Rhel Valentine walked into the lobby of Locklear Enterprises with a skip in his step and a grin on his face. He gave the receptionist a wink as he passed her and entered the nearest elevator. Wyess told him he was an idiot, not only did he bring Avis back home, he toured the penthouse at his leisure. Including helping himself to Locklear’s personal computer and database, a treasure trove of information. He finally understood where Locklear got all his advance technology. What Wyess was truly upset about was that he didn’t erase the camera footage before he left, why would he? Rhel wanted to rub this in Malcolm’s face. One thief to another.
The elevator door opened and there stood Malcolm Locklear a stern look on his face, waiting for him.
“We need to talk.” Malcolm said, and turned down one of the corridors.
“So the master comes out behind his curtain.” Rhel joked, his grin now a smile. He followed Malcolm to an office, filled with screens full of Locklear’s plans, ideas and ongoing schematics of current projects. Many of which echoed the designs of his old ship, as well as other alien vessels he had come across during his exploration stage. The door closed behind him, and Rhel glanced about the room, besides the screens there were drafting tables, a desk, with a holographic display, and no windows. The screens suddenly changed to the footage from Friday night, of him carrying Avis into the penthouse, and of him going through Locklear’s computer files.
“What? Are you going to fire me?” Rhel asked as he dropped into the nearest seat that wasn’t full of books or equipment. He stretched out his legs so that they were resting on the main desk, he radiated confidence even though the situation looked bad. “You can’t, and you know it.”
“All I want is for you to stay away from my daughter.” Malcolm said, an annoyed look on his face.
“Is this a doting father’s request? Or are you just saying this because it’s expected of you?” Rhel asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I know your past, your history. I also know you’re here on Fraizer’s orders, spying, watching me, I don’t know… but I don’t want Avis mixed up in anything you’re up to.” Malcolm reintegrated. Rhel studied the human, he seemed serious. For a father who had only realized he had a teenage daughter a month ago, his protectiveness was already in place.
“You told Avis all this?” He asked, curious if he was still trying to protect his daughter by laying the burden on him.
“I did. She had the right to know.” Malcolm said.
“Did you tell her about your own history?” Rhel said, leaning back on the chair, his red eyes never straying from Locklear’s gaze. He saw something flash over his face. Fear? Anger? Probably both, but he quickly replaced it with faint ignorance.
“What would that be?”
“How interesting… despite all the work NASA and the Air Force in this country has accomplished in space travel, you; a private inventor; was able to devise an artificial gravity simulator? I saw your files, where you got all this information, this knowledge. You’re just as big of a con artist and thief as I am.”
That riled up Malcolm, Rhel could see it in his face as he pushed off the desk and paced behind it. “Is that why Frazier sent you to me, to find the evidence that I took their secrets? God it wasn’t like they were going to do anything worth while with it.”
“Tell me about it. They’re useless with all this tech. They think if they hold on to it, the secrets would just magically unfold.” Rhel said with a laugh. “Trust me, even you wouldn’t be this far along in your success if it wasn’t for extra-terrestrial technology infiltrating the planet little by little.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Malcolm asked.
“Nothing… listen, I’m forced into this contract too you know. I wanted to work on the ship down in Nevada, not being stuck here spying on someone who’s further along than they are.” Rhel said. “It’s obvious we want the same thing, to conquer space, the future of mankind.” He could see Malcolm’s mind shift. How easy these humans seemed to work, as long as he said the right things, he could worm his way out of this. “Your anti-grave device is close, I had a friend work on it for me, with this new design, you’ll be able to fit the device into it’s original slot on the ship.”
“I don’t trust you.” Malcolm said finally. “Besides, we were talking about Avis.”
“Good, you shouldn’t. And I’m done with your daughter.” With that said, Rhel handed over Wyess designs on the device, with the slot from Nyria’s old ship, it should fit and line up with the original space. Malcolm, he could see, had troubles accepting the design, trying to poke holes in areas, but in the end, he saw the inventor in the man come out. No matter what his goals were, Rhel know Malcolm wanted to show up the Air Force just as much as he did.
As expected, after her confrontation with the popular kids Friday, then her adventure with whom she thought were to be her friends Friday night, Avis’s return to school was filled with stares, awkward silences and isolation. The way it had always been with her, the way she preferred it. She was ignored, excluded and finally left to herself. She ate lunch outside under a scarlet maple tree whose leaves were all gone. Not even the other outsiders came to visit or talk, not that she would talk back.
Avis was deeply troubled and her focus was anywhere but school and it’s ridiculous social structure. Being caught sneaking out, then the talk with her father was unusual and awkward. He didn’t yell at her, or even talk down at her, but he did end up grounding her. If anything she was sure it was because Rhel managed to get into his personal files. Whatever secrets he kept there were now in Rhel’s, or really Wyess hands.
