Lt. Brocc bit down so hard that he drew blood from his bottom lip. “The joint is back in the socket,” Ensign T’Fal told him seconds later. The Dimoran, ignoring the pain, rotated his shoulder, testing out the Tiburon’s assertion. It throbbed, but he would survive. And he was grateful to have more mobility.
The two Hazard Team members pressed themselves against a wall, keeping out of the throng of crewmen coursing through the halls like a chaotic river of flesh. The mass had pushed them together, and they had spent a moment trying to corral the flood, to get the crewmen into the relative safety of their quarters. Some had listened, some had not. Brocc could no longer concern himself with either.
“Did you see any of the rest of the team on your way here?” He asked the elephantine-eared Tiburon; nearly yelling to make sure the man heard him.
T’Fal winced slightly, and Brocc apologized. “It’s okay sir,” the Tiburon flicked one of his floppy ears. “These things pick up sound pretty well, even in a cacophonic environment like this.”
“So, you saw no one?” Brocc repeated.
“No sir,” he said, “I was headed to the armory when I ran into you sir. Maybe the rest of the team is there?”
“Perhaps,” Brocc said, “But we’ll save the reunion. I need you to go down to Engineering. I’m going to bridge. If there are two areas these brigands are going to want to gain control of, it would be those.”
“Aye sir,” the younger man said without reservation. Brocc nodded with satisfaction.
“Be careful Ensign,” he barked, through with sentiment, “That’s an order.”
“Andraste,” Commander Donar shook his head, blinking several times. The thin peel of smoke hanging in the air wasn’t the cause because his eyes had already adapted to the smoky environs. The reaction was more him wanting to wake from this dream, or nightmare he had stepped into. But it was his wife, his Andraste, here in the flesh. Rich chocolate complexion, long, carefully plaited hair, her beautiful face hardened by time. She was dressed in a tight fitting, brown leather tunic and pants, with a furred sash purple bisecting the tunic. The sleeveless getup showed off her toned arms, always one of her best physical features. The retro style clashed with the modern utility belt she wore.
The nasty looking Breen pulse gun aimed at his chest finished off her ensemble. Seven more pirates had accompanied his wife, coming in two waves via transporter beam. They had quickly fanned out across the bridge, three on the upper deck and four in the command well. With practiced efficiency they had pinned the crew against the walls.
He took a step toward her and she waved the gun, her finger tightening on the trigger. “I wouldn’t if I were you,” she warned, and he knew the woman was lethally serious.
“Your tattoo,” was all Tai could muster.
She traced the unmarked strip of skin running from her left eye. “I got it surgically removed,” she answered, with a shrug. “I see you still kept yours, hanging on to the past.” Andraste shook her head, in mock pity.
“But-but why?” Donar hated himself for asking such unimportant questions, but his brain was still reeling, trying to process why his reunion with Andraste, something he had once dreamed about, would occur in the middle of such carnage, carnage he no doubt knew that she had caused.
The woman grinned before coughing lightly. Her gun hand never wavered. “If people knew I was an Angosian, if they knew I was a super-soldier, they wouldn’t underestimate me. Which can be fatal in the mercenary game. However, there has to be some accounting for my size, so I tell most people I am a Capellan, a small one. A ‘runt’ if you were. No one really questions that.”
“All this time,” Tai shook his head. “You left Angosia…you left me…for this?” He gestured at the wreckage around him.
“I left you because you just didn’t understand,” Andraste said. “You denied what you were, what they made us. I couldn’t think of anything else but killing after the war. The thought of what I had once wanted to be…an artist,” her laughter was harsh and heartbreaking. “After the war, they said my paintings were too disturbing. No one would buy them, you remember that.”
“I do,” he closed his eyes, remembering holding the shaking, sobbing woman after she had lit a match to her artwork in a bon fire. She had left him a month later. Little had he known at the time that she was setting fire to her entire life, to who she had once been.
“I couldn’t be Andraste Beyoro anymore,” she said, “The war had taken that young, naďve woman away.” Her eyes hardened, “And I couldn’t be Andraste Donar either, or at least the wife you deserved.”
“I never hated what they did to us more than I do at this moment,” Tai admitted, his heart thudding painfully in his chest.
“It’s too late for that now Tai,” Andraste said, her eyes narrowing on the three pips on his collar. “You’re not the master of this vessel,” she surmised. “Where is your captain?”
“What are you planning?” He asked.
“To take your command crew as hostages while we pillage this ship for weapons and other valuables,” Andraste bluntly answered, “even now I have teams taking over your Engineering and Armory rooms. We’re going to make quite a bit of profit off of this ship.”
“No, you won’t,” he declared. “It doesn’t have to be this way.” He took another step forward, oblivious of the threat. He reached out to her again, “There is still a way to turn this around,” he offered.
Andraste stepped back. She laughed, “You are not seriously going to ask me to surrender are you?”
“If you want to live,” Tai said.
“Oh really?” Andraste challenged, “You think you can take me?” She said, shoving the gun into his chest. With lightning, Tai grabbed the barrel and yanked it upwards while throwing an elbow at Andraste’s face. The woman’s cheek shattered inward as the elbow hit home. The pulse gun went off, the recoil burning his hand. But the deadly discharge demolishing a piece of the ceiling above.
A yowl came from above and the grating over an overhead bulkhead popped open. A small furry blur leapt out, taking everyone by surprise. Hitting the deck in a controlled roll, Lt. Brocc began firing before he got to one knee. He picked off at least two pirates in just that many seconds.
