Allure of the Celestial Sea
They'd cleared two decks within five minutes of
boarding. Vasquith stormed down the smoke-filled
passage, pistols in outstretched arms, firing into the
guards. Bodies slumped against the papered walls,
their blood soaking into the plush, red carpet.
Bullets zipped past his long, black hair, thudded
painfully into his vest. Screams and blood and hot
brass filled the Allure's passageway.
Vasquith stopped at the next intersection, his
pirates lining up behind him. He caught his breath,
the first lull in the fighting since they'd boarded.
His father would he in the hold, technically a POW
until the transfer in a few hours. He needed the
ship's captain to get access, which meant he had to
capture the bridge.
He leaned out around the corner. A framed duplicate
of the Mona Lisa stared back at him, a bullet hole for
a left eye, but still smiling that terrific smile.
Registers in the roof sucked at the blue haze of burnt
The punch of distant weapons fire sounded past the
next corner, growing louder. His pirates took
positions against the walls, guns up, ready. He'd
trained them well.
Half a dozen guards raced around the corner, firing
backwards blindly. Vasquith dropped the first one, and
his men finished the rest. A moment later, another of
his teams raced around the corner and stopped by the
bodies. Its leader, Pig, nodded at Vasquith.
"Deck clear, sir."
"Next level then," Vasquith said. They rushed back
to the last intersection and took the other passage,
up the stairs to the next deck.
He checked his chrono. They were making better time
than he'd expected. His preparations had been rushed;
he'd had to flesh out his numbers with Yellow Slitters
–- Alliance leasemen like Pig –- but they hadn't
caused any problems.
The decks fell before them. His pirates had been
raiding for years; the Slitters had been in over a
dozen actions. Some of the guards struggled to even
work their own weapons. The passengers had the good
sense to hide in their rooms –- temporary protection
only –- but some of the staff had delusions of
heroism. Swords were bloodied, and guns run dry until
the coppery stench of blood and the burnt taste of hot
steel were all Vasquith could smell.
Slowing, tiring, running low on ammunition and
time, Vasquith scaled the stairs to the bridge deck.
He took the spiral steps three at a time until the
last deck came into view.
The corridor exploded in noise, and bullets
screamed past Vasquith's ears. He dropped, yelled at
his men and huddled against the steps. The storm of
bullets continued overhead, thudding harmlessly into
the hardened bulkheads. They all inched back behind
the last turn, and Vasquith checked his men. No one
was hurt, but there were a lot of pissed off faces
looking back at him.
He jerked his hand out expectantly. "Mirror!"
A few of his men patted their pockets, and one
dropped a small, round mirror on a rod into his hand.
Vasquith crept back up the steps, and raised the
mirror into the torrent of lead.
There were three men, holed up behind a barricade
of benches, bulkheads and bodies. They had a mean
looking gun: big, six barrels, manually cranked, a
chain of ammunition streaming from a chest.
He turned back, raised his arm (safely) like an
arrow, and waved it back and forth: Enemy,
stationary gun. A murmur of anxiety swept through
The Allure of the Celestial Sea had sent a
distress signal before his Corvette’s jammers could
stop it. The Hegemony navy would have already been on
their way for the POW transfer; now they'd be running
before the wind to answer the SOS. He couldn't afford
to get pinned down, but he wasn't going to waste his
men on the gun. Scum though they were, his pirates
were his family.
The steady stream of bullets deafened him; the
stench of burnt gunpowder blurred his ability to
think. The gun was manually cranked, so he couldn't
use an EMP. Explosives would be too dangerous. The
shockwaves would reflect down the hardened bulkheads.
He raised the mirror back up, higher and higher,
searching for inspiration.
--the mirror exploded into a thousand shards and
Vasquith flinched away. He gaped at the rod in
disbelief then tossed it aside. He'd seen enough.
There was a window behind the barricade.
Reinforced for sure, at least four cores, but it
wasn't military grade. He called up his Specialist on
the link. "Get the Corvette moving. Lock onto my
signal. Concentrate all guns on the closest port
"Aye, Cap'n," said his Specialist. The grunt was
unimaginative and boring, but he took orders without
The seconds ticked by as he waited, each louder
than the last, until he couldn’t hear the bullets over
the booming in his head. His father was down below,
waiting, and he was up here, stuck. He’d waited half
his life for this day; the Bardagnion survivors had
waited the last seven months. There were things to say
before he killed him.
