Maychange watched across the slight clearing to the cargo ship. There were several workers clearing the ship of its cargo; human by the looks of them. He could see three Jakara troopers overseeing the work. Cover was minimal, but the troops had been here for who knows how long. Long enough, evidently, to become sloppy. They never even looked in Maychange’s direction.
Small favor that, Maychange thought. He blipped out a quick series of radio clicks, telling Chen as the work force finished unloading the cargo ship. Maychange didn’t like the plan, though he couldn’t offer a better one. There were too many parts of this mission that could go wrong.
Being outnumbered was only a small problem. The difference between numbers meant little in this sort of mission. Yes, there were about thirty Jakara. Yes, Chen had a dime of hand chosen soldiers with him. It didn’t make that much difference. They weren’t meeting on the field, and hopefully, by the time the Jakara could rally together, their numbers would be severely dwindled.
One of the main problems was that by the time the Jakara were rallied, Chen would be in a defensive position, trying to protect a flock of civilians. As soon as the shooting began, those civilians would panic. Worse, they needed to be corralled into a cargo ship while under fire. The ship was thankfully huge, but even then, if there were as many families as Randal had suggested, it was going to be a tight fit, and it was going to take some doing to get them all aboard.
Secondly, Quince and Clarisence needed to be on the ship by then. It was a high hope that Quince would be able to figure out the controls fast. He’d been practicing with the tank that they had back at camp, but that only gave him a rudimentary idea of how the Jakara controlled their vehicles. A tank and a spaceship were going to have vastly different controls.
Clarisence could give him some pointers, but she was going to be busy herself. Her job on this mission was to Fold the ship back to camp as soon as they had it in the air. Maychange thought back to when she’d done the same trick with The Trebuchet. It seemed so long ago. Turns out that she’d done that in panic, and hadn’t planned out a route. The math to Fold the ship to a set location was more complex, and something she had to prepare in her head. Supposedly she had half the calculations done, but she still had to factor in the ship itself, and the weight of the cargo; something she couldn’t do until the civilians were aboard.
When the worker’s families came running, it was Maychange’s job with Sore and Reese to get them aboard quickly. They had a strict deadline, and anyone on the wrong side of the cargo doors when they closed, be it civilian or soldier, was being left behind. It was harsh, but necessary. Common sense declared that someone on the Jakara side would call for reinforcements the moment a shot was fired. Beyond the N’yarlath, no one knew what out there had Fold Engines, and they had to assume that additional Jakara troops were only a heartbeat away.
Too many factors. If Quince or Clarisence didn’t get aboard, the mission failed. If Chen or his men didn’t free the captives, the mission failed. If Maychange, Sore and Reese couldn’t get the civilians on board before they were overrun by Jakara, or reinforcements Folded in, the mission failed. Maychange didn’t like it. He preferred either simple plans, or on the fly insanity. Maychange wasn’t a fan of pre planned chaos.
The first explosion rocked the front gates, and was followed by three more. Heavy ordinance; one of the best ways to say hello. Maychange could hear the cracks of rifles as Chen’s men picked off the visible sentries before they could react. At the landing zone, the three guards looked about in panic, already going for their weapons.
“Lets pare down the numbers a bit,” Maychange commented with a nod.
Sore nodded back, and popped out of cover. He brought his rifle around, and shot one of the cargo ship guards in the back of the head. Reese and Maychange ran across the distance, quickly making range. They fired simultaneously, both landing bullets into the same guard. Reese and Maychange shared a quick look of annoyance; the old ‘that was my target’ look, as they re-aimed at the last guard. He was already swinging his laser towards them.
One of the workers, a boy just out of his teens, swung a heavy box of supplies at the final guard. He caught the Jakara by surprise, and shattered his nose with the supply crate. The Jakara fell back, and was set upon by a crew of the workers. By the time Maychange reached the scene, the troop was a bloody pulp.
The brave kid turned on Maychange as he approached, case held defensively. “What’s going on?”
“We’re getting you all out of here,” Maychange replied. He could hear the fighting getting closer, barely covered by the new sound of panic. Chen must already have the civilians on the move, Maychange considered. “We need to get you all aboard,” he commanded.
“On that?” The kid shook his head. “That’s our ride?”
Maychange looked at the kid. “You have another ship hidden away?” he shrugged at the kid. “Then yeah, that’s your ride.”
“It’ll do,” the teenage boy relented. “Was just hoping you’d brought better.”
Maychange motioned to the cargo door, and loaded up the dock workers. The kid, despite his mouth, insisted on staying out with Maychange and crew. He was already waving in a few of the faster civilians before Maychange could even consider arguing the point.
Maychange, Reese and Sore guided families in as they came running, but found they were barely needed. Everyone hopped aboard, and made proper room for each other immediately. Sore scratched his head. “This is too easy,”
Maychange called for Quince and Clarisence over the comm.. He watched as the civilians boarded. “Too easy,” he admitted. He soured at the thought.
“They’ve been practicing for this,” Reese commented. She had her gun drawn, and was already stepping into a better position.
Maychange waved for Sore to fan out, and followed Reese’s lead. The civilians were too well prepared, as if they’d been ready for this chance. It was convenient, but lead to other problems. Even the laziest of prison guards knew when something was up, and if the families were ready for this prison break, than so were the Jakara.
Maychange clicked on his radio. “Chen, what’s your ETA?”
“Less than a minute,” Chen replied. “Just rounding up a few stragglers.” There was a pause. “Maychange, we’re running into minimal opposition out here. How’s things on your end?”
“Beyond smooth,” Maychange replied. Chen and Maychange shared a moment of silence. It wasn’t quiet contemplation over a job done well; it was the shared tension of two men waiting for the other shoe to drop. “We’re fanning out now,” Maychange stated finally. “We’ve got an eye on the area, ready to cover your squad.”
