A Story of the Star Blade Battalion

To The Pleiades

Episode 2 (2180.05.02)
by Shawn Hagen (all around rapscoundrel and ner-do-well.) (1997)


Starblade Battalion is the Property of R.Talsorian Games.

Jerking, the elevator took them down below the street level.

Emiko leaned against the back of the cab, staring up at the numbers. Her broken nose was beginning to hurt again, she was tired, scared and her period had started. All in all she'd rather be back at school with everything like it had been.

She and Match had arrived in San Francisco almost two days ago. Since then they had been moving, never in one place for more than an hour. Match told her that he was checking things out, making arrangements and that was all he told her. Other than giving her the drugs for the pain and the aphedamines that kept her going, he did not have much to say to her.

Emiko wondered if he was mad at her.

"Where are we?" Emiko asked, tired of just being pulled around.

"Berkeley People's Zenith," he said to her. "This is where the plastic surgeon is," he added, surprising her with the extra information.

"Not much of a location," she said as the elevator jerked again.

"He's not much of a doctor, as far as the medical authorities are concerned."


" Don't worry. It was nothing important anyway."

"What wasÉ" she stopped as the doors opened and Match walked out. She quickly followed after him. The corridor she found herself in was dark and damp. She almost tripped on some pipes that ran along the floor. They were deep in the Zenith, not the sort of place most people ever came to.

Match stopped and began to bang on part of the wall. At least Emiko thought it was part of the wall. When it suddenly slid back, letting bright light into the corridor she realized once again that not all was what it seemed in the world she had been thrown into.

Match entered with her only a few steps behind. Once she was in she heard the door close behind her.

The room was very bright, mostly light colors, and a lot of light. A short man sat behind a desk of glass and steel, staring down at the surface.

"Good afternoon Match," the man said without looking up. "Who's your friend?"

"Afternoon Doc. She's a terrorist if you believe the police."

"Who ever does? What do you need?"

"Give her a different look."

"Well," he looked up at them. "Something of interest."

Emiko stifled a small gasp. The man's eyes were flat black. He stood up.

"I have to get her off planet."

"I can do something," he said as he came around the desk and looked at Emiko. She shivered slightly, the eyes were so alien. "How different you want to look?"

"Completely," Match said.

"I want my friends and family to know who I am," she said at the same time.

"Don't be ridiculous," Match told her.

"Haven't I had to go through enough changes?"

"Don't worry," the doctor said. "I know just how to handle this so everyone will be happy."

"Don't screw around here," Match warned the man, giving him a hard look.

"I am a professional," he smiled.

"Yea," Match nodded. "Here," he took a bill fold from his jacket pocket. "Once you are done, take her picture and slap it into all these pieces of ID. You can handle that if I remember correctly."

"A sad society when a doctor has to also be a forger," he said taking the bill fold and opening it up. "She doesn't look like a Dorris," he said.

"Well make her look like one," Match said. "I'm taking the back exit out of here. I'll be back in about four hours."

"We'll be ready," the doctor said.

"Better be. Stay here," he said to Emiko, then turned and left.

"My name is Andrew Smith," he said after Match was gone.

"Emiko Miya," she said after a moment. "Are you really a doctor?"

"Yes, but I lost my license to practice a few years ago."


"Why do you want to know?"

"You'll be operating on me soon."

"ToucheÉ," he laughed. "I had a slight drug problem. I liked selling them too much."


"Don't worry. I am a very good plastic surgeon. Come along," he turned and walked towards one of the doors in the office. Emiko walked after him.

He led her into a white room. There was a chair in the middle of the room and little else.

"Take a seat," he said as he walked to the far wall. As he ran his hands over the white material drawers began to open out of the wall. Emiko sat down. The chair was well padded and felt more like a bed. She suddenly felt tired.

"Okay, while I do a little cutting, most of the work will be completed by nanotech robots," Andrew said as he removed several injectors from one of the drawers.

"Will they stay in me?" Emiko asked, her voice quavering slightly.

"What?" he turned to face her. "No. Most of them I'll flush out, any that remain will deactivate themselves and be removed from the body naturally in a few days."