"In position," his Specialist said.
Vasquith reached back and waved his fist side to
side: Wedge formation. He couldn't hear his men
over the torrent of fire, but he sensed their
The whole ship seemed to lurch as if the artificial
gravity had inverted. Wind ripped at their clothes,
tore at their hair, squealing and whistling, then just
as quickly died.
Vasquith was already moving, his men right behind
him. The knot in his stomach flared, the warmth of
anger spreading like a shot of bourbon on a cool
night. They charged up the steps, guns firing. The
port window was gone, emergency bulkheads slammed in
place. The barricade had collapsed, the sole remaining
guard prone on the floor. A hail of bullets turned him
into a bloody rag.
They kept running, Vasquith in the lead. His smile
felt a little too wide, a little unhinged, but right
then he didn't care. All that stood between him and
his father was the bridge door. "Let's finish this,
Vasquith was the last into the ballroom. The
surviving guards, crew and passengers were pressed up
against the stage, held in a circular perimeter by his
Murmurs and wails filled the room, reflecting off
the dance-ready floor and ceiling panels, but the
clunk and whompf of the large doors closing silenced
The room felt damp with sweat and fear. Vasquith
stepped forward, combat boots scraping over the
polished mahogany floor. Hundreds of gazes assaulted
An array of chandeliers lit up the stage where a
Steinway piano squatted before red velvet curtains. A
distant numbness filled his gut. He’d spent half his
childhood flying toy spaceships around the feet of a
Steinway replica. His mother had practised all day
every day, his father had sailed the Galaxy murdering
in the name of the Hegemony, and Vasquith had run
circles around those piano legs until there were ruts
in the floor.
Now he had come full circle, standing here, in this
room, hoping two wrongs would make a right.
"We're here for the Brute of Bardagnion," Vasquith
boomed in the loud but controlled voice his father had
used so many times. "You might have heard of him from
such massacres as Villiest, Samara's Drift, New
Cornwall and, of course, Bardagnion. He's a murderer."
And my father. "We're here to sentence him."
That wasn't totally true: The Yellow Slitters would
gladly see him dead for Bardagnion, but leasemen were
leasemen and it was the plunder they truly cared
about. None of them knew the personal reason for this
operation. "Ten gold Fleurs to the man who takes me to
The crowd grumbled, but no one stepped forward or
spoke up. Bruised men stared through purpuling eyes,
some bent over clutching injuries, others tall in
huddled between their mother's legs, but they appeared
unharmed, a concept he'd had to hammer into the Yellow
He waited another ten seconds, conscious of how
precious each was, but no one was greedy or stupid
enough to accept his offer.
Do they truly know nothing about him? The
surviving Bardagnions had learnt that the luxury liner
was transferring POWs from Alliance to Hegemony space,
an under-the-table money making venture for all
Vasquith’s link squawked, bringing him out of his
reverie. "Cap’n we’ve got a problem."
He eyed the closest hostages. They probably hadn't
heard. He affected a bored expression, turned and
stepped away, and brought the link to his mouth.
"The navy. Looks like a whole fleet. Just appeared
from behind the third planet."
Vasquith kept his face slack, but his insides
clenched as if a fist had reached through his chest
and squeezed. His father's fist, still beating him
after all these years. The third planet was well
within the system's shunt boundary, the limit of
super-luminal travel. The fleet had been here all
along, waiting in ambush, waiting for him, waiting
until he’d committed himself before closing in for the
He turned away from the closest pirates. "Time to
The link went quiet. Vasquith held the link like a
lifeline, knuckles white, fingernails digging in, one
second stretching into another. "Well?"
Vasquith cursed. His timeframe had just been
halved. His cobbled-together fleet would need a
three-hour head-start to reach the northward shunt
boundary. One hour to find his father, deliver his
comeuppance and get out. Tight, but doable. But if the
intel had been wrong about the navy's movements, was
it wrong about his father too?
No, his father was on board. He'd seen the stolen
communiqué. Vasquith breathed deeply, clipped the link
to his collar, and turned back to the crowd. He didn't
have a moment to waste.
"If the Captain of this ship doesn't show himself
in five seconds, I'm going to shoot a hostage." He
un-holstered his pistol for effect but it felt light,
unbalanced. He hoped there was at least one bullet in
A greying man in a torn, blue Commodore's uniform
pushed through the crowd, deep blue eyes locked on
Vasquith. "Let me pass," he boomed at two pirates on
the cordon. His Commodore's hat was ripped, his cheek
slashed with dried blood, but he stood straight and
tall, regal even in defeat.
