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Crisis on OSIRIS Base

POV: Daeus Jacks, during the crisis on OSIRIS base

DAEUS JACKS stood at the door to the lunch room trying to make sense of what was coming over his comm. Too was back on the ship screaming about 'intruders' and 'all hell breaking loose' before the doctor switched off as if to take care of something more important.

The pilot grimaced. What could be more important than letting the rest of the crew in on what was wrong on the Harrier? The good doctor had yelled loud enough to garble the message and was a little hysterical. Then, poof. No more reply from the ship.

Daeus had a bad feeling about this trip from the start. Not that the first two jumps were any better, mind you. They had blasted their way off Aramis after robbing the Leedor museum. Then they had to infiltrate the communications control station at the Tukera ship yards on Natoko to cover their tracks from the job on Aramis. Two security guards and three innocent people had been killed then. What made him think that this third jump would be any better, he didn't know.

It was those damned Jade-Londonists that sparked his caution. As soon as he found out that the low berthers they were transporting had contact with that particular Tureded House, the feeling had set in. It was the same feeling that the whole crew had felt, but, for Daeus, it made his spider sense tingle. When that sixth sense alerted him, Daeus usually tried to be extra careful. That's why he had packed the 10mm snub when he left the ship. Now he stood at the door to the lunch room. One hand held the communicator and the other held the gun.

"Where are your weapons stored?" It was Ulric yelling at one of the six station employees there with them in the room. Daeus had tried to clean up the message from Too, and some of the others had heard enough of the transmission from the hand unit to get an idea of the trouble on the ship. A few moments passed as everyone digested what was going on, and Ulric had to repeat the question. The reply came back that the station's personnel weapons were located in medical in the center of the station.

Daeus couldn't get a reply from the ship, so he slipped the comm on his belt, raised his weapon at the ready, and slammed his free hand against the door release button. This was rapidly turning into a combat situation. Combat was something that he was trained for, and he knew that hesitation usually meant death.

The door slid to the side. Daeus already had his pistol centered in the classic combat stance with his right hand bracing his firing arm and his legs spread to shoulder width.

Nothing. Immediately outside the door, it was quiet. There was nothing but the sound of the air filtration system.

Bending his arms at the elbows, Daeus kept his grip but moved the gun to point at the ceiling. He took a step to the edge of the opening and peered around into the corridor.

Again, it was quiet, and he saw nothing in either direction down the hallway.

He turned to face the others, "OK, two objectives. We try to reach the Harrier and we pick up the weapons along the way."

Nobody said anything in reply. In fact, nobody said anything at all. The six station personnel and the other three Harrier crew members just stared back at him blankly.

Daeus took that as an affirmative. He was, after all, the ranking combat specialist in the room. He didn't expect an argument from Ulric, the ship's minority owner, and he didn't get one.

Putting his mind back on the task at hand, Daeus jutted out across the 14 meter wide hallway and slammed a shoulder up against the other side. Still nothing out of the ordinary down either way, he edged to the intersection with the corridor that led back to the ship. He poked and eye around the corner, and again, it was clear.

He looked back at the door. One of the station personnel ran across the hallway to the spot directly behind Daeus, and Glynn was standing in the doorway staring at him with an expectant look.

The steward silently wanted to know the status down the hallway. Daeus gave him a negative nod. Then he leaned back around the corner to look down the hallway. There were too many civilians here that could get hurt, and it was Daeus' responsibility to make sure that it didn't happen.

A couple of quick footsteps echoed from behind the pilot, and before he could turn to see who it was, Glynn Connal passed him, tearing ass down the hallway back towards the ship.

Daeus looked at the others crowded in the open doorway for an explanation before the station man behind him jumped from the wall, ran around Daeus, and took off after the steward.

Daeus jerked his head back at the too fools tracking down the hallway. Air broke from his lips, "Shit."

He knew he couldn't let them go alone. He was the only one in the group with a weapon. With a look and a nod at the others in the doorway, Daeus swung his snub around the corner to cover the two fleeing idiots.

The two were half way to the intersection. The pilot nodded for the others to follow then broke into a jog behind Glynn and his new partner.

