Awen: Tongue of Flame

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The Seige

The rumbling sounds of the violent storm were masking the grating metal of their failing engines.

'We can't all go.' Jensen said.

'Grace, can you stay here with the children again please?' Jason pleaded.

Grace nodded. 'Of course, I will.' she replied.

'Are there any space suits?' James asked.

Jason was amused. 'There are no Extravehicular Mobility Units.' he replied.

Looking at the others for answers, James blinked in confusion. He did not understand a word that the Captain had said, none of them did. 'There are no space suits; they're all onboard 'Aspire'.' Jason finally replied.

Grace laughed. 'Well, then don't breathe too much.' she advised.

Kissing Rose goodbye, Jensen was the first to wrap a bandage covering across his mouth and nose. 'It's better than nothing.' he remarked. Scouring through half-empty first aid lockers, they all searched for supplies to copy him.

'Where do we go, Captain?' Jensen asked. This was Jason's ship after all, and they would follow his lead.

'Out of the airlock to begin with.' Jason replied.

'We're going to lose each other out there.' James stated.

'I have an idea about that.' Jensen replied. Fastening an armoured carabiner cable to the main hatch door, he secured the clip with ease.

'Good thinking Jensen. Make sure that you all tie on because if you get blown away out here...' Jason said.

'Buddy check.' James yelled; he wasn't taking any chances.

It was pitch black. 'The enemy can't see us.' James whispered.

'No, but they'll hear us if you keep talking.' Jason replied, causing the man to sulk.

'No one takes me seriously...' James began. Storming blindly into a wall, he rendered himself unconscious, and the obnoxious clanging drew immediate suspicion.

'What was that?' a voice called out.

'It's this damn storm Micky.' another replied.

'I thought that it might have been that bitch Sharpe again.' Micky cursed.

'Last time I checked, she was still in her cell with the other freeloaders.' he replied.

Tapping Jason on the shoulder, Jensen wanted to draw his attention that James was no longer standing next to them. 'Idiot.' Jason said.

Retracing his steps, Jensen almost tripped over a stirring James. 'Watch it.' he yelped.

Dragging him back up onto his feet, Jensen grabbed both of his shoulders. Pointing above them, he identified another lookout. 'Keep up, or we are all dead.' he said sharply into James's ear.

Something wasn't right; there was a massive opening in the ship's hull, where rigid metal plating once knitted together smoothly. 'Damn it.' Jason cursed.

Climbing inside, they discovered that they were no longer blind. With a blast radius of two hundred feet, an explosion must have ripped through the guts of engineering. Wherever they looked, evidence of destruction blocked their path.

The damage was extensive, whatever had caused this, had almost cleaved the ship in half. Jason was in shock; he had escaped one form of hell, only to find another soon after. 'Do you smell that?' he asked, rubbing his hand across the floor and licking his finger.

'Smells like burning fuel.' Jensen said. 'Tastes like it too.' Jason added, spitting on the floor.

'If another flare hits this...' Jensen began. 'We will be dining with our ancestors.' Jason finished.

'Isn't that sweet, you two finishing each others' sentences, ' James teased. 'If they are still guarding the ship, then there must be something still inside that is worth protecting.' he added, nursing an egg-shaped lump on his forehead.

'Which way to the cells?' Jensen asked, ignoring James.

'Follow me.' Jason replied, hooking the end of the cable onto a sturdy enough looking support beam.

Wondering through the brutally scarred belly of the beast, Jason could already tell that the ship would never be the same again. The only downside to walking through the lower levels of 'Aspire', was that to get anywhere, they would have to climb.

'Can't we use the elevator?' James asked. Rolling his eyes at the stupidity of the question, Jason walked away.

'Think about it; they'll be waiting for us up there if we do.' Jensen replied.

Thousands of metallic rungs on hundreds of reinforced ladders were dotted around the entire ship. Noticing that some were barely intact, they moved cautiously. Jensen belatedly discovered that glancing up was a terrible idea, as a nauseating feeling of vertigo washed over him. 'I'm going to be sick.' he complained.

'We're almost there.' Jason replied. He was panting.

'It's getting harder to breathe in here.' James choked.

'I don't think that the ventilation systems are working properly.' Jason replied, holding his finger out to check for any sign of a breeze.

Hatchway 5 A was directly ahead, and as James reached the platform, the door blew off of its hinges. 'Hold on to something!' Jensen screamed.

