“Three things are going to happen now,” Orser growled over the sound of the pressurization and fire alarms. “First, you’re going to surrender control of your helm to me. Second, you’re going to put Logan front and centre so I can see she’s still alive. And third, you’re going to pray to your God that there’s somebody out there willing to exchange coin for your sorry hides. Because if that’s not the case, you’re not going to like the fourth thing that’s gonna happen.”
YJ raised his hands in a placating gesture. “All right, sounds good.” He hit the mute button and turned to Wild Sky. “So, board his ship, start a gunfight, or use Logan as a hostage? Trouble is, if he calls our bluff we’re dead.”
Wild Sky wiped her blade clean on Cable’s pressure suit. “We have no idea what kind of numbers he’s got on that ship. So we could go on the offensive and board them or play defensive and fight them on familiar ground.”
“Yeah, but if the fight doesn’t go their way, they can just detach and fill us full of holes.”
“Fair enough.” Wild Sky said.
YJ turned back to the screen and tapped a few keys. “All right, Orser, you got a deal.” He released control of the helm to the pirate ship, much as he would to an Alliance cruiser or spaceport traffic controller.
“At least you’ve got some brains,” Orser said. “Now, where’s Logan?”
“I’ll go get her!” YJ said with exaggerated cheerfulness. He keyed off the vid screen.
Wild Sky fixed her helmet to the pressure ring around her suit’s neck. “Stall for time and stay alive as long as you can,” she said as she headed for the airlock.
YJ felt the familiar thud of Shenmue’s main airlock disengaging and heard the main engines begin to spin up. He put his plan into action.
He raced to the medical unit, where Jonah had parked his wheelchair. Grabbing the motorized chair’s control unit, he drove it back to the upper foredeck and parked it. Pulling his pistol, he warily opened the hatch to the crew quarters where Logan had unsuccessfully sought refuge. The air in the small cabin was still choked with smoke from the stun grenade, but as he descended the ladder, YJ could see Logan’s unconscious body half-hidden by a thin mattress. He got the pirate into a fireman’s carry and struggled back up the ladder, wishing that Worth was there to do the heavy lifting.
YJ heaved Logan into the wheelchair and produced a roll of heavy-duty utility tape. He set about wrapping the tape around the chair, securing Logan in place. He taped her limbs to the chair’s arm- and footrests and wound the roll of tape several times around her midsection and the chair’s back.
Now it was time for the final flourish. YJ rifled through the pockets of the nearest dead pirates – Cable and Vonn – and retrieved a handful of stun grenades, which he then set about taping to Logan’s chest.
Logan started to come to as YJ finished tying the grenades’ pins to a length of wire he could hold in his hand while the chair was in motion.
“Wh-what’s going on?” she mumbled. “What the hell are you doing?”
There was a screeching sound as YJ pulled out more tape from the roll. “Using you as a bargaining chip.”
“Great.” Logan blinked her eyes rapidly, trying to clear the cobwebs.
“Hey, it’s on you for letting yourself get captured, right?” YJ said, applying more tape to Logan’s upper works.
“I guess so,” Logan said with a grimace. “You guys aren’t as dumb as you let on.”
“Uh, thanks?” YJ said.
“Considering how easy it was to trap you guys,” she continued. “We weren’t expecting this kind of resistance.”
“Uh, thanks again?” YJ said.
Logan looked down at the row of grenades taped to her chest and her eyes widened. “Whoa, whoa, what’s this?”
YJ looked her in the eye. “Here’s a question for you, Logan. First off, if this goes bad, Orser says he’s going to kill us.”
“But, I’ve rigged you up,” he said, brandishing the wires connected to the grenades’ pins, “so that if I die, all the grenades taped to your chest get blown sky high.”
“What?” Logan blurted, her voice spiking up an octave as her gaze flicked between the grenades as they rose up and down with every heave of her chest and YJ’s face, an expression of disbelief on her face.
YJ chuckled. “I mean there’s no way you’re walking away from that.” He tapped the taped-up grenades for emphasis. “Oddly enough it’s in your best interest to see that these negotiations go properly.”
“I was wrong, you are as dumb as you let on.” Logan muttered, getting control of herself.
“So, what can you tell me about Orser that would help me out?” YJ asked.
Logan squirmed. “Well, he certainly doesn’t like watching his crewmembers getting blown up in front of him.”
“Well, we’re ahead of him on that one.” YJ said. “Should I start off real strong, or…?”
“What do you want me to say, he’s a pirate. He’s not exactly the warm fuzzy type.”
“You’d be surprised at how emotional he got when we told him we had you in custody,” YJ said. “He gave us a four point plan and you were at least point two on it.”
“Really?” Logan asked. “Wow, I’m flattered,” she said, shaking her head. “Point two,” she muttered. “You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette, do you?”
“You’ve got a lot of pyro tied to your midsection, I don’t think that would be a good idea.” YJ said. “Chewing gum?” He pulled a bent piece of foil-wrapped gum from a pocket.
“Thanks, that’ll do.” Logan said. She attempted to shift her body in the chair. “He’s direct.”
“Uh-huh. You ever see him back down?”
“Not unless we were facing an Alliance cruiser or other insurmountable odds.”
“Inescapable odds,” YJ said.
“Are you going to blindfold me or something?” Logan asked, “Because I really don’t want to look at you any more.” She popped her gum.
“Let’s say you use those puppy dog eyes of yours and just open up every soft part of Orser’s heart, if he has them.” YJ said.
“Look, he said we’re dead otherwise unless someone’s willing to pay for us,” YJ said. “And I don’t know anyone that will pay for us, so this is really do or die for me. Rather than wait for Orser to put one in my head I figure, strap some bombs to somebody and see what I can do with that.”
“Well you’re creative, I’ll give you that.”
“Shall we have that reunion?” YJ said.
Logan tried to toggle the directional switch on the armrest until YJ taped her fingers down. “What am I going to say, no?”
Using the chair’s control unit, YJ maneuvered the mobility device up the stairs leading to Shenmue’s bridge. The chair’s articulated wheels allowed it to mount the catwalk stairs with ease.
Shenmue’s engine core thrummed loudly.
“So, where do you think Orser is taking us?” YJ asked.
“I’m not telling you that,” Logan said.
“Again, if these negotiations work out for me, they work for you.” YJ said. “If they don’t, I’m dead, and you’re hamburger from here-” he patted Logan’s ample upper works “-to here,” touching the top of her head. “And probably further down as well.”
“You guys,” Logan said with a hint of exasperation. “Do you ever think these things through before strapping grenades to people?”
“Honestly? Strapping grenades is Plan A.”
“Come on, there’s no reason to go through with all this,” Logan said as her chair climbed onto Shenmue’s bridge. YJ manoeuvred her around Cable’s sprawled corpse, which Logan eyed uncomfortably.
YJ positioned her in front of the vid screen and hit the hailing button. He was soon rewarded with Orser’s sneering face.
“Orser, we’re going to need to meet face-to-face.” He said.
Orser wasn’t paying attention to YJ. Instead he was focused on Logan, and YJ could tell from his rapidly decaying expression that he did not like what he was seeing.
“What have you done to her?” He growled.
“Just making sure we won’t have any more trouble, with the taking of guns away and whatnot,” YJ said.”
“You harm one more hair on her head and you’re all dead,” Orser said.
“Yeah, see, there’s a problem there and I want to talk to you about it, so why don’t you come over there and we’ll have a chat about it in our docking bay.”
“Here’s my counter offer,” Orser replied. “How’s about you plug up the hole in your ship so you don’t asphyxiate my crewmate, and then we’ll talk about a meeting.” He grinned, which did nothing to improve his expression. “You’re leaving quite a vapour trail.”
YJ eyed a nearby damage readout. “See you in 30 minutes.”
Orser cut the feed before YJ had a chance to do the same.
YJ turned to Logan. “So if your destination is less than 30 minutes away, this plan’s not going to work. Again, where is he taking us?”
Logan cursed him out for falling into this trap. “If I have to go, I hope you’re standing right next to me when I blow up.”
“Okay, fair enough,” YJ said, finally taping her mouth shut.
On Shenmue’s exterior, Wild Sky watched as the hulk of the Harriston dwindled to a tiny flickering dot in the starfield beyond.
She estimated that the Undercutter was holding position about 50 meters aft of Shenmue, and she could tell from the increased engine rotation that the transport was indeed underway to parts unknown. She could also see thin tendrils of vapour being left in Shenmue’s wake, likely emanating from a hole in the transport’s hull.
Wild Sky considered her options. 50 meters was quite a jump, even in zero-g conditions. She decided to head back in to see to the damage.
The skiff’s laser had lanced an ugly wound through Shenmue’s underbelly. They could smell burning insulation and the tang of superheated metal – two smells you never wanted to smell on board a ship. There was an ever-present whine coming from the atmofeed, and the roar of air being blown out into space. Shenmue’s fire suppression system was also sputtering globs of white foam in an effort to contain a fire that had spread to one of the passenger dorms.
The breach itself was nasty, but concentrated.
Wild Sky steadied herself against the torrent of rushing atmo. YJ slipped in the foam and began sliding towards the hole, coming to rest against a raised bulkhead.
YJ grabbed the nearest patch kit – there were always patch kits mounted on the hulls on tramp freighters like Shenmue – and tossed it to Wild Sky, who approached the rent in the hull. Working together, they managed to seal the breach in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t pretty, but it would hold.
“Time to get Orser over here for our chat,” YJ said. “As soon as his ship links to us, it’s your turn to go outside.”
“All righty,” Wild Sky said.
YJ returned to the bridge. Logan glared at him silently.
“All right Orser, we need to talk. Right now.”
“So talk.” Orser said.
“No, face to face.” YJ said. “I’ll be in the landing bay, and I’m going to get real squirrelly soon, so I hope for Logan’s sake you show up soon.” He cut the video feed and started moving Logan towards the cargo bay.
Wild Sky engaged the dorsal airlock and crept back out onto the exterior of the transport. As she watched, the Undercutter began to close the distance between it and Shenmue, dipping out of sight behind the transport’s stern. Wild Sky got a good look at the transport’s dorsal docking coupling and figured the Undercutter would use Shenmue’s bomb bay cargo doors to link up. As the ship slipped by, she also took note of a utility airlock behind the crew cabin.
Wild Sky clipped herself into the safety line and began to creep towards the underside of Shenmue. She had guessed correctly – The Undercutter was doing a dorsal-to-ventral docking configuration, linking up to Shenmue’s bomb bay doors.
“They’re coming in through the bomb bay,” she said to YJ through the comlink.
“You tell me when it’s time for a distraction and I’ll drop a smoke grenade into the ship right off this catwalk.”
“But I might be in the ship.” Wild Sky said.
“You’ve got a sword.” YJ said. “Put some smoke in there and maybe they’ll get spooked and shoot one of their own guys.”
“I’m going to disable that laser cannon,” Wild Sky said. “Since we can’t outrun them, we definitely don’t want to deal with more damage.”
“Or you could go in there and kick some ass,” YJ said.
“Good point.” Wild Sky said. “When I open the hatch on this side, it’ll make a noise, so I want to know when they’re opening your airlock. I’ll open simultaneously.”
“Got it.” YJ set the chair up on the main catwalk landing overlooking the cargo bay doors and stood next to Logan, holstering the pistol that he figured Orser would tell him to get rid of and concealing a second pistol he could grab if need be.
Wild Sky sidled up to the Undercutter’s sleek hull and began to work on the airlock access panel. She rewired the exterior controls and stepped into the narrow utility lock chamber. Sealing the exterior door behind her, she removed her glove and deftly reprogrammed the internal lock control, careful to keep herself out of sight from the airlock viewport.
YJ waited until he heard the pinging sound of the bomb bay airlock’s handshake protocol. “Now,” he hissed into his multiband.
The hatch in the cargo bay floor began to open. YJ tensed.
Wild Sky hit the airlock control and stepped into the pirate ship’s interior. It was a cramped affair – barely wide enough for three people to stand abreast, with angled bulkheads that matched the ship’s aerodynamic exterior. Wild Sky drew her sword as she sighted her targets.
There were two of them. The first had his back to Wild Sky, standing on the deck arms raised with a pistol aimed upwards. The second man, who she recognized as Orser, was halfway up a ladder that led to the ship’s dorsal airlock. He had just swung the lock’s hatch open and was climbing up, a shotgun cradled in his arms. His sudden surprised glance in Wild Sky’s direction told her that either she’d mistimed her entry, or his ears were sharper than his companion’s. Orser opened his mouth to shout a warning, and Wild Sky swung into action.
She leaped forward, one boot slamming into the side of the bulkhead as she jumped into the air, swinging her sword in a silver arc. Orser had only a split second to duck behind the ladder as best he could – Wild Sky’s sword still caught him with a glancing blow across the arm that opened a nasty flesh wound. Orser shouted in pain but kept his hold on the ladder.
As Wild Sky let gravity do its work, she twisted the sword in her hands and put all her weight behind it, connecting with the second man – an Asian fellow with a crop of jet-black hair and a quizzical expression on his face.
He never had a chance. The blade sliced through his midsection, all but ignoring the ballistic mesh vest he was wearing and severing his spine in one fluid movement. Wild Sky’s heavy boots hit the deck as she followed through, a geyser of blood spraying up the deck and bulkhead. Her target fell to the deck in two pieces, his face frozen in a query that would now go unanswered.
Orser cursed in blind rage as he swung the shotgun down and fired awkwardly. Wild Sky threw herself into a somersault. The report of the weapon was deafening in the close confines of the cutter’s interior, but Wild Sky’s helmet protected her from the worst of it. The cloud of buckshot did not find its target.
Wild Sky deftly thrust her sword upwards at the man on the ladder. This time, her blade slipped into Orser’s body with only the slightest resistance as she impaled him where he was perched. He let go of both ladder and shotgun as his tirade of curses turned into a howl of agony, and fell further onto her sword, until his weight was too much for her to bear. She let him fall to the deck, pulling her sword out and flicking it clean of blood with a flourish, adding another spray of gore to the bulkhead behind her.
On his back at Wild Sky’s feet, Orser squirmed, pressing his hands to the wound in his belly as his heels beat a frantic tattoo against the deck.
Wild Sky looked up as she heard the sound of an explosion from above deck.
At the hissing sound of Shenmue’s bomb bay doors cycling open, Logan ripped herself free from her weakened restraints, twisting about in her chair and launching herself at YJ.
YJ recoiled in shock, but had time to realize that he’d left Logan alone just long enough for her to try something stupid like this.
YJ stumbled back as she tried to grapple with him for control of the strings connecting her grenades’ pins to YJ’s fist. He dodged out of the way of her swinging fist and jumped backwards down the catwalk stairs, coming to rest on the landing below.
Logan stood at the top of the stairs, cracking her knuckles, a triumphant expression on her face.
Until she took note of the fistful of grenade pins YJ held in his hand.
Logan looked down at the grenades taped to her chest, grenades that were now beeping in readiness. “Ta ma deh!” she started to curse as she grabbed for the tape securing them.
YJ shielded his eyes as the flashbangs flashed and went bang.