He made his way close to the right side of the corridor. There were doors sporadically spaced down either side of the door. Each could hold some sanctuary if someone started firing at you. You didn't want to be out in the open in this situation. It was evident that the other two didn't know this because both Glynn and the station man were hauling ass right down the middle.

Daeus had made it about three quarters of the way when Glynn and the other man disappeared around the left side of the "T" intersection at the end of the hallway. The others were in a group jogging about 25 or 30 meters behind him. Daeus did a sprint across to the left side of the hallway when Glynn came running back from where he had come.

The steward was waving his arms, "Go back. For Christ's sake, go back!"

Just a fraction of a moment later the station man was following Glynn's lead--except he didn't slow to turn back this way toward Daeus and the others as Glynn had. Daeus saw him run across his line of vision down the right side of the "T".

There was trouble up ahead, it was obvious. A few short steps, and Daeus was at the left side corner of the intersection. He transferred his gun to his right hand and poked both his arm and the top of his head around the corner to get a good shot at whoever was coming down the hallway.

But Daeus had to hesitate. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. There around the corner were eight individuals fresh from cold sleep. A couple of kids, a couple of women, and a few men were all naked except for the thin paper garment they wrap you in when they put you under. Standing in their bare feet, the electrode connections were still connected to their heads.

What was more out of place were the weapons. All the children had high tech gauss pistols. The adults carried assault rifles, and Daeus could make out the tell tale bulges of ammo belts under the paper sheets.

Immediately, the lead low berther, a little boy, looked him straight in the eye with a blank expression on his face. The big gauss pistol looked too heavy for the child to wield, but the boy drew it up singled handed. He knocked off a shot at Daeus' exposed head without aiming.

The shot nearly killed the pilot. A millimeter to the left and Daeus would have been hit right between the eyes. A perfect kill shot.

Instead, the bullet grazed the wall, blowing out shrapnel at eye level. A good sized piece of the wall shot into Daeus' forehead, and the pilot went down. The skin on his forehead split open, and blood flooded out of his head. Luckily, his skull was not penetrated.

Daeus didn't know what hit him. One moment he was taking aim at the low berthers, the next, he was unconscious. He didn't even know he had hit the ground.

It was the loud boom of automatic fire echoing in the spacious hallway that woke him up. His eyes stung from all the blood on his brow, and his head felt like someone had smacked him with a fusion power nail gun.

Mechanically, he used his sleeve to soak the blood from his eye sockets, and he sat up bracing himself on the floor with one hand.

Automatic fire was destroying the wall on the opposite side of the corridor. All the people in the group he was supposed to be protecting were in a dead run around the corner in the direction the first station man, the one that had been following Glynn, had taken. Daeus didn't have time to think of why no one was stopping to help him. With all the blood, maybe they thought he was dead.

The pilot could see the low berthers. Four of them--a man, a woman, and two children--had spread out across the corridor and were spraying automatic fire into the group of his friends. The other four had turned around and broke into a calculated trot back down the way they had come. Daeus could guess that he had only been out a matter of seconds.

A couple of the people in the group went down--hit by the hail of bullets emanating from the assault guns carried by the low berthers. Expertly handling their weapons, the man, woman, and little girl were emotionlessly murdering the pilot's friends.

Daeus wasn't sure who had gotten hit, but he did see Ms. Rygoff, the low berth supervisor from the jump, take one through the back. There was an invisible blow that lifted her into the air. Before she hit the ground, her chest had exploded. The intruders were using some sort of high explosive round.

Fighting to see and keep the blood out of his eyes, Daeus struggled to get up. His movements caught the attention of the little bastard that had shot him in the first place. The little boy was closest to the hallway intersection on the end of their firing line just a few paces away. If the kid had his weapon, Daeus would have been dead, but as luck would have it, the child had simply dropped the weapon to his feet. Daeus caught sight of the gauss pistol with its barrel protruding from the end of the gun and the chamber stuck in the open position. The pilot recognized a jammed gun when he saw one. First the millimeter of wall saved his life then the shooter's gun jammed. Somebody up there liked him.

But Daeus guessed that whoever it was up there didn't like him enough. When Daeus was hit, he must have thrown his gun forward, because the next time the pilot wiped the blood to see, the little boy was about 5 meters in front of him bending down to pick up Daeus' own 10mm snub.

