Welcome to another free read Wednesday!
We’re back for the most recent addition to my new story, presented through the flash fiction group Wednesday Briefers.
Each week, the contributing members write a chapter/story with a maximum of 1000 words, trying to get the most out of the word limit. For me, it helps keep me writing when my schedule gets tight. Win/win!
(I’m still cheating on the 1k thing. I mean, seriously cheating. This one is huge. The muse is shaking me by the scruff of my neck, so I can’t cut it short now. Enjoy.)
Run, Arad, Run!!! Save Roku!!!
*** PLEASE NOTE – THIS CHAPTER MAY CONTAIN DESCRIPTIONS OF TORTURE AND/OR GRAPHIC VIOLENCE ***
Missed the first installment and want to start at the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
Catching his breath, Arad shoved himself off the wall, leaving a dirty red blotch in his wake. He wasn’t bleeding, but the pervasive sweat from pushing himself so hard kept the blood smears tacky on his chilling skin. The trek to the brig had been longer than he recalled, but he risked sabotaging a few more doors on the way. He’d only been gone a few minutes at most, but he hoped if Bryce found him missing, it might buy precious seconds. Any spare amount he could gather would be worth it.
Carbon copy doors lined the corridor, but the one with the bright engaged lock display stood out from the rest.
Multiple people had entered the brig before, and it couldn’t be opened from the inside, so he bargained Hodge had never coded the lock for specific crew members. He counted on Bryce’s ego and a lack of opportunity that access wasn’t restricted from this side. He’d cross his fingers on that bet, but a bunch of them were broken.
Wrecked hand pinned to his bare stomach by his good arm, Arad leaned in and touched the control. He wondered how much penance a heathen would do for making an endless list of prayers in one day. The door swished open and he prepared for the imminent wave of shock.
Roku struggled to say his name. “Arad…”
“Fucking hell! What happened? Did Bryce do this to you?” Pakko’s voice quivered in horror, while Yosei gasped aloud. Arad grimaced. He’d avoided his reflection the whole trip back for good reason. Roadkill had always unsettled him. No need for the visual comparison. Everyone’s reactions said enough.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Arad stumbled forward into Roku’s space, burying his face into the tiger’s chest in case he started sobbing. The silk covered muscle mass couldn’t erase the terrible images in his head or the aching pain woven through his body, but it did a great deal to begin softening its edges.
“Arad… your face… your fingers… I can smell the blood.” Roku’s words devolved into a yowl dipped in distress and frustrated rage. His shoulders bunched as he resisted the manacles holding his arms. Unable to free himself, he was forced to do no more than curl his bulk around Arad.
It would be enough. “I’ll be okay. Honest.”
The replying growl didn’t leave Roku sounding convinced. “You’re shivering. Pakko, your coat, and get him some water.”
Without a word, Pakko stripped off his light jacket and draped it over Arad’s shoulders with a delicate touch before snatching one of the remaining cups and racing for the sink.
“Where’s Bryce and Shichi?”
“Distracted on the bridge, but I don’t know for how much longer.” A tap at his shoulder made Arad drag his face out of Roku’s fur where he gratefully accepted the drink from Pakko with his functional hand. “Are you guys okay?”
Hodge and Vosh had been shifted to the side and under a bed with one mattress pulled out of the frame and used in place of a non-existing sheet to cover the bodies. Another mattress had been torn apart and judging by the condition of the walls and floor, had been used to scrub down the evidence of murder. Eyes wide and wet, Yosei gripped her tablet like a security blanket.
While Arad drank with greedy swallows, Roku didn’t stop nuzzling his head and neck. “I helped Pakko as best I could dealing with Hodge and Vosh. He insisted we couldn’t leave them the way they were. He washed the floor and walls because Yosei couldn’t bear the sight.”
Feeling Roku against his skin grounded Arad, yet the metal security collar bumping along his face and neck continued to remind him of why those massive arms weren’t part of his comfort. Turning his head, he found Yosei staring. Her haunted eyes stayed locked onto all his bruising and swelling that left Arad feeling deformed.
“Yosei, I need you to unlock Roku’s collar and cuffs,” Arad said.
A dim spark of recognition lit her eyes and she nodded. “Right. Just gimme a second.” She tapped at her tablet with timid fingers. “This shouldn’t be so hard.” Sniffling, Yosei paused and wiped her face. “I’ve been trying to delete her dirty spyware out of my pad so I can access Hodge’s server. I can’t believe she hasn’t noticed I’m pawing through her code.”
