Chapter 2-6 Dragon’s Inn (part 2)

The outside of the inn is dimly lit. There are two stone or clays statues at the entrance looking very dangerous. The carving of the statues are so life-like that in the dark they look like they can leap out and pounce on intruders. And that is precisely the point. Other than being a good luck charm, the statues are also suppose to scare away intruders. But Sarah knows this so she is not afraid to continue to approach the building.

It isn’t a very tall building. Eight stories high. Probably can house no more than a hundred guests. In the background, Sarah can hear the some water flowing. There is probably a river behind the inn. There are also noises coming from the inn. Sort of chattery mumbles of rough men and women.

When Sarah walks in, those mumbling men and women continue their business on what seems like a gambling table which has cards and tiles spread out on them. On the far right end of the room looks like a customer service table. Two pretty young ladies are busy with their chit chat. In the corner is an older lady almost falling asleep. But she heard Sarah walking in and so lifts her head to look at her. Then she puts on her glasses wanting to see more clearly. She looks closer at Sarah.

Old lady: what’s a humanoid doing here at this hour.
Sarah is a bit stunned. Humanoid? Are not everyone in this room human?
Old lady: you looked surprised? The Dragon Inn’s guest after sunsets are of the strangest variety.

Sarah suddenly realizes that she has heard of shape shifters in the woods but she’s never seen them. They came with the first colonists by hiding in the craft and then left the colonist to find their own place to live. The old lady looks up and down her trying to read her.

Old lady: you look like you are from some school. A teacher?

Sarah: Yes. I am a teacher at an elementary school in….

Old lady: I don’t care where you are from. What are you doing here. We have one room left.

Sarah thinks to herself: one room left? How can that be? But she did not utter any words.

Old lady: one room only. You want it?

Sarah: well, yes but we have two adults, two kids and a robot.

Old lady: no kids in the Inn at night. Too scary for kids. And no robots too.

That’s not very good. The kids need to rest. ADA can stay on the transporter but the kids have to have a room.

Sarah: How much for the room?

Old lady: 4000 pet

Sarah: I give you 8000 pet and you let the kids in.

Sarah haggles with the inn lady. The old lady slightly closes her eyes and stares at Sarah with a slight animosity. Sarah stands stern and tough yet her eyes are soft and gentle. The old lady looks away.

Old lady: bah…8000 pet and not one pet less. You make sure the kids don’t walk in the hallways at night. I am not responsible for any trouble they might get in. Guest at night are of the strangest variety.

Sarah: are they the rumored shape shifters?

Old lady: rumor? kid, you obviously have not been around here. And don’t call them shape shifters. They are very gentle folks. But don’t upset them. These are the more gambling bunch. A bit more rowdy. Not all shape shifters are rowdy gamblers. Some stay quietly in the woods in their own home.

Sarah: why did they move to the woods?

Old lady: its a long story. Some seek peacefulness. Some seek refuge.

As they are talking, a tall dark shape shifter walks toward them.

Shape shifter: Lady Juba, I need another glass of water.

He is tall and wearing a hood which shadows his face so it was difficult to see. But his build was strong. Arms, legs, torso. You know he works out a lot.

Lady Juba: 10 pet. Don’t drink so much water, Rono. I don’t have that much.

Rono: Lady Juba, you know I need one glass of water every half hour. There is a whole river behind there.

Lady Juba: but the water pump is broken and I can’t anyone to fix it.

Rono: let me take a look. Perhaps I can fix it.

Lady Juba: you can give it a try but I don’t think it’s fixable. Here’s the key. Go look yourself. The toolbox is in the shack next to the pump.

Rono grabs the key from Lady Juba’s hand and walks through a door next to the service table and disappears into the dark. Sarah listens very carefully to the conversation to see if she can detect any sort of abnormality that might signal danger. But she cannot find any trace of disturbance. It seems other than the gambling bit going on at the table, there isn’t much to worry about.

