She finally remembered him when he placed a dagger into her hand. Early childhood memories came flooding back.
When she was four she was left in the custody of a bizarre collection of teachers from across the galaxy. The Varan lizardman who seemed so oddly familiar was her first fencing instructor. Twenty-two years had passed since she’d last seen him and he hadn’t aged a day.
“Tongue-Tong?” A tear escaped and ran down her cheek crashing into a dumbfounded smile.
Zorpia Zorr was half-human, her bright sapphire eyes and contrasting dark brown complexion were considered human characteristics on her homeworld. Her thick curly dark hair had natural sky blue highlights, a recessive trait like her eyes that she got from her father, along with his Zorr agility.
A smirk of a smile curled in the corner of Mox’s snout. He shot his serpentine forked tongue out twice in succession.
“You mean you just now remember me?”
She threw her arms around the walking green Komodo Dragon, who was roughly her height with stumpy legs, a slouching curved spine, and sporting old leather pants and a vest. She squeezed him with all her might.
“Uncle! I can’t believe it’s really you!”
For a moment, wrecent events melted away. She felt like she was five again, in trouble, and in need of being rescued.
“Wait, did my father send you?”
“Actually he didn’t, though, I contacted him. He asked if I’d bring you home. I was going to wait until we crossed the sector, but given our situation, would you like a lift?”
She looked around the hall they were standing in. It was covered in bodies. There were fourteen dead Klandar soldiers, eleven dead crewmen, and Bobby. Dear sweet Bobby, galactic bad boy and her on again, off again boyfriend. She couldn’t believe they got him. He was so god damn tough.
“That shit. He’d love that I’m crying over him. I was the only one that called him Bobby. My little boy Blue.”
Bobby was known by most as Blue Beard, the Captain of the Dead Barge; a twenty deck souped up transport that could leave most slick racers in its wake. Its outside was decorated with the corpses, covered in gun turrets, and painted like a rock-n-roll nightmare.
A charismatic charmer, Bobby was just the type to attract the renegade daughter of a planetary viceroy. When she met him they instantly connected. She would have mated with him in time. He was the one, he smelled right, and now, he was gone.
Zorpia bent down and closed his crazed radiant eyes. His long blue beard was soaked with azure blood from the bio-disruptor blasts of the Klandar Police. He hated the pigs. He killed every last one of them before he died.
Mox placed a clawed hand on her shoulder. “Come with me, we have to keep moving.”
Zorpia looked up into the lifeless reptilian eyes of her Uncle, she had no memory of knowing his real name as a child. His tongue slid in and out of his mouth tasting the air. She remembered him as a kind teacher, someone who made her feel safe, long lost family.
“Where do you want to go? The Klandar control the bridge and the hangar bay, that little ship you traded Bobby can’t outrun ’em, even if we could fight our way to it.”
“We’re going to the lower storage vault.”
“What, that giant chunk of rusty metal you paid Bobby to smuggle across the system?” Her spirits certainly weren’t lifted by this idea.
“Exactly, that chunk is my real ship,” said Mox in a pleased with himself way. He scratched the end of his snout. “Of course, it is known to the Klandar, and how shall I put it, they aren’t fans.”
“Are you the reason they came in force?” She narrowed her eyes, almost not believing her own question.
“If they knew you were here, they would have come just as hard. You know he made a deal with them. What’s he getting out of it, control of the ship?”
Øregaard, the first mate, it was him alright. How else did the Klandar board the ship? How did they get past the defenses so easily? Arriving just at the moment they powered down the engines for maintenance? And when they stormed the bridge, it was Øregaard and his two cronies who surrendered immediately. The soldiers didn’t even shoot at them. Every member of the Barge had a wanted dead or alive price on their head. The cops had no motivation to take them alive. That traitor had sold them up the river.
The only thing worse than mutiny in Bobby’s universe, was mutiny with help from the police. She was surprised his corpse wasn’t rotating right in front of them.
“Øregaard,” she growled through clenched teeth, “that motherfucker.”
“Indeed he is, my dear, but we really must say our goodbyes.” Mox could sense them coming by slight changes of pressure in the hallway air.
