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Jetamors ([personal profile] jetamors) wrote2010-11-22 10:05 pm
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Nanowrimo Day 22

I'll be driving most of the day tomorrow, so I may not be able to write anything.



Tatiana unstrapped herself and swam down toward Qaf's ramp. The plan was that Qaf would extend a tube to Hold Steady's door, fill it with atmosphere. Then Tatiana would go across and open Hold Steady. It would only take a few seconds for Tatiana to get in--but in the middle of space, with enemies nearby and no defenses, there was no telling what might happen in that time.

"I'm extending the tube," Qaf announced.

From her position, Tatiana couldn't see anything of what was going on outside. She definitely heard it when Kid swore, though.

"What's happening?" she called up.

Kid could have lied to her, but he trusted her too much to do that. "That other cab, it started approaching when it saw the tube being extended. ETA is thirty seconds."

"How much longer do I have?" Tatiana shouted back.

"The tube should be docked in about eight seconds," Kid yelled back. "Once it's docked, you'll have fifteen seconds to get into Hold Steady. Keep that in mind."

Tatiana muttered a few choice words of her own. "Fifteen seconds, okay."

"Be ready," Qaf said. "Three, two, one, go!"

Tatiana pushed off, gliding through the opened door into a soft white tube. There were handholds, thankfully; she was able to push off from them, increasing her speed.

"Ten seconds," Qaf's voice came from behind her. Tatiana gritted her teeth. She hadn't expected the tube to be this long, or the going in free-fall to be so slow. The other end of the tunnel still seemed so far away. She kept going, wriggling and pushing, kicking off wherever her foot found a hold.

"Five seconds." She was almost there, now. One more push--and she reached out and touched the outside of Hold Steady's door.

"Hold Steady, let me in!" she said.

The door opened. Tatiana pulled herself inside--and suddenly a horrible sucking force was pulling at her lower body. Her hands scrabbled at the floor, horribly smooth--but then found a handle, inset into the floor. With great effort, she pulled her body forward--and just as her toes cleared the entrance, Hold Steady closed the door. Tatiana was safe.

She could barely feel her legs, though, and certainly couldn't move. No matter. "Hold Steady, open the cargo bay," she said. "Let in the cab Qaf, but not the other cab. Close the bay when Qaf has entered."

"Acknowledged," Hold Steady said.

Tatiana pulled herself up onto her elbows. The feeling was starting to come back to her lower body--only a tingling feeling now, but she could tell it would erupt into full-blown pain before too long. She started to pull herself up the corridor to the bridge, then stopped at a sudden thought. "Hold Steady, can you turn off the gravity?"

"Acknowledged," Hold Steady said. One of the omnipresent humming noises grew briefly louder, then faded away. Tatiana pushed off from the floor, floating upward until she bumped into the ceiling. She found a handhold there, and could see another one in front of her; now, more quickly, she started to make her way forward.

In the cab, Qaf and Kid had watched helplessly as the other cab came closer and closer to them. It was now evident that it was aiming at the docking tube, not at Qaf herself.

"Get ready," Kid said to Qaf, quietly. He took his hands away from her control panel. "As soon as that one hits the tube, you need to start flying like crazy."

"Me?" Qaf said. "You're not going to pilot me?"

Kid grinned. "You're the cab, right? You can fly yourself much better than I can."

"Right," Qaf said. "But what about Tatiana?"

"She's Tatiana," Kid said. "She'll survive."

"Five seconds," Qaf said. "Tatiana--she's reached Hold Steady, she's--"

"Forget about Tatiana!" Kid said. "Pay attention to that cab!"

Qaf fell silent, concentrating. Her internal timer clicked down: two, one--

And then the sensors from her tube went silent, and she was blasting upward and toward Hold Steady. Another second later and she was wheeling around, upward reoriented toward the bottom of Hold Steady, and swooping back around to pick up the trail of the other cab. This route took her by Hold Steady's door: she could see the remains of her tube fluttering, and watch Hold Steady's door iris shut.

"Tatiana's inside," she told Kid. "Cargo bay should be opening soon: the main thing is to get into it before the other cab does."

The other cab was turning around and starting to make a run at Qaf. She darted upward, coming around the bottom of Hold Steady. Momentarily concealed, she twisted ninety degrees, to take off in a direction the other cab wouldn't expect. When he came up around the bottom of Hold Steady, she was blasting away as if she was running back to the station.

"We're out of range now, but based on what I picked up earlier, the cargo bay should be fully open in about fifteen seconds," she told Kid. "I'm going to try to fake this guy out, now."

"Sounds good," Kid said.

Qaf didn't know who the other cab was, though she had seen them in the inner parts of the station before. Everyone who flew there was very good, and could not be underestimated. She would simply have to be better.

She was about to hit the surface of the station, now; she made a sudden stop, and started skimming along the surface, as if she was looking for an open dock to duck into. She had half hoped that the other cab would miscalculate and crash into the outside of the station, but he corrected as well, still coming after her.

