Chisel & Groove: Chapter Six
Copyright © 2012 by Stuart Wakefield
All rights reserved by the Author
“You’re the Proto?” Groove paced the room, agitated.
Chisel stayed at the terminal, replaying the moment when Egnum was take off-camera by something else. “What is that thing?” he said to himself.
But Groove wasn’t paying him any attention. “We have to find out what happened to the Braddock.”
Chisel shot him a look, suddenly uncomfortable about the direction this was heading. “I thought you wanted to find out what happened to Forge?”
“They’re linked. I know it.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Having that transmission got Forge killed. I’m sure of it. That data was encrypted and concealed in a regular weather report, right?”
“So what if there’s another level of communication that someone out there is using, packaged right along with everyday stuff?”
“Hidden in plain sight.”
“Exactly.” Groove moved back to the terminal. “May I?”
Chisel moved aside to let him get to the keyboard. Groove fingers flashed across the keys.
“What are you looking for?”
“Point of origin.”
“That’ll be the Braddock, right?”
“Yeah, but where was the Braddock? They hailed something called the Saxby and said they were setting a course to burn up in re-entry. If we can find out where the Braddock crashed—”
“There won’t be anything there. They burned up.”
“You saw what happened to Egnum. He was on the bridge when that transmission was made and we know they were overrun. Do you honestly think whoever was altering their course had time to do it?”
“But nothing. The Braddock’s wreckage is out there. Have you heard of the Saxby?”
“Never heard of it.”
“Are you sure it’s a ship?” Chisel said. “Maybe it’s a station?”
“What’s the protocol for a mayday transmission?”
“Name of vessel, position, situation, number of souls on board, and assistance required.”
“What didn’t the Braddock include?”
“Right, so the Saxby, whatever it is, knew exactly where the Braddock was. If we can find the Saxby then we might be able to locate the Braddock.” Groove jumped to his feet. “Let’s go.”
Chisel stepped back and raised his hands. “Slow down, mate. I never said I was up for this.”
When Groove stopped and turned to face him, his dark, silent expression almost made Chisel afraid.
“I need you.”
“I’m not leaving with you. I have a life here.”
“You have to come. You heard what Egnum said. You’re the Proto; you’re the key.”
“I don’t care what Egnum said. I’m not going.”
“Don’t make me make you,” said Groove as he reached into his jacket.
“I swear to God, if you use that thing on me again, I’ll kill you.”
“Not if it kills you first.”
“You said it would only kill part of me.”
“The special part, yes.”
“It’s the special part of me I hate, you idiot.” But Chisel was bluffing. For the first time since he left the program, he felt genuine fear. He’d barely been able to stand the pain of the device before. If Groove intended to kill him then the pain was going to be even worse this time.
Groove took the device out and cupped it in his upturned palm. His finger hovered over a button. “Please don’t make me do—”
And Groove was gone.
Chisel whirled around to see the man sprawled in the corner of the room, Drillbit at his throat. The device had skittered across the floor and disappeared under the sofa.
Groove tried to speak but Drillbit growled and he fell silent in her grip.
Chisel walked toward Groove, his lips pursed. “I should let her rip your throat out right now.”
“K—” It was the only sound Groove could make.
“Let him go, girl.”
Chisel sprinted across the room and up the stairs. The spot where Quake had been was empty. Chisel closed his eyes and listened. Sure enough, he could hear the sound of footsteps across the gravel. Quake wasn’t running, he was sneaking away. Chisel jogged to the open doorway and took cover, risking a look around and hoping that Quake wasn’t backing away and aiming a pistol back at the workshop. Quake was there all right, but he was tiptoeing away, hunched over something Chisel couldn’t see.
Chisel slipped through the door and began to follow. Drillbit appeared behind him and he waved her back inside. She stood in the doorway and watched him, ready to spring into action.
Quake had picked up speed and was headed to the line of trees that flanked one side of the grounds.
Chisel started to sprint, conscious that he might lose Quake in the woods. Then the wind carried a single phrase from Quake to him. “Strike.”
Chisel pulled up short as Quake disappeared into the undergrowth. What was there to strike?
When he heard the sound of hydraulics to his right, a shiver scuttled over his skin. Out there, in the dark, was someone else. He heard the sound of a launcher and then the ignition of rocket motors.
Chisel started to run back to the workshop but he knew it was too late. He barely had time to shout a warning to Drillbit when the missile flew over his head. The back blast threw him away from the building before the precursor warhead detonated, soon followed by the primary warhead.
A giant wall of orange streaked toward Chisel and he covered his head with his arms as best he could. He’d been close to explosions before—he’d caused most of them—but he’d had body armour to rely on. This time he felt the hair on his forearms singe. Something sharp bounced off his shins, slicing the fabric, and the skin underneath, open.
As soon as the main blast subsided Chisel leapt to his feet and sprinted back to what was left of the workshop. Only the Smashsuit had survived. Everything else had been pulverised into twisted shapes of metal.
Chisel pushed through the rubble until he reached the hole in the floor.
There was no immediate answer but he heard Groove coughing down in his quarters. Chisel hurried down to find most of the furniture ablaze. He worked his way around the room until he got to Groove, slung him over his shoulder, and got out as quickly as possible.
A hundred yards from the burning ruins, Chisel lay Groove down on the ground.
Groove managed a nod while he sat up, coughing.
“Quake called for the strike. He’s still out here somewhere.”
Groove looked around. “Drillbit?”
“She’s gone. Not even a night-hound could survive that. I guess we’d better get going.”
Chisel wiped sooty hands on his thighs. “There’s nothing left for me now. My workshop is gone, Drillbit is gone, but at least I know what happened to them. The same can’t be said for the Braddock.”
“Are you sure?”
Chisel held out his hand and helped Groove back up to his feet. “Count me in.”