“THE PLOT IS COMPLETED, MA’AM,” ARIS SAID.
Amanda didn’t reply.
Aris looked over her shoulder. Amanda was leaning on her legs, passing something from one hand to another.
“XO?” Aris said.
“Alert the crew, Jackie,” Amanda said.
“Brace for hyper jump displacement,” Jackie announced and began the countdown to jump.
“We’re going to take out three ships, ma’am,” Aris informed her.
“Guess they shouldn’t have tried killing us then. Jump.”
Aris initiated the hyper jump engines.
“Brace him!” Q’al yelled.
The medical staff rushed to secure the bed.
“Jump in five…” Jackie began. “Four…”
Q’al leaned over Tru with nurse Henrich, themselves bracing for the jump.
The rest of the medical staff braced themselves.
Around them things streaked, appeared to slow, and then whooshed at speeds beyond comprehension.
In a burst of light and trailed by debris, Prosperous streaked to sub-light speed. It turned starboard, heading toward a solar system. From the same location, ships of a various designs came out of hyper jump and opened fire as they perused Prosperous.
Amanda grabbed the arm of the captain’s chair when the ship rocked.
“Jackie, send a distress signal to Righel. Gracie, don’t let those bastards out of our sights. And Reuben, if you can’t disable them, kill them.”
Aris and Jackie looked at each other and then Amanda. She was glaring at their attackers on the view screen.
The second their surroundings returned to normal, the alarm on the heart monitor went off.
“Prep for surgery!” Q’al ordered. “Nurse Henrich, check to see if we have a heart and right lung with his blood type in stasis.”
The ship rocked again.
“You’re going to perform surgery in battle?” Doctor Ilka cried.
“Yes. I want him on life support in fifty-five seconds. Move!”
“Doctor, I have the antivenin prepared,” Nurse Tipton yelled, running up with a molecular syringe.
“Give him ten milliliters in the surgery theater.”
Q’al and Lareshth ran into the changing room. The door closed and Lareshth grabbed Q’al’s arm. A hit threw them against the wall.
“You can’t seriously plan on doing a heart and lung transplant now! You could kill or paralyze him.”
“He’ll die if I do nothing. Get changed.” Q’al hastily stripped off his clothes.
Aris smiled, letting out a soft whimpering sigh of relief.
“Merchant Raitor ships approaching,” she reported to Amanda.
Amanda rose to her feet. “Aris, bring us about. Rueben, keep firing.”
“The Merchant Raitor ships will provide us cover, ma’am,” Aris told her. “We—”
“The Terallians have already revoked their seat in Merchant Raitor, Aris. Bring us about!”
Aris turned Prosperous and attacked the Terallian ships.
“We’re being hailed, ma’am,” Jackie said.
An older human appeared on the screen and Amanda’s stomach sank. It was her last captain, Emery Lewis. Service under him had been hell, and she had hoped to never see him again.
“I want to speak to your captain,” Lewis demanded. “You are attacking Merchant Raitor ships, Wrigley.”
“Captain Barnet is incapacitated, and these ships attacked us in the Eslin system and again at the Awedon nebula. Emperor Lixu may have issued the order and may be attempting to capture this ship.”
“Wrigley, I don’t see any Terallian ships.”
“I’m aware of that, sir, but they are all Terallian.”
“And you know this how?”
“We sent probes to the one that attacked us in the Eslin system, sir, and collected black box data from several of the Merchant Raitor ships that had been destroyed there. They reported ships other than Terallian attacked them.”
“And what about at the Awedon nebula?”
“They were in pursuit of a Paskian transport shuttle and opened fire on us. Data we found on the shuttle stated they were after this ship, but it did not indicate why.”
“Were there Paskians on the transport shuttle?”
“No. Another alien race.”
“Are they dead too?”
“No, they attacked Captain Barnet and we took them prisoner.
“Once this matter is settled, I will be taking custody of your alien prisoners.”
Amanda opened her mouth to object but the communication link was abruptly ended.
“Son of a bitch!” Amanda snarled at the screen. “Reuben, capture one of those ships. Knowing him, we’re going to need proof.”
“Aye, ma’am,” Reuben replied, turning to a row of controls.
Q’al jerked his hand up when the ship rocked, holding the laser scalpel safely away from Tru’s body. Tru’s chest was open under his hands and blood covered everything and sprayed every time the ship was hit. Q’al lowered a steady-handed scalpel into Tru’s chest and made an incision across an artery.
“Clamps,” he ordered.
The ship rocked again. Nurse Henrich slapped a pair of clamps into Q’al’s hand and he clamped off the artery.
Ilka checked a reading. “The anti-venom has almost counteracted the venom, Q’al. Another dose should do it.”
“Give it to him directly in the vein,” Q’al ordered.
Q’al glanced back at the lung he’d removed. The venom had nearly consumed the organ. Q’al turned back to his surgery. He lowered the scalpel as the ship rocked. He reactively jerked his hand up and let out a relieved breath. He lowered it back down and cut the large artery still holding the beating muscle in Tru’s chest. The monitor behind him buzzed a warning as it lost the impulses of a heart beating.
Q’al quickly pulled out the heart and dropped it in the pan next to the disappearing lung.
Nurse Tipton carefully transferred a cloned heart from a pan into Tru’s chest. Doctor Ilka and Q’al began rejoining the severed arteries with regeneration clips.
