THE SEARCH FOR ASTRA PALACE by Gregory KH Bryant
A low grumbling went rumbling through the darkened decks and halls of the “Derelict”. Clearly, the news that they were to be deprived of the prize they had so carefully cultivated for countless hours was not theirs, even in the smallest part.
“Who’re you? Who’re you to be tellin’ us what’s ours and what idn’t?
“We are Horst Dal’s own emissary (away from Horst Dal and Yamir, Turhan Mot felt emboldened once again to refer to himself in the third person). We have come to claim his property, she, whose tongue spills Horst Dal’s habits too freely for his liking…”
“We heard nuthin’ about that,” several voices called out from the crowd.
“And there is also the matter of Turhan Mot, and his capture.”
“Aye,” came a voice that had apparently appointed itself as the spokesperson for the crowd. “That we know of. For half a million Universal Credits, he’s yours. He’s a dangerous bitch, I tell you whut.”
“The crew of the “Derelict” will deliver Carter Ward to us, and we will gladly make all due payments.”
Ward didn’t have to listen to another word. Casting his eyes upwards as his body fell downward, he saw the dim red lights emanating from the bridge. There, he saw the shadows of those commanding the “Derelict’. They gestured, pointing at the murky corners where they presumed someone had been hiding. They shouted commands though the intercom system, commands that echoed and reverberated through the yawning hull of the “Derelict”.
On an impulse, Ward grabbed a cage with both hands as he tumbled past it. The wires of the cage cut through the flesh of his fingers. The stack of cages wavered dangerously in the near weightless environment of the ancient derelict.
The stack of cages, standing nearly twenty feet high, joined its rank to a row of cages, one of many, that numbered as many as hundred. Laid out carelessly, the rows of cages, standing each five to six feet in height, created a massive and crazed maze in the shadowy world that was the “Derelict”.
The cages that Ward clutched to teetered along with the rest of the row. They began a slow collapse at the point where Ward was hanging. Ward pulled himself up by his elbows to avoid getting himself crushed by the collapsing walls. His eyes searched the darkened stowage bay. He had to find the O8-111A, more importantly, he had to find Dimara. Once in contact with her, he could wreak any amount of havoc.
But Ward’s ship was nowhere to be seen. The O8-111A was hidden behind shrouds of darkness. Somewhat overhead and several dozen yards off, Ward caught a glimpse of Turhan Mot’s fighter ship with Turhan Mot in the pilot’s seat. He was smirking at that Lacey kid from his seat in the cockpit, ordering her around with a smile on his purple lips.
“Tough on the kid,” Ward remarked to himself. But that’s the way of things, wasn’t? Play it careful, or you’re liable to get yourself fucked big time.
Ward didn’t have time to squander any of it worrying over anyone he barely knew. The stack of cages where he had found shelter was on the point of collapse. Ward looked upward to study his predicament. It was at that moment that the scaffolding of cages began crashing down upon Carter Ward.
CONTINUES NEXT ISSUE