He walked over to the chair and tapped some of the controls on the arm. A number of holographic screens appeared in the air. "You have no cyberware," he said after a moment.


"Slightly odd. Close your eyes."

Emiko did so. After a moment she heard a low hum and felt bands of heat pass over face.

"Open them," Andrew said.

Emiko opened her eyes then began to blink as bright lights flashed into them.

"Okay," Andrew did something and the light was gone. In the air above her a 3D holograph of her face formed. "That will do it."

"Now what?"

"Now I spend an hour or two programming the nanites to do their job. Are you tired?"

"A little."

"How about I put you out now. The next little while is boring and you don't need to be awake for it."

"What about the changes?"

"You don't have any real say in them."

"I guess."

"Relax. I'll fix your nose too, it must hurt. What happened to it?"

"Match broke it."

"Ahh, one if his instant disguises."


"Well, we'll have that all taken care of in a few hours. Here, put this under your tongue, begin to count backwards from 100," he handed her a small tablet.

"I've been taking aphdemines and pain killers," she said as she took the tablet.

"This won't react badly with anything already in your system."

"Oh," she put the tablet under her tongue. "100, 99, 98, 97," she mumbled.

"If you could have any eye colour in the world what would it be?" he asked her.

"92, pardon? Oh. The colour they are now."

"Right," he nodded.

"91, 90, 89, 88, 87, 86," her voice trailed off and she slumped into the chair.

"I can do wonders with you," he told her, taking her chin in his fingers and turning her face towards him. Then Andrew released her face and began preparing the IV.

"How many fingers am I holding up?" a far away voice asked her.


"How many fingers," the voice asked again. It was coming from a blurry shape in front of her.

"Ten," she guessed.

"Try again," the blur said. This time it was less a blur and more of a coherent shape.

"Four," she said. It looked like it was holding up about four fingers.

"Close enough. I'm going to stand you up now. Lean on me."

"Hai," she said.

With a quick pull Andrew had her out of the chair and on her feet. She fell forward but he caught her.

"You might feel a bit of tenderness around your face for the next few days, but don't let it worry you. It will go away on its own."

Emiko said nothing, just let him direct her out of the room. Shapes were beginning to get clearer and she recognized Andrew. He brought her into a new room with a low bed in it. After getting her close he eased her down so she was sitting on the bed then lifted her legs onto it.

"Lie down," he said as he lowered her back to the covers, "and get some rest. I have some forgeries to prepare."

Emiko was already asleep.

"What about her friends?" Sam asked.

Emiko's mother looked at the officer across from her. Her husband was behind her, holding her. "All her friends were from school," she said.

"We've talked to them Okusan," Ryu said. "Was there anyone else?"

"Ota-kun," she said after a moment.

"Dare?" Sam asked her.

"Ota Takashi," Emiko's father said. "He was more of a friend of Makoto, our son. I think Emiko had a slight crush on him. He's a reporter. Tokyo Shinbun."

"How could this happen," Takako said. "I never thought that she would do anything like that. She was a good girl, really," she looked at Sam and Ryu. "I should have been a better mother," she began to cry, putting her face in her hands.

Shingo held his wife tighter and looked at the officers. "Is there anything else you need?"

"No Miya-san, that is everything. Thank you."

"Don't hurt my daughter. This can't be her fault."

"We'll try out best," Ryu said as he got to his feet.

"Shitsurei shimasu," Sam said.

A few minutes later the two officers were in their car, driving towards the office of the Tokyo Shinbun.

"What do you think now?" Sam asked.

"Her mother seems to have given up on her. Her father thinks she is guilty, a victim, but still guilty."

"If you had heard everything about me that we have heard about that girl, would you think I was guilty?"

"Maybe," Ryu said after a moment.

"I think we have to be careful on this one. She might actually be innocent."

"Why did she run?"

"She was scared."

"Scared people don't run and hide like she has. Professionals run and hide like that."

"So she had help."

"Why would they help her unless she was one of them?"

Sam said nothing.

"Ota-san, there are two police officers in your office," one of the office ladies called to him as he walked into to main room.

"Do they have a warrant?"