She hands Lady Juba a monetary card to pay for the room. It is a shiny little card. Lady Juba smirks a little when she holds the card in her hand. After fiddling with it behind the counter, she returns with the card and hands it back to Sarah. Immediately, Sarah’s communicator indicates that 8000 pets has been transferred to the Dragon’s Inn. No signs of trouble there either.

Sarah heads back to the transporter. Fiona has nearly fallen asleep. The kids are all quite and in dreamland. ADA is staying alert looking out for any signs of trouble. All is calm and silent. A little too silent.

Sarah: I got a room for us. Let’s move the kids into the room.

Fiona: I can carry one and you carry the other.

Both girls each carry a kid in their arm. ADA trails behind them again watching for troubles. Lady Juba greets them at the entrance with the room key. Room 899. They take the elevator up to the eight floor. The hallway is lit with flickering candles. The wooden floor creeks as they walk toward the room.

Once in the room, the kids are put into bed and both Fiona and Sarah fell asleep on the couch.

ADA is a robot so she doesn’t sleep. She continues to scan the environment for any strange anomalies. It dark outside and the room is also dimly lit. ADA’s light detection beacon cast a red blinking line that scans around the room. It also casts a red hue on the walls. It is calm and silent.

 

 

 

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Chapter 2-5: The Dragon Inn (part I)

Zooming in the dark, Sarah’s craft heads toward the Dragon Inn.

Dragon Inn is located in the Zone 5 aka Dragon Mountain Zone which is between Zone 25 Humuzei outpost (where Amelio’s friend David lived) and Mount Sediq where Amelio was heading to find Brutus. The record that Max had obtained of the whereabout of Amelio abruptly ended around that area. It was several hours after Pollux has set beneath the horizon and the kids have all fallen asleep on the transporter. It was all quiet on inside and outside of the craft with lights blinking from the front and bottom of the craft.

As the five of them approach the destination, ADA, the school robot who had also had boarded the transporter start to receive information gleaned from analyzing photographs taken of Flo’s abductor.

ADA: Master Fiona, I just received the analysis of the photographs.

Sarah: what does it say?

Fiona: yes, what does it say?

ADA: There was a large but blurred logo with the letter V on it.

Sarah and Fiona (in unison): Verati?

ADA: Yes, it would seem so. The logo had the letters BGBM after it.

Fiona: beta Gemororium b Mining. But what do they want with Flo and my transporter. ADA, can you locate Verati and send him a message.

ADA: What message would you like to send?

Fiona: Give me back my transporter and friend. What else?

ADA: Sure. I have a diplomatic template for abduction negotiation. Shall I use that?

Fiona: Sure sure be diplomatic. Ask him why he has taken them.

Lights on ADA blinks rapidly for a while.

ADA: Message sent. But return signal indicate that Verati is in a meeting.

Fiona: Meeting? At this hour? Probably flirting with his harem.

ADA: (silent).

Kabushini Verati is a well known celebrity on beta Geminorium b. He inherited his father’s empire of mining the planet and selling them in the local network of star systems and some back to Earth. He is very smart and knows his business well. A very rational person, the first thing that he did when he assumed the position as chief of the company was to streamline the entire business to near perfection. That earned him a huge accolade and fame at the age of 22. However, as he got older, he started meddling in underground trade of forbidden metals and diamonds and surround himself with a harem of women.

beta Geminorium b like many large gaseous planets in the local star system has rivers of carbon which has within them icebergs of diamonds. These diamonds are officially off limits to civilians and businesses and can only be used by temples for worship. But Verati, also a astute student of STEM, invented a machine that would suck and deliver the diamonds to underground market with nearly no trace. Officials have eventually found a way to trace the operation of such diamond sucking machines, but it is very difficult. It is estimated that the officials have only discovered a tiny fraction of the total operations on the planet and most often than not, the discovery occurs after the operation ended.

Sarah: Let’s wait what he has to say. We are almost at the Dragon Inn.

Fiona let go of a sigh and sinks back into her chair. Far in the horizon, some lights are blinking. That is the landing zone for the Dragon Inn. Sarah punches in the landing sequence. She looks back at the kids to see if they have awaken because of the rapid deceleration. The kids don’t even feel a thing and keep snoring and drooling.

