“We have money!” Crimson added quickly, “There’s no need to any trouble!”
“We’ll see,” replied Galhaan. “We will board at your port airlock. No weapons. Any aggression will be met with extreme force.”
Crimson couldn’t let that happen. “We’ve sustained damage to our airlocks. In the attempt to escape the magnetic mine. You won’t be able to board from there.”
Galhaan smiled humorlessly. “I’m sure. We’ve detected no structural faults. We will proceed as I have said. Galhaan out.”
The hologram disappeared.
Crimson swore, “Snake spit!” and turned to look at Clidjitt and Andross. Councilman Joffs burst out of the Archive from behind the bridge, Shaak-Rom directly behind him.
“They’re boarding us?! Can’t you do anything? Why aren’t we running?”
“Get him out of here!” Crimson barked.
“Captain!” Joffs burbled, taking the stance of a cornered but indignant cow, “We agreed to this journey under the condition that every precaution would be taken! I’ll not—”
“GET. HIM. OUT!”
Shaak-Rom attempted to lay a restraining hand on the councilman’s shoulder, but the portly representative shook it off. His fingers pointed wildly. “This isn’t happening! You have an obligation to…”
Clidjitt inserted his insectoid head into the fray before Crimson and the councilman could collide. He bubbled and clicked rapidly, and the translator followed quickly. “The pirate vessel would out pace and out gun us! Any attempt to run would result in the Rival being blown to bits!” the voice was happy-go-lucky as ever, but the contradiction of tone momentarily dis-railed the councilman. “Every attempt will be made to prevent the pirates from boarding. Remember: they want the Rivals, not your people!”
“But if they take you where will we be left?” asked Joffs, nearly purple from his frenzy.
“You’ll find out over our dead bodies!” Crimson snapped, “Now get out! We don’t have time for this!”
Shaak-Rom steered the colonist representative away, with soothing instructions to prepare his people.
Crimson diverted her Mindframe back to the problem at hand. “We can’t let them board. I need to keep them off the airlocks!”
“We don’t have weapons, and we can’t fly anywhere,” Andross replied helpfully.
“What could keep the seal from being made?” Clidjitt asked.
“Likely they have their own systems to compensate for uncooperative victims. It’d have to be actual structural damage.”
“Can we close the magnetic clamps and seal them before they attach?”
“They might be able to establish their own gangplank anyway.”
“What if the magnetic seals’ polarity was on the fritz?” Clidjitt affected a shrug.
“It might be enough,” Crimson grimaced. “Can you do it?”
“I’ll have to rip off the terminal and dig around,” sing-songed the Brev.
Shaak-Rom was coming back down the corridor to the Bridge.
“What about me?” Andross complained.
“That suit of yours EVA capable?”
The MiPie looked down at his armor without conviction. “For short periods.”
“You’re the backup plan. Shaak-Rom! Get the door-charges from the Armory; I want something to create enough damage to disrupt the pirates’ gang plank. Andross will rig it from outside. We can’t have them board at the habitat level! If we can get them to into Shuttle Bay 2 we can fight them there in your little obstacle course. Pass out every maser we have!”
The Trivven nodded his rack of horns, turned and ran back down the hall. Clidjitt had already departed, and Andross followed, surprisingly eager. He couldn’t resist a parting shot, though: “What are you gonna’ do?”
Crimson dropped herself on the pilot’s seat. “I’m going to keep playing nice.” As Andross trotted off, she opened a general Linkburst to the pirate vessel. “Hunting Knife this is Rival Bay. Be advised we have lost control of our magnetic seals. I repeat airlock seals are malfunctioning. We recommend you dock in our shuttle bays…”
Andross liked a bit of danger. He didn’t like suicide; but he liked a bit of danger. Something about tangling with an inter-planetary hit squad in the back end of a star system had a romantic feeling to it. Of course, he hadn’t tried his 1 Unit Missile Pilot suit in the vacuum of space before. MiPies, as a general rule, flew one way trips either within the atmosphere or out of it. But they didn’t usually come back. They needed to be pressurized, or else the pilots would black out and die before reaching their targets. But as a five-time champ of the Talconis VII missile races, he’d definitely outlived the average life expectancy. That was one of the reasons he left Talconis VII. Titles were worthless once you were dead. Five was enough.
