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"Kel, I need for you to watch the scanners to see if anyone is following us." The stranger said as he piloted the ship.
I hurried to my seat and looked at the display carefully.
"I'm going to vent some atmosphere and change the engine inter-mix ratio." My savior said in thought as he worked the controls.
I heard something like a 'whoosh' and then the hum of the ship's engines changed and began to run more roughly.
After a moment, the stranger asked, "Anybody following us yet?"
I looked at the display again and a feeling of dread washed over me at the sight.
"Yes. I think there's a ship coming directly for us." I said with fear in my voice.
"Good." My savior said calmly.
"Good?" I asked in confusion.
"Yes. If we didn't look helpless, there would probably be two or three of them." The stranger said seriously, then jumped up from his station and hurried to stand behind me.
"Come on. We only have about ten minutes before they catch up to us. Help me stack as many Kazons in the air lock as we can." He said quickly and ran to the lift.
I followed him as quickly as I could.
* * * * *
"Come on, we have to hurry. They'll be here soon." My new master said as he helped me load the Kazons onto the cart.
"There are two more in here." I said as we approached my old master's cabin.
"We don't have time. They're almost here." My savior said as he struggled to pull the cart.
"But he..." I began to say, then thought better of it.
My savior stopped and looked in the door, then asked, "Was this the one that was your master?"
I nodded silently.
"Well don't just stand there. Let's get him on the cart and dump him in the air lock." The stranger said as he hurried into the room and grabbed my old master's feet.
I quickly grabbed my old master's arms and pulled with all my might to relocate him to the cart.
"Oh man. I can smell this stinky woman through the breather unit. Do you mind if we save her for the next trip?" He asked with a look of disgust.
I shook my head and smiled as I moved to the front of the cart to help him pull.
"Hurry." He said and gave a blast of effort to move the cart quickly.
* * * * *
When we approached the air lock, the stranger quickly opened it, then helped me position the cart at the door.
"Just lift and throw. We don't have time to be gentle." He said and grabbed the feet of my old master.
I grabbed the hands and we heaved him into the floor of the airlock in one swift movement.
"Again." He said and grabbed the next on the pile.
In less than two minutes, we had all the bodies stacked in the airlock.
"Let's go." He said quickly and ran toward the lift.
I followed immediately behind him.
* * * * *
As we stepped onto the bridge I could hear a voice calling to us on the communications console.
I recognized that the voice was speaking in Kazon, but thanks to my new master, I understood what it was saying.
"...your emissions show that your engines are failing. Shut down your engines and prepare to be boarded."
My new master held up his hand to indicate that he wanted me to be still and silent as he walked to the communications console and pressed a few buttons, then in a panicked voice he screamed in Kazon, "They don't show up on sensors! They came out of nowhere! PLEASE HELP US!!"
He pressed another button on the console, then hurried to the helm and started working the controls furiously.
"Hold on!" He said and grabbed hold of his console.
I held onto my console tightly and looked at the main viewer.
I felt a jolt, and felt the ship groan as one maneuvering thruster fired in a burst and began to turn the ship sharply to the left.
"Now for the clincher." He said and ran to the operations console beside the helm and pressed a series of keys.
All the lights went out and everything was silent. The engines were quiet, there were no scanners, or even ventilation.
"What did you do?" I asked in a whisper.
"Right now they're probably pissing themselves trying to figure out who just attacked us. When I hit the thruster, I vented some atmosphere and opened the air locks. Get ready, we're going to make a run for that gaseous planet." He said in a calculating voice.
"I'm ready." I said as I took hold of the sides of my console.
"Just watch what they're doing behind us. We're going to go out in a blaze of glory. If you try to sneak away, they'll hunt you down, but if you run out screaming your head off, they're more likely to let you go." He said with a chuckle in his voice, then I could hear as he started working his controls again.
The lights came on and the engines came to life.
