EURIDICE

Part 6

Author: Joyann (joyann@psnw.com)

Disclaimer: Read part 1!

Rated: PG

*Last installments of Euridice, enjoy!*

The battered, dust covered loader limped through the Martian dunes like a wounded mammoth. For the last half-hour the engine had been making the most godforsaken howling noise. As they crested yet another of the countless, barren dunes the great beast began to shake violently. It slowed to a crawl, gave an earsplitting screech and stopped completely.

The ensuing commotion woke Anna, who had been sleeping fitfully for some time. The headman, at least she assumed he was the leader because he had the biggest gun, shouted orders at his subordinates. Orders mixed with a liberal amount of the most creative cursing Ian had ever heard. It was probably not a good idea, but he filed away some of the better ones for future reference. When you worked the streets you never knew what might come in handy.

The men donned breathing units and scrambled two at a time into the tiny airlock. "Hey! What about them?" One pointed in Ian and Anna's direction. "Where do you think they're gonna go?" The headman's laughter was muffled as he slid the breather over his face. They were left alone in the suddenly silent carrier compartment. "Oh great!" Anna wailed, "What next?" It had been a really rotten couple of days. "They can't just leave us here..."Ian held up a hand. "Shh..." He was searching for their helmet com frequency. "I need to hear what they are saying." The signal faded in and out. "Broken stabilizer...gaskets...call base..." Another voice. "Shoot em...more trouble than it's worth" "No! After all this...we'll gonna get paid" "far...be here in two hours" "air left...90 mins!"

The hostile group sat around the compartment glaring at their guests/captives. They were arguing back and forth about the seemingly hopeless situation. Even with what was left in the breathers, they would still run out of oxygen by 30 minutes before the rescue party arrived. The conversation had descended into deciding who would be shot to conserve air. Ian politely raised his had and tried to present his idea. They ignored him, of course. After several fruitless minutes of waves and "excuse me", he was getting irritated. People never listened when they were supposed to! He let out an ear piercing whistle, a skill he had only recently mastered, and was guaranteed to stop all conversation in its tracks. The head man, or 'Captain Hook' as Anna had taken to calling him [privately, of course], turned Ian's way. "WHAT!"

"I have an idea to save everyone, if you will just listen for a moment." "Yeah, what's your big plan andy?" Ian explained, as simply as possible, that the gas used in hydraulic lift canisters could cause almost instant loss of consciousness without any serious lasting effects. (There had been a big problem recently with kidsbuying it on the street to get high) "Yeah, so?" They were as smart as they were charming. He tried again. "If you are unconscious you use less oxygen." Captain Hook's face curved into a wicked grin. "The andy makes sense. If we live through this, there will be enough money to finance Free Mars for two years!" Another man spoke up, "What if he kills us while we are asleep?" "If he kills us, then who is going to rescue them?" That shut him up. He turned to Ian, "You know where to get this stuff?" Ian nodded, "In the compartment surrounding the destabilizing multiphasic actuators..."The Captain cut him off, "You go out and show them what to do."

Ian sat looking at all the unconscious forms surrounding him. It seemed his plan had worked. Now, if their alleged protectors survived they might just make it out of this. Although their destination was still as much a mystery as it had been when they had gotten into the laundry truck early this morning. Anna stirred, blinking, she sat up and saw the world spin around her. "Oh" she moaned, "My head". Ian's voice floatednearby, "Dizziness is a side effect of the gas. You will feel better soon." He held a packet of water for her to sip. She tried opening her eyes again. Ian was sitting next to the bed, holding her hand. Bed, wait a minute where...? "Where...are we?" He explained that she had been unconscious for four hours. A transport from the rebel camp had picked them up in the desert and delivered them to a waiting shuttle. They were now on their way to Olympus.

