Scavenger Hunt

Part Nine




I realize that this might seem a little unfair but I’m going to back up time a little. You recall where I was, having just broken into the cargo hold looking for Fairchild and hoping to run into Arions along the way. Well, I thought you should know what happened between the time I left Fairchild and the time I burst through the doors.

The Arions and Martine had stopped beating Fairchild and soon she began wishing that they hadn’t stopped. After Sub-Captain ZauSha had stopped giving orders to her crew she turned her attention to the bound and now helpless Velorian Protector. Her hands began to trace their way along Fairchild’s sweaty flanks with a feathery touch. When she reached the trail of crisscrossed red stripes, courtesy of Basil, a long sharp fingernail traced the red path. Fairchild tried not to move or show that anything was happening to her but the sensations caused by the pressure of that pressing nail was too much. She began to squirm and wiggle in her bonds.

"You like my handiwork mistress?" whispered Basil.

"Ooh yes," said ZauSha as she followed one stripe that began at the small of Fairchild’s back and ended just above her clit. "Very much. I have been reconsidering my position concerning you, Terran."

"You have?"

"Yes. I shall speak to the captain and ask that you be given right of conquest over the bitch."

"Oh, thank you."

"Wait. There are conditions."

"Anything mistress."

"Good. Because you will instantly surrender those rights to me."


"Never fear little Terran," she said running her free hand down Basil’s chest until she was cupping his rapidly swelling dick and balls. "You will have your fun with the Velorian." Through his trousers her fingers began to stroke and kneed Basil’s dick. "She is yours but you are mine. Aren’t you little Terran?"

"Yes mistress."

"Good, then things are as they should be."

Any response on Basil’s part was cut off dramatically. ZauSha’s fingers wound their way into his hair and drew him forward for the fiery kiss that awaited him. Fairchild watched as Basil’s eyes went wide as he discovered just how much he enjoyed being overpowered by the diminutive Prime. The way the sub-captain’s free hand fondled Basil’s ass she was sure that things would have gone a lot farther if the Beta pilot hadn’t announced that they were docking with the Pride.

"Bring her," ordered ZauSha after the pressure had equalized. "She’s coming with us."

"Is that wise?" asked an unfortunate Prime.

The sub-captain backhanded slap caught the subordinate across his right cheek. The explosive impact echoed throughout the confines of the shuttle. The taller Prime slumped to one knee but before he could get back to his feet ZauSha grabbed his hair and bent his neck back.

"Never question a superior officer," she hissed at the terrified Prime. "The Velorian will come with us and witness the ultimate triumph of the Empire."

"Yes sub-captain."

"Get the bitch ready to move," snapped ZauSha and threw the Prime away in disgust.

Fairchild struggled as her bound hands were lowered from the overhead beam. She knew that her efforts were useless but she still had to make the effort. ZauSha laughed derisively at this sight and Fairchild’s cheeks flamed red with indignation.

"Yes," said the sub-captain with a purring voice, "struggle. I love it when my pets struggle against their bonds. It makes the final victory all the sweeter."

Fairchild let her arms go slack. She did not protest as she was carried off the shuttle but neither did she help them. Outwardly calm, inwardly Fairchild seethed with rage and indignation and she promised herself that she would have her revenge on ZauSha.

You might think that Fairchild’s situation was hopeless and you may have reacted differently than she did but then you’re not a Velorian Protector. She had been in situations this desperate and more over the years and she knew that she had one ace in the hole. Me! Fairchild knew that I’d do everything that I could to find her and help. She was also waiting for that one opportunity to escape on her own.

Even as Fairchild was led from the shuttle onto the Arion destroyer she heard the dull metallic clang as the ship docked with the Czebhinn dreadnaught. Fairchild was hustled through corridors and arrived at the extended docking tube just as the inner iris opened and the way to the Czebhinn ship was open.

ZauSha stopped in front of Captain Forgan and saluted smartly. The captain spend a few seconds leering at Fairchild’s bound naked form before addressing the sub-captain.

"You have them then."

