4.3 A Big Target

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Blaster gloves didn't come in sizes big enough for Alex, or he would have worn one. Then maybe he wouldn't be such a huge, useless target that everyone else had to protect.

He kept his Yeresunsa awareness confined, as Thomas had asked him to. But maybe he should expand outward just a little; just enough to shield himself from micro-bullets or blasts. Just in case.

"Alex," Thomas said. "Keep your powers reigned in, unless we're in a life or death situation. Our goal here is not to get attacked."

Alex gave a nod, and tried not to show his discomfort at having his thoughts read so easily.

"The same goes for everyone with a blaster glove." Thomas glared at the crew. "We're not here to kill Torth or break things. We're here to escape. If you think it will be fun to take out a few Torth on the way, you'll likely get us all captured or killed."

A few of the ummins exchanged dark looks. Some had climbed on each other in an attempt to get out of Thomas's range of telepathy.

"I'm trying to save your lives." Thomas sounded haggard. "Once we get inside a streamship, we'll be a lot safer, but first—"

"What's a streamship?" Alex's mother cut in.

"The type of spaceship I intend for us to steal," Thomas said. "It can make use of temporal streams, which are..." His face wrinkled in frustration. "In extremely simple terms, they're portals to different parts of the galaxy."

She gave a nod of uncertain comprehension.

"Anyway," Thomas went on, "the hull of a streamship is made from ionized tungsten polymer, which is nearly indestructible. The Torth won't be able to kill us easily once we're inside. The trick will be getting from here to there." He held out one hand, then the other, to demonstrate. "I need to choose a ship and unlock it, without being seen by any Torth or their slaves."

He sounded unworried, so Alex figured he must have a plan.

Sure enough, Thomas went on. "Weptolyso?"

The thorny guard looked his way.

"When we're out there, you'll need to shield me."

Alex was getting better at reading the nussian's face, including the alien ways he flared his nostrils. Weptolyso looked disgusted. "I am not your guard."

"I'm not asking you to shield me from bullets." Thomas floated to the door, apparently not caring when ummins leaped out of his way. "Just block me from view. If you position yourself well, you can hide my hoverchair."

Weptolyso rumbled in acquiescence. Many Torth floated in hoverchairs, but none would be splattered with blood, like Thomas.

And no Torth was quite as large as Alex.

The crew eyed him with worry, and Alex wished, more than anything, for a power to shrink himself, or to go invisible. He was the most recognizable person among them, and he would be obvious even from a distance. If they all got attacked and captured or killed, it would be entirely his fault.

"We need to hide Alex, as well," Thomas said. "Throw a blanket over him, and let's have him kneel on hover-scooters." He pointed to a divider in the hangar, where a few scooters were parked. "We'll push him and pretend he's a pile of supplies."

Margo looked embarrassed for him, but she must be inwardly laughing.

"As for the rest of you," Thomas said, "try to act like slaves or Torth. Whatever you most resemble."

"But we have—" Alex's mother began to speak, but Thomas interrupted her.

"It's not uncommon for slaves to carry supply packs when they're loading up a streamship. Believe it or not, we can pass as an ordinary group, from a distance. We just don't want anyone to inspect us up close."

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