No sooner had the Doc asked the good question of why someone would lock up a specimen slide like it was the Hope diamond from Earth that Was, when Mags’ voice came over the comm. “You’ve got company! Looks like our shuttle and that means — the Reavers!”
I felt my face go numb for a moment. Everyone started talking at once. Miss V’s voice cut through the panic. “Maggie! I need more data! Where are they? Is it just the one ship?”
“They are just landing on the rear dock. Just the one ship, that I can see.”
I turned to Miss V. “These cargo ships have big arms. Might be I can grab their shuttle and shake it up ‘fore they even get suited up.” She nodded. “Go.” As I ran to the computer room, I heard Roark and Prudence discussing where to hide or where to make a stand.
I palmed my comm. “Maggie. What do you see? Have they left the shuttle?” Her voice was tight. “I don’t know yet, Swei. I can’t be everywhere at oncet!”
I was pullin up the mech-arm controls when I heard Roark’s voice on the comm. “They are here. Swei, head to the bridge. We’re taking a stand. No point in trying to run. Let’s die like men.”
I got to the hatchway. Everyone was there. Prudence and Miss V were loading their rifles. Roark had his automatic out and even the Doc had a little peashooter in her hand. I got out my pack. “ChemPlast, Flashbang, Frag, Smoke…. Smoke? Y’all want a smoke screen? I could lay down a real nice smoke screen.” No one answered. “Real nice cover.”
I felt a hand on my shoulder. Roark said, not unkindly, “No smoke. OK, Swei? You hold on to them frags and we’ll see what we can do about using ’em. Alright?”
I patched my databook into the ship’s camera system. “They’s four of them! Coming in the bay now.”
The camera quality was grainy but I didn’t see many weapons. “Couple of rifles and I swear, one’s got a frying pan. Maybe he’s gonna fry up some eggs! Ha!”
The Doc paused from helping to move filing cabinets in front of the doorway. “Actually, Swei, more likely he will use it as a blunt weapon. The Reavers are not know to cook their food. They prefer the flesh warm.”
There was nothin to say to that so I didn’t even try.
It seemed to take forever, but finally they were in our sights. Except that there were only two of them. “Swei! You said there were four! Where are the others?”
Any protestation died on my lips. I’d never heard Miss V’s voice sound like that. I fumbled with my databook. Finally I found the others. “The feller with the frying pan and another are down in the hold area. Creeping along and…. bobbin up and down some.” Roark made to grab the ‘book. “What the hell are you talking about?” I pointed to the screen. “Look.” On the camera you could see the one Reaver pausing to crouch every few feet. “That ain’t good. With me.” Roark grabbed his knife. “Me and Swei are going after the others.” Miss V didn’t even turn around. She just nodded and opened fire on the two approaching.
Within minutes we were at a spiral staircase. We could hear movement below. “Frag?” I whispered. Roark put his finger to his lips, but he nodded. I pulled the pin and let the grenade fall down the stairs. It made a pleasant “Boom“. We waited three seconds and went down the stairs. No bodies. “What?! That was a full on assault! Where are the bodies?” Roark pointed down the hall. There was a sharp turn and as luck would have it, they musta been rounding the corner when I deployed. I peeked around the corner. One was lagging behind the other. He was only about 20 feet ahead. I stepped out full into the corridor. “Ready, Roark?” He started. “Ready? Ready for what?” I didn’t answer him because I was running full tilt at the Reaver. He musta heard me because he turned around and fired his crossbow at me. Missed, thankfully. And then I was sliding into him.
My plan (if you can call it that) was to take him out at the knees a slide right on past and out of reach. It almost worked. Reavers are a might heavier than I’d estimated and he landed crosswise, mostly on me. “Roark!” I roared. “Shoooooot!”
The Reaver was trying to get to his knees when Roark put a bullet in his butt and another in his head. Blood splattered everywhere. “Well,” he said, “They can be killed. They ain’t no boogie men after all.”
The other one was shooting. A bullet grazed my ear and I lay down like I was done for. Roark started swearing and shooting. He left the rifle on automatic and the bullets spit out. I didn’t look up until the firing was over. The Reaver was slumped on the floor. Blood everywhere. Roark reached a hand down. “Let’s move.”
Back upstairs the gals had made short work of their Reavers. One had crashed into the barricade but the other had been dropped where he stood. Miss V’s last shot, Prudence told me later, had taken off most of his head.
“Remind me of that,” I said, “next time I’m thinkin of renegotiating my salary.”
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