Stories Hub / Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Three Square Meals Ch. 060

Three Square Meals Ch. 060

by Tefler 10/30/16

The shadowy figure crawled out of the sarcophagus, and took a deep breath before exhaling fully, efficiently clearing its lungs of the musty tasting air from cryostasis. It then performed a complex set of stretches, limbering up its body and preparing for action. It was a routine it had performed four-hundred-and-thirty-two times before, starting each mission in exactly the same way. Collecting the tools of its trade from the racks on the wall, the black clad assassin sheathed them about its person, then padded over to the pilot's chair in the cockpit and sank into the seat.

The console appeared inert and seemingly lifeless, but the assassin reached for a hidden button on the black surface, feeling for the familiar curves by touch alone. Pressing the button, an insubstantial holographic image suddenly appeared, floating above the console as it took shape, and casting a blue light across the darkened cockpit. After a second of static, the image coalesced into the familiar face of Master Amatsu Mikaboshi, sitting regally in his gothic throne.

He leaned forward, and smiling wickedly he said, "If you are viewing this recording, Shinatobe, the time of reckoning for my elusive quarry is at hand." Reaching out to his side, he pressed a button on the armrest of his throne, and a second image appeared, showing a man with pointed ears. "This is your target. Further information has been included in your mission debrief. You are to execute mission classification two-one-seven. "

The recording ended as abruptly as it had started, and although this was not a live feed, the assassin replied by rote in an almost indecipherable murmur, "Hai, Idaina-sha."

Reaching for a tiny data-jack port on the console, Shinatobe slid back a panel from their wrist, uncovering wrist mounted jack points. After hooking them up, there was an almost inaudible high pitched whine as the debrief data began to download. Eyes flickering from side to side, the assassin read through the target analysis and profile of John Blake and his crew.

Shinatobe rose from the Pilot's chair, then glided over to the airlock door in the starboard side of the shuttle. The tiny ship was nestled up against the side of the target's vessel, and the adjoining airlock could be seen through the porthole in the door. The assassin reached up to the secured container by the side of the airlock, and entered a complex code into the unlit keypad on the side of the box. There was a soft click, and the front of the locked box swung open, revealing the precious treasure within.

Reaching out for the object, Shinatobe gently peeled the silky material from the stand, then donned the genetic synthi-print glove over a Nanoweave-shrouded hand. Once the glove was snugly in place, the assassin reached up to activate the airlock door to the shuttle, pressing the button that would open it. The door parted down the middle with an ominous hiss, then smoothly separated, revealing the outer airlock door of the Invictus.

The portal barring the way into the Invictus was a Berrings-class model-twelve Airlock; a standard fit in Terran Federation cruisers of this age. Reaching into its pocket, the shadowy intruder retrieved a small black box and placed it above the top right side of the airlock. After a two second wait the light turned green, and with the signal jammer now in place, the airlock would no longer be able to send an alert to the Bridge.

Shinatobe placed the hand with the synthi-print glove onto the DNA reader by the side of this secure portal, holding it carefully in place over the built-in scanner. A light swept across the scanner, then after only a split-second delay it flashed green, as the DNA was matched with an entry on the list of authorised users.

"Welcome home, John," a throaty, seductive voice purred, sounding absolutely delighted at his return.

Shinatobe flinched, hands instantly reaching for weapons, before realising it was just an automated message. Relaxing once more, the assassin watched the inner airlock door spiral open smoothly. Activating the Nanoweave mesh built into its combat suit, the assassin disappeared from view, all except for the hand with the synthi-print glove.

After stepping through the inner airlock door into the Invictus, Shinatobe pressed that same hand to the DNA reader inside the ship. The door spiralled shut once more, leaving no trace of the intrusion, and the assassin peeled off the glove, then folded it carefully before tucking it into a discreet pocket of their combat suit.

Now completely invisible to the naked eye, the deadly invader was free to stalk down the corridor, and begin preparations for the strike.

***

"You may enter," Edraele called out, answering the polite knock on the door.

"The Extraction teams have begun to arrive, Matriach," Almari said, as she walked into the Valaden Matriarch's study, before bowing respectfully. "We settled our guests in separate suites as you requested."

