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Space Flight: Part Two


by plutoplus1

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As Arcadia and Captain Peter settled the passengers under the rocky outcropping, eight troopers covered the entrance of their semi-cave.

      A few moments later, Jeran ran up, loaded with ray guns and extra ammunition, and set them down. Breathlessly, he gestured to the Captain and Kade to move away from the passengers to have a private word.

      "Keep them quiet at all costs. And don't let one of them out of your sight," Captain Peter said to the head trooper, and the three of them made their way, out of sight and hearing, of the passengers.

      "Sir, are you aware that the Pirate Fleet has landed?"

      Captain Sascha's face broke into grim surprise. While settling passengers, he and Arcadia were too busy to notice the absence of gunfire.

      Jeran continued. "The defensive unit is assembling and will soon be joining us. They are bringing over the ship's guns, and some protective fire covering. If I may ask, sir, how long until back up arrives?"

      The captain hesitated, and looked down. "Well, I am not quite sure. I did make radio contact, and was in the middle of confirming our distress signal, when that first blast knocked out our radio. So, our last position was at approximately 5 miles from this distance, give or take..." Captain Peter looked up, suddenly curious why Jeran asked his question. "Why, may I ask?"

      This time Jeran was reluctant to speak. "There are unconfirmed reports that it's...Xarthab...who is commanding this particular Pirate Fleet." Jeran said the name with loathing and a touch of fear.

      "That is impossible. He was apprehended by…an independent group, and was supposed to have been behind bars!" Arcadia squeaked out

      "Oh, it can be, and it is, my dear Arcadia." The sinister laugh of Xarthab was distinguishable anywhere.

      Arcadia whipped around, to stare into the eyes of the orange Grundo. Immediately, Captain Peter and Jeran stepped in front of her, guns raised.

      "I'd drop them, if I were you." He chuckled at their hesitation to his command. But it was obvious to anyone looking on that the three were outnumbered and outgunned.

      They slowly lowered their guns, and set them on the rocky Kreludan ground.

      Xarthab lifted a hand, and his troopers filed around them. "Hands up," he commanded. As they complied, he continued talking. "Well, well, well...can you imagine my surprise when I find two top-notch captains and a comrade on this run. You can't even imagine how elated I was to discover one of the captains was my dear friend, Arcadia Raven."

      "Dear friend my-"

      "Ah, ah, ah...watch it," Xarthab cut Kade off. "Remember who is in charge now. And, where are your lovely passengers? Surely Space Command didn't approve of a mission with only captain, co captain, friend and defense unit?"

      When no response was made, he assumed he was correct. "Well, no matter. We have apprehended your defense unit, we have you and your ship, and that is far more than I expected for this run. A little payback is in store, I gather..."

      "Payback? What for?" Jeran and Captain Peter had similar outbreaks.

      "You mean Kade here hasn't informed you?" When blank stares were his answer, he laughed again. "Ah, your dear Arcadia here was my first, and only, apprehender."

      When Jeran and Captain Sascha looked shocked, Arcadia bitterly added her input. "Unfortunately, it's obvious I wasn't successful enough."

      "No matter! Men, load them into my space ship." With that, he sauntered off.

      Xarthab's men roughly handled Arcadia, Captain Peter and Jeran to their waiting shuttle. Fortunately, they all noticed, the shuttle was parked away from where the passengers and the troopers were hidden.

      "Is help really not coming?" Kade whispered to Captain Peter when their captors where father ahead.

      He glanced cautiously around, and whispered back. "Every shuttle is equipped with a tracking device, so that in emergency situations like ours, we can be found within 12 to 24 hours. Why didn't you tell me you were the one who caught Xarthab? Whoever it was, or you now, could have been-"

      "Hey! No talking back there!" One of Xarthab's men, called Rantor, growled at them.

      They marched on in silence, and soon came upon the shuttle, XX Commander. Xarthab barked some orders out for his men. Then they were prodded up the flight steps, hustled into seats, and roughly strapped in. Xarthab walked ahead to the cockpit, which lacked a door, and his co pilot settled in beside him.

