Monday, March 28, 2016
August 28 (part 5)
Ebnad’s men had dragged the Tragooms out of the way as we spoke. It was a heck of a lot easier getting back to the rehab section.
Ebnad motioned for me and Oti to stay back as we neared the main rehab room. He picked his way to the hole the Tragooms had cut to get through. I watched him slip through the door and then I followed, peering around the opening. Oti left the stretcher behind to dart to the opposite side of the hole in the wall. He too peered in after Ebnad. We held our blasters at the ready.
Ebnad silently approached the hole in the side of the ship where the Tragoom vessel remained attached. He moved to one side of it and paused. I was reminded of how superior Kalquorian senses were to mine as I watched him inhale and listen.
Ebnad turned his head to look at us. He jerked his head at the passageway to the Tragoom shuttle and nodded, his eyes dark. With the hand that wasn’t holding his blaster, he put up two fingers, closed his fist, and then showed us four fingers.
Oti whispered, “He thinks there are two to four Tragooms still on board.”
Ebnad snapped a nod at us and then tilted his head to one side, looking at the opposite end of the room. Then he shook his fist twice and pointed to me and Oti.
Oti murmured, “I’m going to the other door and hide behind it. Once I’m in position, Ebnad will try to draw the Tragooms out. Shoot to kill once he gives you the signal.”
With Ebnad covering the opening to the enemy shuttle, Oti slipped into the room. The medic put on a burst of speed, turning into a blur for an instant before reappearing at the door that opened into the rest of Rehab. He went through it.
Ebnad looked at me and I nodded. I pointed my blaster at the hole in the hull, keeping as much of my body behind the wall as I could.
Ebnad took a deep breath and chuff-squealed some garbled noises. Holy crap, he sounded just like a Tragoom. Even as I blinked in surprised admiration, he dashed behind one large scanning machine to hide.
I heard return grunts waft from the umbilical. Ebnad was a badass, all right. The thud of heavy footsteps sounded, at least three pairs of them by my reckoning.
The hog-faced bastards trooped into the room, their ears swiveling, nostrils twitching. My first instinct was to fire at the first ugly creature that disembarked, but I didn’t. Oti had said to wait, and it soon became clear the wisdom of that. Getting the Tragooms out in the open made it easier to finish them. I held as still as I could, waiting for Ebnad to move.
Four of them came into the room, looked around, and squinted their tiny eyes at the hole where I waited. Thank the prophets their eyesight was so damned bad. As little of a target as I’d made myself, any human or Kalquorian would have seen me within a second. The Tragooms did not.
As they stalked away from their ship, moving towards me, Ebnad jumped out from behind the scanner. He started blasting, so I did too. It looked like a pretty obvious signal to me. Oti fired from his position as well.
The Tragooms never had a chance. I think Ebnad hit three of them in his first volley. I’m not sure which of us took out the fourth. Ebnad probably could have taken all of them out by himself. Oti and I just added insult to the ambush.
Ebnad’s grin was all Nobek as he looked at us. “All right, let me look at this corridor you’re heading down just in case they sent a squad that way. Then you two are off.”
His bloodthirsty look faded when he saw the mess in the corridor. Oti was similarly taken aback. “You got through this?”
“Looks fun, huh?” I sighed, thinking about how it felt like I was re-entering a bad dream. “Get the stretcher, Oti. Let’s see if Resan pulled the ultimate stunt on me by dying when I went through so much to save his bastard ass.”
Oti crooked a brow at me as he turned to claim the emergency conveyance. “I heard you two hated each other before this.”
“We still do. Having to spend time in close quarters upped the animosity.”
Ebnad shook his head as he accompanied Oti through the wrecked and now bloodied rehab room on his way back to Medical. Since we’d heard no fighting coming from that quarter, it was a safe bet the section remained secure.
Oti jogged back to me with the hover stretcher keeping up with him. We set off.
Our journey was painfully slow what with the many piles of debris blocking our way. When we got to the wall of wreckage with the jagged hole through which I’d crawled, Oti shook his head. “Neither I nor this stretcher will fit through that.”
I holstered my blaster and swung the egg launcher from my shoulder. “I’ve got this to clear the way.”
Oti’s eyes went big. “Or finish off demolishing the area.”
“Have you got a better idea?”
He slowly shook his head. “Unfortunately, no. Let me get behind some of this other debris. Once you fire it, run like hell.”
“Seems like my modus operandi lately.”
Oti disappeared behind the heaps of junk. I backed up as far as I could and fired an explosive. The trigger made an unimportant clicking sound. There was a soft puff of wind as the egg left the chamber. Then I was off and running.