With every ounce of his strength, Daeus pulled himself up--bracing himself on the wall. He pressed his sleeve to his forehead to keep the blood out of his eyes and hopped the two paces to the door behind him. He stole a look in the direction of the little boy and prayed that the door was not locked. The boy had crossed two thirds the distance towards Daeus and was raising the pistol as the pilot jabbed a bloody thumb onto the door release.

Daeus' prayers were answered, and the door immediately slid open. Daeus jumped through. The boy was so close he could reach out and touch him. If the pilot hadn't been so close to the wall, he wouldn't have made it through before the boy shot him. Thank God for his training.

Daeus swung three-sixty around to see the boy, gun raised, about to follow him into the room. The pilot's thumb hit the close button first, and the door slid shut almost taking the kid with it.

Frantically, Daeus typed in a manual lock code. He hoped it was faster than the boy could open it from the other side. If the controls on a door of this type were operated on both sides at once, one side would deacitvate defering to the first command received. Daeus could hear the buzzer sound on the opposite side of the door as the boy repeatedly hit the open switch, but Daeus beat him by a fraction of a second. His commands took precedence because he had hit the controls first from this side.

A moment later, the red lock light appeared. The door was secure, and Daeus was safe for the moment. The door and wall were reinforced, and there was no way the kid was getting through with only the pilot's snub. Then Daeus remembered. Those big units on the underside of the adults' assault rifles. They had grenade launchers too.

His sleeve was soaked with blood, and Daeus had to use his other arm to wipe the blood again away from his eyes. He studied the wall. Grenade launchers, uh? Maybe it would hold; maybe it wouldn't.

Safe for the moment, the pilot turned to examine his surroundings. He was in some type of barracks or common room. The room was large and well lit. There were bunks, stacked three high, dotting most of the center area. Lockers lined the walls. It looked a lot like some of the military bases he had been stationed at during his 16 years in the Imperial Navy.

There were two other doors exiting the room. One was in the right wall and was of a smaller, less sturdy nature. Daeus thought it probably led to the common rest/bath room. The other door was exactly like the one he was leaning against.

Daeus shoved off the wall and walked over to that one. He was getting some of his strength back, and his head only felt like it had been hit by a sledge hammer now. Daeus slapped the release to open the door and did a fast take out into the hallway. It led right and left, and the pilot could still hear automatic fire coming from the right.

Pulling back in, Daeus typed in another lock code and only turned from the door when the red security light came on.

His left sleeve was becoming soaked as well, but Daeus knew that he first had to secure the room before he could tend to his wound. Moving to the smaller door, Daeus went through the same motions. He knew that he would not be that good in a hand to hand fight right now--especially if he got hit in the head, and he didn't have any weapons. Hell, he couldn't even see, but he damn well was going to take every advantage he could by moving through an unknown doorway as he was trained to do in case there was someone on the other side.

It turned out to be the bath room, as Daeus had suspected, and no one was there. The room was empty and secure for the time being.

Daeus ripped a sheet to wrap around his head. It was a temporary bandage that would do for now. He looked at himself in the mirror, and if it didn't hurt so bad, he would have laughed. He looked like a red Indian with a turban and a Frankenstein brow from the swelling starting to set in. His whole torso was drenched in blood, and he reminded himself of a worker in a groat slaughter house on Focaline. Daeus knew he had to move fast because his eyes may be swollen shut before long.

It took a few minutes to search the room. He was looking for weapons or a first aid kit. He didn't find either. All of the lockers were empty. It seemed that this room wasn't in use for the moment. It was probably built to house workers when they were mining this side of the asteroid. In the lunch room, the station people had explained that most of the mining had moved to the opposite side. The only connection between here and there was an airless, zero-G connection port. Well, if it came to that, the room was equipped with an emergency vacc suit and Portable Life Support System, although the PLSS was only good for 4 hours.

With the search completed, Daeus decided to do a better job on his head. He couldn't afford to pass out from blood loss. Then he would get on the comm and try to raise the ship or whoever he could catch listening. It was strange that he hadn't heard anything else from any of the other crew members. He hoped to hell that the reason for that was that they were all busy and not dead.