"Yes captain," said ZauSha as she handed the captain a large black box. "They’re in here. I took the liberty of removing the debris which surrounded them."

"Very good," said Forgan looking in the box. "Sub-captain, once the alien ship is ours you will detail a group of Beta scientists to analyze the alloy which composes the hull. Initial test indicate that it has at least 5 times the strength and durability of Vendorian steel."

"Understood captain. But would it not be better to convey a sample to metallurgists on Aria."

"It would, if we were going there."


"After we gain control of the alien ship and its weaponry and deal with this pesky little mud ball we will pay a visit to Velor. We will deal with the Velorian interlopers once and for all."

Fairchild shuddered at the cold blooded manner in which the fate of two worlds was discussed. She thought about saying something or at least spitting in the captain’s sneering face but recognized the futility of such actions. This didn’t stop her from casting a withering gaze at the two Prime officers.

A half minute after they had finished speaking there was a shout of triumph from the other end of the boarding tube as the Beta technician succeeded in opening the Czebhinn airlock. ZauSha motioned for the two Primes holding Fairchild to follow and made her way down the armor plated tube.

The chamber they entered was huge. It was easily a third of a mile long and half as high and about a quarter of the space was filled with boxes and metal forms. Next to the airlock they entered was another much larger one that ran nearly the entire length of the room. There were already two dozen Arions in the room when Fairchild and her escort entered. She was taken to the nearest wall and her restraints were attached to a retaining bolt set there. When that was done her escorts left her to help explore the immense ship.

There were half a dozen corridors exiting off the cargo hold and what Fairchild assumed were two elevators. The captain detailed Primes to search each of the corridors while he and two Beta technicians examined the nearby computer terminal. The sub-captain paced the length of the cargo bay liked a caged lioness stopping every once and a while to examine the contents of a box which caught her eye. While all this was going on Fairchild too was examining her surroundings but more importantly she was testing the strength of her bonds and the limits of her now reduced strength. According to Fairchild what happened next occurred about fifteen minutes later.

Everything was going too smoothly for Fairchild’s liking and she was beginning to wonder if something had happened to me. She looked up just in time to see a Prime flash from one of the corridors and shoot across the cargo bay. He impacted against the far wall like a bag of cement which had been dropped off the top of a skyscraper. The cargo bay which had until that point a scene of quiet efficiency erupted in chaos.

The cargo hold began to echo with the sound of a giant’s footsteps, my footsteps. Fairchild had a good idea what was happening. What she heard next confirmed it.

"Fee fi fo fun. I smell the blood of some dead Arions."

Even if she hadn’t recognized my voice the fact that the words resonated in her mind would have told Fairchild who had come calling. She broke out in a wide ‘I’ve got a secret’ grin as the Arions scurried around carrying out the orders of the captain and ZauSha. A terrified Beta was detailed to close the doors leading to the corridor that the Prime shot from. Clearly he did not want to do it but fear of the sub-captain forced him to undertake the onerous task. Fairchild watched the look of relief wash over him when he successfully completed it. The look didn’t last long.

Just as the Beta stepped in front of the door my force bolt struck it and it and the Arion disappeared in one humongous explosion. Fairchild’s satisfied smirk broke into a broad beaming smile as I stepped over the smoking threshold.

"Luucy, you got some splainin’ to do."

Despite her predicament and what she had suffered at the hands of the Arions Fairchild laughed and laughed. She laughed so hard that tears began to run down her cheeks.

It was that laughter that brought her to my attention. I saw her and what my eyes took in shocked the hell out of me. Fairchild’s long golden hair was plastered to her face by sweat and because of her nudity and the way she was bound I could see the crisscrossed red stripes on her back, buttocks and torso. When I saw her like that something inside me snapped. Gone was the jovial but determined Jackal and in his place was a raging wounded animal. This change in attitude was manifest physically and since I couldn’t see it or even cared what I looked like if I could I’ll tell you what Fairchild saw.

