Lucy brought the mercenary ship to a halt, confirming that the enemy ship had, indeed, stopped firing. She kept her hands on the controls, ready to take off in a millisecond if the Nefrit showed any signs of life.
“You know the hivils,” she said. “Would they pretend to be incapacitated and then not fire?”
“No,” the captain answered.
“Maybe my friends managed to cause them trouble,” Lucy said. “Try hailing them.”
“Hivil ship, this is Renke, Captain of the Weaver 76-03, explain your situation.”
It took a moment but a familiar voice answered. “This is Grace Albrecht of the Cerberus. I’ve managed to wrest control away from the pirates.”
Lucy grabbed the comm. “Grace, what’s the status of the others?”
“Lucy?” Grace asked. She quickly composed herself. “Paul is on the bridge. I was on my way to look for the others. I haven’t seen Ophelia, Leon or Kat since they were captured. Didn’t even see Farah before they grabbed her. Presumably, they’re all fine since these arseholes were slavers. Doubt they’d want to damage their goods.”
Lucy noted the distinctly disgusted tone that Grace used when she said the word ‘goods.’ “We’ll dock and I’ll join you shortly,” she said. “Then you can explain how you managed to bring their ship down by yourself. Meet me at the airlock.”
“Understood,” Grace said.
Paul didn’t know hivil physiology. He’d picked up the basics of it from dissecting the drone but he wasn’t confident about doing any kind of surgical procedure. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have even tried. But these weren’t normal circumstances.
Thanks to his little sister, the three insect women were dying. The masks had gone on too late. To stand even a chance at saving them, he’d have to get a grasp on their tools and try emergency surgeries. He began working on Gylin first. After all, she’d gotten protection from the atmospheric changes first. She stood the best chance of being saved and he wasn’t sure he’d have time to work on all of them.
“I see,” Lucy said. “Atmospheric poisoning. Very nice.”
“I only managed it because Paul distracted them on the bridge,” Grace said. “And your new friends kept them busy. Otherwise whoever owned those quarters may very well have returned.”
“No use thinking about that now,” Lucy said. She looked around, her yellow eyes opening briefly. “Let’s check this way.”
The two hurried down the corridor. After eight and a half minutes, Grace started hearing familiar voices. She and Lucy nodded at one another and broke into a run.
It didn’t take them long to arrive in front of the cell where their comrades were housed.
“Darling, I came to bail you out!” Lucy called out.
“Lucy!” Ophelia exclaimed. “How did you get here? How did you beat the insects? Ho…”
“Shhh,” Lucy pressed a finger gently against Ophelia’s lips. “I’ll explain later. For now, let’s get you four out of there.”
The cell was simple enough to open from the outside.
Farah ran directly to Grace and hugged her tightly.
“Where’s Paul?” Leon demanded.
“Last I heard, he was on the bridge,” Grace said. “Unless he ran off to find you guys he should still be there.”
“Then let’s grab him and get out of here,” Farah said. Leon was already bolting for the bridge. She watched him running for a couple seconds before continuing. “We shouldn’t stay on this ship more than we have to.”
“Well, it’s safe to be here now,” Lucy said. “We should take the ship as spoils and sell it off.”
“Before we do I’d like to examine the tech,” Grace said. “There might be something here I can use to improve the Cerberus.”
Ophelia turned to Farah. “I understand your feelings,” she said. “We’ll leave Grace, Kat and Lucy here to bring the Nefrit along. It’ll give some value to all the crap we’ve gone through today.”
The group arrived on the bridge just in time to hear Paul’s fist slam into the metallic floor. “Dammit!” he yelled.
“Are you okay?” Farah asked.
“What’s wrong?” Kat inquired.
The two spoke at the same time.
Paul stood and took a deep breath. “I managed to save Gylin,” he informed them. “But I couldn’t do anything for the others.”
“Paul they…” Grace began.
“Don’t you dare talk to me right now!” Paul shouted. He turned away from Grace. “I’m going to get a stretcher for Gylin. We’ll put her in medical, under restraint. Leon, don’t let anyone disturb her while I’m gone.”
Paul stormed off, heading for the Cerberus. Leon moved between the others and Gylin. He looked at Grace. “I don’t know how, but you royally fucked up.”
“What makes you think I messed up?” Grace demanded. She looked around and noted that everyone was staring at her.
“I know what it takes to make Paul that mad,” Leon answered. “It ain’t easy.”
“I’m sure she didn’t do it on purpose,” Farah said. “Whatever it was.”
Leon shook his head. “He doesn’t get mad over accidents. Worst you’re going to get over an accident is an exacerbated sigh and a polite request to leave him alone for a bit.”
“Then… I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it,” Farah said, staring at the ground and shuffling her feet.
“Why are you all looking at me like I’m the bad guy?” Grace asked.
“well, I’ve only seen Paul get mad like that once in all the years I’ve known him,” Lucy said. “And the person responsible was very much in need of some self reflection.” Her eyes opened for two seconds and she stared directly up into Grace’s eyes.
“Putting the blame aside,” Ophelia said “You’d better tell us why he’s mad.”
Grace sighed. “I may have promised that I wouldn’t use lethal levels of acetic acid,” she admitted. “But I broke my promise to try and save Lucy’s ship. He… he begged me to dial it back so that he could save them. I… I thought it was too risky.”
Ophelia sighed. “All right. Stay out of his way for a while. Hopefully he’ll get over it.”