Author's Note: yeah...So I haven't updated in...well...a really long time. To be fair I had good reasons, but it's really no excuse for THIS long of an absence. So if anyone is still reading this, please accept my apologies...and my thanks!
Disclaimer: See previous disclaimers.
Anore hadn't been exaggerating when she'd said that the Boss was agitated as hell. Even though the Mercs didn't show their faces all day, he was as jumpy as a nervous virgin at her first dance. He barked orders at everybody, punched Robert in the face for a casual word and had let loose the Hellhounds into the prison shaft again in less than twenty four hours. He was freaking out about something and everybody tiptoed around.
Anatoli himself was very subdued and was as close to meek as she'd ever seen him, giving into her every demand without a fuss and shooting her kicked-puppy looks when he thought she wasn't looking. She fought a smile down at how easily she'd cowed him. One slap and he'd been down, asking for forgiveness. She couldn't be sure how much of his apology was based on genuine regret and how much was fear of her vicious temper. He remembered well just how much pain she could inflict on him, if really enraged. Sleeping on the floor hadn't done much for his aching muscles either and he moved stiffly, cautiously around her.
Not a Merc poked a greasy nose into the control room all day and as night fell, Anore wondered what exactly was going down. And what the Boss had planned. He had called everybody together just after sundown and they'd been in the control room for well over an hour and a half. When they'd come out, Anatoli had asked her in his nicest, most sweet voice if she wouldn't mind getting together their clothes and Orla's toys. When she asked him why, he'd shrugged apologetically. But she could guess.
Necromongers. The Gray Ones. Whatever the Boss had learned from his call must have scared the daylights out of him—he was tucking tail and running from the scene. Which meant that the Necro's were coming! As Anore began packing up Orla's dresses and her and Anatoli's few belongings, she began to think fast. Somehow, she must get a warning to Kyra and the others. The Guards would never let her near the gates and besides, it was useless to go there without somebody there to listen. Nobody was sleeping tonight and the control room was crawling with people. Anore scowled and stuffed a tunic into a satchel. Damnit all to hell! She hoped Kyra and Riddick wouldn't show up at the gate—though she could imagine that they wouldn't, being able to see from down below that everybody was up and about. That would have to be warning enough, she thought grimly. She'd warn them if the opportunity and the means presented itself but if she couldn't they'd have to figure it out for themselves. Damnit. She didn't want to leave Kyra and the others! Not to them!
"Anore!" Anatoli's urgent voice snapped her back from her thoughts. "Hurry!"
"Why?" She demanded, playing dumb, stalling. He appeared in their doorway and Orla went to him automatically and he scooped her up. She'd been very quiet, watching her mother stuffing her things into bags, eyes wide. Now she buried her face in her father's neck, clutching her little bone pipe and doll against her body.
"Please love." He said, flinching as she turned fiery eyes on him. "Just hurry, pazjhalusta. We're leaving now, just dump the rest of it."He said and picked up one of the two satchels.
"What's going on?"
"Something's coming. They are coming. We go before they get here and ghost us all." He held Orla a little closer and Anore felt her anger soften a little—he was genuinely concerned and she could guess why. The thought of Orla, her precious baby, going the way Egean had done, the way her people had, made her feel sick and frightened too. She nodded and shouldered the other satchel, even allowing him to wrap an arm around her waist as they hurried along the passage.
The control room was a flurry of activity. All the guards were there, the Boss was shouting orders and Anore allowed Anatoli to guide her around the edge of the crowded room and behind the Boss's desk, where he knelt and yanked the fake console back to reveal the prison safe.