One second I was the Jackal she knew and then I changed. Instantly, I was surrounded by a black nimbus like I was some kind of walking black hole. My body was mostly hidden in shadow and as for my head. Well, it is black after all. It disappeared completely. All that Fairchild could see was the occasional white from one of my fangs and my glowing blood red eyes like two crimson beacons slashing through the midnight gloom.

The next thing I saw was a dead Arion. The only thing was that he didn’t know it yet. But after a force bolt right on the bridge of his nose he got the idea. He dropped to the armored floor howling, his nose a bloody wreck.

Primes and Betas dove for cover and fumbled for their energy weapons. A group was next to a large stack of metal crates and it took one shot to send them all crashing down on the Arions. After that things got a little hectic as I was engulfed in an avalanche of disruptor fire. None of the shots reached my body because as each touched the black nimbus around me it would wink out of existence. I noticed their cumulative effect, however, as I felt my energy level slowly sink away.

I may have been foaming at the mouth but that didn’t mean that I’d completely lost my mind. My top priority was still freeing Fairchild. Before I’d entered the room I’d been able to study the schematic of the cargo hold. I noticed that the place where they’d chained Fairchild was next to a power conduit which led to something called the ‘molecular restructuring system’. So, as soon as the attention of the Arions was completely focused on me I let loose with what I hoped they would think was a stray shot. What actually happened was that I severed the power conduit about two feet from where Fairchild was. I saw her smile and wink her understanding and before I turned my attention back to the Arions her arms reached toward the arcing plasma. Fairchild’s body was engulfed in the resultant heat energy and her gold bonds began to melt.

The energy that my body produced may have protected me but that didn’t mean that I had to stand around like a duck in a shooting gallery. I sent out three shots simultaneously and charged the closest group of Arions.

Two Betas and one Prime were in my line of sight. As I charged I fired at the two Betas. My force bolts hit one in the chest and the other in the temple. Both went down without a twitch even as the Prime leapt to grapple with me.

Her eyes were wild and desperate as she jumped at me. I didn’t fire at her. I wanted her to get closer to get some respite from the now ceaseless energy weapon fire. As I’ve mentioned before my force dagger is all but invisible. I don’t think she would have noticed it even if it had been visible. She did notice when she impaled herself on it. Her eyes glazed over and her mouth opened to emit some kind of curse but all that came out was the hiss of her dying breath. As she slid to the floor I heard some shout, "She’s loose!"

I turned back to the center of the cargo hold my mouth open in a toothy canine grin and I let loose with a howl of pure joy. Fairchild was free.

Boy was she ever free. There was no missing that glorious nude body and those legendary muscles. Her long golden hair whipped about her head like an enrage lioness. Her normally electric blue eyes were violet as twin beams of incredible heat raked the Arions around her.

I know that I should have been out there helping Fairchild but the sight of her in all her glory held me spellbound. I just watched in admiration as she let loose her vengeance on the Arions closest to her. It only lasted about half a minute, however, as a nearly miss from an Arion disruptor rifle brought me back to the business at hand.

The Arions who had held out when it was just me simply could not take the combined might of myself and Fairchild. Crying in panic they broke and ran deeper into the Czebhinn warship. The natural place for them to have gone would have been back to the Arion destroyer but considering that Fairchild and I were in the way I think they made they only logical choice.

As the Arions ran Fairchild started to follow them but stopped her charge when I shouted her name. Disappointment flashed briefly across her beautiful blue eyes as she turned and flew gracefully back to my side but it was quickly replaced by those bright happy eyes that I was so used to by now. Fairchild landed a few feet in front of me and then reproachfully waggled her finger at me.

"You’re late," she said in mock accusation. "Where have you been? Do you know how worried I was?"

Two could play this game and I fell right into my appointed role.

"I’m sorry dear," I said sounding every bit the henpecked husband. "But I couldn’t get away from work and traffic on the freeway was a bitch."

"Well," said Fairchild barely able to control her laughter, "dinner’s ruined. I hope you’re happy."

That was it. Fairchild couldn’t contain her laughter any more. Her gloriously muscled arms enfolded me in a bear hug and lifted me off my feet and all the while she was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her lovely cheeks.

