Carnifor, barely a meter behind, couldn’t match Lannetay’s stealth, but kept pace until they rounded another building. The airlock stood only five meters ahead. Nearly there, Carnifor slowed.
Lannetay hissed as a pair of privates approached the airlock from one side. With their rifles strapped to their backs, the soldiers obviously didn’t expect resistance. Lannetay ran toward the two and drove a knee into the solar plexus of the nearest. The other staggered back in surprise, scrambling to bring his rifle to bear.
Lannetay spun, dress flying, and planted a kick into the Wanti’s face. He flew backward, blood from a broken nose spattering the ground.
Carnifor stopped next to the first fallen Wanti who gasped for breath on the sandy surface. “Will they be okay?”
“Yes, but they’ll be in pain and a whole lot of trouble.” Lannetay hoisted the first soldier into a sitting position, wrapped an arm around his neck, and grabbed her opposite bicep. Her other hand went behind the man’s head. He feebly fought back for a moment, then slipped into unconsciousness.
“Did you have to do that?” Carnifor stood, feet apart, fists on hips.
“Yes.” Lannetay stepped up to the airlock. When it opened, she stepped in and waited for Carnifor.
Carnifor scooped up a fallen blaster rifle and slid into the lock as the hatch swung closed. A shout sounded from the dome just before the opening sealed shut.
The two activated their support belts. She wondered how long it would take for the outside hatch to open. Blaster bolts hammered the inner hatch. If Wantis managed to blow a hole through that hatch, safeties would keep the outer closed.
Pressure in the lock slowly dropped, one agonizing second after another. When the outer hatch cracked open Lannetay squeezed through. Carnifor followed just as the inner hatch burst. The outer hatch fought to close against air pressure and Carnifor’s support belt force field. He managed to pull himself outside before the hatch slammed shut.
Bill, come get us. Now. Lannetay scanned the surrounding landscape. Nobody yet.
“Here they come.” Carnifor pointed to another dome two hundred meters away.
Soldiers in space armor poured out of a wide airlock. They formed into groups of five and spread out into an arc to surround Lannetay and Carnifor.
Carnifor brought his captured rifle up and snapped off three quick shots. Wantis scrambled for cover. “Run for the ship.”
Lannetay ran as a group of Wantis brought their rifles to bear. Dirt and rocks kicked up around her as blaster bolts hit the ground or flew past. Bill, we’re running. A glancing bolt spanged as it ricocheted off her support belt’s force field. A gout of air slipped out before the field could close up again – replenished by the compressed oxygen in the belt itself.
I’ll be there in a few seconds, Bill replied. Carnifor, you’d better pick up the pace. Lannetay’s getting too far ahead of you, and it won’t be long before they launch a cutter to tear us to pieces.
Carnifor backed away from the colony domes. He spread blaster bolts around to keep the Wantis from flanking him.
Carnifor, Bill yelled, Duck!
Carnifor threw himself flat as the massive shape of the William Placard shot by, barely a meter above the ground. Wantis scattered in disarray, some dropping their weapons in haste.
The ship settled to the ground between Carnifor and Lannetay, each sprinting for airlocks on opposite sides of the ship. Carnifor dove inside. I’m in.
A few seconds later Lannetay climbed in. Me, too.
The outer hatches sealed and pressure built. Lannetay’s support belt sputtered a moment, then switched itself off. “That’s going to need fixing, Bill. They almost got me.”
Marc was there, looking worried. Lannetay wanted to hug him, but in the last couple of weeks he’d stopped being a “hugging” person. Lannetay gave a brave smile instead.
“You okay, Mom?”
“I’m fine, hon. Bill, take us east for now. We’ll circle around when we’re out of range of the colony’s sensors.”
Carnifor tossed the Wanti blaster to Olthan. “Take care of this.”
Olthan glanced at the weapon and scoffed at the Hobart-90. “Ain’t givin’ out the good stuff no more, eh?”
“Maybe you can improve it.” Carnifor turned to Lannetay. “Now what?”
Lannetay paused to watch L-T and her son walk off, purposely waiting to answer Carnifor. He had a tendency to be overbearing, even more so when under pressure. “As I said, when we get out of range of the colony’s sensors we’ll circle back.”
“Why in the world would we go back?” Carnifor was aghast. “There’ll be at least one ship coming to kill us. Even if it’s only a cutter and barely a fraction of our size, it could carve us to pieces.”
Lannetay turned stony. “I know what a cutter is, how it’s likely armed, and how much faster they are. I’ve had some experience, after all.”
Carnifor gaped. “Then why?”
Lannetay gave a frustrated sigh and brushed past on her way to the control room. “A number of reasons. First, the Wantis will never expect it. Second, if we run for deep space, any ship will easily see us, catch up, and tear us apart. Third,” she stopped at the opening hatch and spun to face Carnifor, “it’s the right thing to do. We sold them tractors, and we have to deliver them.”
The two moved forward and sat as Bill said, “We’re out of range of any colonial scans.”
Lannetay nodded and brought up a holographic map of the area. “Turn south, and stay low, Bill.” She highlighted a flat area surrounded by high bluff land. “This is where Pop suggested we deploy the colony kit.”
“That’s only sixteen klicks south of their domes. She said twenty.” Carnifor indicated another place a few kilometers to the southwest. “This is probably the one they wanted.”
Lannetay shook her head. “These folks are groundlings. Sixteen kilometers straight-line is a lot closer to twenty by ground. That’s the place.” She speared the holo with a finger.
“If you say so.” Carnifor didn’t seem convinced. The place he’d pointed out was only twenty-one klicks from the farms of Pop Colony.
“Bill, program a pattern for planting the nanite canisters.” Lannetay leaned back. “Take the long way there. I’m taking a nap.” She knew sleep would elude her, but she needed time to think without Carnifor’s blustering.
“You’re going to sleep?” Carnifor stood, looming over her.
Bill, cancel all sound in the control room. Lannetay closed her eyes. Carnifor kicked off another rant, but the volume ramped down so all she heard was an indistinct rumbling.
If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.