Once again comes from the rough draft of the second novel. Now that I’m on the last third of my final edit of the first novel, there’ll be no more snippets coming from that work.
Talia stepped out of the shop and out into the bustling concourse. Methos sat on a bench across the room, eyes subtly watching everyone around her. While things had gotten better for them-they weren’t peeking around corners to check for ambushes-the crowds still kept both warriors on high alert. Large numbers of people, even in an enclosed environment like a starship, still left opportunities for ambush.
Four young men, probably no more then three or four years older then Almir was, stumbled past. She’d seen them in the bar earlier in the evening, and almost picked one up until they’d started to get inebriated. Once the booze hit their heads, the boys started to become loud and obnoxious, which unsurprisingly ran the women away.
There’d been a time when she’d’ve been right in the middle with them-and perhaps that day would come again. Some of the best memories of the Great War were the times spent at various bars. How many times did a woman pick up a young marine, spend the weekend together, only to find out he was the President’s son? Or get called to the capital only to be told by the kid’s dad, once the mother left, that she had free reign to bang him whenever she wanted to.
While things like that would seem foreign to a civilian, they were memories, and fun, that allowed a warrior feel alive. The horror of war and the possibility of dying at any time, and she’d been cloned three times by that point, took away a woman’s fear of getting into trouble. Getting drunk and banging some soldier or lucky civilian became one of the only ways she or her sisters could feel normal in a universe gone to hell in a hand basket.
Methos looked at the bag. “Whatcha got?”
“Chocolate covered peanuts.”
“Sounds like we’re getting a sugar high tonight, since the best targets of the night decided to act the fool.”
And when has that stopped her? “I’m surprised you didn’t go ahead and pick one up.”
Methos looked taken aback. “Why? Drunk human males can’t get it up. No fun then.”
“Got a point.”
Methos went to speak and the shriek of an alarm filled the air. They exchanged glances as the captain’s voice came from the intercom.
“All passengers are to return to their cabins and remain there until further notice.”
Talia used her processor to hack into the liner’s systems as she and Methos headed towards the elevator. A transport, half the size of the liner, closed rapidly and she killed the feed. So, her hunch hadn’t been wrong after all. Too bad it opened up another can of worms as to how the pirates knew the vessel was perfect for them.
She looked at Methos. “They’re moving in.”
“I hate it when you’re right.”
“I want to get back to the cabin before using my camouflage.”
They entered the elevator, the mass of humanity pressing in on them as the doors shut. It took a second for the lift to adjust to the increased weight before it raced up its tube. No slow trip now, the emergency protocols overrode the slow speed and hustled the passengers towards their floors. Down in the concourse, people ran to and fro as an air of panic started to set in.
People knew of the pirates and they’d put two plus two together as to why they were being ordered into their cabins. Plus, she thought wryly, seeing armed crewmembers running past would tell even the drunkest or dumbest person alive that something was wrong. However, despite all that, she bet there’d be some fool who’d wander around like nothing happened and probably end up caught in the crossfire.
I’ve seen it way too many times.
Methos lead them carefully around the corners towards their cabins as people continued to race past. The two warriors pressed against the wall, letting the panicked herd flow past, as their eyes darted back and forth in search of enemies. Once the mad rush finished, they quickly reached their cabins and Talia opened the door to her cabin.
The two experienced warriors started to move with cold and ruthless efficiency. Talia reached under the frame of her bed and pulled out the Glock she’d hidden there. It took her a second to grab the magazines under the clothes in her top drawer. Methos looked down at the concourse, her trained and experienced eye picking out details they missed earlier.
“They’ve got an insider on the crew.”
Talia grabbed several weapons pieces from under the bed and started to assemble a rifle. “That’s not surprising. Which department?”
Methos snorted. “You’re not going to believe this, but medical.”
She placed the final pieces of the Sig 556 together and then check the magazine. Full! Clack! A quick pull on the lever chambered the first round. Several hundred years ago, Talia read that the rifle would’ve been a first rate field weapon, however, over the years man created stronger and more powerful weapons, which took the Sig from being a front line weapon.
After a few disastrous battles onboard starships, the military needed to find a weapon that would be combat effective yet not penetrate the hull. After much searching, the Sig 556 came back into service, and became the weapon of choice. The smaller 5.56, or .223 in a pinch, shell wouldn’t penetrate the thick steel of the hull, but carried the punch to take down an enemy at short range.
Talia slipped the red dot scope down the top rail. “Medical, eh? Description?”
