Battle of Wills
Laura thought to turn around, slowly, to face her assailant.
"I wouldn't recommend that," he pressed the barrel of the gun against the small of her back, "it would be slow and painful."
She was still holding her pistol. She said quietly, "If I fire--and you fire--you still lose. Even if I'm dead, you still lose. Olsein will hear us."
"You're not going to fire," he replied.
"What makes you think that?"
"You value your life," he continued, "or you would not have fought so hard for it in that prison cell."
Laura was no stranger to being held at gunpoint. But this time, she knew his gun was loaded. She knew he wasn't bluffing. She knew he would kill her.
She knew he came from Pillars.
"Why'd you do it, Mig?" she said finally.
He chuckled quietly with a closed mouth. "Well done," he replied, "Drop your weapon. Now."
"No. You drop yours."
He sighed, but his weapon did not move.
"Stalemate, huh?" Laura smirked.
"Tell me, Mig," she continued, "why'd you do it? You working for Behraan?"
"I'm working for Pillars," Mig replied lowly, "The Bentorii are busily removing our competitors."
"Competitors?" Laura raised a brow, "we're neighbours. Our nations are allies."
"That alliance has served its purpose," he replied coldly.
"So, it's to be genocide, huh?" Laura grimaced.
"It's you surfacers who inflicted genocide upon us, so long ago," he retorted, "who drove us underground. Don't you dare judge us for returning the favour."
"What would your leader think?" Laura turned her head to try to get an eye on the middle-aged Pillarian, "The Mayflower probably does not share your views."
"The Mayflower will not be of consequence for much longer," Mig said smugly, "Funny. Before Janeth walked into my bar, I thought we would never have a chance to hatch our plan. When she did, she asked me to start a war. Well, let me tell you, Laura Vinfield--a war she shall have. Should have been more specific as to whom with."
"A handful of Pillars loyalists you'll never get to meet."
Laura nodded, "So, how does this play out? What's your escape plan?"
"The car," he could be felt shrugging, "your ship will have to be destroyed of course. Can't have someone else disabling the jammer."
"I'm not telling you that."
"You just did."
He knew she had him figured out.
"Think you're so smart, huh?" he muttered, "too bad your smarts won't save you here."
Laura took a deep breath and then looked forward, nodding, "You're not going to shoot me."
He upped the power setting--it would likely disintegrate her at this range.
"I'm going to turn around," she stated simply, "and your finger will not as much as move. Not because you will it. Because I will it."
"I tire of th--"
His words were stopped short as his face ate her elbow. She struck his nose particularly hard, causing a stream of blood to gush out. In reaction, he fired his overcharged plasmar--only to find that Laura had vacated the space directly in front of him, having stepped aside in the same move as her elbow strike.
It hurt, and it hurt bad. Laura knew this. But he rode that pain out and aimed at her again.
Too late. She had already shot his weapon out of his hand with her own one. Its disintegrated remains scattered across the bridge floor.
Before he could react again, the tables had turned. Laura had Mig at gunpoint.
"You're not going to--"
She once again interrupted him, firing a single shot into his shoulder, forcing him into a backwards stumble, shouting in a deadly blend of agony and rage.
She didn't waste any more time with him. She quickly turned to the transponder stack and opened fire, stopping perhaps after six or seven shots--enough to fry whatever was in there.
Mig, in his enraged state, pulled out a knife and lunged for Laura with a blood-curdling cry.
She couldn't turn fast enough to react, even though she tried. By the time she turned half-way to her assailant, the knife slashed her forearm wide open, causing her to gasp in pain and let go of the pistol.
His momentum knocked her back against the wall. Her wind was nearly knocked out of her lungs, forcing her to double over.
He used this critical moment to pin her other arm to the wall with his free hand and attempt to stab her.
But she was not beaten yet. Her wounded, blood-soaked arm reached out to slap his knife away from her abdomen. In a fierce act of resistance, she slammed her forehead on his nose. He winced and the blood poured on, but he would not be slowed by this. He tried again, and she slapped it away again, but not hard enough. The knife slipped along her side, cutting a wide gash around her hip and causing her to howl.
Pounding on the door.
She looked to the right for just a split-second, seeing that Mig had closed and locked the blast door to the bridge, barring anyone else from getting in. This must have happened just before he had her at gunpoint.
Help was so close, and yet she knew that she was alone.
The ship then shook violently, causing both of them to flatten against the wall. The knife was knocked from Mig's hands, falling to the floor.
The ship shook again, and warning sirens blared away that time. Must have been a bad hit. Mig fell to the floor, yet somehow, Laura remained on her feet.
As she moved to close the distance, he reached out for her pistol, hastily aimed at her and fired. The sound never did seem to reach her ears.
For a moment, she felt her abdomen, with a face combined with fear and surprise.
His face, too, was filled with surprise.