Zorpia grabbed Bobby’s body and pulled him to a control panel on the wall, and lifted his left hand to the scanner. It accepted his prints. Øregaard wasn’t smart enough to lock him out yet. She worked the computer terminal.
“He gave you his command codes?”
“Of course he did.”
“Blue Beard, pirate scourge of the sector, gave you command of his ship. I have to say, you make your Uncle proud.”
Alarms sounded, auto-turrets fired on the Klandar ships surrounding them, battle-bots went into repel all boarders mode, and the blast doors slammed down sealing them off from the direction they came.
“It won’t take them long to figure out what I’ve done. I hope you’re right about that rusty ship of yours.”
Mox assured her with a grin. “Do you remember how to use it?” He looked down at the blade she had stuck under her arm.
Zorpia walked back to the last Klandar Bobby killed and pulled his broadsword out of the trooper’s chest and held it skillfully. She turned back to her Uncle and activated the Varan dagger in her left. It’s short blade lit up with green electric lightning. It could deflect disruptor blasts.
“I even remember the two sword technique,” she said gliding the blades through the air.
Mox adjusted his belt sans dagger; it still held a stun gun and a thin fencing rapier. He swaggered down the hall with his long green tail slithering across the floor behind him.
Zorpia stared, wondering how she didn’t realized it was him the moment he came aboard, he looked exactly the same as he did when she was five. And how did he recognize her? She certainly looked different. Smell she figured. She ran after her adopted Uncle.
They made it down two decks before the alarms stopped and the ship became quiet. The guns stopped firing and it was safe to assume the battle robots had been deactivated.
Zorpia stopped at the next terminal and restarted the repel boarders setting. Alarms sounded. Followed by an impact that shook the entire ship. The turrets must have taken out a Klandar ship, that crashed into the Barge.
“That’s probably the last time they let me do that.”
They ran down three more levels avoiding the lifts and crossing the decks to change stairwells as they went. The alarms stopped again and were replaced by a public service announcement.
“This is the Klandar Authority. The ship is being searched for the criminal known as Blue Beard and his associates from the Zorr Consortium. Crew members should be advised that failure to comply with instructions will result in immediate arrest or termination.”
Zorpia and Mox smiled at each other with a ‘they don’t know he’s dead and they don’t know where we are’ look. Bobby was overly cautious. Hidden in the bodies lashed to the outside of the Dead Barge were scatter field emitters. They caused each body on the hull to look like twenty, making it impossible to determine actual crew numbers and forget about locating a specific individual.
They headed toward the back of the ship to make their way to the vault via the engine room. Hopefully they wouldn’t expect them to take the long way and Zorpia knew she’d have friends there. They entered the three deck engine room through the upper scaffolding.
“Zorr Consortium, can you believe that shit? It’s been disbanded for over a decade.” She rolled her eyes.
Zorpia’s father was personally responsible for disbanding corporate control on five planets. Obviously, the Klandar couldn’t let that outrage slide. They were a ruthless autocrat regime obsessed with expanding their xenophobic police state. Bobby’s death would be felt. He was more than a smuggler and a pirate, he was a Robin Hood and a freedom fighter. The Dead Barge was portrayed as the ultimate evil but they helped a fair share of people across the sector. The underground respected Blue Beard.
Down metal stairs to the sea of pipes, vents, and control stations they the engine room. It was basically a big cold fusion reactor, which while dangerous, also provided the safety that no one would shoot at them.
“Hold it right there.”
Mox turned around slowly and joy lit across Zorpia’s face. It was Novation and Bloc Wave, the duo of nuclear engineers who kept the Dead Barge running. They’d been with Bobby since childhood. They could be trusted.
Novation was a two-meter tall muscular Zorr with the same cobalt complexion and wild blue hair as Bobby. She dressed in classic spacer fashion with jump boots and all-terrain gear. Her partner Bloc Wave was a jet black skinned Rindo. He was her equal in height but slender and androgynous looking in comparison. He wore bright yellow short shorts, matching thermal goggles, and nothing else. His beautiful angelic face peered out from behind a turbo blaster he was aiming at them.
