If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link. Just to remind you, my idea of Tanu is like Legolas, played by Orlando Bloom in the Lord of the Ring films. Except Tanu’s hair is dark.
Hoy waited outside the hospital while Reuel went inside. After what he'd learned about the colour green, Reuel felt awkward in his dark green uniform, but this visit was official so he had no choice.
Reuel's hope of charming the nurse he had spoken to before fell when he entered the hospital reception and she wasn't on the desk. He approached and began asking the nurse on duty, when “his” nurse came out of a corridor wearing a coat and headed for the door. Excusing himself, Reuel rushed over and attracted her attention with a cough being careful not to touch her.
'My dear sister,' he said, with a bow. 'I hope you remember me, Shom, named like the hero Shomestry. You were so helpful to me earlier.'
She stopped and smiled. 'Yes, I remember. I have been looking for your friend in our records.'
'I have news!' Reuel said. 'When I left, my friend Tanu was outside being helped into a brown van. He waved to me. I was so glad he was all right. But now I cannot find him. Can you help me?'
Her face brightened. 'A brown van, you say? Come with me.'
She went to the reception desk and sat down at the console.
'I have not, so far, traced your friend,' she said, 'but I may be able to trace the van. The brown vans are used to transfer non-emergency patients. I can check the log of transfers made today. They may have failed to record your friend for some reason, but they should record all transport movements, to enable us to book transport when we need it.'
Reuel edged round the end of the desk to see the screen she was working on, but he couldn't read the script and the duty nurse hissed at him to get back.
'Here it is! The only transfer this afternoon was one male patient to the psychiatric hospital.'
* * *
Reuel came out of the hospital looking pleased with himself. 'They took Tanu to a psychiatric hospital a few miles away on the coast. The nurse gave me directions.'
They couldn’t find any transport so they had to walk. As they moved through the suburbs of the town, the buildings became low and all shades of green. Once the houses ended, the scenery was similar to Earth and Altair, except for the foliage being orange everywhere.
‘I am surprised the Casparans have not managed to get all their plants green as well,’ Reuel joked.
It took over an hour to reach the complex, which was perched on a cliff top. The thinner atmosphere meant Hoy couldn't walk too fast, but the weather was cool and dry, so it wasn't a chore.
They kept in contact with the Kestrel. They were almost at the hospital when Darrow contacted them.
'Go to secure channel.'
They switched their comms over. 'Secure,' Hoy reported.
'The Casparan authorities contacted us to ask why we haven’t left,' Darrow said. 'They aren't convinced about the engine malfunction. Unfortunately the Casparan maintenance team was thorough and kept detailed records. They're not prepared to allow us to wait for the supposed missing crewman either.'
'Does this mean we have to call off trying to find Tanu, sir?' Reuel asked.
'Captain,' Hoy suggested, 'couldn't you leave and come back for us? Hopefully we will find Tanu by then.'
Darrow said, 'Stand by.'
Hoy and Reuel reached the hospital and looked around the outside. Darrow came back on the comms.
'Chambers suggested we need to test the engines after such extensive repairs. We're going to take off and do some trial runs. We'll take the last run down towards the coast. We informed the authorities and they agreed.'
'We've reconnoitred the hospital, sir,' Hoy reported, 'and we’re in luck. It doesn’t have the security that a detention centre would. They must have decided they needed the psychiatric facilities for Tanu. There may be some guards inside, but the building itself has minimal security. I don’t think we’ll have any problems getting in, but we’ll have to play it by ear once we’re inside as we don’t know what we’ll find.'
'Proceed,' Darrow said. 'We’ll be heading your way in twenty minutes. We want to be able to pick you up as soon as you're back outside.'
The psychiatric hospital was a long, single storey, L-shaped building, in the favoured Casparan shade of light green. They managed to check the outside of the building without challenge. There were bars on the windows, and a high fence at either end.
One fence had a locked gate, but Hoy lifted Reuel up to see over. The fence enclosed a lush garden, but there was only one entrance. That might be a problem getting out. Reuel was tense, but glad to have a chance to redeem himself, if only in his own eyes.
This time it was Hoy’s turn to take the lead. He decided to brazen it out and go straight in and ask to visit their friend. Behind the reception desk was an old man. He smiled a welcome and didn’t seem suspicious. There was no sign of any guards.
'Can I help you?'
Hoy gave the Casparan bow of respect. 'Good day, sir. Our friend was admitted today and we've had no news of him. His name’s Tanu. Can we see him?'
The man checked the records. 'I do not have that name here, but maybe his records have not been processed yet. We only had one admission today. Let us go and see if it is him.'
They couldn’t believe their luck as they followed him down the corridor. Reuel reminded himself not to be lulled into a false sense of security. The old man knocked on a door and went in. Hoy and Reuel were close behind. Tanu lay on a bed, his eyes closed. In a chair next to the bed sat a man who was clearly not a nurse. He wore leather clothes and a sidearm.
