Syndicate Files: The Relic - Part 3

The Order of the Squirrel's church, such as it was, was located in a ventilation shaft. It was accessed via stairs that spiraled down the side of the Rifter-wide cylindrical space. The church itself wasn't more than a large shack, perched precariously on a suspended platform made of scrap, with the curved side of the shaft serving as the structure's back wall. As we approached, air being pushed through the ventilation system below tugged at the robes and whistled through the tangle of cables that kept the anti-technologist's church from being swallowed by the vast metal gullet that disappeared into darkness beneath.

Good symbolism, plus the rent was probably really low.

We stepped onto the gently swaying platform and made our way inside. Noone seemed to notice a couple more people in robes. Most of the interior was one large room, smoky with incense and filled with the mutter of the Squirrel's low chanting. The alter up front had what looked like a piece of a real tree propped against the corrugated tin wall, and a crude painting of some animal's huge, vaguely triangular head in browns and tans masked behind its bare, bleached-white branches. Maybe it was just the smoke, but the thing's eyes seemed to gleam blackly. Creepy.

There was also a briefcase, its sleek contours not really fitting in with the scrap-metal, ropes, and tarps motif the rest of the place had going. It looked like the kind of metal case you see money or drugs delivered in, in holos.

Auvy nudged me and I nodded, and whispered, "Pretty sure that's it. We can wait and come back when-"

Just then the chanting stopped abruptly. I coughed to cover the talking and an emaciated guy with a big beard in the front gave me a glare, and cleared his throat. His voice, surprisingly rich, rolled across the room as he addressed his flock, "Today is a day to celebrate! The gods have put into our hands one of the great works, one of the great tools of the evil spirits. For them, a vital wedge in their vile designs to see us separated from the great whole with walls of metal and cocoons of meaningless noise. A machine that mocks nature's creations in its bastardized mimicry!"

I thought it would be a bad time to point out that walls of metal were separating him from space, too. He went on.

"We will see this horror destroyed, so that the gods will know there are still some who are righteous!"

His beard bristling righteously, he opened a trap-door and held the case over the abyss. This had to be Fortune kicking me in the ribs and laughing.

I tugged on Auvy's sleeve, and we started edging around the crowd as the priest kept talking. And talking. Mocking nature, abomination, more walls of metal.

As we got closer, Auvy whispered, "You distract 'em, I'll grab it."

I nodded and she sidled into striking distance. I waited till she was set, then got out my stun stick and gave a solid looking guy near me a good dose. He went down with a shriek, and I yelled, "Behold! He's having a vision! The gods are visiting him!"

Everyone looked.

Auvy snatched the case from the priest, who fell through the trap door with a squawk of outrage. It's okay, I'm pretty sure he caught the side. There was a rickety door in the back wall, to the right of the alter. I bulled through it and motioned Auvy over frantically. We got inside and I closed it and tipped a handy bookcase in front of it. It was a storeroom, spare chairs and piles of posters here and there. The back was the grey of the shaft's wall.

Outside, sounds of confused outrage built as the Squirrels figured out what had happened.

Auvy put down the case and looked around, "What now?"

"I thought through to the roof..." I looked up, and realized that the roof for this room was a single piece of - no doubt thin - metal. For our purposes it might as well have been a 1600mm rolled tungsten plate. None of the hodgepodge of the front, no visible way through. I could hear thumps against the door, now.

"Have a plan B, Rory?"

"There." I pointed, "We go through there."

"A duct?" She gave it an accusing glare, which she turned on me, "Do I look like Airki Bautiste or Vival Airette? Is this Goullain's latest action flick we're in? Or maybe I look like Ydet?"

"You look better than all of them, Auvy. You see another way out? Where we don't have to go through an angry fish-cult?"

"I thought it was a sort of bird. Fine. I go first." She produced a thin stiletto from her robes and used it to pry the vent cover off. Behind us, the door was starting to give, and angry shouting was more and more audible. Auvy pulled herself up into the vent, and I pushed the case in after her, then climbed up myself. Auvy called back, "I'll try and find a way out. Don't think I'm helping you if you get stuck."

It was slow going. Auvy wasn't having many problems, but I was certainly no Ydet. The duct was barely wide enough for my shoulders. There were a couple times I thought I'd gotten wedged for sure, but I always squeezed through. I could hear Auvy on the other side of the case in front of me, no doubt squirming right along with no trouble.

My head came level with a narrower side-vent and I heard an angry hiss. I turned my head slowly to stare into glittering, beady black eyes. It had to be the biggest fedo I'd ever seen. It held its stinger poised.

