This is from my final draft. Another little segment of the novel.
A soft curse filtered through the cabin as the pilots edged the shuttle through the debris field towards the battleship. Outside the viewport, the hull of the warship stretched off into the distance like a massive steel wall. Once again the warrior felt out of place and out of time as she looked at the human craft and then snorted.
They seem to think bigger is better, she thought. I wonder what they would’ve thought about a fleet of cruiser’s like the Valiant? The fools would probably say they were too weak to be of any use.
Talia watched the marines finish suiting up in preparation for boarding and felt more alone than ever. While the humans, and her sisters needed the oxygen and protective gear, she did not, which made her stick out like a sore thumb. Dannae’s claims that the systems keeping her brain alive were an advantage fell on Talia’s deaf ears.
In reality it shows people how different I am, she thought bitterly.
The shuttle docked with the Bavarian warship and the cabin started to depressurize. For a moment a wave of panic washed over Talia and she instinctively reached for a space suit before stopping herself. The warrior chastised herself for forgetting about her cybernetic body as a marine looked at her.
It’s easy for them, she thought. They don’t have to teach themselves that a suit isn’t necessary.
Now the next item on the agenda would be to deal with Methos and her overprotectiveness. Before they’d even left the ship the shorter warrior had explained that Talia and Claudio were to be the last off the shuttle. While Talia could see the reasoning behind the decision, it still angered her.
The airlock opened and the marines filed out and set up a perimeter and Talia watched them while pondering the situation. How many times over the centuries had she boarded a craft in this fashion and the mission went south?
“Coast is clear,” Methos said over the com system.
For the tenth time since they left the Valiant, Talia wondered if she’d made the right move. An apparently empty and abandoned craft wasn’t necessarily the case if the Dragus were around. Since the gearheads didn’t need oxygen, it would be easy for them to swarm over a ship as badly damaged as the battleship and no one know it. And if that happened, then they all would be the guest of honor at a slaughter, which would rank her up with an earth commander named Custer.
“Looks quiet,” Methos said as Talia approached.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Talia said.
“Oi, I hate it when you remind me of that.”
“Someone has to.”
“And who is it that ends up in trouble and having to be bailed out?”
Talia was silent.
“Good,” Methos said. “So, what’s the plan?”
“Crios, I want you to take your team and head towards weapons control and the engine room.”
“Methos, we’re headed for the computer core and then the bridge. Steven, are you listening?”
“To every word.” Steven said.
“Do we have schematics on this vessel in April’s databanks?”
“No,” Claudio said before Steven could answer. “This is a Scharnhorst-class ship. She’s brand new and I just got schematics from my sources.”
“Great, so we have no clue where we’re heading.”
“Not exactly. Bavarians like to keep their computer cores at the same place we do.”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
“No one asked.”
“So help me, Admiral, I’m about to send you back to the ship.”
“And you’ll lose your roadmap.”
“Damn,” Methos said. “He’s got us there.”
“Fine, have it your way.” Talia said. “Don’t think I won’t send you back, got it?”
“Whatever you say,” Claudio said.
“Crios, I want you checking in every five minutes, got that?”
“Okay folks, let’s get on the road.”
“I don’t like you being in the lead, Talia.” Methos said.
“Tough, you’re old enough for your wants not to hurt you.”
“Just you wait you’ll be needing me to get out of trouble.”
Methos shot her a “who are you kidding” look. “Okay…”
Emergency lights flickered on and off as a corporal, a patch on her shoulder indicating force recon, lead them down the corridor. Talia’s senses were on full alert as she scanned the area while listening to the bass drum sound of her heartbeat. It was hard for her to get a feel for situation, which proved disconcerting because the Dragus could be around any corner waiting for them.
And this weak human rifle won’t do a thing against their armor either, she thought.
Claudio moved to slip past her and Talia stared at him for a couple seconds. One thing she hated were men who thought they needed to prove they were tough. All that it did was get themselves, and others, hurt. If he wanted to risk his life, fine but damned if she’d let him get her or others killed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” She asked. “This isn’t the time or place for stupid shit. Now, get back there and let me work.”
“Talia,” the Corporal said. “I think you need to see this.”
“Looks like a battle took place.”
The half lit octagonal shaped corridor stretched off into the distance and Talia resisted the urge to shake her head. For ships that easily out massed entire fleets of Gahl vessels, the corridors certainly were tight. Despite the long years of combat, the warrior found her heart starting to race. Any battle that took place aboard the battleship would’ve been a nasty affair that she was happy to have missed.
What proved interesting to her was the fact that human blood was red instead of her people’s blue. The warrior had no idea how that could be the case after all the DNA seeding the boffins did. If anything, it should’ve made a being more like a Gahl instead of the primitive people surrounding her.
