Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Trent fired at the pirates at the cave entrance. One screamed, while two of the others fired back. Trent fell onto the snowy ground, his blood stark against the white. He attempted to fire again, but the captain shouted at him.
She took a deep breath, and even from the other side of the shelf Cadence could see from this distance that she was shivering, and not from the cold. The captain stood, closing her eyes. “Take me. I have the knowledge you want. I’ll tell you the routes I know. I won’t fight. Just let them live.” She looked like she was about to vomit.
One of the pirates smiled. “That’s very generous of you.” He waved her toward him with his projectile.
Trent shouted something at the captain, but Cadence couldn’t understand it. His eyes were wide as he gripped his side.
“Mr. DeFrain, you will not engage in hostilities unless they immediately provoke us. Do you understand?”
Trent grunted a response.
“The crew and our guests are more important than I am. Deal with it.” She faced the pirates and breathed deeply. She captain took one step forward, then another. This was clearly a struggle for her. Cadence glanced down at her pad. Help was too far away. Even with her clear stalling, there was too much time left.
She watched the pirate ship, hovering out of reach. Even if they took out the men on the ledge here, the ship would wipe them all out. The captain’s ploy wouldn’t work, either. She couldn’t stall long enough. As soon as they had her, they’d probably shoot everyone else. Probably take her and Trent as bonuses. And that wouldn’t be good.
The captain took another step. The pirate sneered, “Hurry, or I take out a kneecap.”
“Too slow.” He fired, and the resulting crack shook everyone’s ears. The captain fell to the ground, grabbing at her leg.
Trent tried to scream and fired back. As soon as his pistol fired, two more bullets slammed through him. His form dropped, limp.
Cadence’s hand strayed to her pad. One tap was all it would take. One tap, and the resulting chaos should be enough to give them time. It also meant she’d have to say goodbye to her baby.
Two of the pirates stepped in and hauled the captain to their side. A trail of crimson followed them. They glanced over the group and spotted Cadence. “You, here. Now.
The captain shouted.
“Shut up.” A pistol met her face with enough force to throw her to the ground.
Swearing at herself, Cadence tapped the button.
A second later, Pandora burst from the wall behind the ledge. Boulders scattered everywhere. Ice and snow filled the air. Chunks of the shuttle broke away from the main body, littering the ledge with pieces of hull. Its thrusters fired on full, propelling it into the air, over everyone’s heads, and directly into the pirate ship. Metal screeched against metal and the two ships fell out of sight.
Cadence was ready. She leaped into the air, avoiding a rocky missile. Around her, others did their best to dodge. Some were struck by chunks of ice and stone. Some were lucky.
Cadence reached into her pack, withdrawing her blades. She flipped them open.
The pirates fired their projectiles into the mass of snow and stone. Great. Now she had to deal with bullets, too. Good thing the chaos messed up their aim.
She ran and dropped to the ground, sliding under one more boulder and skidded close enough to the lead pirate to send a blade into his calf. He fell to the ground, firing into the air as he lost his balance. As he dropped, Cadence swung her other blade in an arc above her head, landing squarely on the pirate’s neck. One less opponent to deal with. Only two left.
She leaped to her feet, but by that point the other two had focused on her. Projectiles flew her way. They aimed for her feet. They really did want her alive.
The mountain had stopped shuddering. The boulders had fallen where they would fall. She was out of cover. Time to move fast and hope the pirates were bad shots. Cadence danced.
The bullets flew under her feet, beside her knee, and grazed her ankle. She felt the burn there, but she kept moving. If she stopped, they’d win.
And then something tore through her shoulder, and the searing haze of pain descended on her. One of her blades clattered to the ground.
One pirate held the captain up, a pistol to her head. The other had his pistol aimed at Cadence’s heart. “Enough of that. We can take you dead if you insist, but we’d get more for you alive. Now drop the other sword.”
Cadence swore and obeyed.
“Good. Now, lie down on the ground. We don’t have much time.”
It was getting hard to see. Cadence obeyed with more swearing.
A foot collided with her face. Swearing assaulted her ears. “That was our ship! You killed our ship!” Another kick, this time into her injured shoulder. Cadence struggled to remain conscious. She landed in a pile of ice and debris. Her good hand wrapped around a broken shard of Pandora’s hull. Her baby, here to save her life again.
The boot flew at her again, but she twisted and thrust out the sharp metal. The pirate’s foot impaled itself. She heard screaming. She pushed herself forward, tackling the man. He fell back onto another broken piece of the hull. The broken pieces pushed into his flesh, and he stopped struggling.
Cadence forced herself to her feet. The others on the shelf were picking themselves up from the rubble in various states of injury, but alive. The only uninjured person was the last pirate, his pistol against the captain’s forehead. His hand shook. So did the captain.
“Back off!” He shouted at Cadence.
The captain went limp. As the pirate tightened his grip on her, she rammed her head back with what strength she had left. His grip faltered and she fell forward. Cadence ran to tackle the pirate when two shots sounded. The pirate fell backward, his own blood staining the snow.
Cadence turned to see that Trent had worked himself into a sitting position, a pistol in his hand. “My aim sucks when I’ve been shot.”
Soon the airlift came and TerraGenesis took care of everyone. The captain would take years to be able to walk well again, but she was alive. Trent healed up well, as did Cadence, even if her arm remained stiff.
The captain limped into Cadence’s recovery room a week later. “You did well out there. Without you, I don’t think we would have survived. And,” she paused, tightening her lips, “Thank you. I’ve been… I’ve been captured by pirates before. I couldn’t heal from another encounter.”
Cadence shrugged. “I didn’t feel like dying. Might as well bring you with. And you did well, too. For a spacer.”
The captain nodded. “We were shuttling down from Guidant to interview pilots. We’re down one for our next vanguard mission. I’d like you to come with.” Mary paused and muttered, “As soon as the doctors clear us.”
Cadence glanced around her room. “I got nothing here, now that my baby’s gone. Where you off to?”
A smile twitched on the captain’s face. “We. I think you mean, ‘Where are we off to?’”
“Answer the stupid question. Where are we off to?”