“Thaet’s enough.” Lukas silenced the radio.
Ilya tried to muffle a whimper and gently felt at the side of her stinging face.
When he had first come running back from the airlock, Lukas had been sweating and terrified; completely ignoring her as she chased him through the narrow hallway trying to get answers. Something in the way he walked or the kind of terror she saw in his face, something about the man suddenly screamed murder. He was going to murder everyone on the ship.
Without thinking, she had thrown herself at the giant man with fists flying, but all she could remember was stunning pain before waking up huddled behind his chair. She was actually sitting against the hatch that lead to the hallway. The entire cockpit was pitch black with a single window that stretched in an arc before the pilot’s chair. The floating graphics of various readings slid over their view of the long, bulbous shaped transport ship through the window. She had sobbed and pleaded for him to let her talk to Cael as the charges started dropping; now her eyes teared up again from the bright images and she had to look away. It was almost unreal, seeing the explosions but hearing only silence.
“Ilya? Ilya!” Cael held on to the microphone, hearing the static in disbelief.
“What was that aalaa’ish about Legion? Was that a joke?” The boss reached for his shoulder. “Was she joking?”
Cael jumped a bit and spun around. Everyone in room stepped back to give him space. His eyes darted from the boss to the other men.
“I’m afraid not.”
“But,” the boss turned to his men for back up, “the Legion is just an old wives tale… it’s a ghost story.”
Cael took in a deep breath, “and we’ll deal with that later. For right now, I think we can all agree that this man believes the Legion is real and that it’s on this ship. Agreed?”
Another explosion rocked the floor from under them.
“Okay! Yes! What do we do?”
“Do? Weapons! Guns! Fight back!”
“We don’t… all we have are the cattle prods!”
“This is a peaceful system! Who attacks a ship of phuu’ar cattle?” Another blast thundered just down the hall. “I should call for an evacuation.”
“Yes. The sleep halls are the emergency shuttles, yes? Get those detached. Divide his attention.”
The boss turned around. “You, hall one; you, hall two; get as far away as you can and keep the radio open for my word.”
Alberich stepped aside as the two men with the cattle prods left without another word. Cael turned to the pilot.
“Is there any way you can open the main door to the loading dock?”
“I could but there’s no air lock, everything will get sucked out.”
“Good, good. Yes, do that.”
The pilot looked to the boss.
“What good would that do?”
Cael turned to him.
“The Legion, it’s like a virus, right? It can infect anything; living, inanimate, anything. This man has been bombing us for, what, five minutes now? His ship is not a fighter. It’s built for stealth, not fighting. If we overwhelm him with targets, with potentially infected targets, he may back off.”
The boss turned to the pilot. “Do it.”
Ilya heard Lukas cursing in the silence of the cabin. She looked up to see that ship was now in three pieces above them. Two smaller sections spinning off in opposite directions as the main body of the transport dropped away, rotating slowly head over aft with what looked like debris spilling out from the back. Her heart dropped into her stomach. He had done it. He had destroyed the ship and she had done nothing to stop it.
Lukas turned on the radio which opened to Cael midsentence.
“…on the ship; I thought you might like a little sampling of what we had to offer. Now there are a good number of innocent men down here, and you have an innocent girl up with you. We all just want to get out of this alive.”
Alive! Ilya’s despair broke and her head swam with relief.
“Thaere is no getting out of theis.”
“Oh, learned a little Sakhimi? I am impressed. Look, I know this isn’t why you came all the way out here. You don’t have to do this.”
His tone almost took on a chiding quality. “I cannote leit the Legion through the Gate.”
Cael could feel the men in the two shuttles listening to their conversation over the radio.
“That is not your job, Lukas. Your job is to bring back Alberich, remember?”
“I cannote leit it spread.”
“I hate to break it to you, but this transport goes back and forth all the time. Whatever you manage to stop here, damage has already been done.” Cael waited, but there was no response. “You can’t want Alberich dead. You can’t, or you would have killed him when you first found him. So, you have something I want, and I have something you want, right? .”
“Hae is useless if infected.”
“We just got on the ship, didn’t even leave the kitchen. I can take care of this. I give you my word.”
“Your word,” no anger, just matter of fact, “you plaenned a surprise attack aet the air lock.”
“Well… ah, yes; but, I’m sure you could have taken us.”
“Whaet is your plaen now?”
Alberich hissed at Cael. “How could he have known that?”
He shrugged. “No such thing as an original idea, I suppose.”
“What are we going to do??”
“I’m working on it.” He put a finger to his lips and turned back to the microphone. “I want you to back off. Let me take care of the ship. Let these people get to their destination. I’m sure you can follow us every step of the way. We’ll make an exchange planet-side.”
“You will try to cheat mae.”
“And you’ll be ready for it.”
There was a pause as Lukas thought it over. “And if I don’t agree to theis? It seems so much simpler to end it here.”
“Lukas… please don’t make me start pitching the cattle. I doubt you have enough fire power, and it’s going to get… so messy out there.”
There was another long pause, but the explosions had long ceased.
Alberich collapsed against the doorway and the boss slumped onto the pilot’s shoulder. Cael was sure the two shuttles were erupting in celebration.
“Can I talk to Ilya?”
Lukas turned to Ilya and nodded his head toward the window.
“I’m… I’m sorry, Cael.”
“No, no. Don’t… this is not your fault.”
She felt her face again. “It is… it is, because I came with him voluntarily. I was going to protect you, but… he… I tried to stop him and he hurt me. I was so stupid, I shouldn’t have come…”
Cael bowed and leaned his head against the panel. He pulled down the microphone. “Don’t worry about that, now. Just do what he says. Keep yourself safe. I’ll get us out of this.”
The pilot started. “He’s gone. The ship just disappeared.”
“No,” Cael turned to the room, “he’s still there.”