Fields Aflame - Chapter One, part Two by J.S. Holland

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Dune whistled. "Remind me not to make you angry."

"You need to be reminded? I thought putting those linel roaches in your bed back on Cammade would have been enough of a warning. How was that, anyway, having ten thousand itching little bites covering you for a week?"

The laugh that came back over the comm was Cira's, but the voice was Dune's. "Oh, yeah. That was unfair. I told those women you were interested; I was looking out for you."

"They weren't women, Dune, they were whores. Jyskistan whore who like to bite their mates. And with those teeth..." Tarin shuddered. "Let's just say you should consider yourself lucky I opted for the linel roaches."

Cira cleared her throat. "Nine minutes, Captain."

"Thanks, Cira. I'm going."

He made his way back up one deck and over to the main boarding ramp. The Pride of Marik was a single-hulled yacht, a long, sleek ship with it's drive engines in the back and its gun deck on the front third of the top deck. The boarding ramp extended downward from very side of the hull, then, with no where to hide it away in the design. If--and now, when--pirates attempted to board the Pride, they'd have to connect to the ship at that point, or not at all. It was a disadvantage in that the outside door was obvious--in a half-circle design, the ramp could have been on the inside arch and therefore unreachable, for instance--but it was also an advantage. Tarin knew exactly where the pirates would be, and could place himself accordingly.

He slid into position behind a pile of armor-plated crates set up in the passageway for just such a circumstance, and waited. He brought his comm up to his lips, suppressing the button with his thumb. "How are things looking, Hikal? I don't hear any shooting."

A sharp puff of air preceded the man's words. "Fine, Captain, but not fast. I do not think I can get this online in time to ward off our attackers."

"How soon after?"

"A few minutes. It will be close."

"All right, you just keep working. Ignore anything else." Tarin grimaced. _Including a lot of shooting and one huge explosion._ "But route everything to the drive engines and emergency systems. Ignore the guns."

"But Dune and Cira are on the deck--"

"I know, I know." Tarin waved a hand through the air. "Doesn't matter. You got it?"

"You are the boss."

"Yeah, I am." Tarin shook his head, and the words came out without any sting to Hikal. "I just hope I know what I'm doing."

The comm chatter dropped off, and Tarin began punching buttons on the bomb's faceplate. Letters and numbers lit up the screen, glowing red or blue as he changed settings. When he finished, the time alone displayed on the screen--four seconds. Not much. But then, all he really wanted was a high-powered hand grenade, not a bomb. He set the pipe next to him, careful not to punch the red button in the center, the one that would start the timer. If he did that now, he'd blow himself into enough pieces that if Cira, with her icy dedication to whatever task was at hand, would be able to put them back together again.

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