“She’s been a little preoccupied.”
Yosei winced. “Sorry.”
“Why do you need Hodge’s server?”
Chewing her lip, her efforts gained confidence with each passing second. “So I can make a copy of all his data and do this.”
Roku’s collar and manacles disengaged with a sharp mechanical huff. They fell to the floor making a loud racket. Suddenly free, Roku’s arms hung at his side as he stretched and groaned, trying to undo the strain of being bound for so long. Before anyone could react, he slapped Yosei’s tablet aside and pinned her to wall with one hand on her collar.
His growl frightened Arad. “You betrayed us!”
“Oh, wow. You’re really strong.” Yosei paled and her eyes glossed with unshed tears. “I’m so sorry. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I had no idea Bryce was this crazy. No one was supposed to get hurt.”
“A little late for that now.”
Arad tuned into her last sentence. “Why was no one supposed to get hurt? Are you working for someone?”
She stalled for a moment, but finally blurted out, “I work for PlanetGenCo.”
“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” Pakko was not happy.
Arad, however, was confused. “Who are they?”
“PlanetGenCo are the original designers of the DemiShou matrix. Ow, ow, you’re squeezing me…” Roku raised her up on her toes and she started talking faster. “They found out Dr. Chakijane had been recruited to make new DemiShou, but they couldn’t track down a list of buyers, so they planted me on the Nightingale knowing Hodge’s survivors guilt wouldn’t let him resist helping out a young innocent tech girl.”
Pakko was disgusted. “Nice profiling.”
“It was the easiest in to the trafficking scheme. My whole goal was to find the client list and get out. The Midas Ascending…I mean the Ansariland going adrift turned it all sideways.”
“You’ve been spying on us this whole time?”
Fear didn’t dampen Yosei’s resolve as she snarled at Pakko. “You were selling people!”
Pakko flinched, his face scrunching up in embarrassment. “We didn’t really get that far.”
“Be quiet, Pakko.” Without moving his eyes, Roku returned his attention to Yosei. “You helped them capture us. Chain me like an animal.”
Yosei lowered her trembling voice. “I didn’t want to, please believe me, but Bryce watches everything. I had to play along and wait until the Ansariland was fully functional before we could get out of here. When Hodge changed his mind, I thought it was over and I could just stow away on your ship and finish my job. I had no idea Bryce was so crazy. That she would…” She inhaled sharply through her nose, as if forcing herself not to cry. “I prepped the way out. No one knows the jump drive is charged and coordinates are already programmed. It’s shielded, remember you totally have a smuggler’s ship? We can bounce out of here now that I have all the data Hodge stole from ApexCorp and no one will be able to chase us.”
“Where do you think you’re taking us?” Roku gave her a shake.
Yosei clenched her eyes shut. “Moreau. PlanetGenCorp’s private colony for humans and DemiShou. It’s a safe space outside any corporate jurisdiction.”
“They want to study us?”
Her eyes shot open, wide in disbelief. “N…No. They don’t want anyone to profit off their designs by creating a black market for DemiShou slaves. They didn’t care when the military classified the process, because it was their idea. They had plenty of other contracts to keep them happy. Geez, ease up, you’re choking me.”
Sidling close, Arad placed a hand on Roku’s arm, feeling the unsteady tremors under the surface. He was far from his peak strength. He squeezed Roku’s triceps to make himself known. Sorting out their conflicted positions surrounding the Nightingale crew members would have to wait. Time couldn’t be trusted.
“Roku, it doesn’t matter how we got here or where we’re going. We’ve got to get to the Ansariland. First Commander Bard is coming.”
Roku snapped his head around in Arad’s direction. “Bard? The officer who killed your crew?” He dropped Yosei and shook out his tired limbs. “We’re leaving now. Yosei, make no mistake, if I even think you’ll turn on us, I’ll maul you faster than you can blink.”
Wide-eyed, Yosei gulped. “Duly noted.”
Not missing a beat, Roku took the jacket from Arad’s shoulders and helped him put his arms in the sleeves and zip up the front. It didn’t fit—Pakko was more than a few sizes larger than Arad—but covering the bloody results of Bryce’s handiwork did a lot to humanizing Arad’s sense of self. Roku led them into the hallway, only to have Pakko dig in his heels at the threshold.
“Wait! We’re not going to leave them…Vosh behind, are we?”