"Not that they showed."

"Must be about all those parking tickets then," he said, walking towards his office.

When he opened the door he found two men in his office. The Caucasian was seated, a cup of coffee in his hands. The Japanese one was looking through his filing cabinet.

"You won't find anything of interest in there," Takashi said as he came into the room, closing the door behind him.

Ryu had the decency to look a little embarrassed as he closed the drawer.

"So what can I do for you officers?" Takashi said as he took a seat behind his desk.

"We'd like to ask you some questions about Miya Emiko-san," Sam told him.

"I bet you would. Go for it," he smiled.

"What do you think of her?"

"Cute kid. A little chunky. I don't believe anything that the news is saying about her."

"You spent a lot of time with her."

"Not lately. When Makoto-san, her brother, was around I saw her almost daily. She tagged along with us. These days, I would meet her in the morning every few days, say hello. She'd tell me what Makoto was up to, that was about it. Sometimes we went and saw a movie or had dinner."

"Why did you go to movies with her?" Ryu demanded.

"She was cute," he smiled. "And she had a crush on me. I kind of liked having her around."

"Did you have any romantic intentions?"

"Romantic? No. Sexual? Maybe. She was my best friend's little sister though."

"I see," Sam said, not wanting Ryu to ask any more questions. "Do you have any idea where she is now?"

"Checked some of her friend's houses?"


"Then no. Emi-chan was not a very independent person. She needed someone to look out for her."

"Who would do that?"

"Her friends, me, her brother."

"What about her parents?"

"As bad as this might seem, I think Takako-san would be happy to turn her over. She was always a little embarrassed about her. Shingo-san would feel bad, but he would hand her over as well."

"I see," Sam said. "You wouldn't be helping her would you?"

"If I was it would not be in my best interests to tell you. If she came to me for help, I'd give her all that I could and I would not tell you."

"What if she were really guilty?" Ryu asked.

"Can you show me some proof?"

"Thank you for your time," Ryu said as he walked towards the door. "We'll have more questions for you later."

"I'll be waiting."

Ryu said nothing more. He opened the door and left.

"Gomen ne," Sam said as he followed after Ryu.

"Ja," Takashi said as Sam left.

"What do you think?" Ryu asked a short time later as they walked towards the exit.

"If he's lying, he's very good."

"That's what I was thinking as well."

"So you believe him?"


"Do you believe anyone?"


"Emiko, get up," Match said as he shook the girl and turned her over. Once he got a look at her face he turned towards Andrew. "What is this?"

"What you both wanted."

"What?" Emiko asked as she sat up. She felt much more alert than she had the first time she awoke.

"This will attract attention," Match said.

"Which is why it is so perfect," Andrew said smugly. "Who will suspect her?"

"What did he do?" Emiko got to her feet.

"Here," Andrew smiled and handed her a mirror.

She took it and looked at herself. Her skin was a few shades lighter. Her hair much longer. Her nose was smaller, better shaped and her chin weaker than it had been. Her eyes were a lighter shade of brown with green flecks. She was beautiful.

"I think all your friends and family will recognize you, especially as I didn't change the voice and your mannerisms will be the same. On the other hand, anyone who only has a picture to go on will not connect you with the Emiko Miya, the terrorist. And while you are very attractive, you were quite easy to work with by the way, most of it was already there, that will work for you. People don't try to hide by making themselves stunning."

"You just had to be a master," Match shook his head.

"I am a master. She wanted something, you wanted something and I wanted something. All three of us have got what we wanted. Where's the problem."

"This isn't me," Emiko said, prodding at her face with her fingers. It was a bit tender, but not painful.

"It is the you you were meant to be," Andrew said, sounding like a commercial.

"No it isn't," she said, throwing the mirror onto the bed and walking from the room.

"Now what was that about?" Andrew asked. He had been performing plastic surgery for years an no one was upset who looked better at the end.

"Not something I would have thought."


"I've met people who have grown into their looks, good or bad. Accepted them and never worried about them. Usually never so young though."

"What? Are you saying she was happy with the way she was?"

"Hard as that may be for you to accept, yes."