"Let him pass," Vasquith said in a slightly mocking
tone. Don't give him an inch of respect.
The Commodore swaggered over, stopping half a foot
away. His breath stank of garlic, and his nose was
wrinkled in contempt, as if Vasquith was so far below
him in standing it was painful just to be in his
The knot tightened in Vasquith's chest; the anger
whispered seductively, how the Commodore would look
better with a bullet between his eyes. Vasquith's
fingers were white around the pistol grip, and he
forced himself to relax.
"I know about the POW transfer," he said. "One
hundred of the Hegemony's finest. Take me down to the
The Commodore didn't move. He stood with an open
stance: defiant, assured, in control, and it was
pissing Vasquith off.
"You deaf, old-timer?"
"You’ll never get them," he said with a stern
finality. It was probably how all his conversations
But Vasquith wasn't finished. He examined the
pistol in his hand, its metal grip cool against his
skin, the trigger worn to his index finger. A pistol
whip felt like a compelling solution, but it would
have been like hitting his gramp-gramp, the man who'd
taken him in after his father stopped coming home and
his mother chucked him out.
Vasquith's gaze roamed the room, over the
polymorphic ceiling, past the chains of recently
plundered diamond chandeliers, down the stage to the
piano. "Say, that’s a nice looking piano. Steinway
right? I bet it’s an original too."
He waited for the implied threat to take effect,
but the Commodore looked two seconds away from
"Boy, there can’t be more than fifteen of those
left in the Galaxy, am I right? A true museum piece.
Priceless. Irreplaceable. Your employers must have a
lot of trust in you."
The Commodore stared without expression, eyes
vacant, studying a point half a light year away, his
lips thinner than a cosmic string. He was either
supremely arrogant, or he was stalling.
Vasquith heard the screech of a link and looked
over his men. They had their hands to their ears,
listening. Their feet shifted; their fingers tensed on
triggers; they turned slightly away from him. Word had
spread and now Vasquith had two countdowns: bugging
out before the Hegemony Navy arrived and bugging out
before his men mutinied.
He considered calling the retreat –- they had more
than enough plunder -- but he had made two promises,
to himself sixteen years ago and to the Bardagnion
survivors six months ago. This was his only chance to
stop the murdering bastard.
He scanned the room, searching for a new angle
against the Commodore, and settled upon the knot of
A little girl in a red pinafore and blonde pigtails
nestled against her kneeling mother. They both had
dried tears on their cheeks. Unfortunately, perfect
leverage. He stepped forward, trying to think of
anything else except the next few minutes. He grabbed
the girl’s tiny wrist, so warm and delicate and
fragile, and yanked her from her mother’s arms.
The mother shrieked, the father lunged forward. A
pirate brained him with a rifle butt, then held him
down to watch. His eyes were wide, as white as a
childhood ghost. "Don’t you hurt her," he screamed,
voice thick with a primal fear.
Vasquith nearly stopped. Only a concentrated effort
kept one leg moving in front of the other. If only his
father had loved him that much, then none of them
would have been right here right now: two of them
about to watch their lives destroyed, one about to
lose her life and the other about to lose his
humanity. The knot of anger had shrunk, unable to
protect him from his next move, to shield his soul
with rage. Cold blooded murder was cold blooded
But he wasn't here just for himself. He was here
for Bardagnion and New Cornwall and Samara's Drift and
all the bustling planets his father might wipe out
because of taxes or allegiances, or whatever excuse he
could come up with.
He dragged the screaming girl back to the
Commodore, in full view of everyone, and spoke loudly,
articulating every word clearly. "I’m running out of
time, Commodore, so I’m only going to say this once.
Take me to the lockup or I’ll shoot this girl right
between the eyes."
The girl sobbed and wet herself, the mother cried a
mortal wail, and another pirate had to help hold down
the father, but Vasquith blocked them out. He had to.
If he listened, he'd relent. This wasn't raiding
merchant ships for grain and textiles. This was
butchery and murder. He stared at the Commodore, his
furious blue eyes, rimmed with wrinkles and wisdom and
anger, but his face otherwise serene. Break, damn
The prisoners tugged and yelled, pushing forward,
barely restrained by the pirates. Their screams echoed
across the ballroom, filling it with an angry buzz
like a wasp’s nest.
