Haley’s vision focused in and out. She was laying on the floor of the quarters where she and Trelax were just talking. Mechanical hands and the telescoping screen of Mike was giving her an examination.
“What the hell happened?” She sat up on the floor, looking at Mike’s screen.
“Slow down Haley, I gave you a little shot to boost your sense of balance. Give it a moment to work. The rest of your vitals look okay.”
“Not with me you quack! The ship, what happened to the ship?”
“Oh, yeah, we hit an asteroid. A big one.”
“Yep, big sucker. And we seem to be tied to it somehow. That is really more Carl’s domain.”
“Carl,” Haley shouted. “Carl, what happened?”
“Busy keeping the ship stable, please call again later.”
“Great, a computer with a sense of humor.” She climbed to her feet, bracing herself on the bed. Whatever Mike gave her was working. She felt pretty stable although the blood on the floor indicated she took a pretty good hit.
After a few cautious steps, she made her way into the passageway. As she did, the ship shuddered to the port side. Ignoring her still somewhat unstable legs and throbbing headache, she hurried to the bridge.
The bridge door gave a satisfying whish as she entered. Trelax was in the captain’s chair, and was having a heated argument with a tall, slender being on the screen. She knew, based on his physiology, he was Tal-Severn. She hated those guys. Arrogant and spoiled, but also kind of dumb.
“Dalrin, let us go. My dad will have all five of your testis in a glass bottle by the time he’s done with you!”
“You know, Trelax, maybe it’s time for a little change in the Galactic Order. What’d daddy think of that? And don’t hide behind your daddy. This is between you and me and you know it. You made me look bad, and now I must avenge my honor. If it ends in you being vaporized, then … so be it.”
Haley quickly sat down in the navigator’s chair and brought the screen to life. She remembered a tab which allowed her to access the ships external cameras. They would tell her the overall condition of the ship’s exterior.
“Wait a minute. Trelax, you’re keeping better company. What’s with the Earth girl? Or does she just have terrible taste in men?”
“That’s Haley. We are on our way back to Earth. So, if you’ll just kindly quit being a jerk face, we’ll be on our way.”
Haley could have sworn she was listening to a conversation between her and her sister only a few years ago. The outside of the ship looked fine. She quietly queried Carl and he reported there was no significant damage. He’d brought the shields up before the collision.
She could see a large asteroid was blocking their way. The trouble was that they had been tethered to the rock by some cables.
“You know Trelax,” Dalrin said. “I’m reasonable. Give me the Earth girl and I’ll be on my way. I’ll forget about this. Then you just owe me what you owed me before today.
Not hearing any words, Haley looked up from the panel. She could see Trelax was in deep concentration.
“Oh don’t tell me you are actually thinking about his offer!” she yelled.
Looking slightly embarrassed Trelax looked at her. “Only for a moment. Darlin, there’s no way I’m giving you Haley.”
“Okay then, we have reached an impasse in our negotiations. I guess we just sit here. Let’s see, my ship has provisions for about three weeks. You have provisions for about a week. Oh, sorry, a week and a day. Sorry, forgot you had the Earth girl, but she is pretty skinny.”
Haley took a quick scan of the Tal-Severn ship. It was an Exitor class. He was correct, they could probably hold out for three weeks or more if they wanted to. Exitors were big and well armored, but light on guns. Still, their weapons were on-line. The Serenity Two’s weapons were all blocked for some reason. They only had one plasma torch mounted to the front and one tow cable. If their weapons were on-line they would outgun an Exitor class ship easily. If they survived, she promised herself she would look into that.
“You’re such a juvenile,” Trelax yelled back.
“Tell you what? I’m going to make you a deal. You know what I want.”
“My head on a platter?”
“Funny, Trelax. True, but funny. You give me the Serenity Two and, let’s say, a million galactic credits and I’ll leave you alone.”
“The Serenity Two isn’t mine to give. It belongs to—”
“Yea, daddy. Again with the ‘daddy’ crap. Don’t you get tired of living under daddy’s wings? C’mon, be a man.”
“You’re as good as space dust, Dalrin. You galactic space fart.”
“Bagorians are so crude,” Darlin said, leaning back in his captain’s chair. “Haley, you’ve chosen sides pretty poorly. You are quite a looker. I could just eat you up.” His long tong flickered out of his mouth as he made a sucking sound.
Normally Haley would call him on such crude behavior, but she knew he wasn’t kidding. Tal-Severns actually will eat humans given the chance.
Darlin and Trelax fell right back into their school yard name calling. No longer the object of attention, she started looking over the images of the outside of the ship. She periodically sent images over to the captain’s consul. Trelax would glance down and nod his head in understanding. He needed to know why they couldn’t move.
Although she could see the status of systems, the tactical consul was on the other side of the deck. She needed to get access to it. Dalrin had a habit of speaking in two short sentences and then he would launch into a long monologue. It was just enough time to do what she needed to do. After the last response from Trelax she saw Darin get up from his chair and start talking. She hit mute on the communicator so he wouldn’t hear them.
