The Star’s cargo hold was a mess after Brick’s piloting maneuver, crates, and equipment tossed all around, their contents scattered. Marina noted that the crate with Velez’s payment had been secured and remained closed. As fun as it would be to roll around a sea of gold coins, it would be a pain to clean up. And speaking of pain…
“Amigo, ¿cómo te llamas?” she asked the young man.
He was still looking very much like he’d puke his brains out any second now, but managed to answer, “Yehoshua Ben Baruch.”
“Shalom alechem, Yehoshua,” Marina replied. “Now, I need your help. Necesito tu ayuda. ¿Ves la caja verde allá? A la derecha de las luces en el panel… No, a la derecha. Derecha! La caja verde. Yes, that one! Bring it.”
Yehoshua brought Marina the small green case she’d asked for. She flipped it open, rummaged a bit, and handed Yehoshua a cellophane packet with two pills. “Para la nausea.”
Marina pulled out a hyponeedle and gave herself a shot in the arm, the medicine dulling the pain in her leg almost immediately. She slapped bandages on either side of the blaster wound to keep it covered for the time being and put another cellophane packet with pain meds in her pocket for later. “That’ll do for now. Brick? Talk to me!”
“Clearing atmo in one minute, two minutes to hyperspace. It seems—”
Yehoshua’s panicked screams as he saw Brick emerge into the cargo hold drowned out whatever he had said. Standing in front of Marina and the screaming Yehoshua was a two-and-a-half-meter-tall T’manian wearing the customary breathing apparatus for gaseous atmospheres. All Yehoshua saw was a gigantic cross between an octopus and a jellyfish standing tall on some of its tentacles, a metallic mask over what he could only guess was its face.
Marina reached over and put her hand over the young man’s mouth, muffling his screams. “Silencio! Tranquilo!”
“I’m guessing he’s never seen a T’manian,” Brick said, his voice emanating from the mask.
“He’s never been off-world. Before today he probably didn’t know there was an off-world at all. Yehoshua, calmate, hombre.”
Yehoshua stopped screaming, though he was still very much in shock. His mind was having a tough time making sense of everything that had happened in the last few minutes since he’d slammed into the captain on the dock.
“Brick, hand me my extra earpiece, if you’d be so kind.”
Brick moved past the pair still sitting on the floor, his tentacles propelling him forward as if he was floating on air. He reached with one of his tentacles and opened a panel, grabbed the earpiece delicately, and deposited it in Marina’s hand. Marina in turn placed the earpiece in Yehoshua’s ear, much to his panicked confusion.
“This should make things a little easier for all of us, don’t you agree?”
Yehoshua’s eyes widened in surprise as the earpiece translated the words he’d heard Marina say in her other language into Castilian almost seamlessly. “Si, funciona de maravilla!”
Marina gave Yehoshua a tired smile, glad that they’d all be able to understand each other a little easier now. “Now, can you two help me stand up?”
Yehoshua stood up and grabbed Marina’s left arm, while Brick slipped a couple of tentacles under her right arm. At the count of three, they helped Marina stand up on one leg, steading her as she hopped over to a nearby crate where she could sit. The pain medication was dulling the worst of the pain, but she could still feel a burning, throbbing sensation where the blaster bolt had sliced through.
Things had certainly gone truly awry there at the end, but she couldn’t help but feel it could’ve been a lot worse. Who was that officer, and how had he known that she was an offworlder? There certainly were a few space-savvy people in New Madrid, people who knew about the larger universe outside, including her primary business contact, Velez, but she thought she knew who they all were. This officer was a surprise, his blaster pistol an even bigger one, and as a rule, Marina did not like surprises. And why was he working for the Inquisition? She liked New Madrid because it was rustic; the founders had run wild with the medieval Spanish city theme to the point where generations of native-born NeoMadrileños thought New Madrid was all there was in the world, period. It was kind of charming, medieval ignorance and intolerance aside, and it provided Marina with a perfect haven for business transactions and for hiding when there was a need. And yes, she’d certainly seen the rise of this new Spanish Inquisition—yet another not-so-great feature of medieval Spain New Madrid had decided to resurrect as well—but they had circumscribed to bombastic proclamations and fire-and-brimstone gatherings in the plazas. Imprisonment, abuse, possible torture, this was all disturbingly new. She’d hate to lose New Madrid as one of her hideouts because of this cancer in society.
Marina opened her mouth to speak, but the ship’s proximity alarm blared first: the Star was being targeted. A digital display came to life on Brick’s glass dome enclosure showing two red dots closing in fast on a blue one, surrounded by a series of characters and numbers flashing around the dome too fast for anyone but Brick to comprehend.
“A heavy cruiser and a corvette directly on our tail. They have us right in their crosshairs but they’re not firing. Yet. Star is trying to ID them.”
“Can we make it to hyperspace before they catch up?”
“Not with that lock on our ship. They could fry us with a laser the moment we turn on the hyperdrive. We need to break the lock and get away the old-fashioned way.”
“And I suppose I’m gonna have to do the flying.”
“You always say you are the best, Captain.”
He was right, though. Brick could manage basic piloting techniques, but this would require some fancy flying. A heavy cruiser could evaporate them with just a couple of well-placed shots if they wanted to, and while losing the lock was possible, it would take skill, luck, and maybe even a little miracle. Marina also wondered why they hadn’t fired yet. They wanted something, or maybe someone.
Marina tried to stand, but her right leg gave out immediately and she sat back down with a thump. The pain medication had almost worn off entirely, so she’d have to deal with it until they could get to a medical outpost. “Brick, any stim-patches left in the kit?”
Brick rummaged through the green case with two thin tentacles, coming up empty. “Negative, Captain.”
“Alright, then sting me.”
“Do it, Brick. Sting me, in the leg. We don’t have time to waste.”
“I feel I need to bring up the possibility of permanent nerve damage…”
Yehoshua, not trying to understand what was happening anymore and simply watching, saw Brick glide over to Marina, then with one of its tentacles glowing a bright blue sting the woman straight into the right thigh. Marina screamed in pain as little bolts of electricity danced over her leg. Brick removed the tentacle stinger, and steadied Marina until she regained her composure. The captain took a number of deep breaths to steady herself, grimaced, stood up, and walked haltingly out of the cargo hold and down the hall into the cockpit.
To be continued…