Doctor Who: Panic Moon Ch. 21byKurokami©
Author's Note: This is a sequel series to Amy, Captured. For the full experience, please read through that one first.
Hello, readers! Sorry it's been so long between drinks, here! I've been working on my Halloween story... among other things. The release schedule will be much tighter from this point onward, I promise. Anyway, many thanks to LogicalDreamer and Allyourbase for beta reading this chapter, and I truly appreciate your votes, feedback or comments, guys. They are the reason I continue. Enjoy!
'Sander, I'm starting to have serious doubts about your judgment here,' Ren frowned, as the remainder of the crew filtered into the airlock. 'Maybe you've forgotten, but what we're doing isn't exactly legal.'
'So, yeah, what Ren said,' Tsugi continued. 'Perhaps bringing us to one of the only places in the universe that still enforces old Earth law wasn't such a great idea.'
'Guys, why is it you still have so little faith in me?' Sander threw up his hands and leaned back against the wall. 'I dunno, I think warping the laws of time and space with a machine the size of a planet would have netted me a little credibility, but whatever...'
'So, what? We just hide Amy and the others? Cover up the Command Collars?' Dulcimer sent, causing Mara to jump. As usual, the Dullahan had a talent for moving silently.
'No,' Sander frowned. 'Goddamn it, guys... Just look, okay?'
With a frustrated sigh, he keyed in the command to open the airlock, the door pulling open with surprising ease now that the exterior sensors had ascertained they were in a habitable environment. Beyond, there was the kind of uncomfortable silence that tended to develop around the more upscale spaceports. Sander stepped outside.
'Welcome to the Selestene Arcology,' He said smugly. 'That answer your questions?'
'How could you possibly get us into Selestene?' Ren found herself jogging down the runway just to confirm it. 'It's completely privatized, the entry fees alone would cost-'
'I'm still technically classed as a resident,' Sander shrugged. 'I grew up here.'
'You're a Selestene brat?' Mara grinned, giving a low whistle as she looked up at the sky above. 'Did not know that.'
'Lucky bastard!' Ren shook her head. 'Rich boys, I swear to god...'
'Some people have all the luck,' Lysithea agreed quietly. 'I grew up in a hive...'
'Hey, don't bitch, you're all here now. If I hadn't grown up here, you'd have no way in,' Sander said. 'Damn, I'd forgotten how the filters make the air smell here.'
'And what, pray, is Selestene supposed to be?' Christina asked, the labors of earlier apparently having left no effect on her natural archness. Even so, she kept an edgy, wide berth from the loader robots that clacked their way around the steel-lined walkways of the spaceport. She may have a noble bearing, but Christina's line was all but forgotten in the centuries that had passed between her native present and the current one.
'Well, most importantly, it's that,' Ren nudged the noblewoman in the ribs, before casting a gesture skyward. Christina's gaze followed, seeing nothing but an expanse of cloudy sky, threaded with blue. Ren's arm fell over her shoulders, causing her to flinch quite noticeably, though the Half's action only served to bring her in closer, 'Come on, look hard. Maybe you'll see a dead pixel...'
'It's a dome,' Lorna said flatly, without breaking stride as she walked down to the planet's surface. Ren pouted, disengaging from Christina as her fun was promptly spoiled.
Amy made her way down the walkway, followed closely by Sally. She felt oddly buoyed by the presence of the brunette, like whatever she faced on this new planet, she at least had one person at her back. Almost as one, both girls craned their necks skyward to view this apparently strange sky. With a little effort, one could see into the middle distance, and realize that the sky was in fact a solid surface. A screen upon which the sky was being projected.
'That's... awfully retro,' Christina deadpanned.
'It's necessary,' Sander snapped back. 'This whole area is pretty much uninhabitable, if it wasn't for the dome we'd all be freezing in the dark right now.'
'And if that happens to result in a rich man's holiday home, well, that has to be a coincidence,' Mara said smoothly.
'Hey, rich people got here first!' Sander began to sound defensive, his inner wealth coming out. 'Do you know how much it'd cost the Terran government to maintain this place, let alone build it? So what if this is private property? Besides, what are you all bitching about? You get to come to a lawless goddamn paradise completely free!'
