Chapter 25: Dion1
The wedding was to be held after the funeral the next day. The whole town was more active than before. Both events were going to be televised and broadcast over all of Algol. Eiran asked me to be the best man. I thought it was fitting considering the original Earth purpose of the best man, to protect the new couple from the bride's family. With the exception of the rehearsal, I did my best when it came to all the work that had to be done. I avoided it as much as possible.
It wasn't easy. For all the time spent here, good hiding spots were beyond my realm of knowledge. So I switched between hanging around the mekton hanger of Dion1 and Rimfire. But too soon, Dass and Larani had staked them out. I was creeping back to my Rimfire quarters when I ran into Arisa. "You know people are looking for you." she said.
"Why do you think I'm here? If it was an emergency, they'd use the PA or radio. You on duty? We could play hookie together."
Arisa led me to the ship's communications array above the living quarters. It was cramped, but no one else knew where it was. I remembered about a similar spot in Night City. It was in a break in the ventilation system over a fancy restaurant which became my home for about ten days. I was on a stakeout for one of the higher ups at IMT. She was rumored to frequent this place. The owner did me a favor and allowed me to stay if I stayed out of sight. The time wasn't a total waste. Nope, I got incriminating evidence on more than half a dozen corps who later made generous contributions to the IMT Destruction Fund.
That was a night when I finally found her. One shot from a sniper rifle and I was gone. She wasn't too popular so when she got geeked, there wasn't too much of a negative affect on business. As I learned later, the media coverage actually increased the numbers of customers. There was even an urban legend based on what happened. As it's commonly told, she was so crooked that the building itself killed her as it only allows honest corps to dine inside it. Arisa chuckled when I told her about the legend.
We talked for hours about past experiences. I got a better understanding about her beliefs and she knew more about the ways of Night City and why we are so 'gun happy'. Not only was I able to avoid doing any actual physical work until nightfall, I also came up with a good excuse: aiding with maintenance in the communications array. However it didn't work as well as I would have liked. Karin flat-out didn't believe me and there was some doubt overall. But I guess that's understandable considering the day's events and activities. I had to keep myself from getting rusty. Careful exaggeration of the truth is one of a fixer's best skills.
They didn't give me much grief about not helping. By now they knew me well enough to know that I just didn't care for mundane chores. There just wasn't enough action in it. Eiran had a case of pre-wedding jitters. Aleoi, Larani, and Laian took Ariel someplace to celebrate and stayed out late as Cedric, Tammis, and I took Eiran to one of the seeder bars in Dion City. This place was too new to have a read red light district. The best we could do was someplace that had scantly-clad waitresses, nothing indecent, just what people would wear to a beach.
Personal experience has taught me that old habits die hard. Eiran's shyness crept back as he could do little more than to mutter his drink order to a rather attractive waitress. We tried to get him to loosed up, but to no avail. It was as if he was already married and didn't want to risk anything for his new wife. The day's events took a toll on all of us. But I suspected that the groom wouldn't get much sleep so I let him use the inducer. In retrospect, it was a bad idea. After he got a three-hour snooze, Eiran was more nervous than ever. Now his wedding was in a matter of hours instead of merely tomorrow.
After I got a dose of artifical sleep, I did what I could to keep him entertained. Using my skills with computer libraries, I dredged up some marriage manuals and a short article about female psychology for him to read. This seemed to do the trick as I never heard a peep out of him until about 5:00am. I let him take a short nap before final preparations and rehearsals were made. I noticed that throughout the day at least two members of Overwatch were present with me at all times. Why would they do that? It's not as if I would go and run off to avoid work.
After a light lunch all of us was fitted with our formal wear. Some doubted the appropreativeness of my red, white, and blue suit and I had to do some fancy talking for the approval and the quick production of a matching space suit [the funeral was to be held outside]. The funeral was to be transmitted to the entire planet. All of us stood around the open grave, not far from where the Aggendi first emerged from Dion's surface. First there was a litany read by Ariel, who led a prayer for Arkon's soul. Everyone's space suits were linked together so the world could hear us all. After Ariel, Haversom gave respects from Elara and Ettara.
As the silver casket was lowered into the hole, Korax spoke, "There are those of you here on Algol who view this man as the greatest evil to ever blight the surface of our world. It is true that he was 'expedient' when it was called for. He was able to kill when needed; that was one of his greatest assets. He could look at a large problem and solve it with out needless emotion. There is however, a rumor that Arkon wished to decimate anything non-Kargan, to commit genocide on this planet. Nothing could be further from the truth. He wished unity, and when it became obvious that unity would never be achieved through war, he turned to peace. I have lost two daughters and a son through war, and now it has cost me a dear friend. Arkon Verian founded the UAA. It was his idea to create a unifying force that could keep all of Algol working without my knowledge. Only recently did he reveal the truth. Now the UAA has come under attack from forces all over the planet. The Murians have withdrawn; the Elaran populous is being manipulated my the 'press' and elements of its own government. I ask, at the grave of my dear friend, for unity. As the emperor of Karga I can command my own people, but to everyone else on the planet I ask this as a citizen of Algol."