She lay, staring at the ceiling, willing her eyes to focus. The gas had nearly done her in. She closed her eyes and willed herself to sink into the mattress. One eye popped open, no such luck. This must be what it felt like to be run over by a truck. Throbbing head, cotton mouth, that wonderful death-warmed-over feeling. A three day bender, but without the fond memories.Well, she did have some fond memories of the last three days... If you didn't including the parts about being drugged, gassed, and hit over the head. God only knew where her father was. Consortium goons had taken him, was it only three days ago? Since then she had taken a whirlwind tour of the domed industrial city of Euridice, above ground as well as below. Taken an insane ride across the desert in a stolen oar hauler. Nearly died several times, and oh yeah, met the most wonderful man(?). Person?...humanoid, sentient being, android? The term android just didn't describe Ian properly. She would have to talk
to him about that. Surely they could come of with something better, more suitable. In the mean time, sleep was a good thing, yes a very good thing.

Now they were on their way to the Pleasure-Dome of Olympus. Garret Wong's home away from home. Garret Wong, head of the Southeast Asian Crime Syndicate. Few could hope to match the wealth and power wielded by the consortium, but Mr. Wong was one of those few. Anna remembered his visits when she was a little girl. He and Dr. Latham went way back. Garret Wong owed her father, but daddy had never asked for anything. Now, he had asked. Arrangements had been made to shelter Anna and himself where the Consortium could never find them. But that help had come too late. Dr. Latham hated to admit he needed help and maybe he had waited too long. No matter, it was past. The Consortium was holding Dr. Latham hostage. Mr. Wong would see that Anna was taken care of and all efforts exhausted to find her father.

Ian did not like his fate being in the hands of others. He had been left in a small guest room while Anna was sleeping. They had led him away when she had fallen asleep. The crew would not answer his questions. Most of them spoke Mandarin and although his Chinese was flawless they ignored his pleas. These were not the same people they had been traveling with. Not the 'unregistered' or ragtag terrorists. The shuttle was expensively decorated and the crew wore crisp black and red uniforms. Oddly, the uniforms bore no insignia of rank or other identifying marks. He had been provided with refreshments and a change of clothes. These people were very polite but they would not speak to him. A sharp increase in the pitch of the engines told him they would soon be landing.

Soon after landing, a crewman brought Ian to the infirmary. Anna was sitting up and eating a little. "How are you feeling?" He sat on the edge on the bed and took her hand. "Like somebody else used my body to go to a wild party and I don't remember a thing." She smiled, "No, really, better than I was". A young woman handed Anna a change of clothes and pointed in the direction of the restroom. She followed close behind until Anna stopped her and pulled Ian into the restroom behind her. He helped her undress and get into the shower in silence. "Can you manage by yourself?" he sat on a small stool in the corner. "Yes, but don't leave me, ok?" When she finished, he wrapped her in a towel and held her close. "Ian?" "Yes", he whispered, "I don't know what is going to happen to us, but I want you to know something. You are very special and don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about what or who you are." When he looked down, her eyes were filled with tears. "You are very special,
as well. Do not worry, Anna, you will be safe and they will find your father."

They were transported to a lush penthouse on the top floor of the highest building in Olympus City. Nestled at the base on the solar system's largest extinct volcano, Olympus Mons, Olympus nearly lived up to its namesake. Classical art and architecture were everywhere you looked. It was a site to behold, beautiful, in a 'Las Vegas' sort of way.

Anna attacked a platter of fresh fruit while Ian investigated the penthouse. An elegantly dressed woman in her seventies had shown them to this room. The view from the broad expanse of carbon nanoplex glass was stunning. If the dome ever failed, the penthouse could hold its own pressurized atmosphere.