Arad’s heart broke at Pakko’s lost expression, torn between survival and grief over what once was. He wanted to give him the time to process, to lay his captain and lover to rest, but their lives were at risk and none of them were at their best.
Fingers poking out of the oversized sleeve, Arad touched Pakko’s shoulder. “Pakko. Pakko, look at me. We don’t have a choice. We have to get off this ship now or we’re dead too. Save yourself now and mourn them later.”
Pakko nodded. His shoulder bunched as he stifled a sob. The tears still ran down his cheeks.
The group started down the hall and Roku picked Arad up in his arms.
“I can take care of myself.” Arad rested his weary head along Roku’s neck.
“I know you can,” Roku said.
Arad wanted to run. Instead, he lay cradled in Roku’s arms as the group hurried through the hall. Roku had to keep shifting his weight, something he wouldn’t have to do if he hadn’t been manacled for so long. He hated being a burden, but Arad was running on whispers of fuel and if he wasn’t being carried, they might as well have left him behind with what remained of Hodge and Vosh.
They strode through the halls with a speed on the brink of reckless. Everyone was on high alert.
The electrified shackles were gone but an ozone tang hung sharp and bitter on the air. All of them could taste it. Arad didn’t have to ask to know. A dangerous spark was coming, waiting to burst into flames.
No one greeted them when they entered the cargo hold and rushed to the airlock. Every step reverberated over the metal surfaces. Lights were minimized leaving darkness and shadow lurking around every corner and between the stacks of crates. It was not a safe place to be. Nowhere on the Nightingale was safe.
Yosei tapped the airlock control and the door refused to open. “It’s not recognizing me. My access has been revoked.”
Reaching over her shoulder, Pakko tapped twice and punched the panel. “Mine’s toast too.”
“Where’s the manual override?” Arad asked.
“Behind this panel. I don’t have many tools on me.” Yosei pulled a meager pair of micro-wrenches from one of her leg pouches.
“You’ll have to make do. But be quick.”
Dropping to her knees, Yosei attacked the side panel, digging at the hidden bolts. At least six were visible, needing to be pulled and her wrenches were manual, not power-driven. The first one hit the floor with a high-pitched clang and she went after the next.
Roku kept turning in a circle, trying to shield Arad with his body. “We have to hurry. Something smells wrong.”
“Look out!” Pakko jumped in front of Roku and Arad as the nearby shadow shifted, colors rippling and changing. Shichi’s strike came up short, claws raking crimson lines across Pakko’s shoulder and chest rather than Arad’s face and neck.
Rolling Arad to the floor behind him, Roku shouldered Shichi away from the group. He landed on his feet a few meters away where he shifted back and forth in an arc while Roku turned and faced him, standing his ground as they squared off, growling and hissing at one another.
“Clearing your ship access was the first thing I did while caring for our young Mr. Ansari.” Bryce stepped out from between a stack of crates and stopped next to Shichi, stroking his head.
Yosei’s voice quivered, but she was trying to sound brave. “Don’t you mean committing murder and mutiny? Last I heard, that’s a capital offense.” Another bolt hit the floor.
“I knew you’d be trouble when Hodge brought you on. You played his grief and I was the only one who saw through your game. You made him decide to breach contract and put us all at risk.”
Arad shifted next to Pakko, trying to urge him to crawl closer to the door. “No one made you pull the trigger.”
“Someone had to.”
A tremor shook the Nightingale. The lights strobed and an alarm klaxon went off. Bryce’s normally expressionless face bloomed with surprise.
The ship’s AI broke in. “Captain Southerland. A tractor beam has locked on to the ship. You’re being hailed by First Commander Bard.”
The communication came to life without Bryce’s approval and Bard’s voice filled the room. “Your time’s up, Southerland.”
“I’m completing my contract.” Bryce began to shout, her calm veneer peeling at the edges. Her distress drew Shichi’s attention.
“It’s been withdrawn. Prepare both ships for boarding.”
Her volume peaked into a full scream. “You can’t do that! I need that contract!”
Roku pounced, slamming Shichi backwards and snapping out a kick to the side. It caught Bryce in the chest and sent her careening into the wall. She crumpled to the floor, barely moving.
Chameleon scales rolling into oranges and reds collided with Roku’s golden fur. The pair rolled and landed on their feet, snarling and trading blows. They tore into each other in staccato freeze-frames and bursts of movement under the strobing lights.
Arad said another prayer to a power he didn’t believe in for Roku’s safety while he kneeled next to Pakko, who lay on the floor, hand pressed to his chest.
