Shaak-Rom handed Andross a pile of door charges. Usually Micron, Tager, or one of the other formally trained crew members handled their forced-entry explosives. But today, apparently, Shaak-Rom was qualified. Andross arched a suspicious eyebrow at the tangle of platiques connected by curly wires, like popcorn on a Christmas ribbon. “Yummy.” Andross snarked, “Is this for me or the pirates?”
Shaak-Rom either didn’t get it, or didn’t make time for the joke. Probably both. He just replied with war-painted calm, “The pirate vessel is attaching to the port side airlock. You will have to escape the starboard side, and make your way over the hull to the docking clamps to do sufficient damage to keep them from attaching this way.”
“I heard, I heard!” Andross rolled his eyes. “You gonna’ lock me out?”
Just them the other crew began to arrive, clanking down the step ladder and dropping to the floor. Shaak-Rom shook his tentacle and horned head. “I must equip the crew. Take Tager. He can operate the airlock.”
Tager had only just arrived. “Hey, what’s going on?”
“You’re comin’ with me Jewels!” Andross punched the Vizavian in his leather arm.
Tager gave Andross a look and clapped his hands to Shaak-Rom. “Toss.”
The zebra-devil tossed a maser into Tager’s open palms.
At the starboard airlock Andross clicked his helmet into place. The familiar hiss of pressurization almost made him nostalgic. He never wanted to be back on Talconis VII; but couldn’t help but savor the taste of his missile race winning streak. Hidey-ho. This was a different kind of race. His head’s-up display blinked to life, and the suit tightened around him as the air pressure built to keep his insides in. Feeling like a kid wrapped in too many winter coats, he pivoted awkwardly and grabbed magnetic clamps for his hull-crawl.
The airlock was open. Tager, sparkling like a tween girl’s jewelry box, stood at the control panel and jerked his chin. “In you go.”
“In I go, out I go,” Andross mumbled, waddling into the airlock. He auditory speakers relayed Tager’s final commands with a tinny finish.
“Doors closing. Depressurization in 4 minutes.”
Andross nodded. He heard the metal clank of the portal, and the hum of the magnetic seals. The airlock light went from solid green, to flickering. The head-up display warned external oxygen levels were dropping below safety limits. As they waited Andross planned. When the light flicked red, he tossed a thumbs-up over his shoulder. Another magnetic seal, a clamp vibration, and the external portal unlatched. It rolled away, into the bottomless pit of the starry void. Instantly the temperature took a noticeable dive.
“Right,” Andross waddled forward. “Shaak-Rom said over. I say under.” Less chance of being observed. Since all of space was a drop into infinity it really didn’t matter which way he crawled. Crouching he reached first one glove and then the other to attach the magnetic clamps to the outer hull. Once attached he stepped through the wavering field of artificial gravity. His feet slipped and drifted out into the void. For a moment he bobbed at the end of his own arms. “Diablos.” He activated his magnetic boots, and tightened his abs to bring his feet back towards the ship. With a click they touched down. He risked a free hand to wave back to Tager. Then, already losing his sense of the ship’s deck, he adjusted to his new “up.” The belly of the habitorial section of the Rival Bay became his floor. Feeding off the exhilaration of his risky assignment, Andross began his spacewalk.
Only the sound of his own breathing accompanied him. After a moment or two of awkward crawling Andross risked standing to his feet. The boots weren’t as strong of a connection as the hand clamps, but for walking they were reliable. And he was in a hurry. Moving with the delicacy of a bird across lily pads, Andross picked his way along the Rival’s keel and towards the opposite airlock. He slowed as he neared the edge. Momentarily he saw the pirate’s raptor closing its approach—within 100 feet. He crouched and continued towards the edge, keeping its P4 combustion thrusters just in view. He wouldn’t have long to reach the airlock after the pirates did, and to set the charges, and escape the blast radius. Good luck to him.
A faint shudder through his feet informed the MiPie that the Hunting Knife had made contact with the Rival. Now or never. He toddled forward, like a top heavy child, bringing himself to the edge of the Rival’s underside, and looked up at the Type II Raptor. He whistled in envy: hot new Zilvan maneuvering thrusters; the P4 combustion thrusters, clearly modded; magnetic grappling cannons; and lo and behold… they did have armaments! If they had wanted to, those torpedo hatches likely carried fusion torpedos, if not Spikers. The wings were slanted, and from the front it probably looked like a bird of prey. Purple paint on the wing and nose section made for a sporty touch. Style!
The nose of the vessel was large and round, fitted with the airlock, for fast approach and attachment.
“It’s a shame, Gorgeous! I’d like to take you for a spin….” Andross shook his head, and used his hand clamps to wriggle over the edge of the Rival. He clambered along the dingy, battered, old hull towards the sleek attack craft. He gave another quick scan of the pirate vessel to ensure no view ports were looking down on his silent assault. Satisfied, he risked a peppier flamingo march. If the pirates didn’t blow the Rival’s hatch completely, it still wouldn’t take them long to force it from their side. Time was tickin’.
Sticking his hand clamps safely on the Rival’s hull, so the pirates wouldn’t hear them clank, he awkwardly slung the coils of wires off his shoulder and over his helmet’s dome. Somehow the vacuum of space made even his own decisive movements clunky and slow. Feeling about as clever as a child playing with clay he pulled off clumps of the all-purpose adhesive plastique. Jamming it into various crevices of the airlock connection he hummed, “Make it look like an accident… make look like an accident!” with each wad he squashed into place.
His eyes flicked over the chronometer in his heads-up display. Four minutes since the pirates attached. Too long really. His breathing hissed repeatedly in the respirator function. Attaching the wires, he connected the detonator. Hand clamps be damned. He turned and toddled away as fast as he could, arms flailing slowly like seaweed in an unseen current.
It was tricky getting under the hull, around the corner from the blast, without the clamps. But after a moment of awkward crouching, the stars hanging ominously overhead, he made it.
Five-minutes 35 seconds. He squeezed the detonator.
“Fire in the hole.”