Monday, March 14, 2016
August 28 (part 1)
In the corridor again, I headed for the twisted remains of walls and ceilings. I stepped into the physical rehab area.
It’s divided into two parts: on my left were the doors that led to the therapists’ shared office, power routing, and half a dozen small, private rehab rooms where most patients begin their recoveries. On the right is one monstrous room filled with exercise machines, monitors, and diagnostic devices.
As soon as I got in that section, I saw that the corridor was impassable. It looked like there had been a massive cave-in between me and the main Medical section. The pieces of ceiling making up the blockage were huge.
I didn’t lose hope right away. I knew the big rehab center had a door that opened on the far end of the corridor, steps away from Medical’s door. I couldn’t see it down the hall because the collapse had happened about midway.
Heart hammering with hope, I ran into the big room. It had taken a fair amount of damage. Okay, a lot of damage. It was still better off than the training section, and I hurried to the closed door on the far end of the room chanting, “It will open, it will open, it will open.”
It did not open. The automatic mechanism didn’t engage with its recognizable hiss.
My spirits already flagging, I commanded, “Door open.” Nothing. I pushed the manual button. Nothing. I punched the manual button, knowing I was going to get absolutely nothing for my efforts.
I hammered at the door. Just around the corner, mere yards away, was the Medical department. I could hear the alarms still wailing their piercing warning on the other side of the door. I yelled, knowing damned well no one was going to hear me over the claxons.
I was so damned close to help. It was enough to make me cry in frustration.
I didn’t cry. Resan didn’t have time for that. The man had saved my life, and it was my turn to save his if I could. I had to find a way to get through.
I ran back out to the corridor, hoping against hope that what had appeared to be an impenetrable barrier would have some little place a Shalia could get through. I was still steps away from it when I saw there was no chance of that though. It was a wall of ceiling, ductwork, and the ever-sharp daggers of busted lighting panels.
“Fuck!” I screamed in impotent rage at the pile. “Fuck!”
I went back to the physical rehab room. I needed something to break through the wall or door with. Something big. Something heavy.
I was looking at the carnage of the room, trying to see what would serve as a battering ram. Then I heard a new sound, one I’d heard numerous times on Earth.
The government facilities I’d been employed at were always either building new structures or upgrading the ones they had. The sounds of construction were as recognizable to me as the vid-recorders I’d handled at work. Government loves to spend money on anything it can, and site improvements were always a big chunk of the budgets.
I knew the sound of a laser torch slicing through metal. At first I turned to look at the unresponsive door, thinking Oses or some of his men were finally coming through to get me and Resan out of here.
But no. The sound was coming from the opposite wall, one that had no door ... because on the other side of that wall was the outside of the ship.
As the first red glowing spot appeared, I approached the wall. In a low voice I said, “Exterior vid on.”
The one thing I’d enjoyed about rehab was the hull vids that showed the space we traveled through in all its magnificence. It was a nice distraction to have when my body was begging me to stop exercising or Resan sneered at my weakness. Whether I got to look at a planet, a blanket of stars, or one of our destroyer escorts, it made me appreciate the grandeur of the universe that I was such a very small part of.
I saw nothing of space. Instead, the vid filled with a vessel that looked like some cobbled together child’s version of a shuttle. A big umbilical tunnel extended from that monstrosity. It had attached to our hull. And Tragooms. I saw Tragooms within the tunnel passageway less than two feet away from me. One worked a laser cutter, tearing its way into the transport.
I stood for what felt like an hour, my brain slamming to a stop as I stared at what was coming for me. With that laser, the Tragooms wouldn’t be stuck like I was. They could break through to Medical where no doubt the injured and dying were piling up. Or they could perhaps find a way back to training, where Resan lay dying.
Fuck. I could hide and maybe stay safe, but the shit was about to hit the fan one way or the other.
Fear gave way to anger. I stared at the Tragooms on the other side of the wall, which was steadily being cut through. Within the umbilical passage were three of the big ugly pig-faced monstrosities. Their shuttle stretched beyond the reaches of the vid screen. There might be a few dozen of them coming through.
My mind had come to an absolute halt when I’d first seen the enemy. Now it seemed to run at light speed, running through options, playing out scenarios, tallying up the risks of any action I might take. No matter how I looked at it, every alternative carried a high level of suckage.
So I chose the one that would make the Tragooms as miserable as possible.
