arena.
Artemis ran a hand through her hair, grasping him for a moment before letting her hand fall back down to her side. I hope things go as smoothly as he thinks they’re going to go…
Kira finished Artemis’s holowatch that evening and brought it to him. It took quite a while, but she was eventually able to teach him how to use his new gadget. “Are you sure you’ve got the hang of it?” she asked, watching him tap random options on his holoscreen. “If you need me to go over it again—”
“I got it, I got it! Chill out, will you?” Artemis said as he swiped his finger down and lowered the holoprojection. “So you loaded up those files that Noire put together for our cover IDs?”
“Yes,” Kira said, handing him their modified ear coms. “I also modified our coms so to include Noire’s language translating microbugs. As long as we have our coms in our ears we’ll be able to understand what people speaking other languages are say, as well as communicate in the appropriate languages.”
“Awesome. But aren’t they gonna check for outside tech?” Artemis asked.
“Yes, but Noire coded our files to include medical history. We have a few ‘AI implants’, so they shouldn’t question our coms or holowatches,” Kira replied, taking a seat beside Artemis on his bed and sticking her com in her ear. “I’ve programed our holowatches to communicate with our coms so anything we hear, the micro drives in our watches will record.”
“How about what we see?”
“No go. We’re out of eye-lens recorders.”
“You think they’ve got some up on Bengal?”
Kira pulled her legs up onto the bed and crossed them beneath her. “You never know. Maybe they’ve got something better than eye-lens recorders up there.”
Artemis set his elbow on his leg and leaned his cheek against his fist. “Looks like you’ve got it all figured out then. Noire told me that our bot tailor’s finished with our uniforms. It took nearly ten minutes to finish them—that thing’s getting old…”
Kira hung her head, her shoulders falling forward. “We had a newer one.”
“I know,” he grumbled. “Do you … wanna talk about him or something?”
“Are you sure?”
Artemis groaned and threw her hands up in the air. “Elliot’s gone and he stole all of our best equipment! What more is there to say, Artemis?”
He pursed his lips nodding slowly. “So… Were you and him ever—”
“You two just seemed so—”
“Really? Cause it kinda felt like—”
“We were friends, Artemis,” Kira snapped. “That was bad enough, alright? I should have seen it in him—that darkness.”
“It’s not your fault, and no one blames you for what he did,” Artemis said, his tone gentler than it usually was. “It’s been three years, Kira—you should be able to talk about this by now. He screwed us all over, not just you.”
“He was a part of the only family I’ve ever known. I can’t just forget that.”
“You don’t have to forget it, you just have to remember that me and Noire are your family too,” Artemis said, staring at her intently. “Elliot’s a dick, alright? Can’t you just, I dunno, try to move on?”
She could feel the anger bubbling within in her chest as the memories of her former comrade and friend flooded back to her. Artemis was right. It had been three years—she should have gotten over it by now. But the fury she felt each time Elliot’s name was brought up never went away.
Her hands tightened into fists, her nails biting into the palms of her hands. “Noire and I knew him for twelve years and you knew him ten—I just don’t get how someone could betray people who they’ve known for so long,” Kira whispered.
Artemis cautiously placed his hand on her back. “We don’t need him, Kira. We’re gonna get that MCTA and find out how Tora’s coming up with their tech and then this place is getting a major overhaul. And, you know what?”
“Elliot broke rule number one of the code,” Artemis said. He straightened up and cleared his throat before reciting in Noire’s accent, “Only steal from those who can live without it. Is someone who can’t even follow that simple rule worth mourning over? It’s like Noire says: holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die—or some crap like that. It’s just not worth it to be mad at him anymore. He’s gone, he’s never coming back, and we’re probably never gonna have to see his stupid, smug face again. So, screw Elliot! We’ve got more important shit to deal with.”
Kira breathed in deeply and lifted her head again. “Yeah, you’re right. It just—it makes me so angry every time I think about what he did. I don’t know how to let that go. I want to, but I can’t. I dream about kicking his ass at least once a week and it’s so … satisfying. But that satisfaction is gone as soon as I wake up and realize that I didn’t really hurt him and he got away scot-free. And I can’t stand that he’s out there with our tech, probably living the high life in some fancy loft, while we—the terrible two—”
“Damn, that name sucks so hard…”
“—are stuck in an endless cycle of attempted robberies, getting caught by Figment, and jail time—lather, rinse, repeat,” Kira said through gritted teeth. “I swear if I ever see him again, I’ll—”
“You’ll what, Kira? Kill him?” Artemis asked. “What is it with your ‘gun go boom, solve all problems’ attitude? Killing him is not gonna get our stuff back.”
“Uh, yes it will, Artemis,” she said. “After he’s gone we can just steal it all back. He’ll be dead, it’s not like he’s going care.”
“Killing him is not gonna make you feel any better.”
“I beg to differ.”
Artemis fell back on the bed staring up at the poster laden canvas ceiling above. “We’re not gonna need the shitty tech he stole from us once we get that info that Cain wants. Just let it go—let him go. You think he’s sitting around in his fancy loft thinking about us? Hell no! So why should we waste our time thinking about him?”
Kira glanced back at him. “Why did you even bring this subject up?”
“Because I don’t want it to be an issue on this job. I need you to focus on that MCTA.”
