Everything came back to her in a rush and she jerked upright, to find she couldn’t move. She was chained to the floor. Terror gripped her. A voice intruded.
“Take it easy! Take it easy, all right?”
"Daceest?" She gasped, heart pounding in her chest. His grinning face slowly came into focus over her, and she felt numb with shock and overwhelming relief. This was wrong. He was on the pavement unconscious.
“Where am I?” she asked.
“Ahto City Medical, Unit 3,” he said smoothly, sitting back down in some kind of … chair. It appeared to be attached to the ceiling, like a giant, white spoon hanging down, and he was sitting in the teardrop part. The panic slowly receded as she took in her surroundings.
“Worried we lost you there,” he quipped. As her vision cleared, she realized his eyes were tired, with dark, pudgy circles underneath, crinkled with worry and lack of sleep.
“You were shot,” she croaked. He shrugged.
“Minor damage. Armor got most of it. Kidney punch to the back knocked me out.” She absorbed this, then glanced at her arms and legs, which were clamped down. She was in some kind of white, springy leggings and shirt… she glared at Daceest, who was still smiling.
“Why am I tied?” He hesitated.
“You don’t exactly come out of surgeries well,” he said his grin widening. “Tend to punch out the doctor.” He chuckled. She snorted. Well. As much as she hated to admit it, it was probably true.
“The kolto…” she said, struggling against her bonds. “Untie these kriffin’ things. We got to get outta here so we can get the warhead shipment.” The smile slid off Daceest’s face and he looked more serious.
“Jagna,” he said quietly. “We missed the drop off. You’ve been here for two weeks.”
“What?!” Her shout echoed around the room.
“At least your alive,” he said. “The doctors weren’t sure you’d make it.”
“I’m short five fifty megagram warheads!” she yelled, fuming, almost boiling with frustration. Two weeks! That put her almost a week late on the strike she had planned for the secret base on Askaj. She pound her head onto the bed in frustration, growling like a caged animal.
“I hope you’ve got Stiff on a trail of – ”
“Workin’ on it, we’ll get more,” Daceest said, in his best calming voice. Someone entered the room. A Selkath, by his voice.
“Cut that out or I’ll put you out for another two days,” he said in his gravelly voice. She reluctantly relaxed, shooting him a withering glare. Dice walked in behind him, taking the room in at a glance, staring at something in the corner, especially. She glanced over, seeing a black sphere-shaped bulb from the ceiling. Security camera. Dice sat in a chair by the wall, the same spoon-like contraption. It seemed to glow of its own accord. The doctor looked her over, touching her left arm. She winced, as pain shot down it, her hand tingling and feeling numb.
“We tried to repair it,” he said. “Your arm was almost completely severed at the elbow, cutting through nerves, muscle, fracturing bone… the nerves we could not completely fix.” He eyed her, speaking in that watery voice. “I’m afraid the damage is permanent.” Jagna said nothing. It was just an arm. She flexed the fingers of her left hand. It tingled numbly. Daceest looked so tired. Drained. Finally, the doctor left.
“Don’t think you'd have survived if we hadn’t been next to the best medical unit in a hundred systems,” he said. He grinned, wanly. “Convenient of the guy, eh?” She knew he was trying to put a good face on it.
“What scared him away?” she asked. Daceest’s eyes moved to Dice, with an unmistakable look of respect. She felt a spike of irritation at that. Daceest always seemed to be protecting her. Her slurred voice broke in.
“Hacked into Ahto City security system,” she said, nodding slightly in her rhythmic way. “Is easy. Triggered city-wide defense alert.” Daceest grinned at Jagna.
“Genius!” she glared at him, but he ignored it. “Of course, the Selkath are furious. Scared the populous and lost them money.” They’d be even more furious if I blew ‘em up, she thought to herself, but she said nothing. “Um…” Daceest paused uncomfortably, his grin slipping a little. “We’re paying for damages.” This new bad news did not phase her. It didn’t matter nearly as much to her as the lost warheads.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said eyeing her. “I’m taking care of it.” She growled. Dice was muttering again, she realized, and staring fixedly at the security camera in the room. Daceest glanced at her, then looked at Jagna again.
“There’s something else,” he said, looking tired. “Stiff and Wrench haven’t come back yet. We don’t know… where they are.”
Suddenly, the thought hit her… this really was serious. She had almost died. Two of her crew probably were dead. All she had left between her and increasingly vicious killers was a self-proclaimed dead man and a lunatic. What if she lost them… could she go solo again? Memories of three years of skulking, a partner dying every month, stealing munitions, midnight patch up jobs on yet another rusty clunker, in the darkness, with nothing but the silence, the bad food and the smell of grease for company. Suddenly, Dice’s mumbling didn’t seem quite as irritating. A hand squeezed her shoulder and she tensed, but it was just Daceest. He was watching her worriedly.
“We’ll find them,” he said. “This has to stop.”