“Why do you have Blue’s sword?” Wave’s mist-filled eyes looked at them with deep concern.
“Oh, Nova!” Zorpia hugged the woman and she hugged back.
Bloc Wave lowered his weapon, he looked like he was seeing a ghost. “Where is Blue? I can’t feel him anymore.”
“Oh, Bloc, Bobby’s gone. The Klandar shot him,” said Zorpia.
“I do not like that. Not one bit. I don’t like it at all.” Bloc Wave reached into his messy black hair, pulled his goggles down, and cocked his turbo blaster.
“Wave, baby, don’t you shoot that thing in here,” said Nova pulling Bloc and Zorpia in for a three-person mournful hug.
Mox cleared his throat with a croak, “We should head to my ship.”
As if to reinforce this statement, a communication came from the bridge. It was Øregaard.
“Novation, Wave, how much time until we can get out of here? Can you restore navigational control to us? I’ve taken over as Captain. Blue Beard is dead and the Klandar are searching the ship for that traitor Zorpia and the Varan who ratted us out to them. Once they have them in custody we can make a break for it.”
Bloc Wave looked at the green face in the monitor. “Nova is hiding, you know the Klandar hate Zorrs. Blue said not to return control until full power was back.”
Øregaard erupted, “Listen Wave. You turn navigation and system control back over to the bridge, I’m the Captain of the Dead Barge now!”
“If you’re Captain, why don’t you have the Dead Sword?” Bloc lifted his goggles and looked with his smokey eyes into the monitor.
“I’ll get the Dead Sword and I’ll cut you in half with it! You son of a …”
Bloc clicked off the viewer.
“I don’t think we can stay here anymore,” said the heartbroken Rindo.
Mox addressed the visibly shaken trio.
“I know this seems bad, Blue is gone, it’s safe to say anyone loyal to him is either dead or in custody. We need to get to my ship to get out of here. They might be there already or they might not, but they’re definitely coming here. You two are more than welcome to join us. I can drop you wherever you like.”
Nova looked into Bloc’s eyes for a long moment, then turned to Zorpia.
“Honey, we’re with you. If the Barge is lost, so be it. We’ll find a new home. I don’t believe you turned us in. Blue trusted you and that’s enough for me. I know you’re part Zorr and you have the Dead Sword. That makes you the Captain.”
Bloc stood tall and addressed Zorpia as well, “where to, Cap?”
Mox added, “yes, Captain, shall we go?”
Zorpia pulled herself together. “Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
They ran to the bottom level. The exit to the central lift opened and in came a half dozen Klandar shock troopers. You could spot their pristine white armor with crimson squares over their hearts from a kilometer away. Their garbled communications were hard to make out.
Mox translated, “they said no blasters, batons only.”
Nova grabbed an iron wrench out of a toolbox and held it like a baseball bat. Bloc stood behind her with his turbo blaster, one wrong shot could destroy the entire ship. Mox stepped into a side passage on the left and drew his stun gun. Zorpia went to the right. The Klandar barreled down the hall brandishing glowing red rods.
“Zorpia Zorr you are under arrest. And that goes double for that Varan with you.”
Novation wound up her wrench like she was up to bat. Bloc squatted down barefoot on the floor behind her like a catcher.
“Stand down or you’ll be dealt with. You blue devil.” The lead trooper raised his fire baton.
Mox stunned him from the side passage and he fell forward right into Nova’s wrench. She swung hard and sent his pointed helmet flying through the air. Blood spattered on the other advancing troops.
The next two charged Mox, he stunned them both sending them scrambling back. The first fell backward into Zorpia’s blade. She thrust the Dead Sword right through the back of his armor. The other stumbled to get away and again Nova swung. She connected with his face and spun his head halfway around. He dropped like a rock.
Zorpia pulled the Dead Sword out of one trooper just in time to deflect the incoming baton of another. The Klandar stared at her with red eyes and stepped over his fallen comrade.
Another chased Mox through the maze of maintenance corridors.
The last advanced on Nova. His fire baton connected with her wrench and knocked it away. He stepped in and elbowed her in the throat, sending her stumbling back. He raised his baton and took aim at Nova’s bright blue dreadlocks. Bloc fired from below. The blast ripped through the soldier and sailed down the hall slamming into the back door with a thud.
