“Rahi! Watch out, the integrity of the hallway ahead is compromised!”
Rahi slid to a stop at Brother’s words.
“But Brother, we can’t just leave them. Can you find a way through?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to find another, safer, route? There is a corridor…”
“It will take too long. You can already see the hallway is collapsing. We can’t make it back to our shuttle from here.” With a groan of tortured metal, part of the ceiling buckled, making the corridor a tangled collection of beams and metal plating. Rahi carefully inched forward. “What about the life signs we picked up?”
As Brother scanned the section ahead, he thought back about how they got into this situation. Rahi had picked up the distress signal from a freighter hit by pirates in this sector. The crew had made it to the escape pods but weren’t certain everyone had made it off their damaged ship. Brother had picked up life signs onboard, and Rahi had insisted they check it out in person.
The scanner picked up heat signatures. “They are still alive,” Brother confirmed.
The corridor creaked behind them.
“We better hurry.”
“The people we are looking for are this way. It looks like there is a room down here.”
As they approached the broken doors to the room, a shot rang out, and a blast singed the wall.
“We’re here to help!” Rahi called out. A second shot was fired, this one a little closer to him than the first.
“We don’t need your help!” a voice shouted. Brother and Rahi exchanged a look.
“She sounds angry,” Brother commented. “And nervous.”
Rahi called out, “The ship needs to be evacuated! You’re in danger if you stay here!”
“Leave us alone! We’re fine!” This time there was no shot. Brother wondered if it was because their weapon had run out of charge. He had run an analysis during the conversation, and it was 67% likely they weren’t members of the ship’s original crew.
“Ah, Rahi, I don’t think they belong on this ship.”
“Of course they don’t, they belong in an escape pod.”
“I mean, I think these are pirates, not crew.”
“Are you pirates?” asked Rahi.
“What kind of question is that?” the voice shot back.
“See? They aren’t pirates, and they need our help!” Rahi moved closer to the door.
“They didn’t say they weren’t pirates,” Brother said to himself, but he followed along, unwilling to let Rahi go in alone.
As soon as Rahi stepped through the door, the ship shuddered and lurched to the side.
“Rahi, watch out!” Brother called, looking at the woman with the pistol.
Rahi caught himself, but the woman wasn’t so lucky. The sudden movement of the ship caused her arm to slam against the side of a crate. With a curse, she dropped the pistol she had been holding. She cursed again as it skittered farther away from her. Brother scanned the pistol. Empty. So she had run out of charges.
She glared at them but didn’t move. Brother soon noticed why. Her leg was pinned to the wall behind a massive crate. On the floor next to her was another person, similarly dressed. It was likely he had been knocked out the last time the corridor flexed under the stress.
Brother was right; neither of them was wearing a crew uniform. Rahi must have noticed too, but it didn’t slow him down.
Rahi moved closer. “We need to get that crate off you.”
“Stay away!” she growled.
“That can’t be good for your leg. You need a doctor,” Rahi coaxed.
“I don’t need anything. Just leave us alone. Don’t you understand? They left us behind!”
Brother’s suspicions were confirmed. The pirate ship had taken off once Rahi and Brother had arrived to help. These two must have been left behind.
Rahi was undaunted by the implications. “That doesn’t mean you can just give up!” he responded heartily.
“Doesn’t it? There’s nothing left for me. Even if I get out from behind this crate, where am I going to go? I missed the rendezvous. They left us on this freighter. Our ship isn’t going to take us back.”
“Start with getting off this ship. Once you’re safely away, you can figure out the rest. Things will work out, you’ll see!”
She threw up her hands in disgust. She was unable to stop Rahi as he started to poke around the crate. Brother moved closer, to assist with scanning.
As he hovered near her, she asked, “Is he always like this?”
“Optimistic? Yes. Though he’s not wrong. Things do tend to work out for him. And for anyone in his orbit.”
She nodded towards the man on the floor. “Are you going to do anything for him?”
“Scans show he is still alive,” Brother reported. “Minor bruising. Nothing some rest, and an autodoc, won’t fix.”
His words seemed to calm her a bit.
Rahi appeared back in view, motioning to the other side of the crate. “We’ll take him with us when we leave! And you too. But first, we need to shift this crate. Brother, I’m going to need a hand.”
Brother made some minor calculations. “Rahi, you want to shift it here.”
Brother popped back around the crate to look at the woman, “We’ll need you to push from your side.” Another groan from the ship drowned out what she was going to say.
“Fine. I’ll push on three.” She was clearly worried about the sounds from the ship.
“Do you have a name? I’m Rahi!”
“Names aren’t important.”
“Sure they are! Even Brother has a name!”
“Your name is Brother?”
“Rahi named me.”
Nonplussed, she responded, “Fine. It’s Em.”
“Em, as in Emily?”
“No, more like… never mind. Just count down.”
“One, two, three!” Rahi pulled while she pushed. The crate moved just far enough to ease the pressure on her leg.
“There we go! Watch it Emily, you might have trouble standing.”
“It’s not Emily. And I’ll manage.” Once free, Em limped over to the other pirate on the floor.
The ship shuddered again, and then there was a loud pop and a hiss as air started to vent from the section.
“We need to move!” Rahi said, hurrying over to help Em with the unconscious pirate. “Brother, what’s the quickest way to an escape pod?” He lifted the pirate and carried him into the hall.
“There should be several through a room at the end of the hall. Provided those doors are open like the one to this room, we should be able to reach them. But I’m worried they’ll be sealed.” Brother voiced his concerns.
“Don’t worry. I will have my laser ready!”
“Can you go faster?” Brother asked Em, hovering closer to her.
“Not unless you want me to collapse, and then he’ll have to carry all of us.”
“Luck is with us! The doors ahead aren’t shut,” said Rahi from up ahead.
Brother could hear the grinding of servos as the doors tried to shut. “Only because they are caught on something,” he said.
A cafeteria table was wedged into the door. It hadn’t bent under the pressure yet, but given its cheap quality, it wouldn’t last long. It was a tight fit for Rahi to squeeze through without moving the table, especially while carrying the unconscious pirate.
He set the pirate down and turned around to give Em a hand through the door. It was then that Rahi noticed the blood.
“Em, your leg!”
“Don’t worry about it. I don’t.”
“Here, you need to wrap that.” He unwound his cloth belt and handed it to her. She grudgingly took it, and while she bound her leg, he looked around.
Brother made a sweep of the area. When he returned, Rahi asked, “Did you find the escape pods?”
“There are three of them. The one on the far right has been damaged. I would not trust it.”
There was a piercing shriek of metal as the table propping the door open finally started bending. Rahi rushed over to help Em carry the unconscious pirate deeper into the room.
“No time like the present to find out if the rest of the pods work.” Together, Rahi and Em carried the pirate into the escape pod on the left.
“Now what?” Em asked.
“Now we leave. This is where we part company.”
“That’s it?” Em looked over at Brother.
“Yes. Rahi and I have done this before,” Brother affirmed.
Em looked back to Rahi. “You’re that Rahi? The Hero of the Orion Arm?”
“Some people call me that, yes,” Rahi replied modestly. “But I think anyone who saves lives is pretty heroic, don’t you?”
She paused, then nodded. As she got into the pod with the other pirate, she said, “For what it’s worth, it was nice meeting you. And… the name is Emeline.”
“Have a safe journey Em—I mean Emeline!” Rahi watched her escape pod released from the ship before preparing the middle pod. “Ready to go?” he asked Brother.
Brother floated in and took his place next to Rahi. “Do you think we’ll see them again?”
“I’m certain we will!”
Brother nodded. He’d expect nothing less from Rahi.