Authors: Tracy St. John
His heart pounding with excitement, he sped after Gelan to the shuttle bay.
* * * *
The Pesor Caves Complex was a cavern system that burrowed between the Sko Mountain Complex, the site of the shooting a week ago, and the smaller Blidmo Mountain Complex, where Gelan lived. Pesor Caves had the distinction of being where many clans with Mataras resided and families with children lived. It was not where most would expect a Delir-related situation would occur.
Two minutes after they got the call, Wynhod and Gelan arrived at the main entrance of the cavern system’s complex. The wide mouth in the rock face looked like any natural formation, as Kalquorians preferred their landscapes to be kept as pristine as possible. The pair’s service shuttle flew into the landing bay where other emergency vehicles crowded. It was a relief to Wynhod’s sensitive eyes when the outside view vid went from the fierce sunlit outdoors to the dimmer bay environs.
As the pair disembarked, a squad lead enforcer ran up. He looked slightly older than Wynhod, his expression both assured and excited. He fell in step at Gelan’s side, opposite of where Wynhod walked.
“Situation?” Gelan asked.
The enforcer answered, “The assailant has been identified as a young Nobek named Hurs. His behavior matches that of addicted Delir user in withdrawal.”
Gelan interrupted before the man could continue to outline the scenario. “How young?”
“He just reached clanning age three years ago. He has no known intended clanmates.”
They were nearing the in-house transport system, where the emergency personnel had gathered in a waiting knot. The enforcers were all Nobeks, Wynhod noted. The sniper group of six looked to be split half-and-half between Nobeks and Dramoks. The emergency medical personnel were mostly Imdikos with a couple of Dramoks. A couple of enforcers and three Imdiko medics stood off to one side. The medics appeared to be treating a sobbing woman.
Gelan commanded the lead enforcer, “Go on with the present situation.”
“Hurs has taken his fathers hostage in their home, demanding they place funds in his account. He did release his mother, who is right over there.” He nodded at the weeping Matara.
Gelan halted a few steps from the waiting officers. “Nobek Hurs is not a resident here then?”
The lead enforcer shook his head. “He lives in the Sko Mountain Complex on his own, Level 2 Government Housing.”
Gelan gave Wynhod a dark look. “Ground zero for Delir.” He turned back to the lead enforcer. “Give my partner all the important information as to entrances into the home. I’m going to talk to the Matara. What’s her name?”
“Noma of Clan Moli.”
While Gelan led the two Nobeks towards the crying mother, the lead enforcer went over all the access points into the cave system’s housing. Wynhod immediately identified the maintenance corridor as his best way into the clan’s home. It all depended on where Hurs held his fathers prisoner. The lead enforcer commed a member of his squad to locate the complex’s supervisor.
Wynhod was impressed with how gentle Gelan’s voice became as he spoke to the clan Matara. With a respectful bow, the Dramok introduced himself to the older woman. “Matara Noma, I’m Investigator Gelan. I’m in charge of this scene.”
She immediately lunged forward to grab his hands. Her voice rising with hysteria, she cried, “Don’t kill him, Investigator. I know you have to do your job, but Hurs needs help. His fathers would tell you the same thing.”
Everyone shifted uncomfortably. No Matara should be so upset, fearing for mates and child. Wynhod’s initial excitement gave way to the urgent need to make things right so Noma would stop crying. Knowing the situation would likely turn out bad set his teeth on edge.
Gelan alone kept his composure calm and easy with the wretched woman. “We’re going to do all we can to get everyone out safely and give your son the help he needs. Tell me what’s going on in there.”
Noma drew a shuddering breath. “We know he’s been taking some kind of drug. We were looking into taking power of custody over him so we could get him help, but he doesn’t know any of that.”
“So what do you think set him off?”
“Hurs showed up an hour ago and demanded funds. He lost his job and had run out of money, including his government allowance. He’s in pain and needs more of whatever he’s been taking to stop the hurting.”