"They're going to be talking about this for the next twenty years. The story of the ghost ship that can attack without being seen!" My savior said with a laugh as he adjusted our course and pushed the engines to full power.
"It sounds like the engines are about to explode!" I said over the deafening sound.
"I know. Only someone in desperate trouble would even think about running their engines like this. Are they in pursuit?"
"No. They've moved to our former position... probably to look at the bodies." I said as I looked carefully.
"Good. That will buy us some time. Our course is set. Let's load the airlocks again in case we have to do a second show." He said quickly as he got out of his seat.
"What do we do if they come after us?" I asked cautiously.
"They won't be able to catch up to us before we have the airlocks loaded. Come on!" He said as he hurried to the lift.
I had to force myself to follow him. I was getting tired.
* * * * *
"What can I do now?" I asked in a tired voice as I followed my new master from the airlock.
"Right now we go to the bridge and check on the progress of our Kazon friends. Depending on how that goes, we start going through the ship, room by room and looking for any Kazons we might have missed before." He said as we got onto the lift.
I nodded my acceptance... anything for him.
He looked at me carefully and said, "You look tired, would you like to rest for a while?"
"No. I want to help you." I said firmly.
He nodded but looked uncertain.
We stepped off the lift and walked to our stations.
"Are they following us?" He asked seriously.
"No. They're almost out of range. They're returning to the Ocampan home world." I said seriously.
There was a moment of silence, and I turned to see what had drawn his attention.
"I didn't think of that... that's your home." He said quietly.
I shook my head and said, "I was exiled from my home for questioning the ways of the elders. That isn't my home anymore."
He nodded, then looked at his console and said, "Let's go make sure the ship is free of any stray Kazons, then we can restore the breathable air." He said quietly.
I nodded and followed him.
* * * * *
The search of the ship had been long and tedious.
We went through every room, closet, service crawlway and anyplace else a Kazon might have been able to wedge himself.
My savior took off his mask and said, "That's it. We can breathe now."
I took off my own mask and said, "Good. Wearing that mask is uncomfortable, especially when you sweat."
He nodded and lifted his hair to reveal a patch of skin that had been rubbed raw on his neck.
"Give me a minute and I'll get you some ointment to sooth that." I said quickly.
"It's okay. It'll heal." He said dismissively.
I stopped in my tracks and walked back to him to wait for his orders.
He looked at me consideringly, then down at the console before him.
"It's about time for my final trick." He said as he looked at the board before him.
"What can I do to help?" I asked hopefully.
"I'll tell you in a minute. I want to start at the beginning." He said seriously.
I nodded my acceptance.
"We're going to have some pretty high g-forces to deal with in this maneuver. But if I do it right, anyone who might come looking for us will have to assume that we crashed into that." He said and pointed at the main viewer.
I looked at the huge gaseous planet that filled the screen.
"So what are you going to do?" I asked as I took my seat and turned it to look at him.
"As soon as we hit the outer atmosphere, I'm going to correct our inter-mix ratio, stop venting atmosphere and dump our... airlocks." He finished with hesitation.
I nodded that I accepted what he was going to do.
"I've left a trail that a blind man could follow, as soon as we hit the atmosphere, that trail will disappear." He said seriously.
I nodded hesitantly. He hadn't explained the high g-forces yet.
"If I can get the calculations just right, I'm going to slingshot us around this planet to build up velocity, then cut our engines and power usage almost completely. That leads me to what you can do." He said as he looked into my eyes.
"While I'm making my calculations, I need you to gather bedding, food and whatever else you think we need and bring it to the bridge. When we start the slingshot maneuver, I'm going to shut down life support to the rest of the ship." He said seriously.
I nodded in thought.
"An object in motion tends to stay in motion. If my calculations are just right, we can point this ship where I want it to go and just sit back and let it glide. There won't be any emissions trail to follow, no electro-magnetic spikes to draw anyone's attention and no sensor pings to announce our arrival." He said carefully.
"So we'll be traveling with minimal life support... for how long?" I asked cautiously.
