Shanghaied Part 3

Demen walked briskly through the corridors in the guts of the Blood Raider station. Over his shoulder he carried a duffel bag.He wasn't sure where he was going, though he was sure this wasn't the way to the place that the Green Woman had taken him before. This was deeper into the station. Even the junkies were few and far between. Ghosting along well behind him was a team of marines. He hoped that their loose cloths would hide their body armor, in case any of the shapes slumped against the walls here and there were lookouts. He ducked through condensation dripping from a buzzing power conduit. The door he stopped in front of was large and looked to be a section divider, meant to act as a semi-permanent partition in case of serious damage to the station. He reached out and knocked in just the right way, the knowledge seeming to just come to him.

When he had been taken to medical, back on the Ideal, they hadn't known what was wrong with him at first. Finally they had resorted to a full body scan. That's how they found the Transcrannial Microcontroller. The medical techs had been ready to remove it, but Col Voutelen had showed up again and had them deactivate it. Then she gave Demen the chance to volunteer. Again. This time, he would have to keep the TCMC for a while longer. They would erase most of the behavioral controls, but leave in the bits about where to go and how to act when he got there. That way, he could lead the way and be the scout for the tactical team that would shadow him. Make sure the crew were secure if he could. He had agreed. They had set it up, which had taken a while. The Captain had even come down to take a look, since apparently he was some kind of implant expert. Demen had been a bit surprised Captain Night was so normal looking, up close.

So, here he was. The heavy door swung aside and he was ushered into the compartment by an armed man, Ni-Kunni, but he didn't look like a Blood Raider. Something about the eyes maybe. Several more men and women lounged around the sparsely furnished room, and Demen saw light laser weapons, snub-nosed projectile throwers, and even what looked like a couple of mag-driven weapons. To one side, two figures who definitely were blooders, in maroon robes, sat at a table. They argued or negotiated intensely with an overweight, tanned Gallente man, who seemed to be sweating profusely. The guard who had greeted him at the door ushered him onward through a door on the other side of the room as Demen tried to maintain his best expression of docility. The guard guided him down a hallway, through a door, into the next compartment, a large space with bunks and a few tables. A second guard kept one bored eye on the others in the room, though most of his attention seemed to be on the magazine he was reading, and he glanced up only breifly at the new entries. People Demen recognized as crew were among those sitting or standing around. They all seemed to have a dull, listless expression. Demen tried not to shudder and with a thought sent the kill order to his implant, which rendered it inoperable. Then he hit a transmitter to let the Tac Squad know he was in. He was a little disgusted, because these amateurs hadn't even scanned him, after he and the techs spent all that time making sure the transmitter was masked.

As the guard gave him a final halfhearted push toward the other crew, Demen lashed out, striking the man in the solar plexus and throat in quick succession. Even as the guard started to bring his hands to his ruined throat, Demen grabbed the grip of the laser carbine still slung across the mans shoulder and fired a series of shots at the still-sitting guard in the corner, walking them across him as he tried to stand. Striking the last guard hard in the face, he let him drop. Wrinkling his nose slightly at the smell of burned meat, Demen stripped the man in the corner of a flechette gun and two clips, then went to the door and risked a quick peek around the corner. Nothing. He dragged the guards both into one corner and avoided looking at the blank stares of the men and women around him, then positioned himself near the door to wait.

It had been barely a minute by his watch when he heard the muffled thump of a flash-bang in the other room. He dropped the gun and hurried down the hall, but waited for the shooting to die before opening the door with his hands up and away from himself. Bodies littered the room, most of them with tight groupings on their chests, though at least a couple looked to have taken head shots. Rifles from around the room were instantly trained on him as he stepped forward. The XO herself was standing in front of the surviving slavers, who were lined up in front of a wall. Both the blooders were there - now that he was looking from the front he could see it was one man and one woman. The fat man who had been arguing with them was on the ground moaning, it looked like a round had smashed his knee. Two other guards sullenly looked at the ground, refusing to meet her eyes. Demen walked over to her, "Our people are secure sir. Two down in back."

"Very good Master Gunny. The team that was to take the surgery they had you in is likely done by now as well. You can head back to the ship with the first team when they go."

One of the Blooder Raiders began speaking, "Do you know who I am? This is our station. This sort of-"

Demen nodded and stepped back as Commander Invelen turned back to the survivors and cut the woman off mid-sentence, "You will all be my guests for the foreseeable future. The rest of your lives, probably. Whoever talks first might - might - be able to cut a deal. We'll see. Two blooders though, is probably one too many."

Demen froze with shock as the Commander pulled out her sidearm and shot the babbling preistess in the head. She eyed the corpse coldly for a moment and stepped out of the way so it wouldn't get blood on her, then turned back to the 4 remaining, "You will keep whatever you have to say to yourself until we are ready to interrogate you."