Andrew shook his head, clearly not believing it.

"Here," Match took a bundle of currency from his pocket and pressed it into the doctor's hands. "We were never here."

"I've been on vacation this entire week."

"Glad to hear it," Match said as he left the room.

Emiko was pacing back and forth across the room where she had first met Andrew. Every few seconds she would stop and look into one of the mirrors, looking at the new face she had. It was her, she recognized herself, but at the same time it was not.

"It is not so bad," Match said as he came into the room.

"It is not me."

"Would it have been so bad if he made you homely?"


"Would you mind if you were ugly?"

"I don't know."

"I think you took a certain amount of pride in not being quite perfect. I think you considered it something that gave you strength. It might have. If so it is not gone. Looks never matter. You are still the same person."

"I don't know."

"Trust me. Come on,"

"Where are we going?"

"Hotel. We both could use a good night's sleep. Tomorrow we get out of here."

"Where to now," Emiko asked as she walked towards him.

"Orbital colonies, then beyond," he told her.

Only the flickering light of the TV screen lit the room. Emiko had a pair of earphones on, an antiquated piece of tech provided only for children. On the TV she watched as Yuki was interviewed. She hugged her legs to her chest and listened as Yuki went to great length about all of Emiko's short comings. It was obvious that she was not at all surprised that she had turned out to be a terrorist.

Before her they had interviewed Alice. Alice had only received about twenty seconds in which to say she was sure that all the charges against Emiko were lies. Yuki had been talking for almost four minutes about how she was sure that they were all true.

"What did you do to that girl," Match asked. "run over her puppy or something?" He had been both listening and watching the broadcast over his datalink, faking sleep all the time.

"Worse. I always proved her wrong when she said I would fail."

"Ah," Match got out of his bed and stood up. He took a step then sat down on her bed. Reaching over he pushed the blanket from her shoulders. "You have had a hard few days," he said as he began to massage her shoulders.

"The worse," Emiko couldn't help but to laugh. She was suddenly conscious of the man behind her. Of his smell, of the strength and gentleness in his fingers.

"It will be over soon. You'll be safe."

"But I won't be able to go home."

"Not now. Maybe in the future."

"My parents think I am guilty. Many of my friends aren't sure, but with the news being as it is they will be convinced soon enough. How can it ever be the same?"

"We all go through changes, we put the past behind. This one is just being forced on you and more drastic than most. Relax. You are too tense," he dug his fingers into her shoulders.

Emiko leaned back against him, feeling the muscles in his chest. She remembered how sacred she had been when she had first seen him. He had been cruel to her, hurt her, but he had protected her since she had first met him. He did not lie to her, did not tell her that things were fine. He told her how things were and how they were not as bad as they had been.

"Sleep with me," Emiko said softly. She was a little surprised at the request. She had never had sex, before but Match seemed like the perfect partner.

"No," he told her.


"Because you will think that it is only because of how you look now."

Emiko said nothing. After a few minutes he returned to his bed. Emiko stayed up until the news about her was over then turned off the TV and lay down. She looked over at Match and wondered if he would have been so nice to her had she looked the way she had before.

Match pushed the accelerator to the floor to pass a large truck. He merged back into the fast lane and retained the speed he had built up when passing. He looked over at Emiko and wondered if he should have slept with her the night before. Being some girl's first time, he assumed, was not his idea of a pleasant evening. There was too much pressure.

"Ever been into space before?" he asked her, getting tired of the silence.

"A few times," she told him, staring out the passenger window at the traffic. "Few vacations up to High Five, a trip to the Saturn cities, a tour of a carrier with my father once," she shrugged her shoulders.

"Better than some. Bothered by zero G?"

"Other than the fact I'm totally useless in it, not really."

"We're going up to High Five, so many people there no one will notice us. From there I'll get you on a ship that will take you to the Pleiades. I'll leave you once you are aboard that ship."

"You're not coming with me?" she turned to look at him.

"No. I got business to take care of here."

"More business like me?"

"Perhaps. Lot of people might want to run soon."

"Do you know what is happening?"