They were halfway through cutting a hole in the wall when I headed back to the armory. I locked myself in the back room.
I made myself take time to choose the best weapons for me. I was trained with a percussion blaster, so I went for that first, making sure it was fully charged and ready to fire. I also found a holster to attach to my belt, so I grabbed another blaster. One for the hand, one for in case. I set them both for rapidfire, maximum spray. I wasn’t playing target practice with my foes.
I had my knife. If I had to go up against more than one or two Tragooms at a time, it wasn’t going to do me much good. I still was glad to have it. It comforted me for some reason.
I heard a crash. I figured it was the Tragooms coming through the hole they’d made in physical rehab. I was nearly out of time.
Back some months ago, we Earthers had been trained specifically to use blasters. We’d also been allowed to learn a little about other weapons, like laser rifles. Those are precision instruments, more for sniper attacks than all-out battles.
Instead of a laser rifle, I snagged what we Earthers referred to as an ‘egg shooter’. It looked similar to our guns back home that fired grenades at enemies. Kalquorian ‘grenades’ were much smaller, more the size of robins’ eggs. They still exploded, a deadly bit of business if they went off within a couple of feet of the enemy. Tragooms’ hides were thick enough to withstand a lot of damage, but a blast from an egg shooter would take them down all right. I loaded up mine with a full magazine and slung it by the strap over my shoulder.
The booming sound of heavy feet running nearby made my heart skip a beat. The Tragooms were definitely in, and they were hunting. I really hoped if they were going in Resan’s direction they would decide it was too devastated to bother with. If they got to him, he didn’t have a chance in hell.
Fortunately for him and much less fortunate for me, booms shivered the door to the store room. Knock, knock, little Shalia, the piggy faces want to come in. I was betting they knew a bunch of weapons were in here.
I hunkered down behind a rack of laser rifles as heavy hoof-like fists continued to beat on the door. I stayed close to my one hope of exit. It would be an easy run if they got far enough into the room to give me the chance of escape. Hopefully I wasn’t close enough for them to smell my exact location right away. Tragooms have awful eyesight but an insanely good sense of smell.
The banging stopped. I heard movement continuing, snorting and chuffing. I didn’t know if the Tragooms talked to each other or just made noise. It didn’t matter. The door abruptly opened and the stench of rotting sewage preceded their entrance into the room.
I held my breath and crouched as still as possible. The first one stomped past, its heavy tree-trunk arms cradling the biggest damned blaster I’d ever seen. The Tragoom strode straight to the middle of the room, its snouted nostrils flaring and pointed ears swiveling on top of its head.
A second one followed it in, coming a few steps within, just enough to put its back to me. It raised its nose towards the ceiling, snuffling hard. No way it wasn’t going to pinpoint my scent within a few seconds.
It wasn’t far enough in for me to get out the door before it snagged me. I was about to become a snack.
I didn’t give myself time to think. I rose up, simultaneously pulling my knife from my belt with my non-dominant hand. Larten had warned me to train with both hands, and Idow had drummed the lessons into me until I was almost equally good fighting with both. It was a blessing they’d insisted. If I could take at least one of these bastards out without alerting the rest of the boarding party, I stood a better chance of living for a few more minutes.
None of that was on my mind as I launched myself at the Tragoom now turning in my direction with a snort. If he’d been wearing protective chest armor, I’d have been well and truly dead.
Once in a great while I get lucky. This was one of those times.
I never paused, trusting the Tragoom to complete its turn as I got to it. My blade slid into the vulnerable soft part of flesh just under its sternum. I drove it up into the creature’s heart.
It made a soft grunting noise as it slid to the floor. I darted towards the other Tragoom and fired my blaster a mere foot from its skull. The distinctive shoo-wup sound of the blaster echoed in the room, making my ears ring and shattering the Tragoom’s face.
I had no time to hang around and think. I’d fired, alerting the others that someone hostile to their invasion attempt was about. I ran out of the armory’s storage room, rolled over the countertop in the front room, and raced out of the room. A quick look at the corridor showed me where the pair of scouts had cleared a path back to the rehab area, and I could hear a lot of squalling in that direction, along with the thud of approaching Tragooms.
I turned and vaulted over a heap of wreckage. I hid behind it, not wanting to go too far back for fear of leading the Tragooms to Resan. I snuck a look through the debris I hid behind to see how many were coming for me.