As he headed back to the ship with the prisoners in tow, Demen couldn't help wondering which had frightened him more: That he had had his mind and will stolen by Blood Raider slavers, however briefly. Or the unquenchable, raging fire that showed ever so briefly in Commander Amieta Invelen's eyes as she pulled the trigger.


Shanghaied Part 2

Demen didn't have much trouble acting like he couldn't keep from weaving as he followed the Ni-Kunni woman in front of him into an abandoned section of the station. Everything had gone perfectly. One of the crew had been approached in a bar by the woman, who Demen had to admit was one hell of a specimen. The man had been hustled out of the place, while Demen had been called in to dangle in front of her. She managed to be fetchingly pale, rather than sallow. Green eyes, dark brown hair. White blouse, short jacket, skirt, everything else green. They'd coached him for hours so he could drivel on about how exciting graviton reactors were. It'd been a relief when he had finally felt whatever she slipped into his drink start to catch up to him. She - he couldn't even remember the name she had given, the Green Woman - was good too. He hadn't even seen her do it. Now he was still feeling a little woozy despite specialist implants working to scrub the drug out of his system. Strong stuff.

Now she tugged him along by the hand and he tried to keep track of the twists and turns. He kept getting distracted by the hints of rust on the patterned steel deck plating, trying to avoid the occasional junkie slumped against the wall or shambling along the corridor in the opposite direction, human detritus too fouled for even the Blood Raiders. He did notice that they all moved to slink out of the Green Woman's way. He nearly ran into her as she stopped and rapped on a door, identical to the others spaced along the hall. It slid open and she turned to him and spoke, "Here we are baby. Just through here. Paradise waits."

Demen stepped through and was immediately grabbed by hulking bruisers of men, so alike in every other way that the fact their facial features were totally different was hardly enough to differentiate them. Still muddled by the drug, Demen forgot his mission momentarily. He stepped into the knee of the man on the right with a crunch, freeing his right arm with a jerk, and aimed an elbow at the man's throat as the man fell. Everything seemed to float, slowly, as if in thick oil. It was hard to focus, and Demen watched fascinated as the elbow broke the man's jaw and the same movement continued around to take the man still holding him with an uppercut to the stomach as Demen pivoted clumsily, his body seeming to belong to someone else. Demen had a moment to feel a strangely distracted satisfaction as the man folded and lost his grip. Then there was the touch of something cold at the back of his neck and he blinked.

Demen stumbled as he ran into a wall and glanced around. Back in a well lit part of the station. Everything was fine. He had a headache, and the uniform he was wearing didn't seem right somehow, he was sure. Didn't matter. He had to pack. Tugging the jacket closer around himself he hurried back toward the docks.

Walking through the docking collar onto the Utopian Ideal, everything seemed slightly surreal. The ship had become strange to him, even though he knew it like the back of his hand. He couldn't draw attention, and he had to leave soon. They were waiting for him. He ducked through back passages and avoided common areas as he made his way to his quarters. The feeling that he was being watched slithered across the back of his neck the entire time, and it was all he could do to avoid glancing around constantly. It would be over soon, he would be away from this terrible place, he'd finally be safe. He couldn't remember when he last felt safe. Didn't know how he had stood being here already... however long it had been. It had all been a terrible blur, but things were clearer now. He knew where he needed to be, and everything would be wonderful after that.

As he left his quarters he nearly ran into a short, slight looking officer with the insignia of a full colonel on her collar, flanked by a pair of Marines in 'light' powered armor. Her name tag read 'Voutelen.' She glanced at the duffel, "Going somewhere, Master Gunny?"

"I, uh, excuse me sir." Demen turned and tried to walk the other direction down the hallway, eyes on the floor, but was jerked to a stop as an armored hand wrapped all the way around his bicep.

"Take the Master Gunnery Sergeant to Medical corporal." The woman spoke from behind him, but when he turned she had disappeared. He docilely let the two soldiers march him off, brutally suppressing his growing panic and knowing that, without a hint of doubt, whatever else he felt, trying to fight, or hurt, the men and women on this ship would be the wrong thing to do.


Shanghaied Part 1

Demen managed to give the impression of standing at attention, even when leaning back in a chair. Dark brown eyes behind the distinctive epicanthic folds of a Khanid, set in a face tanned and weathered under alien suns and wrinkled with laugh lines that were a mystery to recruits but not to his few friends. Surprisingly elegant hands that showed the tell-tale traceries of peripheral neural rewiring - like the faint shimmer of ultra-violet ink - all the way to the tips of the fingers adjusted the cuffs of his perfectly pressed service uniform. He slouched as lazily as a coiled spring, scanning the room, drinking in details as naturally as breathing.