“Pakko, are you okay?”
“Shit, that really hurt.” Rusty patches soaked Pakko’s t-shirt. The angry, red slashes marring his chest bled but didn’t appear life-threatening. At last Arad hoped not.
Arad heard another bolt bounce. How may had that been? He’d lost track during the insanity. “My hand’s mangled. Can you help Yosei with the override?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m on it.” Arad lacked the strength to do more than guide Pakko to his feet using his one good hand. His body still bore too many wounds. Plus, he’d heard Bard mention both ships. He intended to confiscate the Ansariland as well. They needed off the Nightingale.
Escalating animal noises drew Arad back to the fight. Half martial arts, half savagery, it was terrifying to watch. Shichi jabbed an elbow into Roku’s shoulder and raked him with his claws drawing blood, adding to the growing number of cuts already there. Roku was not winning. For every blow he landed, Shichi landed three.
Arad could hear his heart rate over the alarm. Dread tangled its slimy tentacles into his head and chest.
Another strike to Roku’s arm.
What can I do?
Two more to Roku’s stomach and thigh.
I can’t watch him die like this.
Roku kept glancing at them, always knowing where the soft soft humans were, herding the fight away from them. It left him distracted and it was going to get him killed. Shichi was fresh, not burdened with being cuffed for days and being shocked into submission. He was focused. Driven. And the only thing Arad had ever seen to draw his attention was…
Knowing time worked against them, Arad shuffled over to Bryce, half-conscious and moaning. He hesitated, unsure if he could do it.
Roku took another claw mark to the chest.
Pulling the medical scissors from this pocket, Arad stood behind Bryce and stabbed her in the shoulder. Shichi’s head spun at her pained cry, and his entire body coiled in threat. One look at Arad and every scale flushed into the bloodiest shades of red. All his rancor, all his vengeful thoughts, all for Arad.
Those claws that once scarred the metal walls when Arad lost his spacewalk tether found the unguarded patch of Shichi’s neck and ripped it open.
Eyes agog, Shichi futilely clutched his neck, life spilling between his fingers in sanguine rivers as his scales greyed. His body trembled, and before his knees buckled, he lurched forward and sank his fangs into Roku’s shoulder. The agonizing roar echoed off the walls. Roku’s arm flared out straight, his hands quaking and flexing in spasm. He pried Shichi’s limp body off, leaving Roku strangely shaking. Growling uncontrollably, he placed each powerful hand on the top and lower portion of Shichi’s jaw, and tore them apart with a primal cry.
Turning his head, Arad struggled not to vomit. Partly because he’d never scrub the gory image out of his head, and partly because he’d failed to save Shichi like he’d promised. Bryce had exploited his programming and gave them no choice, but it didn’t patch the deep, guilty hole festering in his stomach. Someday, he’s parse the conflicting emotions regarding the DemiShou who’d helped beat and torture him for information he didn’t have. For now, he needed to checked on Yosei and Pakko’s progress. The side panel had been tossed aside and the pair of techs were pulling the hydraulic release. Air gasped through the door as the seals parted and the hatch opened.
“Got it!’ Yosei shouted.
Arad risked a look back to find Roku wavering on his feet. The ship quaked again and he dropped to one knee, but didn’t rise up again.
“That felt like a tractor quake.” Yosei sounded worried.
Pakko’s jaw slackened. “How crazy is this Bard guy?”
“Very. Why?” Like every other sanctioned authority Arad had ever known, if Bard saw this as a battle, the only acceptable outcome would be to win at any cost.
“If he ramps up the tractor beam power high enough, he could crack the hull and call it an accident.”
“Help me get Roku. I think he’s been poisoned.”
“Like Vosh?” Pakko suddenly sounded so small and distant.
Arad tried to stuff the conclusion he’d already come to down deep because they weren’t safe yet, but tears began to fall. “Maybe. I don’t know. Help me, please.”
A soul wrenching wail rose over the alarm. Filled with wary tension, Arad stared as Bryce rose, allowing her emotionless facade to shred itself in tatters. She screamed as she stumbled to Shichi’s lifeless body and slumped to her knees. Curling over, she cradled the DemiShou that couldn’t embrace her back and sobbed in giant, ugly gulps. Arad knew he should feel some kind of regret, some tiny bit of sympathy because he would be no better if Roku was on the floor, but Bryce had willingly broken that part of him on the operating table without the slightest remorse, and he couldn’t bring himself to care when monsters grieved.