Vasquith had sensed their fear the instant he’d
entered the ballroom, but now he felt something new --
hatred. He’d crossed the line from pirate to monster.
Maybe now his father would be proud of him. The
thought made him feel empty.
"Maybe I won't go for between the eyes," he said,
pressing the gun in behind the girl's ear. "Maybe I'll
make it a glancing shot so she bleeds out right in
front of you, so you watch her life disappear, so..."
"Enough!" The Commodore's voice shook the ballroom,
strong enough to make even Vasquith lean back. Then he
whispered, "Let the girl go and I'll take you down."
Vasquith slowly released his breath. He holstered
his pistol but kept his hand in place to stop it
shaking. With his other hand he guided the girl back
to her mother. The two hugged, bodies racked with
He stared at them a moment, remembering his last
moment with his mum: sharp cutting words, a thrown
lamp and the slamming of a door.
Vasquith blinked and turned to the father. The
pirates released him and he sprang like a panther,
snarling, but Vasquith grabbed his neck and squeezed.
"You were going to let me kill your daughter in front
of you? You call yourself a father? You should have
died to protect her." He shoved him aside and turned
to the Commodore. "Let’s go."
stopped its descent
and opened onto the dark Orlop deck. Stale air wafted
through the doors. The passage stretched into the
distance, illuminated by the odd flickering light
panel. Condensation dripped from overhead pipes,
echoing down the corridor. Vasquith shivered, feeling
his descent was more than just physical.
"Have a nice day," chimed the lift.
Vasquith pushed the Commodore out into the
darkness, just as his link crackled. "Cap’n, a navy
battle group just shunted in. They're flying the
"Location?" There were only so many ways in and out
of the system.
"Looks like they came from Epsilon Virginis. Octant
"Damn the Fates." Vasquith punched the wall. That
ruined their escape plan. A sense of helplessness
wormed through his gut, the same helplessness he had
felt under his father's beatings for not being smart
or strong enough.
He took a slow, calming breath. He wasn't that boy
anymore. His father was about to find that out the
"What about Plan B?" he asked. The fourth passage
was out of the ecliptic, but would the other navy
fleet beat them there?
The link went silent again and the Commodore
turned, a slight smile visible in the gloom.
Vasquith slapped him about the head. "Eyes
His link clicked. "We can make it without being
intercepted if we leave in twenty minutes."
"Get the ships ready." Vasquith killed the link and
shoved the Commodore forward.
The deck vibrated from the thrum of the idling
engines. Rust flaked under foot. They passed valves,
grates, and silent display panels, all dark, disused.
The passageway seemed to carry on into infinity,
endless girders, pipes and beams that all looked the
same. He briefly wondered if the lift had opened in
purgatory, dooming him to walk in circles forever. The
Commodore lumbered ahead of him, silent, upright,
stiff. The perfect companion for Hell.
Finally the passage ended in a hatch. The Commodore
wound the handle in and pushed the hatch aside.
Muted yellow light flooded out, and they stepped
through into an antechamber. The air inside was dry
and less stale. The walls on either side were plain,
smooth and white but a large reinforced steel door
filled the opposite wall. Beside the door was a small
"The Kindred Blade is pulling away," his
Specialist yelled over the link.
A pit opened up inside Vasquith and he was falling.
The damned Yellow Slitters, as cowardly as their
moniker and destroying everything he'd planned. They
of all people knew what was at stake. Did they want
another Bardagnion? "Tell them to stand down." He
barely felt the words come out, but he knew he was
"They've shut down their link," his Specialist
said, voice rising as if he'd reversed through
puberty. He was as useless as a pre-teen too. "I can't
Vasquith stared at the locked door, imagining what
lay beyond. He had fifteen minutes left on his
internal clock, but that meant nothing if all his men
abandoned him. If he had any sense, any desire to
retain his command, he'd yield and give the evac
signal while he still could.
"Shoot it down."
"They're Alliance traitors. Order the other ships
to fire on the Blade. Do it now." Hopefully
that would buy him another few minutes of loyalty.
Or a full blown munity.
"Aye, Cap'n," his Specialist said, his normally
staccato reply drawn out in uncertainty.
The Commodore stood by the vault door, arms by his
side, a smug grin on his face.
Vasquith shut the link and raised a half clenched
fist at the Fates. The Commodore was harder to move
than a tonne of boulders. "That kid upstairs must have
been what, seven? eight? She could have been your
granddaughter. You got grandkids, old-timer? You ever
want to see them again?"
