Two more parts after this. They should be up Wednesday and Friday...
The beep of the door woke Lieutenant Ryland Tam. Bleary-eyed, he rubbed his eyes and checked the chronometer. Still two hours until he was supposed to be up. For a moment, he considered turning over and going back to sleep, but then the door beeped again, insistantly. With a sigh, he staggered over to open it.
â€œLieutenant Ryland, sir. We have to go. Now.â€ Ryland blinked again, looking at the arrangement in front of him. Private Gallen was there, looking strangely insistant. There were red stains on his uniform. Very untidy. And the prisoner was behind him, looking frightened and jumpy. No restraints. Odd. Lieutenant Yumis was standing just behind her, though, grim-faced, so that would probably stop her running. And there was Doctor Croft, pale as a ghost, and more of those...
It was the bloodstains that finally penetrated Ryland's sleep-fogged mind. Suddenly wide awake, he stared at the collection in front of him. â€œWhat in Jupiter's name is going on?â€
â€œKaltos is an Anathema. We have to leave. We've only got a few minutes.â€
Whatever Ryland was going to ask â€“ and even he wasn't sure â€“ Yumis cut him off. â€œWe'll explain on the way to the hangar.â€ Grabbing Ryland by the arm, she gave it a tug. â€œI've got a spare sword for you. Don't bother with your combat gear, it won't stop the thing that Kaltos has become. Come on!â€ She stepped behind Ryland, and started pushing him along â€“ faced with her strength, it was walk or fall down. Ryland walked, pausing just long enough to grab the sword she handed him and belt it to his waist.
â€œIf Kaltos is anathema, why's the goldgirl here?â€ He jerked a thumb at Indira.
â€œHe's a deathknight.â€ Her voice was faint. â€œI think we can all agree that they're not our friends?â€
Ryland swallowed heavily. â€œI see. Are we going to inform the commander?â€
â€œCommander's dead.â€ Gallen's voice seethed with held-in emotions. â€œEveryone's dead except us. We checked. Frankly, until you opened the door, we were expecting you were dead, too.â€
â€œWha...â€ Ryland stopped dead, his face going ashen. â€œJanela...â€
Everyone paused. Yumis looked away. â€œI'm sorry, Tamar. She was the first one he killed.â€ Her voice went hard. â€œAnd now he's sending this ship into the mouth of the Void itself, and unless we get the hell off it, we're all going to be worse than dead. We'll mourn later â€“ for the moment, we don't have the time.â€
â€œRight.â€ Ryland gritted his teeth, took a deep breath, and focused. â€œWhat's the plan?â€
â€œTwo plans, now that we have you. Plan A is simple.â€ Gallen gestured to Yumis, Ryland, and Croft. â€œWe have one member from each division. We can trigger the self-destruct without the Captain.â€ He glanced around the ship, and then shook his head. â€œWe go to the hangar, activate the self-destruct, power up the shuttle, and get the hell out of her while Kaltos is still locked on the bridge. Ship blows, he dies, we hope the shuttle can get us back to the trade routes.â€
â€œRisky.â€ Ryland nodded after a moment. â€œIt could work.â€
â€œUnless he gets out before the shuttle's ready to launch. That's where Plan B comes in.â€ Gallen shrugged again. â€œI'm expendable. While we're powering the shuttle, everyone else hides. We make it seem like Plan A was the only plan. But I disable the shuttle's Wyld grid.â€
There was a long pause. Ryland stared hard at Gallen. â€œIf you do that, the shuttle won't last five minutes past our ship shields.â€
â€œRight. Kaltos gets on the shuttle, takes off. We're in deep chaos â€“ he'll get warped past the ability of his tainted Exaltation to hold onto his soul. It leaves, he becomes a Wyld creature and can't get past the ship shields, and the three of you turn off the self-destruct and pilot the ship home.â€
â€œAnd you?â€ Indira spoke faintly.
â€œI die.â€ Gallen grimaced. â€œIt's not a great plan, but it's better than nothing.â€
â€œNo.â€ Indira shook her head firmly. â€œI brought this on the ship. I don't have valuable information to the Imperium. I'm the expendable one.â€ She looked to Yumis. â€œYou already know that.â€
After a moment, Yumis nodded gravely. â€œGalas is right. She'll run pre-flight, since she offered.â€ She looked around at the crew, then glanced ahead to the hangar. â€œWe don't have much time. Let's get these plans working, and hope that it won't be an issue. Either way, it'll be a matter of seconds.â€ Her gaze swept the remnants of the crew. â€œAnd if it comes down to it, killing that monster is more important than our lives.â€
â€œUnderstood.â€ Gallen shook his head, looking over at Indira, her face a mixture of fear and relief. He nodded slowly. â€œWe'll do what we have to.â€