Memories of the deal, or parts of the deal they had talked about the other night had finally come back to Avis over the weekend. There was the hint of her breaking into her father’s files to help them rebuild his space ship, was that off now that Rhel managed to hack into the system on his own? So what happens with her? Is her seat on the ship now forfeited? Should she still try to find something Rhel had missed? Part of Avis didn’t want to piss off her father any further, he seemed fine on the outside, but she couldn’t help but think he was really upset at the ‘breakin’ at the penthouse. Avis was tired of this planet, of the narrow-minded people who lived in it. Afgadu, her mother’s homeworld. It was part of her heritage and maybe she could find a place to belong there, a home that really felt like home. Maybe she could find her grandparents? If they were still alive, tell them about their daughter. Sure, Avis knew it was a fantasy, a day-dream of a utopia that probably didn’t exist. Still, any place where she didn’t feel like she had t hide herself all the time would be better than here.
The rest of the day passed in a blur, Avis only barely paid attention to the teachers and their lessons. As usual, her driver was waiting for her out front, along with all the other personal drivers for the wealthy teens. She didn’t speak to the driver, despite his numerous attempts before falling silent. It wasn’t until Avis entered the elevator at Locklear Enterprises did she pause her fingering hovering around the penthouse button.
One peek, Avis thought, moving her hand down to the bottom buttons that indicated the developmental labs. One peek, just to look around… I can still get off this planet if I give Rhel something useful.
Before she could press the button, the doors of the main lobby crashed open like some explosive had just gone off. Glass shattered and flew through the air as those inside began to scream and run for cover. A group of large people entered, they wore long dark hooded cloaks and at Avis’s distance she thought they were wearing some sort of Halloween masks. Large, unusual guns were in their hands as they began to blast everything in sight. It took her a second to realize they were not masks.
No! Avis thought, they found me! Abandoning her basement idea, Avis quickly pressed the penthouse button. Shots rang out as Avis pressed the closed-door button over and over, pressing herself against the side wall, hoping they wouldn’t see her.
“Close… damn it.” Avis whispered, a bit too loud as one of the cloaked bodies approached her. He raised a gun, something similar to the ones used from the warehouse. He fired two shots, Avis dropped to the ground and towards the corner to avoid the energy blasts from hitting her body. Two charred indents left their mark against the far wall of the elevator just as the doors finally closed. Panic filled her body as she continued to sit in a crouched position. They found her, the aliens from the other night, the same ones from back in Glassgow. They found her… they won’t stop hunting her. It was another reason why she had to leave Earth, nobody was safe around her, and earth wasn’t safe either.
The elevator shook violently before stopping between floors. She was only halfway up the penthouse, this wasn’t a good sign. The lift wobbled again, and a sinking feeling rose inside Avis. Quickly, she flew up to the top of the elevator’s roof and pounded at the ceiling until she felt the emergency door. Pushing it back she managed to climb onto the roof of the elevator just in time to see one of the aliens above her on another level, it’s gun aimed at the cables holding the elevator. Two of the five were already cut, with one final shot from the alien, the cable snapped. The elevator fell with a rapid speed beneath Avis, as she managed to lift herself into the air before the collapse. In the confined shaft, there wasn’t anywhere else to go. Building up the energy in her right hand, the blue aura glowed in the darkness around her. Like a gun of her own, Avis fired the energy at the alien in the shaft above her. He must not have seen her, as her blast caught him right in the chest. The force of her attack knocked him unbalance from the position he was in, with a scream he fell, right past Avis down the long bottomless shaft. Avis didn’t wait to hear the thud, she didn’t have time to make sure he really did die. If she was going on the run, she needed a few things. With a burst of energy, Avis flew her way up the shaft the Penthouse.
With a few punches and a burst of energy, Avis managed to blow the elevator doors to the penthouse open. With her feet back on the ground, she turned towards the staircase up to the second level. In her bedroom she searched for only one item, the box left by her mother. It was her only treasure and she wasn’t going to leave it behind. But it was too large and awkward to carry. Still without a key, Avis couldn’t do much else but use her strength to break the box… and hope she did’t break anything inside.
It took a few shots of her energy but finally the lid popped open. Out tumbled a number of items, including photos of her growing up. There was also a crystal, red and clouded with a small crack in it. Avis didn’t know what it was for, but stashed into her school bag with the photos. There was also a disk, it looked like a USB stick, but almost twice the size, silver in colour with blue lights that moved like a pulse inside. She had never seen anything like that before, but she knew it had to be important. The other item, was the size of a pocket watch, it fit in the palm of her hand and had a design of a dragon along the cover. It was beat up, scratched, burnt an worn in at places.
“I’ll take that.”
Avis jumped at hearing the growl sounding voice. She spun around the watch held tightly in her hand. There standing in the doorway was the dog faced alien. His right side of his face was scared, but was covered up by some metal plating. Parts of his right arm, and leg seemed to be repaired by the same methods. Cyber technology, was the first thought that passed through Avis’s mind… and the last as the alien swung his large, metallic arm up and over across Avis’s stunned face, sending her backwards into the glass wall.
There was a shattering sound in Avis’s ear, followed by the wind howling past her body. Her mind was in a daze, confused by the falling sensation and the sight of Locklear’s Enterprises from the outside.