Dozens of Merchant Raitor ships had joined Prosperous, turning the attack into a battle on the Merchant Raitor front of Righel Prime. Despite being outnumbered three to one, the Terallians didn’t show any sign of retreating.
“Do we have a ship in our sights yet, Reuben?” Amanda asked him.
“I’ve got one picked out. See it, Aris?”
Aris piloted Prosperous through the middle of an exploding ship.
Aris growled, the sound startling Amanda. She looked down and stared. The Paskian’s face had changed completely to a wolf and her lips rippled with each growl. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as she hunched over flight controls. Her bright light-brown eyes were fixed on each ship she was targeting. Amanda recalled stories of how werewolves looked, and for a moment she wondered if Aris was about to jump up and start killing the entire bridge crew.
“Think you can out run Gracie and me?” Aris asked the retreating ship. Her voice was deeper, even more threatening than her snarling face and growling. “Know something else Paskians have a problem with, XO?”
“What?” Amanda asked, surprised she could find her voice to ask
“When we sink our teeth into something, we don’t let go!”
Rueben turned to another console. “Targeted acquired. Hold course, Aris.”
“Run, run. Where you runnin’ to, asshole?” Aris asked the ship.
On screen a torpedo shot out of Prosperous, bearing down on the running ship. The ship fired at the missile and missed. The torpedo suddenly burst open, sending out twelve small missiles. A burst of light exploded from them and a grid quickly formed around the ship. It emitted a targeted EM burst, disabling the ships engines and weapons. Aris stopped Prosperous over it, smiling proudly.
“We have it in a dampening grid,” Rueben said. “It’s not going anywhere, ma’am.”
“Hold our position, Aris. Stand down.”
Aris’ face smoothed and returned to the puppy face it had been. She sat back in her chair, examining her fingernails.
On screen they watched the rest of the Terallian ships escape into open space, and like exploding stars, they winked brightly as they made hyper jumps.
“They couldn’t have recharged hyper cells that fast,” Aris said, sitting up.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of things about Terallian ships we don’t know about anymore, Aris,” Amanda commented.
“I want a ship that can make multiple hyper jumps,” Aris whined, ending with a plaintive whimper.
Amanda smiled, but didn’t try to console her. It would only open the floor for her to whine more.
“Uhm… Wrigley,” Jackie said. “Captain Jerkoff is back.”
Amanda sighed. “Show some respect, Jackie. On screen.”
Captain Lewis reappeared on screen. “We’ll take over that ship. Transport your prisoners to me.”
“I gratefully relinquish the ship to you, sir. We didn’t take any prisoners from it.”
“I meant the two you picked up.”
Amanda rose to her feet. How did he know there were two?
“Transport your prisoners, Amanda.”
“Sir, what prisoners are you referring to?”
He sprung to his feet, storming up to the video node. His face took up the entire screen and every hair and pockmark on his face could be clearly seen.
“You will transport those Jit to me now, Amanda!”
Amanda pulled herself to full height. “Reuben, release the ship to Captain Lewis. Aris, we have cargo due at spaceport. Take us in. And Jackie, end transmission.”
Jackie tapped a button with a gleeful smirk.
Amanda sat down.
“How’d he know they were Jit? Hm?” Jackie asked. “Or that there were two? Sounds to me like Captain Lewis has a little illegal side work going on. You should report that to—”
“Jackie, shut up!” Amanda snapped. “He wants those prisoners and he will be waiting at spaceport.”
“So don’t let him in when he comes knocking.”
“It’s not that simple. Maybe you should have paid closer attention in your protocol and etiquette classes, Rhoades.” Amanda stood. “What airlock, Aris?”
“B-2. We’ll be docked in five minutes, ma’am.”
Amanda walked to the lift, tapping a button.
“You’re going to confront him alone?” Jackie asked.
Amanda stepped onto the lift without a word. She had to. Tru would expect that of her, wouldn’t he?
Q’al pulled his gloves off, leaning against the bathroom counter. He looked in the mirror over the sink, seeing spots of Tru’s blood on his face. He dropped his gloves in a biohazard canister and then pulled a wipe from the dispenser next to it. He looked up, watching the blood melt away with each wipe. The door opened and Nurse Henrich stuck his head in.
“We have the Captain in a room, Doctor Q’al. He still isn’t stable.”
“Do we have enough blood?”
“For now. We’ll need to restock A negative once we’re in spaceport.”
Q’al nodded, wiping the last drop off his face. “I’ll be there in a moment. Vitals are to be checked every ten minutes.”
Henrich started to leave but came back. “Do you think we won the battle?”
Q’al smiled. “Ask Gracie. I’m sure she can tell you.”
The nurse smiled before he left.
Q’al watched the door reform before asking, “Did we win, Gracie?”
We captured one vessel, three Merchant Raitor and three Terallian vessels were lost in battle, but the remaining Terallian vessels have retreated. We are being processed for docking.
Q’al nodded. “Tru will be pleased to hear that.”
Will Tru be alright? Will he live?
Q’al looked at the floor. The truth was he didn’t know. Tru had made it through surgery, but that was just one hurdle. Now came the harder part; making it through recovery with cloned organs and regenerating tissue on his arm. If his body rejected them, there would be nothing Q’al could do to save him.
You don’t lie well, Doctor Q’al.
Q’al nodded. “You’re just too smart for me, Gracie.” He dropped the wipe in the biohazard container. “As soon as Amanda is available, tell her I need to speak with her.”
Yes, Doctor.Q’al left the bathroom.