Captain Smith is busy learning the names and contact details of as many of the non-clone citizens who are left here on the car as she can, in case we ever need future contacts on Acropolis. She seems to have recruited Tepi as a friend in this endeavour.
Paris: I like to help people who have causes, you know. Which is why I'm sympathetic to the plight of these clones, trying to overthrow their oppressors. But killing millions of people with a nuclear bomb isn't the right way to do it. Do you have a cause?
Tepi: Kill all squirrels. And help my family regain their former wealth and influence.
Paris: Well... maybe if you'd told me that without the squirrels...
Now that we are being treated respectfully, we have asked for a new DNA test on Iki and myself, to clarify the issue of us appearing to be clones when tested at the highport station. They have taken blood samples and will get the results to us within a few hours.
For now though, the sun has set a few hours ago and the authorities are suggesting we get some sleep. They are putting us up in a luxury hotel, with all expenses paid for the duration of our stay here on Acropolis. Serron has expressed his desire for a reward by radio from the Argonaut, but since he had little to do with our actions, and the authorities do not seem inclined to offer us any money, I don't think he is going to get one.
We are now about to board a limousine for transfer to our hotel for the night.
Spanners: Hey guys, I think that car behind us is following us...
Paris: Where? That one? Hmm... I think you're right.
Iki Piki: Driver! Lose them!
Driver: No. You're safe in this car. Even if it is someone following us, they won't be able to get near you in the hotel once we get there.
Tepi: Are any other security people supposed to be following us?
Driver: I'll check. Base, this is Limo 349, heading from Gamma Groundport to the Thermopylae Hotel in Serifos. Are any security cars assigned to follow us?
Radio voice: Negative 349. You're on your own.
Iki Piki: Stop then! Let's go shopping and see what they do.
Driver: No, that would be dangerous. This car is armoured, so you're safer in here. And once I get you to the hotel there will be guards to look after you.
Spanners: Well, I've got the registration number of that car anyway. We can check it out later.
Serron: Yes. What's up?
Iki Piki: I just thought you'd like to know we've just had a very nice four-course dinner at this luxury hotel, all completely paid for by the Acropolis government.
Serron: Well I've eaten too. You wouldn't believe how much food you can get delivered to a docked ship up here.
Spanners: There's other news too. We just got the results back from our second DNA test. It confirms we're not clones.
Serron: I knew it! I knew there was something wrong with those blue jumpsuits besides the horrible colour and styling! So what about me?
Spanners: We've asked the people here to have you re-tested too, since it seems there was obviously some mix-up with the results for all of us. We've just had them in to remove our suits for us. They've taken the radio tags off them and let us keep the suits themselves as souvenirs. We figure they might come in handy when we start looking for Ogier and Sirene, if we ever have a need to disguise ourselves as clones. Anyway, some security people should be there at the Argonaut soon to take another blood sample from you and test it again under tighter security. So don't shoot them!
Serron: Cool. Then I can have the run of this entire space station!
Paris: Heh. As long as my ship is still in one piece when we get back up there! Well, we're going to sleep now while it's dark down here. Talk to you again in nine or ten hours, and we'll work out how we can find your friends.
Paris: Hey! What's ...
Air Traffic Control: Delta Foxtrot, what is your situation?
Paris: We are escaping an attempted kidnapping by Durogen employees. Request guidance to nearest secure landing site and police help.
Air Traffic Control: Roger Delta Foxtrot, we have you on radar. head bearing 47 degrees if you can and fly directly to Serifos Airport, about 23 kilometres from your current position. We'll clear the airspace for you.
Paris: Copy control. Changing to bearing 47 degrees. We are not being pursued, but expect we might get some attention soon.
Air Traffic Control: Roger that. Stay on this channel. Are you a qualified pilot?
Paris: Yes, interstellar licence class R1. Do you want the number?
Air Traffic Control: That won't be necessary. Stay on course and we'll have airport security meet you when you land. Police have been notified and are heading to that Durogen facility.
The first thing I knew about anything was waking up and finding myself bound and gagged, lying half on top of Captain Smith, in the back of a moving vehicle. My first thought was that I'd been sleepwalking, but I quickly realised we must have been taken captive somehow during the night. I tried to escape from my bonds, but there were two uniformed guards in the truck and they kicked me until I stopped moving. I learned from the others later that our hotel suite had apparently been invaded during the night. When Spanners investigated a noise in the main room, he saw me lying on the floor, and a group of men armed with stunners, who shot him. Paris and Tepi suffered the same fates when they tried to fight off the attackers.
After about twenty minutes of driving, we arrived at a place where the guards pulled us out of the truck and escorted us into a building. They put cloth bags over our heads, but Spanners managed to see that we were at a Durogen facility, from a sign on the building. We were taken up a lift and tied to chairs in a room, then the bags and our gags were taken off. It was a small square room, furnished only with a table and the chairs we were tied to, and one other chair. A video camera was in one ceiling corner, pointed at us, and there were two grilles on one wall, a large ventilation grille and a smaller one.
A thin human man came in and started asking us questions about rabbits and how much we knew and who we'd told. It beame clear he was referring to the rabbit we found in our cargo hold, that eventually died in the fire at the veterinary surgery on Earth. Tepi and Captain Smith naturally had no idea what he was talking about, but he questioned Spanners and myself closely for an hour or more. I'm not sure if he got any information that he was after, but he eventually left the room, leaving us alone.
