“If I help you bust out of here, you have to take me with you!”
My eyes veered slightly to my right to stare at the huge piece of wall that separated me from my would-be roommate, I shook my head no even though I knew he couldn’t see me. In the weeks since I’d been thrown into my temporary living arrangements, I had yet to set eyes on the man behind the mysterious voice, so I was never entirely sure if he was just some prisoner or a guard looking to brighten up his dreary days. “And why should I?” I hissed keeping my voice low, even while I worked a small sliver of wire along the bars of my window.
“Because you’ll never get out that way, for one, the wire isn’t long enough to grasp the latch on the outside, nor is it thick enough to do any real damage to the bars; Far too many have tried and failed over the years.”
"And how would you know that's what I’m doing?" I asked, keeping my voice mellow even as I glanced around suddenly paranoid that he could see everything I was doing.
“Because it’s the first thing everyone tries, that mattress is nothing more than a glorified pad of stuffing by now.”
I sighed and glanced over toward the deflated mattress that was indeed nothing more than a layer of cloth, meant to protect those lucky enough to call this room home; from sleeping on the cold stone floor. Weighing my options for a moment, I glanced at the deep grooves that littered the edge of the window frame. Was I really going to take my chances on someone else, especially given the circumstances surrounding my incarceration in the first place. Given my immediate lack of options, either to hope the wire would eventually work its way through the bars or take up the only solid offer I had; I took the easy route. “Fine, you have a deal, but I’m only taking you as far as the nearest outpost. I don’t do crews.”
“Ha…. then we have a bargain; and eventually you’ll change your mind, or my charming personality will wear you down.”
“Don’t count on it.” I shot back immediately dreading my decision when I heard the telltale sound of metal being dragged along the stone floor. Followed suddenly by something hard smacking against the front of my cell door a few times, I scurried into the far corner just as the door to my cell swung open.
“Well hurry up, it won’t be long until the guards come to investigate the noise.” Again, I took a few seconds, my eyes straying towards the cell next to me before I twisted around hoping to locate the mechanism to open the cell doors. I finally located what I hoped was the paneling for the cells along the far-right wall and pulled hard on the silver metal box. I groaned inwardly as I realized the wiring inside was completely dead, but I kept pulling until finally the side of the paneling gave away and spilled a handful of brightly colored wires into my waiting palms.
First, I needed to get the current going back into the wires, I twisted my body slightly away from my roommates’ cell and cut a small fingernail shaped hole into a few of the wires. It took a second or two, but the wires suddenly buzzed to life in my hand, I quickly spliced a few back together and shoved the whole mess back into the metal box before turning to the small display. My fingers flew across the display, causing every cell door to suddenly pop open, and an overwhelming rush of prisoners sprung from their cells made a mash dash for freedom. “Whatever did you do that for?” Sounded a slightly annoyed voice from somewhere over my left shoulder.
“Chaos…It’s the best kind of distraction. It will take the guards a bit to round up all the prisoners, and even longer to do a head count, and by that point we would be long gone before they even realize who is missing.” I said just as my former next-door neighbor and now temporary crew member stepped fully out of his cell.
“I knew it… ha, no wonder you don’t like crews, missy.”
I frowned as I inspected the man suddenly standing before me. Eyes of such a deep blue, they nearly reminded me of the ocean. Hair so dark it was nearly charcoal in coloring that spread out over his shoulders with a full beard to match. Rags of clothing covered various parts of his body, and from what I could see of those pieces still clinging to him they had at one time been extremely expensive rags. He was still built rather well so he hadn’t been starved and from the muscle mass on his arms as well as the streaks of black on his cheeks. He’d been put to work recently in the mines below.
“I can still leave you here to rot, if you don’t watch that tone. I don’t do crews because I don’t trust people anymore; rather sell you to the first brigand that comes along than take orders from a woman.” I finished kicking another paneling when it refused to acknowledge any of the commands I had entered through the prompt. “Stupid rust bucket.” I criticized even as it suddenly roared to life and sent a carousel of rusted boxes spinning for dear life; only to come to a screeching halt a few moments later. I made my way to the first swaying box and lifted the lid; from within I withdrew a small blaster and lightweight katana before quickly strapping them to my back and leg. Then with a flourish I withdrew a long dark overcoat and slipped inside of the familiar leather. “Well?” I wondered why he hadn’t moved from his spot yet.
“How did you do that?” He asked his gaze heavily trained on the carousel.
“Get the carousel and the doors to open? Nothing has worked right in this rust bucket of a prison for years, not since the power generators got switched to the essential systems two clicks ago.”
“It’s mech 101. If something doesn’t work properly you give it a good swift kick. Now, are you grabbing your stuff or are we going to rob the first person we come across?”
He continued to stare at me for a few seconds before finally getting into gear and pressing the buttons to get his own stash of items to come up. By this point the ruckus in the hallway had grown to a roar as guards yelled for prisoners to stop, and a few began to fight their way out. “Come on, now’s our chance while the guards are preoccupied with the others.”
From there it was a mad dash down the main hall, one I wasn’t quite ready for. After the initial run of prisoners had escaped, the guards had somewhat managed to re-group fast enough that a half-way decent line was halting anyone else from progressing further into the tunnels.
“What do we do now, we can’t go that way.”
