Chasing the Dark Star



“I thought you could open the door. You said you could hack the security. You said.” Bolin waved his hands in Khan's face, shushing him before he could finish. Khan had a small smile as he tried to continue but Bolin grabbed his shoulders and shook him with a SHHHHHH. Khan almost laughed before leaning back against the wall of the dimly lit corridor. Bolin looked up from the small security pad and shushed him one final time before continuing to tap at the keys to little effect. He sighed and grumbled, rubbing his blue lit face in thought before turning to the hallway. Unlike the rest of the ship, which was a series of high ceilings and white panels, the lower cargo deck was mostly automated. The ceilings were lower and the lights dimmer, the air thinner and much warmer as the air scrubbers didn’t need to be as efficient. Only the holds themselves were climate controlled, hermetically sealed to keep things fresh. Bolin eyed one of the old circle lights and tried to think, but he was constantly distracted as Khan clicked his tongue and tapped his foot on the gray metal of the floor at their feet.

“Really dude?” Bolin looked him the eyes. “It's like you don't even want to get in there. We are on a mission and your are jeopardizing that mission.” he was very serious, speaking in a harsh, but hushed tone. Khan just stared back at him.

“Well, for one, I don't want to get in there. I still think this whole thing is a terrible idea. And two, your mission is, quite possibly, going to get us both fired. So there's that.” the lights flicker in sync with a small vibration. Khan looks to his boots, a little startled by the shutter. By the time he returned his attention to Bolin he had buried himself back in the pad, tapping away at various menus and options.

“It's like I barely even know you even know you anymore. How could just change like this?” his voice was sincere enough, but Khan knew better.

“Bolin, we met two months ago. I don't even know your last name.” at that Bolin looked up at him.

“Dude, not cool.” he turned back to the pad and kept working, ignoring another shutter, another vibration. This one was larger than the last. Bolin seemed unfazed so Khan ignored it as well.

“Come on, just let this go. We both know what's in there. We need to back to our stations.” but Bolin ignored, tapping a few last keys when the door cracked open just enough to fit ones hand. Khan stared in disbelief. He had actually done it, he had actually opened the door. He turned away from the pad, a victorious smirk on his lips.

“You were saying something?” he was full of sarcasm and beaming with pride.

“How did you do that?”Khan whispered, worried that there attempts had become an actual, successful break in. “Bolin, seriously.” he felt nervous at the thought of what would happen if someone came down the lift just then. Bolin cracked his knuckles and smiled.

“Well, if you have to know, and I guess you do, all of these doors have a maint...” his voice trailed of at the sound of the alarm ringing. It was loud, very much so. Loud enough that both Khan and Bolin winced and stared wide eyed at the flashing red lights.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Khan shouted over the alarm. But Bolin stared worriedly at the lights, his eyes bouncing from one to the next as he listened to the alarm. “WHAT?”

“That's not... that’s the boarding alarm.” he mumbled it to himself. He took a few steps away from the door, any hint of his jovial nature had dissipated. He turned back to Khan, but before he could speak the whole ship shook violently. The walls rumbled and the floor rattled so hard it threw them off there feet and kept them there. It took a few moments to lighten enough for them to stand again. By then the alarm had quieted and an announcement had been given through the intercom.

“All hands, all hands. This is your Captain, we are being boarded, I repeat, we are being boarded. All non essential personnel to the life pods. All security personnel to sections ten and fourteen.” they couldn't believe it. It was a call for evacuation. They really were being boarded.

“Bolin, we need to get out of here. Come on.” he pulled at his shirt but Bolin stood unmoving. “WE NEED TO GO!” but Bolin simply looked at him.

“Section fourteen is life support. Is the raiders are wearing EVA suits and they breach the hull in a few spots, shutting down life support would kill the entire ship. We can't just let that happen.” Bolin had a look in his eyes the likes Khan had never seen. It was serious, he was serious.

“Are you insane, that’s where the pirates are. We have to get out of here before it's too late.” but he simply stared at him.