“Male, late twenties, red hair, thin. Wearing a nurse’s uniform.”
She placed two more magazines in her pockets. “Probably killed the real nurse. You ready to open the door for me?”
Methos turned around. “How far are you going to push this?”
“I doubt I can reach the bridge.” She said. “But I’m going to try to cause a little ruckus for them, take a couple down before finding a quiet place to ditch the guns, and kill the camouflage.”
“Taking a big risk.”
“True, but I can’t live with myself if I didn’t do something to save someone.”
Methos approached the door. “Ready?”
Talia accessed her processor and activated the camouflage routine. “Yes.”
Methos stepped out the door, moving far enough out of the way to let Talia pass, before stepping back into the quarters.
Talia moved down the passageway, taking care to watch how fast she walked. While the camouflage covered her movements, it didn’t prevent the sound of footsteps from being heard. If there were one thing Dannae could’ve added to the original research would’ve been a sound dampener so a woman could run when needed.
Passengers huddled in their cabins, panicked voices muffled but easily heard in her enhanced hearing . They had no idea what the pirates had planned for them, and a fire started in the pit of her stomach. How someone could do this to their fellow man beat the hell out of her, and once again, it made her wonder why she went out of her way to help them.
That one word was reviled throughout the galaxy, even though there were races that still used them. A civilized and advanced society, in her opinion, didn’t sell their own people into the singular hell. So, why were the humans doing it, and furthermore, whom were they selling their cargo to?
She reached the end of the passageway and came to a stop before slowly peering around the corner. While it was doubtful they could see through the optical camouflage, Talia hadn’t lived twenty thousand years by being stupid. Cybernetic or not, all it took was one lucky shot and she’d die for the final time.
I’m not through with my life either.
No one in sight both reassured and concerned her at the same time as pressed her back against the wall and slid around the corner. If the schematics they’d gotten were correct, one of the main airlocks was fifty feet away, yet no pirates in sight? Why waste the energy to use lasers to cut a hole in the hull and risk killing the very people they came to capture?
The sound of running feet up ahead caught her attention and she slipped into a side corridor and took up a position out of the way. Talia’s eyes narrowed as twenty men and women, each armed with the same Sig 556, tore down the corridor in the direction she’d come from. Where’d they get the rifles from, she wondered, since hers came directly from Fleet Intelligence when she was still Almir.
I don’t like where this is going.
She moved around the corner and back down the corridor.
Captain Francis Marrant watched as the Queen Anne’s Recenge latched onto the America’s main airlock. A quick check of the watch showed they were right on schedule, and the slaver smiled. If everyone did their jobs, then they’d have all the useable passengers loaded onto the Queen within two hours and be back out before anyone from Fleet could respond to the single distress call they allowed.
Their source, despite all the political upheaval from three years ago, had complete access to every Fleet movement and Marrant knew he had a minimum of four hours before the closest Fleet vessel could arrive. However, there was the matter of the starship Valiant to worry about. While he’d never seen the De’Zahna woman, or her sisters, either in person or on holo vid, their source reported she’d been in DC three weeks ago.
I just wish I knew where the damned alien bitch was.
He stood up, and walked across the bridge and towards the main corridor. The door slid open and he made his way towards the main airlock two thirds of the way to the stern of the Queen. When they’d given him the ship, that’d been his biggest complaint because it meant they had to herd the cargo nearly a hundred yards before reaching the first of the holding areas.
Marrant looked at his Fleet academy ring absentmindedly as he walked. While the duty was awful, how many people actually enjoyed selling their own kind as slaves, the pay was high and it allowed him to escape the treason charges that were about to drop on his head after the cabal had been broken up by De’Zahna. A little shuttle accident, everyone aboard burned beyond the ability to draw DNA, and here he was, collecting more money and free from the firing squad.
And that’s a good thing too.
The one thing that bothered him was no one could supply him with information on De’Zahan or what she looked like. It appeared, to him at least, that the powers to be were afraid of the woman and didn’t want to even mention her name. After what she did to the Wraith, and the Cabal, he couldn’t blame them at all.
Both ships were directly connected by their airlocks, which meant he didn’t have to risk moving through an umbilical to cross over. A couple seconds later and he was standing in one of the liner’s main corridors and heading for the bridge. In the distance he could hear the screams and yells of panicked passengers and the occasional gunshot as the problematic-or the unusable-were eliminated.
