Small glowing lights, set at regular intervals, illuminated the distance as it stretched out before him, leaving the rest of the corridor in inky shadows.
“Auryn, what happened? You were supposed to go in through the maintenance hatch,” Felicity’s voice crackled in his ear.
“There was a complication. I improvised,” Auryn whispered.
“What did Thomas tell you about improvising?” she huffed, annoyed. “I have updated your map with the most direct route to your target.
A two-dimensional holographic map zoomed into his vision; a small red dot marking his position. Scanning the map, he memorized the path. He had come in three stories up and on the opposite side of the structure from where he had needed to be.
Great! Auryn thought.
Both sides of the long corridor were made up of thick sheets of glass. He had originally thought they were steel walls until he saw a dark shadow moving in the wall.
Auryn shivered. He knew they had aquariums at this facility, but he did not realize that they kept such large creatures.
He hugged his body close to the glass wall on one side of the corridor until the glow of one light forced him to the other side of the corridor.
Auryn’s suit would allow him to travel, unseen, through the dark but it would not prevent his shadow from giving him away if he crossed through the illumination. He made his way in this fashion until he was about three-quarters of the way down the dark corridor.
The map showed that the maintenance hatch for this level would be…
Ah! There it is…
The hatch was right below a glowing yellow light. He would not be able to get to it without alerting the guards in the security station of his presence.
“Felicity,” Auryn whispered. “I need a blackout on the security feeds.”
“That’s too risky,” crackled her reply.
“I know but if I can’t make it through this hatch, the mission will be scrapped anyway.”
“Hold on a moment.”
A bright, white beam of light pierced the darkness. It was coming from the end of the corridor where one of the lifts was located. Auryn immediately threw himself flat on the ground and rolled to wedge himself flush between one of the large glass walls and the floor, preventing his shape from casting a shadow from the guard’s light.
“Blackout in three…”
“Hold. Security is checking this level,” Auryn hissed.
He watched as the light swept across the corridor, not breathing as it came within inches of his body. After a few moments the light disappeared, and he took a deep breath.
“Three, two, one…”
The yellow lights remained on as they each had their own power source.
“Security feeds will be down for thirty seconds,” Felicity said.
Auryn rushed to the hatch, lifted the door, and scrambled inside. Once the hatch was closed, he gripped each side of the steel latter with his gloved hands and let the artificial gravity pull him down.
He counted the hatch doors as he free fell through the shaft. When he passed the second door, Auryn began to slow his decent, stopping right in front of the third hatch door.
“Eight seconds,” she said.
Auryn opened the hatch and climbed out.
“Three, two,” she counted.
Auryn set the hatch door in place as the security feed resumed.
The new corridor was completely dark on this level, no eerie yellow lights providing illumination. Auryn brought the map back up on his helmet display. His target was to the left and nearly a kilometer away.
“The door will be on the right side,” Felicity’s voice crackled in his ear. “As soon as you have acquired the target head to the lift. You will only have eighteen minutes to arrive at the rendezvous. Auryn?”
“Be gentle with the target and don’t take any risks,” she said, sounding worried again.
“Don’t you trust me?” Auryn said with a smirk, taking off down the corridor at a brisk pace.
When his helmet display showed that he was nearing the target, he turned on his night vision. The corridor came to life in a soft green glow, and he could see that he stood near the access panel that locked the target’s door.
Auryn popped the cover of the panel off to expose a network of microchips and wires. Then, pulling a long, thin cable from the device strapped to his forearm, he inserted it into the override bank and watched as the program began to crack the code to allow him access.
Finally, the display on his forearm flashed a bright green as the sound of a faint click sounded from the door in front of him. The cable retracted back, and he pulled the door open. Auryn was not prepared for what he saw next.
Inside the door was a small room. There were two small cots, a small round table with two small chairs, and a clear glass window on the far side. Through the window, Auryn caught sight of a breath-taking view. Saturn sat there, nearly taking up the massive window, only a few distant stars could be seen twinkling around the edges. The view of Saturn was not, however, what caught him off guard.
“I thought there was only one target,” Auryn hissed.
“Veetra Diamvia. Eight years old. Daughter of Councilmen Diamvia of Europa. She is our target,” Felicity said.
“There are two children here. Who is the second one?”
“There aren’t any other children that are reported to be missing,” Felicity said, bemused. “If you can send me a scan of the second one, I will check the databases.”
Auryn went to the closest cot and was able to get a good look at the first child’s face.