Touching down at the Dragon Inn, Sarah turns to Fiona.

Sarah: Fiona, stay here. It’s very late at night and we are deep in the mountains. Let me go in and check what’s inside the inn before we all check-in. You stay here and take care of the kids. Here’s the stun gun if you need it. Or call me on emergency.

Fiona: Be safe Sarah.

Sarah: I know the drill Fiona. Don’t worry. My hubbie is a cop. He taught me all these protocols regarding approaching dangerous grounds.

Fiona: Alright then. I stay here and watch the kids. Call you if there is any trouble.

(to be continued)

Chapter 2-4 Where to next?

As Sarah’s transporter zooms across the landscape in twilight, the street lights sparkle like diamonds in shiny orange color. It is getting late and Juno’s school is already closed. One would assume that Juno and her teacher have stayed in the school to wait for Fiona’s call.

Fiona: Computer, please call Juno’s classroom.

Computer: Connecting…classroom connected…

Juno: Mommy, is that you?

Fiona: yes dear. Is everything alright over there?

Juno: Mommy, we can’t find papa.

Fiona (in a comforting tone): it’s alright Juno. We will find papa.

Fiona knows that things are pretty grim but she cannot let Juno feel unsafe.

Fiona: Juno, we will be there in an hour. Is Miss Jane there?

Juno: Yes she is mama. Would you like to talk with her?

Fiona: Yes……Miss Jane we will be there in an hour.

Miss Jane: Hurry, Juno thinks Amelio is in big trouble. She says she can sense it.

Fiona: Miss Jane, if I know my husband, he probably is having a good time…danger or not.

Miss Jane: well, I hope so.

Fiona disconnects the communication with a press of a button. Fell back to her seat with a big sigh. Why does Amelio always get into this type of trouble? Being a projector is worse than being a cop. Amelio constantly have to survey areas and news and have to project ahead of time what might happen and then make proper actions. Sometimes he has to go places that are dangerous. And the work is totally a thankless job. Most people go about their business not worrying about the future. And if Amelio saves the day by mitigating danger. No one really knows about it. It’s not military nor catastrophes of nature.

Nor do they care to since nothing happened to them. Most folks don’t see beyond their immediate area or time. Blind to the past and future. If they do project about the future, it is either one tracked or linear. Even in the exponential cases that might be true, the projections are still one tracked.

2D or 3D or multiple dimensions are beyond the mind of the ordinary but even for a projector like Amelio it brings a lot of angst as sometimes he gets informational overload. It’s a constant worry of his. His is not psychic but a well-studied person. He’s gotten a lot better at it as he got older but occasionally it is just too much.

What does not make sense is why her kid Brutus is missing and why somebody is trying to stop them (Amelio and Fiona) from finding him. Brutus, the older son is a quiet kid. He said he want to be a projector just like Amelio but Amelio thinks that perhaps the tradition of projectors should stop with him. The training for a good projector takes decades and is rigorous. Most kids would break just several days into the training. So Amelio keeps Brutus on regular school work. The kid is smart but shy. There isn’t much about him that is different from other geeky boys. So why should someone kidnap him? It makes no sense. For money? Amelio makes squat for putting his life in danger. So that cannot be it. For vengeance? Amelio has friends by the bundle. Maybe he upset a few folks in his way of mitigating danger but overall he is fairly well liked.

Anyways, the first thing to do is to reach Juno’s school and start looking for places where Amelio had last been recorded. That is the best place to start.

Sarah: cup of tea or coffee?

Fiona: I quit coffee a while back. Tea please.

Sarah turns her seat to the tea maker and pressed the button for tea.

Sarah: I only have Formosa.

Fiona: No, that’s fine.

Sarah: Don’t think too much Fiona. Like you said, Amelio likes danger. He will be fine. If something really bad had happened wouldn’t Juno already sense it?

Fiona: You are right Sarah. Juno said he was in danger but he must still be alive. Maybe he is swashbuckling one of the Geminorium b monsters.