When the first tremor went off, I dove for cover. I landed facedown in rubble. Then there was a big boom that made my ears pop. When my hearing recovered, I heard particles sprinkling down like rain in the trees.
Oti peered around at me from behind the heap of wreckage he’d hid behind. “Are you all right, Shalia?”
I gave him a thumbs up. “Let’s see if we can get through now.”
Ha! I wish I’d had the egg shooter earlier. The blockage was cleared, all right. From the looks of things, a good portion of it had vaporized, the rest rendered into smaller chunks. We even had a little bit of level floor to walk on. We enjoyed the couple of yards we didn’t have to pick our way through.
There was one other spot in the corridor that I had to repeat the performance. Then we were miraculously at the crumpled door to Resan’s training room.
I handed Oti the egg launcher. “Let me make sure he’s even alive. If he is, I’ll get him as covered as possible before you blast a hole through.”
“That’s a tight fit for even you,” he observed, looking at the tiny opening I would wriggle through.
“Yeah. I know you’ve seen just about everything of me from my stints in Medical already, but be a good boy and avert your eyes when my shorts get peeled off,” I said. “All my dignity is borrowed at this point, and I’m heavily in debt.”
He laughed as I began to squeeze through. And yes, I did get stuck again. And yes, my shorts and underwear got left behind again. Oti passed them to me without comment, but I’m pretty sure I heard some muffled chuckles.
I yanked my clothes on quickly and hurried to Resan. I found him as I’d left him. His eyes were closed. He lay absolutely still. I was too late.
I crouched down, deflating with defeat. I hated the man, but I’d tried to help him. He’d saved my life. I had not been able to do the same for him.
“Damn you, Resan,” I sighed.
The son of a bitch’s eyes fluttered. They opened and focused on me. “Fuck. You again?” he muttered.
I laughed. “You asshole. I brought help, but he can’t get through the door.” To Oti, unseen beyond the wreckage I yelled, “He’s still alive!”
“Okay,” came the muffled response. “Let me know when you’re ready and I’ll blow the door.”
Resan already had a blanket covering him. I worked fast to get the most dangerous pieces of debris moved from between him and the door. Then I moved heavier, less dangerous pieces to help buffer the blast.
I pulled the blanket off the Dramok and crouched over him. The time had come. “Okay, Oti!” I yelled. I stretched out over Resan and covered us both with the blanket.
“You are hurting me, woman,” Resan wheezed in my ear. “Your carcass is a lot heavier than it looks.”
“Grenade blast and flying shrapnel will hurt more,” I returned. “At least being in pain will keep you from thinking any amorous thoughts of me being on top of you.”
He gagged. “Have no fear of that. The one time was temporary insanity. I’d rather fuck a dead Tragoom than you.”
“I can arrange that. Several times over.”
We didn’t have any time for further insults. A monstrous blast shook the room. I gritted my teeth, doing my best to shield Resan’s bigger body with my own as I felt shrapnel bite through the blanket.
Nothing big smashed against us. Oti’s voice sounded a few seconds later. “Shalia? Where are you?”
I rose up on my knees, and a layer of debris slid off. Oti stood barely a foot away. I got out of the way and he went to work.
I stepped back, relieved to have this part over. Now we had to run through the gauntlet one last time to get Resan to Medical. Once we did that, I planned to find a nice corner, curl into it, and go to sleep. After more pain meds. Inhalable pain inhibitor mist acted a lot faster than tabs, thank the prophets. I’d need it since my back was finding its voice again. When Tep and the rest were finished putting Resan back together, they could fix my complaints.
I still had plenty of explosives. I checked the charge on my percussion blaster. Only a quarter of it was left. I needed to get more power just in case Medical came under attack again. I sighed. Damn, I was tired.
“Shalia, could you help me get him on the stretcher?” Oti asked. “I’ve got him stabilized for the moment.”
“Sure.” I blinked to see the slight shimmer of a stasis field around Resan. He was unconscious as far as I could tell.
“I’ve got him set for static movement,” Oti said. “I’m going to tilt him on his side. I need you to hold him there until I get the stretcher under him.”
“Okay,” I said. I came over to kneel next to Resan.
The trainer’s hands were crossed over his chest. Oti had put on a kind of metal brace that enfolded Resan from the waist down to his feet. I supposed it was to keep him from shifting at all. I wondered if the Dramok would ever walk again.