Besides, he had his own emergency to deal with.
“What do we do about Bryce?” Pakko asked.
“Nothing. She wanted the Nightingale, she can keep it.”
Down on one knee, Roku swayed facing the floor as blood seeped from a variety of slashes. Arad gently lifted his head, trying to see the man inside, who was vanishing. His tiger eyes were dull and unfocused, and a thin line of bloody drool hanging from his saging jaw shivered with each rapid exhale.
“Roku, we can’t lift you. If you go down, we’ll never get you out of here. I won’t leave you behind.” He shook Roku by the burned fur ringing his neck. “Look at me. You have to stand up. We have to go home.” Muddy awareness grew in Roku’s eyes, and he gave a lazy nod. He nearly toppled as he struggled to his feet with a grunt, but Pakko and Arad both dove under his arms to steady him. Yosei held the door open as is kept trying to close while they shuffled to the airlock, the walk of the critically wounded.
Yosei led the sad group, dashing in front then behind to open and lock doors through the temporary passage connecting the two ships. Blaring alarms greeted them on the Ansariland deck. Arad’s head pounded from the noise and Roku was faltering, so he directed the group to their bedroom, the closest place big enough on board that Roku might find comforting. It took all three to roll Roku into bed without dropping him, and it nearly happened anyways.
“This is your bedroom?” Yosei reached over and picked at a chunk of peeling wall paint. “You guys need a maid.”
“Not really the time…,” Arad hissed.
Snapping to attention, Yosei licked his lips nervously. Sweat glossed her pale skin. “Sorry. A little nervous. I’ll run down to sick bay and get some supplies. I can help him, but you need to get us out of here.”
Arad couldn’t take his eyes off Roku. Fragile and bleeding, he’d closed his eyes the moment he’d hit the bed and hadn’t reopened them. How could they expect him to walk away? “I can’t just leave him.”
With a sniffling inhale, Yosei carefully took a handful of Arad’s borrowed jacket and pulled him closer. Her voice cracked like a whip even if her face didn’t share the confidence. “Captain Ansari, your access is the only one of us in the system. You are the only one who can save us all. Get to the bridge.”
The command splashed cold water over Arad’s maudlin thoughts. Getting this far defied the odds, and not following through after Roku sacrificed himself to remove Shichi’s threat would be a disservice. He placed a kiss on Roku’s feverish brow and headed out. Pakko immediately followed, helping him maintain pace despite his own injuries, because his ravaged body was still a roadmap of pain and weakness.
He did his best to tune out the alarms as they entered the bridge. Both men froze, awestruck as they saw the ship off the Ansariland’s bow.
The original encounter with the flagship hadn’t prepared Arad for the sheer size of the vessel. Monstrous in scale, it dwarfed the view port, blocking out an visible bit of outer space. The hull’s details he’d never noticed before grew as it closed in, a mass of tech and metal and shining pinpricks swelling into full searchlights. Caught in an invisible pull, the Ansariland drifted towards a colossal landing port. A gaping maw large enough to easily house the tethered starships.
Arad shook himself back into the real world. “C’mon. We can’t let that beast run us over.”
Pakko helped him slump into the helmsman’s chair, and Arad groaned in relief. He was held together with fear and adrenaline and the supply was burning his meager reserves. Everything ached. After a few good breaths, he started thumbing through the controls with his one good hand as Pakko took the seat next to him.
“We’re being hailed by the flagship.” Layers of trauma tainted Pakko’s voice. They needed to find someplace safe soon. He’d walked such a fine edge since they’d broken out of the cell and left Vosh’s body behind, it was a miracle Pakko hadn’t melted down by now. Arad wouldn’t blame him if he did.
“Put it through. I need to stall.” Arad didn’t look over as he tried not to scream. Why couldn’t he remember the sequence to open the right control group? How many times had he been through the ship schematics? Broken fingers masquerading as fat sausages throbbed, fracturing his concentration, and he couldn’t move his intact hand faster than an addled grandparent. The murky vision out of his swollen eye wasn’t making matters easier.
Pakko’s hand flew over the communications screen, showing his familiarity after repairing the Ansariland. Probably to make sure they had a competent second crew to man the ship once they’d taken over before Hodge aborted the plan. Arad shoved his resentment down. Deep down. Because he had enough to deal with as First Commander Bard’s arrogant face appeared on the monitor.
“You can’t hide forever by changing the ship’s name, Midas Ascending. Or by running between vessels like vermin.”