"It's hard to say with any accuracy. If I can get the velocity I want, two days but it could be as long as four. We just have to see what this old ship can give us." He said in thought.
"Is there anything you want from your ship?" I asked, resolved to getting the things he wanted before attending to my own needs.
"Well, I have some ration bars and water in there if you want to grab it." He said in a considering voice.
"Water? How much? Are you saving it for barter or can we have some?" I asked quickly.
"It's for us to drink. Bring up all the water jugs. When we turn off the life support, the heat will dissipate quickly and it will all freeze." He said in thought.
"I will bring it right away. You can count it when I get here. I won't drink any of it at all." I said before I could stop myself.
He smiled at me warmly and said, "I'm not worried about it. And grab two drinking glasses when you bring the water."
I felt my eyes go wide at the suggestion and hurried to the lift so I could begin to transport his precious cargo.
* * * * *
"Here it is!" I said with accomplishment as the doors to the lift opened.
My new master smiled at me and walked to the lift.
"Let me help you unload that." He said and picked up one of the containers.
"I can do it. You don't have to bother." I said quickly.
"I'm done with the calculations. Come on." He said as he carried his container to an open space on the bridge, well away from anything of importance.
I quickly lifted a container and hurried to set it beside the one he had moved.
"Slow down. We have plenty of time. Besides, it looks like you have everything we need right here." He said as he looked at the things I had brought.
"Yes. I gathered the things from your ship, then went through a few crew cabins and found fresh bedding." I said seriously.
"Well, I just remembered something else I wanted to get from my ship, so when we have this unloaded, I'm going down there... do you want to come with me?" He asked in a friendly voice.
My new master is so kind and gentle.
"Yes, of course." I said with a smile.
In just a few minutes we had the last of the supplies moved.
"Did you remember to bring the glasses?" He asked gently.
"Right here." I said and went to the container where I made sure to put them.
I handed him the glasses, and he handed one back to me.
"Would you like to do the honors?" He asked with a smile.
I looked at him with question.
"Would you like to pour us some water?" He asked quietly.
"Yes. Yes. Right away." I said quickly and grabbed the first of the water containers.
I opened the container and slowly poured it into his glass, careful not to spill a drop.
"Hand me your glass and I'll hold it for you while you pour it." He said with a gentle smile.
With shaking hands, I handed him the empty glass, then slowly picked up the water container and poured the water into the second glass.
When I stopped at just under half a glass, he said, "Go ahead and fill it up. Give yourself as much as you gave me."
Reluctantly, I tipped the container again and filled the glass to the same level as I had filled my new master's.
"Now drink with me." He said with a smile and held out the glass of water to me.
I took the glass with both hands and held it tightly, afraid to even breathe as I considered the treasure that I held.
He looked at me with happiness dancing in his eyes, then slowly began to drink.
Carefully I brought the glass to my lips and felt the cool sensation fill my mouth.
Home. I hadn't tasted water since I was back in my underground home oh so long ago.
"Relax Kel, this is just my way of saying that I'm glad you're here with me." He said, then sat down in the floor by my feet.
I looked down at him in surprise, then also sat down.
"That's better. Let's just relax for a few minutes, enjoy our water, then go down to my ship to get my tool box." He said in a casual voice.
I nodded, not understanding the gentle and casual nature of my new master.
He took another drink of his water and I followed his example.
Such decadent luxury, such a beautiful treasure to be shared...
"I guess I should tell you about what to expect where we'll be going." My new master said with a look of concern coming over his face.
I looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to tell me.
"We're going to be heading for a scientific station hidden within an asteroid." He said in thought.
I nodded hesitantly, not sure what to make of his subdued mood.
"I stole that ship in the hanger bay from them." He said in a quieter voice.
I nodded, knowing that he must have had a good reason.
"The people on that station are my family and friends. But they're trapped there. I stole the shuttle because I wanted to get them a ship so they could travel home." He said distantly.
