When Bruna woke again, her hands were clamped to a bed. The room had generic off-white walls and an air filter node. The only door was closed and she could not see a handle, instead there a small oval of matte silver with a key pad in the center. The electrodes attached to her arm and neck must have set off an alarm because the man who had broken her toe with a wrench, pushed the door open and walked in.
He smiled at her.
"Dr. Fedli. Welcome back."
Bruna screamed. She pulled at her bindings. She thrashed her legs. And screamed. A nurse soon hurried in to sedate her. The man held him, stopping him from administering the drug for more than a minute; just watching Bruna scream and thrash. The nurse was one who knew Dr. Fedli, had treated her, met her on and off for years; he hated every moment of it and yet was scared enough to submit. But before leaving he made sure that the electrode on her neck was loosened enough to not function and small two inch remote was hidden under her thigh, right next to her left hand; she only had to press the switch to get free.
Bruna was crying silently, twenty years of hiding and running and still the EC had found them before the ship was recovered. Killed more than half the scientists, just to make a point. Before her anger could rise Bruna slid into unconsciousness. The man pressed a few buttons on his wrist-band and spoke.
"Dr. Nora, we have woken up Bruna Fedli. No complications."
The next time he stepped into the room Bruna was ready. She hit him on the back of the head with a metal stool. He woke up naked and strapped to the same bed Bruna was, before. Bruna was there along with three other rebels. One of them raised a fine scalpel to his temple and cut him till his ear before asking anything. The man was surprisingly forthright after that.
Bruna was elated that the Phoenix had surfaced. And that it had escaped EC capture again. She would have to revive the long range Com. unit ASAP. Getting to the Phoenix seemed a remote possibility but the hope was more than anything she had, for the last few years.
Maaz was disappointed, he had chosen a fork taking them to an empty expanse nearly two weeks from Sirius A. But he had tunneled on a whim and deserved to land up in the middle of nowhere. He thought to make most of the situation; he slept and ate and thought and tinkered with the ship, doing nothing else. His mind was still taking in the situation. He wrote down a few points to focus his attention on:
- The Phoenix was a powerful new tech, a whole new space faring vehicle. A Jovian prototype never used before
- His AI- Tank had expanded and may still assimilate more of the latent protocols Phoenix had hidden.
- A lot of the ship's capacity was masked and out of reach and it was transmitting it's location to Dr. Bruna
- Dr. Bruna or Whoever had contacted him wanted the ship. But how much was she willing to pay?
- Shira was still out there, gunning for him
The first immediate problem was to be able to travel without being accosted by Shira.
The second was negotiating a sale with Dr. Bruna before his provisions run out.
"Tank. How many non-EC ports are nearest or easiest to reach, large ones with lots of ships and all?"
"Sirius A has a Free Frontier Corp Region; Saturn Dark is practically self governing; The Silver Ring is a Resurgence port; all these have 100-500 ships coming and going every standard day. There are 12 others but all much smaller."
"Sirius A is farthest from EC and nearest to us." Maaz had already known the answer but his confidence needed support. So, safer. He thought. We can offload our fusion batteries and take on some stuff we need. He had never been this alone before. This, more than the danger, unsettled him. He plowed ahead:
"OK Tank, how many days to Sirius A?"
"11 days at 0.04 to 0.06MM per minute without Tunneling. And if.."
"That is fine. Set the course with reports every 5MM. Then, bring up the holo of the major connectors to the burnt-out cluster. Let's see if we can dig up something more."
Three days in, the Phoenix stopped dead. All the systems except for essential life support and internal mechs went into reboot. Maaz had inadvertently touched an especially complex piece of machinery, something he did not recognize or could find in the data banks. The reboot went smoothly and all functions came online except the main propulsion cluster. Tank reported.
"You need to enter the codes to activate the engines."
"What codes? We traveled here without anything."
"We have sub-light capacity now. There was a latent governor keeping the systems from peak performance. The propulsion cluster runs on hybrid tech. Batteries and multi-form generator built around an unknown element. But now you have to activate it with a pass code. Till then I can power the auxiliaries from the main batteries but we will get only 0.01MM acceleration at the maximum."
Fear bled away the joy of discovery. Maaz was in more trouble than before.
Shira had been freelancing for Dr.Nora or rather the Earth Cooperative (EC) for nearly three years now. This was her first major failure and that too a real big one- a lost technology- and to be foiled by a novice hacker- all of this made her very sore. Though she had not let on anything to Dr.Nora, keeping up 'a 'business as usual' association.
The goof up at Saturn Dark was entirely EC. Dr. Fedli's escape was an even bigger debacle and Shira had not managed to keep a smug tone from her voice when reporting it. Dr. Nora, in turn, was livid and this led to the mistake. She offered Shira a 50000 Credits bounty to get her The Phoenix. The only condition was that the ship should not be crippled. She gave Shira the last known whereabouts - near the Sirius A system. To recruit another ship to capture the Phoenix, Shira had to tell the prospective recruits her destination. Luckily for the rebels, this information reached them the same day.