“I’ll always love you.”
Konnor felt like crying when he heard Dax say this. It was all the talk of never forgetting him that really upset Konnor. It definitely felt like Dax didn’t think he would survive. But he had to. Konnor didn’t want to even think about having to live without Dax.
Dax swallowed, squaring off his shoulders. He reached around and took one of the knives from behind his back and flipped it in his hand to extend the hilt to Konnor, “Take this. Just in case.”
Konnor reached out for the knife, slowly wrapping his hand around the hilt. Dax’s hand dropped away. He looked up at Dax, he wasn’t sure he could hold it together much longer. Konnor opened his mouth, but Dax didn’t give him the chance to speak. Dax quickly added, “Get to your post, we’re almost out of time.”
Konnor nodded, there was nothing left he could say. Dax was already off to talk to the rest of the crew and get ready to fight. He gripped the knife in his hand tighter. He put it in a belt loop to rest at his waist. He was glad to have something to protect himself, but he really didn’t want to have to use it. He’d never hurt anyone before. He wasn’t sure if he could if it came down to it.
He ran up to the helm, relieving the soldier that was already there. The soldier went down to join the others gearing up for battle. Konnor still wished he was down there, getting ready to fight alongside Dax. He knew that he wasn’t a good fighter. He knew that if he were down there, he’d just get in Dax’s way. He knew all the reasons he was steering the ship towards the Kirinalli. He just didn’t want to lose sight of Dax and never see him again. He still believed in Dax, even if Dax didn’t.
Their ship was already closing in on the Kirinalli, it was only a matter of seconds before they were sailing right next to them. On the deck, Konnor could see some of the soldiers standing by the edge of the ship with rope hooks, poised to jump as soon as the Kirinalli ship was close enough.
Konnor steered the ship smooth and did his best to slow the ship down as they came upon the Kirinalli ship. When the Kirinalli ship was a few feet out and below the starboard side of theirs, the soldiers jumped. They landed on the other ship, securing the hooks for more soldiers to pass and to keep the ship connected to their own.
The weight of the other ship started to tip theirs down to the side. Konnor turned the wooden wheel as hard as he could, he had to adjust their flying direction to balance out the added weight. Learning to fly the ship had been hard enough, but now he had to improvise and figure how to keep flying in the direction they wanted to go while, bringing the Kirinalli ship with them.
Dax’s men kept jumping onto the Kirinalli ship below them. Konnor could hear the clash and clang of swords, but no guns fired. Konnor didn’t question it, he just focused on continuing to sail the ship. He tried to keep it going straight in the international skies of the Furhan Wastelands, and away from Toeaux ship still flying towards them. As the last of the sounds of the fighting died down, Dax jumped down onto the Kirinalli ship.
Konnor did his best to look over the edge of the ship to see the Kirinalli ship below, but his view was obscured by their own ship. Konnor waited. Some of the crew had to come back. They had to disconnect the ships once Dax had control of the other ship. So what was taking so long?
Movement in the corner of his eye caught Konnor’s attention. He turned his gaze to the ropes connecting the two ships. Someone was coming. Konnor held his breath, hoping to see some of Dax’s crew returning.
Hands reached over the edge of the railing, followed by a head and torso. They were not in the blue-gray uniforms of the Toeaux soldiers, Konnor figured this had to be someone from the Kirinalli.
Konnor reached for the knife at his waist. He didn’t know what the man was up to, but he couldn’t let him get far. He messed with the switches on the control panel, trying to get the ship to destabilize. If he could get the ship to rock to the side enough, he could knock off the intruder. Saria and Timothy were safe in another room below the deck of the ship.
He spun the wheel of the ship. The ship started to turn, but do to its size, started to tip down. Konnor’s knuckles turned white as he gripped onto the wheel to hold himself in place at the helm. He risked glancing down to the right where the man had been trying to climb on. Unfortunately, the tilting of the ship seemed to do nothing to shake off the intruder. If anything, it made it easier for the man to jump on and run along the railing that was almost parallel to the ground.