Two doors lead out of the waiting room, one to either side. The walls had the grey steel sheen of most Caldari ships, which was normal aboard the Utopian Ideal. Less usual were the several pieces of artwork dotting the walls, mostly pictures showing plants, or in one case a landscape with a field, backed by mountains and surrounded by trees. They had the look of quality pieces, and he had little doubt they were all originals, from the watercolor in the traditional Khanid style that reminded him so much of home to the surreal Gallente piece nearly hidden behind a potted plant. Oddest of all was the piece that didn't fit in, it looked to be a hydroponics bay, the intermixed plants in full bloom. It was given a place of honor, central on the wall opposite the row of chairs where Demen sat, over the desk where a blocky Civire ensign sat and acted as what had to be one of the cluster's least likely receptionists. It wasn't the subject matter of the painting that was odd, so much as that it had been executed with enthusiasm and some raw skill, but was plainly far below the standards of the other pieces around the room. It was like seeing a runt mongrel in the midst of a slaver hound pack, and the runt being the leader. No doubt it said something about the woman who owned it, but Demen couldn't even begin to guess at what.

His musing was interrupted as the door on the right opened and Col. Adazai strode out. Demen stood smoothly as the hawk-nosed man swept past. The Chief Engineering Officer looked preoccupied, not even glancing at the sergeant as he exited into the hall through the door to the left. The ensign at the desk nodded to Demen, "The Commander will see you now, sir."

Demen nodded to the man and walked into the inner office. His eyes swept across the woman seated behind the desk inside before fixing on the wall about ten cm above her head as he snapped a salute. Executive Officer Amieta Invelen had fair skin, looked to be in her mid to late thirties, and had the standardized beauty you often saw in corporate farmed Deteis women, made unique by a leanness of features, as if everything soft had been shorn away to reveal something predatory. The same faint traceries of rewiring showed here and there in her neck above her uniform, if you knew what you were looking for. Still, the crow's feet at the corners of her eyes made the brief smile before she spoke seem her natural expression, "At ease Master Gunny. Please, take a seat."

She leafed through a file in front of her as Demen sat, "Master Gunnery Sergeant Demen Jadat, fifth son of Umed Jadat, a minor though rather wealthy kingdom noble. Cyberknight training and education at the King's Academy, posting with Khanid Army, Special Operations. You rose to the rank of Sergeant there before opting for early retirement. You worked as a 'security consultant' for a number of years, until Captain Night hired you some five years ago. You have performed well, survived the destruction of no less than three ships. Does that all seem correct?"

"Four ships, sir. I was aboard the Slicer V, just not recorded on the manifest. All correct otherwise sir"

The XO frowned slightly and made a notation in the folder, "Well, four ships then. I have an assignment for you, but I need to ask a question first. Why are you still here?"


"On this ship, working for us - for Captain Night - why are you still here? Most crew who survive a single ship going down take the severance package. You survived four, including at least once when you were the only survivor. The money is good, but so is the severance package, and you have refused officer training. Asking around, your name came up as several times as a candidate for this assignment. There are others, but you seemed to rise to the top of the list. So, what keeps you here?"

Demen studied the XO's hands out of the corner of his eye as he thought about the question. They were a metallic color only slightly darker than the hull plating, the color of undisguised prosthetics. A swirling pattern was just visible on the backs, and it was common knowledge that the pattern, and the prosthetic, extended at least as far as the shoulder, though opinions varied on how far past that they might go. Even more varied were the theories about how she had ended up that way, from having it done herself to horrible experiments conducted on her as a child in the creche to a former career fighting carnivores bare-handed. Demen frowned slightly as he realized he was letting himself get distracted because he didn't want to answer the question, "Pay is steady, and I feel like this is where I belong sir. Like the people, like my platoon. Guess I'm just a born NCO. Even like most of the officers. Never really thought about it before, sir."

Commander Invelen studied him for a moment before turning around the folder she had been leafing through, "Good enough, I suppose. This would be the assignment, Master Gunnery Sergeant. We need someone steady, and someone who will come back to us, whatever is offered. Metabolic enhancements like the ones you received as a Cyberknight are ideal as well. It is, I want to be very clear, a strictly voluntary assignment. No pressure, no consequences if you decline.

"We have been losing crew, and it is because someone has been taking them. At least, that is what the intelligence weenies say. Now, we've narrowed it down quite a bit. Woman approaches one of our guys in a bar, he goes with her. Shows back here the next day, but disappears permanently in the next week. We need to know what's going on. Seems to be the same woman, and looks like the men are all swabbies and all specialists. Petty Officer and under. So, if you accept, we're gonna dress you up like a button pusher and stick you out there next time our lady shows up.

"It'll be risky, I'm not going to bullshit you Master Gunny. We don't know what they have been doing with our folks. All you have to do is play along, and we'll debrief you when you get back from the night out, and just go from there. We think they might be using drugs, some kind of hypnotic suggestion, we just don't know. By virtue to training and wetware, you're the best shot at being able to stand up to it, and come back and give us details on what is going on.

"Now, there is a bonus involved, but think it over carefully. It's probably even riskier than I'm making it sound, and you're valuable to the ship safe and sound too. I'll give you this to look over."

Demen accepted the folder from her, and risked her hard blue gaze, "I'll do it, sir. I'll even wear a sailor suit."

((Related, but containing spoilers: Amieta's Personal Journal))