Originally published as a Quiz entry
Author's Note: This story started as just a throw away line out of the Space Odyssey, just a little piece of backstory for flavor. But a few certain someones kept on asking about it, and finally one of them, a certain Bey, finally spurred me into writing it. So, I hope you enjoy it.
Time Note: This occurs approximately 7 months before the events of A Space Odyssey
Disclaimers: Adult content, bad jokes, nudity.
It had seemed so simple. Work the connection through Vonin, set up the meeting with one of Vonin’s suppliers, a Frigelian named Gumar. Then a couple minutes of haggling and she could have delivered the thrice-blasted Nashkel Industries 600 Series Multi-spectral Scanning Array into Nalia’s hot little hands. Sure, Nashkel 600s were military restricted equipment, but that’s why she went to Vonin, he knew how to get his hands on practically anything. And he’d pointed her to Gumar and helped set up the meeting.
She went over the whole thing again and again, looking for where she slipped up. She’d taken the normal precautions when dealing with a new supplier, scouting the terrain, setting up multiple escape routes from the four different meeting sites, doing counter surveillance. Everything had come up as clean as Aerie’s med bay.
There wasn’t even a hitch in the meeting day. They only set the final meeting site a few hours beforehand. She and Valygar had taken the liberated hovertruck to the meeting site and spotted not a single tail. Even a final surveillance check turned up nothing, no electronic snoopers, no lifesigns that shouldn’t have been there. Nothing, not a damnable thing to raise a red flag. To be honest, the opposition, Riasan security, had seemed woefully overmatched and wholly uninterested.
She played the last few minutes of the meeting over again. Gumar had shown up exactly on time, just as promised. The scanner array was neatly tucked away in the back his own truck, everything in perfect order. Most of the gear had never even been removed from its packing material, just lifted straight off some shipyard with the help of an understanding and profit minded Fleet quartermaster. The price negotiations were as expected, neither one pushing too hard, and she’d even managed to knock off a couple hundred credits off the price.
Then the whole thing went to hell.
Literally out of the blue, black suited Riasan security troopers swept down on them. The whole thing had been over in a minute. Gumar’s armed guards had been dropped first, before they could even squeeze off a shot. Then they had turned the stunners on the rest of them, knocking everyone flat and cold. She never had a chance to use her carefully planned escape routes or signal Bran that things had gone wrong. All she did manage was to dump her wristcomp’s memory and randomize her comm gear so they’d at least get no useful intelligence from her gear.
As much as it galled her, she had to admire the expert precision in which the trap was sprung. She’d spent years in Alliance Intelligence, and had run and escaped from dozens of these traps. And this one was flawless. The Riasans never tipped their hand, they controlled the jitters that so often ruined an op like this, going at just the right time. This one was first rate; she never even saw it coming. She saw just the flash of red light from the stunners and then waking up in this little cell.
It had to have been a set up. There was no way it could’ve been so elegantly executed any other way. They needed time to get into the proper positions and fully disguise themselves. They needed future knowledge to so effectively cut off the escape routes. They needed someone on the inside for the deal. The two likely suspects were Gumar and Vonin. While the Frigelian played the role of supplier perfectly and had seemed entirely legitimate, she’d still lay good credits on it being him. In hindsight, the gear now seemed to have been in too good of shape, he’d been maybe a tad too accommodating. And the Riasans took him and his people out first so that she and Valygar would be sure to see it, so their operative’s cover wasn’t blown.
The elegance and the efficiency of the operation hadn’t ended with their capture. They’d carried it right down to her incarceration. While unconscious, she’d been completely stripped of effects, even her underwear. Their diligence was unfortunate because she could have used the transponder and garrote she’d hidden in her bra’s underwire. Instead she’d woken up in this bare cell without an ounce of her gear. All she had was a very basic foam mattress to sit on and the two piece paper prison uniform they’d dressed her in.
And the damn thing was a hideous shade of orange.
She’d already stalked around the little room, the heavy paper rustling obnoxiously as she looked for anything she could use to mount an escape. The cell was depressingly bereft of anything even remotely useful. Mentally cursing efficient jailors, she walked back to her mattress and stretched out on it. With no tools to escape, she’d have to rely on her other training. And while she didn’t relish the thought, she had to escape. Soon.
If the Riasans continued to be disturbingly efficient, they’d eventually find out who she was. They would then inform Alliance Intelligence, who would pay very handsomely to get her back. Intel didn’t like its members leaving the fold until they were done with them. Their motto was Loyalty and Vigilance A finger absently traced a series of thin scars on her back. Intel was rather.. pointed… about reinforcing that ideal.
