The maw of the skullship was dark and cold, and the scent of sea salt hung in the air. It was so strong that the walls of the S.S. SyKo did little to temper it. The smell, coupled with the zero-gravity environment, almost made Syldie feel like she was drowning in a waterless ocean. Suddenly, there was gravity and light again. The elves tumbled to the ground.
”How do you think they got into our warpspace? ” asked Jako.
”Thats an oddly smart question for you. ”
”Is this really the time to be taking digs at me? ”
”Sure, if they
e gonna be the last digs Ill ever get to take. ”
Syldie blindly fumbled her way over to the emergency generator switch and managed to light up the cockpit, though its power was only enough to produce about a candles luminosity, especially since it was also powering the engine.
”Where to from here? ”
For the first time in many years, Syldie was speechless. If they left the ship, theyd be in pirate territory, but if they stayed inside, theyd be cornered.
”I have a crazy idea, ” said Syldie.
”Sure, but if we do it and it doesn work, I get to make fun of you, okay? ”
”Hit me with it. ”
Syldie explained the plan in hushed tones. Unbeknownst to the elves, a group of grunt pirates was currently converging on the ship from the outside, ray-sabers at the ready.
”One more time, ” whispered the pink elf to Jako by the exit hatch. ”Whats the first step? ”
”The first step is- RUN! ”
In an instant, too many things happened to keep track of- the exit hatch popped open, and Jako, bearing Syldies giant pink mechanic backpack, sprung out of the ship into the nautical-themed landing bay and dashed, arms pinwheeling madly, towards the very first exit she saw. The pirates gave chase, but were quickly divided as to whether to watch the ship for Syldie or to follow Jako.
”Lets nab the leader! Shes still in there! ” yelled a goblin through the racket.
”But that other one is getting away! ”
”Somebody call the Captain! ”
”Did somebody say, the Captain? ” A bellowing voice erupted through the audicomm, and second later the face of the fearsome dwarvish cyborg captain appeared on the holocomm as well. The crowd hushed, save for a few stragglers who chattered among themselves.
”Cap, ” spoke the leader of the grunts, a human man with a nasty scar over his right eye. ”Should we follow the green one or hold the ship hostage? ”
He cradled his bearded chin with his robotic thumb and pointer finger, lost in thought.
”Chances are, one of them be a red herring, ” he said.
”I like herring! Are we going to have herring tonight? ” asked a hard-of-hearing Polar elf from the back of the crowd. He was quickly shushed by the pirates around him.
”Everyone, think of a number from one to ten. Ye got it? Good- e
yone who thought of a number five or under, go make sure that ship doesn escape! And ye who thought of a number above five, go after that green woman! ”
”Aye, aye! ”
80% of the crowd had thought of high numbers- they had been told previously that the most common
andom number to pick was 7, and they had assumed the captain was going to ask them to guess which number he was thinking of. As such, only three people stayed behind to look after the ship, and the rest of them went running up the stairs towards Jako. She had already gotten a head-start, plus her legs were much longer than any of them, save for the one other Floran giving chase- she had to find a way to lose them, fast!
The pursuers came to a dead end with three doors.
”Which wayd she go? ”
”Hey! The door on the left is the only one thats open! After her! ”
They hurried through the open door. Unbeknownst to them, though, Jako was catching her breath… behind the door on the right.
”If you come to two closed doors, open one and go through the other, then close it behind you, ” Syldie had explained earlier.
As soon as the footsteps on the other side quieted, she was off again, hurtling over tables and climbing rusty spiral staircases and making quite a ruckus. If the pirates chasing her hadn already noticed their mistake, they would very soon, and so she made it her mission to get out and home free as fast as possible.
Back in the landing bay, the S.S. Syko began to pull off the ground. The flaws in the Captains random-number scheme were revealed all too clearly now, as the three people who had stayed behind were having a grueling time trying to hold it down.
”L-l-listen ”, rasped the gnome hanging desperately onto the front hull. ”Haltgash, g-g-get a rope! Well h-h-hold it down in the meantime! ”
”Are yall sure about that? ”
The human girl, apparently Haltgash, ran to get a rope from the supply closet in the landing bay. Her efforts to pull it free dislodged a spare steering wheel, a box of tools, a bag of fake retro Novabits, and a whole chest of drawers, all of which collapsed onto the floor in a discordant cacophony.