“I'm an engineer, my job is to keep the ship running and you're a guard, you are here to protect it. This is what we're here for, Khan. We can't leave.” Khan looked at the lift for a moment, the fastest way to the life pods. The ship rumbled again and an explosion could be heard a few decks above. People were dying, Bolin was right. But this was insane, he was one guy; what could he do?

“Screw our jobs, I don't want to die.” he pleaded but Bolin shook him off and began heading down the corridor.

“Then leave, go. Get out of here while you can, but I can't run away while people are dying.” Khan gave one last look to the lift before following Bolin, his new demeanor almost inspiring. But he was right, they had to help.

“If we head down this way we can get directly below life support and go up from there. It's a lot quicker and a lot less dangerous.” he had broke into a jog. The explosions had multiplied, cannon rounds smacking into the hull were the most likely cause. “All we need to do is get around.” his voice, and every other sound, was suddenly drowned out by an explosion and the deafening decompression that followed it. A few dozen meters down the hall the wall had exploded inwards in a ball of fire and wrenched metal, the atmosphere sucked away by the vacuum of space. The rushing air fanned flames and pulled at panels, tearing them off walls and ceilings. The gravity fluctuated and suddenly they were floating, being pulled toward the vacuum. Their shouts were inaudible over the rushing air as they drifted closer to the hole. Khan panicked, shouting and flailing as he was pulled to the gaping hole in the side of the ship. And he continued to panic, even after he suddenly came to a stop. The vacuum still pulled at him, tugging at his body, trying to pull him into the void. It may have only been a few seconds, but it felt like a life time before an emergency blast door sealed the rest of the corridor from the hull breach. It was a few moments for the pressure to equal and for Khan to regain his breathing, still more than shaky at the event. He spun around, floating in the lack of gravity when he saw Bolin, breathing heavy through clenched teeth and with wide eyes: one hand still holding Khan's collar and the other gripping a busted metal panel that was once part of the wall. He had gripped it so tightly it looked as if he was about to break his fingers. Neither said a thing, both in shock about their survival.

“I'm alive, oh crap, I’m alive.” Khan muttered to the dirty air of the sealed corridor. The blast door only hid some of the damage, the rest of the corridor was wrenched out of shape: electrical panels sparking in the darkness where lights had stopped working for one reason or another after the decompression. Wall panels had been bent and burnt where some of the underlying systems caught fire. He felt a tug and fell to the ground, the gravity suddenly restored. He groaned at the impact, his whole body aching. He felt Bolin pull him to his feet and look him over.

“That was bad.” he said, still a little wide eyed but Khan could swear, Bolin was almost smiling. He looked around at the damage and mumbled to himself for a moment before heading back the way they came. “If we get into the hold we can access the engineering shafts and make our way to life support that way.” he called out as he reached the hold door. He looked it over for a moment before shoving his hands in the gap and trying to force it open. It moved an inch, no more. He grunted with effort, his face turning red with effort before he pulled back, blowing into his hands to warm them from the cold air in the hold. He tried again with little more success. Khan called from behind him.

“Bolin, this lift is still working, we can still get to the life pods. Just... come on.” he was pleading, he didn’t want to leave his friend behind. But Bolin looked over his shoulder and looked him in the eyes.

“Then go, get to safety. You go, I have to do this.” he was stern, but he was sincere. He truly had to do this, he had to try. Khan watched him fight with the door some more, then to the lift and back. He was hesitant, but he made his way to the hold door next to Bolin. His hands were shaky and his mind was cloudy but still he nodded to his friend and together they gripped the pneumatic door, and inch by inch, began forcing it open. There was a sizable gap when the entire ship shook again, throwing Khan into the wall and to his knees. It was too much. He looked to the small gap, Bolin had begun forcing himself through and looked back to the lift, to safety and made a decision; e wanted to live. He stood and made his way to the lift.

“I...I'm sorry, Bolin, I just can't. I can't do this. I’m sorry.” he had to fight with the panel some, but the lift came. He looked back at his friend, hoping he was going to follow him, but he had already made it through the gap and was looking back at him. There was no anger or fear or disappointment. He just had a sad smile, and he nodded his head in understanding before disappearing into the dark of the hold.