Now came the perfect moment, the prisoners had the guards surrounded and definitely out-numbered until reinforcements showed up; which I knew couldn’t happen. I glanced towards my companion, a smile lighting my face as I clicked the gas mask over my face and yanked the smoke ball from my coat pocket. His eyes widened as he noticed the small black ball in my hand and tried to scramble away. I shook my head, pressing a piece of cloth into his face as I lobbed the ball towards the prisoners and guards. Chaos immediately broke out among both groups as they saw the ball rolling towards them.
People scattered in a dozen different directions leaving the tunnel wide open, I peeled the gas mask off my face and fit it back into the confines of my coat before strolling forward. When I reached the ball, I slowly bent down and scooped it up. The smile still plastered on my face.
“Why didn’t it go off?”
“Because this little baby is a dud; she’s all looks and no oomph.” I called removing a small red tablet from another pocket and dropping it into a nearby bucket of water. “That was the smoke bomb.” I replied taking off down the tunnel as a swirl of red smoke began to rise behind us.
“Smoke bombs in tablet form?” He asked, trying to keep up my pace as we raced down the tunnel towards what I hoped was the hanger bay.
“Yup, originally before the newer spherical ball bombs had become mainstream the federacy in their infinite wisdom had commissioned the tablet forms thinking them easier to conceal, unfortunately after a few weeks of inactivity the tablets solidify, and you need a readily available liquid source to detonate them.”
We could still hear the battle raging from a dozen different directions as more guards had begun to show up, and after a few ragged twists and turns down the tunnels, the walls began to open giving us more room to run side by side now.
“I think we’re being followed.”
“Yup.” I responded slightly out of breath as I heard the clump of footsteps growing louder behind us. I wasn’t sure if it was reinforcements for the guards or some of the prisoners, but I wasn’t about to hang around and find out either way.
“Which ones yours?” He asked as we entered the hanger bay.
“None… we’re hijacking one.” I replied, scanning the large ships around us. There were maybe a half dozen ships still left in the bay, four of which were prison issued. So, I knew to steer clear of those mostly because I didn’t have the time to kill the homing beacon even if they were the fastest ships. Instead I veered towards the captured ships; two seemed to be in the process of being dismantled.
The last two looked rather promising though. One had been completely stripped of any kind of markings even her call sign had been scraped off. The other was still in the process of being stripped down.
“Can you fly these rust buckets?” I asked as I raced towards the one still being stripped down.
“Not really.” Came the instant reply, causing me to stop short.
“Then how did you expect to get out of here? Wait…Never mind for now get on the other ship and just hide.”
“No way, first chance you get, and you’ll ditch me. We stick together.”
“Look I can’t watch you and set up a trap at the same time. And if I was going to ditch you, I would have done it already, but I promised I’d take you with me as far as the first outpost. After that you are on your own.” I watched the emotions play across his face for a few moments as he internally debated on what to do but ultimately, he turned and headed towards the other ship, the moment he disappeared inside I flew up the gangplank and ran towards the bridge.
The ship was still crudely designed, and a few random blaster holes littered most of the main deck area, telling me the crew hadn’t gone down without a fight. The bridge seemed to be in way better condition than most of the ship, so the fighting had been limited to mainly one section of the ship. I quickly flipped a few switches and took in the information from the paneling.
“No oxygen systems, fuel is depleted, weapons systems disabled completely. Poor thing they turned you into a floating barge.” I hemmed as my eyes bounced around the different consoles and softly swore under my breath as I flicked on the auto-pilot system and started the engines to a high-pitched whine and cough before they finally kicked in. After plugging in some nearby coordinates, I made my way off the bridge and back into the hanger bay just as a group of prisoners entered from the tunnels.
Jumping behind a nearby group of boxes, I waited. “Captain, someone’s trying to pilfer our ship.”
“Forget it, Riso. Let the poor fool have it, it’s been likely keelhauled already. Now boys, I say we “borrow” one of these here Federacy ships. Shan finds the tracking device and disables it. Wen grab whatever kind of weapons you can find and make it snappy, boys, we have to blow this cell and soon.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Came the duel responses followed by the sound of retreating footsteps. Carefully I maneuvered my way around the crates, staying as low to the ground as possible before all that was left between me and the ship was empty air.
Hunkering down lower, I flipped the belt off of my blaster and readier her when chaos erupted from the hallway. “CAPTAIN….”
“What is it, Riso?”
“The guards, there’s a good dozen or so making their way down here.” Riso spouted trying hard no to fall over from his run.
“Well then I guess it’s time to blow this pop stand. GRAB WHAT YOU CAN BOYS, WHERE LEAVING NOW!” came the captain’s booming response.
Then a few seconds later a third voice called out, this one a little deeper and slightly rougher than the others like it had been a while since he’d used it. “Found the box, Captain.”
“Chuck it with the rest of the pilfered loot, Shan. Then let’s get this girl moving, I’d like to have one ship not full of bullet holes from lift off.”
“Aye aye, Captain.”
I crouched down further into my makeshift hiding spot, when I heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming my way. Then a loud clang as something made an old oil barrel a few inches to my right twirl to life and drop back down with a loud thud, before I even had time to register what had happened, the twin engines fired to life and jetted down the hanger.
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