We proceeded in this way — Sys scouting out ahead on the ceiling, Cap hanging behind on the ceiling, with Mearr and I in the middle hauling the medical supplies — through the corridors of the battlecruiser until we found the other two Farseers.
“Sentinels,” said Cap when he had caught up. “What is the situation?”
“Raiders of some kind,” said Q’Laren. “Unarmored, so far as we saw. I do not think they expected us.”
“It is doubtful,” said Cap, steepling his tiny fingers inside his pod. “No doubt they arrived here as we did, expecting an easy salvage.”
“But then, wouldn’t they agree to work with us?” said Mearr. “Why risk a confrontation?”
“Mearr has a point,” said Sys. “It’d be easier for both groups if we worked together. There’s plenty of loot to go around. Why attack us?”
“Slavers, then?” I said, thinking back to the days my mother would coral me and my siblings into a bunker to avoid detection by low-flying scouts. Our homes were practically designed to look deserted. “They could be hoping to snag a few choice specimens.”
“Or perhaps they are the ones who destroyed the ship in the first place,” said the other Farseer. “We must hunt them down and determine the truth.”
“Somehow, I doubt a skeleton crew of cutthroats managed to overpower a Farseer battlecruiser,” said Sys dryly.
“There may be more than we have seen,” said Cap. “And they may have weapons at their disposal that we have not anticipated. We must be careful moving forward, and we must move with all haste back to the ship. Understood?”
We all nodded or murmured our agreement and fell back into a loose formation. Sys at the front, Cap in back, but now the two Farseer Sentinels flanked me and Mearr, providing some additional measure of protection.
At the very least, it provided us with some weapons.
We encountered our first raiders at a bend in the corridor that led to a lift terminal. Sys had gone on ahead, and then clicked back that she had found three raiders just coming off of the lifts, moving in a search pattern.
Scouts. Killing them would be easy, but would no doubt alert the rest of the force as to our location. We had little choice in the matter. Going back would mean a long, meandering route around — taking us through the bridge — to get back to the hanger. We had to move fast.
The two Farseer sentinels stepped out from around the corner and loosed steel cords from their gauntlets that snaked their way down the corridor and out of sight. It was difficult to hear anything in the near-vacuum, but I saw pings of bulletfire on the Sentinels’ armor as the cords continued to writhe, and then the gunfire stopped when the cords went stiff and then slack an instant later.
I darted out from around the corner when the Farseers assured me it was safe. Sys was already on the ground, inspecting the fallen raiders.
They were an eclectic mix. One furred, one scaled, and one who looked near-human. But he wasn’t. Chitinous horns protruding from the front of his head confirmed that.
“Alright, here,” I said. “Comm hook-ups for their vitals. Someone is tracking them. They’ll know that they’ve dropped.”
“Then we must reach the hangar before reinforcements arrive,” said Cap.
I nodded, and slid a heavy knife from one of the raiders’ boot-sheathes and strapped it to my thigh.
“I’ll try not to stab you this time,” purred Mearr on my private channel.
I met her eyes and nodded grimly.
The weapon wasn’t hidden. I wasn’t trying to hide it. But I didn’t want to draw attention to it either. I didn’t know how everyone else would react, seeing a knife openly displayed on my person. Then again, the other one had been hidden, and it had almost killed me.
Hopefully, this one would save my life. If I even had to use it.
“Let’s go,” I said, falling comfortably into the role of a squad member again. It had been a long time. Years, in fact. And I hadn’t had reason to make use of this training before now. Yet it came back to me like any interiorized skill did.
Riding a bike. That’s what they said it’d feel like once I’d mastered it.
Except, I’d never ridden a bike. So I didn’t really know what they meant.
We took the lifts down to the hangar level, which was empty of any signs of activity. Fortunately.
That’s when the comm came alive.
“Cap, T’Vosh and I are still on the bridge.” It was Gator.
“What are the two of you doing up there?” said Cap. “You need to be down at the ship now.”
“I know. We were delayed. We were trying to wait for a group of raiders to pass, but we’ve been penned in. I don’t think we will be able to get out.”
My mind snapped to it’s memory of the bridge. The positions of debris. The prime opportunities for cover. There were only three entrances — and thus only three exits — but the fighting ground was ideal for a defensive combatant who knew how to use it.
I knew Gator hadn’t meant for his broadcast to be on the general channel, but I didn’t care. I was butting in.
“Gator,” I said. “Where are you?”
“On the bridge with T’Vosh.”
“No. I mean, where on the bridge?”
“We are in the captain’s office, where T’Vosh was downloading log data.”
My mind readjusted its vantage point, seeing the bridge deck from the blasted-out remains of the captain’s office. It was a solidly defensible position on the surface. But the scattered wreckage out on the main deck meant any attackers from the stern of the ship would have ample opportunities for cover and flanking positions. While they couldn’t flank T’Vosh and Gator completely, as far as I could tell from my initial sweep, it still left them in a less-opportunistic position than I would have desired.
It was a shooting gallery, I realized quite suddenly. A shooting gallery where — as far as I could tell — my side had no guns.
“Alright,” I said, still gathering my thoughts as I spoke. “Here’s what I want you to do. Check around for any alternative access points. You’ve got a gaping hole in one wall, from what I remember. That’s fine. Leave it. But anything else — doors, hidden lifts, holes in the floor or ceiling — block it up. Make sure they have to go through that access point.”
About halfway through, I heard movement on the other line as they apparently realized I was serious.
“Once they’re forced to come through the access point you’ve left open, they should back off to regroup. If they don’t, at least now you’re funneling them through a predictable choke point, and you can use that to your advantage. Gator, do you have any weapons on you?”
“Not as such, no.”
“Okay,” I said, scrambling to take into account what I’d seen of the Farseers and the raiders in action — it wasn’t much. “That’s fine. T’Vosh should be able to hold off the brunt of any attack these guys make, but even if you do need to step in, don’t hesitate. They don’t look like they’ve been trained for hand-to-hand combat, and you’re both bigger and stronger than them. That should give you enough of an advantage in whatever makeshift brawl comes up.”
As I continued speaking, I handed my packs of medical supplies to Sys and motioned for the other two Sentinels to follow me.
“Whatever you do,” I said as we went. “Don’t get into a firefight with them. If they’ve got you pinned down, they’ve got you pinned down. Let them waste their time and ammo shooting at nothing. No reason to take any risks if you don’t have to, especially since you have that choke point.”
“How is this going to get us out of here?” said Gator.
“Simple,” I said, unsheathing my knife. “I’m coming for you.”