The sound of movement outside her cell door woke her from her reverie. She had to be ready. She shifted slightly, untying the drawstring to her pants. Draping the loose strings on the mattress for effect, she slid the pants down low on her hips. Deft fingers quickly undid the top tie and the bottom two to her shirt, letting it fall open and revealing her taut midrift. Leaning one elbow, she stretched out, pulling one knee up slightly. She draped her hair coquettishly over one eye, and slid her other hand down to her hip, her fingers just resting inside her pants. Through her lowered lashes, she fixed the door with her best ‘come hither’ look. Hearing the locks disengage, she disengaged her mind, letting her training take over.
The door slid open, revealing a tall, lanky - and thankfully - male figure. The backlights from the hallway darkened his features, but she couldn’t be concerned with what he looked like. As the man strode in, she rolled flat on her back. Never taking her eyes of her mark, she slowly lifted her arms above her head and arched her back. The man stopped abruptly and placed both hands on his hips, the keychain swinging loosely from one hand. Looking at her, he cleared his throat.
“It’s sooo warm in here,” she sighed and gently tugged at her shirt, revealing the tops of her breasts.
The man coughed again, this time louder. An amused, familiar voice asked, “Imoen? I know it is quite warm in this prison complex, but I’d like to leave. How about you?”
She sat up like a shot, cheeks flushing as her hands yanked her shirt closed. Eyes straining to pick out the face of the still shadowed figure, she asked skeptically. “Valygar?”
He took another step closer, his face emerging from the shadows. A bright grin lit up his usually grim features. “Indeed.”
“Bu.. but how?” she asked, mind still reeling.
“Quite simple really,” he replied, the smile widening. “I seduced the guard and stole the keys.”
“You.. you did what?”
Valygar chuckled. “I did exactly what you were planning on doing, seducing the guard. Lucky for you, she came to my cell first. I don’t think she was your type.”
“Wh.. where is she?” Imoen asked, still in shock.
She didn’t think it was possible for the smile to get any wider, but it did. “Oh, she’s sleeping. It seems I wore her out.”
“Wore her out? You wore her out?” she demanded incredulously.
“Indeed. Now, may we leave? I’d rather not be nearby when she wakes up. Women tend to react badly to waking up alone for some reason.”
Rubbing her temples as she gathered herself, she asked, “Was she armed? And where’s her uniform? It might help.”
“She did have a comm set,” he said, pulling a small comm unit out of his waistband. “As to weapons, all she had was a stunrod, and its biocoded to her. As to her uniform, it wouldn’t fit either of us.” One eyebrow arched, “Although, it might look fetching on you, if a bit tight. She was only a meter and a half tall.”
She stuck her tongue out him about the uniform comment, the grumbled. “I hate biocoding, it makes it too hard to steal someone’s weapon.”
“I believe that is the idea. Now can we leave before they notice she hasn’t checked in?”
“Right.” Imoen retied the ties for her clothing and hopped off the mattress. “So, which way?”
The smile disappeared. “That I’m not sure of.”
“What, you didn’t pump your little guard for the base layout?” she asked, doing her best to look perfectly innocent.
Valygar snorted. “No, I was busy at the time. I’ll explain it to you when you grow up. Now let’s go.”
It was Imoen’s turn to grumble as Valygar turned and went to the still open door, scanning the corridor. Imoen silently joined him, her practiced eye scanning the doors that lined the hallway. “I’m surprised you’re still upright at your advanced age. Don’t you need a lie down or something?”
“Age brings experience, Imoen. And I’d say left. That door looks like a main access way”
"Riiiight. Well, if Mr. Experienced needs a nice nap or some Geritol, let me know. And agreed. Left door’s the way."
Valygar just shook his head and slid into the hallway. With a victorious smile on her face, Imoen snuck out after him. The two crewmates silently advanced on the door. There was a small viewport in the heavy metal and quick check by Imoen revealed no one in the hallway beyond.
It only took a minute’s trial and error for Valygar to get the right key for the door. As he turned it in the lock, the door slid silently open. The two of them slid into the hallway beyond. This corridor curved away in both directions, with a number of hatches lining the outside wall and a smaller number on the inner wall. Checking the wall signs, the two silently padded to the right, working their way towards the security center.
As they moved further down the hallway they picked up the sound of conversation. Imoen waved for Valygar to stay and then she silently snuck forward. Moving with exaggerated slowness to keep the thick paper uniform she wore from making too much noise, she crept close enough to get a look at the speakers.
There were three of them, dressed in the black uniforms of Riasan security. Stunrods and comm units hung at their belts. And the three were all behind a clear security shield of some sort in a recessed security center that gave them a clear view of the hallway. There was a gate to get into the station and just beyond it, Imoen could make out what was probably the door out of the section. Impossible to rush, especially unarmed.