"Why did you have to steal it?" I asked in a timid voice.
"Because they wouldn't allow me to go on my own. They would be afraid that I might get hurt or killed and they would rather be stranded than take the chance of my being injured." He said seriously.
"You must be a person of great importance to be treasured so." I said softly.
"Only to one person... his name is Paris." He said and I realized what he meant. My new master had a mate. He was here, doing all of this to provide transport home for his mate... at the risk of losing him.
"I don't think he'll ever be able to trust me again." My new master said with a pained voice.
"What will happen when you return?" I asked, considering that the others of his colony might not be able to forgive him.
"I don't know. But I violated their trust, so I'll face the consequences. I hope that my bringing them a ship will help smooth some of their hard feelings." He said in deep thought.
"Be comforted master. I am sure they will see you for the good person that you are." I said softly.
"What did you call me?" He asked curiously.
"M... master?" I said hesitantly, afraid that I might have angered him.
"Kel, I didn't rescue you from your Kazon master so I could take his place." He said firmly.
I scooted back in fear, knowing that I had angered my new master.
"Kel. I am not your master. I call you by your name and expect you to call me by mine." He said as he looked me in the eyes.
"Yes... I will but..." I said in a trembling voice.
"But what?" He asked slowly, appearing to be on the edge of rage.
"What is your name? You never told me." I asked quietly, cowering slightly in fear.
He got a surprised look, then broke into a smile.
"Okay, you got me there. Kel, my name is Bey." He said, looking to be on the verge of laughter.
I relaxed slightly and said, "If it is what you wish me to do. Then I will call you Bey."
Bey shook his head in amusement and said, "It's a start. Finish your water and lets go get my tool kit. I want to get that collar off your neck."
I looked at Bey with surprise, then took a drink of water as he had said.
"Come on. We'll be to that big blue planet soon and then we'll be stuck on this bridge for a few days." He said as he stood.
I took a final drink of my water, making sure to get every drop when I looked up at him and saw that he had his hand extended to me.
I offered him my glass but he shook his head and said, "I'm offering to help you up. Take my hand."
I placed my hand in his and he pulled my arm and helped me to my feet.
"Put your glass over here. We'll use them again later." He said as�he sat his glass on top of a storage crate.
I sat my glass next to his and followed him to the lift.
* * * * *
A noise caught my attention as we stepped off the lift.
"Dammit. I forgot that when I restored the atmosphere that they'd wake up." Bey said as he hurried down the hall.
I followed behind him and watched as a large Kazon man stepped out of the airlock.
Bey took something from his hip and in one swift move, shot a beam from the coiled weapon and dropped the Kazon in his tracks.
My new master may be kind and gentle, but he has the ability to be swift and deadly.
"Kel, get to the bridge and open the airlocks." Bey said quickly.
"But..." I began to say.
"Just do it!" He said firmly and fired a pulse of energy at another emerging Kazon.
"Right away." I said and ran as quickly as I could back to the lift.
I pressed the button for the bridge and waited impatiently for the lift to take me there.
'He has to be alright. He's my savior, he has to be alright.' I thought to myself as the lift crawled up the shaft to the bridge.
When the bridge doors finally opened I ran to the operations station where the airlock controls were. As I was about to press the button to release the airlocks, I thought of something that might help.
I ran to the communications console and pushed the button to make a ship-wide announcement.
I hurried back to the operations console and in a loud, clear voice I called, "One... Two... Three!"
I pressed the button firmly to open all external airlocks.
I waited a moment, then pressed the button again to close them.
On trembling legs I ran to the lift and pressed the button to take me to the level where I had left Bey.
If possible, this ride on the lift was even longer than the last one.
'Please, great maker, creator of us all, he who guides the motion of the universe. Please protect him.' I prayed as the lift inched it's way down the shaft.
Finally the doors opened and I was startled to be face to face with Bey.
