“What the hell is this thing?” Ellison weighed the orange plastic gun in his hand. He was standing on the sandy beach, surrounded by Clinio’s security team, the bodies of four of the commandos at their feet. Two were still alive, but wounded.
“It’s a conducted energy weapon.” Clinio Lind took it out of Ellison’s hand.
“It’s an electroshock device,” said Welton.
“It’s a Taser,” said Matilda. “I want one. Can I have one?”
“No,” said Clinio. “They’re evidence.”
“You don’t need all four for evidence,” said Matilda.
“And they definitely violate the Krim Terms of Service,” said Welton. “I’ll take them.” The assistant grid manager bent down over one of the wounded commandos and pulled up a tab over one of the man’s pockets with a scrtchch sound.
“Velcro?” asked Matilda.
“Hook and loop fastener,” said Welton. “Also a violation of the Krim Terms of Service.” He pulled a handful of zip ties from the commando’s pocket. “So are these.”
“The camouflage doesn’t look too period-appropriate, either,” said Ellison.
Welton crouched down and pinched the fabric. “It feels like a blend of cotton and synthetic fiber. Maybe nylon. Definitely against the Terms of Service.”
Matilda put her foot against the boot of one of the dead commandos. “Can I at least have his boots? I think they’re my size. No? Looting dead bodies is a time-honored Krim tradition.”
“Let’s zip tie these two and get them all back on the boat,” said Clinio. He motioned at the two live commandos. “Let’s try to keep them alive until we get back to Krim City.”
Matilda leaned and flipped one of the prisoners over and the man screamed.
“Careful,” said Clinio. “His arm’s broken.”
“It isn’t going to kill him,” said Matilda.
“No, but the arrow in his side might,” said one of Clinio’s men. He pushed Matilda aside, knelt down next to the moaning captive, and opened a leather bag he’d been carrying. It was a medical kit. The medic broke off the shaft of the arrow. “I’m going to leave the arrowhead in him,” he said. “Safer than trying to get it out and having him bleed out. Hopefully, he’ll last for a couple of days.” He sliced the man’s shirt and pulled it open. The commando had a bullet-proof vest on underneath, over a T-shirt. The arrow had gone in just below it.
“We’re lucky they weren’t carrying guns,” said Clinio.
Ellison backed away from the prisoners. He’d memorized the identities of the commandos. He’d even been able to catch a glimpse of the auras of two who were now dead. The one with an arrow in his head had taken the longest to die.
He wished he’d been on shore during the ambush, so he could have seen the auras of the other commandos. He had a strong suspicion that they were part of the terrorist group responsible for the Civinos attack six years ago. They were all supposed to have died back then. If they had managed the survive, the authorities needed to know.
“Let’s hurry up before they come back with reinforcements,” Clinio said. “Armed reinforcements.”
As the two dead bodies and the two still living prisoners were loaded onto the boats, Cleeve Freer, a member of Clinio’s security team, came out of the forest and joined them on the beach.
“They got away from us in the dark,” Cleeve said. “But we eventually found their tracks.” He turned and pointed up the mountain. “We think they’re heading up there. A couple of guy are trying to catch up to them.”
“We should take the road up,” said Clinio. “If we we can get up to the compound before they do, we can take them by surprise.”
“We’ll have to,” said Matilda. “If they’re armed and all we have is bows and arrows, it’s not going to be a fair fight.”
“We’ve got the prisoners,” said Welton. “That’s good enough for me. We can go back to Krim City, shut down the gate. We won’t have any more guns coming in. That’s the important thing.”
“No,” said Clinio. “Getting Wynefrede and the other prisoners back is the important thing.” He looked up at the mountain. “And they’re still there, somewhere.”