Chapter 14 - Off the Radar

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 It was past the academy curfew, but tonight it didn’t matter. Codi readied herself, covering her body in black clothing in preparation for the coming heist. A rush of exhilaration flowed through her at the prospect of what she was about to do: stealing millions of credits worth of equipment and bundling the whole lot onto a space-ship that would then ferry then to the Gauntlet itself.

A ship! Codi couldn’t help smiling to herself at the prospect. Someone like her, ordinarily, would never get the chance to fly off-world but here she was, getting ready to fly to the heart-world of the human colonies, the beautiful beacon of technology, advancement and civilisation.

She shook her head. Focus, she reminded herself. A glance at the alarm clock told her it was time. Making sure the locket was securely clipped into place around her neck, she slung the large black bag over one shoulder, opened the door of her room and stepped into the dimly lit corridors of Brax-Delta.

Codi moved through the hallways at a jog and found Lita and the twins waiting for her at the elevator. They all wore similar outfits to her; black jumpers, trousers and hats. While unnecessary inside the academy, they needed to remain totally undetected once they made into the city streets.

“We all set?” she whispered.

“Ready as we’re going to be,” one of the twins replied. It was tough to tell which one in the light.

“Lita?”

The girl shook her head. “I still don’t like this.”

“Me neither,” Codi lied. “But it’s the only way.” She nodded to the others and punched a button on the control panel. The doors slid open and the group bundled into the elevator. Taking a deep breath, Codi rocked back and forth on her heels as the elevator made its way up to the exoskeleton chambers. When the doors opened again she felt butterflies in her stomach as she stepped out.

The formidable vault door was already open when they arrived, and she could see Vasco’s silhouette inside the room, doing something to one of the caskets. They stood open, the burnished chest plates shining even in the dim night lighting.

“You four all set?” he said without looking round, his voice low.

“We’re ready,” Codi answered for the others.

“Right, I’ve disabled the serial trackers. It won’t last long, but we should be off the radar long enough to smuggle these things onto Max’s ship.” He stood up from the casket and Codi spotted the open control panel on the side of the shielded container. “Right, that ought to do it. We don’t have long so get cracking.” Without waiting he opened up the pod containing Max’s suit and began removing the components.

Looking to the others, Codi motioned with her head towards the suits before darting over to her casket. She ran her hand over the hardened pads, feeling the tiny bumps and irregularities that the training had imparted. Flattening her palm against the chest plate she nodded to herself. This was the right thing to do.

She bundled the Kevlar fibre into her bag first, forcing it into as small a space as possible to make room for the heavier parts. Then she gently removed the plates from the supporting framework within the casket. As she placed them into the bag she prayed that Vasco had done his job properly. Being so expensive and virtually irreplaceable pieces of hardware, the exoskeletons were monitored with tracking chips. Even the temporary disabling would be enough to raise some red flags, but by the time the relevant authorities reacted they would hopefully be long gone.

With everything packed up, Codi stood and slung the bag over her shoulder. The weight of the full exoskeleton swung her off balance and she nearly went crashing to the floor.

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