"If you cooperate, you won't be killed," his voice rang through the room harshly.
"You've already killed the rest of the crew. Why not us?" one man asked. His partner and co-captain of the ship gave a sharp nod of agreement.
Their captor smirked. "There were too many of them. I couldn't very well control them. Or the gas I put in the vents. You're lucky I needed this room to have breathable air,"
The door sliding open prevented either of the men from responding.
"I found a survivor, Captain,"
The captain looked over to see his cyborg, Vili, enter, holding the survivor by the arm. Unlike the two men he had before him, she was not human. She had pale purple, scaly skin pocked with sharp spikes that covered her head like hair. Her eyes were wide, but the pupils were slits and shone violently orange. Long, gangly limbs hung from her lean frame, but she was short - only about five feet tall.
"Well, well. What is a member of the Aanjay species doing on my ship? And a female to boot! I reckon you don't belong here,"
"I reckon you don't belong here either," she hissed in return.
His translator crackled, but picked up the slithery speech of the Aanjay.
The captain studied her for a long moment with narrowed eyes. "I do now,"
Vili shouted and the captain looked over to see one of his prisoners had dived toward the control panel while he was distracted.
"Hey!" the captain protested, raising his gun to point at the prisoner.
"If I die, you'll die with me," the man shouted, then slammed his hand down on one button on the control panel.
The captain shot, but it was too late. Even as the body disintegrated into dust, an alarm went off. It was painfully loud and included a flashing red light that cast an ominous mood over the entire craft.
The captain swore and turned to the other prisoner who looked smug. He was disintegrated into dust seconds later.
Faleaka, with her hands covering her ears, watched with wide eyes.
"Shut it off!" The captain ordered.
Vili let go of the alien's hand and rushed to the control panel. It took him a minute to examine things, but he managed to find what he was looking for and shut off the siren. The lights continued to flash red.
"How could you just kill those men? They did nothing to you!" the alien protested as soon as the sound had died.
"Excuse me? They just set off the self destruct! That's a perfectly good reason to kill them. Besides, who are you to tell me what to do? I'm the one with the gun. I could shoot you down right now," he pointed his gun at her.
She folded her arms in front of her. "We all know very well that you won't shoot me. That gun had only three vapor blasts in it. Considering the criminal you are, it will be difficult to replace those vapor blasts. Why would you waste your last one on me when I'm going to die with the self destruct anyway?"
The captain glared at her, knowing her argument was valid. He lowered his gun.
"I might be able to help you get out of this. Let's restart our meeting properly, shall we? I'm Faleaka of Aanjay," she raised a hand and made a gesture that the captain could only guess was some sort of Aanjay custom.
Grudgingly, he stepped forward. "I'm Captain Latham," He held out a hand.
Faleaka stared at it, then looked at him skeptically.
Growling, Latham turned to Vili. "How much time do we have?"
Vili glanced at the clock. "Twenty minutes,"
"Right then. Let's get to work. Vili, see if you can hack the system and turn off the self destruct. I'll take Faleaka to check if there are any escape pods we can take out of here,"
He turned to her. "How did you survive out there?"
"I'm immune to the gas you used. It is exported from my planet, you realize," Faleaka informed him.
"Is that so? Well it's a good thing, then, because I only have one gas mask," Captain Latham commented. He reached into his bag and pulled out said mask. Without a word, he slipped it on and headed for the door.
Faleaka only hesitated a moment before she followed after him. Together, they walked down the narrow hallway of the ship, side by side. Both were aware that their truce was only temporary and either one could break it easily and it would be all over for both of them.
“Why are you stopping?” Faleaka asked as Captain Latham stopped midway down the hallway, staring at some doorways.
“This is it, where the escape pods should be,”
“They're gone. Look,” he pointed to a porthole. Outside it, Faleaka could see both escape pods in the distance, drifting away.
“They're both empty, though, I'm positive,” Captain Latham murmured. “Nobody escapes from me.”
Faleaka made a mild noise of agreement. Along the way they had seen at least a dozen bodies of the crew. Captain Latham had ignored them completely, but Faleaka had felt a jolt in her gut at each one. She could hardly believe she was now working with the man who had killed so many innocent people.
“So what now?”
Captain Latham shook his head, looking concerned. “I was really hoping one of these would still be here. Unless Vili can hack the self-destruct-”
He was cut off as the blaring alarm of before suddenly started up again, causing both Captain Latham and Faleaka to jump. At the same moment, a long drawn out scream was heard from the direction they had come from.
“Vili!” Captain Latham shouted, then took off running back up the hallway. Faleaka, her hands over her sensitive ears, followed quickly.
They arrived back at the cockpit to find Vili on the floor, his top half under the control panel. He was jerking uncontrollably, being electrocuted.
With the alarm sounding in their ears, both moved forward and yanked him out. Once clear of the control panel, Vili fell deathly still.
Faleaka bent over him for a moment. “His heart has stopped,” she announced over the noise of the alarm.
“Can you fix him?” Captain Latham asked her, his eyes wide as he gazed down at the cyborg.
“I'm a nurse, not a mechanic,” she replied. She backed off then, watching Captain Latham and Vili with narrowed eyes.
Captain Latham hesitated a long moment, then placed a hand on Vili's chest. A small panel opened there, revealing that Vili didn't have a heart or lungs like any normal person. Inside was a motor. It was stopped but as Captain Latham examined it, he found it to be in okay condition.