Konnor quickly reached up as high as he could to smash his hand into the stabilize button. With the sensor on, the ship was smart enough to know if it was tipping any degree off zero and immediately rectified it. Konnor got his footing again as the ship restabilized. The man below wasn’t so lucky. He stumbled and wobbled, but still manage to fall onto the deck of the ship.
Konnor cursed himself as the man once again stood up, this time looking more determined. The man’s long hair had fallen in front of his face, but Konnor could still see the man looking directly back at him.
Dax landed on the deck of the Kirinalli ship, both feet firmly on the floor. He stood up straight, surveying his soldiers and the Kirinalli thieves. His soldiers had every last one of them cornered with their hands raised and weapons dropped. Dax smiled at that. He always knew these thieves were rats and the best way to deal with them was to capture and exterminate them all. And he was going to start with their leader.
He slowly walked to the middle of the deck, looking at each and every thief. He’d seen wanted posters of the Koya, the Kirinalli leader, and the man with grey eyes, greasy black hair, and a unibrow was not here.
Dax went right to his most senior soldier, staring him down as he said, “Where is Koya?”
The soldier swallowed, shrinking under Dax’s glare. “We looked all over the ship. He’s not here.”
“It’s a ship,” Dax snapped, “There’s nowhere else he could possibly go. So where is he?”
In answer to his question, a loud creaking sounded above them. Everyone looked up, the ship was turning rapidly. Even worse, it was nearly completely on its side and about to fall right on top of them.
“Konnor...” Dax breathed out. The ship above them jerked back into a level position, pulling their ship along with it. One side of the ship went up faster than the other, causing the entire ship to tilt to a 45° angle. Everyone was losing their footing. But Dax was able to run up the ship, pushing the balls of his feet against the hardwood deck.
The ship was tilting even more. Dax made a flying leap for one of the ropes connecting the two ships. His hands caught onto the rough rope, sliding down a little before he started to pull himself up. He heard a scream behind him. Dax glanced back to see someone falling over the edge of the ship. A Kirinalli thief was looking over the edge, hands still by the edge where the soldier had gone over.
Dax gritted his teeth and kept pulling himself up and back to his own ship. He knew it would only be a matter of time before the Kirinalli ship righted itself again. He had to trust that his soldiers could get the upperhand again. Dax heard a yell come from above him and started to climb the rope faster. He got to the top, swinging his legs over the railing.
Konnor was at the helm, Koya had just ascended the stairs, ripping out the knife that Dax had given Konnor out of his shoulder. Dax ran full speed to the helm, throwing his entire weight into tackling the Kirinalli gang leader. In a flash, he grabbed the knife from Koya’s hand and spun it in his hand to point the blade at the man. Without thinking about it, Dax buried the blade in Koya’s neck and ripped out, letting the man bleed out.
Dax stood up, looking at Konnor for the first time. Konnor was just staring back at him, eyes wide. Was that fear or awe? Dax didn’t have time to decide. He reached out with his left hand, grabbing Konnor’s wrist, “Come on.”
Konnor seemed to be frozen to the spot. Dax dragged him across the deck and over Koya’s lifeless body. He could hear clanging again and saw the connecting ropes move. The Kirinalli were coming.
Dax kept his grip on Konnor as he ran to the main deck. He pulled Konnor to his room under the helm and threw him inside. Konnor stumbled inside, but almost immediately turned around to face Dax. Dax only reached for the door, pulling it shut. “No, Dax!” Konnor ran forward, but Dax shut and locked it before he could get back through it. Konnor pounded on the door, “Don’t leave me! Come back!”
Dax turned his back. He couldn’t let Konnor get hurt. He just couldn’t. He switched his knife to be in his left hand and pulled out his pistol with his right. Dax took a long breath before walking onto the main deck. Half the Kirinalli thieves were already there, swords drawn. Dax held his weapons tighter. There was no such thing as surrender.