Than’yhidre and Meenakshi were back in Chennai’s Old Quarter at the hotel. The two women had taken a different route this time to throw off several suspicious pursuers trying to shadow them. Than’yhidre’s role as a Null-Dancer involved some training in detective work and espionage, or at least skills in those areas that lent themselves well to avoiding pursuit and attempts to throw her off the trail of a perp. Than’y had pulled from her bags an odd looking box with several studs attached to it, placed the device on the coffee table, and pressed one of the studs. A low hum issued, barely audible to the human ear, almost a register too low. “This is a wide-field DataNet scrambler. It’ll prevent even the best media snoops, and most spy agencies that may be working for our target from hearing anything we say. That’s why I screened this suite for nano-dust and any other bugging devices.” Than’yhidre had just finished a data-dump into a small hand comp from her wetware drive. Wetware as trendy but incredibly useful brain-apps were all the rage among the Kai’Siri upper class, especially those who travelled often. It’s all the better for adapting quickly to new cultures once interstellar travel was reestablished post-Shutter. Than’yhidre continued briefly, “It’s how I manage to avoid the paparazzi and fanboys (The fangirls are less annoying!) on every world I visit, and why I contacted you as my guide.”
“What is it you’ve found? It must be enormously important or you wouldn’t have come all this way to find it. Sirug is kiloparsecs away from here!” Meenakshi leaned in closer, as her seemingly alien friend spoke in low tones.
“I’ve found the file for the girl I started life as. Better, I’ve found out who, or what, was responsible for taking me from this world. I’ve found the source of my dreams, of the nightmares I’ve had since girlhood!” Than’yhidre paused a bit, breathed, then continued,“I’m Indian Tamil by birth. The cosmetic surgery was done when I was only three years of age to make me appealing to Kai’Siri adoption agencies none too concerned about paperwork on where the children come from. It’s permanent, but I’m Tellusine, not Kai’Siri. It’s why I can only eat the foodstuffs of Earth. I found my name and the names and identities of the traffickers who took me.” Than’y hesitated for a moment, as the hint of a tear began to make its way down her cheek, “My birth-name is Lavyani, and I found out that you and I are family. We’re second cousins!”
Meenakshi looked as though a bomb went off in her head, “Lavyani…You’ve come home!” The two women embraced for just a few seconds, before a loud thump! came from the locked hotel door. The thump! came again, louder, followed by the sound of something trying to rip the door off its hinges, but the two women were already out of sight. Two unnaturally tall and absurdly muscled men wearing featureless masks strode into the room, one dropping the wreckage of the suite entrance door, as the other dropped a canister on the floor, this followed by a billowing gas cloud filling the suite. There was silence, followed by quick search of the suite. One of the men removed his, or rather, its mask, revealing a metal skull-face and glowing eyes beneath. No, not a man, but a synthedroid. Whoever was after the two women was cautious enough not to entrust their capture to mere humans. Inhuman eyes caught a blur of motion to their left, and dodged a Miduuk-Yokku blade just in time to catch a depleted island-metal sabot round to the braincase from Meenakshi’s gauss rifle. Both women were wearing protective masks for the gas.
The other synthedroid, still functional, had caught Meekakshi’s weapon arm, threatening to wrench it off, as Than’yhidre’s blade split its biomechanical body in half from crown to crotch. Two down…
…And that’s when the third stepped in.
It had waited outside the doorway, just out of sight, and strode into the room with nearly blinding speed on spider-like legs, catching both women unawares as it ejected a thin mesh net, trapping them before a jolt of high-voltage current put them out of commission. Unconcerned for any reward or praise, it destroyed the DataNet scrambler with the crunch of a metal tendril and opened a channel to its master.“Mister Shade, the targets have been procured, and are ready for transport. Units D8T5 and G7B9 have been damaged beyond repair. This unit survives undamaged. This unit will return to base with the quarry after eliminating all traces of damaged units. Communications out.”
To be continued next month…