"Nice fedo, good fedo." I whispered. I could barely even move my arms, "I'm just moving through, don't wanna bother you. There's a nice girl."

It hissed again, and Auvy called from ahead, "Rory? What was that? Who're you talking to?"

"Noone, don't worry about it!" I'd never hear the end of it, being stared down by a fedo, "You just keep going."

"Okay, think I see a way out."

I moved very slowly, feeling my skin crawl as I had to drag my torso and legs in front of the creature. I hadn't smelled it, which meant it hadn't eaten well in a while, which meant it was probably cranky. The case I was pushing ahead of me with one awkwardly-held arm seemed to be getting heavier and heavier, and the duct just kept going.

Then I was past, no fedo stings, and not much further ahead I could see light filtering in. I got the case by the handle, dangled it as low as I could, and let it drop, then pulled myself out. I ended up in a heap, luckily the floor wasn't too far down.

I lay on my back for a minute, catching my breath, then sat up.

I was in a warehouse, looked like it didn't see much traffic. Gently mouldering piles of merchandise here and there. Auvy was nowhere in sight. The AI had landed within arms' reach of me. A double pace away was Lieutenant-Inspector Tybak Simaaka of the DED, with a pistol trained on my chest.

"Good to see you again, Tarva," he said. He sounded a little out of breath.

"Simaaka." I didn't see Auvy anywhere. If he'd hurt her...

"I know you're armed. Take it out and slide it over, please. Slowly."

I complied, carefully sliding my slug thrower across the floor toward him, "How'd you-?"

"The coffee. Now, slide the case over."

I saw movement behind him, but kept my face carefully still. "Putting trackers in a man's coffee. That's low, even for DED." I slid the case over.

"Well, this isn't entirely an official thing." He shrugged and did something odd: He addressed the case, "And sorry babe, but I got an offer to big to refuse. I know I owe you, but that's the way the omber breaks. You aren't the only one, and you weren't paying."

Then Auvy was behind him, and he stiffened as she pressed something against the base of his skull. She reached forward with her other hand, "Gun."

He handed it to her carefully, "I wasn't gonna-"

"Don't wanna hear it." She backed up a couple steps, training his own gun on him, "Kick Rory's gun back to him. And the case, or it's your brains on the walls."

Her voice sounded different. Harder. Simaaka did what she told him to do. I picked up the gun and trained it on him. Picked up the case. He looked calm, "Just a matter of time till I get her back. Me or one of the cults. Least my interest is business."

He had a look, when he said that, like maybe that last part made him unhappy. I didn't have time to try and sort out his issues, though. We needed to get going.

I made my way over to Auvy's side, and we left him there. Locked the hatch behind us, when we left the compartment, to slow him down.

We ditched the robes, tucked the pistols away, and walked like we didn't have a care in the world, "Auvy, you must have fallen out of the vent right on top of him. How - ?"

"He wasn't there, yet. I heard him coming, got out of sight. Must have taken him a minute to figure out what was going on, when the trackers started going through walls. Since everyone knows that only works in holos."

"Yeah, yeah. What about the gun? I didn't know you carried."

"I don't, this is his."

"I meant before. If you don't carry, what'd you use to make him drop his?"


"But you carry a knife."

She shook her head and looked at me with disdain, "Everyone knows you don't bring a knife to a gun fight, Rory."

"So you brought lipgloss?"

"Yeah, worked didn't it?" Couldn't argue that one. "Where are we going?"

"Somewhere that should be safe for a bit, to plan."


Kalorr's Delight is a bar and lounge that caters to those that enjoy a pipe and a good drink. The atmosphere is casual, relaxed. The quasi-Amarr decoration seems antique and comfortable, rather than imperious.

Kalorr's Delight is also the headquarters for the Blood Raiders on the station. I'd done their high priest and boss, Aruvasa Dun, a good turn a while back. Figured he wouldn't mind me holing up there for a bit. It was my fondest wish that I wouldn't need to see him while I was there either. He might owe me a favour, but he was still a Blooder high priest.

We got a private booth and set the case on the table. A young woman I recognized from my last visit came over almost as soon as we were settled. She had only a few of the mobile Rak'esme facial tattoos that marked rank among the blooders on the station. "His Eminence would like you to know that he extends his hospitality to you. Drinks and herbs," She indicated the water pipe in the middle of the table, "On the house."

I'd bet on that fedo I met earlier in a fight against a slavers hound before I woulda bet that Dun didn't know plenty about what was going on. Not just cause it was a damn mean looking fedo, either.

The blooder girl left us alone, and we ordered coffee. It was right after the waiter left that the case spoke up, "Didn't know that bastard'd double cross me. Sorry about that."

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