Writer’s Note: Sid & Cyrus: Part Three was published originally in Jump Point 5.7. Here’s where you can read previous installments Sid & Cyrus: Part One and Sid & Cyrus: Part Two.
Sid felt like she was wading through quicksand as she rushed toward her daughter. Slowed by her heavy armor, she reached Immanuelle as Cyrus released her from his embrace. Sid drew her daughter close and finally exhaled, relieved she was alive.
As the two separated, Sid looked at Immanuelle and shook her head. Nothing quite made sense. During the longest and most excruciating day of Sid’s life, she thought Tomyris, the notorious leader of the Cadejos, had killed or captured her daughter, only now to discover that her little girl was Tomyris.
“What have you gotten yourself into?”
“I should be asking you the same thing,” Immanuelle said, looking her mother up and down. “You scared the hell outta me. Coming up in the elevator in heavy armor like that. Good thing I recognized Dad, otherwise . . .”
Immanuelle decided not to finish the sentence. She studied Sid and Cyrus, perhaps more stunned by this turn of events than them. These people weren’t the mother and father she left behind in Reis. She’d never seen them like this before. Together, all geared up, they cut an imposing image.
“What are you doing here?” she began. “Hell, when’s the last time either of you left Reis?”
“We thought you’d been kidnapped.”
“Or killed,” Cyrus added.
“Why would you think that?”
Sid took off her helmet and nodded toward Devin. His eyes went wide with recognition.
“Devin, here, wandered into the Falling Sky while I was tending bar and passed along some cryptic message from Tomyris.”
Immanuelle’s eyes narrowed, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“That’s what I thought. So, I poured him a few drinks until he let something slip about the attack on the convoy to Behistun.”
“We had to know if you were still alive,” Cyrus said as he gently squeezed Immanuelle’s hand.
Immanuelle still couldn’t believe they were here. She’d taken precautions to keep her parents in the dark about what she was doing. The last thing she wanted was for them to worry . . . then, a realization hit her and she turned to Devin.
“Wait, why’d you go to the Falling Sky?”
“Because that’s where you told me to go.” Devin responded nervously.
“I told you that’s where I grew up going,” Immanuelle kept pressing him. “You didn’t go to the Cliff’s Edge, did you?” Devin hesitated for a moment then shook his head.
Immanuelle’s heart sank. No wonder their reinforcements hadn’t arrived. They were still at the Cliff’s Edge waiting for word that the mission was a “Go.”
This changed everything. Without reinforcements, the spoil bank side of the mine would be unguarded, except for that turret. She turned to Devin.
“Did you at least fix the turret by the spoil banks?”
Devin shook his head.
“Damn it —”
“That’s not my fault. He shot it.”
Cyrus nodded his head with a shrug. Immanuelle turned and hurried toward the outpost. Sid and Cyrus looked at each other, then hustled after. Devin trailed behind, still dazed by everything going on.
As the outpost doors slid open, Sid scanned the operation. It had been converted into a command center. Four more Cadejos were inside, geared up for a fight.
Margo and Red didn’t even glance up from their terminals. Dee gripped a shotgun and eyeballed Sid and Cyrus. She stood near Arch, a Tevarin who took its eyes off the hologlobe and tried to get Immanuelle’s attention.
“Listen up,” Immanuelle paused until everyone was looking at her. “Cavalry isn’t coming. It’s just us.”
A nervous look rippled through the room. Even the two on the terminals looked away from their screens.
“So, let’s focus on putting up as much of a fight as we can here, but be prepared to fall back for phase two the second I make the call. That clear?”
“Crystal,” her crew answered in unison.
“Hold on a minute,” Cyrus raised his voice for Immanuelle. He got everyone’s attention though, so he seized the opportunity. “We need to get out of here. The Vucari are coming.”
“We know,” answered Immanuelle. “We lured them here.”
Cyrus stood there, dumbfounded, then turned to Sid, who looked as if she was about to erupt.
“What in the hell is going on here?” Sid finally burst out.
“It’s a long story . . .”
“Then start talking. We came a long damn way.”
“Mom, I know. I’m sorry. I never meant —”
“Sorry?” Sid steamrolled. “I don’t even know where to begin. Ten minutes ago, I was worried you might be dead. Now, you’re not only alive but Tomyris, a damn outlaw mastermind.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Let’s make it simple. Are you responsible for the attacks on those convoys?”
“Well . . . yes and no. But they weren’t attacks —”
“Don’t bullshit your mother. We saw what happened to that convoy to Behistun.”
“I’m not denying it. I’m trying to tell you that we staged it.”
“What? How?” Cyrus asked in quick succession.
“Every attack credited to the Cadejos was staged, actually,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Devin’s been using the crane to grab old vehicles out of the mine. Then we shoot at ’em, maybe even blow ’em up a bit, so they look the part and then dump what’s left into Vucari territory.”
Cyrus pressed on, still pulling the pieces together, “But it wasn’t just attacks. What about all those rumors? The ones about the Cadejos and their weird ritualistic stuff?”
“Just rumors to make the Cadejos memorable. Some people believe anything after a few drinks. Lots of rumors start with a few folks talking in dark bars, right, Mom?”
Sid was quiet. Immanuelle smirked. She knew her mom couldn’t refute that. It was her quote, after all.
“Plus,” she continued, “there had to be a reason there weren’t bodies at the sites, only wreckage and body armor.”
Sid shook her head. Secretly, she was impressed but dared not let her daughter know. At least, not until she answered the most obvious question.
“Why are you doing all this?” Sid asked.
“Because someone had to before Master Kraujas and the Vucari take over the city. The UEE obviously don’t care about us, otherwise they’d be doing something about it. He knows that. He’s more worried about other outlaw packs than anything else.”
“But, why’d it have to be you?”
“When my convoy was ambushed last year . . .” Immanuelle’s voice broke with emotion. “I laid there, half-dead and watching the Vucari just execute my friends. After it was over, I waited for somebody, anybody, to step up and take them down, but nothing happened. Told Head Office, they just cut cheap compensation checks to the families and back to business as usual. ”
“Hey,” cried Margo from the comm station. “Rua’s on the line. The Vucari are about to enter the valley.”
Immanuelle quickly composed herself, and then called out confidently, “Make sure he doesn’t do anything too risky. Looks like we’re gonna need that truck.”
“Mom, Dad you gotta get outta here, now. Devin will take you back —”
“Wait, what?” Devin stammered. Everyone ignored him.
“We all go or no one goes,” stated Cyrus. Sid nodded in solidarity. A concerned look crossed their daughter’s face.
“This isn’t a joke, Dad. With our reinforcements waiting back in the Cliff’s Edge, we’re outnumbered and outgunned. This is gonna be a real fight.”
“Oh, don’t worry dear,” replied Sid. “This is far from our first.”