“I’m losing the nav beacons.”
“That is to be expected.”
“Expected? Well you can forget about going any further. Golden Throne, I’ll not get lost out here or cut off by a landslide without being able to get back.”
Stubborn, always stubborn and so bound to fear and hesitancy. Did they not realise that lines have to be crossed for reward?
“You are under my orders and you will carry on.”
“No way. Not without a map or a beacon. Once we’re in that maze,” He nodded towards the black gorge before them. “We’ll lose signal entirely. I’m already boosting the receiver to a hundred and ten percent.”
She couldn’t risk them turning against her now, she was so close.
“Very well, I will set up a beacon here to bring us out. Is that acceptable?”
The two men looked at each other. They weren’t happy, that much was clear, but they knew enough to be cautious of her. One did not tangle with one like her lightly.
“Alright,” The pilot finally said. “But you rig up three beacons. Set one up on that rise,” He pointed up a gravel slope nearby them. “Then we take the other two in with us. If we’re losing the signal we stop and set up a new one. If we haven’t found whatever you’re looking for by the time we are losing touch with the third one I’m turning around, rank be damned.”
The copilot nodded firmly along as his comrade spoke. His expression, clearly intended to be tough, amused her. He had clearly never met anybody who was actually intimidating.
“That is a logical plan, pilot. You are commended for your insight.” No harm in a little flattery. “I will need to use components of the main transmitter.”
“Wait, I don’t want to be unable to call for help.” A little unease on their faces now.
“Who are you going to call to? We’re already at the very limits of the beacons of even the Explorator outpost. Nobody could hear us even if you tried.”
“Then let’s turn back now.” There went the copilot’s tough look.
“Do not be hasty,” She interjected to cut off any panic. “We have supplies and water for at least ten cycles. The fuel supplies will last for more than twenty and the atmosphere scrubbers will keep going as long as the fuel is there. We are only three quarters of a cycle away from the Explorator Dome.”
“Yeah,” The copilot looked marginally calmer. “But if something goes wrong, who’s gonna look for us out here. Even the trench doesn’t see much traffic.”
“Very well,” It was time for another lie. “If the fates are against us I will activate my personal beacon.”
“It is in our faith to never leave another shadowed from the Omnissiah’s light. They will come for us with speeders and aircraft, wherever we may be.”
The men looked at each other. What did they know about the inner workings of the cog-head’s religion? She could tell they were the kind of workers who knew the chants, prayed when the supervisors or priests were nearby then dropped snide remarks when they left. It didn’t matter to her, their ignorance would help. When they nodded and turned back to the controls, she stepped through the cargo bay bulkhead to begin working on the transmitters.
What fools. Even if such a beacon existed, she would never activate it and let the Council get wind of the prize. If they did know they’d probably come in gunships not speeders, that was, if they didn’t just obliterate her with a satellite lance strike to hide what she knew she would find.
She would have to tread very carefully upon returning. It would probably be best if these two drivers were to…disappear once she was safely in her Sanctum and the prize in her vault. Yes…it would be a necessary precaution in order to do the Omnissiah’s will.
Up in the cab the pilot looked over his shoulder. The bulkhead had definitely closed behind her.
“Look,” He whispered. “Any funny business with her and we leave.”
“Abandon a cog-head? They’ll know something was up when we get back. You know that lot stick together.”
“Yeah but there’s something about her. She’s not playing by their rules. All we gotta say is she ordered us, we’re just two dummies playing obeying a superior.”
“I ain’t no dummy.”
“Me neither, but they’ll think we are. They think anyone not in robes with a metal face is an idiot. They’ll never suspect us.”
“I just have a funny feeling about this. There must be a reason nobody comes out here.”
He glanced back again, the door was definitely shut? Good.
“And uh, if needs be then we make sure she…stays.” He nodded at the shotgun.
The copilot hefted the weapon and smiled grimly.