If you haven’t yet, you can read chapters 1-4 by clicking here. Hope you enjoy! :)
It was a tight fit, even for her. Taz pulled herself along the metal vent on her stomach, carefully keeping Up’s pistol upright in her hand. It wasn’t long before she had reached the grate on the far side. Pressing her face against it, she peered through the slats.
Rrrr, rrrr, rrrr.
Her breath caught as a robot’s legs passed directly in front of her. “Mierda,” she muttered. This wasn’t going to be as easy as they’d thought.
She pulled out the screwdriver the ensign had given her, and set to work, listening all the while. Her heartbeat threatened to drown everything else out.
“Bridge secure,” intoned a robot from somewhere nearby. “Access codes?”
“Negative,” replied another. “Insufficient time to process.”
“Go ahead,” came a different, more human voice. The Commander. “Process all you like. My Rangers will be here before you toasters have had sufficient time to do anything but polish those tin cans you call heads.”
There was a blast and a flash of red light, and the Commander cried out. Taz turned the screwdriver faster, catching each screw carefully in her hand as they fell. When she reached the last one, she peered through the grate again. She could see a metal barrier just before her – that must be the science station – and if she pressed hard enough she could just make out several pairs of human legs on the floor to the left. The door she needed to reach would be to the right. As long as the robots stayed on the other side, the science station would provide her cover, but there had to be at least fifteen feet between that and the door.
“Sea rápido,” she whispered. “I just have to be fast.”
Removing the final screw, she lifted the grate and set it soundlessly on the floor in front of the vent. She tucked her hair behind her ears, wishing she had something to tie it back with, and picked up the gun.
“Bien,” she told herself, forcing down a sudden wave of nausea. “Ahora.”
Using her left hand to pull herself forward, she slid out of the vent and crouched low on the floor of the bridge, listening. Now that she was out in the open, even the steady humming of the ship seemed to come sharply into focus. The robots were still moving about on the other side of the science station, but hadn’t seemed to notice yet that anything was amiss. Pressing herself flat against the metal station, she looked toward the human prisoners. They were bound hand and foot, sitting on the floor next to the Commander’s chair. The Commander herself was clutching her leg, the deck beneath her soaked in blood. As Taz watched, the Commander turned in her direction, and their eyes met.
The Commander’s eyes widened. Taz put a finger to her lips, and slowly the older woman nodded. She turned to the robots instead.
“Hey, trash cans! Yeah, you! Didn’t your mama ever tell you that you shouldn’t play with other kids’ toys? Oh wait, that’s right, you don’t have a mama-”
The Commander was distracting them. It was now or never. Taz took a deep breath, and ran.
“Enemy detected! Enemy detected!”
Taz kept her eyes fixed on the door and the sensor pad beside it as the robots turned. She felt the warmth of a laser beam behind her, and ran faster. She was almost- there-
“Look out!” yelled a human voice.
She threw herself to the ground and watched another laser beam crash into the wall where she’d been a moment before. The heat scalded her bare arm, but she ignored the pain as she turned to see four robots advancing on her, weapons at the ready.
She was so close.
Letting out a fierce yell, she threw Up’s pistol as hard as she could. It hit the first robot hard between the optical sensors, and it staggered backwards. She didn’t wait to see what the others would do, but vaulted herself the last few feet to the door, smashing the sensor pad with her left hand.
A whirring sound, and the door opened.
Up was the first person to come through, and he was already shooting. The robots fell like paper dolls as more Rangers pushed through the door and ran to meet the enemy. Gunfire, lasers and human screams pulsed through the air. Taz, unarmed and feeling rather vulnerable, scrambled backward out of the Rangers’ way, holding her injured arm carefully aloft.
Up was still leading the charge, shouting commands over his shoulder as he knelt, firing at everything metallic that moved. It was the third time she’d seen him like this, a deadly look in his eyes, a fearsome accuracy in his aim. A thrill went through her, and suddenly she wished she still had a gun so she could join him in the fight.
Taken unaware as the robots had been, it did not take long for the Rangers to get control of the situation. The prisoners were untied and most of the robots reduced to smoking rubble on the deck. Taz hung back as Up and Lieutenant-Commander Rogers gave orders for the other Rangers to secure the rest of the ship, her pulse still drumming in her ears. She checked herself over for injuries. Her ankle was throbbing painfully, but besides the skin beginning to blister on her forearm, there didn’t seem to be anything else new.
Finally, when the situation seemed under control, Up came over to her and unexpectedly cupped her chin in his hand. “You’re alright?”
She nodded, even as her eyes began to water from the searing pain in her arm.
“You were incredible, Taz,” he said. “You just saved the whole damn ship.”
She didn’t know what to say.
“We’ve got things organized here, Lieutenant,” said Rogers. “Why don’t you get this girl to sickbay, get that burn healed up before it worsens.”
“Yes, sir,” said Up. “Come on, Taz, let’s get you out of here.”
They exited the bridge through the opposite door, where the path was clear. Up frowned as they turned down the corridor that led to sickbay. “Where’s my pistol, Taz? Do you still have it?”
She felt her face grow dangerously warm as she mumbled, “I- I threw it.”
“You threw it?”
He was laughing. She aimed a punch at him with her good arm, but felt like laughing too.
Up was never more surprised in his life than when he opened his door later that night to see the Commander standing there on crutches, her leg freshly bandaged and a look something akin to chewing a lemon on her face.
“I realize that this is an unconventional visit,” she said, looking from him to Taz, who stood up from her bunk, cradling her newly restored arm. “But I wanted to thank our ship’s hero in person.”
Up stood back, and the Commander entered the room. Taz cast a nervous glance between them.
“I was informed of the details of your actions today, and I wish to convey my sincere gratitude for the bravery and selflessness you demonstrated. It’s entirely likely that the robots would still have control of the ship if you hadn’t acted as you did.”
Taz was slowly but surely turning red. Up hid a smirk behind his hand.
“I’ve reconsidered your request, Lieutenant. The Academy could use more cadets with the kind of balls this girl showed today. I think I can talk the Admiral into making an exception for this one.”
Up watched as Taz began to realize the meaning of the Commander’s words.
The Commander’s face twisted into something that was almost a smile. “Welcome to the G.L.E.E., Cadet Taz.”
Taz was still processing when the Commander made her exit.
“I’m going – I’m really going to the Academy-”
“You’re really going,” said Up, his grin spreading. “You’re going to be a Starship Ranger, Taz! And a damn good one, too, if I do say so myself.”
Her face lit up and she launched herself toward him. Picking her up easily, he swung her around, laughing.
There was the smile he’d been looking for.
Read Chapter 6 here.