“Mike … Carl, one of you two get tactical over to my console.” She then hit the unmute button. Dalrin was none the wiser at her quick actions. He was so self-absorbed with his own speech that he hadn’t noticed her talking to someone.
A tactical display tab suddenly appeared on her panel. She had to remember to thank Mike and Carl later. She had control of the plasma cutter and the cable tether. Not perfect, but she could work with these. She had an idea how they could get away, but she needed to let Trelax know what she wanted to do.
She needed to have the computer deliver a message to Trelax’s screen. She started typing furiously. On top of the dangers of being immobile in deep space, she was getting really tired of listening to the two continually bickering.
Haley remembered being bullied by Milly Jacobsen. She was eight and had long braids in her hair. She loved those braids. One day Milly pinned her to the ground and cut them off. She ran home and cried on her mother’s shoulders for the entire weekend.
The next Monday, Milly walked right up to Haley and handed her braids back to her in a plastic bag and said, “Lose something?”
That moment she felt a little spark inside of her that would never quite go away. All she could remember was Milly, standing in front of her laughing. The next moment her hand hurt, Milly’s nose was bleeding, and she felt a deep sense of satisfaction. Some bullies just need to get their nose broken.
The plan was too simple to fail. But she would need to move fast. If they didn’t move fast enough, the weapons on Darlrin’s ship would make quick work of them. They had shields, but they wouldn’t last forever. If he got off a lucky shot, fast enough, they would be walking back to Earth.
Trelax received the note on his console, and quickly shot Haley a look of panic. There was no mistaking it, he understood what she wanted to do.
For a moment she hesitated. What if something went wrong? What if she miscalculated the firepower and response time of Darin’s ship? It struck her as ironic that she went from a lethal situation onboard the Serenity One just to be in another one aboard the Serenity Two less than a day later.
She knew that the longer she let Trelax talk the more chances he could have to screw up the plan. So she acted on instinct. The second Dalrin went into one of his long monologues, she hit the mute button again.
“Quick, Carl, cut the cable!”
She fired one end of their tether into Dalrin’s ship. He was so absorbed in his speech that he didn’t even notice it until someone on deck interrupted him. But, at that point, it was too late. Haley had shot the other end of the cable deep into the asteroids surface. At the same time the plasma cutter severed the cable, freeing them of the asteroid.
Trelax stood on deck dumfounded. It wasn’t clear if he was more surprised that the plan worked or that someone actually stood up to Dalrin.
“Trelax, dumb-ass, get this tub moving!” Haley barked at him, bringing him back to his senses.
As soon as Dalrin realized what happened, he let out a blood curdling scream. “You little piss ant! I’m going to squash you like a bug. Bring weapons online!” The coms channel suddenly went dead.
The Serentiy Two turned towards open space and the main engines lept to action. Darin’s ship swung around wildly to line up a shot. Haley saw the Tal-Severn ship collide with the asteroid. Parts of its communications array being flung out into space. One of the main engines suddenly went dark. The Tal Severn ship was, for the moment, helpless.
Five minutes later they both stood on the bridge, looking out at the stars whizzing past the ship. Neither one of them said a word. Haley knew she’d put them both in danger. They got lucky. She screwed up big time.
He held his hand up to stop her. “Haley, you don’t have to say anything.”
Now, not only did they have to deal with their problem on Earth, she may have started a war between the Bagorians and the Tal-Severn. All because she wanted to bloody the nose of a big time galactic bully with a bad attitude, and access to weapons.
“Haley, that was…” he said.
“I know; I shouldn’t gamble with people’s lives. I’m really sorry.”
“That was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen!” He laughed and danced up and down the deck. “Before the video cut out, did you see the look on his face? He was pissed and scared. I’ve never seen that ass-hat look like that before.”
“Wait, you’re not mad at me?”
“Haley, Dalrin has been taking my lunch money since we were in the academy together. Someone needed to teach him a lesson, and I think we have.”
“But, he’ll come back won’t he?”
“Yep, sure will. But we got lots of time. Did you see the antenna floating off into space? That was his tracking array. He has no idea where we went. Oh yeah, he’ll find us, and we’ll have to be ready. But for now we got some time to play with. I have the perfect place to go. Ever been to Trazhadoria Space Port? Best coffee on this side of the galaxy.”
“But we need to get back to Earth.”
“Why? What do you have that is so important?”
“Look, I can’t go gallivanting around space. I have college, a job, my family. I have things to do.” All of her life was geared towards something. Every attained goal was supplanted by another goal. Suddenly it all just seemed sad.
Her job was fun, but she had reached a plateau, it was as interesting as it was going to get. In college she was studying journalism, and all she had really learned was how unethical journalism could be. As for family, if she had a starship at her disposal, she could go back when she wanted. Maybe she could spend a little time helping Trelax.
She sat heavily in the navigator’s chair. She pressed a few buttons and the ship smoothly changed course. “Okay then Trelax,” she smiled at him. “This coffee better be dam good!”