Oti rolled the senseless Resan onto his side, and I held him still for the two seconds it took the medic to put the stretcher in place. I helped him settle the injured man on its surface and watched him secure everything. Oti stood and activated the stretcher, floating it about two feet above the floor. He closed up the trauma kit and stood, picking that up. “Okay, let’s get him back to Medical.”
I led the way, blaster at the ready in case we ran into trouble. “Is he going to live?” I asked.
“I can’t say for sure. Besides the probable spinal injury, he’s lost a lot of blood and who knows how bad the head trauma is.” Oti shook his head when I looked back at him. “He’s a tough bastard.”
“Yeah. He is that.”
With the worst of the barricades taken out, our trip through the Training Section went a lot faster than before. I ran ahead to the armory after explaining to Oti that my blaster needed more power.
“A good idea, but I’m hoping you don’t need it,” the Imdiko said. “The alarms are off now.”
He was right. The sirens, so distant from Resan’s training room as to be almost mute, had switched off while Oti had been treating him. I prayed it was a good sign. Maybe the fight was over. Maybe we had won.
I still hurried to the armory and got a fresh power pack. I came out to the corridor just as Oti floated Resan into the area. He looked grim.
“What?” I asked though I didn’t really want to know.
“Life signs are fluctuating,” Oti said, nodding to the indicators on the stretcher. “He doesn’t have much time left.”
That wasn’t the only problem. I heard approaching sounds, a bunch of running feet in the debris-choked hallway before me. Nobeks don’t make noise when they move. I braced myself for trouble, bringing my blaster up to bear on whoever came through those small mountains of wreckage. I cursed myself for not getting a fresh power pack for Oti’s blaster too, but it was too late to worry over sloppy planning. Man, I sucked at this.
My knees went weak when Oses, Ebnad, and a bunch of other uniformed Kalquorians came around the last pile of carnage. They jerked to a halt when they saw me standing there, ready to fire. I laughed and lowered my weapon. “Jeez, yell a warning next time,” I said.
The Nobeks in the detail moved aside to allow Tep and several other medics come through to claim Resan. It had been the medical staff making all the noise.
Oses regarded me with a real smile as he stepped forward. “You are a mess, pet. Yet you look better than anything else I’ve seen all day.”
I grinned and holstered the blaster. “I could say the same thing for you. Tell me you killed the bad guys.”
“Most of them. We’re hunting down the last of the attack party, both in and outside of the ship.”
“Are a lot dead on our side?” I asked another question before he could answer that one. “Anrel?”
Oses smiled tightly. “She’s fine. When we were boarded, the shuttles were evacuated with all the fighters we had protecting them. We lost no Mataras.”
I heaved a sigh of relief. That meant Betra was safe too.
Oses continued. “As soon as it’s verified we’ve eradicated all the boarders, we’ll bring the shuttles back. As for your first question, we’ve got a lot of casualties. Our two remaining destroyers are badly damaged, but they continue to fight.”
Tep and the rest hurried by with Resan’s stretcher between them. Tep looked grim and focused on his patient, but that didn’t keep him from calling to me. “Get to Medical now. I want you examined as soon as possible.”
Oses fell into step with me as I slowly obeyed. Ebnad and the other Nobeks, all part of the transport’s security, followed us. Boy, I really felt my back again. Even breathing started to hurt.
To take my mind off of it, I asked, “What about the battlecruiser?”
“Manned by Tragooms,” Oses said. “None of your people were involved. Same with the Bi’isil hunter-killers.”
I felt a little lighter hearing that Earthers had nothing to do with the attack. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Oses said, “Ebnad told me how you saved his squad and probably Medical from complete destruction. I am impressed, pet. Very impressed.”
I snorted. “I caught them by surprise is all. I swear I should have been dead several times over, Oses. I screwed up too many times.”
“Yet you made it through. You may have saved Resan’s life, something he’s not going to like hearing about.” Oses snickered. “You even went back with Oti as his protector. Oh, that reminds me.”
The weapons commander pivoted, his fist flashing out too fast to follow with the eye. Ebnad suddenly flew backwards into another man, his nose and lip spouting blood. He staggered, his eyes big as he looked at Oses.
Oses’ look could have froze Hell. “You had your duty to remain at Medical and protect it no matter what. Yet I owed you that and more for allowing Shalia to play security to retrieve Resan. If she had been killed, your life would have been mine.”
I half-expected Ebnad to start throwing punches or something. Instead, he straightened to his full height and bowed to Oses. “I have no excuse, Weapons Commander. I will not beg for your pardon as I do not deserve it.”
Oses bared his fangs at Ebnad for an instant. Then his fangs folded away, and he turned to me as if nothing had happened. “Let’s get you to Medical, pet.”