"Oh Skietra, I missed you Ross," she said kissing me soundly on the tip of my nose. "I knew you’d come but when you arrived, I’ve never laughed in that kind of situation before. But then you changed."

"That’s because I saw what they’d done to you," I responded as I smoothed a wayward lock of golden hair from her face. "Are you all right?"

"I’m fine Ross, trust me. They didn’t hurt anything but my pride and that’s only bruised."

"That’s enough for me," I said with mounting anger.

"Calm down," said Fairchild scratching me behind my right ear. I discovered then that it was impossible to stay angry when she did that. "We got bigger problems right now. The Arions are here and they’ve got the Three Stars."

"I know," I said leading Fairchild to the nearest operating computer terminal. "But we’ve still got some time before they figure out where they go and how they work."

"Do you know where they go?"

"Yup, there are three main systems offline at present, engineering, navigation, and weapons. It should take them a little while to figure things out. So, we still have some leeway but I don’t ever want to cut things this fine again."

"That goes double for me," Fairchild agreed. "Hey, just exactly how do you know all this?"

"Well, I was putting my time to good use while you were just hanging around. Ooof . . ." (Note to self. Never tease a Velorian when I’m within elbow range.) I continued when my breathing returned to normal. "What I meant to say was that while you being cruelly held against you will I was speed learning Czebhinn."

"Much better. Now would you satisfy my curiosity. Just how powerful is this ship?"

"It’s almost unbelievable," I replied shaking my head slowly. "The defensive weaponry looks like they could hold off a fleet or three of destroyers but its main weapon scares the shit out of me. Somehow the Czebhinn have contained and harnessed a white dwarf."


"Exactly. It’s the core of a gravity wave projector. As I read the specs it has enough power to crush Earth like an empty beer can."

"We have to stop the Arions from ever using it."

"I’ve been giving that some thought on my way here."

"Ross! We don’t have time. We’ve got to stop them now."

"Fairchild," I said softly putting my hand on her shoulder, "calm down. The fact is we do have some time. Even if the Arions figured everything out instantly and get the three affected systems back up we’d still have over an hour to work with. There are standard diagnostic programs which have to run before the systems will come online and the engines and weapons take a long time to power up."

"All right let’s hear your plan," Fairchild said much calmer now but that didn’t last long as a hollow booming echoed throughout the ship. "Pistu! What is that?"

"We have company," I said after a relayed message from Melythra.

"The Kintzi."

"Got it in one."

"Good. This can work for us."

Fairchild and I were on the same wavelength. We both realized that the Kintzi and Arions would fight for control of the Czebhinn dreadnaught. While they were fighting neither could gain complete control of the alien warship. As far as I was concerned they could kill each other off. My job was to ensure that no one else would ever get the chance to unleash the dreadnaught on any planet. And so, as briefly as I could I outlined my plan to Fairchild. She wasn’t that happy with it but couldn’t come up with anything better but she did come up with a few suggestions to improve my idea to which I readily agreed. The sounds of numerous fights broke up our planning session. After a quick scratch from Fairchild’s strong but delicate fingers we separated.

It’s a good thing that I had some time because almost as soon as I left the cargo hold I was involved in the running fight between the Kintzi and Arions. It’s funny how quickly these enemies forgot their differences when they saw me. Fortunately, the first group that I met was a small one, just one Prime and three Kintzi warriors.

The three Kintzi were all over the Prime like dogs on a bear. When the Prime saw me he gave a cry of alarm and the three Kintzi instantly forgot about their prey and leapt at me. I dealt with two with force bolts but the third hit me and knocked me off my feet. The slight rumble of the deck told me that the prime was coming. I hit the snarling feline face with a shot from my eyes and the unconscious Kintzi went flying into the onrushing Prime. Before he could get to his feet again I was on him. An elbow in the bridge of the nose was all it took to enable me to slip my force knife between his ribs.

After that I was more careful and tried to avoid the fights I crossed on my way to the dreadnaught’s bridge. While my plans were set I still needed some information to complete it. A quick relayed chat to my computer gave me four separate options and depending on some uncontrollable factors they could all be valid. I hoped that they were.