Now, following the stripy devil Trivven down the corridor to the habitat level, he found himself wondering if he’d incurred any fatal scratches to the nostalgic pilot suit… and if he could remember where he put the helmet!
Unfortunately, the habitat level was an eruption of frightened and angry sphere-huggers! The din from shouting colonist was audible long before the MiPie and chief of security galloped down the step ladder from the command level. When they arrived at the Circle, it was a confusion of bodies pressing in on Councilman Joffs, as the portly colonist rep tried to wave the hordes back. A few crewmen, Tager, Olper and the furry space troll Jumondo were also trying to keep the surging crowd from advancing on the bridge.
Shaak-Rom hesitated, observing the pandemonium, and Joffs spotted him. The Trivven had been surprisingly friendly with the colonists, and Andross rolled his eyes. There would be no speedy dash to the quarters for his helmet, and trip to the Armory.
“Chief Rom!” called Joffs, a fleeting relief dashing across his desperate face, “What is happening? Can you tell us: what are we supposed to do?”
Andross rapidly bounced his leg, but he saw the white face marking of the warrior soften and knew they were stopping.
Shaak-Rom stepped forward and climbed onto one of the white pleather couches. He held his red hands aloft, and suddenly the horns, head tendrils, and red and white face rose above the crowd like a war-painted clan-chieftain.
“Send everyone back to their quarters!” He commanded, loud enough for many nearby to pause in their panic. “Have each family barricade themselves as best they can. Then any able-bodied persons willing to fight return here and wait at the Circle for my return. The Rival will fight for you, but any extra armaments or defense will be distributed to those who are willing to help defend your people!”
Strangely, the speech worked. The crowd quieted, except for a few anxious babies. Andross nodded in shocked respect. The councilman, for all his frizzyness, didn’t miss his cue: “You heard the chief! Everyone to your quarters and block yourselves in! Then if you wish to help, come back here and await Chief Rom’s instructions!” After a moment’s hesitation, and with continued shooing from the councilman, the crowd began to push and shove their way back towards their quarters.
“Nicely done,” Andross snorted.
Tager, and the other blue Vizavian Olper, trotted up as Shaak-Rom jumped down from the furniture. “What in the void of space is going on!” the leather clad young soldier with the numerous face piercings asked. Andross understood the piercings (and their positioning on the body) were ceremonial, awarded for various accomplishments. He wondered how they rewarded good sex.
“We’re being boarded. Crimson is going to try and force the pirates away from the civilians. Get the others and meet me by the Armory!”
“Right!” Tager, Olper , Jumondo nodded and dispersed into the throng in search of the crew.
“Come on,” Shaak-Rom gestured to Andross.
“I need my helmet. I’ll meet you down there.”
Andross turned and waded into the surging confusion of bodies. Fortunately he wasn’t carrying his prized possessions or a screaming baby. He turned his left side forward and knifed through the crowd as a brisk skip, shoving generously. “’Scuse me! Pard’me!” The farmers and homestead-folk were more than useless in this situation. Their helpless fear made him feel powerful. The theme song of Thunder Rockets holo-series started running though his mind. “Dun da-da-dun, da-da-dun, dun-daaaaa!” he said as he squeezed past the mob, and latched onto his door wheel. He gave it a spin and heaved it open against the pressing bodies.
Inside, in the darkness, he stepped around his chair and table piled with cold plates and old clothes. If it was anywhere the MiPie helmet was on the storage shelf in the recessed closet. It wasn’t really lost. Just hadn’t used it since Talconis. He flung the door open and in the thin light from the ajar door he saw the familiar glint across the polished face plate. “Party time.”
Seizing it, he skipped quickly out and down to the Armory.