“Oh god, Cy, she’s adorable,” Corra said as she straightened up and her friend approached her. As emotional as she felt, she still laughed a watery laugh as she put her arms around him and asked, “How are you her father?”
Cyrus chuckled against her temple as he wrapped her in his embrace. “It’s good to see you.”
“You too, Cy-Cy,” she chimed, moving her hand to his cheek as they broke away.
To their side, Finn cleared his throat. “Not to be cliche, but –” He nodded towards the window where the sun was starting to set over the horizon.
“Right,” Corra agreed, separating herself from Cyrus. “We should get a move on. Not much time.” And if this plan were to go right, the timing would have to be precise.
Cyrus and Addy exchanged glances. “A move on what, exactly?” Cyrus asked. “There’s at least three dozen agents around here, who knows how many more on that ship. They don’t know we’re here, I doubt they’ll turn a blind eye on the two newcomers smuggling out three mysterious cloaked figures.”
“Who said anything about cloaks?” was Finn’s amused response.
Addy rolled her eyes and muttered, “Point being, what’s the plan? How can we leave without anyone noticing? Is there some secret passage we don’t know about?”
“Not at all,” Corra answered, strolling over to the window to look outside. Her eyes scanned over the agents working around the dig site, the few hovering by the path and finally settled on their ship, down in the main docking area. “We’ll walk right out through the front door.”
The answer didn’t seem to calm any fears. “Sorry, let me just clarify this,” Cyrus said, slowly this time. “We’re going out the front door. And there are…no cloaks?”
“None.” Corra tapped her fingers against the wood frame of the window. “You all ready on my mark?”
There was a shuffle of nerves and dismay behind her. “I–I guess, but–” Addy began, just as the grey metal beast parked down the hill wailed an awful bellow so loud the ground beneath the house trembled. Behind her, Kalli shrieked, Eriaas muttered, “What the–” and below, she saw every Society agent look up from what they were doing, abandon their post and take off in a sprint towards the ship.
Corra grinned and looked back at her entourage. “Then let’s go.”
Minutes later, after a scramble to collect as many of Kalli’s things as they all (mostly Finn) could carry, the group was hurrying down the stairs and Cyrus, as always, was questioning everything.
“So it’s a drill? Like an emergency drill?”
“They’re required to run them every so often, whenever their fleet’s higher-ups demand,” Finn explained in Corra’s stead as she crept down the last few steps and peered into the hallway. Just in case. Many years and many escapes had taught her the hard way that it was better to be safe than sorry. Fortunately, the drill seemed to have done the job. The hall was clear. She moved ahead.
“So you just found out when they were going to have one?” Cyrus, ever nervous, checked for himself before following after her. Kalli was clutched in his arms, clinging to his neck. “And planned to rescue us at the same time?”
“No, no, as far as we knew there were none scheduled,” Finn replied. “But this one–” Corra felt him gesturing at her– “Somehow got a message through the channels that they’re supposed to.”
For perhaps the first time in history, Cyrus looked impressed at Corra’s ability to use technology. “How’d you manage that?”
There wasn’t time to explain how she’d managed it. How she’d freed the mother of a man who had a connection in the right place to give her access to the right system to allow her to falsify her credentials and request an emergency drill of this particular ship at this particular time to allow just enough of a distraction to execute an extraction mission. So she just shrugged and said, “I have my ways.”
Cyrus didn’t seem satisfied, but they continued through the house, Corra scouting ahead to make sure they were in the clear every step of the way. It seemed the plan had worked. There were no agents in sight. Protocol dictated there shouldn’t be. In the event of an emergency drill, all crew had to be on the ship following their designated emergency duties. In theory, they wouldn’t see a soul until they were safely away from here and back on the Beacon.
But as Corra traversed the last few steps into the foyer, something caught her eye. A brief flicker of movement. It wasn’t, she realized quickly and with a heavy sigh of relief, a living being. No, just a hologram spinning slowly over the long table those agents had been huddled around when she’d come in.
Still, it kept her attention a moment longer than it should have. She didn’t even know what it was. Some bizarre machine unlike any she was familiar with. A long thick tube extended from a series of three domes side by side. Out of the tube were more, skinnier tubes reaching for the sky. It looked ancient and strange, but it struck a chord and she suddenly had to know.
“What are they looking for here?”
Cyrus waved the question off, as though it was unimportant. “Oh just some old legendary machine.” He gestured into the room her stare was fixed on. “The Transmitter or something? Sounds like a load of bulls–” He stopped himself as he remembered that his daughter’s ear was just inches from his mouth. “Bull’s butt?” he corrected hesitantly, earning a devious giggle from Kalli and a glare from Addy.
Corra, however, had stopped paying attention, frozen on the precipice of that room as the word stuck in her head. Transmitter? There was no way that could be related to the ancient device she currently had in her possession, the Transmission. And yet, there was no way it couldn’t be. Either coincidence was too unlikely.
“Finn?” she called, her voice still hushed out of precaution. “Get them to the ship. I’ll be right there.” He probably would have liked to argue, but she didn’t give him, or anyone else, the chance. If the Span was sending her a sign, and surely it must have been, she would be a fool not to look. She slipped into the room and approached the hologram.
It looked even more confounding up close. Intricate patterns entwined around the machine. Wires sidled out from its base. Corra couldn’t tell from the hologram itself whether it was small or massive. But there was something about it that rang familiar to the strange little tube stowed away in the Spirit.
She stared at it a moment longer before finally she was able to drag her focus down to the tablet left abandoned in front of it. Well, whatever was on there couldn’t hurt to have, right? Without second-guessing herself, she slipped her CID out of her pocket, slotted it into the input port and let it do its thing. Data-mining CID functionality was another thing there was rarely time to explain.
The little light on the device turned green just moments later, letting her know it was ready to go. “Thanks, Society,” she mumbled in a sing-song voice as she removed the CID and shoved it back into her coat. “I’ll just take this and–”
Suddenly, a voice broke out somewhere behind her. Corra jumped and spun around, but thank god, there was no one in the room. Judging by how quickly that voice was growing louder, however, there soon would be.
Her eyes darted to the door that she’d come through. Her exit. Just as two others, others she only needed to identify by the thick black libreras on their skin, entered it.
Corra was under the table before the women even had a chance to glimpse the room.
“–you sure they don’t need us on the ship? It is a drill,” one was saying nervously, glancing back at the door.
“Don’t worry,” said the other with an air of authority. “Taigen can run it. He’s done it a thousand times. It’s just bureaucratic nonsense.”
“If you say so…”
The longer Corra stayed here, the more chances she was giving them to discover her. The women had moved all the way into the room, leaving her doorway wide open. If she was quick, if she stayed low, she could slip out. She just had to be fast. And silent. And–
“It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that the Transmitter isn’t here,” said the voice above her. “The archives, as a whole, aren’t here. We would have picked up a signature by now. The terraform hasn’t altered enough to cover anything deeper.”