Episode 126: Round Two

Captain Ortega peered around the domed shell of the power generator, one of the countless subsystems he’d seen in the vessel since breaking out of his cell. It was one of the first genuinely new pieces of technology he’d witnessed in Dyson’s arsenal, though its purpose was as old as the earliest human colonies, if not older: generating and manipulating power in such a way that different systems could interact with each other without causing anything to overload or suffer an outage. The device was intuitive and efficient from what Ortega could tell, and likely handled a lot of the trickier power management for his immediate area, though likely not for any crucial systems that could be easily exploited. Fortunately, when Trell finally arrived, she wouldn’t be able to use it to sabotage the vessel.

The other benefit that the power generator provided was its size and location. He could easily crouch behind it for a good view of the room it was in and even a look down the hallway from which Trell was most likely to make her entrance. Ortega had made some assumptions about Trell’s cell location, and it was possible that his insights on the layout of the ship had been wrong. Likely not wrong enough for her to be taking this long, but he was willing to wait longer just in case she ran into any complications.

Someone tapped on Ortega’s shoulder. His usual armored flight suit wouldn’t have even allowed him to feel it, but the vesperweave prison uniforms provided by the Dyson forces made the gentle prod accessible. Ortega took a quick breath and jumped forward, just in time to miss being hammered in the back of the head by an enemy first.

Veering around in the middle of the hall, he saw one of the special operations soldiers that invaded Tan’s ship to retake it for the Dyson Empire. She wore the same dark-colored cybernetic stealth suit and the same six-eyed observation crown. The lenses rotated to refocus on Ortega as he left the attacker’s immediate range. She was perched to the corner of the wall, and bracing herself with one arm against the generator’s dome, but shaking her fist at Ortega.

“Aw, come on,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do that! I had the perfect set up, too. I guess that kind of thing just doesn’t work in real life.”

“It’s worked against me more than I’d care to admit,” said Ortega. “Gave me a lot of practice in not falling for it.”

“Ah. I guess I had to enter this kind of career a lot sooner to be able to get the drop on Captain Andrew Ortega of the Astroguard.”

“I think you’ve got the advantage on me here, in more ways than one,” he said, entering a defensive stance. “And you probably could’ve gotten the drop on me if you didn’t tap my shoulder first.”

“Can’t blame me for going for the gold, can you?” she said, dropping off the wall and walking out from behind the generator. “And the name’s Alsafi. You probably don’t remember because of the heat of the moment, how quickly it happened, and the mask, but I was one of the Wraithstrike agents who took you down in Tan’s ship.”

“I wondered how many of you there were,” he said. “And if I’d met you in that group. How did you find me?”

“Total luck,” she said. “I hop in and out of the corridors when I’m on duty. The Emperor’s additions to these cysuits, plus my own physiological something or other I don’t have the backing to go into, makes that kind of drifting easy.”

And then she vanished.

Ortega’s eyes widened. He ran to the generator and looked between it and the wall, deeper into the nook he’d taken as his own hiding spot. Instinctively, he turned around just in time to see Alsafi’s fist.

The blow knocked him back into the niche between the wall and the machine. He shook his head and looked up to see Alsafi, unholstering an energy blaster and aiming it at him.

“This makes twice I’ve taken you out, Ortega,” she said. “I’m sure that short-range teleportation is a huge force multiplier, especially when the enemy’s not expecting it, but still. Let’s get you back to the brig.”

The blaster in her hands glowed with an eerie, orange light and Ortega closed his eyes to ready himself for the energy burst.

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