The edge, p.30
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       The Edge, p.30

           Leslie Lee

  Mak breathed slowly. Then checked his gun. Plan B constituted a shooting match.

  "Activity by the guards," Th'han'dra murmured.

  "You," Ives shouted loudly enough to be heard over the open comm. "Bring that isolation bed. Now. Come on move it. What in blue blazes? Get out of the way, Soldier, clear a path. This virus might be the zombie bug we've been looking for. You want to get any closer, you sorry sack of slime? We'll be scooping your brain out with a ladle if you don't get out of the way. And for heaven's sake, make sure nobody goes in there."

  They heard the heavy breathing of Th'han'dra and her team pushing the stretcher into the isolation chamber.

  "Come on, come on, we have to get him into a quarantine ward. Don't get too close to him, dang it. How many times do I have to say it? Now stay in there and don't touch anyone."

  More heavy breathing and thumping.

  "Let's go," shouted Ives. "Not you people. This is a containment alert. Wait here for vaccinations. Send the team that's outside with us. Send someone to meet us at ward Q1. Come on, people, let's move with a purpose." Somebody asked a question which Mak couldn't make out. "Yes, yes, you'll be just fine. Just wait here for the doctors. Try not to move around too much or it'll spread."

  So far so good.

  "Five seconds," Th'han'dra murmured.

  They hid and waited. The door of the lab opened suddenly. The stretcher blew into the lab followed by Ives, a nurse, and the Soldiers. The fight consisted of Soldiers surrendering and Ives knocking them out with a shot.

  "Wow," Zin Zin said. "I can't believe that really worked."

  "It hasn't worked yet," Mak warned. "The Soldiers are on their way."

  They pulled Brenn's stretcher out of the isolation chamber. Ranger and K'hon lifted him clear and carried him between them.

  "I'll get back to the hospital," Ives said turning away.

  "No," Mak stated flatly.

  "What?" she said, bewildered.

  "They know you did this."

  "So? Goodness gracious, what are they going to do, off the chief medical officer? People back there are injured. They need my help. They're counting on me, Mak."

  "I know. But we need you as well. Alive. You're coming with us."

  Mak tried not to wilt under the glare. He was having no luck with women today.

  "I have to go, Mak," she said, kindly "I need to delay them."

  Mak scowled. "It is too dangerous."

  "I'll think of something. Now go, boys and girls," she said waving her hands at them. "Time's a wasting." She turned to the real nurse accompanying her. "You go with them."

  He laughed and started to follow her.

  "Alright, alright, come on then. Doesn't anyone follow orders anymore, for heaven's sake? Okay, look," she said grimly to them before she and the nurse left. "I don't want to know what you guys are up to." Out came the wagging finger. "But take care of yourselves, you lot. You'll be the death of me yet."

  Mak wanted to hit something. He looked at the security team. Jamaal was still in the hospital. "You two come with us. The rest of you clear out."

  "We are supposed to stay with you, sir," one said.

  "We need to be inconspicuous. Delay anybody who tries to follow. But let them through. No shooting."

  "Understood, sir."

  He wished they wouldn't call him sir. It made him want to look around to see who they were talking to.

  He split the team up. Nondescript overalls covered their flight suits. Mak went with Ranger and K'hon and two security men. Ranger and K'hon would carry Brenn between them. A stretcher might be too noticeable.

  The corridors were jammed with crew who paid them no attention. Still, Mak felt their anxiety. It wasn't the normal tension of battle. Everyone knew something was wrong. They just didn't know what. A patrol of Soldiers rushed by not giving them a second look. But their presence dampened the conversation level and it didn't return until after they were gone. The X was hurt inside and out.

  They made it to their hideaway in pod maintenance without incident.

  "Nice place," one of the Security team said. "I'm going to report back to the Security Chief."

  "What's wrong with the comm?" Ranger panted out. He was wet with perspiration. He and K'hon eyed the young crewman intently.

  "Starting not to trust them. This place is too important. Don't worry, I'll be okay." He was young and flashed them the confident smile only youth could manage.

  "Take care," Mak said, pulling his team down emotionally. They didn't want the security officer to leave. They didn't trust him. But he had to go.

  The young man disappeared. The other Blue Box team members filed in quickly.

  "You can trust Joe," the other security man, Reeves, said. "He's Jamaal's son."

  "Sorry," Ranger said, slumping into a chair. "This shit is getting me crazy."