“I told you not to fire that thing in here!” said Nova.
The other trooper’s fire baton cracked into the Dead Sword and bounced off. He swung again and Zorpia sliced the stick in two. The Klandar dove forward tackling her to the ground and immediately started punching her.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Novation dove on him from behind.
The three wrestled on the floor. Nova got her arms around his neck and choked him in a headlock. She was strong but the Klandar were bigger. The trooper jerked his body weight and flipped Nova over his shoulder. He reached down to pin Zorpia but was too late, she’d already pulled the dagger from her belt. It lit up green before sinking into his midsection.
The trooper punched Zorpia in the chest knocking the wind out of her, then fell back with a groan. He pulled the blade out of his stomach and a pool of red followed. He lay there breathing heavily.
Mox came sliding around the corner with the last Klandar on his tail. The trooper charged forward. Mox moved his body like a snake and slid out of reach. The soldier missed, tripped over the bodies, and did a face plant, sending his helmet and fire baton twirling away.
Bloc took a disruptor pistol off the closest body and shot the one that just tripped in the back of the head. Then he shot the others making sure they were dead. He paused over the last one, who was holding his stomach from the dagger wound.
“How many of you are on board?” Wave took on an air of extreme danger.
The Klandar spilled his guts, “nine assault ships with a division of troops. You’ll never get out of here alive.” He coughed up blood and sneered at the skinny man standing over him.
“You won’t leave the Dead Barge either.” Bloc shot him point blank in the face.
“Please, please, please! Stop firing weapons in here!” Nova took the pistol away but let him keep his turbo blaster.
Mox helped Zorpia off the floor. “Can you walk?”
“Yeah. They suck.”
Nova took another blaster and stuffed a third into her waistband. The group walked to the back exit.
Bloc Wave paused at the door. “I could rig the Barge to self-destruct?”
“If it comes to that, we can destroy her from my ship,” said Mox.
Halfway down the long hall that led to the vault, they heard the lift door open. Nova and Bloc Wave ducked into a utility room, Mox flattened himself against the wall, and Zorpia ran down the hall with a sword in each hand.
Footsteps came off the elevator.
“Secure the engine room, kill those gearheads if they’re in there.”
It was Øregaard, and his words burned Nova up. She raised her arms a pistol in each hand. Bloc put a hand on her shoulder.
“We’ll get him. Patience.”
They were coming.
“That sword is mine!” Øregaard yelled down the corridor.
Zorpia stopped and turned around. “Then you’ll have to come get it, traitor.”
Mox could smell him, but couldn’t see him yet. He found him a bit overbearing, potentially backstabbing, but he hadn’t seen the hostile takeover coming. Blue Beard was a friend and Mox was a welcome guest. Gastraddars were usually devoted soldiers and Blue trusted the guy. The Klandar must have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The troopers all went in the direction of the engine room. Mox stepped away from the wall.
Øregaard was there, a big green hulk in front of him; shaggy black hair, bulging blue eyes, old metal battle armor stapled at his shoulders, steal boots that could stomp Mox into a pile of scales. He held a jagged sword in his right hand and a blaster in his left. With him were two of the crew, Joser and Ferrari. The mean-looking spacers were the muscle that now claimed the ship. The blood of the former crew was on their hands.
“So what did they offer you to sell out the Barge?” asked Mox.
“It was her that brought them here and it’s you they’re after. Once I give them you, I’ll be on my way.”
“The Klandar are going to let the famed Dead Barge slip away over a hundred-year-old grudge with the Varan? An unlikely story.” Mox took note of his grip on the blaster pistol.
“Shut up lizard or I’ll have you for boots.” Øregaard raised his gun.
In a flash, Mox pulled his rapier and with a flick, sliced the tip of the thin blade through the knuckles of Øregaard’s left hand. He let out a loud groan and dropped the pistol to the floor; flapping his torn fingers through the air.
He swung with his right and Mox limboed the oncoming sword. While he was bent low he curved his body in an unimaginable “S” shape and stuck the tip of his fencing sword deep into Øregaard’s knee.