“That is our target,” Felicity informed him, though he already knew from the images he had seen of the child before. He made his way to the other cot. When he got a good look at the second child’s face, he swore.
“I didn’t know Veetra had a twin.”
“That’s not what I’m seeing here.”
Felicity didn’t speak for a few moments.
“What am I supposed to do?” Auryn hissed, trying not to wake the sleeping children.
“Thomas says to get them both.”
Cursing again, he gently shook the girl’s shoulder. When her eyes fluttered open, she started with a squeak. He covered her mouth with his hand and opened the visor on his helmet.
“I am here to take you home,” he whispered.
She looked around, confused.
“Can you wake up your sister?” Auryn asked, pointing to the other cot.
She gave a slight nod, slid from her cot, and scampered over to the other girl.
“Vee, wake up,” he heard her whisper as she shook the girl.
“Go away Dee,” the other girl’s groggy voice said, a bit too loud.
“Someone is here to get us,” the girl Dee hissed, as she indicated Auryn.
Veetra looked over and jumped in surprise, much as the first girl had when he had awakened her.
“We have to go girls. Now!” he said.
To their credit, they moved quickly and remained quiet, shoving their tiny feet into slippers, and were at the door in just a few short moments.
Auryn led them out of the room and to the lift.
“We are ready. Cut the feeds to the security station once the lift has reached our level.”
A soft rumble came from the shaft in front of them.
“Feeds are cut. The alarm will sound when the feeds do not turn back on in sixty seconds. From there, you will only have fourteen minutes to make it to the rendezvous point.”
The lift doors slid open, and he ushered the girls inside. The lift continued ascending the shaft heading to the top-most floor. Suddenly, alarms began to wail, and the lift stuttered to a halt they only had a floor and a half to go.
“Get the lift moving again, Felicity,” Auryn yelled, no longer worried about stealth.
“Hold on, the alarm triggered a shutdown,” Felicity said. “I am getting shut out of the system.”
Auryn looked around the lift, on the ceiling above them was a maintenance hatch to the lift shaft. He reached up and tried the latch. It opened with a squeak and popped open. He then climbed through and attached his retractor to the maintenance ladder and then reached back into the lift. He pulled one girl through and wrapped the cord of rope attached to the retractor around her waist before reaching back into the lift for the other girl.
As Auryn reach down the lift shuddered, and the girl let out a shriek. He jumped for the second girl’s hands and managed to get a grip before the lift began to descend, leaving them all suspended from the latter.
He pulled the small girl up further until he got a good hold on her and then pushed her past him onto the latter before taking hold of the latter himself, just below the girls. He looked up.
“Climb,” Auryn said sternly.
They complied and they made their way up the shaft.
“We are climbing up the lift shaft and about half a floor away. That door needs to be open when we get there, Felicity,” he said through the com.
“I’m trying,” she responded, frantic.
“Try faster. We are almost there.”
The lift had begun coming back their way with two figures standing atop it.
“Stop right there,” one of them, screamed.
Auryn and the girls had finally reached the lift door they needed to exit.
The two men were only two floors away.
The door slid open.
“GO,” he yelled at the girls.
They scrambled through, Auryn following close behind.
The door slid shut behind them just as the top of the two men’s heads came into view.
They were now in a room with several emergency escape pods. However, one of the escape pods had been removed and his team’s transport craft was docked with it instead. Auryn steered the girls towards the airlock where their escape awaited.
Thomas was waiting for them as they rushed in.
“You weren’t kidding, were you?” Thomas whistled, seeing the identical eight-year-olds.
After their ship was well away from the facility, Felicity walked in; long blue hair pulled up in a bun. “Why don’t I take the girls to their room while we get outta here?”
Thomas nodded agreement and she spoke quietly to the two little girls, taking them by the hands. Suddenly, the one named Dee ran over to Auryn, a small piece of white paper in her hand. She handed to Auryn.
“Thank you,” she said in a small voice before running back to leave with Felicity and Veetra.
Once he knew they would be out of hearing, Auryn ripped on his helmet with his free hand. “Why are there two of them?”
“There have been rumors of cloning experiments at this facility, but we have never found any proof. Guess we have it now, aye.”
Auryn looked down at his hand, opening up the folded piece of paper. He hadn’t even seen her grab it. The paper contained a drawing of the crest of the Diamvia House. A tree bearing several ripe pears. On the corner of the paper, a single word read: HOME!