The victs have the Doc, and they’re still ahead of us. They’re down two men though. The thing that worries me as we head to the lift is that they’ve got guns now. In the back of my head, I’m still wonderin about that punk’s words, ‘they’re all over your ship’. Was the pain makin him crazy? I hadn’t seen any bugs. Suckers kinda stood out. Not like you see half-meter silver crabs runnin around everywhere.
“Hey,” Bengal yells as we near the main cargo access. “I’m gonna grab my loader. I put the heavy gun on her. See if I can’t keep them in the hanger if they try to take off.”
“Go for it. Meet you up top.”
I keep focused on Felix’s back as he jumps on the conning lift. I slide in next to him as the hydraulics kick in—or try to. There’s a sickening sigh and the thing don’t move. The lights in the transit tube flicker—low power. What the frell is goin on?
“This ain’t frikkin happenin,” I grouse.
Felix doesn’t say anything. He just charges for the gantry ladder and starts up. With a grunt, I head up after him.
It’s a long climb up seven decks. I done it once already today. It’s getting old already. My comm buzzes. I grab it off my belt. “Donner, go.”
*Clive!* I hear Finger’s panicked voice. *I’ve got crabs!*
What the hell? “Dammit, I told you to stay away from those Deneb streetwalkers. Fingers, I don’t—”
*No, metal crabs. Freakin little bastids are eaten the damn conduits. If you try to stop them, they try to eat you!*
Spit. “Where you at?”
*Conning deck, near the backup bridge.*
“Felix and I are already on our way. Power is out though.”
*Watch yourself, they’re mean little suckers. They got a needle with acid in it. Jump on ya and pump you full of crap.*
“Acknowledged,” I respond. “We got trouble comin ahead of us. We think three victs are heading for the conning hanger. Bengal is headed out the hatch in his big hummer, he’s gonna try and keep ‘em on the ship.”
*Where would they frikken go? We don’t even know where we are!*
“Punks are running scared. They’ve had Felix chasing ‘em all over the ship.”
*Well, that explains it. I’d run from him too.* He sighs. *Scary.*
“I’ll catch up with ya shortly, watch yourself.” I punch the comm off.
Felix hits the top of the ladder and doesn’t even slow down, he’s a man—or machine—on a mission. As we head down the corridor, I feel the hull vibrate. That can’t be good. As we turn the corner and can see the conning hanger hatch, I can tell from here that the victs are still way ahead of us. Doc MacDougal is leaning against the wall panting for breath, she doesn’t appear to be injured. The hanger hatch is closed next to her, and I can see the interior pressure door is open.
“They—” She huffs, tossing her red hair. “They just went in.”
As she finishes her words I see the flare of blasters going off, and feel the vibration of shells pounding the deck plates. I run up to the window to get a better look. Bengal, in his maneuver equipped loader, is blocking the hanger exit and spraying the area with combo of caseless and blaster fire. The two victs seem more focused on getting to shuttle and are just dodging.
Damn it, Bengal, don’t chew up all our equipment trying to kill those two.
“Doc, how many of those victs were there? Weren’t there five? I see only two in here. Where’s the third?”
The Doc shakes her head. “Be careful. He’s the mean one. He’s got Hilda’s big tricked out blaster rifle.”
“He handled it like he knew what he was doing.” She sighed. “He left us a ways back. Said something about a ‘different tactic’.”
Great. A smart vict. Just what we needed.
Felix had been fiddling with getting the door open and is apparently having problems.
I start to say something and see the shuttle blasting out of the bay, cars and equipment bounce and spin in the turbulence as whoever is piloting smashes out past Bengal.
*Clive,* I hear on the comms. It’s Finger’s voice.
“Yeah?” I answer.
*Remember, I told you I was at the conning bridge?*
*I’ve met a fellow—he’s pointing Hilda’s gun at me. He’s requesting that we drop him off.*
“We can’t drop ourselves off. We’re in deep space with no power.”
*I was attempting to explain that. Then a bunch of those bugs jumped on us. He was kind enough to shoot them. Now, uhhh, I could use a little help here.*
“What’s he doing?”
I look back to the hanger bay and can’t believe my eyes. Bengal is on a tether hanging out of the bay with his blaster rifle. By now, the victs must know they are in deep space hundreds of AUs from any star. Even under Bernard Drive we are weeks from anything. This hasn’t stopped the victs from retreating though, the shuttle is dwindling as I watch.
There’s a flash from Begal’s rifle and I see the shot go through the wind-screen of the shuttle. Shards of durascreen flash and twinkle in an expanding circle of gases and debris. The shuttle is no longer air-tight and even if the victs have suits… they now have only a few hours of air at best. If they don’t want to die they’re going to have to bring the shuttle back. I hope they’re reasonable men.
I focus back on Finger’s problem. By this time, Felix has managed to get the hanger side pressure door to close and is putting on a suit.
“Felix, we have another enemy in the conning bridge.” I tell him.
The android looks at me, never pausing as he puts on his suit. “Do I get to kill him?”
“Ummm, I don’t care if you do, but he has a gun pointed at Fingers.”
“Is it all right if Fingers dies?”
I scowl at him. “No! What kind of frelling question is that!?”
Felix shrugs. “Easier if the captives are expendable. Negotiating.” He shrugs again. “Feh.”
“Fingers,” I say in the comm. “Does our friend understand we can’t take him anywhere? We’re dead in space. The ship is crippled and we have those bug things all over the place.”
*I think—he understands—now.* Finger’s responds. *He says he’ll help us kill the bugs if we just tell the prison officials he died and drop him in a port somewhere.*
I let out a breath. Terry’s not here. That’s something I would leave to him. I didn’t care if some vict went free. Not my problem. “What do you think, Fingers?”
*I think it’s a big frikkin gun, and he knows how to use it!*
Terry could kick my ass later. “Tell him, it’s on the green. As long as he chills, we won’t mess with him.”
“We won’t?” Felix frowns. “I don’t get to hurt him?”
I roll my eyes. I look out to the shuttle which is now holding station off the stern of the Grundy. “You can hurt those two in the shuttle. Well, as long as they’re still alive.”
Felix nods. That seems to satisfy him.
“Let’s go talk to Finger’s guest, I think Bengal has matters in hand outside.”
I turn to head toward the conning bridge and hear a clicking sound in the ventilation duct overhead; like something moving.
Something in my gut told me, that bad as the victs were, they were the least of our problems…