Read Part 1 here.
Cadence’s eight passengers exited Pandora and stood on the cold stone shelf. Each had a pack to carry their supplies, but only Cadence had a coat. She shook her head. Spacers never thought of planetary conditions when they came down.
She reached under her console in the shuttle and flicked a switch. It was important to have insurance. Cadence caressed the darkened panels. “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll come back for you. Just like I always do.” She lingered a moment, and then stepped out.
The captain lit a lantern and glanced around. “We’re all accounted for, Ms. Tomasi. Do you have someplace for us to go before the pirates return to finish the job?”
Cadence gestured. “Yeah. There’s a small passage that eventually leads outside. From there we’ll be able to get a signal off to TerraGenesis. They’re usually pretty good about getting someone out here fast.”
She stepped to a rocky wall, feeling along it with her hand as she went. “Any of you combat trained?”
A man with wide shoulders answered, “I am. I’m already taking up the rear.”
A spacer with common sense? Well, such things must extend outside the atmosphere, after all. “Good. Here.” Cadence reached into her pack and took out a folding blade. “It might help.”
The man flicked the blade, extending it to a one-meter sword. “Pretty well balanced,” he remarked. “But I think I’ll keep with my taser. Here.” He retracted the weapon and handed it back.
Cadence accepted the blade and continued along the back wall until she found an opening four meters wide but only a meter high. “This is it. We’ll have to go on hands and knees.”
She heard some muttering, and then the captain spoke to a few of her crew. They quieted down after her words. Cadence didn’t pay attention. She squatted down and crawled forward.
Five… six… seven. To the left, another opening. Here it was. She called back to make sure the others were following. This crack led to a passage with a higher ceiling that had standing room. Cadence counted her steps until she reached sixteen and then reached her hand to the right. There they were, hidden in a crevice.
“Who’s got training with projectiles?”
She turned to see that everyone had made it into the taller space. The man with the large shoulders raised his hand. “I’m good.”
The captain shook her head. “We can’t have them on the ship; too dangerous.”
Cadence swore. “Name?”
“Trent, you are the least useless person here. Congratulations.” She handed the two loaded firearms to the large man. “I’d take them, but my aim sucks when my baby’s on the ground. It distracts me.”
Voices echoed through the passages. They couldn’t understand the words, bounced around by the rocks, but the intent was clear. “The pirates have found the shuttle. We need to move.” Cadence led the way, farther down the passage, and into the labyrinth.
They didn’t get far. Trent shouted something. A cylindrical object bounced from behind them.
The concussion grenade went off. Those closest fell to the ground, grasping their ears. Trent leaped away from it, but he was too close to the blast. Above, the ceiling rumbled. Not good to let loose with a grenade on the inside of a mountain. The blast hurled Cadence face down onto the ground.
When she could hear again, two men were talking. “We need the captain and the tactical officer alive. They’ll be of use. And the shuttle pilot. Definitely her. No killing until we find them.”
A disappointed grunt answered.
Cadence picked herself up, drawing the two blades from the pack on her back and flipping them open to their full length.
Two men stood across from her, inspecting bodies. One lithe figure straightened when he saw her. His mouth twisted into a hideous grin. “Someone woke up to play.” He drew a projectile weapon. “I like playing. I think we should play guess who.”
His companion, a heavier man, also pointed his weapon at her. “I think she’s valuable. Look at that spunk. She’d sell for a good price.”
Cadence glanced at the ground. No one else was stirring yet. Stalling wouldn’t do much good. It was just her and two armed men.
“Fine. Just don’t hurt me.” She dropped her blades and held up her hands. “I’ll do what you want.” She stepped forward, attempting to draw near to them.
“Nice try. Back off.” The thin one gestured with the projectile weapon. “We did our homework. We know you can fight hand-to-hand, Cadence.”
Cadence cursed under her breath, but obeyed. So much for that gambit.
The man licked his lips, “There’s a reason we targeted you. You’ve pissed off a lot of people from our line of work. Besides, a challenge like you can be good, especially when you’re sure to bring us lots of cash on the auction block. But we’re not fools.”
Cadence smiled, “I’m sure we can work something out.” She forced herself to relax. “We can come to an understanding, right?”
“Be quiet. We can take you to the ship without your kneecaps if we have to.”
“But I don’t have to go back with you –“
“I told you to be quiet!” The bigger one depressed his trigger.
Two shots rang out in the passageway.
Two pirates fell, dead.
Trent leaned against a wall behind them. “Thanks for distracting them. Next time, though, don’t push them so much, all right?”
Cadence nodded. “Next time, hear them coming so we don’t have to deal with a concussion grenade. It’s a good thing the cavern didn’t collapse.”
After they got the others on their feet, Cadence turned and led the way. More twists, more turns, some dangerous precipices bridged, and then, daylight. The cave let out onto a large shelf over a cliff dropping about fifty meters. One of her passengers looked around at the snowy ledge. “How far did we go?”
Cadence shrugged. “Only about three meters. The cavern we ‘landed’ in is right behind that wall. We just had to travel a bit further to make it through the rock.” She opened her pad and made the call for help. “We should be lifted out of here in about ten minutes,” she announced.
Trent walked the outside of the shelf. He paused and shouted, “Everyone, back in the cave!”
The pirate ship lifted up from below, hovering ten meters away from the shelf. Its flak canons pointed at the group. Four pirates stepped out of the cave, projectile weapons pointed at Cadence. One smiled. “Well, we have enough time to take care of business, then, don’t we?”
Read Part 3 here.