The Cyber Chronicles 06: Warrior Breed, страница 1
Table of Contents
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
The Cyber Chronicles VI
T C Southwell
Published by T C Southwell at Smashwords
Copyright © 2011 by T C Southwell
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Table of Contents
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Fairen held out his hand, and Sabre clasped it with a smile, then the boy surprised him by pulling him into a brief, firm embrace. When he stepped back, his cheeks were flushed with embarrassment, but he looked satisfied, as if the brief contact had fulfilled some deep need for human contact. Two days had passed since the young Overlord had rescued Sabre from Ramadaus, and they stood in the Scorpion Ship’s cavernous docking port, ready to leave. Pryan looked smart and a little smug in an immaculately cut dark blue suit, his shock of unruly hair slicked back. Fairen turned to Tassin and held out his hand. She hesitated, but he smiled and nodded, so she clasped it.
His smile widened. "You're a good person. I'm glad Sabre has you to love him as he does you."
"Thank you, My Lord."
Aboard the shuttle, one of Fairen's men showed them to a comfortable crimson and grey lounge for the brief trip to Pryan's ship.
Tarl looked haggard when he met them outside the airlock. He studied Sabre with deep concern and cast Tassin a guilty look.
"Thank god you're both all right." His eyes lingered on Sabre's bruised arms.
"Where are Kernan and Kaylar?" Tassin asked.
"In the dining room. They feel like even bigger idiots than I do."
"It wasn't your fault."
Tarl shook his head. "That doesn't make what we almost did any less reprehensible."
"No, but you weren't responsible."
"He's staying with Overlord Fairen."
Tarl's brows rose. "Why? Did he do something wrong?"
"No. He's found a new home."
"Kernan tells me this is Pryan's ship."
She nodded. "It's mine now. He gave it to me."
"He doesn't need it anymore."
Tarl looked even more puzzled. "Why not?"
"He's staying with Overlord Fairen. That's all I can tell you."
"Huh." He shrugged. “Okay.”
Tarl led the way to the dining room, where Kernan and Kaylar greeted them with embarrassed looks and stiff, uncertain smiles. They listened to Tassin's account of what had happened on the Scorpion Ship with shuttered expressions. A thick, gloomy silence fell at the end of the tale, which Tarl broke after several minutes.
"So, where are we going now?"
"Toron," Sabre said.
"Why not home?” Tassin asked. “We have a ship now."
"Because home is two hundred and twenty-three light years away, and this ship isn't fast enough. She's a year-day ship, which, if you translate it into logical old Earth terms, means she can only go three hundred and sixty-five times the speed of light. It doesn't actually work that way, but that's the easiest way to explain it. It would take us two hundred and twenty-three days to get there."
"So, we sell this ship on Toron and buy a faster one; then we go home."
"How far are we from Toron?"
"Good, let's get going then."
Sabre nodded, glancing at Kernan. "It takes two to pilot this ship."
When the former captain continued to stare into space, lost in thought, Tarl said, "I'll co-pilot. These two have hardly spoken in the past two days."
"Fine." Sabre went to the bridge and settled in the pilot's chair, studying the knobs and dials in front of him.
"Are they upset about Trina?" Tassin asked Tarl.
"No, they're upset about what she did to them, and made them do."
"Amongst other things, judging by their attitudes. Maybe she wasn’t the only girl they spaced at Trina’s request." Tarl sat in the co-pilot's seat, where Pryan used to sit, and Sabre recited a checklist. Tassin gazed at the empty, star-sprinkled blackness in the screens until Sabre instructed her to strap herself in.
"Green board," Tarl intoned.
"Course laid in, autopilot engaged," Sabre stated.
Tarl peered into the dark screen. "Course locked. Range to target, one point seven light years, pulses required, two. Intensity configured."
"Charging pulse drive." Sabre flipped the bank of switches above him. "Boosters engaged."
"Check," Tarl said.
Sabre flipped open the capped switch and held his thumb over it, watching the flashing lights on the console. "First pulse... now." He pressed the switch, and a giant thud rattled the ship.
"Green board," Tarl stated as the stars in the screens smeared.
"Charging drive... second pulse... now."
Another thud shook the vessel. A wall of force smashed Tassin sideways, knocking the breath out of her. Alarms hooted, buzzed and wailed. Red lights flashed all over Sabre's console, and Tarl was sprawled across his, his eyes closed, blood oozing from a cut on his cheek. Sabre swore and unbuckled himself, swinging around.
