The transport shuttle took their ship down to dock with the massively enormous fortress of solitude that was Wichmond’s place of residence. It then returned to the satellite.
Wichmond was a very isolated and paranoid individual. That was why independent landings on the moon weren’t even allowed, you had to take transport, and the only one operating was on that landing satellite. Fortunately, having a cybernaut in the crew was one of the very unique things about Hornet’s Nest…it wasn’t something people expected of smugglers and so protection against it was usually minimal.
The whole deal with the name had made Daigo realize that no, he had never thought of the ship as belonging to them. A hornet had been a reference to her because that was his first impression of Kiyin…due to her constantly belligerent disposition to sting him at every opportunity. He always considered himself the fortuitous executive manager of the ship, not its owner, despite the fact he thought of the name to serve a crew theme.
But he couldn’t bring himself to dwell on that, more important things needed his attention.
The clone was as frightened as when they had first talked to him. Daigo didn’t pay him much attention outside of feeding him a meal. He looked abnormal, from the weak hairless appearance to the jittery panicked expression. It was a good thing most of the fortress functioned automatically.
Daigo hesitated to ask him questions because he could lie at any time. He’d rather not know and assume than have to guess whether to lean towards what he was told or not. So he had nothing to go on outside of knowing that all the security was automatic.
The fortress itself was dauntingly beautiful. Shades of viridian steel towered inside a dome that had been built to protect and artificially manage its climate, mixing fashionably with the blue of the moon’s floor. The docking platform was outside of the dome.
Daigo didn’t pay much attention to the fortress, but rather to the clone himself. Every single hesitation or second thought made him more nervous than he should be. Kyle was fine and mostly oblivious to the danger and Hannes was convinced the man was bringing upon another clone revolution, which is to say, so he was even more on edge.
Everything went smoothly, however. No alarms, no one suddenly showing up going “hey, you’re not supposed to be here!” Room after room, the silence, quietness, and overall absence of trouble continued as the man’s dna, retina, blood, and passwords passed all possible checkpoints and unlocked every lock.
It wasn’t until they reached the bedroom, where they planned to take the other Wichmond down supposedly, that they found the first sign of life.
It wasn’t other Wichmond. It was a Centaurian warrior, who seemed busy shuffling through the place, clearly searching for something, when the door opening alerted him to their presence.
He drew a gun on them a bit slower than Hannes drew on him, the consequence of which was losing his hand to the sound of a loud cutting whisp.
The clone yelped and tried to run away but Daigo grabbed him and violently threw him inside, all while Hannes spat out profanity and charged to tackle the combatant to the ground. Daigo closed the door out of basic precaution, gesturing Kyle to stand back. Hannes scuffled with the Centauri and had him limb-locked in under a minute.
The prostrated forehead, which had a third eye, was already frowning in anger. The pain of his exploded hand seemed to be an already absent thought.
“Warrior class for sure, boss,” Hannes stated, holding the man up and steady. Centaurian eyes had no white to them. They were perfect spheres with irises that featured patterns of greater complexity. It bothered Daigo to look straight into them but that’s what he did.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“I should ask you the same thing, mammal!” They were also not mammals, which is why he couldn’t just kick his testicles in for immediate answers.
He punched him for effect and then searched for any tracking tech he could be carrying on him. The Centaurian’s hand was still bleeding from being shot off by Hannes’s hand-cannon, and the clone had hidden under the bed. Daigo found a bug on the same place John had had his. He kept it safe and sound because destroying it would likely alert his allies.
“What’s going on?” Kyle asked.
Daigo’s thoughts raced. He also wanted to know but odds were very against them breaking a spy in the most lavish bedroom in the universe.
Does that say massaging pool? What’s a massaging pool?
He looked around some more for something he could use but he also wrestled with how far he was willing to go, especially in front of Kyle? Torture wasn’t really up his alley in the first place, and with the time constraint of the spy not being there alone, Daigo’d have to be really drastic really fast.
“Okay, you’re not stupid, Mister. You know we’re here with a clone, and since you lost contact with your human spy who was carrying a clone, I know you know what’s going on from our part. I know I can’t make you tell me what I need to know, but I also can’t just leave because you’ll contact your friends soon as we do, and then we’ll be dead. So there’s really no time to play around.”
“Just kill me already!” It was roughly what he said in his native language. Kyle wouldn’t understand it but Daigo and Hannes could understand something like that in any language.
“That’s the thing,” Daigo pointed out, drawing his own pistol, “tell us what’s going on and you go back to Centauri Prime with a headshot.” Centaurians believed their true selves, spirits in human language, went back to the core of their birth planet. “Don’t, and I’ll poke your eyes out and drop you in the pool.”
Unless they lost their eyes, then they wouldn’t be able to find their way. They were also notoriously bad swimmers.
“What the–?! That-that’s horrible, captain!”
Of course, he might very well be a heck of a good Christian swimmer, big universe and all that, but the slight shift in his expression betrayed to Daigo that that wasn’t the case.
“Yes, I agree. I won’t sleep well for a while but I really want us to survive the day. So what’ll it be, spook?” The man hesitated to curse him outright which meant he was considering it.
“No need for atrocities now…Captain.” That was a new voice, but at the same time, not new at all. It was coming from next to the bed, from a panel that was, it turned out, an intercom. “Go ahead and execute the man…I have a feeling we can help each other out of this…unfortunate situation.”
That was Wichmond. Most likely the one they came to replace. He was observing them somehow or, at the very least, listening in.
He nodded at Hannes and approached the intercom.
“No,” the voice interrupted Hannes. “I want to see you do it, Captain. I need to know you’re capable.” He could see them, then.
Daigo frowned and looked back at the spook distastefully. “Why?”
“If you can’t, you can’t help me. If you can’t help me, I won’t help you.”
Ultimatums were among the things Daigo most hated.
“Fine then. Hannes, we’re leaving.”
“There are roughly two squads of his compatriots in my citadel…”
“They’ve neutralized all my staff and have been alerted to your ship for about five minutes. They’re searching for you now, and they have sent a few men to kill the rest of your crew.”
Kyle brought a hand to his mouth in helplessness and Hannes’s face turned into a more real kind of angry.
“Your ship has remarkable defenses, cyber-wise, but it will not take them that long to mechanically force their way in. Or to find you, for that matter.”
Daigo twisted his lips in thought. Wichmond might be lying.
He looked at Hannes who looked back at him and they were thinking the same thing. Worst case scenario, they just forced the bastard to give them their credits and ran.
He was sure these soldiers were the equivalent to ASTRALs, however. Could Hannes really protect them?
“And you can help us how?”
“Kill him,” the voice reiterated.
It’s a good thing his eyes could no longer mirror his feelings. In fast frustrating steps, he marched next to the spy and shot him in the head. Kyle’s almost muted the sound of the shot with his squeaking.
“Good.” Hannes let go of the man, allowing him to fall limp on the ground. “Now come and find out how I can help us both out of this situation.”
Daigo looked at Hannes ruthlessly, trying to convey with his eyes that as hesitations go when dealing in betrayer, he was none in case Wichmond was tricking them.
Wichmond instructed them on how to open a secret passageway inside the massaging pool. Hannes grabbed the clone and brought him along, and Daigo almost had to do the same to Kyle.
He left the spy bug on top of the bed in the room and followed Hannes.
“This is getting crazy, Captain, too crazy,” Kyle wavered but Daigo was fast, he knew how to motivate both siblings.
“Throwing a tantrum’s only going to hold us back from getting back to your sister.”
The kid was sweating scared.
Daigo was a bit scared too but the difference was you couldn’t tell it on him. That’s why he was the captain.