Bolin was alone now. He didn’t blame Khan for running. There was nothing to blame, nothing to be angry at. He was scared, terrified. And so am I, Bolin thought. The hold was dark, the only light from the emergency sirens: red lights meant to shine in tandem with the sound of an alarm, but the sound had stopped and left only the lights and the cold air with him in the hold. He moved his way through tightly packed containers, a maze of big, metal boxes. A dozen shapes for a dozen different things, all had the same Future Industries logo painted on them. And it was clear, this wasn’t food. I knew it, but that wasn’t his focus anymore. He had to get to life support, he wasn’t sure how, but he knew he had to help. Somewhere in the back, into the tunnels and from there... he wasn’t really sure. He didn’t truly know what he was doing as he made his way through the darkened maze. More than once he had to turn back and try a different path, barely keeping track of his location. It was like someone pushed all the containers together to make more room. I guess there is something else is down here. But that wasn’t the point anymore.

He was forcing himself through a nearly too small gap, cursing the slight gut he had developed when he heard something. It was faint, but it sounded like voices. He stopped for a moment, but it was too hard to hear. Maybe someone else is trying to get there too. It was a reassuring thought, that maybe he wasn’t as crazy as he thought. But as he pushed on through the darkness, stumbling really, he could start to make out the voices. There were two, and they were arguing over something. As he got closer he could see lights shining through the gaps in the containers. None of them were big enough for him to fit through, but he could see the scene well enough.

Where there should have simply been more containers, a space had been cleared and some sort of equipment had been set up. He shifted his view some: controls lined together, various screens and readouts lined the panels. He shifted again, spotting the two men. One was a small man, balding with his face covered in a surgical mask and thick brimmed glasses sat high on his nose. His body wrapped in a thick white jacket to fight off the cold and his hands clad in surgical gloves. He had his hands up in surrender. Bolin shifted again seeing what he was afraid of, a larger man aiming a gun at his face. He was tall and fit, with thick arms and a grizzled face. He was wearing what looked like some kind of military uniform, but Bolin couldn't make out any marking or insignia. That’s one of the raiders. Bolin watched, trying to stay silent as the attacker placed both hands on the large black revolver as he shouted. The gun itself an odd sight in this day and age.

“Just open the pod!” he had a stern tone, taking a step forward. But the smaller man shook his head, the rest of him following suit. He must have been a technician of some sort.

“I can't, please don't kill me, I can't open it!” he whimpered back and stepped away from the man. His bravery was clearly not his own. They shout things of the sort for a moment, and again Bolin shifted his view to see what it was they were talking about. He knew when he saw it. It was a large pod, gleaming silver and covered in frost. It was taller than either man, and quite large in every way. The front holding some sort of tank or container made of thick red glass. There was a shape inside, barely visible behind the thick glass and layer of frost. Wires were scattered about, traveling from the control to all sides of the pod. The bottom was obscured by a layer of mist, seeping down through the grated floor. He could just barely see behind it, where a floor panel had been removed for the whole thing to hook into the ships power system.

“Open... the … pod...” his voice was forceful, final in tone. He grabbed the technician by the shoulder and shoved the gun under his chin. But again he shook and resisted.

“I can't. I can't.” he was almost crying. “Please don't kill me. Please don't.” he whimpered and the pirate threw him to the ground in anger. He stomped around to the control panel and typed furiously. But it didn’t seem to work as he slammed his pistol into the controls, eliciting sparks and warning lights. He shouted at nothing before raising the weapon at the pod itself. The technician grabbed his vest and screamed something but his voice was drowned out by the sound of three gunshots. Bolin shut his eyes and covered his ears at the sound, each one deafening. They were still ringing when he looked back up at the scene, the pirate had turned and started pacing, the technician had crawled to one of the panels and hugged the corner, his mask gone. Bolin looked at the pod, at were the three shots had landed next to each other, digging into the thick glass but had done little actual damage. The pirate stopped pacing and in one last attempt fired three more shots at the control panel. Bolin didn't duck away this time, simply winced with his ears still ringing. The panels had changed to actually giving a small buzzing sound as lights flashed and sparks jumped out of it. A moment passed and the man raised his head, his attention held by something beyond Bolin's hearing. Another moment passed and he looked to the pod one last time before running into the darkness. It didn't take long for three ship guards to round a corner and raise there weapons at the technician.