  "Tell me about it," Reeves said tiredly. He collapsed into another chair, dropping most of his equipment. His weapon though he kept on his lap.

  "They're going to tear this ship apart looking for Brenn," K'hon said. "And they're going to know that we took him."

  Mak shrugged. What could he say?

  "We need to take back the ship," Th'han'dra said thoughtfully. "It's the only way."

  "The only way to what?" K'hon retorted. "The Unity has fallen apart. If Earth Central is behind this then there is no Unity."

  "We're getting ahead of ourselves," Mak said. "We take back the ship first. We get away from this area so we're not zombified. Everything else, we handle later."

  "Great. How?" Zin Zin asked.

  "You're supposed to tell us that."

  "What? Are you nuts? What are we supposed to do, fly our pods up their butts?"

  They laughed.

  "They don't know the ship," he said.

  "We don't either, remember? We're passengers to them," K'hon said.

  Mak turned to Reeves. "You think the ship's crew will follow the new regime?"

  "Jeez, what do I know?" He shook his head and leaned his weapon against the wall. Still within easy reach. "I can tell you this much. The crew's gonna think about the ship first. Personally, I don't think the Soldiers know shit about what's happening. They're just following orders."

  "We need the Soldiers to disobey their commanding officers," Mak said.

  Reeves barked a laugh. "Yeah, good luck with that. I bet all the top officers are in on whatever the heck this thing is. Then again, some of their top brass was lost in the collision. I think they're thin on top. One of the Soldiers was telling me he figures one of the officers is a ringer. Not Soldier at all. And all the officers including the general take orders from him. I don't think the regular grunts like this any better than we do. Taking over the X isn't in their job description."

  "We need to kill the head," Th'han'dra said.

  "That might unify them against us," Mak said shaking his head. "Look what killing Brahms did. We can't afford a war on the X."

  "We'd lose a war," Ranger said, sleepily. "They're the ones with all those neat toys."

  "We've got to get to this head guy and to the general. I can't believe this is going the way they want."

  "Yeah, well your buddy here," Reeves nodded at Brenn. "Whatever power he's got, it's weakening. There's been reports of people being zombified."

  Very little sound came from pod maintenance. To Mak, it now seemed as if every little sound could be heard. Somehow, he thought Brenn protect them indefinitely. He looked at the team. Blue Box was definitely spooked, no denying it.

  "Alright," he said, breaking into their thoughts. "We split into teams. We find allies. We take the Bridge. We get the hell out of town."

  Th'han'dra took Sha and Zin Zin to hunt for allies. She was going to keep an eye out for any Soldier unit which might not follow their commanders. But he didn't think she'd find anybody. They were all well trained.

  Mak, Jerry, and K'hon were going to scout the Bridge. If they'd sealed it, then they were screwed. Even if
they hadn't changed position, the Bridge was specifically designed to repel intrusion.

  Ranger and Dakota, along with Reeves were to remain with Brenn.

  "Something is very wrong," Jerry whispered, as they approached the Bridge.

  The plan was to assess the Soldier presence on the Bridge. See who were allies and who were not. Determine what kind of assault would be needed for reacquisition. They were in what they hoped was pretty good disguises as a repair crew. Cables and tubing were slung over their shoulders and they wore breathing masks. They even had some fake orders to wave at anybody who stopped them.

  But they weren't needed. The corridor to the Bridge was abandoned. Even if the Bridge had moved, there should have at least been a security team on duty.

  "Maybe the Soldiers have ordered them away," K'hon said a little loudly.

  "Yeah, but you'd think the Soldiers would hang around," answered Jerry.

  They walked carefully along the corridor until they came to the hatch to the Bridge. They pushed through and stood in the empty room.

  "Wow, Boss," Jerry marveled. "Your plans work great. We've already taken the Bridge. You're the best."

  K'hon scowled. "Where is everybody? Who's flying this bird?"

  "We're not flying at all. We're hung up on a reef," Jerry answered back.

  They moved through the empty stations. Jerry dropped his equipment startling them. "Sorry. Don't think we need this stuff any more."

  K'hon laughed harshly and tossed his equipment down along with his face mask.

  It was definitely weird not having the sound of the Bridge staff murmuring in the back ground. All the empty chairs, the flickering consoles, the strange static emanating from some speakers, it all spooked him. Mak kept thinking somebody was going to jump up at any
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