Edraele gave her a grateful smile, and rose from her seat as she replied, "Excellent, Almari, I had better go and introduce myself." She paused, eyeing the lithe young woman before her, and she added with a knowing smile, "I'm well aware that you, Luna, and Ilyana like to gossip amongst yourselves. I'm quite sure Luna told you what happened a few hours ago?"

Almari blushed, and nodded briefly while looking down to avoid further embarrassment. Edraele glided over to her, and reached out to gently lift the woman's chin with her hand. When Almari's cobalt-blue eyes flicked up to gaze into her own, she said, "Then let's have no more of this 'Matriarch' business between us. Please feel free to call me Edraele. We've known each other for many years now, but I hope that with everything that's happened, we can now become friends."

A warm smile spread across Almari's face, and she said, "I'd really like that. Thank you, Edraele."

"So would I," Edraele replied, smiling back at her. She glanced towards the door, and added, "Regretfully, business calls, so would you guide me to the first of our guests, please."

"Of course, Matri-... I mean, Edraele," Almari replied with a self-conscious smile.

They left Edraele's study, and strolled through the plush lounge before exiting the suite, passing the guards that snapped to attention outside the entrance. Walking along at a relaxed pace, Edraele could feel the slight nervousness from Almari over their empathic bond, the assassin still not fully relaxed in her presence. The guest quarters were some distance from her own private suite, so they strolled along together in companionable silence for a couple of minutes.

Eventually Edraele turned towards the younger woman, and asked, "How are you coping with the changes since John turned our lives upside down?"

Almari was a little hesitant as she glanced at the older woman, and admitted, "It's still taking a little getting used to."

Leaning in to her companion, Edraele whispered conspiratorially, "I really was quite the tyrant, wasn't I?"

The assassin laughed lightly, relaxing as she replied, "Let's just say I was always, -cautious-, with how I spoke or behaved around you."

"I'm sorry, that must have been awful," Edraele said sympathetically.

They reached an intersection in the corridor, and paused a moment to let a small group of naval crewwomen walk past. With the fleet-wide refit still ongoing, Genthalas Shipyard was heaving with personnel. The group of young women looked shocked when they spotted Edraele, and they stared at her for a second before bowing respectfully and then hurrying out the way. Almari watched them closely, constantly on guard for any potential danger, but the tension left her body as the group hurried onwards, eager to be away from the dreaded Valaden Matriarch.

Edraele and Almari stopped and watched them rush off down the corridor, the young women chattering excitedly amongst themselves when they were safely out of earshot. When Edraele let out a melancholy sigh, Almari darted a look in her direction, and saw a sad look of regret on the Matriarch's face.

Almari paused, still unsure of the limits to the boundaries between them, before she said softly, "You have quite the reputation for your volatile and extremely deadly temper. That was in the past though, and it really doesn't take long to see that you're not like that any longer."

"I hope so," Edraele said wistfully. "It's horrible to see my people running in fear from me."

After glancing around to make sure they weren't overheard, Almari turned to Edraele with a reverent gleam in her eyes, and said, "They'll come around. The changes that John made to you are quite astounding." She blushed a little as she added, "I really like the new you."

Edraele smiled at Almari affectionately, and said, "That was very kind of you to say, thank you Almari."

They continued walking towards their destination, and Edraele glanced at the assassin keeping pace at her side, and asked, "What about the other recent changes? The physical ones? Have they been unsettling?"

Almari laughed as she held out her arms, looking at the perfectly smooth unblemished skin, and she replied, "I must admit, it's been a little strange not to see my old scars any more. I had some of them for several decades, and now it feels like my past has been scrubbed clean. It's quite liberating!"

They had arrived outside the first of the guest suites, and they stopped by the sealed door in the deserted corridor. Edraele smiled at the younger woman, and reached out with her slender hand towards Almari, but her fingers stopped inches away from the bodyguard's torso. "May I?" she enquired politely.

Almari immediately replied, "Of course, Matr-." She smiled, and continued, "Sorry. Yes, that's fine, go ahead."

Edraele smoothed her hand over the firm muscles in Almari's lower belly, causing the younger woman to gasp at her touch. Looking into her eyes, Edraele asked quietly, "How about the other physical changes? The life-changing ones?"

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