“Hands!” the lead guard aimed his boxy old shotgun right at the small man. He stood at the sight, the other guards tracking his movements with their small sub-machine guns.

“You can't be here! No one can be here!” he was out of his mind, oblivious to the fact the ship was truly being attacked. Something in him had snapped.

“Who are you? What is that?” the lead guard was shouting his questions, as if he wasn't being heard. The other guards stayed behind him.

“This is property of Mr. Sato, this is his, you can't be here.” the three looked at each other, one face plate reflected in another. Mr. Sato? He did put this here! Bolin had a moment of excitement, looking back to the pod. That's when he noticed the glass had raised some, more mist flowing from the edges where it was seeming to open. There was a magnetic thud and the glass raised even more, some sort of liquid pouring from the opening. The technician spun around. “NO! SHE ISN'T READY!” he screamed, nearly attacking the controls. The guards were on alert again, spreading around the pod and aiming their weapons. Another moment, more mist and liquid poured from the pod as the glass finally opened and Bolin saw the contents.

The woman was average in height, but she was fit, with muscled arms and and strong features. Bolin could only stare. She had brown skin and short, black hair. Her body covered in a blue neoprene suit, lined and insulated to keep her warm from the seemingly frozen pod. Her face was covered by a respirator and monitoring wires touched every part of her body. Her head rested to the side limply: she was unconscious.

“Who is that? What is going on here?” the lead guard took a step towards the little man and he started laughing.

“She isn't ready, we're all going to die!” he grabbed the guards uniform and got in his face, spittle landing on his visor. “We are all going to die for this!” the guard stepped back and shoved the butt of his gun in the technicians gut and he went to his knees with a wheeze, his laughing had stopped. There was a gagging sound and the woman tried to cough, the mask holding it back. She looked around groggily with cyan colored eyes and tried to reach the mask on her face, but only forced herself to fall out of the pod to the grated floor with a metallic clang; the monitoring wires snapping as she fell. She landed on her knees and pulled at the respirator, yanking it from her face and pulling a breathing tube with it. She coughed and gagged once it was out, forcing some sort of white liquid from her lungs. Her breathing was ragged as the guards stared at the sight.

Hands!” one called as they aimed their weapons at her, not sure at what was happening or what to do. But she only coughed again and stared at the floor. The lead guard held a hand to the side of his helmet before nodding to the others. They nodded back and took a step forward. They're going to kill her! Bolin wasn’t sure at first, but his body was forcing itself over the containers. He scrambled and climbed before falling over the other side with a yelp, hitting the floor. He groaned for a moment before leaping to his feet and steeping in front of the young woman, his arms held out in defense.

“You can't just kill her!” he didn’t know what he was doing, he didn't know why. The guards stopped and looked him over. Bolin looked back at her, and she looked up at him and he knew it was the right thing to do.

“Step aside. You were to evacuate, leave while you can.” he had lowered his weapon some, trying to keep things calm. Bolin stared into the long white visor covering his face. He stared at his own reflection: he was dirty and ragged, but he knew this was the right thing to do.

“I was trying, but I ended up in here... think about what the tech said. Mr. Sato himself put her here! And besides, she hasn't done anything.” he was rambling, not sure how to get out of this. The guard shook his head.

“I have my orders, and I have to follow them. I tried to give you a chance, but now you'll go down with her.” he pumped his shotgun and raised it at him. Bolin closed his eyes and shrunk slightly, waiting for the round to come. At least I tried, that's pretty good, right? But instead of a gunshot there was sound of another explosion somewhere and the ship shook and rattled as the lights flickered. He heard the sound of a foot being planted on the floor and he felt something brush by him, from behind him.

