The doors opened onto the bridge, a round, spacious room. A large screen to her left took up most of that wall. There were several crewmen monitoring consoles to her right and the empty captain’s chair on a raised dais, with lower seats around it was directly in front of her. There was no mistaking it as the Captain’s seat. From there, he could see any part of the bridge and all of the crewman and the consoles they manned.
It was an area he could use to consult with his officers, in the middle of, yet separate from the rest of the bridge. In front of the Captain’s area were more computer consoles and more crewmen. Two rows of three, though not every station had a crewman.
The bridge was anything but what she imagined. She’d expected chaos, there was order. She’d expected panic, there was calm.
“Captain, all decks reporting minimal damage.” A young man at one of the consoles reported to Darius. “Shields holding. All systems go. Ion cannons at ready.”
“Thank you, Tensign.” Darius sat in the large chair that looked as though it has been made especially for his impressive body. The giant screen showed their ship’s attacker. The vessel was small, at least on the screen, and sleek. There were short wings toward the back of the ship, the nose was pointed like an airplane, but the fuselage grew wider as it went back towards the tail. It looked sort of like a pyramid lying on its side.
“Sit there, Princess.” Darius pointed at the chair on the lower dais, directly to his side. She hurried to take her seat, sitting on her hands and biting her lip to keep from making a sound.
“Fire the cannons. Short bursts,” Darius ordered.
“Firing sequence input. Firing.” The tensign pressed a button on his console. Audra braced for recoil, but none came.
“Direct hit, Captain. Sensors show their shields holding.”
“Ready torpedoes.” Darius swiveled in the chair towards the tensign. “Do we have identification yet?”
“Torpedoes ready. The ship is...” the ensign turned to look straight at Darius. “Sir, the ship is...The Tangipahoa. But that is impossible.”
“The Tangipahoa.” Darius’ voice was deadly. “She was supposed to have been destroyed. Senator Slavarien confirmed it.” Under his breath he said, “I should have known.”
Audra heard censure in his voice and something else. Vengeance. Coming from anyone else it would have frightened her. Strangely from Darius, it was comforting.
Another of the crewman spoke, “Captain, we are being hailed.” She touched her ear, a quizzical look on her face. “It’s in English.”
He turned to Audra. “Do not say a word. They cannot see you, only me, so be quiet.” Darius frowned. “On screen.”
She nodded, too scared and too fascinated to do anything but watch as a face appeared before her.
Looming on the screen in front of her was one of the most handsome, older men Audra had ever seen. His blond hair was just beginning to show gray, and he had startling green eyes that held no warmth. Looking directly into them chilled her to the bone.
“Slavarien,” Darius spat under his breath, the name sounding like a curse. “The Tangipahoa was supposed to have been destroyed on the last raid on the Delazin. Obviously, your report was erroneous, Senator.”
“Correct, Captain. I had need of a fighting ship and The Tangipahoa has served quite nicely.”
Audra watched as Slavarien’s long thin fingers caressed the upholstery of his captain’s chair. Without looking up at the screen he said, “You have something I want. Give her up and you, and your ship, will survive this day.”
“That is not an option, Slavarien, and you know it. What do you really want?”
Slavarien smiled. “Yes, well I had to try.”
Evil. His smile was evil, leaving Audra cold inside.
“How is my little niece?”
“Niece?” She slapped her hand over her mouth, but the question was out before she could stop it.
“Ah, she is there with you. I thought as much, hence the English. Margareta would not raise any simpering miss, now would she? Speaking of Margareta how is my darling wife?”