Maychange could feel The Girl shift against him. It was a light struggle as she found herself bound and more than a bit confused. It was more than enough to be sure that she was awake.
“How you doing back there,” Maychange asked.
Clarisence muttered something under her breath. “Where are we?” she asked.
“Don’t know,” Maychange admitted. Currently, they were climbing down a vast line of pipes and cables, but that was the best he knew. “On our way to the engines, as least.”
“How long have I been out,” The Girl asked.
“Not long,” Maychange said. “About five, maybe ten minutes.”
“Oh.” Clarisence shifted about. “It feels like I’ve been asleep forever.”
Maychange chuckled. “Really?”
“Sure,” Clarisence stated. “I’m disoriented, sore, and I’m terribly hungry.”
“But rested at least,” Maychange interjected.
“No. Turns out five minutes of sleep are still just five minutes of sleep.” Clarisence shifted again, and tugged a bit at Maychange’s neck. “Am I tied to you?”
“Sort of.” Maychange continued his downward climb. “Do you remember all the stories I told you about when I was a mountain climber?”
“Yeah well,” Maychange commented, “there’s a reason I never told those stories. I’m not a climber.” Maychange gave a dry chuckle. “Holding onto an unconscious teenager wouldn’t have helped much, so I strapped you in.”
“I’m not a teenager,” Clarisence protested. “Nah keev.. darn Maychange, do you assume everyone under thirty is a kid?”
“Pretty much,” Maychange admitted. “Part of being old is hating everyone younger than you.”
There was an awkward silence, interrupted only by Maychange’s occasional noises of hard labour. “Is there anything I can do to help?” Clarisence offered.
“You can quit squirming about,” Maychange suggested. The Comm. on his lapel buzzed slightly. Maychange looked at it and sighed. “You could answer that, I suppose. My hands are full.”
Clarisence fumbled along Maychange’s neck and chest. With the way her arms were bound, it might have been easier if Maychange had just done it himself. Finally, after a large amount of fumbling, and a small bit of frustrated apologizing, she found the communicator.
When the comm. buzzed to life, Quince’s voice played across it. “Hey, captain.”
“Quince,” Maychange acknowledged. “We’re in the middle of a thing. This had better be important.”
“A little,” Quince replied. “We’ve got Reese aboard, but she’s brought company. Sore and Reese are holding them off for now, but…”
“Alright,” Maychange cut in. “Take off, but stay close. We’ll find a place to catch up with you once we’re done here.”
Maychange considered a moment. “Actually,” he amended. “Circle wide, let them think you’ve left. Then I have somewhere I need you to be.”
Maychange explained his idea to Quince, and was glad to hear no arguments. He figured if Reese was in the cockpit, things would have gone differently. She hated his plans. This wasn’t a full plan so much as a backup, mind you, but Maychange was pretty sure she’d disagree with that too.
Maychange made the rest of the climb in relative silence. On his back, Clarisence did all she could to stay still. Once or twice, he was certain that she’d passed out again, but she’d shift, or make an attempt at small talk, and ruin the illusion. Not that Maychange minded. The climb was killing his arms, and any distraction, no matter how little, was welcome.
The Fold engines had a large room of their own, deep in the bowels of The N’yarlath. They nerve column fed right to the power source. It looked very much like a giant version of the one that resided in The Trebuchet’s engine room.
Maychange quickly freed The Girl the moment they’d set foot on the grated floor. He shook his arms out, and quickly took in the room. The corpses of the fallen Jakara troops lay on the floor; an almost certain sign that no one had come this way since they’d fallen from above.
Behind him, Clarisence coaxed what she needed from the Fold engines. Holographic screens floated around her, giving views from all over the N’yarlath. A few of them flashed red, and in them, Maychange could see Hound’s marines engaging the Jakara troops. Hound and his men were doing what they’d promised. They were keeping the Jakara busy. Busy enough that even by the time they realised what Maychange and Clarisence were up to, there’d be nothing they could do about it.
Clarisence motioned to Maychange, letting him know they were broadcasting. Blue light flared along his face, and settled across his throat. He knew that this was how Clarisence was going to capture his words for the broadcast; how she was going to translate it on the fly for the Jakara, but it felt like a glove ready to choke the life from him. He ignored it, and with a sigh, he began.
“Hello, civilians of both the Human and Jakara Empires. If I’m right, we’ve just hijacked all transmissions either of you have. Your governments aren’t going to like that, and they’ll be taking steps to shut us down. I’ll be quick. I am Captain Maychange of the Salvage Ship: Trebuchet. With me is Clarisence Roccas, daughter of Cyd’seya Roccas. Clarisence is the only person in the universe who understands Fold Technology; the ability to travel instantly from one place to another.”
Maychange looked over at Clarisence. She gave him a curt nod. “Clarisence is ready to share this information. Not with her government, or with mine, but with everyone at once.” Maychange gave her one more chance to reconsider, and Clarisence nodded to him again. “Get ready to record, because we’ll only be able to do this once.”