He opened his eyes and saw the woman boost towards the lead guard. She was quick, three long strides and she was at him, shoving his gun to the side and planting a shoulder in his gut. She didn’t linger, slipping from under him as he doubled over and moved to the next guard, too quick for him to fire. But he had time to reach out and stop her. It was a futile effort as she slipped through his hands, forcing a knee in his gut and an elbow to his head in one smooth spinning motion, her feet leaving the ground for a moment. The third guard tried to follow her but she seemed to know that he had put his sights on her. She ducked behind the second guard and kicked him towards the third. He caught the man but before they could regain composure she was in-between them, landing punches to one and spinning elbows into the other. It was a flurry of motion as she landed hit after hit with no return, no matter how hard they tried she would slip the punches and land her own. The lead guard had regained his composure and aimed his shotgun at the group. She was busy whittling the men down, striking at their chests and knees and driving them down in fluid motions, she didn’t see him. Bolin acted on instinct, leaping out and wrapping himself around the guard. She heard the struggle and finished one with a quick knee to the chin, knocking him on his back. She spun around, tearing the shotgun from the man Bolin had grabbed, moving back and swinging it like a club, landing the butt against the other guard, sending him sprawling. The man broke free from Bolin and charged her, but she spun and raised a foot with a hard kick, her heel smashing his visor and he hung there, suspended by the foot in his helmet before falling as she pulled it away. Two more guards ran in and she spun the weapon in her hands, pumping it and aiming straight at them as she backed towards Bolin.

“Holy... DROP THE WEAPON!” one screamed. But no-one moved except Bolin, backing away slightly from the stand off. The women was tense, every muscle stood still as she stood, aiming at the guards who were still shouting at her to drop it. But no-one fired, no-one made the next move. The ship shook and rattled again, but the the sound that came next was not short of enormous. The sound of wrenching metal and explosions rocked the hold, the floor tore open with the walls and suddenly Bolin was floating... in space. He was drifting away from the ship, watching as it tore in two, the straight lines of the long, square hull bending and snapping as it was smacked with cannon rounds from the attacking ship. It was a small frigate: sleek and black with contoured lines. It was too clean and new to be pirates or raiders. It had a something painted on the hull but he couldn't focus as he realized where he was. He forced all the air out of his lungs and tried to hold still. He watched as the Turtle slowly shrank in size, both from him drifting away and from it being torn to pieces. He watched it all from the vacuum. I’m floating in space. He didn’t think about his impending death, or how he would faint soon. He only thought about his brother, down on the planet below him. He looked at the ball of green and blue in the distance. He looked at the oceans that covered half the planet, he looked at Jingshen: the massive city where he was born and he looked at the line of shadow were night was falling. And again he thought of Mako. Sorry bro, I guess I wont see you later. At this point he had done all he could, he accepted his fate. He closed his eyes and waited to pass out.

He wasn’t expecting to feel arms around his waist, to feel someone grab him. He looked again and saw the woman wrap around him, nose to nose. He stared into her eyes, but only for a moment before she looked past him. He felt something solid press into his back and suddenly he wasn’t drifting away, they had stopped. He felt in again and they were heading back towards the ship. He felt it again and they began to hurl back, staring to spin as their speed increased. He looked around, he was going to faint soon, but he just need a little longer. He saw what it was that had propelled them, the guards shotgun. She had used the force of the blast to change their momentum, to launch them back. The ship was closing in, rapidly, and he knew what he needed to do. He scanned the hull, looking for an emergency airlock. Normally it would be easy to find, but the entirety of the once white hull was burnt or broken. After a moment he saw it, the large indentation in the hull, marked with red and yellow to grab ones eye with the airlock in the center. He pointed at it and looked to the woman and she nodded, firing the shotgun again to change their course. It felt like an eternity had passed as they drifted to the airlock, it was only when they got close that he realized how fast they were moving. It was quick, the change in stance and the impact with the hull. He scrambled for a handhold but started to slip away. She pushed the shotgun at him and he grabbed it, pulling himself back to the door. He felt tired, the lack of oxygen have long taken it's toll. He searched and felt for the handle, sliding around in the void till he found it, the emergency release. He grabbed the large, ice coated handle with both hands and planted his feet on either side and pulled as hard as he could. The ice cracked and broke away as the handle released and the door slid open in the silence. He scrambled in, the woman close behind as he slammed a fist into the activation pad. A moment passed, his vision blurred and faded before gravity took hold and the airlock filled with oxygen.