A vast semi circle of city spread out before them. Beyond the city's edge the towering bulk of Olympus Mons rose out of sight. The solid wall of brown, red and gray stone gave a sense of permanence to the ethereal domed city at its base. Olympus was dwarfed by the volcano in the way a fly was dwarfed by a skyscraper. Its true scale boggled the human mind. 324 miles across, it covered an area the size of the pre-Consortium State of Arizona. Soaring 16 miles into the thin atmosphere, it was bigger, by far than any feature on Mars or Earth. Four mile high cliffs surrounded its base. Looking up from ground level, one could see only sheer cliffs and rusty sky. At first it seemed an odd place for a large city, until one realized it provided vital shelter from the furious storms that lashed the Martian plains. More than one settlement had been abandoned because supplies could not be brought in regularly due to massive storms that could last for months at a time.

Anna was stretched out on the couch looking like a satisfied feline after her first real food in days. Ian discovered they were locked is as securely as if in a prison cell. Not that they had anywhere to go. The eComm terminal was not functional, no surprise there. He had not checked with the CPB since Saturday night, three days ago. It would have to wait bit longer.

After several hours of plush captivity, Garrett Wong finally made his entrance. He was smaller than she remembered. Older and grayer but still a handsome man. He spoke flawless English despite having been born in Old Singapore. He had risen through the ranks of the Tongs or Chinese Mafia. Through a campaign of assassinations and alliances he has become the most powerful man in Asia by the time he was forty. He was not someone you could cross and live to tell about it. But he was also a man of his word.

He called Anna by the pet name he had used when she was a child. It meant 'precious one' in old Cantonese. He gave her a quick embrace and a peck on the cheek. "So, this is the one I have heard so much about." He turned to Ian and looked him up and down. Ian reflexively extended his hand, "Ian Farve, good to meet you." Mr. Wong looked amused, after a moment he took Ian's hand. "Most impressive, you are a police man I believe?" "Yes, an investigator with the CPB." "Tell me how you like your work." It was more of a command than a question, but Ian did not want to offend their host. He briefly explained about the CPB and David and how they had worked together for nearly a year. It was a challenge, more because of the people and the politics than the actual work though.

Anna was becoming restless with the pleasantries. "Have you heard any news about Daddy? Where is he? Is he ok? Where are we going?" Mr. Wong smiled, "All in good time little one. But there will be no we. You are going to stay in the safest place I know. I can hide you, but you alone." Anna looked from Ian to Mr. Wong and back, "But... what about Ian? He will stay with me, at least until you find Daddy!" "I am sorry little one I cannot hide him. Others will know if he is here. Others are watching. You will be just another girl in a city of thousands, but Mr. Farve, he is unique!" He turned to Ian, "You must leave as soon as possible. My people will see to your safe passage back to Earth." Anna hung her head in defeat. Deep down she knew he was right. She threw herself into Ian's arms.

A young man quietly entered the room and whispered something to Mr. Wong. "Mr. Farve, it is time for you to go. Your transport will arrive momentarily." With that, he left them alone. "Ian, thank you for everything. Without you I would not be alive. I don't want you to go, but I know you have to. I won't say goodbye, we will see each other again." Her eyes filled with tears and she clung to him. "Anna, I don't know what to say. I will miss you and I will not stop looking for your father. Be careful and I will think of you often. I'll find a way to contact you." He looked into her tear stained face, "Is it supposed to hurt like this?" "What?", she whispered. "Leaving someone you care about." She nodded, and kissed him a final time.

An endless field of stars passed the window of the Moon bound cargo transport, but he did not see. The engines droned their soft heartbeat but he did not hear. All his thoughts were with her. Her life, her safety, her face, her beautiful tear streaked face. She had been through enough, at least now she would be safe. Safe in her gilded cage, away from those who would use her to force others to do evil. It was better this way, he kept telling himself that. He had changed transports five times in an effort to evade any pursuers. After three cargo transports and two oar haulers, he would be arriving on the Moon in about 12 hours. At times like this he wished he could sleep. There was nothing to do but look at the stars and think. Think about her, about his report, about his apartment and seeing David again. He really wanted to talk with David, to tell him everything. He knew David got irritated at him sometimes but he was the closest thing Ian had to a best friend.

THE END