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Angels and Wormholes

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"Is he gonna be okay?" Cassia motioned to Razz from across the command deck on the Muramasa. His rocky exterior was badly cracked and broken, with fractures running all across his body, and large pieces missing.

"Yeah, it'll grow back," Wojtek answered from the pilot's chair. "Only thing hurt is his pride."

Razz shouted back. "If you hadn't ordered us to use stun mode, we could have destroyed them easily."

"You sure about that?" Wojtek smiled. "I emptied a full clip into the big one."

"Me too." Lujain kept her eyes forward.

"And you blasted him, right?" Wojtek asked, still looking back at Razz, who merely grunted in reply. Wojtek turned back ahead. "By the way, if one of you can explain how that thing took a plasma blast to the face without flinching, I'd love to hear it."

Zahra interrupted, "dropping hook now". There was a mechanical sound from within the ship as the tow cable dropped below.

After her rescue from the lizards, Cassia had been given a seat at a deactivated station on the Muramasa's deck. Nigel stood just behind her, leaning his weight on the chair. The console screen at her station was black: unpowered. The crew of the Muramasa were all at their stations: Zahra, the dark-haired, cybernetically modified pilot; Lujain, the cyborg, who stood in front of a display of the surrounding night jungles; Wojtek, the ship's captain, plugged into his chair with a cluster of neural jacks leading to his brain; Razz, the golem-like creature, who, judging from his appearance, had a rough time during the rescue mission; Anwar, the young engineer, who sat quietly at his station. There were also three alien lizards on the deck. Cassia eyed them curiously, wondering what they were doing on board. They were the same species as the ones who had held her and Nigel captive after the crash.

"What's with the lizards?" Cassia asked.

"Long story." Wojtek chuckled.

"Are we in a rush, or something?" Cassia asked, smiling.

A loud clang reverberated across the ship: the tow cable had struck its target below, snagging the wreckage of the Astrid below the swampy waters.

"Got it," Zahra announced. She faced Cassia. "That thing is a wreck. You sure it's worth the trouble to salvage it?"

"It can still fly," Cassia answered. "There's some value in the parts. But what I really need the data backup."

"What for?" Anwar asked.

"What do you think?" Zahra interjected. "She's a wormhole hunter."

"Yeah," Cassia confirmed. "My maps and partials are on there."

"Maybe even a route home?" Anwar wondered.

"Depends where we are," Cassia answered. "I never took this hole before."

Zahra hit a command on her console. "Taking it up now." Below them, the shipwrecked Astrid emerged from the water with a splash, pulled up by the Muramasa's tow cable. Their ship vibrated with a mechanical whir. Cassia's attention again turned to the lizards.

"So -" she nodded towards the three alien passengers "- the lizards?"

"Hey Chai'," Wojtek turned to his reptilian interpreter, "why don't you tell our guests what you're doing here?"

"He can talk?" Cassia's eyes widened.

"We figured one of the natives had taken you," Wojtek explained. "So we decided to ask 'em. Good thing we did, too, I'd say."

"But how?"

"We've got a brain hacker on board, and our own mobile chop-shop." Wojtek looked over his shoulder and smiled. "Kinda made sense, given the unique requirements of our crew."

The whirring of the tow cable stopped.

"Freight locked," Zahra announced. "Ready to roll."

"Alright," Wojtek said. "Taking us to the mountain. We can strip the wreck there, and drop these three off." He motioned to the three lizards in the corner. On the viewscreen, the jungle canopy rushed by in a blur. The mountains expanded rapidly ahead. The Muramasa slowed as they approached, gliding to a hovering stop over a relatively flat stretch of rocky ground. "Set it down here," Wojtek ordered.

"Setting it down." Zahra hit a command. The tow cable whirred, dropping the Astrid down to the mountain. It struck the bottom with a reverberating clunk.

"Lu'," Wojtek looked at Lujain. "You can take our friends to check out their ship. Anwar, grab some tools. Help Lu' strip that ship. And Razz, take those three to the bay -" he tilted his chin towards the lizards "- we still might need the one who can talk, though. Let the other two go, but hold on to Chai'."

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