“Did he appear to be in physical distress?”
Noma nodded. “He was bent over, clutching his stomach and sometimes his head. Scratching his arms and legs. Twitching.”
Wynhod exchanged a look with the lead enforcer. The symptoms Hurs’ mother described were typical of Delir withdrawal, all right.
Gelan continued his careful questioning, and Wynhod noted how lovely Matara Noma was when her face wasn’t quite so stricken with grief and panic. He thought of his own mother, dead these many years after being attacked by a Tragoom. He’d excelled for her and his Nobek father, also killed in the same attack. He wondered why Nobek Hurs had not done more to make his living mother proud rather than bringing her anguish and tears.
Wynhod put aside such frustrated thoughts and focused his attention on the immediate problem.
Gelan asked, “Did you agree to give him the funds?”
Noma drew herself up. “Absolutely not. His fathers refused him, and he went wild. He pulled a percussion blaster on us, started screaming that we were part of the conspiracy, that he’d kill everyone trying to take his squad down.” Her brows knit in confusion. “I don’t understand how he could think such a thing. He’s been out of the military for over a year now.”
Gelan answered, “He’s hallucinating, Matara. Some people become very paranoid under the influence as well as confused.”
“He let me go. He said,
‘I’d never hurt you, my mother, no matter who you collaborate with.’” She burst into fresh tears, the anguish twisting her face. “Help him. He was such a good son before he got caught up in the drugs. Please, he’s my only child,” she begged.
Gelan bowed his head. “We’ll do everything in our power to save him and your clanmates, Matara.” He peered at Wynhod. “Questions?”
Wynhod nodded. “Matara Noma, where was Hurs holding your clanmates when you left the home?”
She scrubbed at her cheeks with both hands, as if embarrassed to be seen crying. “In the greeting room at the front of the home.”
“Thank you. That’s all.” He bowed before he, the lead enforcer, and Gelan moved away.
The enforcer squad watched them hopefully and Wynhod waved them over. They huddled around him and Gelan, every expression showing eagerness to go in and take the bad guy out.
Unfortunately, the bad guy’s mother already suffered mightily. Wynhod knew they would have to try to take Nobek Hurs alive.
Gelan told them all, “Typical Delir withdrawal behavior will have the Nobek continuing to rise in agitation, probably killing his fathers and himself in the end. Do we have a negotiator on site yet?”
The lead enforcer shook his head. “No sir.”
“Good. They tend to make the problem worse when it comes to a Delir case. These guys can’t be talked down.”
He turned to his partner. “Wynhod, you need to go in and close the situation.” He glanced over at the still weeping Matara Noma and sighed. “Get the Nobek alive if you can, both for his mother’s sake and because he might be a witness to the Delir gang’s activities. However, the hostages’ lives are your priority.”
Wynhod nodded. “Understood.” He addressed the squad, now under his authority. “The situation is believed to be at the front of the home. We will use the maintenance access to enter through the rear. We’re using plasma rifles.”
That got a few looks of gratitude. Plasma rifles required the men to be better shots than percussion blasters, a challenge Nobeks appreciated. However, Wynhod ordered them because their use meant less chance of killing the hostages.
He continued. “I will go in first, recon the situation, and you will follow under my direction. Suit up and try to keep your weapons out of the Matara’s sight as you go in.”
As the enforcers went to their shuttle to get additional armor and the rifles, Wynhod went to the waiting snipers. Keeping his voice low so Noma wouldn’t hear, he told the squad, “You’re needed to keep watch over the exits. You’ve got a visual I.D. on the suspect? Good. If he manages to get past us, shoot to kill. I won’t have a Delir-crazed Nobek with a blaster running loose among the population.”
The snipers dispersed to cover all avenues out of the complex. Wynhod turned to see Gelan coming out of their shuttle with Wynhod’s helmet and plasma rifle in his hand. The Nobek put his headset com on and took the rest of his gear from his partner.
