Rebels and MercsBy Catherine
Page 1 of 4
Blake leaned back in his flight
chair with a sigh. They'd visited Avalon's base, discussed several possible
plans to deal with Federation forces and the Pylene problem, as well as picking
up the computer parts Deva had insisted were necessary for the new base on
Gauda Prime. A few more hours and they would be back at base. The viewscreen
displayed a peaceful expanse of stars and Blake glanced at his companions.|
His pilot, Jeffa, was one of the rebellion's best. Short and very slim, he was temperamental, quick to pick a fight, but intensely devoted to the cause. He had been born on Talzar, an agricultural world, originally colonized by Earthers who had refused to live inside the Domes. They had left Earth and, over time, turned Tylar into a thriving society, a productive world. Blake watched Jeffa run through a series of routine in-flight checks. Thriving until the Federation sent out a mineral exploration team. Turned out Talar had some very uncommon ore deposits. Uncommon and useful in mutoid adaption. When the farmers refused to give up their land, they were killed and the planet joined the Federation by force. Jeffa's family had died in the fighting, with the exception of Jeffa and one sister. They, and many other refugees, banded together to form a small resistance force. It was Avalon who offered to help them and who accepted Jeffa into her group when she discovered his piloting skills. After Jenna's death, Avalon had sent him to Blake, simply saying that she had a fly-boy who needed a job. Though he could never replace Jenna, and Blake had resented him at first, he was the best flyer he had and Blake trusted in his ability and his loyalty. His other companion however...
Bodie was an entirely different matter. Blake never felt as if he really understood the mercenary that had been recruited into their ranks. Deva had been particularly keen on him, suggesting him as a "bodyguard" for Blake. Blake had laughed at the idea but now Bodie was an almost constant presence at his side. He was a good military strategist though he rarely, if ever, volunteered information. He was a great fighter, hand-to-hand or with any firearm. But his motivations were a mystery. At times, Blake suspected Deva of paying him! They knew little to nothing about his personal history. He was 30 years old, was born on a non-Federated world and that was that.
But despite the mystery or perhaps because of it, Blake admitted wryly, he liked the man. As tall as Blake, with close-cropped dark hair, milky white skin, and shocking blue eyes, he was a striking figure. Not to mention a dangerous one, Blake reminded himself. He had watched Bodie kill, coolly and efficiently. Not as if he enjoyed it but as if it was a job that had to be done. Like someone else he knew.
Blake shied away from those memories. Bodie had lighthearted moments too. Joking around with the other rebels, flirting with Avalon and Deva. He had a wicked sense of humour. He was also a good friend.
He looked up. Bodie was watching him, a touch of concern in the dark, blue eyes, an eyebrow lifted. Blake smiled and shook his head.
"I'm fine, Bodie. Don't fuss. That's Deva's job."
"Too right," Bodie replied with a grin, settling back in his chair. "It's his vocation in life."
"So what's yours then?"
Bodie watched as Bodie's expression blanked. Not a good question to ask obviously. Eyes that flashed with a moment's pain closed. When they opened, they were empty of all emotion.
"Killer for hire; it's what I do best."
His question had unintentionally hurt the other man, that was obvious. Some part of Bodie's past...who had he been before Bodie the mercenary? Wishing he could do something, Blake started to speak.
Blake turned his attention to Jeffa.
"What kind of trouble?"
"Federation and lots of them." Jeffa indicated the flight display. Eight ships were closing in on them fast.
"I don't much care for those odds." Bodie spoke quietly, activating the weapons controls at his station.
"Me neither," Jeffa retorted. "Any chance of support from base?"
"No." Blake stared thoughtfully at the screen. "That might give away the base location. Even if we destroyed their ships, they might get a message back to Command Headquarters. We're on our own."
"Wonderful." Bodie was focused on the display and his controls, ready to fire as soon as the enemy was within range. Blake's mind raced through the possibilities. They couldn't outrun them all but...
"Jeffa." The pilot's attention flicked towards Blake. "Can we reach that planet," Blake pointed, "before they reach us?"
Blake glanced over at Bodie, registering the other man's faint smile, before concentrating again on their enemies.
"It might work, but I doubt it." Bodie's voice was tightly controlled.
"Here we go." The ship lurched as Jeffa drove down close to the planet, trying to use it as a partial shield.
The ship shuddered as Bodie fired the blasters. One Fed ship was hit, exploding, damaging the one closest to it as well.
"Just keep flying." Bodie shot back as Blake felt the ship jerk.
"Power down twenty per cent, that was a little too close, Jeffa." Blake checked over their systems. "Damage to the left drive engine."
Another blast rocked them s Bodie returned fire and Jeffa tried desperately to manoeuvre. Bodie got one more before they took a direct hit. Flames burst from the navigation console. Blake grabbed for the flame retardant foam but the damage was done.