Another quick, but better, sheet job done on his forehead, Daeus picked up his comm. "Harrier come in, this is Jacks."

There was nothing but static on the line. He tried again. "Harrier, do you read me? This is Jacks. Too, are you there?"

Again, no answer--only static. "Well Jacks," he said to himself, "it looks like you're going to have to save your own ass."

He moved over to the second outer door and listened. He couldn't hear anything but the quiet in his own room. These were definitely reinforced walls. They were probably designed to secure the atmosphere in case of a station emergency. Most living quarters on bases were.

Daeus tapped the lock code, and the door slid open. It was quiet in the hall, and he could no longer hear any gun fire. Were they all dead?

He stepped out in the hall. Nothing happened. There was no ambush by that little bastard kid--an expert one handed shot.

He took a few steps, cautiously, to the right. The end of the hall should circle around to where the low berthers were murdering his friends. But he had to be cautious because he did see the other four of them trotting down this way.

He had almost reached the end of the corridor when he heard several loud explosions. They were definitely coming from the direction he was walking, but farther away than the ambush site he had left a short time ago. He stopped in his tracks and listened. The explosions happened a few times, paused, then continued a few more times. At first, he thought the low berthers were using their grenade launchers, but then he realized that those were starship weapons.

They were still alive! Probably making a stand on the Harrier, no doubt, but still alive. He sure would like to see what those guns would do to the little bastard that gave him this head ache.

Daeus turned and moved back to the security of the room. He needed to think. The Harrier would have a tough time navigating the asteroid field without a pilot, and he was the only person qualified. Of course, he didn't much like the prospect of being left here with those murdering things either, but it wasn't only his own life he was trying to save. The others needed him too.

Back in the room, he typed in the lock code. A light was flashing, silently, on a panel beside the door. It was the inter-station comm. Looking at the unit, Daeus noticed that it had limited station computer access. This was where the attention light was blinking--not from the comm.

Pressing the receive button, there was a general warning displayed on the screen. Daeus' heart dropped.

"Oh, shit!"

The primary and secondary reactors were on a count down to explode, but there was no count down time. In that part of the display, it read "00.00".

Daeus jammed the send button on the inter-station comm and tried to reach somebody--anybody. He was greeted again with static.

The pilot bowed his head. Somebody wanted them all dead. They had substituted some type of high tech androids for the family members of the station personnel and programmed them to blow the place to Kingdom Come. The androids were taking out the others with their automatic weapons--keeping the humans busy while some others disabled communications and rigged the reactors to blow. If the primary didn't go, the secondary sure would.

Beautiful. Just fucking perfect.

Daeus eyeballed the timer. It was still on "00.00". That meant that the place should have already gone up. The androids probably disabled the display to add more confusion.

Daeus took a double take. Then why was the message here at all?

There was only one answer. Somebody was working against the androids in one of the computer mains. That's why there was no general alarm. The androids probably wanted to blow the place up without any warning, so they disabled the warning system. Somebody had found out and was trying to let everyone in the station know by using the computer system--since all the comms were out.

As if to answer Daeus' thoughts, the timer kicked in. It read 11.4 minutes.

"Hoo-leee Fuck."

Then, as Daeus watched, the readout switched to another emergency screen. The pilot tapped the screen and saw that the station had been decompressed! The lock on the door switched to a different shade of amber. It was the emergency seals to secure the room against vacuum.

Daeus had been right about the reinforced walls. Just a few moments before he had been standing in the outer hall way--a hallway that no longer had any air. What made him turn around and come back in here instead of venturing farther down the hallway? Whatever it was, it had just saved his life. That's two close calls in less than half an hour.

He didn't hear anything because sound doesn't travel in vacuum. That means that the leak is a distance away, or he would have at least felt something. He remembered what he thought were the guns on the Harrier. They probably hit the wrong wall.

The timer on the wall screen was clicking down. He had to get out of here. And, this new development just made that task harder.

He moved to the emergency vacc suit locker. It took him a little longer than usual to suit up because of his head. If he blacked out, he was dead.