The Commodore's top lip curled slightly as if to
snarl but his eyes betrayed nothing. He just stood
there, still and silent, milking out every second he
"I have contacts," Vasquith said. "I found out
about your special cargo. I can find out about your
family. Maybe I'd let them enjoy themselves, turn your
grandkids into abstract art. You ever heard of
Salvador Dali, old-timer?"
He said the words but his lips felt thick, the
thoughts foreign and his stomach cramped. He'd been
waiting half his life for this day but now he just
wished it was over and done with -– every step, every
moment made him more like the Brute.
The Commodore said nothing, and another five
seconds were gone.
Vasquith had already trimmed his speech to his
father, culling the bits he’d like to say and leaving
only what had to be said. "You know I have some
real sadists in my crew here. They'd probably make the
mum and dad watch and then do the same to them. One
big happy family."
"I'll kill you if you touch them," snapped the
Commodore, his serene expression smashed into angles
and wrinkles and venom.
"Open the door and no one has to kill anyone."
Vasquith watched the Commodore's internal battle
rage between duty and family, his eyes flickering, his
jaw tensing and relaxing. Surely at his age the
Commodore would value family over career.
The Commodore's expression swung from one extreme
to the other, chewing through precious seconds.
Vasquith reached for his bowie knife. He leaned in
real close and whispered, "Put your damn thumb on the
pad or I'll cut off your hand and do it myself."
"It needs voice activation."
"I’ll take my chances."
The Commodore sagged and pressed his thumb to the
door's security pad. A thin green line scrolled slowly
up the pad, beeped, scrolled down, beeped, then rolled
across the pad before finally going dark.
Vasquith stepped forward expectantly, only for the
process on the pad to start again, even slower than
before. It was like watching a holovid in slo-mo. He
bit his lip, flinching with each passing second, his
world shrinking to him, the Commodore and the pad.
His internal countdown raced by as the green line
inched from one side of the pad to the other. He
yanked on his collar to relieve the growing heat.
"Another ship’s pulling away," his Specialist
squawked. "It's the Uberfaust."
"Get them back, get them back," Vasquith yelled,
knowing he was wasting his breath.
Voices burst over the link. "We've lost the
yelled one of his men.
"We're falling back to the ship," another pirate
Vasquith stumbled backward as if punched in the
gut. Blackness encroached on his vision and he waved
his hands about for support like a drunk.
He'd lost. His men were fleeing; he was trapped in
the bowels of this evil ship. There'd be an angry mob
down here any moment seeking revenge for the ballroom.
The door before him looked thick and strong, brand
new, as if installed yesterday. If shine could deflect
bombs, the door would have been impregnable.
Vasquith shivered. The Bardagnion war shelter's
door had also been shiny. But it had been punched in
by an orbital missile, leaving a hole the size of an
elephant, the remnants twisted and black. There hadn't
been much left inside: a shard of bone here, some
congealed blood there, a food tin that had been
superheated and cooled.
Fifty thousand people had crammed into that
It was then that Vasquith had understood. That
wasn't a father beating his child for getting a B
minus. That was a psychopath bereft of humanity.
Vasquith had moments to live but he hadn't lost his
He wasn't going to waste those last seconds.
The Commodore stepped away from the blank security
pad, and Vasquith swung his pistol up. "What’s wrong?"
"It’s a time-delay lock," the Commodore said,
almost apologetically. "It won’t unlock for another
Vasquith's stomach clenched. His throat seized as
if caught in a vice and his breath rasped. Everything
was falling apart. Ambush, betrayal and bad luck. It
beat the best of men. At least the Commodore wasn't
Vasquith straightened, his throat clearing. The
Commodore's face was slack, relaxed, his crow's feet
smoothed, eyes glazed.
He was too relaxed.
Vasquith crushed his pistol into the Commodore's
ear. "Save me the heroics. You've tried and failed.
Now open the door or I'll send you home to your
grandkids in chunks."
The Commodore muttered something under his breath,
but put his thumb back to the scanner. It ran through
its sequence for a third time, even slower than
Gears and servos whined inside the door, security
pins pulled out with a boom and the door retracted
into the deck.
The vault beyond the door was a small steel
compartment. Two overhead light panels, what looked
like a security camera overhead and two doors with
thumb pads. One to the right, one to the left.
Vasquith pushed the Commodore into the vault and
waved his pistol between the two doors. "Which one?"