Then, the moment passed, the shield around her fizzled away and the belt vibrated subtly, just enough to let her know that the shield was out of energy.
Things seemed to slow down for that moment in time. It felt as though, even after being tortured in prison, after years on T'pauzi V, that this was the closest she had ever been to dying.
The moment passed. Mig's face contorted into a snarl, and he clenched the trigger again.
But not before Laura reached over, pushing the barrel of the pistol straight up. It still fired, but into the ceiling instead. She then quickly tugged the power cartridge away from the stock, tossing it clear onto the other side of the room. With all her might, she kicked the weapon itself out of his hand.
With that, she leaned against the wall, panting heavily as she clutched her side with her uninjured arm. "Give--give it up, Mig," she said between breaths, "it's over."
He looked up to the ceiling, arms flat beside his head, as if doing just that: giving up.
But then his eyes changed. He knew what to do.
And she knew what he was going to do.
Before he could reach in his jacket pocket for the detonator, she reached out to him in reaction. But she did a great deal more than reach out. She telekinetically ripped the detonator out of his hand--out of his jacket--into her own hand, throwing that away as well.
"NO!" Mig howled in rage and kipped up to his feet, charging her once more.
But by then, she was far more in tune with what was happening. Far more in tune with herself. She knew he would charge her. All she had to do was step aside, grab his arm and carry his momentum into the wall, head-first.
Even though this clearly slowed him down, he still planted his knee hard into her stomach. She shouted out and bent forward, as a defense to being winded out again.
He was going to strike her again. But instead of avoid it, she moved in, almost in an embrace--but more of an embrace with the intention of biting down and ripping off a part of his ear. He wallowed in anguish as she spat the piece of her ear out, pushed him back and kicked him square in the chest, off his feet and back onto the ground.
He reached out for the knife, just a metre away. But before he could grab it, she landed hard upon his chest with her knee, hard enough she could feel a rib snap under her weight.
From then on, she swung at his face while on top of him. She swung, shrieking in a primal frenzy. She swung until teeth scattered across the floor. She swung until he stopped fighting back.
She swung until she could swing no more.
And when she could swing no more, covered in his blood and her own, she crumpled over onto her side--the one without the wide slash in it.
By then, almost as if perfectly timed, the blast door opened and Olsein charged in with a live rifle in his hands.
"Laura!" he called out, rushing down to her side. He took a second to look over to the badly mauled remains of her assailant.
She looked up to him, clutching her side, rage still filled in her eyes as she said between her clenched, blood-filled teeth, "I'm fine. Intercom. Now."
Olsein gave her an odd yet understanding look, tapping the intercom button at the door's entrance.
"Darrick, flood it!" she called out.
"Flood it now!" she exclaimed as best as her wounded body could let her. She then turned to Olsein, clambering to her feet, "Help me up to the bridge."
Olsein raised her brows, taking her under his arm, looking back over his shoulder as he muttered, "You've got guts, girl."
On the bridge, the intercom became completely filled with white noise, blotting out any other sound. The ship vibrated violently, so much so that everything blurred and Laura’s teeth chattered together.
Visibly, the various formations broke apart, flying in random directions. Some even began to shoot at each other. Frigates slowed and listed, as if their pilots walked away from their consoles and forgot to set the autopilot.
Numerous fighters flew away. The frigates all found a scraper to smash into, setting alight and crashing down into the sandy streets below, most of which exploded brilliantly upon impact. The scrapers themselves all stood, save a single solar tower that buckled at the point it was struck. The upper half of the building doubled over and fell to the ground, turning to rubble and dust, the clouds expanding for nearly a kilometre.
Darrick then turned off the signal, still vibrating thereafter. “Please tell me we never have to do that again!”
Laura plunked down into her chair, still gathering her senses.
Darrick then looked back, and his eyes widened, "Laura! What on Bentor happened to you?"
"Found the problem," Laura wiped some blood from her lips with the back of her hand. It didn't help.
Elsie rushed over to her side, locating the gash in her side and on her arm and quickly applying a fast-mending gel to them. "An intruder problem, it would seem," she added as she worked.
"Not anymore," Olsein replied, eyeing Laura's bloodied state, "Who was he?"
Laura looked up to him, wincing as the gel seeped into her fresh lacerations, "Janeth's friend. Mig. Wanted the world all to Pillars. Was going to let the Bentorii kill everyone down there. Was going to blow us up while he was at it."
"How?" Olsein raised a brow.
"Remotely," she replied.
He then shrugged, "That won't be happening then. Good. Should still go down and disarm whatever bomb he planted though. I'm on it."
"How'd he get on board?" Savath asked, then added, "Oh, right. We brought some of them Pillarians on before. Must have stayed on, stowed up somewhere."
"You should get cleaned up and lay down," Elsie said with a stern look on her face, "You've done enough here."
Laura shook her head, "I need to see this through."
Elsie nodded, sitting next to her.
