In case you have missed the previous parts, here they are in order.
- Bad Dreams
- Call the Question
- Dreams Remembered
- Desperate Measures
- Picking up the Pieces
- First Contact
- Danger Close
- Down Below Station
- Spider’s Web
- You can’t go home again
- Scarlet Empress
- Into the Arena
- Message in a Bottle
“What the fuck was that?”
Isla’s question echoes around the mess and all eyes turn to look at me. I look across the table at the short mechanic whose fiery red hair easily matches the short temper that simmers beneath the surface.
“I like to call it an expeditious retreat. One of those things you do when things are falling apart around you and you don’t want to be caught in the debris.”
“Don’t you fucking dare condescend to me.”
Her fist slams down on the table with a loud crack. Pelan and Jarrod jerk from the sudden outburst while Zan just puts his feet up on the table and smirks at me like this is the most entertaining thing he has seen in awhile. Which is very disconcerting considering what he has done for a living.
“Now now, no reason to go taking your anger out on Chikara. He didn’t do anything to you. This is all my fault.”
Isla throws her hands into the air exclaiming, “At least one of part of that statement is true. This is all your fault.”
She pats the table she just whacked. “This is a table. It is a piece of furniture.”
She walks over to a bulkhead and reverently lays a hand upon it. “This is Chikara, a living ship. The first such thing I have ever met. Unlike other tech that I can manipulate, Chikara can speak to me.”
A look of awe spreads across her features easing the lines that her anger had put there and giving her a much more open countenance. It is like she has found some undiscovered country that answers lots of questions.
“I would no sooner hurt Chikara than I would hurt myself.”
She stomps across the mess and pokes me in the chest.
“I joined your crew because Hakar said we would be working against a trap set by the Terran League. When I stepped on board everything changed because getting to be with a living ship was something any Telemechanic would give their eye teeth for. So, Despite being pissed that I had to flee the station at the last minute I don’t want off. I just want to know what new Hell you’ve gotten us into.”
Jarrod forces a smile onto his face and leans forward and places his elbows on the table. His long black hair is tied into an intricate braid that falls over his left shoulder as he clasped his hands in front of his face.
“Isla’s vehemence may be uncalled for but her question is valid. I do not know of anything that the Terran League could do to force us to flee the protection that most of us have paid for. The Hierarchy is always good about letting customers know of counter offers that they are given.”
I take a deep breath and hold it for a beat. I let it out slowly and dive in.
“You are correct. The Hierarchy would inform you of offers to countermand their security. The problem is that they will not be there to enforce the security that you paid for.”
I get up from my chair and stride over to the bulkhead that Isla had been touching.
“You see, the station is something similar to Chikara. Not alive in any fashion, but a highly complex yet ancient alien technology. It seems that it was designed to look for upgrades whenever they presented themselves.”
I shrug my shoulders and grimace.
“It would appear that whatever the League did to me and my connection to Chikara made me that upgrade. Once the station was upgraded it was able to institute a purge of enemy lifeforms. There was only one such on the station, Spider. He was a disguised alien. He was a very powerful telempath.”
Jarrod looks at me with a questioning eyes. I wave him down.
“I’m not questioning your abilities Jarrod. I only know because of the experiments that the Terran League did to me. They made me into something that even they didn’t foresee. The station took action against the threat. It sealed the entire Hierarchy section and purged everything there.”
My words sink into the people around the table. Hakar hangs his head and lets out a series of chuffs. Pelan covers her mouth and I see tears well up in her eyes. Jarrod rocks back in his chair and just stares at me dumbfounded.
Zan chimes in, “That would be…approximately ten thousand sentients dead. I assume the station categorized that as acceptable collateral damage as Spider had been in residence for some time.”
“You are correct Zan. The station did not value lesser races at all. There were only two things considered protected capital, Chikara and I.”
I slowly walk back to the table and take a seat by Zan.
“This action by the station purged over seventy-five percent of the Hierarchy’s forces. I would call that a power vacuum. It would take some time for the various factions to realize this and take actions to acquire unprotected assets. I could not risk, myself, Chikara, or you to this ensuing chaos. So, I issued the order to retreat as fast as possible.”
Isla interrupts, “You could have told us what was happening? It is nerve racking to be fleeing when there is no one chasing you and no natural disaster looming.”
“No, I couldn’t. I am no Telepath so I could not ensure my transmission was not sliced. The links to Chikara had not been implanted to any of you making it impossible for me to share the info with him and from him to you. If the information had leaked early. Instead of escaping unscathed, we would most probably be having a firefight out here. Instead, we are floating leisurely in the black on our way to Cygnus V to get some data decrypted while I am badgered over making a split-second decision.”
Isla heaves a heavy sigh and plops down in a chair on the opposite side of the table.
“I can see where you’re coming from, captain. I badger because the first order I receive from you is run and I haven’t done that in a long while. Hopefully all our bridges aren’t burned back at Down Below.”
“I hope not. I sent a message to the Scarlet Empress in the hopes of making a beachhead for our return at a later date. Keep your fingers crossed.”