"They're coming!" Somebody shouted and suddenly the entire room exploded into action. Instantly, about fifteen of the guards vaporized into the walls, hiding themselves away behind doors and other various concealed spots. The Boss scowled and everybody else assumed languid poses of inaction. Robert and Yorgi started playing chess with their ammunition and everybody else lounged around the room. Only Anatoli was still moving, shoving the contents of the safe into a bag. A moment or so later the sled slammed into the buffer at the end of the track and footsteps could be heard. Anatoli gave Anore a hard look and motioned her out of the room, as the Mercs appeared in the doorway to the sled-house. Anore gathered Orla into her arms and held her close, the child pale faced and silent in the strange, tense atmosphere.
"Good news first." The Boss began, obviously working the Mercs, getting them to relax and come further into the trap. Anore scowled and eased her way passed Anatoli, who gave her thigh a squeeze as she passed-encouraging she supposed. She had to get out of the room before the idiots let blaze their firearms, or at least get under cover! The fools! Their plan was suddenly clear, in all its juvenile simplicity. Clean out the safe, ghost the mercs and steal their ship, leaving everybody else on Crematoria as fodder for the Necros. Eve met her eyes and Anore did her best to school her features before the other woman saw anything in her face that gave her away. Too late. Eve scowled and slid away from Toombs, deeper into the room and spotted Anatoli, emptying the safe. The Boss seemed to realize he hadn't captured his audience. "I talked things over with my amigos here. We'll cut you in for seven-seventy-five K." The Boss walked by his desk, picking up an info screen and scowling at the surface of it. What was on it? Anore was almost to the door, moving slowly and carefully. Eve was watching her. There was something like grudging amusement in her eyes. Toombs noticed nothing unusual, grinning in greedy pleasure.
"Well all right." He said, pleased. "What's the bad news? You close the local whore-house?" He laughed too loudly, slapping his hands together, his joke falling into the middle of a flat, dead silence. Eve's eyes narrowed. Too smart that woman, Anore thought. She was at the door, but couldn't open it yet, without giving the game away and as much as she hated the Crew, she could at least get off planet with them. The Mercs would leave them all here to die. Orla was crying softly, eyes wide and fixed on the tense, angry faces around her. Her fingers were tangled tightly in her mother's hair, her tiny body trembling. Anore couldn't comfort her. It was about to get worse.
"No." The Boss said coldly and closed the distance between Toombs and himself. "The bad news is worse than that. Much worse. Our pilot, he saw this." He slapped the info-screen into Toomb's hands and the other man looked at it, keying up the image and focusing it. His face tightened. "It crossed a shipping lane. Any idea what this might be?" The Boss dripped sarcasm and Toombs's face darkened and played over with a variety of emotions before he managed to spit out an answer.
"Never seen anything like it." He said, his lie blatant and careless. The Boss stiffened and the room suddenly tensed. The soft click of bullets going into guns echoed like shouts in the quiet. Anore pressed her back against the door, whispering gently to her baby to hold on, and don't be scared. Worthless advice really. Anatoli had crept around and now stood in front of her, broad back squared, shielding her. She wanted to snap at him that they wouldn't need protection if the idiots hadn't gotten themselves into this mess!
"That ship trace back to Helion Prime." The Boss goaded him. By now the Mercs were fully aware of the danger they were in, and weapons were being drawn quite openly. Eve had her back against a wall, dark eyes scanning the space expertly, seeing everything. "Anatoli here has got a nose for trouble…and, he thinks, trouble follows you here." The Boss gave Toombs a searching, hard glare.
"Look. We dusted our tracks and got the hell out of there!" Toombs snapped angrily, throwing the screen down. "There's no way we didn't lose them!" The room seemed to suddenly slow, the silence was overwhelming. He'd as much as signed their death warrants and everybody knew it. Toombs flushed angrily as the Boss turned away, face cold with triumphant rage.
"Them?" The Boss replied snidely.
"This is my prisoner." Toombs was stalking up behind him, angry and foolish. "Mine. Nobody elses…" The Boss snorted. "I want my money now."
"You stole a prisoner, from them!" The Boss snarled and Toombs moved. His elbow crashed down on the Boss's head and the Boss dropped to the floor. And then the world exploded.
