The pirates finally find Mahad... unfortunately, it seems that's what Diwan intended them to do.
In front of the Saint Nazaire a large block was just floating into view. Almost every spare inch of room was covered in metal buildings and shipping docks; only a few areas of natural rock were visible.
"Cut the engines," Cortes commanded.
The Saint Nazaire slid to a stop.
"I'm not picking up any ships in the area..." said Dahlia from her station.
"That place looks like a maze," said Wayan, "There could be ships hiding in there and we wouldn't even pick them up."
"He's right," said Cheng when Cortes looked at him for confirmation. "Our sensors aren't penetrating very far through all that metal."
Cortes stared out the front window for a moment, eyeing the complex. "Are you sure this is where Mahad is, Lena?"
"... I'm sure. It's the only block in this area, isn't it?" She looked at Cheng and he nodded. "Then he has to be!"
"Alright. Take us in slowly."
"Yes sir," Dahlia replied, and Wayan nodded. The ship jerked slightly as the engines started and they began moving towards the block. Nothing moved from its surface as they approached.
Then two Sphere patrollers shot out towards them from a dock and opened fire.
"Evasive manoeuvrers!" Cortes yelled.
"On it," Dahlia replied. The Saint Nazaire was already swinging out of the line of fire, putting the patrollers behind them.
"Take those patrollers down, Wayan," Cortes ordered.
Wayan was already halfway to the rear gun turret, "Don't worry, I've got them." He was in the seat as he finished speaking and had the gun lined up.
The patrollers seemed to be making no attempt to stay out of range.
Wayan took the first one out with one shot.
The second patroller swung away to avoid the explosion, and then swung back in toward the Saint Nazaire, continuing to fire.
Wayan shot at it twice more.
The second shot hit its mark, causing the patroller to tumble over itself in the air until it too exploded.
"Got them, Cortes."
"... I'm just not sure it should've been that easy."
Cortes looked at Wayan, and then seemed to think about that. "Dahlia... don't slow down. Let's swing past the block again and see if we can flush any more ships out."
The move flushed out two more patrollers, before everything went quiet again. When those had been destroyed and nothing else emerged, Cortes eventually decided to dock the Saint Nazaire.
"Lena, if you can find anything else out about where Mahad is, get Cheng to contact us."
"Okay... just bring him back safe, please Cortes?"
"We'll bring him back, I promise. Dahlia, you're with me. Wayan, I need you to stay and look after the ship. Just in case anymore Sphere ships decide to turn up."
Inside the complex, Dahlia and Cortes walked down a corridor, looking around as they went.
"You think Mahad is really here?" Dahlia asked.
"We won't know..." Cortes started. "I hope so. We don't have anywhere else to look. I'm really hoping he is."
Dahlia sighed. "What reason do they have to keep him alive? I mean..." she trailed off and then growled at herself.
"If he's here we're going to find him," said Cortes, and powered up his rifle.
Up ahead of them, the corridor split into two separate paths and Cortes stopped.
"Should we split up?" suggested Dahlia. "We'll cover more ground."
"We will," Cortes agreed. "You take the left. And watch yourself."
"You know I will. I'll stay in contact." She started down the left path, holding her laser bow active, but loosely in her hand.
Cortes continued down the right hand corridor.
The place really did look like no one had been there for years. It was hardly the place the Sphere took their prisoners. That is, when they bothered to take them in the first place. Cortes realised he was going off of Lena's feelings and those alone. But at the moment they were the only thing he could go off of. He'd left Mahad for a good reason, but that didn't mean he wouldn't do everything in his power to make sure they found him again.
Dahlia peered cautiously around the corner. The corridor in front of her was clear, and she stepped out, continuing carefully. Everywhere seemed deserted of anything but disused pieces of machinery. She had yet to see any sign of the Sphere. Well, any recent signs. The place had obviously been an old ship yard or something of theirs.
There was a heavy clank of metal from in front of her and she stopped, readying her laser bow.