Kira clenched her jaw. “Elliot is going to be the last thing on my mind when I’m up there.”
“Good. That’s all I needed to hear.”
Kira, tiring of the conversation, stood up from the bed and went to the door. “I’m going to sleep, you should too. Don’t stay up all night listening to that noise you call music.”
“It’s called ‘classic rock’,” Artemis said rather haughtily. “Jeez, download a music history book, will you? Get cultured.”
She refrained from rolling her eyes as the door slid open for her. “Night, Artemis.”
“See ya on the flip side, K.”
Kira strolled down an aisle of whirring and beeping machines as she made her way back to her room. She had lied when she told Artemis that Elliot would be the last thing on her mind. Elliot was going to be the very first thing on her mind. She was going to keep him in the forefront of her thoughts to motivate her. She was going to prove to him that they didn’t need him and that they were doing just fine without him.
She suddenly paused, hearing voices from just up ahead. Is that Noire and Cain? I thought Cain left for the day, she thought, slowing her gait and tiptoeing forward so as not to alert them of her presence. She peered around the side of a machine that controlled the bunker’s emergency laser barriers and saw Noire and Cain standing in a small nook-like space with a few chairs and a small table.
“How long until you’ve got the memento viewer up and running?” Noire asked.
“Six months at the very least,” Cain replied pouring an amber-colored liquid from the automatic kettle and into a glass cup.
She thought she recalled Noire refereeing to the drink as ‘tea’, but she had never had any. Tea was scarce along with any other food item that wasn’t processed into tablets, which is why Noire saved most of his rare things for special occasions.
“Why so long?” Noire asked, taking a seat in one of the chairs.
“Light spheres are hard to come by,” Cain said before taking a sip out of his cup. “The empire regulates them quite strictly, as I’m sure you know. Most of my black market connections refuse to sell them, and the ones who will sell them rarely have them in stock. I’m having my best engineers build a substitute; however, until we have a suitable replacement, the memento viewer will remain inoperable.”
A memento viewer? Kira thought. Why would the Timber Organization need one of those? That’s really old tech.
“Have you considered giving the memento back to her?” Noire asked. “Perhaps there’s a way to return it to her mind.”
“If there was, I would have done it already,” Cain said, sighing softly. “The technology is temperamental. When the empire tested their memento replacement process, all of their subjects died. I would never risk that with Kira.”
Kira’s eyes widen. They were talking about her? If that was true then it would certainly explain why she couldn’t remember anything before the age of five. Had they wiped her memory, and, if they had, what for?
After Noire said nothing in response, Cain went on. “Perhaps we needn’t worry ourselves over this as much now that Braith is dead. Demetrius is proving himself to be a fair and just emperor. Besides, there’s no certainty that the information the memento holds pertains to anyone other than a dead man anyway.”
Noire’s expression hardened. “Don’t you start with that nonsense too, Lucas. The empire—in any form—is more harmful to our society than helpful. Demetrius may be a ‘kind and just’ ruler, as you say, but he is still oppressing his people. Perhaps he doesn’t oppress as overtly as his father, but he has yet to repeal the law that states that all citizens of the Northwest Empire must be chipped by the age of five—that’s not freedom. Things haven’t changed.”
“The boy has only been emperor for two years,” Cain reasoned. “He can’t fix everything his father ruined in such a short period of time.”
Noire scowled, tapping his fingers impatiently on the arm of his chair. “You’re going soft, Cain. Demetrius is a poison to our world, just like his father—perhaps a better tasting poison, but a poison nonetheless.”
Cain finished his tea and set the cup down on the glass table beside Noire’s chair. “Since you feel so strongly about it, Adair, I’ll have my organization continue to search for a way to repair the memento.”
“A wise decision,” Noire said. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your organization, but I truly believe it’s unwise not to find out what’s on Kira’s memento. The Empire attempted to hunt her down for the information she possessed—it must be important.”
“I suppose we’ll find out soon enough,” Cain said as he picked up his briefcase. “Tomorrow I’ll continue with Kira and Artemis’s training.”
“Do you think they’re ready?”
Cain paused, looking back over his shoulder at Noire. “As ready as they can be given the time constraint. Once they’re on the Bengal, they’re going to be on their own. Keep communication with them to a minimum—the less you speak with them, the lower their chances are of getting caught.”
Noire furrowed his brow, nodding slowly. “I understand.”
Cain straightened out his neatly pressed suit jacket and strolled away. “As long as they keep their heads down, they’ll be just fine. Despite what you may think, you’ve taught them well, Mr. Noire.”
Noire said nothing more as Cain got further and further way, his footsteps fading and the sound of the entrance hatch opening and closing behind him.
Kira pressed herself to the box-like machine she was listening from and tilted her head back to the domed bunker ceiling far above. The empire was chasing after her when she was a child? What information could she—a kid at the time—have possibly possessed that was so important to them? It didn’t make any sense. But she did know one thing for certain: she had to find out what was on that extracted memento. Not for the empire’s sake, but for her own sake. That was a stolen piece of her life and she wanted it back.
Noire had kept something vital from her for sixteen years and she was going to find out what it was even if he didn’t want her too. She had gone along with what he said for long enough—it was time to find out about her past, and her family, and who she really was. It was time she got the answers she deserved. Well, look at the bright side, she thought, despite the sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach. At least I’m not thinking about killing Elliot anymore.
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