Suit and PLSS on, he grabbed his gauntlets and helmet and moved to the door. He typed in a manual override and set it for 12 seconds. That's how long he guessed it would take him to cross the room and barricade himself in the bathroom to guard against explosive decompression.

With the manual override primed, he first locked on his helmet, then he set the controls on the PLSS and locked his gauntlets on.

His gloved finger touched the control to start the 12 second door release delay when an explosion rocked the room. This one was close--so close that he thought the reinforced wall would shred apart. It was apparent that something big had blown right outside the door.

He caught his right boot behind his left in the bulky suit and tripped to the floor. He hadn't gotten 12 centimeters from the door, much less across the room, when it slid open.

Daeus did what he could to put his arms over his helmet and crouch into the fetal position as he was sucked out into the hallway with everything else not tied down in the room. He saw a glimpse of flame that enveloped him and caught some of the flying bed coverings on fire as he flew 15 meters into the wall on the opposite side of the corridor.

He hit the wall first on the back of his helmet, and his head jerked to slam against the inside of his head covering. He then immediately dropped 5 meters straight to the floor because of the still functioning grav plates. The last thing he saw was the flames smothering on his arm as all of the oxygen blasting from the room rapidly depleted from the area. His last thought was that he would have burned up if the flames' fluel hadn't left so quickly.

For the second time in 30 minutes, he woke from unconsciousness induced from head trauma. He lay crumpled up against the wall with several pieces of half burnt pillows, sheets, and blankets from the room. There were dark places all over his vacc suit from places where it had caught fire. It was a miracle that the integrity of the suit had not been compromised from all of the burned areas.

Where did all this flame come from?

Some of the lighting in the corridor was struggling to stay lighted, and Daeus turned his head to see the problem. There, at the end of the hall way was a hole--a giant hole where the medical department used to be.

Daeus found his way up. The blood from his head wound had soaked his makeshift bandage and was beginning to drip into his eyes again. Inside his helmet, he could do nothing about it.

He made his way down the corridor keeping one hand on the wall for support. At the end, he could see that the entire wall, ceiling, and floor had been scorched, and the light panels towards the hole were melted. The floor at the end of the corridor was torn up, and items of debris were floating because the grav plates had been destroyed.

Down at the opposite end of the corridor, the scorch marks were lighter, and the damage wasn't as bad. It started to make sense to him. The medical section was the station's life pod. Somebody was in there and hit the eject button to escape the reactor explosion. They had probably seen the computer message too.

The station design made more sense to him now. The medical section was a self contained unit in the center of the base. The four wide, long hallways served as channels to direct the life pod lift engines. This being a tech level 9 station, the drive was probably chemical. By directing the heat through the hallway channels, it preserved the rest of the station from unnecessary damage. That's why those walls were so reinforced. They were built to withstand the ejection of the life pod.

It was just Daeus' misfortune that he set the door to open just as the life pod was taking off. He fell from the vibration, the door opened, and he was sucked into the last of the chemical blast from the life pod. Six seconds earlier and Daeus would have been as melted as the light fixtures.

Maybe his head wound was a blessing in disguise. If it hadn't been for it, he would have gotten his suit on quite a bit faster, would have been out in the hallway, and would have been a crusty mess burnt on the floor. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Daeus tested where the grav plates had failed. It was a strange thing to have gravity in one spot and no gravity in another spot just one millimeter away.

Daeus could see across the pit made by the pod to the far side corridor leading to the Harrier. He had to traverse this now. There was no telling how much time he had left before the reactors went. The ship could already be gone, they could all be dead, or he could get caught in the explosion as he moved, but he was going to try. He had come too far not to.

Besides, somebody up there liked him.

Daeus is a specialist in zero-G maneuvering, but that only made him realize how tricky crossing this pit was going to be. He wasn't outside a ship, scrambling around on a hull. He was moving from a gravity environment to a non or low gravity environment. Some of the grav plates out there could only be damaged and not destroyed. There is no telling what type of pulls he was going to encounter crossing to the other corridor. When some force acts upon you in zero G, you go in the opposite direction--no 'ifs', 'ands', or 'buts'. And, you keep going that way until another force acts upon you. He could end up on the wrong side of the pit and have an even longer path to cross. Just the time it takes to compensate could burn up valuable minutes and ensure the he got caught in the reactor explosion.