He told Gelan, “I’ll report in as soon as we’re in position to enter. I’ll also leave my com open for you to monitor.”
The Dramok nodded. “Good luck.”
The enforcer squad got geared up and ready. With a nod, Wynhod led them to the maintenance service entrance, where the complex’s supervisor waited to let them in.
The supervisor, a Dramok old enough to be one of Wynhod’s great-great-grandparents, ushered them into the service entrance. “Come in and I’ll go over the access route to Clan Moli’s home unit.”
The room he brought the enforcers into was well-lit, a kind of office/storage area. The room was an efficient space, all of its metal furnishings gleaming in the illumination of the lit paneled walls and ceiling. Even the smooth rock flooring had an almost metallic sheen.
A damp scent tinged the otherwise clean-smelling air. No doubt humidity controls were in place to keep the cave system dry, but much like the earthy smell of mountain complexes, the aroma of the natural surroundings could never be completely mitigated.
All sorts of maintenance tools lined the shelves that took up half the room. Turning his back on that part of the space, the maintenance supervisor led them over to a long desk. On either side of it, work countertops stretched along the wall. A variety of components and machines, in various stages of repair, littered the work surfaces. As for the desk itself, it had a computer, which the supervisor commanded, “Show maintenance corridors plan, large view.”
A vid the length of the desk sprang into being, illustrating a simplified blueprint schematic. The supervisor pointed out a large square space on the readout. “Here’s where we’re standing now. You’re going to use this main corridor to get to that unit’s systems room.” He ran his finger along the narrow passage that apparently started from the third door on Wynhod’s right. “Clan Moli’s utility and power room is right here. Number 26-C-8. Straightforward. You can’t miss it.”
Wynhod asked, “And there’s access to the home itself from that point?”
“Right. Code to trigger access to 26-C-8, authorization Sneri. That’s my access.” The access number flashed over the blueprint, and Wynhod quickly memorized it.
Supervisor Sneri warned him, “Opening that door will ring a tone in the home to let them know someone’s coming in.”
Wynhod turned to the team. Every enforcement squad had an infiltration specialist, someone versed in disabling warning systems and forcing entry, if needed. “Who’s got that?”
An older Nobek raised his hand. He had an amazing collection of fighting scars on his face and arms. Looking at the man’s dozens of marks of honor made Wynhod jealous.
“That would be me, sir. Senior infiltrator, private and public systems disabling rank.”
Perfect, the exact man needed for this job. Wynhod nodded, eyeing the deep ragged scar on the man’s cheek with particular envy. It was one of the best battle marks he’d ever seen. He’d have to ask about it later, when lives weren’t on the line.
He told the squad, “I’ll take point. Senior Infiltrator, right behind me, the rest in your usual tactical mode.”
They assembled and the supervisor opened the door to the service corridor. Every last Nobek in the line was absolutely silent as they traveled single file to the maintenance access for Clan Moli’s home. All Wynhod could hear beyond the efficient hum of the complex’s machinery was his own heart. It beat a little faster and harder than usual, fed by adrenaline as he amped up for the coming takedown.
This was what Wynhod loved about his work. His senses were on alert, making him acutely aware of how he felt right at this moment. Everything stood out in sharp detail: the lighting panels that suffused the hall with clear light, the perfect rectangles of the doors they passed, the minute variations in the stone floor under his feet. He felt the cool metal of the plasma rifle in his hands, the way each and every muscle in his body worked as he slid soundlessly towards his goal, how his hinged fangs pressed against his tongue as they tried to descend in his growing excitement. He was even getting hard in anticipation.
Nothing made a man feel more alive than facing potential death. Next to sex, it was Wynhod’s favorite sensation.
He found Clan Moli’s living unit’s systems room with no problem. Like the supervisor had said, there was nothing to it. He turned to the infiltration specialist. “You’re up.”
While the scarred warrior went to work on the panel, Wynhod checked in. “Enforcer Wynhod to Investigator Gelan. We’re disabling the warning system and preparing to go in.”