As Esala Gray regained consciousness, the first thing she noticed was the smell of burnt coffee.
Opening her eyes, she found herself staring at a small copper pot, down on its side with the handle up in the air. Beyond it she could just make out the twisted form of a nearby bulkhead, smoke rising from a hole in its side.
“Report,” she demanded, struggling to her hands and knees, coughing. Smoke filled the bridge, acrid and eye-watering.
No answer. Hacking up a glob of dark spittle, she spat on the floor, shaking her head to clear it of the ringing in her ears. Her eyes streamed as she surveyed the bridge.
Everyone seemed to have been knocked unconscious by the explosion. She could see legs jutting out from behind flickering holo-consoles. The Wise Men. The remains of the drifter’s machine lay off to one side, great clouds of smog rising from its shattered innards.
Son of a bitch
, she thought, forcing herself up to her feet. She stood there for a moment, her limbs shaking slightly with the effort. Clear memories of what had happened were starting to filter in, the last of which was seeing Andrew struck by one of those lightning bolts.
“Captain?” she shouted hoarsely, scanning the bridge for any sign of him. “Andrew?”
She stumbled through the smoke to the last place she had seen him. Nothing. He seemed to have vanished completely.
A groan caught her attention. She stumbled over to the source of the sound and found the drifter just coming to. A flash of anger raced through her. This was all his fault. Reaching down, she grabbed him by the front of his shirt, heaving him to his feet.
He stared up at her bleary eyed. “What… What happened?”
“I’ll tell you what happened, you son of a bitch. Your machine went haywire. And now I can’t find my captain.” Her voice dropped to a menacing growl. “And if he doesn’t come back straight away, it’s coming out of your face.”
“No,” the drifter moaned, struggling weakly against her grasp. “It… I don’t know what happened. This shouldn’t have happened. I don’t—“
“Where is he?” Esala shrieked, dragging his face inches from her own. “What. Have. You. Done. With. Him?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I-“
She reared her hand back, ready to slap some sense out of him, when a voice interrupted her.
She turned to see F’ryr leaning up against the wall, one arm cradled in the other. The Vulcan’s forehead was slightly creased, the only visible sign of the pain he must be in. The ship’s science office and CMO – all of them were forced to serve in more than one capacity – looked much calmer than Esala felt and not for the first time, she wondered whether she should have followed her brother’s advice and availed herself of their brethren’s mental training.
Dropping the drifter, Esala went to her old friend, putting her arm around him and helping him down to a sitting position.
“Are you alright?” she asked, carefully running her hand up and down his arm.
“I fell. What happened?”
“So’s Dalilah.” Kave’s comforting growl sounded from beside them.
He appeared out of the smoke, phaser held in one hand. He glared over at the drifter. “I saw her vanish just as that thing started spewing electricity. Hit by one of the lightning bolts.”
“So was Andrew.”
“And Danterian,” F’ryr managed. “I saw him hit as well.”
“Gods Above,” Esala swore. “Are they… Did that thing kill them?”
F’ryr shook his head. “I don’t think so. From what I understand of the device, I would surmise that it transferred them somewhere. Maybe even to the very place we were hoping to reach.”
“Wonderful news,” Kave growled. Esala could only agree with him. “So instead of being dead, the captain is stuck in the domain of some crazed witch goddess who ripped the beating heart out of a fellow god? And his allies are a child and a cook?”
“Unfortunately, he may be in the better situation,” F’ryr replied.
“Think about it,” Esala interrupted. “We’re without our herder. Pretty soon, the bioficial intelligence is going to realise. And without Dalilah to talk to it, to calm it down…”
“That about sums it up.”
“It would seem our situation is about to become very difficult.”
They stood – and in F’ryr’s case sat – there for a long moment, all three of them lost in thought. Finally, Kave spoke.
“So. What now?”
Esala took a deep breath. “Now, we find a way to get the captain back.”
Turning away from the two men, she looked down at the drifter. He had remained on the deck, lying down and listening to them talk. He looked up at her, eyes full of fear. She smiled.
“Come on, drifter. We’re going to have a nice long chat. And you’re going to tell me how the hell I get my captain back.”