The Ithrian Gambit
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World – Round 2, Turn 5
Use TD – The Ithrian Prisoner
A shrill, high-pitched sound cut across the darkened cargo bay, mixed with the rhythmic clicks of the Ithrian. One of Baal's thugs looked down at his plasma thrower to find the weapon shaking violently in his hands. Plasma coils glowed white-hot along the sides of the gun, suddenly overloaded with power. He blinked twice with confusion, just before the device exploded in a blinding burst of green energy that sent shock waves ripping through the cargo bay.
Baal's men were thrown in all directions by the blast, which also ripped several dozen cargo containers free of their restraints. Almost immediately the rest of them opened fire. Brilliant plasma arcs fired in all directions as the narrow flashlight beams tumbled chaotically in the zero-g. It was like a three dimensional laser light show. No one knew up from down in the pitch blackness, seeing only quick flashes of drifting cargo containers in the blinding blasts of plasma fire. The Ithrian dashed among the chaos, dragging panicked thugs screaming into the darkness beyond where their lights could reach.
The world spun around Jericho as he and Eliza were sent tumbling backwards from the blast. Somehow, he managed to keep his grip on her hand through several disorienting revolutions before he finally grabbed on to some nearby cargo netting.
"The bay door!" he shouted over the nearly deafening blasts of plasma fire as he strained to hold on to the netting and stabilize their movement. "I think negotiations have broken down!"
"There!" Eliza pointed in the blackness. Jericho looked and saw the two manual release switches in the sporadic flashes of light. They were behind him and over his left shoulder… and upside down.
With amazing poise and body control, Eliza oriented herself in the zero-g and kicked off the cargo pod toward the massive airlock door. Jericho did his best to follow, struggling to free himself from the netting that had managed to wrap itself around his arm. The flight across the open expanse was nerve wracking. Several seconds of drifting in pitch blackness, punctuated by blinding flashes of weapons fire. As they two reached the cargo bay door, they could still hear the screams and frantic orders shouted by the thugs behind them.
"Proteus, we're coming out," Eliza said into the comm. "Be ready."
"Captain, the cargo airlock is unpressurized. I have been unable to divert enough of the ship's power to—"
"We're coming out anyway," Eliza cut him off. "Jericho, you ready for this?"
Jericho grasped the manual release lever firmly in one hand while the other grabbed onto the rung of a maintenance ladder built into the door. This captain was certainly bold, he had to give her credit for that. "Ready, boss."
"Three… two… one… GO!"
The two pulled in unison, actuating both override switches and releasing the heavy locks that held the doors in place. An emergency hydraulic system took over, slowly separating the two massive doors. As soon as the air-tight seal was broken, a deafening hiss filled the cargo bay as the derelict ship's already sparse atmosphere began rushing into the vacant cargo airlock through the narrow gap.
Eliza and Jericho held on tightly as the rushing air currents threatened to suck them through the tiny crack between the doors. The hiss intensified to a dull roar as the gap widened and more of the ship's precious air escaped through the opening. Finally there was a massive rush and a resounding thud as the pressure equalized between the two chambers.
Jericho's ears were ringing. He struggled to take a breath in the low pressure, but all he could manage were shallow gasps. They didn't have much time to get on board their ship before the oxygen ran out. As the inner airlock doors slowly opened, the blinding glare of the Virginia Dare's floodlights poured into the cargo bay. The small ship sat in the center of the cramped cargo airlock, expertly latched into place among the drifting equipment and empty cargo pods. In the cockpit, back lit by a dull red glow, Jericho could see the Tinman looking down at them stoically.
Another plasma explosion shook the cargo bay behind them. Moments later the Ithrian's dark shape flew past them and into the cargo airlock. Eliza and Jerico followed close behind.
In the cockpit of the Virginia Dare, Proteus looked out the viewport with interest as two of his crew members and one enemy of humanity rushed through the failing atmosphere towards his ship. Flipping a switch on the console, he extended the ship's docking tube and opened the outer doors. Once they were inside, he could repressurize the Dare's airlock and open the large cargo doors to space.
Then there was still the matter of Baal's ship. Proteus flipped the switch again to seal the docking tube and prepared the ship's systems for a hasty departure.
The docking tube doors were already starting to close when Eliza, Jericho, and the Ithrian drifted into the narrow opening. As soon as the aperture was sealed, freshly scrubbed atmo began to hiss into the confined tube. Eliza and Jericho took a few relieved gasps of fresh atmosphere.
"Proteus," Eliza gasped, trying to orient herself in the tube. "What's our exit look like?"
Proteus brought up an array of sensors in his view. Several of them were flashing red. "Not good, Captain. Baal's ship has moved to intercept our escape. Weapons are powered and locked on to our position."
"Now what?" Jericho asked, dismally.
Just then, the Ithrian reared back, straightening its body and swaying slightly in the zero-g. From somewhere near its head, it emitted a highly structured pattern of clicks and pops at different speeds and frequencies, some coming so fast they almost sounded like tones.
"What's it doing?" Jericho asked nervously, raising his plasma pistol at the alien.
Eliza motioned with one hand for him to stand down, watching the creature with interest.
In the cockpit Proteus' eyes darted across his controls as everything began blinking and flashing at once. The comms blasted static and several of the ship's display systems flickered and died. The operator's hands flew across the controls, struggling to keep the ship's critical systems online through the unknown interference. After a few moments, the disturbance passed.
"Report!" Eliza said sternly into the comm, never taking her eyes off the Ithrian as the clicking slowly subsided.
"Some kind of powerful interference, Captain," Proteus replied, still frantically trying to get all the ship's systems back under control. Warning lights flashed throughout the cockpit as sensor screens flickered and slowly came back online. "That's interesting…"
"What is?" Eliza asked.
"Baal's ship appears to have been hit by the interference as well. It's lost sensor lock. Weapon systems are down."
Eliza and Jericho looked at each other and then at the strange alien creature drifting in the confined docking tube with them.
Back in the cockpit, two words appeared in the stream of alien data that had recently become a normal part of Proteus' vision.
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