The Fringes of the Universe Prequel Chapter Seven

The Nian vessel that picked Jutel up was quick to agree to take her to the planet Mal had been sent to. While it wasn’t the most up to date and battle ready in the Nian catalog, it would be more than sufficient and thankfully there was a repair tech on board that was able to fix her suit and fine tune her bionic implants and nanites. It was like getting a full body work up and she felt ready for anything by the time they reached the planet’s orbit.

Standing over the science tech’s screens Jutel scanned all the information that appeared, most of the necessary information was already playing across her HUD but she liked to double check in case something was missed. The planet was small and fairly young, barely more advanced than Earth. Their atmosphere was polluted and garbage in the planets orbit had almost created a ring around the planet.

“The planet scan is complete, the coordinates you provided show no sign of Nian life, however, we have been able to detect possible traces of Nian tech near a location approximately five degrees south of the original position.”

Examining the map that was pulled up Jutel tried not to let herself hope, more than likely whatever tech Mal had on him had been taken from him after his death. The possibility that he was alive still was close to impossible, the odds were even lower when she started to see hints of the planets popular culture.

Nodding in appreciation when the tech looked over his shoulder at her Jutel said, “I think my original plan should still work. I’ll go down in stealth mode, there’s nothing to indicate that they’ll be able to detect our porters and they don’t appear to have detected our ship. From there I’ll infiltrate the facility and locate any Nian tech they’ve confiscated. Judging from our scans it shouldn’t take more than five hours to fully explore the compound. My implants should be able to override any security measures they have so no force will be necessary.”

A throat cleared behind her and she turned to look at the captain of the ship. He was an older Nian male, his skin an ashy blue that indicated many years in space. His heavy brows were perpetually low and a scowl was almost always present on his face. His voice was rough when he spoke reminding her of how little he’d said to her since she arrived. “There is to be no force at all Jutel, you know our laws. These people have done nothing wrong, even if they have harmed one of our own. We are on their planet without cause and we cannot interfere. The only reason we are here is with the hope that Malikina is still alive and to recover any of our tech that could be used as a weapon. Once that is secure I will be taking you to speak with the council.”

She knew that he didn’t mean it as a threat, he was just stating a fact, but the mention of the Nian council brought up memories that she didn’t want to think about. She knew that all too soon she would have to explain all of her actions since her self-declared mission began. Was it wrong to hope that she died down there on this unknown planet?

“Of course captain. No force. I will be using stealth tech that will make me invisible to the naked eye as well as any tech this planet has access too. Nothing on the planet below should be able to detect me.”

A grunt was her only response. Unable to meet anyone else’s eyes she quickly made her way down to the porter. She’d already donned her usual gear with the addition of the cloaking device. The cloaking tech was still in the experimental stage of testing and was only available because the lead scientist had been aboard ship testing it on alien planets they passed. This would be its first field test, something that Jutel would normally worry about, but her mind was preoccupied with other things to give it a second thought.

Striding into the porting bay, her mind on the mission ahead she missed the look of interest the tech sent her way. An oddity on her planet, not because of her high ranking warrior status, but because of her many years off planet, she had no idea the kind of attention and notoriety she’d gained. That they’d both gained.

Their progress updates and the few detailed mission debriefs that Mal sent back home were poured over, by the council, friends, and family, but also by an ever increasing number of people on planet. It was very common for the few Nians that chose to travel off planet to create public diaries so that others could share their discoveries and adventures. While neither Mal nor Jutel had done this, family members had felt that it would benefit the planet and they’d posted everything that had been sent.

Their work with the UUAC had piqued the world’s curiosity like nothing had in generations. Not even the volunteers to Earth had created the same level of excitement. People had so many questions about all the planets and about everything that Jutel and Mal had experienced and the lack of direct communication just made people all the more curious.

Unaware of her notoriety, or her massive fan club, Jutel missed entirely the look of awe on the porting techs face when she said, “Keep a lock on my location in case there’s an emergency. I’ll be going to written communication only to avoid any kind of detection. If anything goes wrong standard protocols apply.”

“Of course.”

“Transport when ready.”

The nervous porting tech’s hands were the last thing Jutel noticed before she dematerialized and reappeared a mile outside of the compound’s location.

Resisting the urge to complain about over eager young techs who couldn’t port her to a better location she jogged up a dirt road to the looming gray bricked complex ahead.