'Yeah, and don't get me wrong, that's great,' Mara said. 'But what's more great is how this place stays lawless. I've always found that hilarious.'
'Oh yeah, we're on the planet's only Sigma Bird sanctuary,' He grinned. 'That's... yeah, that's still kind of priceless.'
Those who understood the history of the place nodded in agreement. The inescapable fact that Selestene had had to struggle against just after its foundation was that the Terran government would not stand for the kind of effectively lawless hive of privilege that had been brewing under the dome. The original founders had desired to market their domed city to those rich folk who might require a physical location close to the hub of human society and commerce, yet still more than... relaxed, when it came to Terran laws. But such a place would be shut down near immediately; enter the Sigma Birds.
Human impact on the planet had altered the environment to such an extent that the Sigma Birds, a species unique enough to garner cultural interest, could no longer survive outside of the carefully controlled environment of an Arcology. The birds were allowed to colonize inside Selestene, specifically to be used as a kind of shield against the Terran government; since the funds required to keep the city running would be too much for the planetary authorities to bear, they had no choice but to tolerate the criminal interests running Selestene, so long as they were prepared to foot the bill to keep the Sigma Bird population alive and well. It was P.R in weaponized form.
'Alright, group!' Sander gathered the entire crew around, but his words were more directed at Amy and the other captives. 'A few ground rules: Now, Selestene doesn't have any specific problems with... what we're doing here, so I don't expect any we'll be having any problems with the law. That being said, stick together. Amy, other girls, do not wander off. You have no idea the kind of trouble that a cute girl in a Command Collar could get into in a place like Selestene. Remember Theros, Amy? Yeah, worse than that. It's amazing, and I should know. Don't make me hold your hand until we reach the end of the tour, okay?'
'Yes, fine. Whatever,' Christina snapped. 'I suppose it's all academic until I do escape, anyway. Stop talking.'
'Ever the charmer, Lady de Souza,' Sander grinned. 'So glad I've got you under my thumb. Now, unless anyone else has anything to say...'
Clearly at least a few of the group did, though this didn't stop Sander from turning on his heel and leading the group across the floor of the spaceport, winding their way as a tightly knit group through the seemingly tidal movements of the rest of the crowd. Amy couldn't help but stare at the countless ships entering and exiting the airspace above them, heading off to the horizon where she could only assume there was some form of exit out of the dome. To her, this spaceport was a vast improvement over the last one Sander had taken her to; the grubby and workmanlike port of Chroma city on Theros. It seemed like so long ago, now.
After enduring a litany of security checks- apparently the rest of them were allowed entry only by dint of being guests of an established resident- and the payment of what still seemed an exorbitant series of fees, Sander was allowed to lead his group out of port and into Selestene itself. After an electronic voice welcomed them into the city in a highly formal manner, Mara trotted forward to catch up with her boyfriend.
'Uh, Hackett? How did you do that?' She prodded him inquisitively. 'I mean, wouldn't the false identity you used to land us conflict with the one on your residency forms? Which is the name of a felon, anyway?'
'I exploited a security flaw,' Sander shrugged, gesturing to the group to follow as he began walking. 'See, my residency status is attached to my residence, which through a series of... strange bureaucratic maneuvers, most of which highly illegal, does not require a valid identity attached to it. My father was not a nice man, but on the flipside we never paid a cent of property tax, so hey.'
'That makes almost no sense,' Ren said.
'Welcome to Selestene.'
It wasn't something Sander was particularly proud of; despite the prestigious reputation that the domed Arcology had cultivated, it was in reality merely a collection of loopholes and vaguely criminal organizations banding together to defend themselves. Selestene was one city-sized wolf in sheep's clothing. And he was leading them all right inside its jaws, for a holiday.
'It's awfully... desolate,' Amy ventured. As one, the crew wheeled to stare, blinking in surprise. For a moment she felt like shrinking from their gazes, before she regrouped and remembered how these things had gone before, 'You know, lonely. It's a city, right? Where's the color? It's all monochrome.'
She gestured to the pure white skyscrapers rising from the ground, looming over white streets and featureless concrete facades. They were mostly alone, the streets near to empty during working hours; typically the people who did business in Selestene preferred to do it in private. It all combined to give the area an oddly lifeless feel; as though it were abandoned.
'What are you talking about?' Mara asked, confused.