Joser and Ferrari advanced around their new Captain, who cursed and hopped on one leg. Mox dropped to all fours and scurried away. When he passed the doorway where Novation and Bloc Wave were waiting he shot a sideways glance that said ‘now is as good a time as any, don’t you think?’
Nova and Bloc stepped out and came face to face with former crewmates. Nova leveled both pistols on them and Bloc raised his turbo blaster. He took a long slow inhale sucking all the carbon dioxide out of the air, held his breath, and pulled the trigger.
In a flash, Joser was no more. The turbo blaster ripped twenty fist-sized holes through his body and what was left fell to the floor.
“I can’t believe you sided with the man. Ferarri, you make me sick.”
She’d known him a long time. They even had a thing for each other once.
“Well, you know…” And in a swipe of his razor-sharp sword, Nova’s right hand and one of her pistols flew right into Bloc’s face.
She screamed and Bloc screamed too, a high pitched screech of pure oxygen. He turned his turbo blaster toward Ferrari only to have it kicked away to shoot holes in the wall. In a swinging move, Ferrari’s sword followed his foot and Nova jumped in front of it. The jagged blade plunged into her side. Ferrari shoved her away, ripped out the blade, and Nova went down.
Bloc’s weapon was aimed right at him. He raised his goggles.
“Look into the last eyes you’ll ever see.”
Bloc Wave’s eyes swirled with mist and hypnotized Ferrari. He pulled the trigger and held it down. When he stopped the remains of Ferrari were plastered on the wall.
Bloc knelt and scooped Novation into his arms. She was crying crystal tears and holding her amputated stump in her other hand. A puddle of blue blood formed at her side. Her eyes glazed over. She wasn’t going to last long.
Bloc looked up and Øregaard was standing over them. He raised his sword over his head with both hands and brought it down. Bloc closed his eyes. A clash of blades made him flinch them open again. Zorpia deflected the blow.
She stepped over them and connected a follow-up swing across Øregaard’s chest armor. The Dead Sword ripped a line right through it. He limped back on his wounded knee.
Øregaard brought up his blade in a defensive thrust.
Zorpia locked her green electric dagger into his jagged blade and pushed it away.
She landed both her feet on his bad knee and windmilled the Dead Sword.
Øregaard winced in pain, raised his already bloodied left hand, and caught the Dead Sword as it came down toward his head. It cut deep into his hand and stopped on his thick forearm bones.
Zorpia pushed off his knee and jumped away.
Øregaard staggered back. His wrecked left hand had a long and utterly useless thumb hanging off it.
Mox and Bloc carried Novation down the hall to the next doorway. The elevator behind Øregaard opened and more troops came off. Zorpia wasn’t going to wait to see them. She turned and ran. She sprinted past her group, accessed the control panel at the end of the hall, and opened the door to the vault section.
Øregaard chugged after them. Behind him, the hall filled with Klandar soldiers. They were looking for a clear shot past the wide green giant huffing his way down the hall with a limp.
“Out of the way!” They didn’t give orders twice.
Øregaard ignored them, hell-bent on Zorpia and her sword. Mox and company moved into the vault entryway. They were one door away from his ship. Zorpia tried to open it but her code didn’t work. She tried again.
“I’m locked out!”
Mox let go of Nova and joined Zorpia at the controls. He ripped the panel off the wall and started to manipulate the back with his pointed claws. Øregaard was almost at the entrance to the anti-chamber when the Klandar open fired.
Laser blasts flashed around him leaving burn marks on the doorway and walls. A blast ricocheted off Øregaard’s shoulder armor and made him stumble.
“Watch it, you idiots!”
Mox moved Zorpia and a blast hit the wall where her head had been. Another connected with Novation knocking her out of Bloc Wave’s hands. He scrambled to pick her back up again and took a blast in the neck. It knocked him to the ground and he dropped both Novation and his turbo blaster. They both lay on the floor not moving.
Øregaard entered the room, getting shot in the back for blocking the door. He shook off the disruptor blasts like they were nothing more than taps on his armor. Zorpia threw her dagger past him into the opposite door controls. The door behind Øregaard closed sealing them in the ten square meter entryway.