Well, what the hell. He couldn't stay where he was. No guts, no glory.

Daeus jumped into the zero-G area in an attempt to somersault onto his back and push off the wall with his feet. He didn't quite make that maneuver. Only one leg lightly touched the protrusion on the corridor giving him an uneven shove, and his leg hyperextended to shoot him in the wrong direction. There was a momentary pull as he soared threw a weak, but still functioning, grav field. Weak it was, but it was also enough of a force to shoot him down the wrong way just as he had feared.

He flew in a 15 degree angle toward the bottom of the pit and slammed his back up against the jagged rock. It knocked the wind out of his lungs when he hit, but he reacted quickly and grabbed a piece of construction wire protruding from a fallen piece of flooring before he bounced away. He could just see himself being bounced out the hole in the ceiling--out into space where he would be caught in the blast of the asteroid being blown up.

He floated on his back, anchored by his grip on the construction wire. At first, he thought that he had punctured his suit when he hit the jagged rock, but then he realized that the sharp pain he was feeling was just the bruise damage he had sustained.

As he caught his breath, Daeus used the wire to swing himself around on his belly. His feet were floating up higher than his head, and he looked like a diver on the bottom of the ocean.

It was now apparent that it was too dangerous to project himself across the pit. He opted for a safer, albeit slower, mode of zero-G travel.

Hand over hand, Daeus found anchored handles to pull himself across the bottom. It took some time, but he managed to push off from one hold in the direction of another, catch himself, and move to the next. Precious moments later, but without further incident, Daeus made it to the correct corridor.

The trick here was to push himself gently in low enough to land on his feet when he entered the gravity area. He was on the side of the crater, trying to angle up past the broken floor to the corridor. Daeus gauged it, but he didn't take too much time because he had wasted so much already. He went with his first instinct and pushed off.

The angle was too steep, and he over shot his aiming point. The blood was stinging his eyes and droplets floated around in his helmet. He felt like he was looking through a red fish tank with bubbles.

Out into the corridor, Daeus shot, and when the gravity kicked in, he fell like a rock. He tried to roll his feet beneath him, but he only got his knees up and hands out, in the doggie style, as he crashed to the floor.

The pain shot up his legs from his shins to his head. Damn, he hoped he hadn't broken his leg after all of this.

A moment passed, and he forced movement. Yes, he could move it. It couldn't be broken.

He struggled up, favoring one leg and bracing himself against a chunk of blasted wall. Using the wall as a crutch again, he moved on down the corridor towards the hangars. He spotted large blast holes in the wall separating the corridor from where the Harrier was housed. Daeus noticed that the debris was on this side of the wall. This must be the result of the use of the Harrier's weapons that he had heard, in what seemed like, hours before.

Daeus edged his way to the first opening that he could walk through and peaked around into the hangar. Whoever was in the ship's starboard turret saw him immediately, and the twin laser cannons swung a fraction into his direction.

For a moment, the pilot thought he was dead. He waved his hand frantically, and to his relief, the guns never opened up.

Stepping through the wall, he skipped as best he could towards the ship. The guns continued to track him. "You idiot," he thought, "the androids don't need a vacc suit." But maybe the gunner knew this, because he didn't shoot.

Daeus caught a glimpse of another hole in the wall. This one went straight out into space, and it was evident where the station's decompression had started.

The starboard side air lock broke open, and the stair ramp moved down. Daeus noticed more floating debris, and by the destruction of the cargo/shipping grav plates just below the laser turret, he guessed that it had become necessary to knock out the grav units underneath the ship.

Daeus was more careful this time. He used his hand over hand method to crawl to the ship. He couldn't afford to make a mistake and go spiraling out through the hole in the side of the hangar.

He reached the stair ramp and carefully pulled himself up. A moment later, he was in the lock--navigating the ladder to the bridge. The iris hatch opened before he got there, and the Captain and Gvoudzon helped to pull him up.

They got his helmet off and blood dripped from it to the deck.

The Captain's face crinkled, "Oh my God."