”Oh dear, this won do, ” said Haltgash, moving to pick up the items.
”F-forget about that! ” The gnomes knuckles turned white. ”Bring the r-r-rope back here! You can put the stuff back later! ”
Haltgash bit her fingernails and looked at the items, them the ship, then the items, then the ship…
With a squeal, she pulled the rope free from the pile and ran over to help the gnome and his strong, silent orc partner with keeping the ship down.
”I c-c-can hold on for much longer! Haltgash, now! ”
”Im a-trying! ”
She wound the rope around the SyKos landing wheels and tied it to one of the decorative dock posts in the bay- at times like this, she was glad the skull-ship was full of nautical kitsch. The gnome and the orc let go, satisfied. The ship wouldn be able to escape with its weak emergency generator, and they had shut down the main engine using a holo-EMP earlier.
”I reckon Im getting a rais- ”
To Haltgashs horror, the rope was holding tight- too tight. The panel the landing wheels were connected to was beginning to peel off of the S.S. SyKo!
”Aw, cmon! ” she cried. ”What kind of flimsy ship is this, anyways? Who in the universe trusted this thing with our most valuable treasure? ”
The silent orc put one hand on the rope. Was he about to climb up? He was! He didn have much time, but his movements were surprisingly swift, and he had ascended past the painted clouds in the landing bay in no time.
”You can do it, Sylsio! Go get em! ”
The SyKo lurched once, twice, three times… and its landing wheels broke off, sending Sylsio plummeting back towards the ground. He crashed into the dock and a cloud of dust erupted around him, sending Haltgash and the gnome into a coughing fit. When any of them could see again, the ships image was smushing and stretching, preparing to leave mainspace and enter warpspace!
”Noooo! Shes g-g-getting away! ”
The orc produced a ray gun and aimed at the ship. It fired… and the ray passed harmlessly through the air where the SyKo used to be.
”Captain! ” said Haltgash, activating her wrist-mounted audicomm. ”Track that box! See which warpspace it just went into! ”
There were a few harmonious beeps and boops from the other side.
”It be not in warpspace, ” muttered the captain.
”What? But what in tarnation does that mean? ”
”It means you mateys should be going AFTER THE GREEN ONE! ”
”Aye-aye, captain! ” said Haltgash and the gnome in unison. The Orc saluted, but, as always, said nothing.
The two men went after Jako. Haltgash stayed to pick up the items she had knocked over earlier, much to their dismay, but they had no time to go back for her- there was a dangerous elf on the loose, and she was carrying the most precious treasure the Crossbone Galleons had ever put their hands on.
She was beginning to get tired.
The high from the three cans of ElectroNite shed guzzled before running had come and gone, and the crash was setting in. Sweat poured from her pores faster than she could wipe it. The coast was clear- she had to be near the back of the ship by now, and according to the plan, the exit hatch should be somewhere nearby- she had followed every exit sign she saw. Where…
The familiar orange glow of yet another exit sign beckoned her closer. The sound of hundreds of approaching footsteps- the initial pursuers plus everyone elses on the ship, no doubt- made her want to stay back.
This one was next to a window- it had to be an actual exit.
”When in doubt, run for it. Its what you
e good at, yknow? ”
She heard Syldies advice replay in her head, and then she took it to heart.
She cleared the distance between the electrical closet and the final exit sign in about ten seconds. She reached for the door, and-
”Stop right there- ye can walk the plank and survive, can ye? ”
She didn want to turn around. That was the captains voice! And she could hear the chattering of the other pursuers growing louder and louder.
”Yell die, and well get the box, ” he said. ”Would ye not rather come peacefully? ”
”No- ” she began, but she felt a phantom kick to her shins- or rather her back. Of course Syldie wouldn want her to die.
”I mean, yes. ”
He chuckled. His voice dripped with a sinister sort of glee.
As Jako followed the captain, she snuck one last glance out the window. There was smog in the air, and disheveled black buildings lined the roads. The only splash of color on the ashen planet was… a giant hot dog?
Before she could make sense of what she was seeing, she found herself pulled away from the window room by the captain.
”You know, I think maybe we can get along, ” snarked Jako. It was the same thing she had said after making an awful first impression with Syldie many years ago. It had really gotten on her nerves- judging by the captains face, which was curling into a scowl, he was reacting the same way.
She discreetly reached into her backpack and her hand found the handle of her personal ray gun.
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