Then again, this was originally a 2000 word short story, so who knows? This may end up having another 80,000 words.
The Artist finished laying in the next leg of the course, and leaned back in the chair. She had been enjoying this trip, even if it was a little quiet.
She had had so much time to think since she had escaped the Arc, and no chances for art. It was a sad state of affairs that she found herself in.
Ah well. That would soon be remedied. For she was heading back. Back to the Sniper, back to the game, back to that wonderful dance that they had going. Then she would find Lian, kill her, and kill anyone else who got in her way. She smiled at the thought.
Ah, to dance again like in the old days. She remembered the first time that she had danced knives with someone. It had been soon after she and Lian had arrived at Star’s End.
The small escape vessel docked with the larger station. They had received permission to dock, and now had done so. They would begin negotiations for living there.
“Sho, you can put down the knife” Lian glanced sideways at her. Sho could see that this snobby stuck up girl was for some reason worried about her.
She didn’t care, and so she didn’t respond.
But whatever Lian had been going to say Sho never learned for the hatch to the pod opened into a grimy dark metal hallway. Three men stood at the entrance. Their eyes widened when they saw that it was just two little girls.
When Sho saw them she was reminded of Rathum.
“We’d like to negotiate permission to live on this mining station. We are willing to trade our vessel for berths and positions on the crew”
The men looked at Lian like she was crazy.
“You’re kids. And you’re covered in blood!”
The one stepped forwards, then backed up again as Sho raised her knife.
“Look, I don’t mean you any harm. You girls need somewhere to stay, thats clear. Where are your parents?”
Lian sniffed before answering “Dead”
Sho looked at the other men and tried to judge their reactions. One’s eye twitched.
“Captain…we can’t take them in” Twitch evidently did not like them very much “Two little girls on the station? They’ll be a nuisance, and a danger. And what if we get caught with them? I betcha that they are on the run from the Council; thats why they are here”
But the first man waved a hand to silence him.
“You two girls can come with me; I’ll see that you both get a berth and yes, if you like, a place in the crew. But you don’t need to work. You two just stay here as long as you need, and when you are done you can take your vessel and leave. Until then we’ll use it”
“I said be quiet Marks. Jacobs, ring Suzanne. Tell her that we’ve got two new crewmembers coming aboard and that she should get the two smallest uniforms that we have”
The rest of the day had passed in a blur. Sho had learned that Suzanne was the quartermaster, and one of the best out there apparently. She found outfits that were easy enough to tailor to fit the girls. The rest of the crew looked on in surprise, but between Jacobs, the Captain, and Suzanne they learned the story, and were told to accept the two little girls.
The days passed, and Sho and Lian grew used to the life. They would help crawl into small spaces in the machines that others couldn’t reach, and repair things there. Lian always was the better mechanic, but Sho tried her best.
And time passed. A week, a month, three months. Nothing happened, not really. And Lian was happy to be doing something, but Sho boiled inside. Everyday spent cooped up, spent in this pen, this cage, was another day that she went more and more insane.
So it was that when the Captain offered to let them come along on a trip to negotiate trade rights Sho gladly said yes. Lian said yes because she had decided to protect Sho like a little sister.
They had moved the Star’s End closer to Maker’s Rock, the larger station near Saturn that was selling off the mining rights to different areas of Saturn’s rings.
They launched in the vessel that Sho and Lian had arrived in. It had been cleaned up, the registration numbers filed off, and the blood all washed out.
“Lets go girls” The captain swung himself into the seat of the optimistically named New Start “Now, these guys are not like our crew; they are mean, and can be cruel. Are you two sure that you want to come?”
They both nodded, and the Captain spun his chair back to face the window.
“Ok then. Strap in”
He began to punch in the launch sequence as the New Start lurched away from the the mining station and drifted over to Maker’s Rock. An uglier station, more a chunk of rock than an actual ship it hung in space like a lump of debris.
With a clanking noise the docking ring clamped shut on the airlock of the New Start.
The Captain and Suzanne got up from their seats and walked to the airlock. It cycled open, and something bounced through the hatch.
“Grenade!” The Captain dove through the door in a roll, hand going to the pistol he always kept at his belt while Suzanne turned and tackled the two girls to the floor. Sho heard Lian his in pain. Something was probably bent at the wrong angle. Then there was a flash of light and a loud boom.
Suzanne pushed the two away, and Sho could see her lips moving, but could not hear anything. Then Suzanne shoved her and Lian towards the seats, underneath the console and Sho understood. She grabbed Lian and dragged her beneath the console, popped the instrument panel open, and crawled inside.