As Korax finished his speech, there was a flash of light, as a power surge seems to destroy the cameras one my one. My metal arm and eye felt like they were on fire. My right field of vision flickered on and off and I could feel the heat building up inside my skull. Without warning my grapple hand shot out into the sky and my PUG activated and sent bullets flying silently after it. As the news crews and myself reeled from the chaos erupting from our electronics, a single plasma blast decimates the crater where Arkon's body was laid to rest. People were thrown about, as a single mekton appeared overhead, bearing Axis markings.
The disruption in my artifical parts subsided when over the headsets I heard the deep booming voice of Dremmond chilled me to the bone. "I have cut your communications. There is no help for you. I offer you a choice: Join me, or be destroyed. The end of the world is upon us. The Aggendi are on their way as we speak. They have accepted me as the human leader of the planet. Join with me, and you will survive.... Oppose me and you will be consumed!"
I looked to the others and immediately knew that everyone got the ultimatum. A single spark from my cyber eye burned my cheek and my vision dimmed slightly for a second as the coolness of the speedware kicked in, activated my the power surge. The only voice in response is Korax's, "I would rather end my life than follow a mad fool!"
That was apparently the wrong thing to say. The Axis mekton raised its mean cannon, and aimed toward the ground below. Everyone scrambled for cover, except Korax and the Imperial Guard-they stood their ground. Dremmond fired on the defiant Emperor. Everything became slow motion as the booster took affect and the blast lanced downward. Suddenly there was a blur of action, but not on the ground, it was in the air! Looking up, I saw a Sentinel, with a molten lump where the shield and arm used to be. The Sentinel pulled out a beam saber, and cut at the other suit's center. The enemy parries easily, and with a backhand swipe eradicates the Sentinel's head.
Behind first Sentinel, four others approach, and the Axis unit withdraws a bit. It raised its gun, and a single blast enveloped the Sentinel. It exploded into a thousand pieces of debris. Dremmond turned, and sped off into space; at about the same time the other Sentinels land. Just as the first one touched the ground, the cockpit opened and Arisa jumped out. She yelled over the radio, "Did Haj eject?"
The artifical boost returned things to normal and made relaying the bad news that much longer and more painful. Despite the sorrow this day has caused, an effort was made to insure the wedding took place. I was ordered to the science lab where the damage was repaired. The surge blew out several major circuits, but nothing this new team of self appointed cyber-experts couldn't fix. To their credit, not only were they able to repair what was done, but install some sort of power buffer to keep in from happening again in time for the wedding. But my suit was a complete loss. The lower right sleeve was shredded and burned from the PUG, forcing me to settle on a bright green tux which reminded me of an old leisure suit I had once used as a disguise.
Korax gave away the bride in a lovely procession. Haj's death was never far from our minds, but for a precious few hours our hearts were filled with joy for the new couple. It was times like this that make all the hours of battle and struggle worth wild. The ceremony lasted late into the night and it would be fair to say that I have had a good dose of wine. I stumbled into my quarters (at least I thought it was my quarters) and collasped on the bed and fell asleep. The alcohol kept any psychic dreams at bay. Except for the last one.
For a second I though I was drowning in boiling lava. I was awake instantly and standing over me was Karin with an empty pot of soykaff, the contents thereof was now dripping down my chin. This had the same affect as actually drinking it. I sputtered and coughed as I glared at her. If looks could kill.... "Thank whatever gods you Algolians you worship that my arm is out of ammo."
"It would appear that our special operative couldn't seem to find his own quarters." she said.
"Then how did I get in?" Instead of her normal witty repatore, she held up a door panel by its wires. When the front rotated to face me, I saw that the keypad had a single fist shaped imprint. It was then I glanced down at my right hand and sure enough there were small rips and tears that would result in the current state of the object now dangling before me. "You're enjoying this aren't you?" I mumbled as I crawled out of bed towards the door.
"Every second of it. Now go make yourself look presentable. Haj's funeral is in a few hours."
Right now I felt awful and had a dire need to hold a conversation on the big white phone. As I prayed to the porclian god I vowed that I would get that cyber liver which was made to keep people from getting this drunk. Of course I made the same promise every time this happened but this time I meant it. Arisa was kind enough to help but were some things only the passage of time could cure. The entire crew of Rimfire was irate and short tempered. Dass, angered that the Axis would have the audacity to attack Arkon's funeral, ordered a course set for the location of the Axis transmitting device to be destroyed.