Trying to get out of the view of the video camera, I tipped my chair over until I fell on the floor, obscured by the table. Then I set to work getting free of the ropes. Tepi apparently had a similar idea and bounced around in his chair until he was in the corner directly under the camera and presumably out of its field of view. We both managed to get free after some struggling. Tepi then pretended still to be tied up and bounced back around until he was back to back with Spanners, and started working on his bonds. I dived out from under the table into the corner where Tepi had been and jumped up to grab the camera. While hanging off it, I noticed that it had not been plugged in, so nobody could have monitored us through it anyway.
Tepi and I quickly got Spanners and Captain Smith untied, then we assessed our situation. The door to the room was sliding metal, with no apparent opening mechanism on our side. Our interrogator had used a remote control device to get the door to open. Spanners investigated the door carefully, while I checked the grilles in the wall and Tepi and Paris smashed up one of the chairs to produce some sharp sticks and heavy pieces of wood to use as weapons.
The large grille covered a ventilation duct, while the smaller appeared to cover a PA system speaker. I didn't have the strength to pull the duct cover off, so Paris helped. She gave me a boost up so I could crawl into it, being the smallest one of us. Unfortunately, I only got my body halfway in when I realised the duct was simply too narrow and I would just get stuck without being able to move. Paris had to pull me back out.
We then considered plugging the video camera in, on the assumption that whoever had captured us and put us here might have disabled it on purpose so that whoever normally monitored it could not see what was happening in this room. Spanners then announced that he could feel magnetic fields from circuitry within the titanium door, and that applying a magnet carefully to some specific locations might trigger the locking mechanism and release the door. So we pulled out the PA speaker and ripped the magnet out of it. Within a minute Spanners had the door opened.
We carefully looked out into a corridor, where we saw a single guard drowsing on a chair by the door. Tepi carefully stepped up and whacked him over the head with a piece of chair, knocking him unconscious. He was armed with a stunner, which we took before tying him up and locking him in the cell we had occupied. I tied a piece of rope to a piece of wood, and tossed the wood into the ventilation duct, leaving the rope dangling out, to give the impression we had taken that route out of the cell.
We were in a dimly lit corridor, with several doors leading off it. After some exporing we determined that we were in an office/lab building. Windows showed it was still night time, and that we were about twenty floors above the ground in a high-rise. There was a perimeter fence, so we were on private land, somewhere outside the city, which we could see in the distance. We explored the floor and found several offices, unfortunately with no clues to why we might have been captured or why our interrogator was interested in rabbits.
Then we opened the door to one of the labs. It was an advanced cloning lab, with several force-growth tanks with clones inside them. There were eight clones in the tanks, four copies each of two different people. Paris recognised one of them as a slightly younger version of Garrett Wilks, the current President of the country of Yandis, on Lyrane. The other person looked familiar, but none of us could recall a name. The second lab next door held more force-gowth tanks, this time with clones the apparent age of children in them. It also had a set of cages with white rabbits in them, and a surgery area.
Spurred on by this find, Spanners went back to the largest office we'd found and hacked into the computer on the desk. It took him half an hour to get through the security layers, but he managed to pull up records of e-mails sent between John Simpson, the head of the Durogen office in Serifos, and a person only mentioned by the name "Redhawk", somewhere on Lyrane. The messages reported the covert collection of cell samples from prominent politicians on Lyrane, the cultivation of cloned embryos, and the subsequent shipment of the embryos inside the wombs of rabbits to Acropolis for forced-growth procedures in the Durogen labs.
There were mails regarding the breakage of a shipping cage containing a collection of rabbits in a warehouse on Lyrane, and the fact that not all the specimens were accounted for. The messages mentioned tracking some rabbits to Earth on the ship Juan Fangio, which was the one we saw blown up after the vet incident, and the subsequent discovery that the Legacy also had a rabbit from Lyrane on board. An order had gone out from Simpson that the Legacy and her crew were to be found and captured at all costs. Then there was a message from an operative on Arawne reporting that Ogier and Sirene had been captured there and were being shipped to Acropolis. The files revealed that Ogier and Sirene are currently being kept in another Durogen facility in the city of Kalumini, some 600km from here.
The last message we found was from a Durogen employee on the Gamma Highport station, dated only a few hours ago, saying that Serron had been captured from the Argonaut, and was being escorted down to the surface for interrogation.
Spanners copied all of this incriminating evidence on to two memory crystals and then we decided we had better get out of there. We didn't want to go out through the main lift lobby, as we could see security surveillance cameras in the reception area of the floor, so we used the freight lift. It didn't go down to the ground floor, so we went up to the roof. There was a helicopter there, guarded by a lone guard in a small watchroom. We stunned him and took off in the helicopter.
Simpson has already been arrested by the police here in Serifos, and investigation teams are going through the labs at the building we were held in. We've also been told that security crew on the beanstalk car on which Serron is coming down have captured his escorts and freed Serron. We just have to wait another 40 hours or so for him to reach the ground. By then hopefully we should also be reunited with Ogier and Sirene.
Ogier and Sirene seem like nice enough people. They have told us, however, that all the action of the past few weeks has been a bit much for them. They are planning to retire from the Legacy's merchant business, at least for a while. They will accompany us back to Arawne and then decide where they want to settle down.
Tepi has also decided he would like passage off Acropolis, and I have offered him a place on board the Argonaut to Arawne. With no money to his name, he is glad to get away from Acropolis where he has been bumming around on the highport station for the past few months.
At any rate, our beanstalk car is due to arrive at the space station in about 48 hours. Also with us on board the car is our contract cargo of timber, stored in the car's cargo hold.
Now it looks like we're stuck here on Acropolis without a ship, and with a cargo of wood which we have to move to Arawne or pay a penalty for breach of contract. I don't know what it is with these guys... trouble just seems to follow them around...