There were more sounds of fighting ahead and I still had twenty decks to travel before I reached the bridge. If I got involved in any more fights my time margin could slip away like sand. A quick check at the nearest computer terminal confirmed my memory. My present location was just a few feet from a service shaft that ran nearly the length of the ship. After I initiated an override to open all the safety bulkheads I was off.

It was eerily quiet on the command deck. I tried reading energy signatures but the metal in the walls and decks confused the images to the point of rendering them useless. So, I fell back on the reliable standbys, my ears and nose. I could hear nothing and all I could smell was the eons of emptiness. I broke into a trot toward the bridge.

The instant that the door slid open my nose alerted me to the change in the air. The room had been occupied recently by at least one person. It was hard to determine just how many people had been in the bridge because of the rank odor of their flop sweat and considering what they had just gone through I couldn’t really blame them.

In hindsight I realize that I made a mistake but at that point I was totally focused on dealing with the threat that the Czebhinn dreadnaught posed. I didn’t even think about locking the doors. As soon as they closed I was at the nearest console. At least I was lucky because it was the chief navigator’s station.

A quick look at the active console told me that navigation was up and running after thousands of years of inactivity. I may have been able to read Czebhinn but I’d only learned that day and was still unused to it and all the technical jargon displayed was also so confusing. So, what at first appeared like a cake walk suddenly became a labor intensive task.

The first step was the most critical. I created a new command procedure for the primary and four backup navigational systems and then I encrypted the whole thing. To ensure that no one would ever be able to decipher the code I taught the computer the basics of Wanderer mathematics. When you know that this system is based on units of 360 and encompasses more than a 100,000 symbols you’ll have some idea of the task. I didn’t enter everything because that would have taken a week but just enough to get the job done. And that was to enter one code which would lock down the entire navigational system. And if you’re curious the code was the spatial coordinates for my house, all 50 symbols of it.

As you can imagine this work took all my attention. So, I suppose that I can be partially excused for what happened next. I never heard the door to the bridge open or even the soft footsteps. The first indication I had that something was wrong was when I was picked off my feet and hurled into the far wall as fast as a bullet from a high powered rifle. I hit face, or more correctly nose, first. I think I mentioned that this part of my anatomy was sensitive and when I hit I found out just how sensitive. I howled in pain and my eyes watered instantly.

When I was turned over all I could see was a watery fog but I did see the fist coming. Not that it did much good. As my head was rocked to the right by the powerful blow my arms came up to cover my head. The second blow landed on my silvery bracer and whoever hit me yelled on impact.

A change of tactics was executed and I was picked up in a powerful bear hug. The breath left my lungs and my ribs squeaked but actually compared to what happened to my nose it wasn’t all that painful. When my vision cleared, at last, I found myself looking into the hate consumed blue eyes of Sub-Captain ZauSha. Her lips were curled back as she poured on the pressure and my ribs bend another half inch. Wouldn’t you know it but it was precisely then that Melythra decided to drop in for a chat.


I have news, she thought across the distance. Fairchild has dealt with the Arion spacecraft and is presently beginning upon the Kintzi vessel.

Wonderful! Just peachy, I thought back my words dripping with an ocean of sarcasm. I’d give you and Fair a standing ovation but I’m just a little busy at the present.

Are you in jeopardy?

I guess you could call that. Personally, I’d call it being in deep shit but jeopardy will do in a pinch.

I shall attempt to contact Fairchild.

No, you damn well won’t. She has to finish what she’s started. I’m not injured, yet. But if I don’t stop talking I might very well be.

There wasn’t a reply. I winced inwardly. I just knew that I’d hear about all this from Melythra when this was all done. If it was all done. At least I could turn my undivided attention to ZauSha. It was then I realized that she was talking to me.

"What have you done?"

"Now, wouldn’t you just like to know," I responded flippantly.

"If you do not tell me I shall kill you," she snarled at me.

"And if I do? Will you and I go steady? No dice sister."