"No more so than you I think. We have a war here that I can't figure. It is pointless. Unless you believe that the colonists are really going to destroy all those worlds."

"They'd have to work pretty hard at it."

Match nodded.

"Do you think I will ever be able to come home?"

"Truthfully? I've heard it said no one can come home again. You can try, but do you think you will be the same person then?"

"I'm not the same person now," she said.

Match did not feel like getting into that conversation and said nothing.

A few minutes later they were pulling into the parking complex that served the Alameda Spaceport. Match parked the car then got out and walked back to the trunk. Emiko got out of the car and looked around.

"Here," Match said, putting her suitcase down on the ground. He placed her carry on bag on top of it. "Let's go," he told her as he slammed the trunk closed.

Emiko walked over and picked up the carry on bag, putting the strap over her shoulder. She grabbed the suitcase's pull leash and dragged it behind her. The gyroscope in the suitcase kept it upright so Emiko did not give it much attention as she pulled it over curbs, up and down escalators and the like. She would often find herself looking around. She was worried about getting caught. Match would tell her to relax whenever he noticed her doing so.

She was getting a lot of looks, but none seemed suspicious. When she passed some reflective surface she would suddenly realize why people were looking at her. Would it have been better if she had been homely? she wondered. Was she prejudiced against the good looking? No, she did not think so. Maybe Match had been right. Maybe she had just liked having it as a problem to deal with, something she could stoically accept. If that was true, it was sort of funny. She had not been that unattractive.

She was feeling a little better, but only a little, when they reached the baggage and ticket check. They got into the first class line, showed their tickets handed their baggage over, then went onto the security check.

The man at the weapon/explosive detector seemed to give her a little more attention than anyone else, but he hardly looked at her passport or the monitors behind his station.

Once they were through Match led the way, seeming familiar with the layout.

"You got to give Andrew credit," he said as he stepped onto one of the moving sidewalks.

"I suppose," Emiko said, leaning against the rail.

"We won't have any trouble on the flight, but once we reach High Five act cool, but don't let your guard slip."

"I thought you said no one would notice us."

"They won't, which is why someone might be up there hoping we'll show. It is where I'd watch. The number of people going through there make watching hard. They might get lucky though."


"Nothing is easy when you are on the run."

Emiko thought about that, then nodded after a moment.

When they reached the boarding terminal Match used the first class tickets to pre-board then went straight to his seat. Once he had his carry on stowed he dropped into his seat and went to sleep.

Emiko wasn't that relaxed. She pulled her computer from her bag, logged onto the Dataweb and downloaded a magazine. Short skirts were coming back in, she thought, looking over the article. That would mean everyone at school would be rolling up the waistbands of their skirts, using belts to hold them up high. She shook her head. At least there was one good thing about leaving.

Sam floated near the departures gates, watching people. Ryu had sent him up to High Five on the off chance that they might get lucky. Sam suspected that Ryu was not really that hopeful, but he was grasping at anything. Ryu was wandering the ruins of Rome, probably getting into fire fights with the gangs as he tried to find their girl there.

So Sam, and a few other officers he had brought with him, were hoping to find a needle in a haystack.

He looked around, wondering when Ryu was going to call it off, when he spotted someone. She was gone almost before he had registered her. There had been something very familiar about that brief flash of a profile he had seen.

He got onto the private channel he had arranged for the team and sent two of his men around on ether side then he moved off in the direction he had last seen the person.

Emiko almost screamed when Match yanked her back into a corridor they had just exited. She almost forgot to grab onto one of the wall mounted handholds and nearly ended up floating off.

"What?" she asked after a moment, keeping her voice down.

"Saw a man I know, high up in the USSA criminal investigations. Last I heard he had been transferred to Tokyo," he told her as he looked around.

"Do you think he is here about me?"

"He only got a brief glance at you, but I swear his eyes lit up."

"So what do we do now?"

Match did not answer her. She guessed he was in a Dataweb conversation with whomever they were to meet. After almost a minute he looked down at her. "Come on," he said, heading back the way they had come, towards the toroid they had just left.