The clanking continued steadily. Then stopped. Dahlia moved forward slowly, carefully making her way to the doorway in front of her.
The corridor opened onto a thin metal railing. On the other side it looked like it opened further into a larger room, on the level below. That was where the clanking was coming from.
Dahlia eased her way to the door. There was nothing on her level. She crept out onto the metal balcony, and leaned slowly over the railing, ready to pull back if anything was likely to see her.
She caught sight of a Brig, and drew back against the wall. They were the ones making all the clanking noise. They were hardly built for stealth. Instead of looking again, Dahlia listened. She could hear at least three of them down there.
The rest of the complex had looked deserted; they had to be here for some reason. She hoped that reason was Mahad. As much as he annoyed her, she'd hated having to leave him. Now she was determined to find him.
She checked where the Brigs were again, and then moved along the wall, towards the stairs that led down to the bottom level. To get down them she'd have to move out into the open, but if she timed it right, she could do it when the Brigs weren't looking.
As she got to the end of the metal balcony, she checked below her again. She didn't want any surprises when she made a run for it.
There were no other Brigs. But she did catch sight of what looked like a simulator, and if she wasn't mistaken, it looked somewhat like the Hyperion. Something red caught her eye through the glass over the 'cockpit'. "Mahad..." she whispered. He wasn't in the chair, he was lying on the floor and it didn't look like he was moving.
Dahlia tried looking closer, but then suddenly realised she was almost leaning out into full view. She pressed quickly back against the wall and swore. The Brigs didn't make any sign of having seen here however. She needed to pay more attention.
She checked again, and when the Brigs moved out of sight, she walked quickly down the stairs as quietly as she could. At the bottom, she moved up behind the simulator Mahad was in. They wouldn't be able to see her here, but to get to Mahad she'd have to climb right on top of the simulator into full view. She couldn't really hope for them to miss her.
Dahlia growled. Mahad had better stay alright by himself for just a few more moments. She pulled out her radio and turned down the volume, then positioned herself where she thought the simulator would block the most sound from the Brigs. "Cortes, I've found Mahad."
The radio buzzed for a couple of seconds. "Is he alright?"
"I don't know. There are Brigs down here, and I can't get to him without them seeing me. But... he was on the ground and he wasn't moving."
"Okay... how many Brigs?"
"I've only seen three."
Dahlia heard Cortes growl on the other end. "That can't be all they've left here, unless..." he grumbled and cut himself off, but Dahlia could guess what he was thinking. "Look, where are you, maybe I can distract them and you can get to Mahad?"
"That might work." Dahlia quickly told him where she'd gone.
"Okay, I'll backtrack and come to where you are. Give me five minutes. 'Til then see if there's anything or anyone else waiting for us."
Dahlia shut off the radio and sighed. A quick check showed the three Brigs were still there. They weren't doing anything much. She looked back towards the top of the simulator again. Mahad would be less than a few feet beside and above her.
She sighed and gritted her teeth. She had to concentrate on the job at hand.
Cortes jogged down the corridor. He'd already checked these ones, but he was still aware that he had to be on his guard. At the moment getting to where Mahad was seemed a bit more urgent. He could be alert and still move quickly.
He followed Dahlia's directions and soon came to the room she had described. He didn't see any Brigs or Guardians along the way, and that only served to worry him. Dahlia had found Mahad, but if the Sphere had him captured, then they should have left a decent amount of Brigs or otherwise to guard him. The fact they hadn't made him think that Mahad didn't need guarding. A dead body couldn't run away.
He pushed back that thought for the moment, and moved towards the door. Peering over the balcony, he could just see three Brigs. He pressed back against the wall and located Dahlia.
She waved at him, and he nodded. She'd go get Mahad once the Brigs were distracted. Problem was he had to distract them so they were looking away from where Dahlia was. The stairs were too close to her and jumping off the balcony would result in a heavy landing that would likely get him shot before he could get back up and move.
He moved to the other end of the balcony, keeping his back against the wall. Right at the end, a few feet away was a metal crate. It effectively halved the distance he'd have to jump, and halved it again to the floor. Cortes checked on the Brigs, and then checked on Dahlia. This was as far away from her as he was going to be able to get.
He placed a hand on the end railing and swung himself over and down the few feet onto the metal crate.
The Brigs swung around at the sound of him landing.
"Intruder. Identify yourself," said one of the Brigs, pointing its weapon arm.
"Here's all the identification you'll need," Cortes growled, and fired his weapon. The blast hit the Brig in the shoulder, spinning it around and sending it crashing into one of the other Brigs.
The third one opened fire, but only ended up blasting scorch marks on the wall where Cortes had been a second before.
Cortes hit the floor and rolled, getting off two more shots before he ducked for cover behind some broken bits of machinery.
The two other Brigs had recovered, and joined in blasting where Cortes had gone.
Cortes waited for them to relent for a second, and then fired off a few more shots before ducking back down. He had them distracted enough for Dahlia to get to Mahad. Now he just had to get them before they got him.
Dahlia waited for Cortes to get the Brigs out of the way. Then she climbed up quickly to the top of the simulator. She was now in full view, but thanks to Cortes the Brigs were looking the other way. She pulled open the hatch, swung herself inside and pulled it shut again. It was best to leave everything so that it didn't look suspicious.
Then she was relatively safe again. And she was right next to Mahad. "Mahad...?"
For a moment, she feared the worst, but then she saw his hand move and grip around his boomerang. "I'm not letting you... get Lena..."
Dahlia knelt down beside him and grabbed his shoulder. "Mahad, it's me, Dahlia."
Mahad pushed himself up a bit and looked at her. "How'd you..."
"Doesn't matter now. We're going to get you out of here, okay?" She looked up out the window again. "Might have to wait until Cortes gets rid of those Brigs." She looked back at him as he slumped back against the rear seats. "You okay? What happened?"
"Diwan wanted to get Lena, she..." he trailed off. "I'm not sure what she was trying to do..."
"Lena said she heard you calling for help..."
Mahad looked at her weakly. "What? I thought I felt her when..." he trailed off again. "Did you find me because Lena heard me?"
"That's why Diwan... Diwan wanted me to call for help. She wanted Lena to come here!"
"She was trying to..." he looked away again. "She hurt me so Lena'd hear me..."
"What, what'd she do!?"
"Don't you get it? She's led you into a trap using me!"
Dahlia looked at him and Mahad looked away. "We've got to get out of here. Can you get up?"
"I don't know..."
Dahlia momentarily considered growling at him, but then thought it was probably best not to. She grabbed her radio. "Cortes, we have a problem."
"Give me a second..." Cortes growled. He looked at the wall, timed the last remaining Brig's shots, then swung up and blasted it right in the chest.
It shuddered and fell to the ground, inactive.
Cortes sighed and pulled out the radio to answer Dahlia.
The large metal simulator across the floor hissed open. "Nice shooting, Cortes. Little good it will do you though." Diwan sauntered from the simulator, followed by a half dozen Brigs.
Cortes gripped his gun reflexively, even as he realised it was no use against Diwan's Seijin powers. He lowered it back to his side.
"So... you came to rescue Mahad... exactly like I wanted you to. You don't think I'd just leave him alive for no reason?"
"Congratulations, then. You've caught yourself one pirate."
Diwan smiled at that, and then laughed. "Don't be a fool. My plans are larger than that."
She pulled out her own radio, keeping eye contact with Cortes as she lifted it and pushed down the talk button. "Brigs..." she ordered, "capture the Saint Nazaire. Kill everyone on board, but bring me Lena."
Cortes gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on his gun.
"I think you'd better put that down now, Cortes."
Cortes growled and threw the weapon to the floor angrily. "My crew won't just let you capture the Saint Nazaire."
"No... I suspect they'll just die trying," Diwan smirked.