He gasped and gulped at the air, trying to get as much in his lungs as he could. He coughed and shivered, the heat having left his body. His ears were ringing and he was disoriented, but he could breath. The inner door opened to the sound of the alarm and the panicked footfalls of people trying to find somewhere safe. Bolin looked around for her. She was on her hands and knees, coughing up the same liquid as before, her hand still clutching the shotgun. He tried to stand, and after a few attempts was able to get on shaky feet.

“Come on, life pods are just around the corner.” he grabbed at her, trying to drag her to her feet but she fell limp. He panicked, feeling for a pulse, and he found one. But he knew he was still too weak to carry her. He watched as people run by, ignoring him and the strange woman. “Help, please.” no one looked at him as he cried out, his voice weak. They all kept going, except one. He stopped and stared, wide eyed at the sight. He looked at her and back to Bolin. It was the man from the hold, the man with the revolver. He started to reach for her but Bolin stopped him as best as he could. “No, stay away.” the man looked at him confused for a moment before shaking his head.

“We have to get out of here, we need to get her to safety.” his voice was as rough as his face, but Bolin pulled his hands back and let the man pick her up. Even unconscious she clung to the shotgun. “Life pods, where?” he had already started walking. Bolin followed, leaning against a wall for support.

“Just around the corner.” he pointed at the turn up ahead.. He followed on unsteady feet as they rounded the corner, it was packed with people. They were panicked, fighting over who got to get in the pods. They had no chance. At least that's what Bolin believed until the man fired his weapon in the air. The crowed screamed and he screamed back for them to move and they did. He pushed and shoved past the crowd to a pod and waited for Bolin to open the door, waving his weapon at the crowd to keep them back. It took him a moment, the controls were mostly unresponsive. They can't get the pods. It was a somber thought but they had to leave. The door opened and the ship shook again, causing Bolin to fall in. The man stepped in, shutting the door behind him and stepping over Bolin as he placed the woman in one of the chairs and sat in the main seat. Bolin pulled himself to the other chair and started the launch sequence. It took a moment but the pod decoupled from the ship and began it's slow fall to the planet below. The pod stabilized and Bolin looked at the man. “Why are you helping her?” he was still tired from the whole ordeal, but he felt his strength returning. The gruff man looked him over.

“Why are you?” Bolin didn't know. He just felt like he had to. He looked over the old control panel. It's manual dials and knobs matched the rough metal that made up the rest of the interior. “It's a long story, and I'd love to tell you, but she's imp...” the pod shook and rattled, a stray cannon round grazing the back end of the life pod, sending it tumbling. Bolin was forced into the edge of his seat, the arm digging into his side as they spun and flipped. His vision blurred and his ears popped before everything went blank.

When he opened his eyes he was on the roof of the pod, looking down at the floor. He braced himself for a fall that didn't come. He moved his arms down away from his face and realized the pod was upside down. He looked up the the chair he was sitting in, and at the control panel that was supposed to guide the the pod down. He looked at the busted part, missing a chunk of the dash. He looked at the arms of the man dangling above him. He watched as blood poured from his front to the top of the pod. The missing piece in his chest. Bolin pushed himself away from the body, trying to avoid the pool of blood. He looked around the pod again, remembering the women he was with. And sure enough, there she was. Huddled against the wall, the man's revolver clutched in her hands. He watched her take a few deep breaths before the weapon went off and Bolin ducked down at the sound. He opened his eyes and blinked a few times, looking at her. She was tearing off one of her sleeves and wrapping her hand. She had ragged breathing and was shaking heavily when she looked at him.

“Oh, good, you're awake. I don't think I can walk.” she was almost smiling as she spoke. Bolin looked at her hands and at the things scattered around her. A cut shotgun shell, the revolver and... he looked away for a moment. It was her finger. He couldn't look at it directly but he looked at her and she almost smiled again. “It was already halfway gone so I got rid of it. Flash cauterization, I think. At least that's what I think I said it was. Wow, that really hurts. Really bad.” she looked at her hands again and fell over, passed out from pain. Bolin got close, making sure she was still alive. He grabbed her and looked to the pods hatch and for the first time Bolin saw the city outside. They had made it, they actually made it.

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