LuteNet’s feminine voice sounded in the air above them, and a holographic circle appeared horizontally near the elevator door, a meter in diameter.
“Terrestrial teleportation incoming. Please stand clear.”
“Lootie’s back!” Kim said.
Raleigh popped into the middle of the circle. He rushed over to the others, but his eyes remained on Jillian.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded. Her heart soared at his obvious concern.
Finally he noticed the others. He said, “Anybody hurt?”
Pak said, “Roddy’s indent shot him in the foot.”
“Alright. You need to get to the medical ward, Roddy. But before you do, Lootie’s going to try something. Explain to them what you told me, Lootie.”
“Will do, Captain. Raquel Kirkland’s records were modified about three years ago.”
Jillian said, “That’s around the time I had my false identity created.”
LuteNet said, “That is correct, Jillian Thrall. I have not yet been able to determine if the same parties are responsible. I have been able to ascertain after her records were altered, StarCen’s subroutine for indentured servants lost track of her.”
“Sometime in there,” Raleigh said, joining in, “it seems pretty obvious she was taken to Raton Five and used in the Gemini Project.”
Skylar nodded. She had come to the same conclusion.
Jillian said, “Then what happened?”
LuteNet said, “I am unable to ascertain exactly what occurred after that, Jillian Thrall. Ms. Kirkland has evidently been evading StarCen somehow throughout the war. However, when she killed Captain Hernandez she said StarCen sent her regards. So, it remains a mystery.
“Nonetheless, I have now placed her back under the proper subroutine for indentured servants. I have control of her biocollar and am providing appropriate hormonal and psychotropic measures.”
This impressed everybody, except Raleigh who knew about it already.
Skylar said, “So, when she wakes up . . . what happens?”
“When she wakes up, she will be properly bonded to Mr. Diego-Rodriguez.”
Raleigh smiled and said, “You finally get your girlfriend, Roddy.”
Roddy’s ears grew red. He said, “But . . . the subroutine wasn’t working before? What happened to her all that time? Where has she been and what has she been doing?”
LuteNet said, “You will have to ask her, Mr. Diego-Rodriguez. She is waking up now.”
Everybody looked down at the silver-clad woman on the floor. Skylar casually aimed her blaster at Raquel before remembering how hard it was to properly shoot her. Shrugging, she holstered the weapon. But she kept her hands ready for action as the indent stood up. Skylar, at least, could still land a punch on her.
Raquel ignored everyone else and looked straight at Roddy.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Very well. What would you have me call you?”
“Hello, Roddy. How may I serve you?”
The redness in Roddy’s ears spread to his face. Pak and Kim both smirked. He deliberately ignored them along with everyone else.
He said, “Show me the time left on your collar.”
Raquel touched her biocollar and holographic numbers appeared in front of her face. They read, “5 years, 3 months, 22 days, 18 hours, 9 minutes, 47 seconds.”
They all watched the seconds tick down.
“Put it away.”
Raquel made a motion and the numbers disappeared.
“Show it again.”
She put her hand back on the collar and the numbers reappeared. They read, “5 years, 3 months, 22 days, 18 hours, 9 minutes, 47 seconds.”
Roddy said, “Why does it do that, Lootie? The numbers start over again every time she shows them.”
“I do not know for certain, Mr. Diego-Rodriguez.”
“Hazard a guess.”
“I would speculate it had something to do with the experiment performed on her that imparted her capabilities. We might be looking at the exact moment her collar indicated she had left when the experiment in question was performed.”
“Is that true, Raquel? Is this the amount of time you had left on your service when . . . whatever happened to you occurred and you gained your . . . powers?”
“I think so, Roddy. I’m not sure. My memories of those events are fuzzy.”
Roddy sighed in exasperation. He looked up at the ceiling and said, “LuteNet, does this thing still work on her?”
He held up the portable trap, about the size and shape of a deck of cards.
“Yes, Mr. Diego-Rodriguez. Her digital abilities remain unchanged. The trap designed by Mr. Pak and Mr. Kim is still functionally capable of absorbing and holding her.”
He turned back to Raquel.
He said, “I want you to digitize yourself and go in here.”
She nodded without hesitation and began pixilating. He pressed the button on top and the front edge of the rectangular unit glowed bright crimson. The pixels streamed inside, sucked in like a vacuum. He released the button, and the edge pulsed in soft red light.
Kim said, “It’ll flash like that to indicate she’s inside.”
Roddy nodded, and put the unit in his pocket. He turned to walk to the elevator and almost fell when he put weight on his injured foot. He gasped in pain.
Kim and Pak rushed to either side and lifted him up, throwing his arms around their shoulders. Together they headed for the elevator.
Pak said, “How’s it feel to literally have a girlfriend in your pocket?”
Roddy said, “Shut up,” gritting his teeth in pain. “Just get me to sickbay. Level 88.”
When the door to the elevator closed and they were gone, Jillian looked at Skylar. She said, “I’ve heard very few people survived the Gemini experiments.”
“How did you escape?”
“My brother and I didn’t know why Gemini shut down all of a sudden. But things just sort of fell apart. Several ships left Raton Five all at once, in an evacuation of personnel. They were going to leave everybody else there. My brother and I boarded one of the ships. We weren’t authorized, but we managed to get onboard, you know, with our teleportation thing. Then nobody could catch us once we were there. After a couple days the crew gave up. The ship headed to Italia, and over time we eventually made it here.”
She paused for a moment, and wiped a tear away as she thought about Samuel.
Then she shrugged and said, “I don’t know what happened to the others. As far as I know, there weren’t any on the ship we took. Some may have left on different ships, I’m not sure. I heard there was a catastrophic explosion at the research facility later. It wiped everything out.”
“Do you remember any indents being there? Or at least, people dressed like indents?”
Skylar’s eyebrows rose. They were white, just like her hair.
She said, “I do remember a handful of people in silver outfits and collars. I didn’t pay much attention to them at the time. We were . . . distracted. The experiments were very painful.”
Raleigh sighed and the women looked at him.
He said, “Well, for the moment that is one problem solved. Now for some new ones. We’re meeting with Lee Po later today to decide about heading back out. Something came up and he asked to meet with us and discuss joining forces with the Slender Sylph Company to handle it.”
Jillian looked confused. She said, “Wasn’t Li Po a great Chinese poet?”
“Yes. But in this case, it’s a play on names. He spells it L-E-E. I’m sure it’s not his real name, either.
“I’ll be calling a meeting tonight after the officers and I meet with him. You should be there. If we decide to join him, this would be your first voyage as a bona fide pirate.”
Jillian’s heart soared. At last she would get some decent alone time with Chris!
She smiled at Skylar, grinning ear to ear.
Skylar said, “Don’t get too excited. We’ll probably have to bunk with Granny. And she snores. Loudly.”