Kort was in shock; utter disbelief. He knew that his brother could be cruel and that once he set his sights on something the only way to cure the fixation was for Ronin to achieve it, but he never would have thought him capable of murder by his own hand. He had never been one to get his own hands dirty. Kort couldn’t help but wonder if he was next. If Ronin had put anything in his food and drink.
The look of blatant fear in his eyes must have given him away.
Ronin let out a hearty, belly laugh. “Oh, come now, you know I have a purpose for you and what good would you be to me dead? Now, them? I needed their money and the money that we will receive for dad’s service to the Government. We are worth a few hundred million, Kort. Well, I am anyway, and I’ll be sure to take care of your needs of course – just not to the tune of half, you understand. My taste is much more refined and expensive than your own.”
Kort nodded numbly as he looked at his parents on the floor, struck down by their own child. Their child that they had loved, raised, supported and trusted, and he knew that nobody was safe from Ronin. In that moment he prayed to anything out there that would hear him, that Kai would come back because he knew that he himself was far too weak to deal with Ronin, and everyone else was simply too afraid or intimidated.
Ronin typed a few sentences into his handheld device that he used to communicate with his minions and within minutes there was a knock at the door.
In walked four men that Kort had never seen before, and nobody acknowledged his existence.
“Take them away, and hide them so they will never be found. I will give you twenty grand a piece up front, and if they haven’t been found by the time we are ready to depart this dreadful plane of existence, I will give you the remaining 80 grand a piece. Is that clear?”
They all bowed their head once but never spoke a word.
“If any of you so much as mention my name in this, I will make it look like you were the ones that caused the death of our beloved parents. After all, I’ve been the dutiful son, and Kort has been the idiot savant. Who would believe there is a killer among quadrant 1? They’ll be looking for you lot, down in the lower quadrants. The less affluent, we shall say for niceties sake.”
The men said nothing, they just got to work and in a matter of moments, it was like their parents had never existed. Ronin pulled out a note that looked as if his father had written it himself.
My dearest sons,
Your mother and I could not stand being underground any longer. We have managed to make… connections… that have allowed us to take our leave of this place, but since it is such an uncertain journey we would never risk our sons; after all, you will carry on our heritage. When we know that it is safe, we will send for you, and of course, Kai if his sense of duty will allow him to come and not refuse our offer.
Please take care of one another and I have enclosed our financial information, with an affidavit for you and your brothers to have access to the remaining funds.
Your loving parents.
Ronin thrust it at Kort to read, and his mouth fell agape. His brother had been plotting and planning this for a long time, who knows how long, and he had finally gotten what he wanted – money, power, and nobody standing in his way to stop him. Least of all a moral compass or conscience.
Kort handed the letter back to Ronin and forced a smile. One he hoped looked genuine.
“You really are the cleverest of the bunch, Ronin. I would never be able to get away with something so calculated.”
“Of course not, Kort, you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?”
“Not as sharp as you, at any rate. I have to go check on Ellie.” He knew he had given Ronin a reason to leave that he could neither refuse, nor suspect, and he took advantage of it post haste.
That evening Indaya made good on her word to stop by Ellie’s to return her “book.” Ellie had seldom been happier to see anyone in her life. She was hopeful that Indaya had good news for her, but she wasn’t expecting what the other woman had to say.
“I was overthinking it, treating it like something different than working on Topsider watches, or any other communication devices from the more elite quadrants. Really, it’s not much different. I simply had to do a little tweaking, some encrypting to keep your message as secure as is possible – which I wish I could guarantee was one hundred percent, but I can’t – and voila! You have a decent little communication device that is capable of sending messages in the form of words, voice, or video.”
Indaya had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when Ellie grabbed the girl and hugged her tight, thanking her profusely. Ellie pulled back and Indaya showed her how to use each function, and how to reach out to the Topsiders without reaching out to the Chief, and then Ellie placed the device back into the hollowed-out book and hid it amongst all of her other books, so that only she and now Indaya knew which book it was.
They were in the middle of mundane chitchat when Kort came by, looking worse for wear and Indaya excused herself with a look of concern written blatantly across her face.
“Kai, what’s wrong?”
“My parents are dead.”
Then the man before her, dropped to his knees, falling apart like she had never seen in all the years of knowing him. This was much too emotional and violent of a reaction for someone who had barely spoken to his family in years.
As she held him, she thought “Maybe he has regret for not having more to do with them? For not attempting to repair the relationship?” But as sensible as that sounded, it still gnawed at her.
Ellie couldn’t quite figure it out, all she knew was that something wasn’t right, and she needed to know what it was and how on earth to straighten it out.
Eventually, he quieted and fell asleep, allowing her to grab her book and sneak out. Ellie made her way unnoticed to the greenhouse and locked herself in. This late at night, nobody would notice her missing, and nobody would be checking the greenhouse for hours.
She took the device from the book and recorded a quick video, never having taken typing classes, she was more comfortable with direct communication, plus it seemed quicker.
“This is Ellie Reed, I am from quadrant 4, and I am searching for any Topsiders left alive. Your Sergeant is here, and he and the rest of us are all worried about you. Please send contact back as soon as possible, complete with coordinates and I will see to it that someone helps get you home.” As soon as she was finished recording, she sent it out just as Indaya had shown her, and immediately erased the message, placing the device back in its hiding place.
Now all she could do was hope for the best.