“No one’s hiding. That requires real effort. I’ve barely thought of you since the last time.” Arad barely spared Bard a glance. The pressure to find what he needed on top of all the injuries were dragging his efforts. However, he had to keep Bard talking to stay on task. There were too many reasons to obsess over the tiger who might be dying—No. He wasn’t thinking of that.
“You’ve seen better days. Perhaps you should surrender before you drop dead in your seat.”
Arad wanted to shine his middle finger at Bard, but he needed that hand. “I didn’t know you cared.”
A shaky gasp came out of Pakko. “They have weapons locked on us.”
Bard scoffed. “Of course we do. You’re the head of a dangerous criminal organization. We’re expected to take reasonable precautions for our safety as we prepare for your arrest.”
“Really? Is that what you’re going with?”
“Formal charges will be read to you after your vessels are confiscated.”
“Making it up as you go along, I see. I’m sure you’ll have something drawn up once you need it.” Arad shook his head at Bard’s audacity even as he worked to steady his hand. Bard was just like all the rest. From the poorest street cop to corporate military, authority figures craved control. It was a Grey District specialty. As long as they felt they had the upper hand, you could ramble any stream of nonsense at them because in the end, you were beneath them. Why else would Bard waste energy taunting perps other than to jerk himself off?
“You were simply lucky we underestimated you last time. A ship your size shouldn’t have space folding capabilities. Further proof of your criminal activities.”
“Like you needed a justification.” Come on. Where is that sub-file?
“We won’t be fooled again. If we see the first signs of fold engine charging, I won’t waste ammunition crippling your engine. You will be treated as fugitives and there will be a repeat accident of your shuttle and the previous crew. All resistance will be treated as acts of hostility.”
“This sounds familiar. Pretty sure I’ve heard this before.” If his face wasn’t so hot and stressed, Arad would have rolled his eyes. He thought of ending Bard’s sanctimonious gloating from the beginning, but he had better chances of not being turned into scorching debris if he let the narcissist drone on.
“I’m not going to cry if ApexCorp doesn’t have a living product to sell or not. I won’t be humiliated a second time. Enjoy your last minutes of freedom.” Communications blinked out, but Arad didn’t care. He’d already found the menu, shining and gorgeous in bright holographics.
SPACE FOLD ENGINE AT FULL POWER
“I guess the shielding’s as good as Yosei says it is.” Arad wanted to smile, but anxious threads sewed his body together. The bridge vibrated under another tractor quake, and his ribs crooned a song of thorns as he braced against it.
“What are you waiting for? They don’t know we’re good to go.” Pakko’s fraying sanity leaked from every pore.
“The fold isn’t instant. I’m not going to get us shot before we jump.” The shivers racing over Arad’s dirty skin had nothing to do with his wounds. He hoped. It had to work. They’d been through too much to fail now. He promised to save Roku. Another blasphemous prayer rolled through his panicked brain. They piled up, weighing him down.
“So what are you going to do?”
Gritting his teeth to focus past the disquiet, Arad stared out the cockpit. If he didn’t stop hyperventilating, he’d pass out. The landing bay filled his compromised vision, looming ever closer. Slowly, far too slowly, its edge threw a shadow over the bow and swallowed the ship.
“Their weapons can’t aim at us once we’re inside, can they?” He reached over and pressed yes.
***WARNING — PROXIMITY ALERT***
Engaging space fold will cause significant structural damage to nearby vessel.
***Safety protocol engaged — Engine paused***
Command Override Required.
“Are you kidding me? Can you not just do what I ask the first time around?” Tapping the onscreen menu, he used his thumbprint to call up his captain’s privileges. Bold red letters centered in the monitor gave Arad a glimmer of hope.
Pakko’s eyes were more white than color as he clutched his chair’s armrests.“Holy fuck, you’re insane.”
“No. Just too tired to put up with all these pricks.” Arad tapped the inner communications array. “Yosei! Hold on tight! This is going to be rough.”
He punched the control and leaned back, bracing himself as the universe brightened and twisted itself inside out. Exploding lights and violent quaking from every direction overwhelmed the senses. The Ansariland cried out, protesting in alarms and shrieks of metal, while every wound and sealed slice of Arad’s flesh screamed out in horrible synchronicity. An eternity of mere seconds passed before he’d had all he could handle.
As Arad’s consciousness faded to black, he hoped in his zeal to escape he hadn’t killed them all.
Want to start from the beginning? Click here for Chapter 1
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