"Does that mean that Pillars--"
"No," Laura cut Darrick off, breathing slowly so as to avoid agitating her fresh injury on her hip, "No, he acted on behalf of a handful of deranged loyalists. We should inform the Mayflower of their presence, and of Mig's betrayal."
<We have them from here!> Haren exclaimed joyously, <go to the aid of the airships! Diinshtago, brothers and sisters!>
“Diinshtago, Nywan,” Laura replied quietly in kind.
“Those frigates were the source of the signal,” said Darrick, pulling up and accelerating out of the city, “with them out of the picture, those other Bentorii won’t have the guts to come back. They’ll just wander around until a Giith wants an easy lunch!”
“Can’t account for the ones coming though,” Laura reminded.
“Ah. Yeah. Shit.”
“Win, we’re coming!” Laura announced, “Hold on!”
<Fuck you, ‘hold on!’ I’ve been holding on all war long, thanks!>
Laura’s brows raised, “what a vulgar woman.”
The Skyreign travelled quickly enough that it could rendezvous with the rest of the fleet in just under a minute.
"What's our status?" asked Laura.
Darrick shrugged, "Took a few hits but nothing major. Few damaged lifters. Lost the transponder of all things."
"That was me," Laura admitted.
He looked back, gave her a long look, then uttered, "Huh."
Then, he looked forward again, staring intensely at the sensors as the Skyreign approached the war-torn skies. "Well, I'll be plugged," he said.
“What, Darrick?” Laura asked.
“Maybe I’m seeing things,” he continued, looking up, “but the Behraanese are backing off. They’ve disengaged the Nywanese and are heading off-planet. That can’t be right....”
<You got here just in time to see the end of the show!> Winnibahn said more calmly, <we—hehe--we had it all along!>
“They saw us coming and turned tail,” Laura scoffed, “plus Roselii’s already been there with you for a while, swatting stragglers.”
<I haven’t had this much fun in a long time!> said Rose over the channel.
<It is over!> Haren shouted aloud in the transmission, <We stand victorious!>
In the background, Laura could hear the soldiers and the citizens chanting “Diinshtago” in concert, again and again.
“The Bentorii are still coming back in force!” Laura warned, “We need to evacuate this world. Now!”
<None of our fleet is spaceworthy,> said Winnibahn, <These are airships. They can contend with space vessels, but only in the air. We’ll have to abandon the fleet and get aboard Ophelian ships. We’ll make the arrangements down here. I hope they come quickly enough.>
“The Ophelians are already in the loop,” said Laura, “We’ll head up to space and let the Ophelia know you’re getting ready.”
<I’m sending an escort over for you,> said Winnibahn, <a space-capable fighter. You might know some of his passengers.>
“Got it,” Darrick said, looking again at the sensors, “has a Galactic Council signature. But I don’t recognize the make of the fighter. Completely unique. Designation: Jaegrynn. He’s heading our way.”
“That’s Saferon!” Elsie exclaimed excitedly, “So she’s still alive!”
“Looks like I owe you five credits, Elsie,” Savath said as he came from the stern side of the deck.
<You made a bet on my life!?> said an angry woman over the intercom, a voice familiar to Elsie and Savath.
“It was only five credits,” Savath said defensively.
<Uh, hey, Captain!> said Edge, <you’re taking real good care of your ship, I see.>
“Edge?” Laura smiled widely, “We all thought you were dead!”
<Yeah, I get that a lot,> Edge replied, <Sam’s here too. You know him. Quiet type. I...think he’s happy to see you?>
<I see you are already acquainted with the passengers,> said Saferon, <Allow me to introduce myself. I am Constable Saferon Sarethael. I’ve been looking for you, Laura Vinfield.>
Olsein just resurfaced for a moment and, upon hearing this, craned his head back as he looked towards Laura, “Just what does she want with you?”
“I have no idea,” Laura slowly shook her head.
Visibly, the nimble stubby-winged fighter pulled up next to the Skyreign’s port side, while Rose and Maal in the Dragonfly pulled up to her starboard. Both kept up with her as Darrick accelerated to escape velocity, leaving numerous sonic booms in their wake.
<By the way,> said Saferon, <we did see another Dragonfly earlier. I know it’s not the one boasting a Unity signature. I don’t know who it is though. So just be vigilant. Might be a rogue pilot of some kind.>
Laura scrunched her eyebrows together at the thought, and said aloud, “He could be following us, and we’d never know.”
<Until they lit us up like it was Dominion Day,> said Edge.
With that, Elsie again stood, offering her arm to Laura, "Take a break. Medic's orders."
Laura looked up, suddenly feeling faint from blood loss. Suddenly being taken off of her adrenaline rush. She reached up feebly, grabbing Elsie's arm and shakily getting to her feet, allowing herself to be walked off to get a well-earned rest.
"You're a mess," Elsie chided.
"Should have seen the other guy," she retorted weakly.