“Airlock’s jammed,” Gerin’s voice crackled over the link. Krysto counted four locks left and twelve soldiers. It was doable. Switching his boots to lograv, he pushed off to protect the main lock. He ran-bounced through the spokes toward the hub, where the gravity was similar to Earth’s. Passengers moved, making a path for him.
Was it only a half decanhour since he met with his team? They began with seventeen soldiers, Hasaddah’s Blessing upon them. “May She see the spirits of the fallen guided into new lives of pleasure,” he whispered, as one does with death.
They were soldiers, not contractors wanting a free space cruise. He pulled no punches before the mission. “We got a fringit’s chance in a static storm of getting through this with everyone breathing. May Hasaddah watch your asses and guide your shots. Moving out in five. Dismissed!”
His first officer had come to him for last minute orders. Krysto waved Bralen off. With a nod, he turned and shouted at the team to doubletime it. A good first, Krysto thought. He keyed a code into his comlink, signaling Ratsoid to move out.
Now Krysto hurried, screening schematics in his memory implant. “Maltrene, report!” he barked into his link.
“Taking fire, Chief.” Lazfire sang through the link.
“You get me that airlock, soldier!”
“They don’t stand a chance, Chief.”
Krysto thought-nudged his adrenaline switch. It hit his bloodstream hard. His charged senses probably saved his life. He tucked and rolled behind a huge sculpture. Only then did he process the threat. Movement at the edge of his vision had been an unfriendly’s targetlight.
A fevered few seconds passed as he searched the schematics. Utility door nearby. He could access the airlock from below. The problem was getting to the door, palming the plate and getting inside without getting dead. Lazfire ate through the sculpture. Not much of a choice. Throwing cover fire behind him, he rolled, coming up with extended hand in one smooth motion. The door hissed open and he rolled in. Krysto growled as he palmed the door locked, feeding his override code in to verify the lockout. He didn’t have time to dance with unfriendlies.
Moving around ducts and huge pipes, Krysto raced against the chrono. He lost time, but he got there alive. Problem was the com was deaf in there. No idea what he’d find when he came out.
Before the door closed behind him, he was on the link. “Maltrene, report!”
“Got you the airlock, Chief. Two down. Too late for medbots.”
“May they be guided. Get to the main lock, soldier.”
“ETA four, Chief.”
Same story from the team at airlock three. They lost a man, but got the lock. Bralen’s team had the remaining lock. “Bralen, report!”
“Bralen, come in!”
Krysto filed through possibilities as he assessed the area. Cruise guests wandered as usual. That was the good news. The attack was still under the radar. The bad news was Bralen. Even if he was down, another member of his team would reply. He had to assume Bralen’s team was nullified and airlock two was lost.
He flipped to an alternate plan.
“Ratsoid, you better be on target and on time.”
“No need to worry. I am within guidelines.” As usual, Ratsoid sounded faintly mocking.
Krysto slipped into a crowd of guests. Eager to run, he knew this was no time to call attention. Smoothing his sleeves, he ignored the smudge of a burn on his uniform. Instead, he plastered on a bland smile.
Security was low at the main lock. No passengers were expected. Easing out of the crowd, Krysto had his team sound off. No one from Bralen’s team answered. Six soldiers remained. Still doable. Reeling off orders, he put his team into the field.
Ratsoid’s comlink beeped through. “All quiet here. Too quiet.”
Krysto frowned. “Should be two guards.”
“No one within 27 meters,” Ratsoid’s responded. “Sealing myself in the lockbox. Good luck, Chief.” Krysto’s eyebrow quirked. The little AI droid sounded almost sincere.
“Possible unfriendlies ahead,” he warned his team. “Get through, get in a jumper and go.” He now had eyes on Ratsoid’s lockbox, tucked behind a fountain. He zigzagged to it and scooped it up. Time to get into the main lock.
His nerves were wire-taut. He waited for a whisper of trouble. He hoped the rest of his team had hit the landing bay at the main airlock and jumped. With Hasaddah’s Blessing, they’d be celebrating on his shuttle shortly.
“Stop, Krysto.” Bralen’s voice shocked him. He froze. Dammit. He turned, lazblaster raised. Bralen and five mercs held lazblasters level. “Give me the box.”
Krysto looked at Ratsoid’s container. “You’ll never get it open.” When Bralen held his hand out, Krysto shrugged and tossed it to him.
“I don’t need it open, just away from you. I hacked Ratsoid.” Bralen laughed. “Old man, you had no idea.” He looked Krysto in the eye. “Good luck with the Captain. You have about three to get your story straight.”
He only got two. Captain glanced around the empty entrance to the lock and at Krysto. “Chief, I’m surprised to see you. Your leave started early today.” Her eyebrows furrowed slightly. “Your first officer didn’t show for morning meeting either. Can’t raise him on coms. Know anything about it?”
“The news is unfortunate, Captain.” Krysto led her down a sad trail. He told her of Bralen’s treachery, his downloading creds from the vault and running in his hijacked shuttle. Outraged, she set her guard on chasing the shuttle. The fighter wings would outrun it in no time. Krysto smiled inwardly.
He hoped Bralen discovered his hack had been traced. The data Ratsoid sent him was corrupt. Krystos rubbed his fingertip. The embedded microdrive with the good data was destined for another Ratsoid. His plan v2.3e could be carried out at his leisure.
As his father always said, “Trust in Hasaddah’s Blessing, but make alternate plans.”
© 2011 Jessica Rosen
This story was inspired by a #storystarters writing prompt I wrote last year. It’s waited, mostly patiently, for me to hear it whisper. Its whisper turned into a torrent of words. The piece went long repeatedly. This is what remains after emergency surgery.