Chapter Twenty Four

19 3 0

Ayna's bearings returned in doses as gunfire hissed to and fro up above. She recognised the looming station, the support platforms and shantytown, and as it dawned on her that it was all at an odd angle she started noting her own body.

She lay on her back in the slopes just below the platform, angled downwards. Experimental movements didn't result in any pain worse than bruising. The drop wasn't that long and reflexes or luck had softened the landing. And the falling bridge had missed her.

Ayna awkwardly rolled over onto her stomach, then started the process of getting all four limbs underneath her. The fighting above seemed to be in movement, along their original route to the docking area. And she couldn't very well just lie here and relax. She had to get up and run, in either direction. Anything other than wait to choke on the fumes or get noticed and shot.

She managed to rise, stumbled, corrected herself, and looked around for her dropped pistol. She turned just in time to see the Kavian hunter bear down on her. Instinct kicked in and she went for her shock baton with practised speed. But the hunter was faster.

Ayna didn't even really understand what happened next. All she knew was that the world spun before her eyes and suddenly she was face-down in the slope again, with an arm wrenched behind her back.

A metal collar closed around her neck with a disconcerting click, and immediately a cowl attached to the back of it began closing. It slid over the back of her head, then the top, and held in place as she was Ayna could only squirm as the dark material closed over her eyes, cutting off sight, then her mouth, muting her gasps, then slid down past her chin and closed on the other side, cutting off all sound.

Cowl sealed, an automated voice stated into her ears.

An armoured knee pressed down on her back, and Ayna tried flailing about as her other arm was seized. The collar shocked her at the violent movement, and she collapsed limply into the slope.

Cuffs closed around her wrists, and the hunter then pulled her to her feet. The cowl was as tight as a second skin, making breathing a labour even though the material was permeable.

Blind, deaf and mute Ayna could only feel as the hunter insistently pulled on her upper arms. And she could only comply. The collar would shock her at any hint of resistance. So, hating every step of it, she was lead off by the hunter.

# # #

The maintenance door slid open and Kiris was the first person back inside the station. Bers was the second, half-supporting and half-carrying Jaquan along.

A shot hit the outside wall, and Gaylen and Herdis hurried inside. He closed the door and activated the lock. There was a good chance the mercs had breaching charges, and a not inconsiderable one that they'd actually use them, station security be damned.

So he didn't stop to savour relatively fresh air, or having made it out of the immediate firing line at last. He didn't give his wheezing lungs or aching muscles a break. He just hurried on.

"Up, up, up!" he said, and went up the narrow flight of stairs as fast as the traffic in front would allow.

"What about Ayna?" Herdis said.

"We can't win this," Gaylen said. "We just can't. Jaquan, say something!"

"Something!" the man croaked out.

Herdis had hurriedly slapped a bandage on his wound, but more was needed. They needed to board the Addax.

Bers was wheezing by the time they topped the landing, clearly feeling his own wounds now that the fight was wearing out of his system. Gaylen stepped in and took Jaquan's working arm from him, wrapped it around his shoulders.

The First Run (The Sea of Stars 1)Where stories live. Discover now