The three guards chatted about the things people usually do, until one of them swore, “Where the hell is Ilana? I know she was going out to give the dark skinned guy they brought in one of her test drives, but she’s long overdue.”
A second voice sniggered, “Well, we could turn on the cell cams again.”
The first voice answered, “You know she doesn’t like people watching her.. ‘at work.’ And I really don’t want to be reassigned to the Arctic section, do you?”
“Look,” the third voice, this one female, broke in, “Just turn on the cams but switch off the recorders. We can check on her with out her knowing.”
The first voice acquiesced, “Alright, alright. Just give me a minute to shut down the recorders in Wing 3.”
Heart pounding, Imoen quickly padded back to where Valygar was waiting. Softly, she said, “There are three guards ahead. Behind a gated security screen. No way to rush them.”
“Unfortunate,” interrupted Valygar.
“It gets worse, they apparently had switched off the cameras and are about..” this time she was cut off by the screaming of an alert klaxon. Sighing, she finished, “turn the cameras back on. We need to get out of here.”
“Right.” Valygar looked about and pointed to one of the inner doors. “There.”
“What is it?”
“Maintenance room. A good place to hide and plan.”
With a nod, the two ran for the door now hearing the sound of pounding feet heading their way. As the sound drew closer, Valygar fumbled with the lock, trying keys as quickly as he could. Finally the lock clicked open and the two barreled in the room just seconds before the guards came into view.
Valygar quickly relocked the door, saying, “This won’t work for too long.”
Then from behind them, they heard a voice shout, “Hey! You aren’t supposed to be in here!”
As soon as she heard the voice, Imoen spun on the ball of her foot to face the speaker. It was a middle aged man in what looked like a maintenance coverall. The man hefted a heavy wrench and moved in menacingly. Imoen charged, slamming a kick into the man’s midsection. As he doubled over, she spun and lashed out with a round kick, the side of her foot smashing into his temple. With a piteous groan, the man collapsed to the floor in a heap.
Valygar barely managed to turn in time to see the redhead finish her second kick. Arching an eyebrow and looking over at Imoen, he said quietly, “Brutal, but impressive.”
Imoen dropped to both feet and shrugged. “No time for anything else. Couldn’t risk the guards hearing him.”
Nodding, he looked at the unmoving man. “Very impressive. Thank you. Now how do we get out of here? It sounds like more guards are out there now.”
Imoen gestured to the set of pipes the man had obviously been working on. There were two pipes, both cut completely open. As they trotted over, it was readily apparent one was the sewage line and the other sounded like the water main. Staring down the water main, Imoen remarked, “Well that’s one exit I suppose. A lot better than the stinky pipe. It only looks like a little ways down to another line.”
“Agreed. But not the best..”
A rattling at the door cut him off. Through the heavy door, he could hear a voice say, “I think I heard something from in here.”
“Open it up then.”
Valygar and Imoen exchanged a helpless look. Imoen said, “But it looks like the only one now. Surf’s up?”
The sound of a key in the lock cut off all other debate. With a wan smile, Imoen hopped in the pipe, followed a few seconds later by Valygar. The fall was short and the two escapees landed with a terrific splash.
The water was bracingly cold and surprisingly swift. By the time either had managed to get their head above water, they had been swept away from the pipe they’d jumped down. As they were borne along the current, Imoen looked over at Valygar and said, “Okay, we got away from the guards. But there is a problem. How do we get out of here?”
“The pipe is smooth, so swimming is out.” Valygar pulled out the stolen comm unit and held it out to Imoen. “So, I’d say with this. Think you can program it to raise the Gorion?”
She simply stared at the radio and didn’t respond. Sighing, he asked, “Imoen, is there a problem with the radio?”
Imoen swallowed hard. “No. But there’s another problem.”
Slightly annoyed, Valygar asked, “What?”
“The prison uniforms… they’re made of PAPER.”
“We’re sitting in a pipe full of WATER. Look at your sleeve.”
Valygar looked down at the soggy paper sleeve. It was already starting to come apart, soggy holes dotting the paper. Watching a large chunk of orange paper float away, Valygar answered, “Well, then I’d suggest you rig that radio quickly.”
Imoen worked frantically on the stolen radio as the two of them were swept down the wide water pipe along with the occasional shred of damp orange paper. After a few minute’s desperate work, she whooped, “I got it. Its putting out a steady pulse on one of the emergency frequencies programmed into the ship’s comms. Provided someone is actually onboard and not just getting naked, they should hear it.”
Valygar chuckled, “You mean like us?”