The toroids rotated around the central cylinder, providing the gravity that the population required. There were 6 of the rings around the cylinder of High Five. They were heading back into the fourth from the North end of the cylinder. Soon gravity returned and they had to take an elevator down to the street level of the toroid.

"Okay," Match said as he headed off. "Change of plans."


"We're going to get you out of here in a less than normal way."


"Space walk. Come on," he increased his pace.

"What do you mean?"

"The ship that is to pick you up will be waiting near one of the airlocks. You go out, they grab you. Easy."


"Trust me. It's not like you have any choice."

"I could turn myself in."

"Not really much of an option," he told her as he ducked down an alley and stopped in front of a maintenance door.

"Maybe better than just jumping out into space."

"Relax," he told her as he picked the lock on the door then opened it. A set of stairs led down into the lower levels of the toroid.

"I don't want to relax."

"You better," he said, ushering her through the door before following her and closing it.

"Isn't there some other way we can do this?"

"No. Here, you might need this," he handed her a pistol.

Emiko looked at the weapon for a moment, then reached out and took it from him.

"The safety is on, no round in the breach."

"Wakatta," she said, putting the weapon in the waistband of her pants, pulling her jacket over it.

"Let's go," he slid around her then headed down the stairs.

Sam looked around, trying to second guess his quarry. Where would he go in a similar situation? Around to one of the other spokes, back up to the central cylinder. It seemed likely. He turned around and headed back the way he had come. If she stayed down here there was no easy way off the colony, at least no way in which she could go far.

Match stopped at airlock and cycled it open. He moved in and opened the storage cupboards. "Damn," he said, closing the door and leaving the airlock.

"What is it," Emiko asked.

"Nothing, come on."

Emiko followed after him. He had looked in two other airlocks and had not been happy with either. He would not tell her what he was looking for.

"You two," some one called from behind them. "This area is off limits to all civilian personnel."

Match pushed Emiko off into a cross corridor, then dove to the side, pulling a pistol from within his coat. The man behind him, a member of the colony's security simply stared without doing anything. Match shot him twice.

Emiko was just pushing herself off the floor when the shots rang out. She jumped up and ran back out to the corridor. There was a man lying on the floor.

"You killed him," she said, looking back at the body.

"Probably," Match said, grabbing her by the elbow and propelling her down the corridor.


"There are no buts," he cut her off.

A few seconds later an alarm began to sound.

"Well, that's it," he said, running, dragging her along behind.

"What do we do now."

"The same things we were going to do before, just the hard way."

When the alarm sounded Sam immediately checked in with station security. They told him there had been a report of gun fire. It was too close to the area when the girl he had been trying to follow had gone to ground to be a coincidence.

He called his team together, taking a chance, and headed back down towards the toroid.

"The ship that will pick you up will be passing within one hundred meters of this airlock," Match told her as he worked on the airlock's control panel. "They won't be able to stay that close long, station control will be having a fit. You won't get a second chance."

"What do I do?"

"When the light on this com changes to red, hit the cycle button. It will initiate an emergency decompression. That will blow the outer lock open. No one will be able to stop you from going."

"Okay," she nodded, wondering how she could be so clam.

"Hold onto the handle here," he patted the hand hold neat the door. "And hold on tight."


"Wait until the ship is right across from you. Once they are in position they will flash a set of red lights, real bright ones. It will be obvious. At that point bend your legs, point yourself at the lights, and push off like your life depended on it."

"It does, I take it."


"Okay. Where is my vac-suit?"

"That is the problem."


Match opened the locker and pulled out a small package with several air cylinders mounted on it. "This is a rescue ball. You crawl in, and basically wait from someone to come and pick you up. You just float. Not at all useful for this."

"Well, can't I float and wait for them to come and get me?"


"Why not?"

"Because that will take too much time. You got about ten seconds after the airlock opens before they can do something."

"Like what?"

"Like hit you with the station's defense guns."

"They wouldn't."

"They might. They might also just fire on the ship to disable it."

"So what am I supposed to do?"

"You can survive hard vacuum for ten or fifteen seconds, maybe more. You'll probably lose your sight, but they've got a good sick bay over there and will be able to put you right. Their doctor has plenty of experience dealing with decompression sickness."

