Warp Riders – Chapter 32

The gig that had given them the Stowaway had been suspect from the start.

The Captain had done a fair bit of sweet talking to get it, including going back and seeding some ideas a few years earlier; it was a bit confusing managing a reputation across time, but it’d worked.

In the end it was supposed to be a simple grab-and-go; they landed in the crepuscular zone of a tidally locked planet, drove over to the night side, set up watch from an abandoned skyscraper, and broke into the museum between shifts.

But it hadn’t been a museum.

They’d checked it in the future, they’d checked it in the past, but at the exact time they went to rob it, it was instead an active temple. It felt so disorienting, like the time stream had changed just as the Bosun and the Captain pushed in through the service doors.

And with Lucy gone, there was no one on the ship to check up on things from the high res scanners; they’d been relying on the portable screeners, which so often were blocked by different metal alloys and even just people’s bodies. So not only was it not the same layout, people inside were much better armed than they had predicted. 

And in a frighteningly specific way. The Bosun’s knives were no good against the aramid gloves and vests; and the Captain found her fists kept busy with what could best be described as a giant in a steel helmet.

With the interior layout changed, the Engineer’s charges did not take out any safe doors or structural walls, and the Navigatrix had no real sightlines from eight floors up the skyscraper. When the earpieces lit up with the curses and swears of the Captain and the Bosun, she and the Engineer had to improvise, and they’d come down to street level to try and get a handle on the situation.

The Captain was three or four rooms deep at that point, not wanting to leave a job undone, and the Bosun was covering her back as she dug through the temple, looking for their mark.

But the old statue they’d been sent to grab wasn’t there; and they’d ended up pinned in the basement, and someone got the Bosun’s shoulder with a lightning bullet, leaving her twitching, and the Captain’d fallen down under that asshole in the helmet, calling him all kinds of names, and so, of course, the Navigatrix had kicked in a door and snapped the focal tube off her precision ray gun and just started spraying plasma rays in an arc across every room they ran through, and the Engineer’d kept the exit open with the fuzz grenades, filling the air with charged gasses, and when they got into the basement she saw the Navigatrix pull that asshole in the helmet up by his belt and crack his collarbone with the focal tube like it was nothing. The Captain was up in a split second, pulling the shockdart out of the Bosun’s shoulder and tossing it like the electricity was nothing to her and yelling at them all to bail, call it, fuck off, get the hell out of that place. And they’d started pushing back out of the building, up one floor, into the central hall, just a few more goons to knock out of the way, but then that armored knife fighter caught up with them – and the Navigatrix had been behind, re-arming the Engineer’s fuzz grenades, and the knife had caught her right below the ribcage, and they’d almost been through the door when she managed to buzz the alarm on the earpiece.

The Captain had picked up a live fuzz grenade and smacked three goons in the face with it on her way to grab the Navigatrix. They got her into a locked piggyback and onto a ground effect cart they jacked and then very, very quickly back to the ship. The Captain flew them through the warp and out of time, and the Bosun did a little light surgery, and then, once the Navigatrix was moving around the ship with only a little wobble, they found that cursed Stowaway in Lucy’s old bunk, carving a strange piece of wood into an arrow, and covering the mattress in wood shavings.

The Engineer was pretty sure it was the closest call any of them had ever had. She’d never forget the look on the Captain’s face as they laid out the barely conscious Navigatrix in the galley-turned-infirmary. That woman translated almost every emotion into anger, and she had been incandescent with rage.

Bringing the Captain back into camp, the Navigatrix had looked almost the opposite – not a shred of emotion on her face at all. Given her usual easy calm, and the Captain’s comparably mild injury, the Engineer was feeling a bit off balance. But it definitely made her take the potential threat – either the Stowaway, or whatever was in that cave – very seriously.

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