Chapter 76: Going In

If anyone could give Teena a run for her money in technical jargon, it was Lilith. She assaulted Leliana with a series of explanations that might have been technical theory, or a foreign language.

The sky started falling and Leliana snapped, ready to fight.

Everyone stared at her.

“Uh.” What did she miss? “Yep, totally got it, good to go, ready to deploy…” Leliana said. Lilith sighed.

“You,” she pointed to Teena, whose eyes bulged. “You understood what I just said, didn’t you? Good. These don’t need to be configured or prepared or anything, just drop them all over.” She tossed one to Teena. It looked like four or five brass horns just welded together in the middle. The most ineffective caltrop in the world? Leliana kept her mouth shut. She didn’t care.

She wasn’t going up there for arts and crafts, she was going up there to fight.

Lilith turned away from her, addressing the responsible adults of the crew. Which was everyone else. “In the past, we’ve noticed the big bubble shield around the ship isn’t always consistent. They can fold it in on itself, but it opens gaps on the opposite side. Once you’re behind the ship, my job will to get that opened up for you. You fly through, scatter the amps, then get ready to run like the 9 devils are behind you.”

“Ummmmmm.” Lilith signaled the other ship, but Teena’s tiny voice stopped her from taking the rope ladder. “How long do we have on this timetable, exactly?”

Lilith considered the enemy ship. She measured space with her hands, nodding and mumbling. “About two hours. Probably”

“What!” Teena said. “It’s gonna take two hours just to get over there! Why did you make such stupidly slow ships?”

“Ah,” Lilith untwisted a keyring from her belt, tossing a key to Teena. “I assume you’re driving. Use this on the safe in the back of the navigation quarter. 720 degrees clockwise, 360 back.”

Wooden planks thumped as Teena sprinted back to investigate, eyes sparkling. At the same time, Lilith flagged her people and drifted away.

Antros and Atreides joined her, both frowning. “You don’t really trust all that crap, do you?” Antros said.

“I do not.” Atreides said. “Though this would be an odd time to still be trying to kill Leliana, with so much else at stake.”

Leliana scowled. “I’ll find a special way to kill that bitch one day. But no. I think…I think she’s being honest. Well, at least I didn’t…feel anything wrong from her.”

“Really?” Antros crossed his arms. “So do you think we should-” He stopped. The ship was rumbling. Like a thunderstorm was raging in the hold.

“What’s that?” The three of them looked high and low. There was a high pitched whine, and the hair on her neck stood on end. “Wait…where’s Teena?”

“You guys!” Karina’s voice hits them from behind. “You should grab onto something. Now!”

Leliana had been with the sisters long enough to take Karina seriously. She dove, wrapping herself around one of the instruments bolted to the floor.

The ear-shattering roar overwhelmed all sense of time or reality.

At some point she wasn’t aware of she’d become airborne, snapping in the the wind like a frayed string. She had no clue how long she fought to keep hold of that big metal box, but by the time rational thought started to creep back into her mind Leliana found herself thrown down in a heap. She almost didn’t hear the gleeful cackling through the buzz in her ear.

“TEENA!”

Oh no, mistakes were made.

Leliana retched, her stomach finally catching up with the ship in a fury. She struggled to her feet, Teena’s prone form still clawing its way out of the back room. She wanted to be mad, she wanted to be pissed. But the absolute joy radiating from the small woman infected her anger, killing it, and she cursed this stupid ability not for the first time today. Something needed to be done about that.

Later.

“Alright, is everyone okay?” Leliana conceded. She took a quick head count: the sisters, prot, Vea, Antros, Bristol. Those bastards better not have hurt Carkus and Zimi.

“Uh, kid?” Antros swatted at her, staring off to port side. She followed his gaze.

It was so much bigger up close.

They were barely a few hundred meters away from the invaders; close enough to see the rippling of the shield, to taste the electricity of their beam weapons. They gawked wordlessly. Leliana felt the shift in emotion as reality sunk in. This was all real. But six months ago…

“It appears they are beginning.” Vea said.

A shriek pierced the air as a fresh barrage of violence started hammering the shields from the front. The science vessels splayed in a semi-circle, lobbing firebombs and rockets designed to scream as they flew. Lilith’s flagship shot a cannon that Leliana could feel in her bones.

The shield slithered and bubbled, but held. “Teena, get us a bit closer.” Leliana said.

The ship drifted closer. There was a high-pitched whine that emanated from the shields, spiking and sagging with the tides of the translucent material.

Gungrave joined in the attack at the front of the ship. Cannons from all five walls had pivoted to jab with their explosive rounds, even faster than when Teena had rigged them. The Gungrave navy drifted out of sight, but they were dropping dozens of bombs by the sound of it.

“There!” Karina yelled. A tiny hole split the shield nearby. It pulsed like a living thing, slowly growing more and more until the gap must have been at least a half mile wide. As soon the shield was open, it was like a dam had broken, and Leliana was washed away in a flood of mental commands and locations, orders and feelings.

“Going in!” Teena said. The crew braced as she navigated the ship closer. They had to skim the alien vessel if they were going to fit inside that shield at all. Smooth blue spikes and spires jutted off the ship more and more as they moved toward the front until Teena was navigating a maze of blue crystal structures. The design she knew had been the product of generations of research and work, an acoustic design meant to direct and concentrate mental communications from anywhere in the ship.

No. Wait, how did she know that? She shook her head to clear it.

The bright clang of bronze on crystal chimed as the crew started dropping the amplifiers onto the ship. With a disruption loud enough, they’d take out the Golden Prayer gateway from the central spire for sure. The shields would hold as long as the Heaven gateway stood, but what if they found that too?

She had to stop them.

Leliana drove her consciousness into the Sha blade as it sang free of the makeshift sheath on her side. The aluminum instrument panel screeched when the blade plunged through it where Antros had been standing a moment before.

The humans shouted in a language she couldn’t understand, but their movements were telegraphed easily enough. Chips of wood exploded as she plunged the blade through the floor, barely missing the bald woman. By the divines these ones were fast. The whirring blade left a streak in the air while she danced with them.

She cursed her useless left arm. Why couldn’t she just… How had she…

No.

No, no, no. What was going on?

Leliana jammed the sword into the big metal box, letting go this time, throwing herself clear. She tripped over something and went down hard on her injured hand. “AH!” Their voices started to make sense as she focused on the sharp pain.

“Kid?” Antros kicked her foot gingerly.

“I…”

She what? She was okay?

“I’m…Me.” She tried to catch her breath.

“Vea, let us escort Leliana below decks for now.” Atreides said. “The others can take care of the amplifiers, but I believe it best if she is protected separately.”

So they could take her down without risking others if she turned again, he meant. Still, it was hard to be mad about that.

“Wait,” she said. “This path we’re flying down? It’s like a canal I think, for thoughts instead of water. There’s more we need to find.”

“Okay, okay,” Atreides gently took her good arm. “We shall address those as time permits. For now, we should go below.

Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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