"I think I'll turn myself in."

"That is not an option."


"Because I'm to kill you before I let you get captured. You know too much."

"Jodan ja nai."

"Right. It isn't a joke. It never has been. I don't know what you thought you were getting into when you agreed to spy on the USSA but it was not a game. You either have to be beyond their reach, or dead."

"Wouldn't it have been easier just to kill me right off?"

"I don't want to kill you, you don't want to die. This will not be easy. I've done it once and it almost did me in. I figure you got a seventy percent chance."

She stared at him for a moment and tried to remember the man she had wanted to sleep with. It seemed ridiculous now. "I hate this."

"I'm not surprised."

"I hate you."

"You have that gun."

She looked at the com. "When it flashes red?"

"When it flashes red. Good luck, Emiko-san."

"I'll need it."

"If you are ever back in Earth space, look me up," he winked at her then left the airlock, sealing the door behind him. Emiko suspected that she would have a hard time opening that door.

Standing by the control panel, one hand on the hand hold, one holding the com, she waited and tried to remember what little she had read about the drill for emergency decompression. It did not seem like enough.

She almost dropped the com when the light flashed red on it. As she expelled the air from her lungs she put the com unit into her carryon bag. Reaching out she tapped the cycle button. She heard the soft booming as the outer hatch was blown clear, but then she heard no more. The air whipped by her, almost pulling her out with it.

Small globes of red were floating in front of her. Her blood, she realized. Already her vision was tinged with red. Out in front of her, looking so far away, was a boxy ship, dark in color. She could only see it because of the bright running lights on it. Then a group of lights flashed a bight, intense red.

Bending her legs, she centered herself on the pattern of lights. She was beginning to feel light headed. Her lungs starting to burn. It was all happening so fast. She could see more blood floating around her.

She pushed off the edge of the lock, launching herself into open space.

Sam had just made it under the streets when he got a message about one of the airlocks being blown open. A moment later someone had given him a direct feed from one of the station's outer cameras. Single person, no vac-suit, hard to make anything out about the person, though he was fairly sure it was female.

There was a ship out there as well.

Impossible, he thought, no one would take that chance. Someone was though. He wanted to order the station to open fire with the defense guns but it was all happening so fast.

Then there was another figure, that one in a vacc suit, tethered to the ship. That person grabbed the girl. As soon as contact was made the ships was accelerating. The force as the tether snapped taught must have been punishing, nearly deadly, but the ship was soon out of the guns range.

No one would do that, Sam thought. No one but a pro. It was too crazy. Only a professional could have pulled that off, been willing to take the chance. He did not accept that fact that anyone else, no matter how desperate, would try that.

Maybe Ryu was right about the girl.

"How long was she out there," the doctor yelled as they moved the gurney along the corridors. The captain had stopped accelerating so they were in zero G.

"About 14 seconds," he was told by the man who had pulled her in.

"Long time," he said as he injected her with an oxygen carrier.

Once they had her in the sick bay, they got her strapped onto the table--a precaution against acceleration--and went to work.

"Okay, get an IV going into her, a mix of plasma and oxygen carriers. Don't even try to find a vein, do a cut down, two bags, full open," he told his aide. He opened one of the instrument drawers and pulled out the decompression kit. He cracked it open and removed one of the injectors.

"I lost the pulse," the nurse said.

"Shock her."

"Charging," the woman said as she reached for the paddles. The aide stopped preparing the IV and took a moment to cut her shirt open, slicing through the bra as well. Then he grabbed a tube of conducting paste and squeezed some out for the nurse. She sandwiched the paste between the paddles and rubbed them on each other to get even coverage. "Clear," she called after a few seconds.

Everyone stood back as she placed the paddles on Emiko's chest and triggered them. Emiko's body jerked up as the electricity ran through her.

The nurse put the paddles aside and checked her pulse again. "Got a beat, strong and steady."

"Okay, get her hooked up," the doctor said as he put the injector against her neck and triggered it.

"Got an IV in."

"Great, now get the other one in," he said as he took a second injector from the kit.

"Doc, we got to light up the engines," the captain's voice came over the intercom.

