Chapter Five: Hakon

I should have thrown her over my shoulder and carried her out of there.

Instead I went tearing up to Command Central, waiting for the blasted lift to make the ascent.

Void, I could have climbed through the decking faster than their ‘priority express’ speed.

But all the while, I kept seeing that face.

Not the old man with his threats.

Or the young man standing beside him who bore a disturbing similarity to Yasmin.

But the merc standing in the back to the left.

Jenke.

Not the best angle, but surely, that was Jenke.

Somehow I needed to get over to that ship. Ideally without being fired on.

But by the time I reached Command Central, it seemed more likely that Jenke would be heading our way, as part of a boarding party.

Serrup’s eyes nearly popped as he ran from one console to the next. “Why don’t we have weapons?” he shrieked. “Are you saying we can’t defend ourselves at all?”

“We’re a small manufacturing station,” Alcyon stood still in the middle of the floor, watching his nominal supervisor with narrowed eyes, not even bothering to hide his disdain. “Having weapons would have made us a target earlier. The risk wasn’t worth it.”

“But I’m worth it!” Serrup yelled, pushing an operator out of the way, desperately looking for something, anything that would save him.

“You!” He whirled on Ambassador Thalcorr. “Doesn’t your ship have weapons? Why aren’t you doing something to save us?”

I stepped between the idiot and the ambassador.

It might have been tempting to let them hash it out, but then I’d have to explain it to Vandalar.

Or worse, Ronan.

“The Kodo Ragir is lightly armed, nothing near what would be needed to take on the flotilla that you’ve got outside.”

Ambassador Thalcorr stepped to my side, nose in the air. “Additionally, we are here on a diplomatic trade mission only. This appears to be an internal sector affair between two legitimately recognized entities. We have no cause for being involved.”

Huh.

Maybe the old man had more spine to him than I’d thought.

Serrup lunged towards Thalcorr, but backed away at my growl, deciding to run in circles around Alcyon again.

“Internal affair or not, maybe you should get back on board the Kodo,” I suggested quietly.

Thalcorr sniffed. “Apparently the docking mechanism was the target of the first attack. Our ship won’t be able to tether safely for some time.” He nodded his head, gracefully. “Our captain is working on other plans. And I am certain that a peaceful solution to this situation can still be achieved.”

I scoffed. “How certain?”

He watched the circus of Serrup and Alcyon play out in front of us.  “Moderately.  If necessary, I can assist Mr. Alcyon in sedating Commander Serrup.”

The screens flashed on again.

Same view.

Old man, young man. Mercs in the back.

And Jenke.

No doubt about it.

“Is this room set up for a two way holo-broadcast?” I whispered to Thalcorr.

“Yes,” he said dryly. “I’m certain you’re about to see our host’s negotiation skills shortly.”

“The clock is ticking, gentlemen,” the old man said. “Have you come to a decision?”

Serrup moved closer to the screen, hands waving wildly. “I don’t understand why you’re doing this,” he whined. “I know ExaTec has manufacturing centers that can do everything we can here.”

Alcyon moved next to the babbling Serrup, edged slightly in front of him.

“Greetings, Chancellor Denau.” He bowed slightly.

Quietly I moved behind the pair, far enough back to be unnoticed, but close enough that the cams would catch me.

“I am afraid that we are unable to comply with your request on such short notice,” Alcyon continued blandly.

I knew the moment Jenke saw me.

His eyes met mine, widened slightly.

But as I was about to try to signal him, his lips pressed tightly together and he looked away.

Alcyon was still droning on. “With more time I’m sure that we can come to an arrangement that would be to the mutual benefit of both of our corporations. Perhaps we could — ”

The old man, Denau, cut in. “The arrangement will be exactly as I stated. As you are obviously un-sure of my seriousness in this matter, I’ll have to give you a token of my good faith.” A flicker of a smile. “I’ll start with the bottom of your station. From the specs I’ve seen directly above that are your worker capsules. Unless they’re willing to reassign their contracts to my corporation, they’re no good to me anyway. If I keep working my way up the spindle of your station, how far do you think I can get before you have a critical failure?”

He gestured to someone off screen. “The clock is now accelerated. Five minutes until you start losing parts of your facility.”

The screen cut off.

I fell back, mind whirling.

The bottom of the station.

Where I’d left Yasmin.

Who’d turned the comm screens off.

Jenke would have to wait.

I fell back, next to Thalcorr.

“You certain you’ve got this handled?” I asked.

“I believe so,” he said as we watched Alcyon’s security team filling the bridge, slowly circling Serrup, who was too hysterical to notice them.

“I am confident that Mr. Alcyon will see reason.”

“That’s good. I need to get back down to that dome.”

One elegant eyebrow rose. “I had understood that your team had a tendency to rush into danger. But this seems extreme.”

“There’s someone down there,” I grunted.

Thalcorr’s face changed, for once a deep line wrinkling his forehead. “Then what are you waiting about here for, young man? Go!”

Tearing back to the lift, I waived the access card. “Observation Dome, Priority!” I snapped.

If anything, the car moved even slower this trip, as if willfully distracting me.

Maybe it was just in my head, knowing the countdown until the dome was shattered, until Yasmin was cast into the Void.

But it didn’t really matter.

“Void take it!” I snarled, and ripped open the control panel. “Stupid safety overrides…”

That was more like it. I held tightly to the wall as the lift screamed through the track, coming to a jarring stop at the lowest level.

And the clock in my head kept ticking.

“Yasmin!” I roared as I dashed through the short corridor. “You better be done with whatever you’re doing!”

The crash of the ceiling panels falling to the floor with the next impact drowned out my shouts, sparks flying as the volley began.

Throwing panels out of the way, I ducked under a tangle of loose wire blocking the entrance to the control room.

“Yasmin!”

She stood over the console, back hunched, legs braced against the buckling of the floor. “I’ve almost got it!” she yelled over her shoulder. “I just need a minute more.”

“We don’t have a minute!” I dodged forward, grabbing her by the waist.

“Wait!” she yelled, bashing at the panel until a data chip popped out. She grabbed it, sealing it in the side pocket of the pants of her overalls.

“We’re going now!” I growled, pulling her with me as we headed back to the lift. Explosions popped and crackled behind us.

“Run!”

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