“Yes oh damp one?”
“Shut your hole.”
“As you wish,” replied the dark skinned ranger with an infuriating smile.
The smile faltered as the current strengthened. They couldn’t see much in the gloom of the pipe but the sound of the water changed. It was being sucked into a smaller pipe. Wordlessly, the two escapees turned and tried to swim against the current, but no avail. The current was too strong and they were being dragged down.
Cold water closed over their heads as they were sucked into the smaller pipe. Water swirled furiously around them as they sped down the length of pipe. Just as it seemed that they’re lungs would burst, they shot out of the pipe with two great splashes.
Gasping for breath in the slowly swirling water, Valygar called out, “Imoen? You there?” His voice echoed strangely. It sounded like they had ended up in some sort of large chamber.
Off to his left, he heard her voice, “Yup. But I don’t know where here is.”
“Stay there and keep chatting,” Valygar replied, swimming towards the sound. It was a lot easier, the currents being significantly weaker in this chamber.
“Umm.. well.. it sounds like we ended up in some sort of cistern or holding tank. The comm unit is still working, so hopefully we’re not too far underground for them to pick us up. I’d hate to be stuck here.”
A light tap on her shoulder spun her around. She could barely make out a figure in the inky blackness. “Valygar?” she asked.
“Good. I’d hate to be stuck here in the cold and dark by myself.” She fell quiet, the only sounds were rushing water. “You think they’ll come, right?”
“Of course. They will come.”
“I hope they come soon. I’m getting cold.”
Valygar’s voice softened. “Come here then. We’ll keep each other warm.”
Imoen swam over and wrapped her arms around him. She rested her head on his shoulder and rested there. For some minutes, they simply floated together in the darkness. Eventually, she sighed, “This is not how I planned today to go.”
“No?” asked Valygar innocently.
“No,” Imoen snorted sarcastically. “I planned to get us arrested, stripped, and thrown in prison so we could escape, hop into a water main just to end up stuck in a water cistern butt naked with you.”
“Good plan. I approve,” he answered levelly. Imoen might not have been able to see it, but she could swear the navigator had one of his sly smiles going.
“You approve do you?” Pressing closer, she continued, her voice huskier, “I see you do.”
“As I said, a good plan. But you forgot about your seduction attempt,” he answered softly.
“Oh that?” she asked innocently, running one hand down his muscular back. “I almost forgot about that. If you are sufficiently recovered, I’d be happy to fill you in on the details of that part of the plan.”
Imoen felt his hand gently push her wet hair from her face. “You know I’ve always been intrigued by your planning skills.”
Moving her face to his, close enough to feel the warmth of his breath, she replied, “Well, then I guess I’ll have to educate you. The most important thing is…”
Her words faltered as a terrific hissing and brilliant white light filled the cistern. Both shielded their eyes against the sudden light, Valygar throwing an arm up and Imoen burying her head in the navigator’s neck. Someone had found them. They had no weapons and there was no way back out of the cistern. All they could do is wait.
The light rapidly traced a circle through what must be the cistern’s roof. The hissing cut off as the light finished its circuit but was soon replaced by the terrific splash of a chunk of roof falling into the water. A bright light shone through the opening, focusing on the two escapees and a head popped up over the edge. Their fears were quickly allayed by a familiar voice calling out, “Imoen! Valygar! It’s me, Bran! We're here to rescue... um.. unless you two are busy.”
In the bright light, Imoen and Valygar exchanged glances that were a mixture of relief and disappointment. Breaking the embrace and covering her breasts with one arm, she called back, “You took your sweet time, Branny!”
Her brother replied levelly, “I think you two may have been having the sweeter time there, sis. I definitely am going to have to hear this one.”
“You gonna rescue us or gawk all day?”
“You sure you don’t want us to come back?” Imoen swore she could hear light chuckling from behind her.
“Positive! Now throw me down a rope, or a ladder, or something else useful, kay?”
Grinning ear to ear, Bran tossed down a chain ladder, its end splashing noisily in the water. Quickly the two naked escapees clambered up the ladders and hustled into the Gorion’s waiting shuttle. Inside, Nalia gawked from the pilot’s seat and Aerie sighed and then quietly handed out towels and pulled out her medscanner.
Bran slipped into the copilot’s seat and closed the shuttle door. Nalia remarked, “I can’t wait to hear about this one.”
Firing up the repulsors, Bran grinned wickedly and nodded back towards their two towel wrapped crewmates. “Nalia, I think she might have really outdone herself this time. This story should be precious, the kind of thing we remind her of again and again. Now, lets get out of here before security shows up.”
A Space Odyssey - The Riasa Deal
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