Clarisence placed her hands on the Fold Engine. Both her tattoos and the engine pulsed with a blue energy, synched to each other. She didn’t cry out this time as the energy flared around her.
It was blindingly bright, but Maychange watched nonetheless. Clarisence’s mouth moved, but no sound escaped from her lips. The light flickered around her body, as numbers and symbols played across the screens in front of her. Just as soon as it had begun, it ended. The light dimmed, leaving Maychange and Clarisence alone.
Clarisence second checked the screens quickly, but seemed satisfied. She gave Maychange a tired smile. “We did it,” she confirmed. “We did it.”
Maychange reached out, as The Girl staggered on wobbly legs. She didn’t fall, but she welcomed the assistance. “You did good Girl,” Maychange told her. “You did it. I’m just here for the ride.” Maychange gave Clarisence a smile and a nod. He pointed at the outer hull. “Speaking of rides, we need to be out there. Quince is waiting for pick up. Last job of the day; you think you can handle it?”
“No one is going anywhere,” a voice commanded from above them.
Maychange followed the voice, looking up just in time to see N’gyr diving towards them. N’gyr dropped from the cable tower, and landed in a crouch between Maychange and Clarisence. N’gyr thrust his palm into Clarisence’s chest, and pushed her away from Maychange.
Maychange swung his pistol around to meet N’gyr. The N’yarlath’s captain smiled wickedly. He caught Maychange by the gun hand, and twisted upward. Maychange felt the bones in his wrist strain, then snap. His pistol clattered to the ground at N’gyr’s feet.
Maychange gritted his teeth, and tried to swing with his off hand. N’gyr stared calm indifference, and twisted Maychange’s hand further. He didn’t bother with words as he drew back his fist, ready to pound Maychange to oblivion.
“No!” Clarisence dashed forward. She locked her arm around N’gyr’s outstretched one, and drove her other hand into the small of his back. The Girl dropped her weight backwards, and pulled N’gyr away from Maychange. She managed to lift the man over herself, and with the momentum, dropped him upside down to the ground.
N’gyr’s surprise was visible on his features for only a moment. He twisted his weight, and hit the grated floor shoulder first, instead of taking the drop on his head. He recovered instantly, and grabbed her by the back of the belt. N’gyr used the momentum of Clarisence’s grab, and tossed her across the room. He rolled to his feet, and fell immediately into form. Clarisence twisted in the air, and landed in matched pose.
N’gyr tilted his head as he looked over The Girl. “Sloppy,” he chastised. “Your form is terrible.” N’gyr clicked his tongue. “Who taught you the Shabbith-Kata? Was it your father?” He offered a cold smile. “Perhaps we are lucky he is not alive to see your sad example as a student.”
Clarisence growled. She dropped into a low crouch for a moment, then launched herself at N’gyr. N’gyr laughed openly at Clarisence as he blocked her attack. He reached through her defences and slapped her upside the head. It was harmless, but about as insulting as he could be. As Clarisence looked over at his one hand in indignation, he pushed his other against her chest, and shoved her away.
“Disappointing,” N’gyr stated. “I have trained children with better form than you.” He gave her mock pity. “Are you tired, Clarisence Roccas? Is that it?”
“Not too tired for this,” Clarisence boasted with little conviction. She shifted her weight, ready to charge again. She stopped a step in to her attack. “Wait, you’re a trainer?”
“I am,” N’gyr assured her. “You are beginning to see the futility of your attack?”
“Sort of,” Clarisence admitted. “Just not the way you think.” She twisted again, and resumed her charge.
N’gyr smiled at her attempt. He easily parried her first swing, and brought his knee up with perfect timing to block Clarisence’s attempt at a kick. He was, however, taken completely by surprise when Clarisence balled her hand into a sudden fist, and followed through with a left cross into his side. She continued in with a right jab, and a sweet upper cut.
N’gyr’s smile flickered slightly as he stepped backwards. “What,” he started.
“Boxing,” Clarisence replied. “You don’t know that, do you?” She gave a few shadow jabs. “You’re too used to fighting other Shabbith masters. You’ve gotten sloppy.”
N’gyr’s smile vanished suddenly. He drove a forward kick past Clarisence’s defences, catching her in the chest with a wet crack. He stepped forward in the move, and drove a fist down on the top of The Girl’s head. Clarisence folded like an accordion, before the spring of her spine snapped her up and back. N’gyr backhanded her in the face as she passed, and watched with mild interest as she spun limply through the air. She hit the floor like a wet sack, and didn’t get back up.
N’gyr walked calmly to The Girl, and looked down on her. “You are lucky,” he commented. “You will be needed still, or I would finish this now.”
“Pretty brave talk to an unconscious opponent,” Maychange accused from behind N’gyr. He held his pistol in his off hand, and cocked the hammer. “You want to try your little threats over here?”