Aurora: Meridian (Aurora 3)
Professor Ray Sharley watched the two men approach. Gray Quint had always been fierce in his countenance, but his new apprentice was a singular sight to behold. The man, known only as Drazen, had been discovered by Mattieus Logan when visiting his old underground fighting haunts in Europe. Located in nightclub basements, disused warehouses and deserted shopping mall parking lots, these filthy cesspits of bloody and often fight-to-the-death carnage were the breeding grounds of truly deadly warriors. Special events were held on occasion—known as “Wrecking Balls”, weekend-long events saw fighters compete until just one man stood. The title was prestigious, the betting ferocious, and the high stakes meant big money, so the desperate and depraved were drawn from every corner of the UNF Space Zone. It was at one of the “Wrecking Balls” that Sharley had discovered Logan. Always on the lookout for brutal new talent, Sharley had dispatched Logan to seek such and his find had been superb.
Sharley personally went to watch the man who had caught the attention of his trusted aide, and couldn’t help but become aroused at witnessing Drazen defeat his hideously scarred and battle-born opponent. Their fight was bloody, vicious, stomach churning, but this Drazen had stood undefeated at the end. He was a mountain of a man; tall and broad with a body that looked like it had been stuffed with large boulders. His eyes looked devoid of pleasantries, his scowl a warning to everyone. In short, he was very Jumbo-like already, and Sharley became excited at the potential of what he could be once he really was one.
It hadn’t taken much to convince Drazen to come work for him. No-one really wanted to live that life—fighting that viciously day after day. Upon speaking with him it was clear why Drazen had fallen into that life. Sharley wondered whether the man had spent any time in school; all Drazen knew was how to fight and how to survive. Sharley felt some pity for this creature and decided immediately to take him under his wing. With Quint’s and the others’ help, he would mold this brutal lump of clay into a Jumbo of fine reckoning. A task in which, so far, they were succeeding.
“Is it done?” Sharley asked Quint. “Major General Liekowski?”
Quint nodded again. “Looks like he committed suicide.”
“Good,” Sharley said, eyeing them over for traces of blood. There were none.
“So, what now, Professor?” Baker asked, stepping forward beside them. The young ex-private had settled well into this group of Sharley’s. He was certainly eager, but still in need of a little training and discipline. That was something Sharley was good at … Baker would be easy to mold.
“We continue with our plan,” Sharley said plainly.
“We’re running out of places to hide.” Logan spoke from Sharley’s right, his long, dark hair and pale skin enhancing his natural menace.
“Do not worry about such things, Logan. I have a place for us to go,” Sharley assured him.
“Any places you may have, professor, the UNF will be watching,” Chet said, folding his arms as he stood to Sharley’s left. The muscled Englishman was not afraid to speak his mind, despite the politeness of his tone.
“Have I let you down before?” Sharley asked quietly, his eyes gliding over each one of them. He received silence in response and took that as their acceptance. Sharley smiled at his obedient Jumbos. “Our displacement is only a mild setback, gentlemen. I will have it rectified shortly. Besides, there is much to celebrate. For it would seem the tide is turning in our favor yet again.” His smile grew broader.
“And why is that?” Logan’s gravelly voice inquired.
“I have received word that Corporal Welles has been transferred from the Aurora. As of today, she now resides on the Vortex.”
Sharley watched as his five Jumbos exchanged curious looks.
“The Vortex?” Chet asked.
Sharley’s smile stayed in place. “And they are not equipped to handle us.”
He saw smiles sliding across the faces of both Chet and Logan.
Sharley turned his eyes back to his longest-serving ally, Quint. “Go now with Drazen,” he ordered. “I want outside eyes on the Vortex. Do you understand?”
Quint nodded and turned for the door, while his deadly apprentice, the “Wrecking Ball” champion Drazen, followed.
“Callum …” Sharley moved his eyes to Baker. “If you would please arrange some food for us.”
Baker obeyed, leaving the room.
“You still trust this source?” Logan inquired of Sharley, folding his arms across his chest.
“The source has served us well so far, Logan. We would not have made it out of the Hell Town dungeon otherwise.”
“No,” Chet agreed, “but it still came a little close.”
“The timing was my call, Chet. I had hoped to complete Lieutenant Walker first. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be.”
“Speaking of which,” Logan growled, “getting Welles off the Vortex will be easy, but how do we get McKinley and Doc back?”
“That will take some work,” Sharley conceded. “If we want them, we must do so via Harris. If we control Harris, then we control them.”
“And how do we do that?” Chet asked.
“Leave it with me,” Sharley smiled. “For now, our primary focus is getting Welles back.”
“Maybe we should forget Welles,” Chet suggested. “Maybe we should find another host outside of the UNF.”
“No. We continue as planned.”
“Forgive me, professor,” Chet eyed him curiously, “but I don’t quite understand your fixation with her. She is proving difficult to extract from the UNF with all the attention she has garnered so far, and we need to get this program movi—”
“She stays in the program!” Sharley cut him off. He respected Chet’s opinion, but he was wrong on this account. This was non-negotiable. Welles was his. She would be tamed. She would obey. They all would.
“Like I said,” Logan spoke again, “Getting a human Welles back will be easy. Getting a Jumbo McKinley and Doc, won’t be.”
“No,” Sharley said in an almost whisper-like fashion as he stared off into the distance. “But Welles and Harris are the keys …” He came out of his reverie to see his two strong Jumbos staring back at him. “I am sure of it. So don’t concern yourselves, gentlemen. We’ve come too far to turn back now. We will continue as planned, and we will be successful.” Sharley walked up to Chet and Logan and placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “My source on the Aurora will see to that.”