Ronin walked back into his space with his head held high. He found Duncan and O’Brien lounging on the sofa, something that he would typically have scolded them for doing. Instead, he shoved a fistful of dollars in Duncan’s face and announced, “I have a new job for the two of you!”
Duncan looked worriedly at O’Brien whose mouth fell open at the amount of money Ronin was waving in front of them. “Um, sure. What do you need us to do?” O’Brien didn’t hesitate to grab at the money.
“It has come to my attention that my brother, Kai, is still out there somewhere Topside. Out of concern for him, I need you two to go out and find him. I’ll give you more money once you return with him in tow.” Ronin actually managed to sound concerned for his brother’s wellbeing. No one would have assumed that he felt anything but sincere worry for Kai, except that he followed with “I want you to bring him back here, dead or alive. If he’s alive, I’ll handle it myself.”
Duncan knew that Ronin had been plotting something for a long while and that he had always feared that Kai would somehow interfere and ruin everything he’d put together; he just had no idea what Ronin’s agenda was. What he did know is that if Kai wouldn’t approve, it must not be good.
“I’m supposed to report for my Topsider tests at 0700, boss,” Duncan awkwardly replied. He wasn’t sure what Ronin’s endgame was, but he didn’t think he wanted any part of it no matter how well it paid.
“Come with me,” Ronin said, gesturing to the two men. “I’ll show you why your Topsider tests hold no meaning anymore.” With that, Ronin lead them into his bedroom, opening a secret panel in the wall.
“If either of you breathes a word of this to anyone, I’ll kill you myself,” he said in a menacing tone. Both Duncan and O’Brien nodded knowingly, uttering not a word.
They walked in the dark for a short distance down a narrow hallway. It was cold and damp and in the quiet one could hear water dripping into puddles alongside the walls. O’Brien let out a squeal once as he thought he’d stepped on the tail of a rat. Upon further inspection, it was just some old wiring that lay strewn across the floor.
At the end of the hallway, they followed Ronin as he turned right toward an open room filled with light. In the center of the room was the largest vehicle the men had ever seen. They had heard tales of the scientists underground working on building ships that would help them all move into space, but those had just been whispers in the hallways. Rumors moved quickly in the underground. The fact of the matter was that no one had ever seen them for themselves and Duncan had only ever seen a space vehicle in a sketch that Indaya had once drawn while she was studying engineering.
“Isn’t it glorious?” Ronin smiled broadly as he hurriedly moved toward the object. “This is our savior, boys.”
“Ronin, I don’t understand.” Duncan spoke as he was trying to work through the puzzle in his head. “If this vehicle is our savior, then why go through all the trouble of getting rid of your brother? Wouldn’t he be completely fine with you building a ship to save us all?” He grew more puzzled the more questions he asked. “I mean, what was all of that about with Ellie? What were you looking for anyway?”
“This ship wasn’t built to save everyone,” Ronin spat out in disgust. “It was built to save me. Me and the few people I see fit to bring with me.” He leaned against a bit of railing staring at his prize as he spoke. “You two have been loyal, so you’ll come, of course. We need some of the scientists to maintain the ship. We’ll bring along a few females to ensure the population doesn’t disintegrate to nothing. Aside from a few other essential personnel and myself, that’s it. Kai is far too good to ever accept that not everyone can be saved, nor do they deserve saving. He’d do anything he could to stop me, screaming ‘we all go or no one goes’ along the way. I can’t risk it, you see.”
O’Brien shook his head in acknowledgment. His eyes were still glued to the shuttle.
“As for the orphan girl, I was certain that she held something that we needed. We’ve managed to piece together everything that we need sans an outward communication device. I’ve been told that a device exists that would have allowed us to hail another spacecraft if they were still out there. I’d heard whispers that Kai had found something of the sort on one of his journeys, but nothing was ever turned in to the government communications lab after his missions. The little rat had kept it for himself, or so I thought. Turns out the whispers were just rumors. No matter now, though. We’re going to leave soon with or without that piece of technology. I’m sure we’ll make due.”
Duncan’s eyes grew wide as he listened to Ronin speak. Suddenly he understood the reason behind why Ronin had done everything he’d done. He also knew what he had to do in order to prove to Ellie that he was sorry for everything. “I understand now, boss. We’ll leave as soon as possible to find your brother.” Grabbing O’brien’s arm, he pulled him back into the dark hallway and toward topside.
With Duncan and O’Brien heading topside to locate Kai once and for all, Ronin thought it best to pay his political bedfellows a visit. They had unfinished business to attend to if they were going to keep everything on schedule. He followed the two men as far as the entrance to the corridor opposite his room. They turned left, he turned right toward the Prime Minister’s office.