“We have some confirmed movement on all sides of you Maychange,” Chen declared. “No engagement yet. I think they’re corralling us in.”
“Makes sense,” Maychange agreed. “We put the civilians in the cargo ship, safe from stray shots, and the Jakara can move on us with no fear of hurting them. I think they want to avoid casualties; give the workers less reason to rebel.” Maychange thought on it. “I’m going to have Quince gun the engines a bit, make it clear that we’re leaving. Maybe they’ll make their move.”
“Might as well anyways,” Chen replied. “We’re coming around the corner now with the last of the cargo.”
Last of the cargo. Maychange shook his head. Clarisence was right, it did sound ridiculous. He watched the rooftops of the nearby buildings, concerned about the confirmed movement that Chen had stated. Maybe the Jakara were about, but they weren’t amateur enough to just poke their heads into sight. Maychange gave the order, and Quince began priming the engines. Around them, the civilians hurried their step, feeling the sudden urgency in the roar of the ship’s thrusters. The straggling families hurried from over the ridge; Chen’s unit jogging behind. The humans weren’t the only ones who felt the urgency. The Jakara moved suddenly in full force; flanking Chen’s soldiers, and opening fire.
Maychange waved a last group of civilians aboard, and threw down some cover fire for Chen’s squad. “Get aboard,” he commanded to Sore and Reese. “I’m right behind you.” He slapped the communicator on. “Quince, start take-off!”
Quince didn’t bother with an answer. The lift off thrusters flared, and the cargo door began to close as the ship lurched a few feet into the air. Chen’s squad passed by, still firing at the oncoming Jakara troops. They hopped one by one onto the closing gang plank. Chen was the last in line, laying down cover fire for his men.
Chen took a shot to the leg, and tumbled down. He rolled with the hit, and turned his gun on the oncoming Jakara troops. Chen showed no sign of trying to follow. Maychange took a quick look behind him. The last of the squad was hopping up the closing cargo doors. Maychange swore, and grabbed a concussion grenade off of the passing troop’s belt. “Go,” he ordered as he turned back to Chen.
Maychange tore the pin from the grenade, and tossed it between Chen and the closing Jakara. The grenade went off with a loud bang, and a bright flash. The impact tossed a few of the Jakara back, and threw Chen towards Maychange. Maychange was quick to close the distance. He fired a few shots into a handful of Jakara troops that had avoided the worst of the concussion grenade’s effects.
“Damn it, Maychange!” Chen grunted against the pain in his leg, and the daze of the concussion grenade. “You knew the plan!”
“Yeah, but I’ve always been the no man left behind sort,” Maychange replied. He pulled Chen to his feet. “C’mon,” he ordered. “Run, and grab the cargo door. We should be able to tag along.” Hopefully, Maychange added mentally. He wasn’t sure if they’d be able to Fold with the ship simply by holding on, but he was hoping for the best.
Chen nodded, already breaking into a run. He did a fine job of ignoring the smoking hole in his leg, likely running on pure adrenaline. A small voice in the back of Maychange’s mind told him that that would hurt like hell in the morning. Chen put an arm up to protect his eyes from the dirt blowing about from the ship’s lift thrusters, and leapt up at the ship. He managed to grab the lip of the cargo hold.
Maychange ran close behind, and leapt as well. Chen had already managed a better grip on the back of the cargo ship. The ship was lurching further out of reach, and Commander Chen reached desperately for Maychange. Maychange stretched his arm out, and felt his fingertips touch against Chen’s.
A stray laser bolt took Maychange in the shoulder, and twisted him in the air. He closed his hands on empty air before he slammed painfully down on the ground. Jakara troops dog-piled him immediately. The last thing Maychange saw was the flash of the cargo ship vanishing, just before he took a rifle butt between the eyes.
By the time Maychange regained his senses, he was already bound and being dragged across the compound. He was tossed roughly to his knees in front of a well dressed Jakara officer. Maychange didn’t know the Jakara ranking system, but the chest of this officer had enough pips and bars to mark him as pretty important in any military language.
The officer stared at Maychange with disdain. Around Maychange, the troops gave reports that Maychange couldn’t understand. The officer nodded sharply to the men on occasion, never taking his eyes off of Maychange.
“My men are telling me that you were a leader in this attack on our facility,” the officer explained. He spoke in a thick accent, and hung long on most of his words.
Maychange mentally noted that Clarisence didn’t have the same accent. He wondered idly if it was because she’d picked the language from his head. “You speak English,” Maychange questioned the officer.
“It’s not that impressive,” the officer replied. “Yours is a simple, blunt language. It isn’t that hard to learn.” He waved off the comment. “Now, you are important to the resistance of this planet?”
Maychange considered his options quickly. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “I’m just a junk captain. You shot my ship down, and I ended up helping my fellow men. I’m not a soldier. That’s why I was left with loading duties.” Maychange tried to shrug, but was stopped by shots of pain from his wounded shoulder. “Before that, I saw this sector as a salvage gold mine.” Maychange smirked. “A man with my lot takes whatever is given, and your little war gives plenty of scrap. I’m only here because I got greedy, and you got trigger happy.”
“Is that so?” The officer turned away, already unimpressed. He spoke to his men in Jakara, and waved away his prisoner. Maychange was lifted to his feet, and nearly dragged away.
“Wait,” The officer stated. He stared at where the cargo ship had been, the same cargo ship that had recently vanished. He motioned to his men, and they slammed Maychange back to his knees. The officer looked Maychange over, his eyes lighting up as he really took in the man in front of him. “Well, here you are. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Captain Maychange.”