"Okay," he said, not that he could say anything else. He grabbed one of the handholds and gave the girl another shot in the thigh.

A moment later the ship was accelerating forward and everyone was having problems. Not the best way to work, the doctor thought as he grabbed the IV bag and began to squeeze it.

Emiko blinked her eyes against the bright light.

"Where" she said but stopped, her throat felt like sandpaper.

"Aboard the Charybdis Cruiser 'Mandarin'. I'm your doctor, John Manabe. It was pretty close there, but you'll pull through. You are going to be hurting for a few days, and it will be a week or two before your eyesight is back to where it was. The nano bodies will be working for a while on everything."

"Nano bodies," she managed to get out. The man talking to her was mostly a blur.

"Standard treatment. Not permanent I'm afraid. They'll be flushed from your body in a month at most. Of course, until then you won't have to worry about getting a cold and cuts will heal fast," he laughed.

"Great," Emiko said, closing her eyes.

"Get some rest. We'll be making the shunt in a while. Then you'll be out of USSA space and safe in the Pleiades.

Emiko said nothing. She wanted to sleep but hurt just a little too much. Lying there, not moving, not talking, seemed like a good alternative.

"How's your patient?" Captain Jess asked.

"As well as you could expect."

"That bad," she smiled.

"She'll be all right," John said. "What happens to her once we get to the Pleiades?"

"We take her to Solingen and drop her off there. Someone will take care of her. Any medical problems?"

"No, not really. The nano bodies will be doing the most of the work. I'll give her some basic meds and stuff."

"Good enough," Jess said.

"Captain, we have cleared the gravity well," her navigator called.

"Got the course plotted?"

"Ready to go."

"Okay, light it up."

The navigator reached out and tapped in the start up code. A immensely powerful electromagnetic pulse was created, igniting the sidereal collectors. As they began to collect virtual particles the GRASER (Gravity Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) was ignited by the powerful fusion generators. The Graser generated a spherical soliton field of coherent gravity around the ship.

Decaying, high energy anomalons, produced by the anomalon generator, supercharged the gavitic soliton field. The field accelerated to near infinite speeds and for a moment the field and its ship passed through every point in space. At once it was everywhere and no where.

10 to the negative 42 seconds later, the ship appeared just outside of the gravity well of the Primus system.

"And we are here," the navigator called.

"Get your frequent flier miles now ladies and gentlemen," Jess laughed. "Take us in nice and slow to Solingen. No need to alarm anyone. We will rendezvous with the other ship in about twenty hours behind Falchion. Will your patient be ready to go by then?"

"She should be able to walk."

"Good enough."

Emiko moved carefully, getting dressed. She was a mass of hurts. Her school uniform was the only things she had to wear. She had put the uniform in the carryon bagÑwhich had amazingly made it all the way with herÑway back on earth. It was the only clothing she had. One of the crew had provided her with some underwear. Fortunate, as hers had been ruined.

She put the bag up on her shoulder and pulled herself slowly along the railing. Moving in zero-G was not something she was at all good at and she did not feel like slamming up against a wall in her present condition.

Outside of the door Doctor Manabe was waiting for her. She could tell a little more about the man, but her vision was still blurred.

"Ready to go?"

"I guess," she said. She was not happy about being handed off to yet another new keeper, as it were. Still, she had no choice.

She did not talk to the doctor as he led her through the ship's corridors to the airlock. There another man was waiting for her. He didn't give a name, just led her into the other ship.

"Take care," John called. Emiko looked back and waved, then turned and continued into the other ship. The airlock was closed and in a few minutes the two ships were separate and moving off in different directions.

Emiko sat in her chair, her eyes closed, thinking about how far she was from home. She squeezed her eyes shut against tears as she realized she might never see her family or friends again. What had she been thinking when she decided to help Takashi-san? She had never thought that she would end up in another solar system, wanted on Earth as a terrorist. It all seemed so unfair.

"Watashi wa anata no ane, soshite haha, soshite anata."
--Miyu Kyuuketsuki ga Yui ni itta
Shawn Hagen <hagen@brant.net>

On to Chapter 3