Taking advantage of the man’s timely intervention, Tai yanked the gun completely from his ex-wife’s grasp. She snarled, spitting bloodied teeth at him before she unleashed a flurry of blows on him. Tai backed up, alternately trying to protect his head and his body as the woman unloaded her fury on him. From his periphery, he could see that Brocc’s action had inspired the other bridge crew.
Even defenseless, some charged the would be captors. He heard a spray of fire suppressant foam and a squeal from one of the pirates. Tai’s heart leavened as he withstood Andraste’s barrage.
They had often sparred when married and despite the much higher stakes, Tai was able to keep the woman from landing a knockout or lethal blow. And if he could keep her dancing along until he could get to the bridge’s weapons locker, he could waylay her and then completely retake command of the bridge.
Cursing him, she pulled a circular, three-bladed weapon from her utility belt. “Kligat,” Tai said through gritted teeth. A nasty smile spread over Andraste’s face.
“Hate to cut this short lover,” she said, “But you and your merry band are really starting to piss me off.” She tried to outflank him, slicing the air in front of him as she maneuvered him away from the weapon’s locker. He took a look back at it, and Andraste’s smile turned knowing. “I know a thing or two about Starfleet bridge design. You didn’t think I was going to make it that easy for you, did you?”
The Angosian widened his stance, his arms at his sides, trying to keep away from the deadly melee weapon. Though she only faked being a native from that world, his ex-wife wielded the Capellan weapon with expert skill.
He tried to reduce everything to the opponent standing in front of him, but it was hard blocking out the cries of his colleagues as the pirates began to reassert themselves. He flinched at each sound of disruptor fire and each cry of agony or worse. One of the shrieks sounded like it came from Lt. Brocc. And he didn’t even want to dwell on how badly the captain might be faring.
Sensing his distraction, Andraste lunged at him, her blade nicking his upper arm. He pulled back just in time before it could do any other damage. “When are you going to stop retreating?” She taunted. “When did you become so soft?”
“Drop the kligat and I’ll show you how soft I am,” he promised. Andraste laughed. She had completely moved him away from the locker, almost to the other side of the upper bridge.
“Not lacking for confidence are you,” she licked her lips, eyes roving his body. “I hope you haven’t weakened in other areas.”
“Put down that weapon and I can show you that too,” he offered.
“I like it when you talk dirty,” she said, advancing on him.
“Eww, gross,” Helen said over Andraste’s shoulder. The Angosian woman’s shoulders bunched and Tai could see her wrestling with whether she should turn around or not. He decided to help her.
“Time to give up Andraste, she’s got a phaser on you,” Tai said, looking around the woman to see Norrbom propped against the wall by the now open locker. She held her weapon square at Andraste’s back. “Good work Commander.”
“Yeah thanks, could’ve done without all the pillow talk though,” the woman said. “But at least it kept her distracted.”
“I suppose so,” Donar said. He held out his hand. “Hand over the kligat.” Andraste cursed, her body tensing. For what, Tai didn’t know, but he was certain it wasn’t going to be good. He tried once more, “This raid is over. I promise I will do all I can to mitigate your incarceration sentencing, if you give up right now.”
“You think I’m going to a place like Lunar V again?” She thundered, and Tai winced, realizing his mistake.
“Andraste,” he was able to call before the woman released her weapon. It sliced through his shoulder on its way to implanting into a wall. The pain had barely registered, before the woman had turned on Helen. Norrbom fired, hitting her dead in the chest. But Andraste continued charging.
Grabbing his torn shoulder, blood geysering through his fingers, Tai shouted, “Commander, highest stun setting!”
“Damn,” Helen said, backing away from the rampaging Angosian. She was still fumbling with adjusting the stun setting when Andraste crashed into her, flattening her against the wall. Norrbom’s head bounced against the wall with a stomach churning smack. Helen gave a short, stunted cry before she fell to the deck. Tai rushed to her, checking her condition, unfortunately slathering her with his blood. The human tried to speak, but her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out. The Angosian quickly wiped his blood stained hand on his tunic, and then picked up the woman’s phaser. He checked its stun setting.
Andraste hadn’t stopped. She had run toward the turbolift, hoping to escape the bridge. But courtesy of the plunderers’ attack, the lift wasn’t working. The woman was prying the doors open when he caught up to her.
“Andraste,” he called, not wanting to shoot his ex-wife in the back. He wanted to give her honorable due.
“Blast,” she called, yanking an old style hand-held communicator from her belt. “This is Nadeen! Emergency beam out now, damn you!” There was a crackle of static, and then Tai’s spirits lifted.
“This is Burning Claw, and we surrender,” Lt. Ramlo’s voice issued through the tiny transceiver.
Andraste bellowed in rage, whipping around to strike. Tai didn’t waste a second. He shot his ex-wife in the chest, at maximum stun. The woman hit the parted doors, still on her feet. Tai aimed again, “Surrender now,” he warned. Andraste glanced backward, through the sliver of the turbolift doors. “Don’t do it,” he snapped. Andraste yanked the doors apart and threw herself backwards. Tai got off another shot, clipping her shoulder.
“Andraste, no!” He rushed to the turbolift. He looked down into the depths and saw nothing. He knew it was a long way down. For the first time today he was grateful that full power had yet to be restored.