'Oh, right,' Sander snapped his fingers, before fishing around in his pocket. He withdrew four small, white cases, proffering them to Amy and the other captives, 'Almost forgot. Here.'
'And what are these?' Amy took one, poked at it theatrically.
'Contact lenses. Just put them in, you'll see what I mean.'
Upon opening her case, Amy saw that there was indeed a pair of near translucent lenses sitting at the bottom of it. She had been around Sander long enough to know that there probably was no trick involved here; he wouldn't bother himself with something as strange as this when the Command Collar around her neck would do just as well with half the hassle and, besides, they were in public. He might have the good sense to take them all someplace where the sight of a slave might not cause concern, but any form of watchful eye would give him at least a little reason to pause.
So she opted to be the first, sliding the thin lenses into place with the tentative care of a first-timer, causing Sander to give her a strangely encouraging thumbs up.
'Okay, now squeeze your eyes shut for a second,' He nodded. 'They're pressure sensitive.'
Amy did as he said, and when she opened her eyes again the world around her was filled with light. The change had been almost instantaneous, plastering every available surface with colorful billboards and banners, advertizing and lighting casting a neon glow on the city.
'Whoa...' She blinked with surprise, the glow persisting as the other girls followed suit with their own contacts.
'Sometimes I forget you guys aren't from around here,' Sander said. 'We've all had our eyes hacked to see augmented reality, but I guess you past people need a little help.'
'Hell, I had mine done on the military's dime,' Ren grinned.
'Yes, I'm glad you're proud of being cheap, Ren,' Sander deadpanned. 'Good for you. Now that the girls can actually see the city, can we go? The place we're staying is pretty nearby.'
'Aw, we're not staying at your place?' Mara pouted. 'I'd kinda like to see where you grew up, Hackett.'
'Ha, no. You couldn't pay me to stay in that old place for too long,' He shook his head. 'This city is already a bit too familiar for comfort. Come on, let's get inside.'
The building he took them to was yet another towering obelisk, the front façade now emblazoned with its name: Nirvana. At the back of the group, Lysithea let out a low giggle, and even Amy couldn't help but smile at the sheer cheek of being made to return here. Of course, she did wonder whether events within would be as... dramatic as they had been on Theros.
'The Selestene branch is very exclusive,' Lysithea said, looking up at the towering building. 'I tried for months to get a transfer out here, but then... well, I got offered something much more interesting.'
'Well, I suspect things will be far more entertaining for you as a guest than as an employee,' Tsugi piped up. 'Besides, the Selestene Nirvana doesn't take on so many personnel with your special skills, Ly. This place is a combination hotel too, they generally expect the guests will bring their own entertainment.'
'Check!' Mara giggled, pulling Amy into a tight hug.
'Yeah, I'm beginning to see Sander's plan, here,' Ren nodded, swaggering through the main doors in a way that would- in a place as high class as Nirvana- surely attract the attention of security almost immediately. Sander ensured he got to the reception desk before she did, signing them in under a series of false names and collecting a set of keycards, which he distributed to his crew.
'We're up high,' He said as they piled into an expansive, polished metal and glass elevator at the far end of the reception hall. 'I hired out an entire floor. Should be enough space for eleven people, huh?'
'God, you fucking rich folk...' Ren shook her head.
'I am tired of you people taking advantage of my money and then admonishing me for using it!' Sander gestured widely. 'Am I not in the business of impressing you fuckers?'
'Yeah yeah, alright,' Ren grinned. 'Calm the fuck down, Richie Rich.'
'That is the most dated reference I've heard anyone use, ever,' Mara narrowed her eyes at her sister.
'And we're in the future,' Amy said. 'It was dated a thousand years ago.'
'Okay, Red's got a point,' Ren shrugged. 'Shichi likes the oldies, and what he watches, I've gotta watch too.'
'How do you... survive, with that little guy all up in your head?' Tsugi gave Ren a questioning look from the far end of the elevator. 'I can barely stand to be around my own thoughts some days.'
'Oh look, we're here,' Ren said pointedly, leading the way through the doors as they slid open. Mara was next to follow, letting out a low whistle as she stepped out into the foyer. The reaction was echoed, again and again, as the crew filed out.
