One by one the other prisoners joined Tager sitting down. The blank corridor remained washed in the glaring orange warning lights. Suddenly Tager’s ears picked out a sound from behind the heavy doors, through which Jumondo had been taken. Clattering. Voices. A bang.
Tager leaned forward, rising on his hands and knees. It was a fight. He bit his lip, anger flowing up through his veins until he wanted to gouge out a pair of eyeballs with his blue fingers. He caught Olper’s eyes, and read the grim expression: their crewmate was facing mutilation.
Helpless he crouched, tense as a cat. Fury pressed behind his eyes.
Two more loud clangs echoed through the thick metal doors. Then a clamor of voices. Finally silence. Tager refused to move his own eyes from the ember-orange portal; he refused to look at Olper.
The muffled sound of footsteps raided the room behind them. Tager didn’t flinch, unwilling to let anyone enter through the opposite door while he was unprepared to fight. But the footsteps sounded directly outside the door. They heard the code panel of the far side buzz in the negative.
Olper gruffly batted Tager’s arm, and jerked his head behind them. Reluctantly Tager half-turned to face the new unknown. He reached behind his back and clenched the grip of his concealed Krimo-7.
Two more buzzes. The door was stubbornly refusing someone access. Then a click, and a hiss. The portal pulled open.
Striped horns, a cyborg, Andross, and a half-pint android stood revealed.
“It’s them!” Shaak-Rom exclaimed.
Tager and Olper jumped up as the other moved forward. The words were flowing out his mouth like a 500 tetrabyte download, “They’ve got Jumondo for surgery! We hafta’ hurry! Com’on!”
He practically dragged Micron by the arm, feeling the strange synthetic fibers of his skin, and frightening solidity of his artificial muscles. The android compliantly followed to the next door, and Tager shoved him towards the control panel. Behind them Tager heard, Crimson stomping up.
“Who are these?” she demanded.
“They are other slaves,” Olper answered.
“Get them against the wall.”
Shaak-Rom was on their left. He lined himself up under the security camera and, like a pro-billiards player, bashed out the visual feed with his stone stick.
“Devil of a time finding you,” lectured Crimson.
Micron’s hack began to draw angry buzzes from the door panel.
“Hurry!” Tager urged uselessly, palming his weapon.
“Are you hurt?” asked Shaak-Rom placing a tropical hand on his shoulder.
“Ready to kill something!”
“I think they’re onto us,” Micron grimaced. He code-hacked for a moment longer and then commanded, “Everyone step back. This one is from Sirrus Police Academy.”
There was an anti-climactic pause. Suddenly the locking mechanism popped like a steel bubble. A series of vicious electronic grinds sounded, and suddenly the door vibrated open, slammed shut like jaws, and repeated the maneuver.
Between the chomping door panels voices shouted, and eerie blue light flickered. Tager could see a white surgical light beyond. The smell of formaldehyde and alcohol mixed the mining station’s gritty atmosphere. They saw a riot of bodies.
“Go!” Micron shouted.
Doors open, Crimson’s team surged forward.
Tager’s army training kicked in. He advanced between Crimson and Shaak-Rom, both hands steadying his K-7 pistol. The hoodlum orderlies swarmed towards them for a moment. Tager squeezed the trigger in rapid succession. The unmistakable crack of a projectile firearm sounded twice. The recoil was unfamiliar, after months of masers, but the two slugs stopped the first orderly in his tracks; he stumbled to the deck. A third crack and Tager sent a second foe jerking backwards. Shaak-Rom was moving ahead and Tager instinctively raised his weapon to prevent friendly fire. He heard a maser off to his right.
The orderlies cried out in panic and dove for weapons other than their hooks. But Shaak-Rom was already among them, disrupting their frenetic scrambling. Andross flanked up the right side, using a strange gauntlet-mounted device to launch darts or tranqs. Tager looked past crowd, and surgical tables and menacing shackles, to the table under the bright light. Jumondo’s gigantic frame was strapped there, immobile. Beyond Tager caught a glimpse of a retreating Gortassa in a stained medical smock.
“I’ve got him!” Tager shouted. Even as the words left his mouth he saw Olper fly over the closest med bed, already carrying a slaver’s hook. Tager instantly followed, sliding across a surgical table like a car hood. Urban and Desert.
They skirted the bed where Jumondo lay. Micron was already there, ripping open the Gorbaxian’s restraints. The mad surgeon was disappearing behind a rear door. Olper was slapping the ‘open’ button even as Micron yelled, “Be careful of booby traps!”
The door opened again and the pale green Gortassa stood at the far end of the hall keying another sequence into the distant door pad. Tager dropped to one knee and yelled, “Freeze!”
Olper stepped passed him and launched his long hook like a javelin. The projectile whistled through the air and struck the mad surgeon in the leg with crippling force. He stumbled and cried out. Olper was already running forward. The surgeon reached for the control panel again.
Tager shifted left on his knee. Aiming, he fired twice. Olper jumped aside with a curse, but the bullets had already passed him. The mad surgeon spasmed and fell back. Tager followed Olper down the hall, his bare feet padding quickly on the cold, dirty metal. Olper arrived first, reclaimed his hook, and pulled the surgeon to a seated position. He groaned, his right arm limp, shoulder bloodied.
Tager took one look at the pale green face and sickly nose tentacles and concluded, “That’s him.”
Shaak-Rom came clanking down the hall after them. The striped Trivven, imposing in his chunky rock-armor and long horns, rumbled in his deep voice, “Lomblurrg of Qualvana, you’re under arrest by order of the Galactic Precinct.”