      "Stolen shuttle, no less..."Arcadia commented caustically. "I thought you were above that, dear Xarthab. It is obvious one can not assume anything these days." She chanced a glance ahead, and saw a slightly redder around the face orange Grundo.

      "If you know what is best for you, and your friends, you will keep quiet." Then with a vicious laugh, he added, "Besides, you will have plenty of time to vent once we get to the base." When he saw Jeran's hopeful look, he laughed again. "No, insolent fool, my base, the Pirates Space Cove. Now, silence, while pre-flight check and takeoff is commenced."

      She could hear in the background fighter jets taking off, and grimaced.

      No more words were exchanged for the entire flight of 2 hours. The plane ran roughly, Arcadia noticed, but she fell asleep anyways.

      "Wake up now." Kade was roughly shaken awake, and opened her eyes to see Jeran and Captain Sascha looking at her.

      Their safety belts were off, and so they were yanked up, and exited the plane into a good sized hangar.

      Jeran could not contain his gasp of suprise at the large landing dock. The Kreludan one was bigger by a good measure, but when you have only seen it from space, it looks quite small, and to Jeran, this one was very large.

      "Had a good beauty rest?" Xarthab's voice seemed to sting the ears, and they whipped around to the sound of his voice.

      Captain Peter was about to make a demand of release, but Xarthab continued on before any protest could be made. "Rantor, lock them in Cell 28, and give them rations 3." With that, he pivoted around, and headed for a flight of stares. None of the three could see where the steps led, for they were again pushed around towards the area intended for them.

      Cell 28 was a dark, rancid smelling hole, barely tall enough to stand up in, and had two sets of bunk beds. They were shoved in, and the door was slammed and locked. One bare bulb dangled in the middle, casting off an eerie glow.

      "What technology," Jeran muttered. "Here we are in the Space and Exploration Age, and they have a hundred year old light bulb for light. Completely outdated, a power-hog, and it wouldn't surprise me if it exploded into fire or shattered and we'd all have glass so small in us, we would-" Jeran was cut off by Captain Peter.

      "That's enough. We really don't need to waste energy on talking about the out-of-date appliances in here." He also gestured up towards the corner of the ceiling, where a small black device, which was obviously trying to be hidden, was attached.

      Arcadia nodded her head in acknowledgement of what the Captain had pointed out. "Captain Sascha, how do you take our...encampment?"

      The Captain smiled. "Please, Peter or Sascha, Arcadia. I am not much older than you, and that captain can get a bit tiresome, anyhow." He cleared his throat and continued. "The way I see it…" He let his voice trail off, and out of his pocket, took a stick of chewing gum and stuck it in his mouth. "We are in a fine predicament. Nothing to worry about." He said all this in between large chews, and when he finished, took out a wad of gum five times the size of the original chewing stick.

      Jeran was about to ask a question, when Peter held up a finger. Climbing to the top of the bunk bed, he crawled over to the corner where the black box was mounted. He stretched his chewed gum over the matchbox-sized area, and then wiped his hands on his ship suit in accomplishment.

      "Now," he continued, with a low volume voice, "That gum will muffle any sound the micro might pick up, as long as our voices are low. To answer any questions about it, that is a special type of gum made out of Mutox Syrup, which you get by passing certain tests and evaluations." With a smile towards Jeran, Peter continued. "It's a good thing the equipment they use to monitor is outdated, or else the gum would be useless." He was very vague in his description of obtaining the gum, but Jeran and Arcadia sensed that there was a reason behind his discretion, and so left it at that.

      "The most important thing we need to discuss is escape," Arcadia said, after a pause. "I don't know about you two, but I definitely don't want to be a recipient of whatever 'venting' method Xarthab planned."

      Peter and Jeran nodded their agreement. For a few minutes, they sat in silence, wondering the best way out of this situation, when Jeran jumped up. "I got it!"

      Arcadia and Peter jumped when Jeran shouted so loud.

      "Shh!" Peter whispered.

      "Sorry." Jeran grinned sheepishly.