The room they had entered, while clearly designed for transit alone, was expansive and immaculately kept. Consisting mainly of whites and cool blues, the foyer was lit with a soft glow that the light coloration only enhanced, though Amy struggled to find the source of the light. Two hallways branched off from the main room in either direction, a series of doors lining each one.
'Typical Nirvana presentation,' Lysithea mused. 'Spotlessly clean and minimalist, like they don't want you paying attention to the rooms themselves.'
'Rather the employees, then?' Dulcimer sent.
'Good to know,' Ren added. 'Where can I, uh, procure one of those?'
'You catch what you can find,' Sander cut in, palming his keycard. 'This is a working establishment, and these are all suites. Drag whatever you want back there, do whatever they'll let you for whatever price they feel is necessary. I'm rich.'
'And I still have my employee discount,' Lysithea nodded to herself, smiling. Sander threw a dramatically pointed finger in her direction.
'I don't even want to know what that means,' He said, taking Mara's hand. 'Girlie, we're in the corner room down the hall. Amy, you're with us. Lorna, you're with Ren, Dulsie can take Christina. Tsugi and Kana, you take Sally.'
'Are you assuming we'll be sharing a room?' Kanaria squeaked, turning red, as was her custom. Behind her, safely out of sight, Tsugi rolled his eyes, apparently quite comfortable in his role already. Without a word, he took her hand, gestured to Sally, and selected a door at random.
'He's assuming we'll be sharing a room,' He told her, not unkindly, as he unlocked the door.
'Well well, Gamma girl, I guess we're roomin'!' Ren winked, practically throwing herself through another door, all the while pulling roughly on Lorna's shirt to impel her to follow. The soldier cried out inarticulately as she tumbled through into the room, and the door slammed shut behind her.
Any further conversation was swallowed up by the sound of the closing door, as Sander's group spread out into their own room. As Amy remained by the door, Sander and Mara took a brief tour of the room, the former particularly enjoying the dizzying view from the enormous window that dominated the outer walls. The city was aglow below them, augmented reality neon blooming and pulsing across the buildings and up into the sky itself. Each one was animated in its own special, idiosyncratic way, the flourish and extravagance of it determined by the financial status of the company in question.
'This is nice,' Mara nodded in satisfaction, taking her time to hop over the small set of steps that led up to what looked- from the doorway- to be a rather marvelous bedroom. She was sure she saw shackles.
'It's a step up from the cells,' Amy took her first steps from the entrance into the room proper, thick carpet cushioning her every footfall. What she had said was an understatement; standing here, she had no trouble believing she was in one of the more expensive establishments in what was already a highly expensive city.
'Oh, hey guys, come check this out,' Sander said, waving the girls over to the window. 'It's almost night time.'
Amy made it to the window just in time to see it; the colors of sunset running across the sky like melting wax, fleeing from one edge of the dome to the other, in the space of a few seconds. The artificial night swooped down upon the landscape, as though the sky had been switched off like a light. In the darkness that followed, countless stars flickered into existence.
'Well that's efficient,' Mara said, peering out into the developing night. The engine exhaust of several personal craft could be seen flaring in the distance; mechanical fireflies for a night supported by cold steel.
'And kind of surprising if you don't know it's coming,' Sander smiled to himself. It had been too long, and there was a familiarity here that he quickly discovered he had been missing, 'The sunrise will probably be enough to wake you up as it is. Bedrooms are through there, by the way. Amy, go and check yours, there should be some bags in there, if the loading bots did their jobs right. That's not assured, even in a place like this.'
He pointed her off to a door neighboring what seemed to be the master bedroom, and Amy found herself going to it merely out of curiosity. She wondered what kind of place Sander would stow her, and for how long they would be here in this place. No matter what, it would be a step up from the cells, but that was hardly saying much.
The lights flickered on as she entered the room, revealing it to be much the same as the living area; spotlessly clean and minimalist, with the glass of the other room's outer wall continuing unabated into this one. It was a small room, containing a double bed and one of those ubiquitous wall screens, the purpose of which Amy was only beginning to guess at. They seemed to her to be a multipurpose device capable of doing pretty much anything that could require a screen, and given that this was a hotel, Amy found herself stuck wondering perversely how she could order porn on it. Alone at last, as the door shut behind her, she giggled to herself.