"Tell me," ZauSha screamed as she tightened her grip.

It was unpleasant but when you consider that I don’t really need to breathe any more you’ll realize that it wasn’t truly life threatening.

"Get stuffed! Face it lady, you’ve lost. You’ll never be able to maneuver this ship anywhere. It’s junk."

"You’ll pay for this!"

"Big talk," I said finally losing patience.

My lips curled back from my very white and very pointed teeth. I gave a little snarl and snapped at ZauSha. Instinctively, she moved her head away from my body but didn’t release her grip on me.

"Who are you?" she asked. "What are you?"

"I am The Jackal. I am DEATH!"

ZauSha’s eyes went wide at the sound of The Voice and she never saw it coming. The air in the bridge whistled as I brought my arms together. The silvery bracers on my forearms met on both of the sub-captain’s ears with a deafening impact. ZauSha’s body went rigid and she let go of me. She didn’t make a sound but the trickle of blood from both her ears told me that I’d hurt her.

She never made a move to block my next blow. Once again my arms swung down like berserk sledge hammers and landed on either side of her neck. The bracers met bone of an Arion Prime collar bone and the unknown metal won. The bones snapped like rotten twigs and ZauSha collapsed to the deck twitching. I would have finished her right then and there but I’d already lost too much time. Besides something distracted me at that moment.

A low growl alerted me. I whirled about as fast as I could my arm outstretched. Basil walked right into the blow. The back of my fist connected with his temple and he was picked off his feet and thrown across the room. He hit the wall with a dull thud and bounced to the floor. He didn’t get up.

This time before I finished the job I locked the door. I knew that it probably wouldn’t keep the Arions out of the room but it would give me enough warning to prepare properly. I would have finished off ZauSha and Basil right there but I couldn’t afford to waste the times. Besides, once I was done they’d be good as dead anyway or least out of our hair for a very long time. As to the chance of either of them interfering, there was no chance. Basil was down for the count and he might have even been dead already. ZauSha was alive but was in no shape to do anything. She couldn’t even spit at me as I went back to the navigation console.

Now that my two minor annoyances were dealt with I got back to the task at hand. It went much quicker than the first part had. I ran a check on the dreadnaught’s max cruising velocity and used it as part of some rapid mental calculations. I was just finishing them and assessing my options when I saw that someone had gotten the ship’s engines back on line. I smiled a contented canine smile and continued.

At this point I should explain something about the working of the Czebhinn ship. The way it had been designed it would always carry out the last command that it had been given. I think this was done to make sure that even if the entire crew died it would complete its assigned task, the destruction of the Oulaean home world. This worked for more than just the weapons system. Even if the computer was taken offline and the consoles smashed to bits the last command would still be executed. The only way to stop a command would be to initiate an command priority override. But by altering the command pathway and encrypting it all I’d taken care of that possibility.

I entered the coordinates for the destination I’d selected and entered it as the top priority. I had thought about building in a delay before the execution of this command but didn’t have to. Even though the engines were up and running it would still be another ten to fifteen minutes before they would have sufficient power to start the warship in motion. It was more than enough time. So, I set the ship to leave the instant that the engines had built the required power and then locked the whole system down and deactivated the entire bridge.

Fairchild had agreed that after we had completed our respective jobs we’d meet back at the cargo hold. Since I’d already been there I didn’t have to go there the slow way. I visualized a corner of the cargo hold and jumped and walked right into the middle of a battle.

The large cargo hold was filled with smoke and noise of energy weapons. Kintzi were fighting Arions with the fury of zealots on a holy mission. The Arions were just as enthusiastic about the situation. And right in the middle of all this chaotic mayhem was gloriously nude blond woman.

Fairchild was the golden goddess of justice as she plowed through the combatants dealing out retribution with equal ferocity. Her golden tan skin glistened with a thin of sweat which highlighted her rippling muscles and made them glow in the light of the cargo hold and the flashes of the disruptor fire. I don’t know why the Kintzi and Arions didn’t put aside their differences and fight her. They had her seriously outnumbered and probably could have overwhelmed her but they didn’t. The fight for possession of the Czebhinn war ship had taken control of them completely and Fairchild became little more that an irritation to them. And I far as I was concerned they could have it now.