“It does indeed,” Talia murmured as she knelt down. “Hmm, dried blood. I’d say it’s been here three days.”
“A gun battle aboard and damage from a ship to ship battle,” Claudio said. “Just what the hell happen here?”
“You’ve got me,” Talia said. “Crios, can you hear me?”
“Repeat that,” Talia said. “There was too much interference.”
“I said we’ve found signs of a battle.”
“That’s funny, so have I.”
“Watch your back.”
“You could say that about yourself, too,” Methos said.
“That’s why I’ve got you and the marines with me,” Talia said.
“It’s a miracle! She’s using her head! I think it’s the big one!”
“Whatever. Corporal let’s keep moving.”
The deeper they moved into the vessel, the more Talia’s nerves played tricks on her. A perceived motion in the corner of her eye was enough to cause her to snap her rifle up and nearly shoot. Out there somewhere was a possible Dragus boarding party and she knew better than anyone else what the gearheads could do.
Where are they? She thought.
A four way intersection greeted them and the corporal stopped short, keeping out of the deadly zone between the corridors. She pulled a drone off her utility belt and rapidly programmed it. The little drone floated into the deadly open area and then flew around in a circle as it sent images back to the corporal. Watching the human technology in action took Talia back in time. How many times had she done the very same thing over the thousands of years of combat she’s seen?
“Nothing there,” the Corporal said.
Talia chewed on her lip for a second before speaking. “I don’t like this. Let’s skip the bridge and head for the computer core.”
“Do you think that’s wise?” Methos asked. “If there’s company waiting that’ll be the first place they’ll be.”
“Those nukes didn’t launch themselves. So, who did it? The answer is in the core.”
“Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Damage from the battles increased and Talia was transfixed by it. At some point the humans aboard the battleship had fought a pitched battle against an invading force. And judging from the sheer amount of blood on the walls and the shell casings on the deck, plenty of them lost their lives yet there still were no corpses.
“Crios,” she said. “What are you finding?”
“Signs of a massive bloodbath,” Crios said.
“How close are you to the engine room?”
“One hundred yards, give or take. We’ll be inside within fifteen minutes.”
“Hang there; I don’t want you entering just yet.”
“Oi, I hate it when you say that.”
“Me too,” Methos said, “care to explain?”
“No, I don’t,” she said frostily.
“Keep an eye on our backside. If anything moves, shoot it.”
Methos sighed. “I don’t like the sound of this. Are you hatching up another ‘can’t miss’ plan again?”
“Corporal, I’m taking point.”
The humans may think she was crazy but Talia didn’t care. They hadn’t fought the gearheads as long as she had, which gave her a unique perspective on things. Throw in the fact that her people were gone and she was going to handle things the way she wanted and be damned what others think.
A door stood at the end of the corridor and a sign marking it as the computer core was bolted to the wall. Whoever the Bavarians were they used the old highland dialect from Gahlza, which surprised Talia. Perhaps a computer search on the different human languages was in order.
For several seconds Talia stood there and stared at the door. The Dragus could be waiting for them on the other side and she had no way of knowing if they were. Further hindering that was the fact that the Valiant’s sensors weren’t reliable due to the amount of radiation either.
Nothing ventured nothing gained, Talia thought.
“Let’s go,” she said quietly.
She triggered the sensor and the door slid dutifully open. A cold puff of air struck her in the face and the warrior stood there stunned. The rest of the ship was dead and devoid of atmosphere, yet the computer core had an environment?
This doesn’t make sense, she thought.
Claudio moved to slip past her and she stared at him for a second, which stopped him in his tracks. It never ceased to amaze the warrior how humans could be both stupid and foolhardy at the same time!
“Stay where you are!”
“Ok, ok,” Claudio said.
“Are you sure of this?” Methos said.
“Am I sure? No. Do I need to do this? Yes.”
Talia’s senses were on high alert as she approached the door. The warrior’s eyes darted side to side, taking in every detail, as she fought to keep her breathing under control. Knowing the Dragus there was a better than 50-50 chance she was walking into a trap but there were no better alternatives. Someone or something shot at her ship and she needed to find out whom no matter what the risk.
The lights snapped on, temporarily blinding her, when she entered. Unlike standard practice during the war, the computer core proved to be the only part of the ship that had full power, which amazed the warrior. While it prevented data loss in case of battle damage, it also allowed an enemy access to the files and proved to be the height of stupidity.
Especially when dealing with the Dragus, she thought.
Blood stains covered the large, tube-like computer core and the walls, yet once again there were no bodies. Despite her many years of combat experience, the warrior started to get anxious and had to wipe the sweat from her brow.
Cables ran from the core across the floor to where a four armed and four legged robot said.
“What is that?” Claudio asked softly.
“Cheikra,” Talia breathed. “It’s a Dragus…”