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Part 3

Horatius
“I want her locked away, for what her people did to my brother!”

Vaca’s words hung in the air as the porters failed to move, and Nean bared his teeth. From my side, Airomem spoke three words in a challenge, punctuating each with a flash of blue light as defiance crossed her face.

“Then take me.”

Vaca’s mouth dropped open, and Nean turned to face the still porters.

“Do you hear her? She speaks openly against your new chief! She defies him to his face! Are you going to just stand there or are you going to act?”

Their blank faces met his, and Tom spoke for them, his words slow and deep as they shuffled, their heads nodding in agreement.

“She fought, and she closed the door. You ran.”

“Fine!” Shouted Nean, “Cowards, all of you. I’ll do what you are afraid to do!”

Pulling out his knife, he approached Airomem, a full head taller than her and twice as wide. Her chin rose with each of his steps and he faltered, pausing a mere two feet away, his figure entirely eclipsing her in stature.

“Surrender,” He said, “Or-”

“No, that is not what I came here to do.” She interrupted.

“Or I’ll-” He continued, attempting to ignore her.

“I must warn you, this will not be pleasant.” She added.

Nean’s speech became flustered as she refused to budge, and he extended the knife in the vague direction of her neck, his arm clumsy and hesitant as he spoke again.

“Then I must take you prisoner by force, in the name of-”

The jab was fast, almost too fast to be seen, a blur of blue that crackled through the air as Airomem’s stun gun connected with the underside of Nean’s arm. With a jolt he pivoted, blown backwards as his muscles contracted and he uttered a sharp scream of surprise, slamming against the metal wall and sliding to the floor.

“You killed him!” Shouted Vaca as Nean started to drool, “You-”

“I stunned him,” Said Airomem, “And he deserved it. He will be back to normal in only a moment, but perhaps he will think twice next time he threatens me.”

“That he should,” I said, speaking over Vaca who had opened his mouth once more, “As I said previously, the council will decide our next actions and appoint a new chief. And I’m sure they will want to hear what she has to say regarding the other side of the ship, as well as how to defend against them. She saved our lives today, and likely the lives of our entire community. We should be grateful to her, not trying to imprison her. And the council will be even more grateful for her guidance.”

“Which I will be only too happy to give,” Spoke Airomem, “For that is why I traveled here, risking my own life to make contact. Our time is short, and we must make all haste.”

“Our time until what?” Asked Vaca, and the porters leaned in as I held up a hand before Airomem could speak.  Whatever secrets she carried, it would be best that they were not exposed to the ship’s community by Nean and Vaca first.

“That is for the council to discuss. Now, the first action of the council is to meet, and to meet at once. Tom, free any members of the council that Segni held confined, and ensure they have been given a proper meal and a chance to wash. In one hour, we meet outside of the chief’s old quarters.”

Tom nodded, and started to lumber down the hallway away from the bridge with the other porters as Airomem’s sharp voice rang out.

“No, not all of you! Half of you must stand guard- under no circumstances must you leave, no matter what anyone says.”

“Listen to her,” I said, pointing back to the doorway “I will ensure that your meals are delivered here. Take Nean’s knife as well, and pray you don’t have to use it. No one should be able to cross that hallway in anything but a crawl, but be prepared in case they attempt it.”

Then I turned to Vaca as I led Airomem away and Nean began to stir.

“One hour until the council meets. Show up this time.”

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Chapter 36

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