Chapter Fifteen

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It was two days later, hovering a safe distance above the null-world Andan, that Gaylen activated the table's display feature again.

"Right. There are eleven sizeable wrecks that remain both relatively intact and above the water."

He waved his hand over the images they'd captured of the surface. Much of the planet was covered with ocean, but it was mostly fairly shallow.

"Jaquan's gone over them, and has settled on this one."

He indicated a large battle cruiser, of a make old-fashioned even back during the brief war.

"Its engine room ought to be fairly intact, water-free, and it has coils of the type we can make use of."

"You sure?" Bers asked.

"Yes," Jaquan said. "I worked on tearing apart two ships like it. The coils won't be a perfect fit, but I can snip and adjust them."

Gaylen looked his crew over. Herdis was visibly nervous, though visibly trying to hide it. The rest looked about as tense as he felt the situation called for.

Good.

"Okay... here's the wrinkle: You've seen Jaquan going over our electronics. We can definitely make two descents and back, as long as we don't linger. But given that we're on our own out here I want him on board to be absolutely safe."

"So who is going to get those coils?" Herdis asked.

"That would be Kiris."

Everyone looked at the Chanei.

"You're good with electronics," Gaylen said. "After Jaquan, that makes you the most qualified."

She shrugged, neither elated not upset.

"Makes sense."

"But I'm not going to send you alone. Night time is falling down at the crash site. And the planet is known to have some people on it, as well as large predators. According to high-altitude cameras, anyway. So I want Ayna down there was well, to help keep an eye out."

"That also makes sense," Kiris said, now at Ayna.

"It does," the Dwyyk admitted.

"And Bers, you too," Gaylen added. "It might take muscle to clear obstacles in there."

"Mm!"

"Come on, man," Ayna said to Gaylen through a grin. "Give us something we can object about."

"Well, no."

"And me?" Herdis asked.

"I want you helping Jaquan with the engine."

"I'm not qualified," the woman pointed out.

"No, but I'll be piloting and you're the only one left. Just press or don't press whatever buttons Jaquan tells you to."

"But... what do we do down there?" Kiris asked. "We can't bring anything powered."

Gaylen turned to Jaquan, continuing his efforts to get the man to engage more.

"We will drop you off right on top of the hull," the man said after a moment of silence. "And you'll use that cutter."

He pointed at the tank-fed device he'd propped up on one of the counters.

"Plain gas," the engineer explained. "It ignites on contact with air. No electronics involved. Bers, you'd better be the one to carry it. Just cut open a hole and get inside. You'll... you'll get chemical lights to see your way."

"And the breaching charges?" Herdis asked. "The ones the pirates had. Aren't they just chemical as well?"

"They are," Gaylen admitted reluctantly. "And I suppose you should bring some along, just in case. But try to rely on the cutter, and don't use those charges anywhere near the engine."

"But what about those predators?" Ayna asked. "Being able to see them coming is all well and good, but I prefer being able to actually do something about them."

"Bers will be bringing his axe, I assume," Gaylen said, and the Outer Fringer grinned happily. "We also have this."

Up on the table he placed a plain old scattergun.

"Just powder and metal," he said. "Nothing modern, or complex. It'll fire just fine on a null-world."

"I don't think I've ever seen one of these outside of period films," Herdis mused.

"Why do you even have that?" Ayna asked.

"Like I said: Me and Jaquan have touched down on null-worlds before. As for the gun itself, weapons like this are still in use on some backwards worlds, and by game hunters who like to challenge themselves. And they can pass by some weapon scanners, but that's another matter."

"I also rigged this up," Jaquan said, and revealed his latest creation.

Next to the gun he placed a simple crossbow, made up of various parts from the storeroom.

"I also made five bolts."

He picked the weapon up again and displayed the basic mechanics of it.

"I'm no armourer, and certainly no ancient armourer."

He looked a little embarrassed.

"I mean, this thing will hold together and shoot, but whatever you're going to shoot at had better be close."

"Once you have the coils, just make your way up onto the hull and activate that," Gaylen said and pointed at the cake-sized object next to the cutter.

"Is that one of those super-flares?" Ayna asked.

"Yes. And again, it's just plain chemistry. It will burn very hot and flicker with a regularity that our ship cameras will easily detect. Then we'll swoop down and pick you up."

Gaylen fell silent and let everyone take this all in.

"It all sounds very logical," Kiris said.

"Of course it does. I'm a clever guy."

"Ah, just to address the heppatik in the room..." Ayna said with some awkwardness. "Who gets... which weapon?"

She alternated her index finger between the two.

"Girls keep guns," Bers said, and gripped one of his biceps with a grin.

"Well, the crossbow is the inferior weapon," Kiris said. "No offence Jaquan, but you said so yourself. And it's getting dark down there. So for maximum efficiency I feel it should be with the one who can see in the dark."

Ayna stared at the crude, hurriedly made crossbow. She clearly didn't relish it, but also clearly saw no way out.

"That's... also all very logical," she admitted.

Kiris smiled a little.

"Good," Gaylen said. "Now, we'll go over every piece of equipment you'll bring along, then start this thing. Are there any questions?"

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