With careful motions, he fiddled with some of the gears, then searched around. He eventually found what he was looking for - a small pull wire. It took three pulls before the motor started again. It sounded scratchier than normal, but it was started. Replacing the panel, Captain Latham closed Vili up and stood.
With that emergency out of the way, Captain Latham turned to the next one. The alarm was still going off noisily, informing him that they had only ten minutes left before the ship exploded.
Turning to the control panel, Captain Latham searched it with his eyes, then, finding the right button, silenced the alarms again. He turned around, opening his mouth to speak to Faleaka, but then stopped. She was gone.
A groan from behind him made him pause again. He looked to see Vili sitting up, rubbing at his chest idly.
“What happened?” Vili asked, looking up at Captain Latham.
“Your motor stopped. I started it again,”
Vili nodded, looking a bit sick.
“Don't try to fix the self-destruct anymore, Vili. It's too dangerous. What if I can't start your motor again?”
“I would gladly sacrifice my life for you,”
Captain Latham sighed. “I know, but I'd much rather have you alive than dead,”
Vili hesitated, then nodded deeply, agreeing.
With that done, Captain Latham turned and left the room, intent on finding Faleaka.
He found her on the viewing deck, a room with a large ceiling to floor window looking out over space. They weren't far from the planet Captain Latham had hijacked the ship from and it loomed there while they floated aimlessly around it.
Faleaka sat on the floor, leaning against the closest bench to the window. In her hand was a video pod. It showed a hologram of a young Aanjay girl, playing and laughing. Captain Latham hadn't been aware that Faleaka had a video pod. She must have kept it well hidden.
At the sound of the door closing, Faleaka snapped the video pod closed, making the apparition disappear. She didn't look back at him, instead focusing her attention to the planet outside.
“Who was that?” Captain Latham asked, coming to stand over Faleaka.
“It is my daughter,”
Captain Latham sat beside her, but she still didn't look at him.
“Why is a mother and nurse slotted for execution?”
Faleaka finally turned to look at him in surprise. “How did you-”
“You're wearing a red band. That's the sign, no?”
Faleaka looked at her right shoulder. A red band had been sewn onto her black nurse's uniform, a symbol of her sentence of execution.
“I have been to Aanjay a few times. A lovely planet, if a bit dry,” Captain Latham remarked.
They fell silent for a long moment, then Faleaka asked, “Why is a supposed captain hijacking another man's ship?”
Captain Latham smiled grimly. “Vili just broke me out of prison. I needed some way to escape the authorities, so we took this ship,”
“Are you even a captain?” Faleaka asked then.
Captain Latham paused, then answered, “I was, once. It's been a very long time,”
Faleaka silently nodded.
There was silence again as they drifted and watched the timer count down, the red lights still flashing in warning.
“I've been on this ship since it docked on Aanjay two weeks ago,” Faleaka confided. “I was supposed to be executed for nursing a fugitive back to health without permission.”
“So you have dealt with my kind before, then,” Captain Latham commented.
Faleaka shook her head slightly, but didn't explain herself.
The alarm started off again then and they both looked up at the timer, which showed five minutes left. This time, hearing no screams, Captain Latham simply radioed Vili to ask what happened. After a moment, his scratchy voice came over the radio, barely audible.
“I'm nowhere near the control panel. It must have started again by itself,”
“Well turn it off,”
Vili confirmed that he would do so and Captain Latham put down his radio.
It took a minute for the alarm to be shut off again and Captain Latham wondered just how far from the control panel Vili had wandered.
It was with two minutes left that Captain Latham spoke again. “What's your daughter's name?”
Captain Latham nodded. “I had a child, once. A son,” he paused, looking thoughtful. “I don't even know where he is anymore. Maybe he's dead.”
Faleaka smiled weakly at him. “I'm sure he's not. He's probably still out there, waiting for you to come back,”
Captain Latham was less than sure, frowning at the thought of his long lost son. Was the boy still waiting for him? It had been so long since he had left.
The timer showed one minute left and Faleaka suddenly reached over to grasp Captain Latham's hand. Her flesh, scaly as it was, felt cold in his warm blooded hand, but he didn't mind in the least.
The door behind them suddenly burst open and they both turned around, their hands pulling apart.
Vili stood there, his eyes bright. “I've found a teleporter! I think it still works,” he announced.
At once, both Captain Latham and Faleaka were on their feet and running to follow Vili back to where he had found the teleporter.
As they arrived, Captain Latham froze. “Vili, this teleporter requires someone to stay and work it from here,”
Faleaka paused then as well, looking between Captain Latham and Vili.
“I'm aware of that. You two go, I'll send you to safety,”
“Twenty seconds, Captain!” Faleaka cried.
There was another long moment, where both of them could easily see the indecision on Captain Latham's face, then finally, he replied, “Fine. Go!”
Captain Latham and Faleaka stepped onto the teleportation pad and Vili stepped up to the controls. Seconds later, Captain Latham and Faleaka found themselves standing on the planet they had just been gazing at from above. Looking up to the sky, they watched with mixed emotions as the ship exploded, filling the sky with a ball of fire.
Faleaka turned to Captain Latham then and found that he was staring mournfully up at the sky still. “He was the most faithful friend I ever had,” he said bitterly.
Faleaka nodded slightly, then asked, “What are you going to do now?”
Captain Latham looked at her and seeing her clinging to her video pod, replied, “I think I want to search out that son of mine.”
A knowing little smile appeared on Faleaka's face and she nodded. “Do you need help?”
After a moment of considering this alien woman, Captain Latham gave her a nod of agreement.
And with a strong truce that was born from looking death in the face together and defying it, the pair set off.