      "Now, what is this plan?" Kade demanded.

      Jeran's grin changed to triumph. "Well, it's quite simple, really. Kade, didn't you notice that the floor plan of this space port we saw and the places we've been so far of Xarthab's hideout resemble the Space Station landing platform?" Kade's face broke out into astonished surprise.

      "Yes, now that you mention it, it does resemble the Space Station's landing form..."

      "So how is that going to help us?" Peter interjected, uncomfortable being left out.

      "Well," Jeran continued, "I know the Space Station, and this hidey-hole, like the back of my hand. I know every hall way, short cut...and..." He made a dramatic pause, and it dawned on the other two where he was leading.

      "Escape Routes," they all said at the same time.

      "Yes! So, if my memory is correct, and this room is indeed a storage room on the SS, then over here should be a grate."

      To prove his point, he went over to the nearest corner, and jumped up and down. A soft metallic noise echoed in their cell.

      They all jumped up, and crouched around the grating. "These screws are pretty loose..." Jeran started unscrewing at each corner. "Good thing these aren't EpoxScrews...those would be impossible to get out." He chuckled, and they worked on loosening all the screws.

      "We better not take them all out until we get dinner or something, then make our escape." Peter cautioned, and absently swatted a spyder.

      Jeran and Kade grunted in agreement. They stood up, and made their way back to the bunks to play out the waiting game.

      ~~~~~~~~~~

      A loud banging brought them all awake.

      "Food!" a voice cracked. A slot on the door bottom lifted, and a tray filled with bread, water and a thin soup was shoved through.

      "Hey, how long till we talk to Xarry again?" Jeran yelled out. "Xarry's a good nickname for ol' Xarthab, dontcha think?" He asked jokingly to his cell mates. They all smiled.

      They received silence as an answer from the prison gaurds.

      "Well, this might not be much, but I am starving." Kade said.

      "True, but I suggest we save the bread." Jeran and Arcadia looked at Peter like he was crazy. "Only because we have no idea how long before rescue once we leave here." He continued on.

      The other two agreed to that, and they ate their soup in silence.

      A few minutes later, spoons and bowls were set on the tray and shoved next to the slot. Peter banged on the door, and yelled, "Hey, we're done! Where's dessert?"

      A hand shot through and grabbed the tray, disappearing as fast as it had come. "No food till morning, when X'll see ya."

      Peter smiled triumphantly at the other two. "Now we know how long until we are missed."

      Kade stood up and stretched, moving over to the grate. "Well, now or never, right?"

      With a grim expression, Peter nodded, and joined her by the grate. Jeran cleared his throat. "Just in case you were wondering, this tunnel leads out to a maintenance hallway. From there, it's a few turns to the landing dock, and then home free!" He chuckled nervously.

      The others nodded, and Kade knelt down and lifted the metal tunnel covering. She set it next to the gap, and turned to Jeran. "How long a drop is this?"

      "Oh, only a few feet. Come on, I'll lead." And with that, he disappeared.

      Kade turned to Peter. "After you, oh fearless leader," she joked.

      Peter shook his head, and motioned her in first. "No, you go first, so I can place the grate on after us." When he noted her hesitation, he asked about it.

      Sighing, she explained. "I am claustrophobic. Being in that small, confined, airless-"

      "Stop!" Peter exclaimed. "No point in working yourself up about it when you're not even in there yet. It is not a long crawl, right, Jeran?" He called down inside the tunnel.

      "Right, and hurry up! I see a light up ahead."

      Peter gently pushed Kade down, and lent his hand to her to hold as she dropped lightly to the floor.

      "Hurry up, Peter, so we can get out of here!"

      Chuckling, he slid down after her, and then lowered the grate on top. "Onwards, friends, to victory!"

      Crawling quickly, they reached the end of the duct.

      "Do you see anything?" Peter whispered to Jeran.

      Jeran had his face crammed against the grate that led to the maintenance hall, looking to see if the coast was clear.

      "Clear," he whispered. He pushed up, and the grate lifted easily. Sliding it to the side, he boosted himself up, and then extended a hand to Kade from the top.