"Are you all right?"
Tassin clutched her ribs, which sent shafts of agony through her at every breath, and nodded, unable to speak.
Sabre frowned. "No you're not."
A breeze blew out of the bridge door, and he cursed again. "Hull breach."
Sabre turned back to the console and pushed a couple of switches. A deep metallic groan echoed through the ship's bowels, but the breeze continued.
"Shit, the emergency compartment doors must be jammed. Bloody antique ship!"
Sabre gripped the back of Tarl's collar and shook him, but he lolled, senseless. Swearing, the cyber marched to the door.
"I'm going to check on Kernan and Kaylar. Wait here."
"Where does it hurt?" She gestured to her ribs, and he nodded. "Right. We've got to get off this ship. She's depressurising. The emergency pods are down the passage. This is going to hurt, sorry."
Tassin braced herself as he unbuckled her belt and scooped her up, gasping as fresh pain shot through her. He cradled her against his chest, clearly trying not to hurt her, but it was unavoidable. His expression was grim as he strode down the passage to three circular hatches at the end. The brow band blazed electric blue, and two hatches opened, the lights on the panels beside them turning green. Sabre climbed into the nearest, easing her through a door that was designed for one person to crawl through. Placing her on the couch inside, he buckled a strap around her waist.
"These are two-man pods. I'm going to put Tarl and Kernan in another one. Kaylar's dead."
She nodded. "Hurry."
A strident klaxon joined the cacophony of alarms, and he cursed. "Bugger. Fire."
Sabre loped off, and Tassin lay back, trying to ease her ribs whilst gasping air that was becoming tainted with smoke. Pale grey plastic lined the spherical pod's interior, and the padded bench ran along one side. On the other, a miniature console had a tiny screen and keypad, and various handles and knobs indicated recessed lockers in the wall and floor. Another, smaller explosion shook the ship, and her concern for Sabre redoubled. A few minutes later he crawled in, bleeding from a long scratch on his arm, and closed the hatch, locking it. Turning to the panel, he tapped the keypad, then came over to her and pushed her back against the wall, bracing himself. Tassin gasped as she was jerked violently sideways, pain flaring from her ribs. Sabre's grip prevented her from being flung against the strap around her waist. The pressing force lasted only moments, then she floated up against the strap in a most unnerving way.
"It's okay, it's just zero gravity," Sabre assured her. "Hold onto the strap."
Sabre turned and floated across the pod with well-trained ease to pull a box from a clamp on the far wall. Taking out a bottle of pills, he pushed one into her mouth, then held a water bottle with a tube to her lips.
"That was a painkiller. It will help." He put the medical kit back.
Tassin looked down at herself, tugging her blouse up to try to see why her ribs hurt so much. Sabre helped, his warm hands finding the painful area.
"It's where the strap cut into you. It's bruised. If you hadn't been wearing it, you'd be dead."
"He's okay, just banged his head. He woke up, so he can pilot the other pod. Kernan's badly hurt, but he might live. He and Kaylar were in the dining room, and, although they were strapped in, the explosion hit them much worse." She pointed at the scratch on his arm, and he nodded. "I had to free Kernan from some debris."
Sabre reached over her head and flicked a switch. "We trigger the distress beacon and wait. Luckily we're not far from Toron."
"We have enough food for a month. The air and water are recycled."
Tassin sighed as the pain ebbed.
Sabre squatted in front of her, holding himself in place. "Feeling better?"
She nodded. "A little."
"Don't look so scared. I'm here."
"Of all the people... I would choose to be trapped... in a tiny room with... you'd be my first choice."
He smiled and pulled himself onto the couch beside her. "We'll be okay. Just rest now."
"Are we moving?"
"Oh yeah, we're moving at about two hundred times light speed, if that last pulse was completed. Towards Toron."
A sudden force thrust Tassin against the wall, banging her head on it. Lights danced in her eyes, and her vision dimmed as fresh pain lanced from her ribs and the back of her head. When her sight returned, Sabre cupped her face, his eyes filled with worry.
"Are you okay?"
She nodded. "What happened?"
"The ship blew up."
"But... there was no sound."
"Sound doesn't travel through a vacuum." His brow was furrowed.
"Tell me, Sabre."
