Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 16
Rakal ground his teeth with frustration,
holding still as the acceleration pushed him back into his seat. Frantically,
his mind raced. Images of Kiralla trapped with that...that thing
fought with images of possible trajectories and plans of attack. He whined
inwardly, knowing that he first had to catch up to the fleeing ship, which
might not be possible, even with the Pride's greater speed and maneuverability.
With unconscious precision, he set the
ship into a slow roll as the gravity shifted from down to back toward
the stern of the ship. His crew could last an hour comfortably at 2.5
gravities - another beta blessing, so he set the ship on an accelerated
intercept course and gave the signal for them to leave their seats. His
crew set about priming the plasma cannons. They spoke little- every beta
on the Pride was a member of Rakal's own hive, and knew what this mission
meant to him, and their future. Staring out into the cold blackness of
space, Rakal could see the glimmer that was the Dark Hope, powering off
toward the star gate. "Please...please...let those engines fail...."
He dug his claws into the padded steering yoke, and held himself back
from howling out loud.
"Wait! Landry doesn't know that we
know about Kiralla! No one knows she's a psi...and Landry's psis are all
offship!" The realization that he may still have a trick or two left
to delay them sent up a celebratory war-growl from his second in command
and the crew. Jabbing a claw into the comm panel button hard enough to
leave a groove, he signaled the Dark Hope.
"Dark Hope...please advise on your
engine status. We thought we were going to use the towing plan."
Rakal faked a calm, curious tone that elicited a toothy grin from his
second in command.
"Arralla's Pride...this is Dark Hope
reporting. We did get our engines back online and decided to make all
speed to the Gate for the crash operation. We understood that the situation
down below was critical." the vaguely familiar voice of Landry's
Ir'est sounded tense.
The Dark Hope was almost a light minute
from the Gate, and moving out fast. Rakal knew he had little time to act
and stop them from going through and launching the crash device. "Dark
Hope...the situation down below won't go critical for another four hours,
at least. What if your engines fail halfway through the Gate? The second
plan is safer. Halt here, and we'll rig the tow cable."
Without warning, the Dark Hope blasted
its reversing engines on full. Bits of the old ship broke off and kept
going on into the Gate, but the main hull remained intact. Rakal raced
to recalculate his trajectory to avoid collision with the hulking destroyer,
and brought the Pride alongside the docking ring, a few hundred meters
Carefully, he scanned the Dark Hope for
weapons activity as his own crew manually cranked the cannons into position.
By not using the positioning hydraulics, the Dark Hope's own defense system
would not detect the lock-on. The ship was not gearing up for defense.
In fact, damage reports from the various levels showed that the quick
stop was not planned.
"Dark Hope...report. Our scans show
significant damage to the outer positioning rings. Who's flying that crate
of yours? Tell Landry to report immediately...we're coming aboard!"
Rakal vented some of his pent fury into his admonishing tone.
The voice that answered was different,
and almost groggy. In the background, Rakal could hear the distinct keening
whine of an Arallakeeni mourning a death, as well as swears and moans.
"Sir...sir...that stop was not planned. The helm refuses to respond...we
will need that tow now. No need to come aboard...we can handle the damage.
Please prepare the Pride's tow line, and wait for our signal."
"You've got injured aboard...and dead.
We're coming over now. Open your docking clamp on strut #3...it's still
functional from what we can see." Rakal tried to remain patient.
If worse came to worse, he'd have his crew cut a hole above the hold where
Kiralla was, and he'd suit up and float over.
"No, sir. This mission is our duty
and our right. We will perform it unaided. Do not try to board."
The voice was strained but resolute, and the rotation of the Dark Hope
became erratic - a common tactic to prevent a docking lock or forced link.
Rakal had no choice. He could hide his
Alpha identity no longer. He slammed his paw down on the comm button and
in his strongest command voice screamed, "Regulate rotation and open
A minute passed...the longest minute Rakal
had ever experienced.
The ship's rotation did not regulate, and
suddenly, the Pride went to red alert. They were going to fire!
Before Rakal could even give the order,
his crew clipped away each of the gunnery ports within range of the Pride,
working to dispatch new ones as the ship rotated, exposing new turrets.
He unbelted himself from the pilot's seat, and, using weightlessness to
his advantage, shot himself headlong toward the pressure suits at the
end of the small Pride cabin. "We're going to do this the hard way...Sadir,
take the helm, and start evasive maneuvers if they do manage to get a
decent shot off!"
Struggling into his suit, he hurriedly
began to check each gauge. Dying in the coldness of space, just meters
from Kiralla while Landry had his way with her was not in his plan. He
watched his crew expertly cut a hole in the hull with well-aimed plasma
shots, careful not to breach it on the level where Kiralla was imprisoned.
Burst after burst struck the hull, creating a pockmarked circle. With
a final shot to the center, the metal plate was knocked spinning and then
out into space as the hold depressurized. Rakal fervently hoped that Kiralla
was not in that bay. Regardless, they had to press on. Other members of
his boarding team struggled into suits, as intent on victory, or at least
some kind of resolution, as he was.
A turret on the Dark Hope turned to fire,
and Rakal barked out an alarm call as their return shot missed it by inches.
Expecting the rollicking impact of a plasma burst against the Pride, Rakal
desperately grabbed for his helmet, slamming it into place with a clatter.
Amazingly, the gun not only didn't fire - it overloaded and exploded.
Rakal raced toward the airlock. What the hell was going on inside that
He filed in behind his second in command,
already suited and armed with a plasma rifle, and clipped onto the rescue
cable. Gnashing his teeth, he imagined his Kiralla, alone in a dark hull
with the hulking specter Landry looming over her like a vulture over a
fresh kill. He probably had her bound like some animal, waiting for the
full onset of her season to take effect before he...
He blinked back his rage as the airlock
door slid away and the escaping air whisked them into the silence of cold
space. She'd have no choice, alone in the hold with him. He rued the fact
that if Arrallin females did not mate, they'd go into a psychological
shock that often resulted in insanity or death. For the first time, he
wished Kirralla had been born a male. Images of Kirralla from their childhood
flashed before him - her laughing, her gentle understanding, and her fury
at the conditions in which she and the other Arrallins had to live. Now
this. Would Kiralla's fury at being used by a human so undeserving eat
her alive if he didn't reach her in time?
A plasma blast whizzing by his left side
broke him out of his bitter reverie. Two suited Arrallakeeni from Landry's
ship were firing haphazardly at the boarding party out of the hole they
had cut in the hull. The hole rolled away before they could attempt a
better shot, and on the next go-round, Rakal's forces would be ready for
them. He issued commands, setting two guards at either side of where the
hole would approach. Leaving them in place to convince the hull-defenders
that the boarding party had not yet entered the ship, he and his second
in command slipped into another hull breach the Pride had created when
it began firing on the crippled ship. He didn't know the deck layout of
the Dark Hope well, but he knew enough to get down to Kirralla's level.
Breaking off radio contact, he sent his second toward the bridge, and
speeding off on all fours he made his way into the dark, twisted wreckage
to find Kiralla.