'Excuse me, these men would like to visit their friend—'
As soon as the guard saw the PACT uniforms he reacted. He reached for his weapon, but Hoy took two quick steps and kicked it out of his hand. The guard threw a punch, Hoy side-stepped the blow, the follow-through caught Reuel on the shoulder. He staggered back against the doorframe, almost knocking over the old man as he ran away.
Hoy punched the guard in the ribs, put one hand on the floor, and slammed his foot into the man's knee. As he went down, Hoy grabbed for the guard's weapon, and they struggled for it. Reuel recovered his balance, and his wits. He grabbed Tanu from the bed and slung him over his shoulder. He headed for the door and despatched the guard with a kick in the head on the way out.
'That should keep him down for a while,' Hoy said.
A shout echoed in the corridor as the old man reappeared at the far end with three other guards. Hoy and Reuel headed in the other direction at a run. Hoy gasped out a commentary over the comm, finding it hard to breathe in the thinner atmosphere. A male nurse came out of a room just ahead of them. Hoy chopped his hand to the side of the man's neck, and the nurse went down.
Reuel was having trouble with Tanu. Though drugged he was starting to regain consciousness, struggling in Reuel's grip. Hoy dragged them into an empty room and triggered the lock on the door before he closed it. Not a moment too soon, as an alarm sounded and a series of clicks signalled the lockdown of all the doors.
Hoy signalled to Reuel to put Tanu down and move the bed to block the door. The door was heavy, presumably to prevent patients from getting out, but it wouldn't buy them much time and they were trapped.
Reuel sat Tanu on a chair and Hoy grabbed him by the shoulders.
'Tanu, listen to me! Remember us? We’ve come to rescue you. Focus now!'
Tanu shook his head. There was a shout from outside the door, the guards calling for a key. There was a thump as one of the guards tried the strength of the door. It held.
Reuel helped Hoy move the bed, came over and stooped down in front of Tanu. 'It is me, Reuel. We got you out before did we not? Trust me.'
Tanu's vision cleared and he smiled. 'Reuel!' His face fell. 'I can't run, I'm sorry--'
Hoy interrupted him. 'Don’t worry about it, just co-operate will you? We’ve got to get out of here.'
* * *
On the bridge of the Kestrel, Chambers was panicking.
'Captain, please don’t ask me to do this.'
'Lieutenant, it’s the only way, there’s nowhere to land.'
'But last time…'
'You can’t ruin your life for one mistake. I believe you learned from it, and have become a better helmsman. You can do it.'
'I don’t know…'
'Well, I do. Prepare yourself and wait for the signal.'
* * *
The room was bare except for the bed, the chair, and a small cabinet. The window looked out on a flowerbed and an orange lawn, which ran from the back of the building down to the cliff edge. Reuel opened the window and Hoy fired the captured weapon at the bars. There was a bright light and a crackle - it was some kind of electrical charge, no good for cutting metal.
Hoy swung himself up and launched his feet at the bars. There was a clang, but no movement. Reuel produced a small knife from an ankle scabbard and dug at the plaster around one of the bolts holding the bars. As the plaster came away it revealed the bolt was held by mortar, not drilled directly into the stone. Reuel worked harder and removed more mortar. He started on a second bolt.
There was a shout from the corridor - apparently the lockdown could only be released by the supervisor, who was out. One of the guards cursed and his footsteps could be heard running away. Hoy launched himself at the bars again, and they moved a little. Reuel continued to dig into the mortar. Hoy's fourth attempt managed to push out the bars.
Using the cabinet as a boost, Reuel climbed out, then helped Hoy to get Tanu through. As Hoy joined them on the lawn, a guard stepped through the gate in the fence at the far end of the building and gave a shout when he saw them. Hoy fired the weapon, but its range was too short. The other guards were unlocking the room door, and would be outside in seconds. Unless there was a way down the cliff, they were trapped.
Reuel was carrying Tanu, so Hoy ran towards the cliff edge and looked down. He turned abruptly.
'Reuel, get down here now!'
As Reuel started to run, a shot crackled by them. Hoy went down on one knee and returned fire. Two guards were climbing through the window and soon the three guards were running towards them. In all the rush, Reuel was impressed Hoy was so calm, when he was so tense: his stomach knotted and his spines rigid. He didn’t see how they would get Tanu down the cliff. Besides, hanging off a cliff they would be easy targets.
He realised the roaring in his ears wasn’t just his pounding blood. Their pursuers stopped and stared. He turned towards the cliff edge, and saw the Kestrel rising into view, hovering like the bird of prey she was named for. The Kestrel fired a warning shot, which scorched the grass between the fleeing trio and their pursuers. It was a brilliant piece of flying, the ship held steady a few metres from the cliff.
The shuttle bay doors under the nose opened and the ship slowly rotated and lifted up over the edge of the cliff. The wings were folded in to keep them out of the way. Hoy and Reuel bundled Tanu into the ship, which immediately climbed through the atmosphere and away, the wings deploying and the bay doors closing as she rose.
Parks met them in the shuttle bay. Tanu seemed to recognise him. Reuel leaned against the wall and took some deep breaths to help steady himself. He looked across at Hoy, who only now allowed himself to relax and show the strain. Reuel admired that control.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz