Jayna waited patiently near the dock, cleaning the dagger fastidiously. She would’ve rather made this clean, but they were very low of ammunition, and who knew whether that guy had been telling the truth. She knew how to shoot, but she wasn’t half the marksman that Zane was. Besides, she preferred to get close. She had her knife, and Ash had graciously provided a length of old pipe.
She heard the door open, and looked up seeing three more men come on with blow torches and sacks. “I can’t believe these sad sacks were gullible enough to have the automatic locks on,” one of them said. She pounced from behind, just long enough for them to train their guns on her. She then reached out and grabbed one, gripping him by the shoulders and wincing as his two compatriots fired shots into his chest.
Before they could react, she shoved the body forward, causing them to flinch. Jayna lunged forward and swung at one of them, knocking them across the head. Before the other one had a chance to react, a kick to his groin bent him double, and she finished him off with the pipe. She then discarded her improvised weapon and helped herself to their guns.
She pulled her walkie talkie on. “Ash. I’ve got… one more guy alive. Add him to the stack. Let me know when the kill switch is ready.”
“You got it,” Ash said.
With that, Jayna took a deep breath, and sprinted across to the other ship.
There were two men standing guard at the other end of the bridge. A flurry of gunfire dispatched one of them. The other rapidly took cover.
She waited patiently, closing the door between the two ships. “Just come out. I don’t want to have to kill everyone. But I will if I have to.”
There was no response right away. But a moment later, a voice echoed through the corridor from a speaker.
“And here I thought the ship was already cleaned out,” said the voice. It was a woman’s voice, cold and husky, with an accent Jayna couldn’t place. “Oh dear. You clearly have an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation, so before you’re killed, do indulge my curiosity. What do you hope to accomplish?”
“If you kill me, I’ll accomplish blowing your whole ship into space dust,” said Jayna. “Or we could talk.”
To the silence she received, Jayna gave a grin too full of teeth. She paced forwards, leveling the rifle and shooting out the lights overhead. “I just want my crew to get where they need to go. Give us the parts we need, and let us go. You’ll never have to see us again. And trust me, you’re never going to want to.”
She heard the click of a gun being armed, and a stout man with a hefty, matted beard approached her.
“Tough talk from a soon-to-be corpse,” he croaked, bringing the gun to bare. He pulled a switch and it let out an ominous hum.
“Are you really dense enough to discharge a plasma weapon inside a ship?” said Jayna.
“Let her finish before you vape her, Burt,” said the voice.
“Why bother? She’s just stallin’,” said Burt, stepping closer. Jayna could almost feel the heat radiating from the barrel.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Jayna. “This bitch is more trouble than she’s worth–we can just disconnect now, rip a hole in the hull and be done. If you do that, and I know you want to, neither of us will survive the explosion.” She kept her eye on Burt as she spoke. The man looked like he had an itchy trigger finger.
“…explosion?” said the voice over the speaker.
“Don’t listen to her!” said Burt. “One word and this overgrown space rat is a stain on the bulkhead!”
“Our mechanic’s fiddling with our engine core as we speak,” said Jayna. “Don’t ask me what he’s doing to it, but the man’s a genius, not that I’ll admit it to him. His ego doesn’t need the help. My point is, if he doesn’t hear back from me in ten minutes, he’ll blow us both to kingdom come.”
“Bullshit–Hutchinson woulda taken care of all that,” growled Burt. “He’s responsible for that kind of stuff. You’re bluffing, and you’re bad at it.”
“Shut up, Burt!” the woman snapped again.
Jayna smiled. “Put the gun down, buddy.”
The barrel of the gun grew hotter. “If you say one more word, then I’ll just-”
“Burt,” said the voice. “There’s no harm in-”
Burt snarled and jerked his head back. “I have had it up to here with you second-guessing my every-”
Jayna did not give him the chance to finish his grievance.
She reached out, wrapping her hand around the rifle and used it to pull him forward. She kicked him hard to the kneecap, hearing something shatter. He yelped and dropped like a rock before she slammed the butt of the rifle into his head.
Jayna looked down at Burt, who was currently bleeding copiously. If he wasn’t dead now, then he would no doubt wish he were when he came to.
“And now I have a plasma rifle,” said Jayna. “So there’s that.”
There was a pause.
“I’ve been looking for an excuse to get rid of him,” said the voice. “Name your terms, spacer.”
“We give you whoever’s left of your crew back. We take the parts that we need, and you give us a six hour head start away from your ship. You get to live and most of your crew survives.”
“And what’s to stop us from simply puncturing your hull out of spite?” said the voice.
“Absolutely nothing,” said Jayna, sweet as honey. “But I meant what I said about our mechanic being a genius. How close do you want to be to the blast radius? Do you feel lucky?”
“I don’t believe in luck,” replied the voice. “I believe in pragmatism. And it seems that making an enemy of you… is not.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Jayna, slinging the plasma rifle across her back. “Also, I’m keeping this.”
She held out her walkie talkie. “Ash. Bring the cart with the two guys tied up on it. We’re coming back with the parts we need,” Jayna said, and hunkered down and waited. “No funny business.”
“Perish the thought,” said the voice. “Take your parts and use them to go far, far away from here. If we ever cross paths again…”
“Then hopefully neither of our luck has run out,” Jayna said smiling. “And we’ll pass each other and never need to say a thing.”
Zane slowly felt the world coming back to him, and sighed as he felt the straps tightened around his shoulders.
“Good to see you awake, Zane,” Jayna crooned from the chair nearby.
Zane tugged at the restraints curiously. Then he groaned. “It was really bad, wasn’t it,” he grumbled. “I’m so sorry. I guess I should have been sleeping more, huh.”
“Or at all?” said Jayna reproachfully. “You have to take better care of yourself.”
“I know, I know,” said Zane, sighing. “How long was I out for?”
“About a day and a half,” Jayna said, moving closer to him. “Luckily we got the parts we need, and Songbird is right as rain again.”
Zane swallowed. “What happened to the scrappers?” he said. “Or… did I just hallucinate that part?”
Jayna was silent for a moment. “They were… smart enough to know trouble coming when they saw it. They gave us our things and we went our separate ways.” Jayna said with a nod.
“Really?” said Zane. “That’s a relief. How’s Ash doing?”
“Taking a survey of every little thing that Songbird might possibly need,” said Jayna. “He’s not going to let something like this happen again.”
“That’s a relief,” said Zane. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be more useful. I hate it when I’m… like this.
“You’ve saved my life and everyone else’s plenty of times. You’re useful Zane. Sometimes you just have to take a break. We’ve got you. And you’ve got us too.”
Zane smiled his sad little smile. “Thanks, Jayna,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do without you guys. You always take care of me.”
Jayna smiled back and ruffled Zane’s hair a bit. “Get s’more sleep,” she said. “You want me to, erm…” She gestured at the straps.
“Leave ‘em,” said Zane, shrugging. “Just in case.”
“Alright, then,” said Jayna. “And when you’re up and about, we’ll make waffles.. Sound good?”
“We definitely need waffles after a week like that,” said Zane, as he settled back down. As he relaxed again, Jayna made her way back out.
He was absolutely right. She would take care of him. Of all of them. They were her crew, her family, and she would look after them.
No matter what.
One thought on “AotS – How To Prepare For The End of Your Life, Part 4”
Oh, dear. I’ve been quite patient, what with you two getting married and all, but that was LAST month, and I am seriously in need of an “Apex” fix…