“Now, give me my sword!” He raised his jagged blade toward Zorpia.
Mox got the inner door to the vault open. They backed into the cavernous space. Boxes and crates lined the walls and in the middle sat a three-story tall rectangle of rusty metal.
Øregaard looked down at Novation’s still body, then Bloc Wave moaned and reached up toward his throat. Øregaard slammed his blade into his stomach. A release of wispy gas came out of the wound. Bloc stopped moving after a long exhale. Øregaard leaned over and breathed in Bloc Wave’s last breath; the pure oxygen of it filling him with renewed alertness.
“That hardly seemed necessary.” Mox took aim with his stun gun.
“Uncle, I have a score to settle.” Zorpia stepped between Mox and his target.
She held the Dead Sword in front of her and gripped it with both hands. Its long curving blade was made of shiny black steel with three skulls carved into the hilt. Some swords were said to sing, this one moaned.
Zorpia ran toward Øregaard, lept off the deck, deflected his attempt to cut her, and slammed the Dead Sword down on his left shoulder. It cut through the armor, broke the bolt holding it together, and sunk in. She put both feet into his chest and knocked him back. She landed like a cat and the green mass staggered trying not to fall.
His left arm hung limp with a thrashed hand at its end. His armor popped open making it hard for him to move. Øregaard pulled the plate off, revealing a muscular chest with dark black hair and below it a rotund gut. He threw the armor to the floor with a crash. The rage on his face was frightening.
“You’ve really let yourself go.” Zorpia winked.
She swung low and clashed blades with her betrayer. Øregaard rolled his weight and swung high bringing his blade down on Zorpia with incredible force. She put her body behind her sword and took the hit. Øregaard reached forward with his damaged left hand and tried to grab her. An expression of pain streaked across his face. When he reached up to swing again, Zorpia lobbed off his left arm at the elbow. It fell to the floor with a thud. His sword came down wildly and Zorpia barely dodged it.
“Aaaaaaghh, you fucking bitch!” He charged her.
Zorpia was in control. She parried once then cracked his sword away. As his arm flew out to his side she performed three perfect slices carving a large “Z” across Øregaard’s chest. The final letter of her ancestor’s alphabet was perfect for a moment, then blurred with forest green blood.
“The arm is for the Dead Barge crew you had killed. The ‘Z’ is for me.” She blocked Øregaard’s next swing with relative ease.
She was fast on her feet and she let him charge again. This time she took a move from her Uncle’s playbook and sidestepped the charging Gastraddar. As he passed, she stuck her sword into his back with a double-handed lunge. Mox could tell by the look on his face he was done for.
Zorpia pulled a dripping blade out of his back. Øregaard turned toward her and swung with everything he had left. Their swords connected and he pushed into her overpowering her with his weight and sliding his jagged blade toward her face.
Mox drew his sword but it was too late. Zorpia screamed out. The jagged points ripped a line up her cheek from her chin to her hairline. Her eye was full of blood.
The overconfident Øregaard raised his blade over his head to deliver the deathblow. Zorpia plunged her sword into his stomach. At the same time, he felt a sharp stab in the back of his neck. Zorpia looked up to see a thin metal point jet out of his mouth and immediately retract. Øregaard stood for a moment with his sword still held high. Zorpia pulled the Dead Sword out of his guts.
“And this is for Bobby.”
She swung hard and fast horizontally and opened Øregaard up like a tin can, boldly underlining the ‘Z’ on his chest. He dropped his sword and fell to the floor, a huge blob of immobilized flesh. Then his head exploded.
Zorpia turned around and Bloc Wave was sitting up on the floor leaning on his turbo blaster.
“That’s for Novation.” He fell forward again.
The door opened behind him and a wall of armored Klandar Police rushed in.
Mox grabbed Zorpia and they ran around to the other side of the rusty cube.
“Tongue-Tong look out!” screamed Zorpia.
As they rounded the far side of the rust rectangle they came face to face with a rust covered robot wielding two huge double-bladed battle axes that pulsed with red electricity. Blocky wide shoulders stacked on a square body with rectangular legs. The only feature of its square head was a single orb of red lightning. It was an ancient killing machine and definitely in a hostile mood.