A smile start to appear on Fiona’s face.

Sarah: Your tea is served.

Fiona: Oh thank you. How long before we get there?

Fiona looks out the darkness outside. The craft has long left the habitable zones and are in areas of darkness. The only lights are stars in the sky and lights flashing from the transporter. Down there is total darkness.

Sarah: 20 more minutes. Let me get the weapons ready.

Fiona: what weapons? You have weapons?

Sarah: Just some self-defense stun guns. Won’t kill anything. It’s better be safe than sorry.

Fiona: How many do you have?

Sarah: Let’s see here…..

Sarah again turns her seat now to a compartment next to the tea machine.

Sarah: My husband bought these for me. Being a cop he is rather antsy about these things. He thinks someone would steal me away from him so he put these in my craft.

Sarah scrimmages through a box of junk. At the very bottom sits two stun guns.

Sarah: See, very easy. Just like a camera. You point and shoot.

Fiona: I’ve never used a gun before.

Sarah: Girl, we are up against something big so you don’t want to be open to attack. Flo and your craft just got abducted….I don’t need to remind you that.

Fiona: Can we like hide it so that we don’t have to use it.

Sarah: Okay girl, if you don’t want to use it, I won’t force you. I can carry one and cover you.

Fiona: You are talking like your hubbie. We are going to Juno’s school and its pretty safe there.

Sarah: I hope so.

Fiona looks into her cup of tea. Formosa, Amelio’s favorite tea. He use to talk endless about a trip he made back to Earth and to the tea fields. How beautiful it was and how he saw the teas were made. The fresh scent of tea all captured in the rolled up tea leaves, released once the hot water infuses it. Fiona took a small sip. Held it in her mouth and then gently swallows it. She can feel the gentle warmth of the tea flows down her throat. It calms the nerve too.

Computer: Arriving at destination….

Sarah swing her chair back toward the front and starts tapping the landing sequence into the computer. Sarah is quick with her fingers and the transporter gently touches down at the school’s transporter landing zone.

The gals quickly open the hatch and runs toward Juno’s classroom. The entire school building was dark except for Juno’s classroom where you can see three silhouettes. Three? Juno, Miss Jane and who is the third person?

As they arrive at the classroom, they relieved with a sigh. The third person is Max, Juno’s classmate.

Fiona: Max, aren’t you suppose to be home? Wouldn’t your papa be worried by now?

Max: Ma’m, my papa is out-of-town this week. I already called mama and she said I can stay to help Juno if I want. I can help ma’m. I know how to work communicators.

Fiona: Okay, but stay close because we don’t know who we are dealing with.

Miss Jane turns off the light to the classroom and closes the door as the five of then head back to the landing zone.

Sarah: Fasten your seat belt Juno and Max. Where to now, Fiona?

Max: While we were waiting, I downloaded the tracking info for Mr Hung. Here it is.

Fiona: Smart kid Max. Thanks. Let’s see…..so he came here to drop off Juno then head to David’s house and from there they head into the mountains.

Max: ma’m it kinda dark in the mountains now. Mr. Hung must have found some shelter already.

Fiona: You are right Max. Let’s look for them tomorrow morning but first let’s get to some place near. I know of a lodging right before heading into the mountains. Computer, set course for the Dragon Inn.

Computer: course set…

Sarah: Let’s go….engage…..

Sarah presses a few buttons on the dashboard and the transporter turns to port and zoomed into darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2-4 Plan B

“Fiona, ADA said that Flo and your craft are both gone. So let’s take mine” offers Sarah sincerely.

Fiona is still trying think things through. First her kid was kidnapped, then she lost communication with her husband and now the trouble seems a lot closer with terror right in the parking lot of the school.

Schools are the second most sacred places on the planet next to the temples and there has been only once or twice in the entire colonization history of Geminorium b where troubles like these occur in school.

But now that it is here. What can she do about it? Running away is definitely not an option because the people that she is dealing with seems to have way too much resources. Tractor beams, explosives and large flying objects.