"Minimal." Jeffa paused as Bodie continued to return fire. "I'm not sure I can keep us up never mind out of their firing range."
"Can we land?"
"We'll be trapped," Bodie reminded them.
"Perhaps, but it's a big planet and we're dead or captured if we stay here."
Bodie simply nodded and returned his attention to his weapons.
"I'll try. Bodie?"
"Try and keep them back for a bit. I'd prefer to land intact."
"You bet, mate."
Jeffa brought the ship closer to the planet, edging it into a controlled descent. The ship continued to rock with enemy fire, despite Bodie's efforts, until they took a tremendous blast. Bodie was thrown from his station, slamming into a bulkhead before grabbing the back of Blake's chair.
"That's it. We're going down now." Jeffa's face was fierce with concentration. "Get back in your seat, Bodie, and hang on!"
Blake swallowed hard as the ship lurched repeatedly, controls unresponsive as she plunged towards the planet surface. Trees and mountain ranges were visible in the viewscreen, rushing toward them. There was a horrible impact, metal tearing, heat, a flash of tremendous pain, and darkness.
~ ~ ~
Blake woke slowly. His head throbbed and his throat was sore and dry. Cautiously opening his eyes, he squinted at the unexpected brightness. Sunlight was streaming through the ruptured ceiling of the ship. The impact had split her in two. The ship...Bodie and Jeffa!"
Sitting up, his vision swam and Blake put out a hand to steady himself. He touched something soft and sticky.
It was Jeffa. Edging closer, Blake pressed a hand to the other man's throat. No pulse, his skin was already cold. Regret tugged at his heart. Jeffa was so young. But where was Bodie?
There, just past his feet, the mercenary lay in a crumpled heap. Icy dread clutching his chest, Blake crawled over, hands reaching. Bodie was barely warm to the touch but there was a reassuringly strong pulse beating under Blake's fingers. A mix of relief and concern poured over him. How badly was Bodie injured?
Very gently, he turned the other man onto his back, hands running up and down arms and legs. Nothing seemed to be broken. Slipping a hand up into the cropped hair, it came away sticky with blood. A head injury, still bleeding sluggishly, seemed to be the only one. But he had lost a lot of blood, skin far too white, even more so in comparison to the dark red that stained his temple.
"Water and supplies," Blake muttered, yanking off his vest and pillowing Bodie's head upon it. Gingerly, he stood up, waited for the world to stop spinning, and walked over to one of the storage compartments, wrenching it open. He pulled out thermal blankets, water, food concentrates, and the medical kit. They couldn't stay here but he wanted to clean Bodie up first before waking him. Serious infection would be the last thing they needed right now. Taking a quick drink, he dampened a small cloth and knelt, pressing it lightly to the blood clotted injury. Bodie stirred at the cool touch and moaned.
"It's all right." Blake let his other hand rest against Bodie's chest. "The ship crashed and you were hurt." Bodie's eyes remained closed.
"He didn't make it." Blake watched as Bodie's jaw clenched and then, suddenly, all the tension drained away and the eyes opened. So blue, Blake felt like he was drowning in them. There was a wealth of pain in them. Physical or emotional? Blake suspected both?
"Headache," Blake replied, pouring more water onto the cloth before offering the bottle to Bodie.
Blake watched as Bodie swallowed, removing the last of the blood just as Bodie finished the water.
"Better?" Bodie nodded, wincing at the pain of the movement. "This is going to hurt." Blake pressed an antiseptic pad to Bodie's head. The other man gritted his teeth but made no sound. Blake didn't comment but placed a small bandage over the site.
"We're going to have to get moving," Blake finally said.
Bodie nodded and staggered to his feet, pushing away Blake's offer of assistance. "Any idea where we're headed?"
Bodie sounded stronger now that he was on his feet but Blake could guess how much blood he'd lost. They wouldn't be able to go far today. Blake stared out at the nearby mountains. The ship sent out an automatic distress. Base would know the ship crashed but they'd need to take a communications pack too and Bodie wouldn't be up to carrying much yet. The mountains would be their best bet. A cave or some other place to shelter during the night. Hopefully, there wouldn't be any dangerous wildlife. But they did have their guns.
"Those mountains." Bodie turned to look. "We'll stay there until we're sure the Federation forces are gone. Then we'll let base know where we are."
"Or we'll try anyway," Bodie muttered, reaching for the heaviest pack. Blake grabbed it first and handed the other to Bodie. Bodie glared back but let it go, following Blake out of the ruins of the ship and into the forest. Bodie glanced back once and Blake saw his gaze focused on Jeffa's body. When they were sure it was safe, they'd come back and bury him, Blake promised himself.
~ ~ ~
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