“Klangstorm. Glutinstrive. Blurkdans,” spoke the robot.
“She’s the daughter of an old friend and my protégé,” Mox said to the robot, then to Zorpia, “Don’t worry, this is my Sentinel.”
The moved past the robot.
“There’re some soldiers giving us some trouble coming presently. And if the tall thin black skinned being lying in the hallway is still alive, bring him to the lab immediately.”
The Sentinel held out its axes, which electrified with even fiercer lightning. Three Klandar troopers rounded the corner only to meet robotic death. The assault of the Sentinel was so fast and aggressive they didn’t even have time to fire a weapon before they were cut in half, all three of them in a single double armed swing.
The Sentinel disappeared around the corner and weapons fire irrupted followed by screams. A door Zorpia failed to notice before opened in the lower corner of the cube and Mox led her inside. It closed behind and they were in an airlock. The inner door opened and Mox led her into a three-story storage room.
There was a small shuttle made entirely of what looked like diamond parked next to two rust covered space suits. At the second level, there were trees planted on a walkway that circled the room. The trees reached up into the third level and were covered in purple and orange fruits. Screaming down from the treetops were small silver furred primates.
“Are those monkeys? Like from Earth?” Zorpia was flabbergasted.
“It’s a long story. Welcome aboard the Brick.”
“This is The Brick?” Zorpia looked around in wonder.
They rushed down a hallway to a freight elevator in the center of the ship, rode up one level, and passed through a clean room into a lab. Mox sat her down next to a large table, opened a drawer, and took out a medical kit. He loaded a device and injected her with painkillers. Then he opened a refrigerated drawer and dug around for a while. He pulled out an old tin can, mixed around some gooey silicon with his claw, then proceeded to wipe the gel across the gash on Zorpia’s face.
“I’m afraid you’re going to have a terrible scar but this will help it heal quickly.”
“It’s cool and a little numbing.”
“Good. That means it’s not toxic to your biology.”
The lab door opened, the Sentinel came in, opened a compartment on its square chest and dumped Bloc Wave’s body out on the lab table. He was still alive!
Mox injected him with the same device, did a most impressive staple and seal job on his gaping stomach wound, and proceeded to smear the same gel all over it. His neck had a chunk of flesh missing and Mox smeared more of the gel too.
Bloc coughed and held his stomach. “Thanks. It’s hard to breathe in here.”
“Put him in a crew quarters and flood the room with CO2. Gently,” said Mox to his robot.
“Is there anyone else alive out there?”
Mox gestured him on his way and the Sentinel carried Bloc out of the room and then he returned his attention to Zorpia.
“Well, then, do you need anything on this ship or can we go?”
“Yes, my dear?”
“Bobby was a good man, I’m sure you saw that.”
“There’s nothing left for me here.”
She lifted the Dead Sword handle up, clicked a switch, and a small chip came out of the hilt. She handed it to Mox.
“The coordinates to the Planet of the Dead. It’s why he wanted the sword so bad and probably why he sold out the crew. Dead Barges has been stashing treasure there for centuries and only the Captains knew how to navigate to it.”
“The Dead Planet? I thought it was only a legend?”
“Want to make a quick stop before you take me home?” Zorpia did her best to smile and her wound made an odd zigzag shape as she did.
“I am an explorer you know.”
Mox put the chip into the lab table computer interface and hit a communication control.
“Blunt, we’re all set down here. I’m patching through coordinates to the Planet of the Dead.”
Whoever Blunt was, responded.
“Our welcome here is definitely worn out. They’ve started firing on the Barge. I can get us out of the system but we’ll have to bash our way through the Klandar Police. Which will worsen our reputation with them. Not that we should really care what they think. You know how I feel about fascists.”
Zorpia liked Blunt already.
Mox got up to leave. “Feel up to joining us on the bridge?”
“Thank you, Uncle Tongue-Tong. I won’t forget this.”
“Call me Mox. The Tongue thing was ok when you were four.”
“Ok, Uncle Mox.”
She gave him an emotionally packed squeeze and followed his slithering tail up to the flight deck.