Meenakshi and Than’yhidre woke in silence, save for the sound of dripping water in a puddle from overhead pipes in what appeared to be a dank cell, complete with paracrete walls, and vaguely smelling of moss.
“Where?” Meenakshi began, then recalled the stuggle with the synthedroids. “Oh. They must have taken us here. We are likely In the stronghold of the enemy. It was that one ‘droid we missed, waiting just out of sight, that stunned and brought us here.” Than’yhidre offered, “Let’s see what our options are, any chance of our getting out of this alive and in one piece. Hmmm. They’ve been careful, but not careful enough. We can overpower the guards here, but I’d like to meet whoever ordered us captured. They want something from us, but what?”
“On your feet, girls!” said a gravelly sounding masculine voice. A pair of synthedroids opened the cell door and motioned for the two women to get up. Neither of them expected this so soon. Whoever brought them here was in a hurry to meet them.
Through twisting halls, what appeared a catacomb complex carved out of recognizably lunar rock was the only thing they saw, until entering what seemed a brightly lit pristine room, well furnished, and stocked with instruments.
There was a man of nondescript appearance, but well-dressed, sitting at a utilitarian desk, fingers folded as he eyed the women. There was something vaguely wrong about him, sinister, as though he were not quite human, or that whatever was behind his eyes wasn’t.
“Meenakshi Sukhavati. Than’yhidre Dunori. Or perhaps I should say, Lavyani Arulpragasam. I am Mr. Shade, and I’d like to welcome you to my little home away from home. Welcome to my lunar base and corporate headquarters. It shall be the last place either of you ever set foot in. You see,” said Shade, obviously enjoying this, “you’ll be the first and last humans to see me as I truly am. Let me show you, for you to behold the true power behind Shade Industries.”
Shade suddenly collapsed to the floor, inert, like a puppet with its strings cut. A sliding panel opened in the wall just behind him, and in strode a broogh drone, tattooed with archaic officer’s insignia.
“Ah, yes, the repulsively human little Lavyani, you and your cousin separated for decades, you, the prize catch in my humble company’s human trafficking division! It was my swarmfleet hundreds of years ago responsible for the orbital bombardment of your pathetic planet, and sorry excuse for a subcontinent. It was I alone who survived that war while all others of my swarmfleet perished, even my fleet’s God-Thegn, I alone who had to bear the shame of cowardice, of survival, and I alone who dreamed of vengeance, of oceans of human blood to quench the fires of revulsion for you little apes! Do you have any idea how rich you mammals have made me since then? But then you had to ruin everything by asking questions, by coming home, and by finding out about me!”
Shade, or rather, Shad3, was shouting now, ranting, seemingly manic, even for a broogh. He was clearly unsettled. “I was considering keeping the two of you alive, lobotomized in my private zoo. But you had to become a threat! I won’t make that mistake twice. Synthedroids! Kill them!”
Shad3’s bodyguards extruded particle weapons from their arms, compact and lethal.
Than’yhidre was directly in the line of fire. A shot arced, flickered with indigo, the smell of ozone, of scorched flesh, and crackled out, as Meenakshi leapt forward, and fell clutching her burned ribcage.
She looked up at the evidently revenge-crazed broogh and smiled as she coughed up blood – and spat in its eye. Now it was Than’yhidre’s turn ….
To be concluded…