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A CHANGE OF HEART - DISCOVERY
In the last segment of this story, Odiwa, the station manager, told Noot and Mondero to scout the lower levels to determine if a 'radio' message about a raid was an actual threat.
Noot and Mondero walked to a deserted part of Level 8, down through a maintenance corridor and stopped at an elevator. It didn't appear to be operational. No lights. No noise. Entry screen dark.
"What's this? Is it working?" Mondero asked.
"See that sign, it says Freight Only. That means I need a key, which I have, and I control which floor we stop on. Odiwa told me about this elevator a few months ago. Not many know it works. We can block certain floors if needed."
"You're a cagey one, Noot. I like that. So what's the plan?"
"Plan? I don't need a plan. We're scouting out the area. No one has been down to these levels for a couple of years now."
"That's reassuring. . ."
The mid levels contained much of the still operating machinery which powered the station air, the water and waste systems and a few isolated areas which had been designated as restricted. An empty holding area composed of individual cells was kept for the criminal elements.
"How do we know what's on all these levels below the main, Noot?"
"Exploration was a necessity when we first came here. Odiwa found an old map in what used to be the administration centre on this station and we went out in small groups. The first ten is where the existing population including us lives, the second ten is maintenance and holding cells. After those, we have made a buffer zone of ten more levels. No one should be in those levels, but there could be things like radio transmitters, which could have been used by the controllers."
"Controllers? Who or what is that?"
"Nothing ominous. The workers who guided the ships onto a beam for docking were called that. And below that buffer zone, we aren't sure what, who or how many may be living there. The air supply and other systems for water are still working. That's about it."
"It's just a matter of time before someone is going to get curious if the other levels are working. Do we take prisoners or talk to the perps?"
"Neither one. We are here to see what is going on. And that's all we're going to do this time, Mondero. Odiwa said to look, get as much info as possible and get back to him when we returned."
"That's fine with me. You lead when we get there, I don't know my way around. And Noot, if anything does occur, you can count on me to have your back."
"You do that."
Mondero kept silent as they left the elevator and Noot locked the control board.
With weapons drawn, the two men stayed together and began surreptitiously checking corridors to be sure they were empty. Noot put up a hand and signalled to the pilot to be quiet and listen. Some faint footsteps could be heard. They crept back into an indented doorway and waited.
CLICK. . .the two men heard just before a couple and a small figure came into the hallway. They were armed, but one was carrying a small child.
"Hold your fire, we mean no harm," Noot said before he stepped out in front of the man holding an old style laser gun.
"Who are you?" the man asked. "You're not a renegade, are you?"
"You'd be dead if we were. We're looking for those renegades you mentioned."
"Oh. You're from the upper levels?"
"That's right. How did you get that museum gun?"
"We found it, but it's got very little ammo in it. We're living in a hiding spot on this floor, and we keep moving about if we hear something we can't identify. I thought I heard some strange sound."
"The freight elevator made that, most likely. How did you get here?"
"We were with the 'Lost Ones', the colonists that left Terra during the final stages of evacuation, looking for a place to live. We had no luck but kept searching until our starship floundered. It was taken over by renegades and we and others were brought here to be used as slaves."
The little boy, not more than four years, walked up to Noot. "Are you my grandpa?"
For a moment, Noot felt unsteady, a flash of deja vu enveloped him. Then, he stooped over to ask the child his name. It brought back memories of his own son. . .
"Me? I am Moby," said the child as he fixed his large eyes on Noot.
Noot felt a change of heart when he saw the small child, a little boy. He had a family, long ago, before he became a wanderer. Before his wife died, his world caved in and he went searching for the kidnapper of his son. He never found his son.
"My name is Mondero and this is Noot," the pilot said. "We're looking for raiders, someone we heard over an old radio receiver."
"We can give you information, as much as we have. I'm Dev and this is my partner, Jio," said the man.
"Good, but save it for the captain of the station. Is it safe for us to check without more people?"
"I wouldn't recommend it. The men we have observed don't look too accommodating, and they would likely shoot on sight."
"Fair enough. We will take you with us, under protective custody, and Odiwa can determine what we can do for you. I'd like a larger group before we proceed further."
"I don't know, Noot," said Mondero, "are you sure Odiwa will be okay with that?"
"Nope. But we will deal with that if we need to. I'm trusting you two know what will happen to you if you're lying to us?"
"We tell the truth. We want your help."
Returning to the upper levels Noot reports to Odiwa and turned the couple over to the captain for debriefing. A council meeting of the working crew was called. On this outstation there were no police, just experienced ex-military who acted as a reserve group.
This story series continues. . .is this couple legit? What type of armed group can they muster? Come back next time to discover tales of outpost life in the outer reaches.
How would you like going into a unknown area, not knowing what you might find on an abandoned outpost station?
Please leave a comment to let me know you were here and I'll respond. Thanks for stopping by to read my entry.
WEP - Write, Edit, Publish, a flash challenge
It's time for another WEP challenge - with the support team of Nilanjana Bose and Olga Godim adding their imaginings and creativity. Thanks to Denise for being the host. We also want to wish Yolanda a swift recovery.