As I lay semi-conscious on the hydroponic bay floor, I dreamt I saw shadows—one white, the others dark, grey perhaps—engaging in a whirling dance that bordered on hysteria. I was aware my own ability to observe my surroundings had diminished, after all I had been struck down by someone, that realization came soon after the stars fizzled out and my blurred vision slowly started to clear.
The one in white was a girl. I could see the slender shape of her form. Was that Aria? She had been wearing a white exo-suit. Coherence had broken down when I fell, the flow of events distorted, the need to remember what I was witnessing, however, paramount.
Order was out of sync and a general state of chaos ensured. Marauders or pirates, or whoever they were, had ambushed us. Strange, I thought they had taken what they wanted. What had they missed? There were three, no, four of them. They had remained behind. Fooling us into thinking that they had left, only to ambush us, knocking me and Kailo out. We had opened the door to the Hydroponic Bay and set off a beacon, sending a signal. Soon the rest of the pirates would return. We had failed Aria.
I lay on the floor watching the image of the girl I associated with Aria change. She looked disproportionate. I was losing focus again, unable to see clearly. She hadn’t been caught, since she was moving freely between the pirates, unless I was dreaming—that couldn’t be her, what was she doing, how was she avoiding them? I could feel my head throbbing. Aria throbbed as well, brilliantly white and then translucent, as if she was here and then not here. For a moment my head cleared, and I saw a dark impression deep within her. I saw it spring to life, a burning red sphere pulsated, the same one I glimpsed on the freighter’s bridge when Kailo played the musical notes with his keyboard. But this time it was inside of her, inside Aria, holding her form together as she pulsated. My eyes were playing tricks. I was only watching her heart beating, unless the red sphere was her heart, or I was losing my mind. One by one the black shadows seemed to fall, till only the white one stood. Aria?
I lost consciousness again, but in the darkness, I began to hear sounds and voices.
“Quick! No time to waste,” a Gek said croaking.
“Don’t forget to untie me Boss!”
“Tie and gag pirates, throw them out in shuttle.”
“Do we have momentum to jump, jump, jump.” Followed by a crackled cough. “Need to get out, out of pirate system!”
“To the bridge…”
“Yes, but…” More gargling sounds.
I heard feet running, a lot of clacking and a door opening. Bodies being dragged and a door closing.
“Aria is out, exhausted, needs to rest… sleep.”
“Help me lift traveller off floor.” It was Kailo’s voice, he was all right.
“Aria, what’s happened to Aria?” I struggled to ask as my vision finally began to clear.
“I’m all right,” she said. “The beacon, knock out the beacon!” She was talking to Kailo.
Kailo chuckled as he turned his alien multi-tool on the beacon and disintegrated it. “Bye-bye little beacon.”
“Help me up,” she instructed.
From the forward observation windows of the bridge, the battered shuttle drifted away from the freighter, loaded with four bounded pirates. Kailo’s crew had made rudimentary repairs on the damaged computer systems and were running a simulated jump sequence.
“OK, we go hyper-hyper, but only one star system. Ready, sety, shoot,” Kailo’s chief technician announced.
The jump simulation failed. “Need to fix computer, more work, more time,” he cried. A chorus of croaking grumbles echoed across the bridge in unilateral agreement.
Kailo sighed, as he turned to the long-range scanners that had picked up a blip. Pirate ships were approaching on an intercept vector.
“Pirates returning, need time to fix broken computer, then jump,” Kairo declared, as his crew suddenly fell silent. “Kailo meet pirates midway and stall. Fighter No.7, my lucky number will save crew, save Aria, save traveller. Peppered whooping freighter must jump!” He turned to his chief. “Fix computer, jump! Kailo will follow later. Same coordinates.”
His chief nodded and all his crew went back to repairing the damaged systems on the bridge. Kailo turned to me and Aria.
“Friends, please not worry, Kailo great pilot. Stupid pirates no match for Lucky No.7, enough time to escape, meet in new star-system when safe.”
He hugged us both and left the bridge.
I turned to Aria. “He’ll be fine,” I said, but I was not so sure.
“I hope you’re right,” Aria said.
The fighter blasted out of the docks and rocked its wings, signalling a final farewell while turning starboard from the freighter bow. Instantly, the main pulse thrusters came on-line and Fighter No.7, piloted by Kailo, disappeared.
When you go in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees.