“Not my intention,” she hissed and shot at another quin coming up behind the first. “I have no idea why a bunch of psychotic gangers would chase us here.” Then Tariq’s quick glance up and down her prostrate form snapped her attention back to her current position, and she rolled to her feet, quick loading her slug pistol as she did. “When’s our ride leave?”
“As soon as our pilot,” Tariq nodded toward Moe, who was working his way back toward the ship, firing as he moved, “gets on board.” He fired another shot at a quin angling to cut the ursa off from the ship, then jerked his head at the ramp. “You and your friend get on board. We’ll take care of this.” He fired a snapshot at a gaudily dressed zeb who had just appeared in the doorway to the dock.
The zeb threw himself to the ground with a shout of “There she is! Get her!”
“A fan?” Tariq grunted.
Liishi shrugged. “No idea who he is.” She fired another shot just to keep the zeb’s attention on the ceramacrete. “W.B.,” she hissed. “Get moving.”
“Already moved,” his rumbling voice sounded from halfway up the ramp. “These weasels supposed to be here?” He indicated the pin-striped weasel and another in a black spacer suit, wrap-around glasses half-covering his face, both of whom were hunkered down behind the loading ramp.
“Paying customers,” Tariq called back and, at Liishi’s stare, added, “No one said you were supposed to be my only fare this trip. Besides, they’re weasels. How much trouble can they be?”
About that time, Hobbs appeared at the top of the ramp, a Tolmarr Punisher Rifle slung from his shoulder. He ratcheted the first energy round into the chamber, a loud, clattering noise that rose almost, but not quite, above the sounds of gun and laser fire. Then he pulled the trigger and unloaded a hail of fire that dropped three quin at the dock entrance. Tariq moved backward, sliding from one knee to another as he moved, shooting any quin that poked his head above cover. Moe turned and dashed into the loading bay, shouting, “I’ll get her up quick, sir,” as he disappeared inside.
W.B. let out a low whistle as the weasels scampered by him. “I had the Tolmarr MKII at one point, but thought the capacity too low for what the specs said it could do,” he admitted. “Looks like they ironed out the bugs.”
Hobbs just grinned and shouldered the rifle again. The rumble of the ship’s engines powering up caused the ground to shake.
In the background, Liishi could hear the sound of sirens nearing the docking bay. Closer at hand, the remaining quin poked their heads above cover. A few looked as though they might rush the ship but most slunk toward the far doors.
Hobbs let them go.
Tariq waved the others on up the ramp and followed, pistol out, looking back over his shoulder as he ascended. “Show’s over, folks. Move along now.”
Liishi trotted up the ramp as well. When she reached the top she glanced back to see the gaudily dressed zeb shaking his fist at her then ducking out of sight as law enforcement troops entered the docking bay. Weird.
“Power down your engines and clear the vehicle!” came across a loud speaker.
Tariq shook his head. “No can do, fellas.” And he punched the loading ramp closed, yelling, “Moe! Get us out of here!” as he strode toward the front of the ship, advising everyone to find a seat. “It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Backwater security shoots first and asks questions later.”
“That is if they feel like asking,” W.B. added as he finished stowing their lockers in the cabins.
Tariq’s laughter floated back to them as he took the steps up to the command center. “I can see you’ve experienced their hospitality,” he called; then his voice disappeared in the rattle of gunfire outside the ship.
The noise sent the weasels into one of the cabins, the door slamming shut behind them. W.B. calmly fastened himself into an acceleration seat and smiled at Liishi. She tugged at one ear, part of her wanting to move to the front of the ship so she could see outside, part of her wanting to follow the example set by the weasels.
Instead, she threw herself into the closest seat and rammed the buckles closed as the ship’s engines pitched to a whine and the sense of being shoved through the flooring settled into her bones. She clutched the armrests and clamped her eyes shut. Vibrations in the hull caused a nearby locker to pop open, its door banging against the bulkhead then closed again. The clatter of pipes drifted from somewhere else.
I hate this part, Liishi thought. And then sounds of combat outside faded as the ship punched into space.