“Is someone shooting at us again?” Ignatius slid through the bridge doorway and straight into a console as the ship tilted and lurched under another laser blast.
“Affirmative.” Rook sat beside Murray, affecting a series of evasive maneuvers that seemed to be keeping them from taking any serious damage—at least so far.
Zora leaned back against the couch, strapped in and freaked out of her mind, while the former android and her moron sister tried to keep them all from being dead. They’d wiggled out of the inspection bullshit with the Captain’s help and more than a little Zora charm, but the Slug One hadn’t made it half-way to Cyrus 2 before the shooting started.
The couch bounced and the baby rolled and kicked her in the bladder—hard. Apparently Little Zor didn’t enjoy the threat of imminent death any more than mommy did.
“Yes!” She hollered and caught Iggy’s attention. His head swiveled to her, but his hands clawed for purchase on the dancing bulkhead. “Again!”
“They’re coming around,” Rook’s voice announced the play by play. “Looks like pirates.”
Again. The view screen tilted to the right, and a sleek hull crossed in from the left.
“On it.” The clone emperor pulled himself along the console toward weapons.
“They’re locking weapons,” Murray said.
“Hang on.” Super android flipped his toggles and pulled levers that may or may not save them from exploding into a zillion bits. The ship rolled, but the pirates clung to them, only shifting position a fraction. The nose swung toward them, as the enemy lined up for the kill.
“Son of a bitch.” Zora clutched her stomach and snarled at the screen. The rest of them could fidget and fuss, but she’d been a pirate too long to mistake that position. It was end of everything time. Not that things had been going so great anyway, but damned if she didn’t have a little one to think of--three thousand and one little ones, in fact. She might not be super mom material, but she had fancied at least meeting the little thing. “Damn it all.”
Ignatius reached the guns and fired. Two short darts of light flew into the pirates’ hull. They didn’t even scratch the paint.
A star blossomed near the frigate’s nose. It twinkled and grew as the charge crossed the distance between ships. Zora heard voices, but she didn’t catch the words. Rook droned and Murray screeched. Ignatius was lost somewhere between them. The laser shimmered and filled the viewer. She remembered sleeping with him; that was the problem. He might have been easier to get over, if she’d been intoxicated.
Not that it mattered now. They’d be disintegrated in a second. Just as soon as that light made contact. Zora blinked at the screen. She saw the frigate drop away. She saw stars.
“What the hell just happened?”
“They missed.”It could have been any of them that answered.
“Like hell it did.” Pirates didn’t miss. Not full on and not at that range.
“The shot went high.”
Zora shook her head. She wasn’t buying it.
“Ignatius,” Rook called. “Keep a lock on them in case they come back around.”
“Scanning. They’ve fired engines full.”
“They’re leaving?” Zora watched the screen. It didn’t happen like that, and she should know.
“We got lucky,” Murray said.
“They’re probably after the eggs,” Iggy reasoned. “Blowing up the ship wouldn’t help.”
Zora frowned and listened. They’d been outmatched. The Slug One was a cargo liner with minimal weapons and a fortune in the hull. They should have been incapacitated, boarded and robbed blind. With pirates, there was no such thing as lucky.
“Oh thank god,” Murray said.
“Set us back on course for Cyrus 2,” Rook ordered. “Top speed.”
Pirates didn’t shoot and miss. Pirates didn’t do anything by accident. She unhooked her restraints and scooted down the couch. They’d been shot at twice two legs into a journey that was supposed to be under the radar. No way was that an accident, and a pirate that could ferret out who they were and what they were doing, was good. Too good to miss at close range.
This guy had been up to something, and the battle had gone exactly the way he’d intended it.
Zora would have bet anything on it.
She cozied up to the console and pulled up a readout. The computer flashed Rook’s orders, detailed the minimal damage they had taken, and ran a constant distance scan in case the fiends returned to finish the job. She tapped a key and scanned the memory banks. The flight plan filed at Cyrus 4 scrolled past, and she squinted at it. Nothing out of the ordinary aside from the hold and the Security Chief’s override. She moved forward, caught the initial scans that told Rook they had a tail. The pirate frigate had come out of nowhere, and it had known exactly where to catch them.
Even worse, to her thinking. If they’d flown into a trap, why hadn’t it snapped shut on them?
The battle orders flashed by in sequence, shields, roll, fire, roll, hail, fire. Zora frowned and tapped the screen. The play by play froze.
“Kind of busy, Zor.”
“You hailed the frigate, right?”
“They didn’t respond.”
“Did you check all frequencies?”
“I was somewhat busy at the time, Zor. Remember?”
“Huh.” She tapped the console again and waited.
“What?” Murray snapped on cue.
“It’s just there seems to be a message here.”
There was. The pirate Captain had hidden it in a sub frequency that would have been easily lost in the cross fire of lasers and hailing. He hadn’t meant for them to find it right away, but he had meant for them to find it.
“Pulling it up now,” Murray said.
Zora leaned back and waited. She hadn’t expected a thank you, but Murray’s tone could have been more polite. The screen shifted and fuzzed into a sheen of gray static. Feedback howled through the bridge for a good five seconds before the image clarified. The face that replaced the gray looked familiar. She couldn’t quite place the guy, but he had a swagger about him even sitting still. The crooked grin said 100% cocky, and he might have been sexy as hell, if she hadn’t seen a thousand others who looked exactly like him.
So she was a bit stunned when her straight-laced sister groaned and sagged in her seat.
“Oh crap.” Murray said. “What the hell is he doing here?”