I walked across the combat zone toward Fairchild. It was time for us to go and leave these two to their prize, much good it would do them. Only one Kintzi noticed me as I cross the cargo bay. He rushed at me and without thinking about it I held my hand out palm forward. The instant that he touched me I felt the surge of the force bolt rush out. Even as he flew away I knew that the Kintzi was dead. It’s hard to stay living with a fist sized hole in your chest.

Fairchild was working her way to a specific destination and I hurried to catch up with her. As I passed through a knot of combatants and haze of smoke I saw where she was heading. Two figures were locked in desperate combat. One was Captain Forgan and the aged Kintzi who he fought could be none other than the Kintzi commander.

Fairchild separated the two and gripped them both by their necks. Finally, the two commanding officers noticed her but then it was far too late for them to do anything. They were like rag dolls in those powerful arms. Fairchild rammed their heads together once and then a second time. As she was drawing them apart to repeat the procedure a third time I reached her and put my hand on one of those huge biceps.

"Fair," I said calmly trying to cool the killing rage that threatened to overwhelm the blond Protector. "It’s time to go."

"Not yet."

"And after these two whose next?"

"They deserve to die," she snapped at me.

"I’m not arguing with you on that point. But you don’t have to do it. I finished what I set out to do. They’re as good as dead right now. If either of us do anything more we become them." I slowly ran my large hand across Fairchild’s ripped shoulders trying to rub the tension out of them. "It’s time to go."

"You don’t understand," she pleaded with me. "You can’t. You haven’t dealt with them like I have. For as long as I have."

"No, I haven’t. But I know you, the real you, the gentle you, the person who does this to protect people and keep them safe. I know you’re better than this. It’s over."

All the tension went out of her and she said, "You’re right. It’s over, for now."

Fairchild dropped the two limp bodies. The Kintzi hit the deck unconscious and Forgan barely conscious. He tried to get to his feet but they weren’t working properly. He looked venomously at both Fairchild and myself.

"What?" he croaked.

"Well," I said, "since you asked so nicely. You’re going on a little trip in about four or five minutes. Unfortunately, as your destination is a star about to go nova it will of course be a one way journey."

The look of utter defeat on Forgan’s face was the best tonic for Fairchild. She smiled in satisfaction knowing that the Arion realized that his plans were ashes at his feet. Her arm slipped around my shoulder and she gave me a warm hug.

"I’d to stay and chat but we’ve got pressing business elsewhere. Shall we go."

"Yes let’s," said Fairchild.

The last thing I heard as Fairchild and I jumped was Forgan’s howl of frustration.

* * * * *

Back on my ship in my human form Fairchild, Melythra, and I watched the Czebhinn ship disappear in a burst of light. It carried two passengers with it. Fairchild had disabled the Kintzi and Arion ships and sealed them to the dreadnaught. So, they would share the fate of the ancient warship.

"Well," I said after the light faded, "that’s it."

"Ross," Fairchild said quietly, "about what happened back there. I lost control and I’m sorry. I just wanted to pay them back for everything that they’d done. Thank you for what you said back there."

I leaned close to the beautiful Velorian and kissed her softly.

"Ssh," I said after I was done. "I did what any friend would do. What you did for me earlier."

"Ross, do you know how special you are."

I didn’t respond to that. How could I?

"Fairchild is correct," said Melythra surprising me. "You are a truly worthy Choice."

I blushed furiously and said, "All right that’s enough of that. I don’t want to get a swelled head, at least not a human one. Come on let’s go home. I’m taking you two out to dinner."

Fairchild smiled and slipped her arm around my shoulder. Melythra didn’t smile but she did place her hand in mine and give it a small reassuring squeeze. I would have said something but I was stunned speechless. If this was any indication things were definitely looking up.


Sharon Best, Aurora Universe, Copyright 1995,1996,1997
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