What did they want with her vehicle? It’s an ordinary transporter. Sure it is a bit classy but not something to tear the school parking lot over. And she did not have anything in there either of high value. No diamonds, no special gadgets. Fiona likes to keep her transporter clean and uncluttered. A more natural feel rather than the typical gadget-stuffed transporter. She had her entire head-up-display all redesigned and the interior too so that gadgets are supplementary and stay that way.

But never mind the interior of her transporter. Why would they want it? Maybe it was just a warning sign. Maybe they do not want Fiona to look for her husband and son. The incidents are too close in time to deem unconnected despite lack of direct proof. One never can be sure until one look for clues.

“Sarah, you are great.” says Fiona.
“Yes, sometimes,” smiles Sarah back at Fiona.

“ADA, can you locate Sarah’s transporter through the smoke?” asks Fiona.

“In a moment…..yes, no damage to Master Sarah’s transporter. Master Fiona, I captured a long range photo of the object that abducted Master Flo. I will send the image in for analysis. It is too faint for my capabilities.” replies ADA.

“Great. Sure.”

The two gals races to the transporter.
Sarah: hop in Fiona.
Fiona: don’t mind if I do.
Sarah: let me guess, to Juno’s school first? Don’t worry Fiona. It’s all going to be alright

As the craft dashes out of the parking structure into the twilight, Fiona thinks to herself: I hope so. I really do.

Chapter 2-3 Robbery

As Fiona is ready to call her daughter Juno, there is a loud crash from back of the building. That is the location of the transporter parking facility. The girls look at each other astonished. A robot came rushing down the hallway. It is a spherical shaped object with wings and had a red light that is blinking indicating emergency.

“ADA!” calls out Fiona. “What happened?”

“Alert! Intruder alert!” responded the robot ADA in a high pitch feminine voice.

BOOM! Another loud sound of explosion came from the same area. This time smoke and debris starts to spill into the building where the three girls are.

“I will go ahead and take a look,” says Flo. “You gals stay back here. It’s dangerous.”

“Be careful Flo,” Sarah warns.

Flo dashes ahead behind ADA’s trail and into the smoke stack.

Cough, Cough. Flo could barely see through the thick vail of smoke and the dim red beacon on ADA right at about 3 o’clock ahead. The smoke was choking her. ADA activates her laser search beacon looking for something. Flo chases ahead through the smoke.

As she approaches the stationary positions of ADA, ADA’s beam seem to have located something. Far in the distance through the smoke, Flo can see the wreckage that the explosion has caused. Someone has set off an explosion and opened a big hole in the parking facility. Some of the nearby vehicles are obliterated.

“ADA, run a scan of vehicles still on the lot. How many are damaged? Were there any casualties” says Flo.

“It is highly unlikely that there were anyone there in the facilities when the explosion occurred and our sensors has no record of entry into the facility,” answers ADA. “My preliminary scan of the parking lot reveals only the vehicles near the explosions are gone. The remaining vehicles are safe in place….except…”

“Except what ADA?” asks Flo.

“Except for Fiona’s personal craft” mutters ADA. “Fiona’s craft seems to have disappeared and there does not seem to be any sign of it’s where about”

Boom! Another loud sound thunders in the facility but this time it seems to have come from the outside through the hole created by the previous explosion.

“ADA, let’s go take a look. Maybe Fiona’s craft got tractor beamed outside so it didn’t leave any signature on the ground. That sound is very familiar. I bet it’s a tractor beam malfunction.”

“Master Flo, I don’t gamble anymore” responds ADA.

“ADA, that is a figure of speech. It means I am fairly confident that it is a tractor beam malfunction” says Flo.

“Master Flo, you might be right. My sound and magnetic analysis indicates that it might be a Type II tractor beam.”

“Okay, ADA search the database and find out who on this planet has access to that type of tractor beam and follow me. Let’s see what is happening out there,” say Flo.

“But master Flo, I don’t have clearance?”

“Call Major Andante and tell him that I asks for clearance to check on the tractor beam ownership files” says Flo.