'What are you three doing down there?' a familiar voice asked.

Shifting his face, the lady gasped as she caught sight of Jason. 'C-Captain?' she asked, not believing her eyes.

'It's me, Isabella.' Jason replied.

'Of all of the places, what are you doing here?' she asked, reloading her automatic weapon.

'We're here to rescue you.' Jason chuckled.

'We could use the help with taking back what's left of the ship.' Sharpe said.

'How many are there?' Jensen asked.

Recognising his face, Sharpe struggled to remember why. 'The colonisation effort, I seem to recall that you and Hal Lockwood tried to lay claim to all of the best lands, ' she replied. 'Where is he these days anyway?' she added scowling.

Jensen's face sagged, the fact was that he did not honestly know where his friend was; he only had an idea. 'Well, there's no more prime real estate is there.' he said.

'How is your mother? And how is Jackson?' Jason interrupted. The question did nothing to improve her mood.

'Jackson is hiding in my quarters; at least he was before we all got captured.' Sharpe replied, not bothering at all to mention the fate of her mother.

Letting it go, for now, Jason decided upon another line of questioning. 'How'd you get captured?' he asked.

'With respect, Captain, time is not on our side. The ship's leaking fuel and the storms are getting worse.' Sharpe reported.

'Will she fly?' James demanded.

Shaking her head, she looked glum. 'The old girl will never fly again.' she replied over her shoulder, already on the march into battle.

'Let's get these bastards!' Jason roared.

'At last count, there was only fifteen left. Two died when engineering blew up.' Sharpe said.

Firing wildly down the bullet-riddled corridor, Sharpe didn't hear the Captain speak. 'I don't suppose that you have any spare weapons? We are feeling a little useless here.' Jason repeated.

Fumbling at a holster on her leg, Sharpe grabbed for her pistol. 'Here, ' she said, offering it to the Captain. 'And for you, Jensen, only the best.' she laughed, handing him a tiny pocket knife.

'Thanks.' Jensen replied flatly.

Charging towards the bridge of 'Aspire' they could hear the desperate pleas of the enemy calling out for orders from their gutless leaders.

'What do we do?' one cried.

'Hastings is down.' another yelled.

Throughout all of the carnage, no orders came for them.

Regrouping with other resistance forces, they all stared at their lost Captain with awe as he walked passed. 'Almost there.' he yelled.

Taking one combatant to the floor with remarkable precision, Jensen held the little knife to his throat. 'You move, you die.' he said.

'No prisoners.' Sharpe muttered, forcing the knife deep into the defenceless man's neck. The Captain stared after her with dread; this was not the woman which he once knew.

Onto the bridge, Jensen's heart threatened to beat out of his chest as he looked down the barrel of a rifle. Squeezing his eyes shut, he expected the worst.

The rifle went off, popping several times, only the shots were all off-target. Strangling the gunman with his radio cord, James killed him in a matter of seconds.

'You saved my life, thank you.' Jensen said.

'Any time.' James replied.

'The ship is ours!' Sharpe cheered.

'As much as it hurts me to say this, we have to get everyone out and leave.' Jason ordered.

'And go where?' she demanded, stunning the Captain. The old Isabella would have done as he asked without hesitation. Telling her all about their meeting with the alien queen, she could not believe what she was hearing.

'It's all true.' Jensen said.

'How many people are on board? Julie mentioned that over two hundred people turned up?' Jason asked.

Sharpe had forgotten about her. 'Is she alive?' she pleaded.

'Julie didn't make it; she died, saving the hostages.' Jensen interrupted.

Sharpe looked ready to punch something. 'I have no idea, it's like Julie said, there were hundreds of people that made it onboard before those bastards seized the ship.' she replied.

The odds were not in their favour. 'Aspire' was a bomb just waiting to explode, and the air outside was so toxic, that any journey on foot would likely be a death sentence.

'The shuttle...' Jensen began.

'That shuttle can carry around seventy people at the most.' Sharpe interrupted.

'Isabella, we can't stay here. That facility is our only hope.' Jason said.

Throwing her arms up in frustration, Sharpe sat down in one of the few intact chairs. 'You're right, Captain, so how do we transport what could potentially be hundreds of survivors, to a hidden location somewhere up in the mountains?' she asked, raising her eyebrows.

'It beats me, but we'll think of something.' Jason replied, his voice tapering off.

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