He looked away. "Some debris must have hit us, because the shock of an explosion won’t travel in a vacuum either. It will have altered our course. We could be going anywhere now."
"Away from... Toron?"
"No, but probably at an angle, which means we could pass right by it."
"But the beacon..."
"If it's working. I hope Pryan kept his equipment up to date. If it's transmitting on an out-dated frequency, no one will hear it." He glanced around as a red light flashed on the control panel and drifted over to it, tapping the keypad. He cursed, then banged the panel and turned to look around the pod.
"What now?" she asked.
"Nothing for you to worry about."
"Dammit, don't try to coddle me!"
He turned to her. "Okay. We've sprung a leak."
"Our air is...?"
"Yeah. I've compensated for it by increasing the flow from the reserve tanks, if they aren't ruptured, and if Pryan kept them full."
"We're going to... die?"
"No." He pulled himself onto the couch beside her again. "We'll make it."
"We're going to make it."
He averted his gaze and held up his left arm. The silver bracelet that glinted on his wrist looked dented, and the long bloody scratch ended beside it.
"It's broken?" Tassin's heart sank.
"We'll be all right."
"How? We're stuck in a tiny sphere hurtling through space to who knows where, and our air's leaking out. How long do we have?"
"A few days. Plenty of time for someone to find us."
"If the beacon's working." She covered her eyes. "Oh, god."
Sabre moved closer and put his arms around her. "Hey, don't get upset. I'll think of something."
"What are you going to do, get out and push?"
He chuckled. "If I have to."
"That's not funny."
"Maybe Ramadaus will find us again."
"That's even less funny."
He sighed and held her close, bending his head to lay his cheek against her brow. "Hush, rest now."
A loud banging roused Tassin, and she struggled to open her eyes. Her head pounded and her eyelids were leaden. The walls seemed to warp in her red-tinged vision, and she gasped as if she had been holding her breath, her lungs burning for air. Her mouth was dry and her stomach knotted with emptiness, yet it seemed like she had only dozed off a few minutes ago. Sabre hammered on the wall opposite, panting as if he had just run a hard race.
"Sabre... what are you doing?" Her tongue did not appear to be working properly.
He turned to her. "We're running out of air. The leak was bigger than I thought, and one of the reserve tanks isn't working."
"It's only been a few hours."
"It's been two days. I gave you something to make you sleep."
"You... bastard." Now that she thought about it, she had hazy memories of eating a tasteless paste and using the tiny cubicle at the back of the pod, which housed the rudimentary ablution facilities. She tried to shake her head. "What are you doing?"
"According to the scanners, the defunct oxygen tank is next to this wall, and it's full. I'm trying to puncture it without making too big of a hole."
"Why are you... not like me?"
He inspected his bleeding knuckles, flexing his hand. "The cyber's compensating for the lack of oxygen by increasing the speed of my breathing and heartbeat and boosting the amount of haemoglobin in my blood. I also have a larger lung capacity. Cybers are designed to function in low oxygen atmospheres."
He turned back to the wall. "Sorry, I had to sedate you to conserve our air."
"No. I've been resting too. I know you're feeling aggressive. It's a symptom of hypoxia."
"What's that?" She made an effort to enunciate her words clearly.
"Lack of oxygen. It causes delusions, euphoria and aggression." He smashed his fist into the wall, making her start. She closed her heavy eyes as he continued to hammer on it.
The noise made her head ache, and prevented her from slipping into the doze that tugged at her. Silence fell, and she opened her eyes. Sabre frowned at the wall, holding himself in place with one of the many hand holds around the pod, and she became aware of a soft hissing.
"You did it?"
He glanced around. "Yeah. I've made a crack. You'll feel better soon."
Already she was becoming more alert and her eyelids were not so heavy. "How long do we have now?"
"A few more hours. A day, maybe."
"Were you planning to keep me sedated while we died?"
He looked away. "It would have been easier for you."
"Well don't. I want to be with you if it happens. You don't deserve to die alone."
Sabre floated over to her. "I would anyway. I'll outlive you by several hours."
"So you admit it could happen."
"It's starting to look that way."
Tassin gulped, rubbing her eyes. "At least we're together."
"Yeah. But don't give up hope yet."
"The beacon's on the wrong... thingy, isn't it?"
"What about the cyber?"
He shook his head. "It's only got a range of a few light years in space."