They were still over Deck 21, the outside of which was almost entirely docks for interstellar craft. In practice, this meant a lot of smooth, open dock doors, interspersed with areas full of sensory equipment, vents, and small machines. Docking Control had been yammering in her ear about it for a while now, though she hadn't bothered routing the sound into her passenger area.

"Okay, five seconds left," Qaf told Kid. "I'm going to make my run for it now."

"Go for it," he said.

That was all the encouragement Qaf needed. She slowed down just a little, to let the other cab catch up, then jerked to the left and made a dead stop right in the middle of the dock door. As soon as he passed her, she was going straight up, back toward Hold Steady and the cargo bay.

It was a bad position. She had hoped to go up and right into the bay, but due to the orientation of the ship, she would have to go all the way around it to enter. Still, it was what she had to deal with. The other cab had recovered, and was coming after her; Qaf put on another burst of speed.

When she reached Hold Steady, she had to make a split-second decision on which way to go around her. She ran it through a few algorithms, and decided to go up and toward Hold Steady's stern, an elliptical path that would be fairly fast. She zipped around the stern, shedding speed the whole way--too slow! The other cab was catching up!

"Don't force it," Kid murmured. "Don't go so fast you lose control."

She could see the cargo bay now, a gaping hole in Hold Steady's chrome hull. She was going too fast now; she turned on her backburners, trying now to shed more speed.

The other cab didn't know what she was trying to do, and hadn't expected this. They came around the stern and headed directly toward her, going too quickly to stop. She wrenched to the left, and the other cab wrenched to the right; there was a long, hideous scraping sound, and all the sensors on her left side went dead.

Qaf rotated around so that her sensors were facing the cargo bay. She'd managed to slow down a lot, but she was still going too fast; she skidded into the cargo bay, and hit the other side hard enough to knock Kid's teeth together. But that was all. They had stopped.

Kid was breathing heavily. "We made it," he said.

"Yeah." Qaf was trying to reallocate her resources, after putting them all into evasion for so long, but her relief was so great that she could hardly concentrate. She giggled. "We're safe."

The cargo bay doors were closing now; there was no way the other cab could get in without doing more damage to them than to Hold Steady. Damage! Qaf quickly ran through a diagnostic check.

"I've lost most of the sensors on my left side, and at least two burners too. You're really lucky, Kid, a few decimeters up and I wouldn't be able to maintain any atmosphere. I think I landed on my side, too."

"Yeah, I noticed that," Kid said dryly.

"Oh yeah, and that fake Tatiana is still here. I hope she didn't get banged up too badly when we landed."

Kid jumped. "Crap, I forgot about her," he said. "No choice, she'll have to come along. Maybe we can leave her at the next planet we come to."

"No need," the fake Tatiana said, sitting up. "If you guys are getting away, that means I failed my mission. I can't work for the Consortium any more, so I might as well come along with you guys." She smiled. "I have quite a few useful talents, as you may have noticed."

"We can't trust you," Kid said.

Patel shrugged. "Nobody really trusts a shapeshifter," she said. "Listen, it'll take a few hours, but I'll revert back to my usual body, okay? No more misunderstandings with your captain."

"And what's to stop you from selling us out to the Consortium on the next planet we reach?" Kid asked, eyeing her.

"We can work something out later. Look, can we at least get out of here? I have the mother of all headaches."

"The cargo bay has been pressurized," Qaf reported. "It should be safe for you now."

With the angle Qaf had landed on, getting out was something of an adventure. It turned out to be a good thing that Patel had come along; Kid would've had a much tougher time of it than her. As it was, even with Kid, Patel, and Qaf's humanoid body, it still took ten full minutes before they could all get out and limp toward the bridge together.

Tatiana was there, of course, her face drawn with pain. "I've gotten us as far away from Hurston Station as I could, but any minute now they'll be sending a real ship out to hunt us down," she said. "Qaf, punch in the coordinates to the next world, please?"

"Sure!" Qaf said. She reached across Tatiana for the relative controls and started tapping at them, humming contentedly to herself.

Tatiana finally noticed Patel--an obvious sign of how out of it she was--and froze. "Crap, I forgot about her," she said.

Patel simply waved a hand. "I talked to Kid about it, but basically I want to join you guys. I don't want to talk about it now, though, first I want to morph back, then eat, then sleep, and then we can cut a deal. That okay with you?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Tatiana said, after a moment of thought. She swayed a little; Kid rushed over toward her. Patel smirked.

"Okay, got it!" Qaf said. "Coordinates are locked in! We should reach Davis in about three days!"

"Awesome," Tatiana said. She slung an arm around Kid's shoulder and let him help her up, gasping in pain the entire time. "Just get me to my bed, I don't care what happens after that," she said. "I just want to sleep."

"Was it from the vacuum?" Kid asked. "They're probably frostbitten. I think there's a salve for it in one of the first aid kits."

"I'll get it," Patel said. Everyone looked at her. "What? I said I wanted to join the crew. Isn't that what a crew member would do?"

Tatiana shook her head. "Look, I'll give you a planet if you can put a stop to this pain."

Qaf was still working Hold Steady's control panels--talking to her, apparently. "Davis, here we come!" she murmured.

And away they went.