As she shut the hatch behind Lian she saw three men storm into the cabin and kick Suzanne.
After a few moments their hearing returned and Lian turned to Sho.
“We’ve got to help them”
“But they’ll shoot the ship before we could get it anywhere…what can we do?”
“We can’t fight the whole station!”
“Because we can’t! There are too many of them”
“Could the Captain and Suzanne fight them?”
“They’d stand a better chance”
“Then we’ll free them. Crawl into the ducts, and turn off the lights. Shut down their power”
“And what will you be doing?” And then Lian’s eyes widened as she realized what Sho was planning to do “No, no, Sho, you can’t, you don’t even have-”
“A weapon? I have this” Sho stroked the hilt of Rathum’s knife, sheathed at her belt “And I have my mind”
Lian shook her head.
“This won’t work. Its too dangerous. I can’t let you go”
Sho turned and popped the hatch open. The man sitting in the chair swore as the cover banged his shins, then began to scream as Sho stabbed the knife into his groin.
“Ahh…agh! Little girl…why? What?”
Then Sho pulled the knife free, and jumped past him. As she went she sliced his neck with the blade, silencing him.
“If you don’t want me to die, cut the power”
Sho crept through the corridors of the station as she searched for the brig. She turned a corner, and saw a man typing at a terminal. Ducking behind a few crates stacked against the wall she circled the man. Then lights started to flicker. Lian was doing her part. Good.
Sho drew her knife and the rasping of metal on the sheath made the man spin towards her and stop staring at the lights.
“You thinking to kill me girly? Stab me in the back? Well, why don’t you just slide that knife over here, and I’ll show you how a real man uses his blade”
Sho leapt into the air, kicked off the pipes on the wall, and launched herself towards the man. His eyes widened as her blade slashed through his neck. He collapsed, making chuffing noises, before falling on his face.
The Captain was somewhere in here. She liked the man who had taken them in, and he did not deserve to be killed by these pirates.
She stepped forwards and another man came around the corner. His eyes narrowed.
“You killed him. I’m guessing that that means you aren’t to be taken lightly”
The man drew two daggers and stepped towards her. He didn’t have a gun, which was good, or else she’d be dead.
Sho flipped the knife over in her hand into a more natural grip. The man came forwards, slowly, wary of the small girl.
Sho leapt forwards, swinging her knife back and forth as she bounced off the one wall for some added momentum. He brought the one knife up to block her strike, and then swung the other at her. It nicked her cheek, leaving a long thin cut along her cheekbone.
She landed, hissing at the pain as blood splashed a trail behind her.
The man turned “Give up now, and I’ll make your death quick. I can’t promise that you’ll live, but you won’t suffer what the others would put you through. You make this last too long, they’ll arrive and then there is no saying what will happen”
Sho ignored the man’s comments and looked at his fighting style. He had dropped into a knife fighters crouch and held one blade in each direction, one an extension of his arm, and the other laying back along his arm. He knew how to handle his blades, but for some reason, so did Sho.
She smiled as she lunged forwards again, and jumped. He raised his knives in preparation for defending against the same tactic, but she instead pushed off the wall aiming down. He brought his blade down in time to force her away from a killing blow but she sliced his leg as she rolled past him and back to her feet.
“Girl, give it up”
Sho leapt again, and this time landed ahead of him and ran in. She saw his next move and raised her knife, but he kicked her anyways. Her knife stabbed into his thigh and he hissed, but then she was flying, her chest aching.
He pulled her knife from his leg and took a step towards her, and then the lights went out completely.
“What?” Sho could hear him moving, and so lunged.
Fighting past the ache in her chest she dove for where he had dropped her knife, and rolling picked it up and threw it.
She heard the wet noise as it stabbed into his body, and then a groan and thump as he fell over.
“Girl…you were better than me. But, you should still run. Get out. Go somewhere. Because there are others coming, and they will do worse things to you than I ever would have done”
And then he died.
Sho wiped her knife on his shirt, and took his knives. They would serve her well.
Then she turned and ran further into the ship.
The Artist felt at the scar that traced her cheekbone. It had never healed properly, but she liked it that way. It taught her the lesson time and time again of not underestimating an opponent.
She remembered the rest of the night in less detail; together she and Lian had killed many of the pirates until they had finally freed the Captain. Fighting their way onto the bridge they had forced the Captain of Maker’s Rock to sign over the mining rights to the entire ring system.
That moment had been the creation of the Arc. But that was not important to Sho. That had been the day that she had truly fallen in love with her art.She leaned back in the seat as the strange new type of engine flew her straight to Mars, the Sniper, and her destiny.