He reached the lift that lead to the bridge and waited a couple seconds for the door to open. There wasn’t a need to look behind or around him since security would be busy elsewhere to worry about him. The door slid open and Marrant stepped inside and stood by the back wall as it shut.
A couple seconds later it slid open to reveal the liner’s bridge, and he strode onto it-a picture of complete confidence. America’s command center was a two level half-moon shaped room and the floor was the same blue carpet in the rest of the ship. A large view screen, running the length of the flat, front wall, displayed the nebula the liner had been passing by and the Queen docked on the starship’s starboard side.
The pilot, and man in his thirties lay dead on the floor from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. Marrant stepped over his body, careful to avoid the blood soaked carpet, and looked at a officer, who held three more bridge personnel, two women and a man, at gunpoint.
“Captain Reynolds.” He said. “How are you?”
Alex Reynolds walked over and shook his hand, and the two old friends smiled at each other. “Francis, everything’s under control.”
“How many this time?”
“Twenty security officers, half the engineering staff and the medical team.”
Marrant raised both eyebrows. “A small number of bodies, but then we can doctor the videos to show our people being spaced.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
“How long before the passengers will be ready to be loaded, Alex?”
“We’ll start in twenty minutes.”
Marrant looked at his watch. “Alex, you’re good, that’s ten minutes ahead of schedule.”
“You didn’t hire us for our good looks.”
“Captain!” The head of security looked up from her monitor. “Something strange has happened.”
“What is it?” Reynolds and Marrant said at the same time.
“There’s a soldier down, appears to be choking to death, but there’s not a person in sight.”
“Damn it!” She swore. “I’m losing security camera’s along deck four section three. Now we’re picking up motion but nothing’s visible.”
Reynolds walked up to the second level. “Someone’s hacking your system then…I’ll be damned.”
“What is it?” Marrant said.
“We’re definitely loosing cameras.”
Marrant sighed as he pulled his com unit out of a coat pocket. “Captain Browning.”
“We’ve got an intruder on deck four section three who’s finding ways to take out the camera’s. See about liquidating our guest.”
“Yes, sir.” She said and the connection died.
Talia moved away from the dying pirate and continued to shoot out camera’s she saw that went towards the bow. In the past twenty minutes she’d watched a combination of ship security and the invaders sweeping the ship, and the hopelessness of the situation became evident. The plan to provide resistance was based off helping the crew, but they were in on the attack, so surrender would be better.
The trick would be could she make it back towards the cabin before being caught. They’d started further aft of Methos in their moves to collect the people together. By her reckoning, there was about five minutes to get back to the cabin, which shouldn’t take more then three.
A group of ten comprised of both pirates and ship’s security came pounding around the corner. Their weapons were up, at the ready, and they moved down the passageway. Well, she thought, the attempt at drawing attention worked…a bit too well.
She ducked into a small alcove and climbed up to stand on top of a couple pipes. When they came past to sweep, the risk of them finding her would be remote. The rifle held plenty of ammunition to take out the search team, but would it be worth the trouble?
If I take them out, and then they find me, I might just get killed out of spite.
They moved past and further down the corridor and she carefully climbed back down. Talia started to hustle down the corridor and came into sight of the cabin. Down the hall she could see the pirates working on rounding up passengers as she slipped through the door into the room.
Methos stood in the center of the room, arms crossed, resignation in her body language as Talia killed her active camouflage and tossed the guns under the bed.
Talia sighed sadly and looked at the floor. “The crew’s in on it.”
Methos jerked her head towards the window. “I saw. The one’s who weren’t were killed to leave bodies behind.”
Talia ran a hand slowly through her hair. “They’re rounding up passengers. I guess we’ve got maybe three minutes.”
Methos snorted softly. “I guess its Showtime.”
The door slid open and four armed insurgents, a combination of crew and pirates, entered the room. She looked over her shoulder at them as the three women and one man pointed their rifles at her head. One of them, a woman, stepped forwards, rifle at the ready and circled them at a safe distance. Too bad, Talia thought, that they didn’t know who they were dealing with.”
She looked at Methos and raised an eyebrow before complying with the order. “Sure thing.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Interesting hair color. Why is it silver?”
She shrugged. “It’s just something we felt like doing.”
The pirate leader’s eyes trailed over Talia’s body before she looked at the other three. “These two will do. Take them to the ship and put them in hold one.”
The three armed intruders motioned towards the door with their rifles and Talia slowly lowered her hands and shot Methos a look before walking out of the door.
Where things went from there, she hadn’t a clue.