      Once they were all clear, Jeran bent to lower the covering back on. He meant to lower it gently, but the extra weight caught him off guard. A loud thunk rang throughout the hall way.

      "Oops." Jeran looked around quickly. "Over here!" He led them to a closet, and quickly they crammed in. Not a moment too late, because they heard foot steps echoing up the hall.

      "I heard a noise in here, I tell ya."

      "T'weren't nothing' but a few space rats, or probly one a them clean up crews messin' around. Still, better prod around a bit, check things out. Don't wanna git boss all mad at us fer nothin."

      It seemed like ages when the boots clicked out of hearing, and the bickering between the two guards was non audible. Cautiously, Peter slid the closet door open, and peeked out. When he saw nothing, he motioned the other two out as well. Quickly, Jeran took the lead, and a few minutes later, they arrived at the gate for the landing bay.

      "How do we ensure there aren't people on the other side?" Kade whispered.

      "Oh, there are," Peter said. "We need to get around. Aren't there any back entrances?"

      Jeran nodded. "That's where I was headed. You two just distracted me, that's all." He smiled and backtracked a few feet to a door marked with a yellow triangle. "Come on, this'll lead to a service entrance, and close to some ships."

      Jeran led them through a series of small rooms, an finally to another door, this time marked 'Service Entrance'. He cracked it open, and seeing no one outside it, led them through.

      They came out on the landing dock, behind mountains of boxes and crates that green Grundos were moving around. Jeran quickly led them to a secluded area of crates that wasn't being transferred yet.

      "Well, here we are. I've done my part, now it's up to you genius pilots to get us outta here." Jeran smiled, and lifted an 'I-hope-you-can-do-it' eyebrow.

      Kade and Peter looked at each other, then back at Jeran. Shaking her head, Kade crept around, trying to find a spot with a good view of the bay. Finding a few crates stacked up, and sheltered by more crates stacked in front of them, she climbed up, looked out, and motioned for Peter to join her.

      "Well, what do you think?" she asked, and motioned towards the view below them.

      Peter shrugged. "I guess the only way out now is to commandeer a ship, and hope we can take off with out getting shot down. Do you think Xarthab has ray guns for that purpose?"

      "Oh, I would bet he has just about anything painful, violent and destructive. If we find a small enough ship, we could perhaps slip out without his radar picking us up."

      "Ok, this is what I've got. One, find a ship that's small, but big enough that it will seat all three of us. Two, get in and taxi off with out being spotted. Nearly impossible, but not as hard as Three, which is take off and not get shot down. You know, it sounds so good, I'm surprised I didn't think of it myself," Peter smiled sarcastically.

      Kade grinned back. "I think you did think of it. And, you left out four."

      "Oh?"

      "Yeah, leave a "present" behind so that this base will cease to exist."

      Kade and Peter both laughed at her joke.

      "What's so funny?" Jeran had climbed up to hear what they were talking about. When they didn't answer, he shrugged, and looked out over the scene below. "Hey, that blue plane right there would make a good getaway ship."

      When they both turned around to see what he was talking about, he elaborated. "See, over there. With that little blue fellow working on it."

      Kade looked accusingly at Jeran. "How come you always seem to know everything?"

      Jeran beamed. "Right again, wasn't I? Well," and he gave an elaborated sigh, "Let me tell you, it's not easy being right all the time, but I find time to make it work...hey, where are you going?" Jeran stopped his speech when the other two took off down the crates.

      Following behind them, they crept along to the edge of the crate barrier. A few yards away rested the blue David op Owen, a small scout ship and one of the fastest fleet models in her class.

      "Ok, you guys, when that blue Grundo is gone, get into the ship, and start to taxi out. I will catch up with you right before the exit gate, ok?" Peter didn't wait for an answer, and he hurriedly crept away.

      "Wait! Where are you going?" Kade whispered loudly, turning after him.

      He looked over his shoulder and smiled. "To leave them a present, my dear." With that, he continued on his way, and out of sight.

To be continued...

 
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