Korax gave his farewells to Dion1 and everyone in Overwatch. As he left, he vowed that a squad of more advanced Sentinels would be sent to us within a month. The memorial was short. I gave a small eulogy about his strength of will and inner strength. When he died, so did the one person here that I could relate to. We were bonded by cybernetic limbs and knew of the power of the metal. But I think he never got used to those manipulable interface plugs. His death created some strain on the new couple. Eiran wanted his wife to return to Algol for her own safety. But she wanted vengeance against her father's killers.
As I prepared to leave for Rimfire, it was apparent that my intervention might be necessary. Standing in their doorway I said, "Not to interrupt such an interesting discussion but it would appear that a third party is needed. I've gone through plenty to see you two got together and if you think that I'm just going to stand here and let it go to waste, you're crazy! Now none of us know just how long this mission is going to take, maybe months or years. So it would appear that you have one of three choices. Either both of you stay here, both stay on Algol, or end this marriage and go your separate ways. The last is unimaginable considering how much you care for each other. Eiran, you want Ariel to be safe. That's good, and sending her planetside would do that, but what about her feelings. Did you get married only to be separated for an undetermined amount of time? Ariel, you want vengeance. So would I, but you don't know what it does to a person. I do and it's not pretty. But acting upon those feelings is better than staying behind and bottling them up."
"But she is at risk here." Eiran countered.
"With Axis around, no place is safe. Remember, being a mekton pilot, there's a greater risk to you. Do you really want your wife to worry herself sick over you all the time."
Ariel interjected, "Please listen to him, dear. I want to be here, with you. My place in Kargan society went with my father. Where would I go?"
Without a reasonable answer, Eiran said nothing and conceded defeat. Plans to bring Ariel onboard the Rimfire were made. Construction crews worked all day merging two quarters into an apartment. Their new home was next to mine. A fact I would not accept as coincidence. So they wanted an arbitrator close by, fine with me. Despite what she said, Ariel still had connections that might be useful in my future. At 6 that evening on the last day of my first complete month in this world the final move to the ship was in order.
The shuttle carried the rest of us to the Rimfire as some of the crew made final preparations. Not knowing how long we'd be in space, Tammis and I decided to stockpile on snack foods. Actually he did most of the shopping, I was there mostly to carry the sacks with my tireless arm. As we docked in the hanger, I looked at the missing mekton as a painful reminder of Haj's sacrifice. If anything good came out of this, it was the fact that Haj took Eiran's mekton. So now until the new Sentinels arrived, the chances of Ariel becoming a widow were drastically reduced. The timing was excellent for this critical time in their marriage. By nightfall, the construction crews were finished and had returned to Dion1.
Like some parent, I told the Alestains how lucky they were to have a place like this and about all those holes in the walls I was forced to call home for years during their house warming party. Karin made some dry joke about how an Edgerunner's version of a house warming party would involve a flame thrower. To my surprise, everyone laughed. Actually I did do that once, I despised the guy and his brand new house he bought with money he earned by slaughtering my family. When I got done, they needed a dentist to ID the remains. That little adventure was a small part in my revenge scheme, but it was one of the more fun in a crude, sinister sort of way.
As I fell asleep that night, I got a faint mental touch. I recognized the 'voice' call to me as Eliza's. She called for help repeatedly before fading off after a moment. My whole body was telling me that this was no dream and that somewhere, somehow Eliza was alive! Larani was already awake when I told her the news. She looked like she was light years away as she expressed doubt about what happened. I had to threaten to keep her up until she agreed to tell the captain and notify Queen Ymri. Then Laian called and in a conference call she confirmed what I told Larani. I think it was that more than anything else that convinced her to take us seriously.
"What's on your mind?" I asked, after Laian left. "It's my father. He says that he looks forward to our 'visit'."
"Well if you need morale support you know where I am."
"Yes, I do know where you are except when there's work to be done." she finished with a smirk.
I almost made a rude gesture as the screen as it turned black. So now I knew that Eliza was alive, but how could I get more information? Before I realized the extent of my power, this idea would have been dismissed as ludicrous. But right now sleep was the only answer. Heedless of the nightmarish visions natural slumber assaults me with, I forced myself into sleep. There were no visions, no nightmares, no messages of any kind, merely a chaotic pattern of flashes of the day's events. When midmorning came around, instead of waking up a clue as to the whereabouts of my first Algolain lover, I found doubts as to whether or not what I experienced was real or not. The Rimfire left Dion orbit at top speed. Unlike the leisurely trips of the past, the ship proceeded at full throttle. The engines were pressed beyond maximum causing greater tremors than anyone was comfortable with.