Stealth mode on she looked over her shoulder when a loud rumbling reached her ears. It sounded like a large, heavy vehicle was coming up the road but she couldn’t see it yet because of a sharp bend in the road. Picking up her pace, in case the vehicle took up the entire road forcing her into the deep ditch running along beside she reached a ten-foot high metal link fence surrounding the compound.

She reached out intending to test the strength of the fence and the possibility of scaling it, but her hand stopped barely an inch away. Cocking her head to the side she noticed a low hum buzzing through the air. Squatting down she picked up a rock from the road and tossed it at the fence. There was no visible display like a force field would give off, but she was certain the fence was protected.

As she studied the fence and worked toward a solution, the truck she’d heard earlier came barreling around the bend and straight for the fence. A loud horn sounded twice and the fence shuddered as a section of it rolled back. Grinning at her luck Jutel slipped through the narrow opening making her way to the northern corner of the building.

Using a systematic approach she scanned every outside corner, confirming there was only one entrance. The ship had already scanned the ground so she didn’t bother making her own scan. Heading back to the entrance she listened as the truck’s occupants began to unload. Their language was basic and it didn’t take long for her internal universal translator to catch up.

“Shift change, move your asses or we’ll get behind. Make sure the docs downstairs understand they’ve got five minutes or they’re stuck here for the week.”

A male in charge continued to bark orders as even more men started to exit the building piling into the vehicle that had just been emptied. Seeing an opportunity Jutel slipped through the closing door, plastering herself to the wall to avoid accidently bumping into someone.

She found herself in a large, open, empty room that only held a wide stairwell leading down. In case her eyes were missing something in the dimly lit room she did a cursory search before heading down. It wasn’t until she reached the third floor that she encountered her first lock.

It wasn’t until the fourth floor that her search finally paid off. Sitting among a bunch of non-descript items was her cannon. Grinning she picked it up and began examining it, there didn’t appear to be any damage and more than likely they never had any idea what they held.

Strapping it to her leg, where it belonged, she continued through the facility. The Nian ship had been unable to determine how much Nian tech was on the planet, and it was completely possible the only thing there was her cannon, but she had to be sure. Ten floors down she encountered two people walking down the narrow hallway. Focused on staying out of their way she almost missed what they were talking about, almost.

“It’s amazing how much the alien has been able to withstand. The very fact that it can understand us is amazing. He’s clearly trying to communicate, but I don’t believe the military will allow us much more time with him.”

“You’re right, of course. General Lor has already begun demanding an autopsy and I doubt Ker will be able to hold him off much longer. It’s a pity.”

“Still, can you imagine what we’ll learn when we’re able to fully dissect him.”

Their voices disappeared down the corridor as ice flowed through Jutel’s veins. Mal. It had to be. He had to be here and from the sound of things, he was still alive. Moving down the hallway the two scientists had come from Jutel barely kept it together. After all their years together, maybe, just maybe, she hadn’t failed her only friend.

Slipping past the locks and into a well-lit, white walled, lab she stopped. Her breath caught in her chest as she took in the sight in front of her. Mal, naked, strapped to a table in the center of the room, the skin on his chest peeled back as if to display his internal workings. Bile filled her mouth and an unholy rage caused her skin to flush.

“I’m going to kill them. All of them.”

Her voice, barely a whisper, somehow registered over the beeps sounding from the myriad of medical equipment scattered around the room. Mal’s eyes, the only thing not locked into place, slowly searched for her and she could see a small tear form in the corner.

Her training took over. Cursing herself for not clearing the room she discovered two scientists studying the readouts while someone in military garb stood at the door just beside her. He was staring at the open door in confusion, his hand on the weapon strapped to his side he took a step forward and reached out for the doorknob.

Jutel slipped further into the room, searching for any Nian tech stored there, while the soldier tried to figure out what the hell was going on. As she made her way closer to Mal the scientists started to grow excited by what their equipment was showing them.

Her scan complete, no other Nian tech observed, she quickly moved to Mal’s side where he tried to struggle against his bonds. His movement caused the monitors to begin shrieking out and his eyes rolled up in his head as he passed out. None of the aliens in the room moved to help. Jutel frantically signaled the Nian ship in orbit, telling them to port herself and one other to the medical bay immediately. Placing a tag on Mal she waited for the port to begin.

There was a moment when she thought she might be too deep underground, and was already planning how she would get Mal out of there without doing further damage to his already mutilated body when the process started. Closing her eyes as the alien lab around her disappeared she made a personal vow to one day pay back the UUAC for what they’d done. She didn’t care that it was not the Nian way, she wanted revenge.

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