Flo looks ahead at the wreckage and the hole that was created. It was starting to get dark outside as Pollux sets under the horizon. Street light lights up automatically. There was a dark smoking object far in the distant. Flo runs toward it at her best speed. ADA flaps her wing and dashes right behind.

“Master Flo, Major Andante gave the clearance and I searched the record.” Flo is fairly focus on the wreckage that she isn’t really paying attention to ADA.

“Master Flo, Major Andante wants to talk to you,” says ADA as both exit through the hole and into the streets.

“That’s Fiona’s craft all right. I was right. Tractor beams.” exclaims Flo. But her voice is too loud. Two dark figures in the distance seem to have heard her voice and rushes behind what seems to be a malfunctioned tractor beam vehicle.

“ADA, tell Major Andante to skip the chitchat and tell me what he knows of the owners of type II tractor beams on this planet.” says Flo unkindly to the robot.

After a few moments, ADA responds. “Major Andante says that there are several owner of type II tractor beam on this planet. Most of them in the scrap metal business. But from the data on size and magnetic signatures, the database shows that it is high probable that the tractor beams belong to Samuel C. Xiu, owner of Luxberg Metals. The second less likely possible candidate, although still with high probability is Kabushini Verati, owner of Geminorium b Mining. Both Xiu and Verati runs underground operations of trading stolen metals. You don’t want to mess with them,” warns ADA.

“But what do they want with Flo’s craft? That’ all I want to know. I won’t touch what they do with their operations” responds Flo with a sincere look on her face.”

“Major Andante says that if that is the case, go ahead very cautiously and quickly let the other side know your intentions. Both men are reasonable up to a certain point.

“ADA call Fiona and Sarah that we are okay and we are proceeding to investigate the theft of Fiona’s personal craft and then try to hail those people hiding behind the broken tractor beam.” But as soon as Flo finishes her sentence, another large ominous object descends from above. It was dark so it was difficult to make out what that thing is. And it was flashing eye blinding lights.

You hear a large sound of electric current coming online and the broken tractor beam along with Fiona’s craft are pulled upward into the cavity at the belly of the object high above. The two men stands there waiting for something. Perhaps they will be pulled up too, thought Flo.

“ADA, wait here.”

Flo dashes ahead before ADA could respond. “Master Flo, its dangerous. You don’t know who they are and what they are doing!” But Flo cannot hear anything ADA said because she’s already hundreds of meters away.

“Master Flo, it’s dangerous,” shout ADA as loud as her circuits allows her. ADA quickly scans the area to see if there are any other dangers.

As Flo approaches the two dark figures, the figures stood up and held something out. Flo stopped running thinking it might be a weapon. And she was right. But before she can scream or call for help, the figures fired the weapon and stuns Flo unconscious.

ADA is an analytic robot with essentially no weapons except for some weak zap here and there. So she could not do anything.

As the object high above raised the broken tractor into its belly, it directed the beam at the two person and Flo’s unconscious body. They levitated toward the object and then disappeared into the belly.

“Master Fiona, Flo and your craft are gone!” exclaims ADA.

 

Chapter 2-2: ????

“Where are you all going?” As Sarah and Fiona rushes to the transporter depot located at the backside of the school, a small figure in the hallway hollers.

“Flo, you can’t come,” responded Fiona.

“What, what? Where are you going? Why the hurry.” asked the lady again emerging from the dark hallway with a big grin.

“Let her come, Fiona” requested Sarah.

“Well, it can be dangerous Flo. You sure you want to go?”

“Ha, adventure! Of course I want to go. What’s the occasion?”

“Fiona’s husband Amelio is missing. We can’t contact him nor find him with the communicator.” explains Sarah.

“Maybe the communicator is broken? Or maybe he just doesn’t want to answer.”

“No time for jokes, Flo. We can’t find Amelio nor his friend David through the Operator.” says Sarah.

“That sounds serious. I mean the Operator can find anybody.”

“That’s what I mean Flo. Something fishy is happening and we need to find Amelio.”

“Hey Fiona, have you called the kids?Maybe they would know.” asks Flo.

“Okay, I will call them right now.”