“Let’s take out the pilot,” whispered Carmen.
Vince looked over his shoulder. Tan was retrieving water from the hydromill, and had generally been keeping to himself since the three racers had entered the galley. Vince turned back and leaned forward over the table.
“Why?” he said.
“He’ll help the Soul Survivor.”
Xorn’Tal ruffled in agreement, not trusting his translator’s audio to be silent enough to contribute to the conversation without being overheard.
“Will it help us, though?”
“Why wouldn’t it help us?”
“He’s not the real problem, and the real problem will notice that we’re getting violent, and given how the fight in space went I’m guessing that he’s already going to be looking out for us acting up. I don’t know if the element of surprise will help us or not but I’d rather not throw it away without an actual follow up plan.”
“Here’s the plan: stuff him in the refrigerator and then break our way out of this room.”
“Do you really think-”
“Tan: Welcome!” said Xorn’Tal, noisily interrupting the conspirators.
“Thanks,” said Tan, sitting down with his chilled glass of water. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting sick of this synthesized hydromill water.”
“Objection,” said Xorn’Tal. “Hydromill water: pure.”
“Do you have taste buds?” asked Tan, setting the glass onto the table. “Or at least any taste buds when you get water?”
“That’s why, then,” said Tan. “All the impurities, the minerals, the unhealthy detritus that slowly poisons its drinkers, that’s where the flavor is.”
“As: cinder steel. To: scent: zhul flowers?”
“Yeah, exactly,” said Tan. “Human noses can’t pick up on that kind of thing.”
“Tan!” shouted the voice of the Soul Survivor. “Report to the bridge.”
“What’s up?” said Tan.
“I need your retina to overcome this security feature. Full control of this vessel is nearly mine, and the security measures are surprisingly intricate.”
“I’ll be right there.”
Tan stood and walked to the door as it unlocked and slid open. Carmen jumped from her seat and ran into the thoroughly surprised pilot, pushing him into the wall. Xorn’Tal was already shambling to the door to keep it open with a chair while Vince was running to help restrain Tan, grabbing onto the pilot’s arms and pulling them securely behind his back.
“He seems dazed,” said Vince.
“Good,” said Carmen. “Glad to see you’re on board.”
“There weren’t many options once you decked him. Not the best plan, but if it’s what we’re doing then we should do it right. Refrigerator?”
“Sure,” said Carmen, helping to carry Tan to the cold storage.
“Wait,” said Tan. “Wait… no…”
“He’s coming to!” said Vince.
“Should we hit him again?”
“Can’t that cause brain damage?”
“Sure, if you don’t do it right.”
“You can do it right?”
“Well, I’ve seen…”
“Yeah,” said Carmen. “Probably not the best place for realistic medical combat knowledge.”
Xorn’Tal loomed up to the three humans, vibrating with the emotional equivalent of a sigh. The plant creature grabbed Tan from his fellow racers with his prehensile fronds, and looped a vine around the pilot before anyone realized what was happening. With a creaking, inhuman cry of pain, Xorn’Tal ripped the vine out of himself, and tied the loose end with a knot.
“You can do that?” said Vince.
“Method: capture prey,” he said, opening the refrigerator door and clearing out the rations and platforms within to make room for the prisoner. “Inefficient: sometimes necessary.”
“Are you gonna be all right?” asked Carmen.
“Great,” said Carmen. “Now, let’s head to the bridge. The Soul Survivor’s expecting someone soon, and we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”