Anore lunged to the floor, Orla under her, the child screaming in terror and Anore shielding her as best she could with her body! Bullets ricocheted over their heads! Lights exploded, electricity crackled! Anore felt sparks sear the back of her neck and somebody tripped over her, landing on her legs in a painful heap. Orla was still screaming, and Anore covered her head with her arms and prayed for the best.
A hard, ground shaking explosion suddenly split the air, somebody screamed so loud Anore's ear drums ached and then, suddenly, all was silent.
"Are you all right?" Anatoli was leaning over them, his face bleeding from a new laceration and Anore nodded, picking herself up and cradling the terrified child to her breast. With quick, nervous hands Anore searched her baby's body and breathed a sigh of relief when she found no wounds.
"Orla?" he reached out to embrace them and touched the back of the girl's head.
"Scared out of her mind and in need of years of therapy." Anore snapped, unforgiving and Anatoli flinched slightly.
"If you can run, get your asses up! Let's go!" The Boss was yelling, rubbing the back of his neck and scowling around. About only ten guards got to their feet. Ten out of twenty. The Mercs had done some damage for being so badly outnumbered. Anore jiggled the terrified Orla and glanced around the room. The damage was severe and it looked as if none of the Mercs had made it. The emergency lights illuminated the scene of destruction in a faint, blush haze of gunsmoke and spitting electrical sparks. One quick glance through the sled-house door said that the sled hadn't made it either. That explosion had been a rocket that had wiped out the sled for good. They would have to make their run on foot, down the patrol tunnel. It was a good thirty klick run. She shot a glance at the center of the room. The grate that led down into prison shaft was open. She looked at the others. Anatoli was shouldering the satchel containing the safe's contents, the Boss had already vanished into the sled-house and everybody was following.
"Come on." Anatoli held out his hand to her and she took it, then swore and passed a frightened, trembling Orla over to her father. "Come on Nor!"
"Just a second." She snapped and lunged for the hole. The rope was occupied by Toombs, a hundred feet down.
"What are you doing!" Anatoli grabbed her shoulder.
"What the hell is holding you up!" The Boss's voice was joined by the swearing of Robert and Yorgi. "Get the bitch moving or I'll leave her behind!" Anore sucked in a deep breath.
"Kyra! Necros!" She screamed with all her might and heard the Boss swear in vehement Russian.
"Anore!" Anatoli yelled in dismay and she sat up, turned and saw Robert's face loom in her vision.
"Bitch!" he snarled and shoved her. Caught off balance, at the edge of the hole, Anore shrieked in surprised, lunge forward and grabbed him just in time for both of them to topple into the hole and vanish into space. Robert screamed and she kicked him, shoving him away from her and into empty air.
Air whipped by her and Anore twisted in air, arms splayed wide, searching for something, anything, to grab onto. Soft cord met her grasp and she seized it. It burned through her hands, she gritted her teeth and felt her fall slow and finally stop. She panted and got her bearings. She was dangling from the rope a good ninety feet down. Just below her was Toombs, glaring at her with all the hatred he could manage. Robert's splattered corpse was five hundred feet below her, a speck of white against a lava flow.
"Fuck!" She swore angrily and looked up. Anatoli's face loomed in the hole.
"Anore!" He yelled down to her, anxiously and she felt her stomach jerk. By the time she reached the top, the Boss would have left them and sealed the door. Her Orla might be forever trapped here. Indecision tore at her heart and in an instant she made her grim, bitter choice.
"Orla!" She shouted back at him. Toombs was yelling below her and she thought she heard Kyra's voice, but tuned them out. Anatoli's eyes met hers, so far above her and for an instant, they understood each other perfectly. His face twisted in bitter pain and grief, then vanished. Her heart, which she had long ago thought a smoking hole, gave a spasm of pain and she felt her eyes begin to burn and blur. She blinked back her tears.
End Note: Thank you and reviews are love! Or rather, reviews ARE loved... :D Naja