In a story long, long ago…
Sorry that it’s been almost three months since posting more fiction. The colonists on Mars are still undergoing training by Riss and Sanvi so that they can understand and control their new abilities. Meanwhile, Bardish has headed out into space, where he met his destiny.
And Gennaji, who had been headed to discover Bardish’s fate on Luna, is now approaching his own.
“Prepare to board that Loonie ship,” Gennaji said tersely, unstrapping his flight harness.
Karel’s voice sounded void of emotion. As if the big man had gone numb.
Gennaji glanced over at his new navigator. It looked as if the man hadn’t slept at all since they left Ceres. Since their failure. Since Andrej betrayed him.
He couldn’t help himself.
“Pining for that backstabbing vybliadok?”
Karel shot him a glare that Gennaji could not back down from. He planted his magboots firmly down on the control room deck and returned the glare. Neither spoke for a moment.
“He made his choice,” Karel finally said. He kept his eyes firmly on his captain.
“Yes,” Gennaji said, crossing his arms. “He did. And you?”
“You agreed to join this crew. Standard sixteen-month contract.”
“For two more weeks.”
“Yes, two more weeks! A man makes a promise, a man keeps it. You have a problem with being a man?”
Karel turned red, clenched his fists.
“Captain,” said the pilot. “The Lunar skiff is changing course. Heading…directly at us!”
“What?” Gennaji took a step towards Orynko. He felt a big hand grab the back of his right upper arm, twisted him around to face behind him. The punch came in slightly off target, a glancing blow on the chin that sent him backward a step or two. He staggered, recovered, anticipated the left body blow and blocked with the inner part of his right arm. Karel fell forward, his momentum carrying him into his captain.
Gennaji immediately sidestepped, tripping the bigger man and forcing him into a headlock from behind. Left forearm under the man’s left shoulder and neck, right arm behind and locked with the left bicep. Twisted hips, pushed down to the floor, pinning his opponent down with his body weight.
Karel gasped, grabbed at the forearm, kicking futilely.
“Captain!” Orynko called over from her console. “150 meters now!”
“Get in my way again,” Gennaji whispered in Karel’s ear, “and I’ll end your contract early. With a toss out the airlock.”
He released the headlock, shoved the bigger man to the deck. Hard. Karel made no sound as his forehead struck the metal floor.
Gennaji stood without a backward glance. “Ory, evasive. Now.”
The Sagittarius groaned as it shifted down and to the right. Gennaji staggered again and grabbed for a console. His knee violently banged against the captain’s chair and he fell backwards, landing with a crash.
“Is the ballbuster still loaded?” he shouted.
“Aye,” Ory shouted back. “But no way to aim—”
She hesitated. Only the sound of pieces of the control console bouncing off the ceiling replied. He stood and seized the captain’s chair from behind with both arms.
“Hamno, I said fire!”
The ship lurched. Lights flickered, went down. In the dark, Gennaji felt a grip around his ankle. Instinctively he kicked out, hit nothing but air. The grip tightened. Another shudder. He felt himself floating, nearly horizontal. He held onto the chair more tightly. Shockwave, he thought. The nuke exploded too close to them.
The emergency lights came on, faint and dim red.
“Ory!” he shouted.
No answer. He looked over his shoulder as he wildly tried to kick loose whatever had grabbed him. The pilot was in her chair, harnessed to prevent her from falling. But unconscious and slumped sideways, arms akimbo.
He began to feel his weight settle down to the deck. Centrifugal force. They must be spinning. He looked down.
Karel. Blood streaming from a gash in his forehead, one eye shut completely, one barely open. The big man grinned and tightened his grip.
Gennaji drew out his pistol from the side holster. Raised and aimed it at Karel’s face.
Pulled the trigger.
The resulting splatter came as grim satisfaction. But he took no pleasure in the deed.
He’d finally crossed the line.
Ory began to stir.
Magboots touching down again on the floor, Gennaji pried loose the dead hand. Placed the weapon in it, then kicked the empty head for good measure. Son of a bitch, useless…nobody would work for him now, even if he could spin this somehow. A mutiny. Suicide. Who would believe him?
Dark red bubbles floated up, colliding and collecting in the circulating air. Tiny white and grey bits as well. Something he’d have to clean up before the circuits were affected.
But he had more urgent matters.
A warning light blinked on Ory’s console. He ignored it. Leaned over her, held her head as she groggily straightened. He relaxed. She seemed unharmed.
He kissed her. Her eyes opened, tried to pull back. He held her in place, kissed her again, hard. She gave in, closing her eyes again.
He released her. She gasped. “Captain, I—”
The blinking light caught her attention. “Proximity alert!”
“What now? Didn’t we get it?”
He let his fingers fly across the console. No, it was too small. Not as big as the Lunar skiff that had come charging at them. A small object. The size of…
“A lifepod,’ he whispered. Not again.
Another light blinked. Incoming message.
But from where?
“Answer it,” he said. Ory nodded, flicked a switch.
A familiar bearded face appeared on the console’s tiny screen. Haggard, sagging on one side. Old and tired.
No. It can’t be.
“This is a pre-recorded message. I am Bardish. Perhaps you know me.”
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 38: United Mars Colonies, Cut the Tether