Before he knew it, they had his suit off and the doctor had given him something for the pain. The towel came off, and Too put some sort of clotting agent on his wound. It burnt like hell, but at least his vision was much clearer.

As the doctor worked on Daeus, the others helped the Captain suit up in another vacc suit. The Baron looked at Too. "Can he get us out of here?"

The doctor didn't take his eyes off his patient as he answered. "He's going to have to."

Daeus answered him too, "Don't worry about it. I will."

They locked the helmet on the Captain's suit. He adjusted the PLSS unit, and got in front of Daeus before he left the bridge. His voice was mechanical from the external suit speaker. "I'm going to get that damn hangar door open from the auxiliary control room so that we can get the hell out of here. I want you to get us moving as soon as my boot touches the stair ramp."

Daeus looked up at his captain, blood crusted in his eye brows and lashes. "You can count on it."

The Captain gave a few orders to Gvoudzon before he exited the bridge, but Daeus was busy sliding down into the pilot's station. The controls were already operational from their prior use. The pilot ran his blood soaked hands over the panel smearing blood onto the unit. He prepped the maneuvering thrusters and made sure the M-drive was ready to blast them, as the Captain had put it, the hell out of here.

The doctor excused himself and said he had another patient in sick bay. It occurred to Daeus that he hadn't even asked who was on the ship. All he had seen was the Captain, the doctor, and the vargr. He assumed that Frank was in the gun turret because he was the only other crew member left aboard when the rest had gone with Daeus to mingle with the station people.

Somebody was in sick bay. Daeus hoped that some of the others had made it through the ambush at the end of the corridor, but it was doubtful. Maybe somebody had made it back to the ship wounded.

Ouch, his head hurt. A writhing pain shot through his whole brain. The doc's stuff was not working fast enough. Too had said that he couldn't give him too much for the pain because it would inhibit his reflexes, and he needed those to get them out of here.

Daeus keyed the Harrier's comm. Maybe some of the crew had escaped in the life pod. He sure as hell hoped so. Static answered him. Whatever the androids had used to jam communications was still in effect.

He adjusted his heads up displays and set the landing gear for automatic retraction after lift off. Then the Harrier's intership comm beeped.

Daeus had forgotten to put on his comm dots. The comm beeped again. He manually hit the switch then took two of the wafer pads to attach to his throat and mastoid, "Bridge, go."

It was the Captain's voice. The indicator read that the lower, starboard comm unit in the air lock was being used. "The doors are open. Let's go, dammit, go!"

Daeus hit his board. The Harrier lifted off and moved backwards at the same time. Gently, Daeus eased the ship in reverse out through the narrow doors. The outer starboard lock door was just closing as the stars came into view when the ship cleared the bay. The Captain must have had a good view of the lift off.

Daeus touched the port thrusters and swung the nose of the ship away from the base. As the trajectory cleared to the first path away from the asteroid, Daeus lit the Harrier's M-drive. The full force of the 1-G drive shot the ship away from the base like a rock from a sling shot. The blue ionization flame jutted 15 meters from the twin directional cowlings as 3.57 metric tons of liquid hydrogen started to burn.

The pilot checked his scopes, and Gvoudzon flew through the hatch onto the bridge from whereever he had been to man the sensors. Daeus did a slight course correction to avoid a cluster of dense asteroids, and from there, made a straight leap at full power.

The Captain scrambled up through the deck hatch. He took off his helmet and gauntlets and just slumped into the computer station's couch.

The bridge was completely quiet--the pilot and navigator intent on their station operations and the Captain quietly sitting with look of shock on his face. He was probaly thinking about how close they had all just come to dying.

1.2 minutes later, Gvoudzon spoke without removing his eyes from the sensor station. "I think we've cleared the blast radius."

14 seconds after that, there was a bright flash from behind the ship.

"She just blew." Gvoudzon confirmed from the sensor station.

There was a collective sigh on the bridge. Daeus looked over at the Captain, awaiting orders. His eyes were in a squint from the forehead swelling. All the hair on his head was stiff from the clotted blood.

The Captain cracked a smile, "You look like pure hell."

"Well, I should," Daeus told him, "I've just come from there." The pilot thought a moment, then he looked again at the Captain, "But that's OK. Somebody up there really likes me."