The Commodore shrugged. "Take your pick. They're
all back there."
"I want the Brute."
The Commodore shrugged again as if he'd suddenly
stopped caring. Perhaps he knew he was in no danger,
perhaps he was still playing the stalling game or
perhaps he knew something Vasquith didn't. The
Commodore stepped to the left door and put his thumb
to the pad.
Vasquith's heart raced, a little dynamo running
faster and faster, pressurising his chest. His head
felt light, his fingers tingled.
This was the moment, the moment he'd dreamt of for
so long, the moment where he had the power over
his father. Even he has to admire what I've
accomplished. And if he doesn't, I'll shoot him in the
The door retracted.
A still darkness hung within like a cloak of death
and he knew something was wrong. He smelt dust, not
sweat. He heard silence, not breathing. He stepped
forward carefully, as if broken glass covered the
deck. As his eyes adjusted he made out the far wall,
curved with the hull, ribs and stiffeners forming a
criss-cross pattern across it. Drums and coiled rope
thicker than his wrist sat in one corner of the
compartment, part of the anchor winch in the other.
And then he saw them sitting in the centre of the
room: white military coffins, each arranged perfectly
in line with the others in a grid pattern, the
Hegemony flag draped across each of them.
Vasquith’s pistol thumped to the ground and the
steel deck slammed into his knees. The world swam
around him. He distantly sensed the Commodore behind
him, the hull before him, the pressure of the floor on
his knees, but they were in another place and another
time, racing past him like the swirling lights of
shuntspace, Vasquith and the coffins and his whole
world sailing into oblivion.
He was too late. He’d had this one last chance to
prove himself to his father, and now it was too late.
He had failed.
"Which one?" Vasquith croaked, thinking back to the
Bardagnion intel, how it had been so wrong, why he'd
risked everything for nothing.
The Commodore stammered, his smugness gone. "The
Admiral? I thought you knew, you..."
"Which one?" Stronger this time, but still blurred
by memories, thoughts, and the crushing failure in his
"Front and centre."
Vasquith shuffled on his knees to his father’s
coffin. He wiped an arm past his wet face. He'd never
made his father proud, never shown him how good he
could be. His father had died knowing his son was a
The anger Vasquith had been carrying around all
those years, the anger that had balled into a thick
knot in his stomach, the anger that had driven him to
this point, had evaporated, its wake filled by guilt
and despair. He rested his hand on the coffin. "I'm
His pistol cocked behind him.
Vasquith wiped the snot from his nose. He didn't
need to turn around. He knew what he'd see: the
Commodore, pistol in hand, aiming at the back of
"Do it," he said, his voice hoarse, barely above a
"Slowly turn," the Commodore said, the authority
and regality returned to his voice.
Vasquith obeyed. "I don't have eyes in the back of
my head. It would have been easier." He thought of the
pain he'd caused the man, his crew and his passengers.
Not to mention the dead. All of that pain, for
nothing. Perhaps he did deserve to die.
The Commodore studied him, pistol unwavering. His
eyes seemed almost to glow, their blue as bright and
light and pure as the oceans near Vasquith's old home.
Those blue eyes stared through his own, straight to
his brain, probing, examining, deciding. "You weren't
going to kill that girl."
"Of course not." He briefly felt insulted before
remembering what he had done. "I'm not a monster. I'm
not my father."
"You're just a blustery little bastard. All talk. A
scared little boy playing an adult's game."
"You going to shoot me or what?"
Neither of them moved. The Commodore as solid as
granite, the rifling visible down the pistol's dark
barrel, distant gun fire audible over Vasquith's link.
The whole world was in chaos, but here in the vault
time itself had stopped.
The Commodore lowered the pistol. "I was a son once
too. I'm not going to shoot you, but if any of my crew
find you, they will."
Vasquith stared back at the Commodore, unsure if it
was a trick or if he even wanted the mercy.
The Commodore held the pistol tight but his
shoulders weren't tense, his body half turned away as
if he'd already moved onto some other problem. He no
longer cared about Vasquith.
The link had gone quiet: most of his men were off
the ship. He had three minutes left on his clock.
He stood, slowly. He turned for the door, took one
step, took another and exited the vault. Behind him
stood the Commodore. Ahead of him lay darkness and
people baying for his blood. He'd probably never reach
his ship in time, or alive. But there were other
crimes to revenge, his own crimes to repent. Things he
couldn't do if he were dead.