Both Zenzie and I were hit by the shot. We tumbled down the rest of the ladder to land in an ignominious heap at the bottom of the shaft. He swapped arms, reached in and snatched Zenzie from my prone body, pulling her out into the main corridor. One minute I was groaning because of her weight on top of me, the next I was groaning because I couldn’t feel her weight on top of me.
The arm reappeared, now reattached to a hand-held ultrapulse once more. The Vaer couldn’t even get his head through the hatch, so he was back to waving it about indiscriminately. My ears had not deceived me then. The Vaer had somehow got hold of the most advanced Terran weapons. I contemplated what that meant. Then, belatedly, I realized that I was about to be eliminated, so it didn’t really matter what that meant. There just might be a better way to spend my last few seconds in this universe.
I waited for my life to flash by me. It didn’t. All I could think of was that they had Zenzie, and that the gun in my face seemed enormous at such close quarters. I felt sick to my soul. I had actually taken Zenzara to them. How stupid was that?
No final prayers had occurred to me either. The only thing that happened is that my heart flooded with useless adrenaline and the reptilian part of my brain screamed at me to escape. Yeah. Thanks. Would if I could. You try diving down a crawl tube immediately after being hit by an ultrapulse. I’d like to see you try it. I managed to shuffle a few inches to the right. It literally took all of the energy I had left, and I collapsed after I had done it.
The gun had prodded around the empty space but now had found my stomach. It prodded again, checking the consistency of the obstruction. I work out quite hard, so I like to think it was a good muscle tone.
Not good enough to fool the Vaer into thinking it was an inanimate object. The gun settled directly at my sternum.
I closed my eyes and waited for the flash. I knew it would be the last thing I ever experienced. Damn! Not the way I had been hoping to go.
The flash, when it did come, seemed dimmer than I had been expecting.
I waited for the pain to flare up, or to cease, or whatever death feels like.
There was a scuffling and the hand holding the weapon began to edge out of the hatch in jerky movement. Back, pause, back, pause. I took a cautious breath. It didn’t ooze out of any holes in my lungs, so I took another one. The breathing apparatus still seemed to work.
The arm and the gun finally disappeared out of the hatch. There was a slight pause, and then Seyal’s head appeared in the gap. She still had Segaton bound to her chest. “Captain? Are you all right?”
Gillian Andrews is also the author of the award-winning Ammonite Galaxy series, and Kelfor, the Orthomancers. She is English but lives in Spain, and is passionate about Cosmology. She likes to write upbeat space opera with strong protagonists and complex aliens.