"Thanks for the countdown Kel. I'd be floating out there with the Kazons if you hadn't thought to do that." He said as he hugged me tightly.
"I was worried for your safety." I said quietly.
"Well I'm fine, thanks to you. And as far as I'm concerned, that makes us even." Bey said with a loving smile.
"Your mate is a very lucky man." I said with a look of admiration at Bey.
"My former mate more likely." Bey said with a distant look of misery.
I pulled out of the hug to look into Bey's eyes and firmly said, "When you explain that your motivation was to return him to his home, he will understand."
"I don't know Kel. Paris values trust very highly. He trusted me and I betrayed him... It might be too much for him to forgive." Bey said in a hollow tone.
"None of us knows the future. Such speculation will not help." I said, hoping that it would be enough to ease his worry.
"Yeah. You're right. Besides, if we don't get this ship pointed in the right direction, it won't make any difference anyway. Come on." He said and guided me out of the lift and back into the hallway.
I glanced at the airlock and noticed some burns from Bey's weapon.
"They're gone, you don't have to worry about them anymore." Bey said softly.
"Thank you." I whispered as I followed him to the hanger bay.
* * * * *
"It looks like opening the airlocks vented a little more atmosphere than I had planned. We're at about 80% of optimum." Bey said as he looked at the readout at the operations station.
"That isn't a problem is it?" I asked, hoping we weren't in danger of losing our air.
"No. We're fine. In fact, with our plan to disable life support to the rest of the ship, we won't notice any difference." Bey said in a considering voice.
"I have inventoried and secured all the supplies. I don't think we'll need anything else from the rest of the ship." I said as I closed the last container.
"Good. I'm going to shut it down now." Bey said seriously and began to shut down all the areas of the ship except the bridge.
"How long until we're ready for the sling-shot?" I asked as I took my seat at the navigation station.
"Just a few minutes, we're about to make contact with the planet's upper atmosphere. I'm going to adjust the engine's inter-mix ratio now." He said and worked on his controls.
"Is there anything I can do?" I asked as I watched the big blue planet filling the view screen.
"Yes. Come over here and continue shutting down the parts of the ship we aren't using. I wasn't able to get them all and I need to be on the helm right now." He said seriously.
I moved to the operations station beside him and began to shut down the life support section by section.
"It might get a little bumpy as we skim the atmosphere, but it shouldn't be too bad." Bey said as he worked the controls.
"I'm not worried. I understand what you're doing well enough to know what to expect." I said as I verified the readings from around the ship to see that the individual sections were responding to my commands.
"I'm glad you're here with me Kel. Besides the fact that I probably couldn't pull this off alone, it's going to be nice to have company for the quiet part of this trip." Bey said gently.
"I'm glad too. I haven't talked to anyone for a very long time... I've lost track of the time, I really don't know how long I've been a slave on this ship." I said as I finished reviewing the last system.
"You might want to get into a comfortable position. We're about to use the planet's gravity to accelerate the ship." Bey said seriously.
"I'm ready." I said as I shifted myself and held onto the sides of my chair.
"Three... Two... One..." He said, then I felt the gravity increase, pulling me tightly into the chair.
"Can you reach the controls to turn it off?" I asked with difficulty as I felt the gravity increasing.
"No. It's automatic. That's why I had to make the calculations." He said in a strained voice.
"How... much... longer?" I asked as I saw black specks starting to flicker in my vision.
"three... two... one..." He fought to say, then I felt almost weightless as the ship's artificial gravity took over and stabilized us back to normal.
All of a sudden the lights started to go dim and I looked at Bey with panic.
"It's okay. We're just switching to minimal power." He said in a tired voice.
"So what do we do now?" I asked in nearly a whisper. It seemed wrong to talk normally in the large quiet room.
"I don't know about you, but I've had a long day. How about setting up our bed while I check to see that all the remaining systems are functioning normally."
"Yes master." I said with a smile.
Bey gave me a warning look, then broke into a smile too.