Castle Roland

O'Connell's Grenadiers

by Kyle Aarons

In Progress

Chapter 8

Posted: N/A

O'Connell's Grenadiers

Copyright © by
Kyle Aarons

Dante and Cody spun when Caleb yelped in surprise as he basically found himself thrown into the large room. Before either youngster had time to react they boys saw a flash of crimson light slice past the doorway and heard the sizzling of melting metal as the impact area super heated for a second.

Dante was first to react. He moved forward and yanked on the back of Caleb's suit to get him out of a direct line of fire coming from the doorway.

Caleb, on the other hand, didn't even realize a shot had been fired. Instead, all he knew was he found himself roughly shoved into the room then all but tossed to the side. The sudden jerk away from the door leading to the central passage put him into an uncontrollable zero G spin. As he reached out to grab something to steady, he suddenly found himself grabbing at bodies, dozens of them. At first his mind failed to comprehend the horror he was seeing, but once it registered he was trying to grab onto limbs, clothing and even heads of lifeless bodes, he totally lost it. With a panicked squeal, Caleb started pushing, kicking, and finally thrashing around wildly as he desperately tried to extricate himself from the floating graveyard.

A moment later Cody responded to the situation as he drew the captured micro missile pistol and moved to the edge of the door. "Dante, help Kay! Robin, are you OK?"

Robin, laser pistol in hand, responded. "Just barely! I only saw one, but there were two laser shots, each a different color so I'm betting there are at least two."

"Did you get a good visual?"


"Crud. Are you secure?"

"As secure as I can be, considering I'm in one of the regular rooms for this deck and only have the one exit."

Dante finally secured the thrashing Caleb and pulled his frightened friend out of the cluster of death. "Where is the wing nut Robin?"

Realizing anyone could hear him on the open channel, he shook his head and literally bit off his reply drawing a bit of blood as his teeth took a small chunk out of his lower lip. "He's with 'bob' in room 12. Are you pinned or do you have alternate exits?"

"There are two doors in here, but one is locked." Dante replied with while trying to pin the still freaking out Caleb. "We'll see where it goes and hook up with good ole 'bob' and the wing nut."

"Alright, I'll prevent anyone from easily sliding past."

Cody moved up and grabbed Caleb's shoulders. He looked right into the younger boy's faceplate and shook him roughly for a moment, "Get a grip and look at me!"

Dante continued to hold Caleb's arms until he felt his friend stop struggling. "Come on Caleb breath, dude. Robin's trapped and Yuri is alone and unarmed we need to act fast!"

Tear filled terrified eyes stared back at Cody for an instant before clearing just enough for Caleb to make out a familiar face. "Oh crap... Oh crap..."

Cody pointed for Dante to cover the door while he continued to grip Caleb's shoulders tightly, "Breath, Kay, just breath."

Caleb blinked his eyes a few times to clear them then shuddered. Finally, he closed his eyes as he caught sight of Cody's face. "No wonder everyone thinks I'm such a puss. I am..."

Cody's eyes narrowed as he gave Caleb another hard shake, "Bullshit!"

Dante's head spun to look over at Cody, "Damn, I didn't know you knew how to cuss!"

Cody pulled Caleb further away from the cluster of dead bodies floating in what used to be the first class cabins' lounge. When he spoke it was with a very angry growl, "I learn fast, but I'll warn you, my dad will smack the daylights out of you if you ever curse around him."

The former cadet force commander glanced around the room for a few seconds. For the first time since the disaster, his mind switched gears from being a scared follower to a skilled, and at the moment absolutely furious, leader. "OK guys I have a plan and I don't want either of you to argue. Kill your radio's now."

He gave both kids a few seconds to comply before he spoke softly through the suit's speaker. "We don't have time for either of you two to do anything but obey. Robin is hurt and pinned in a room by himself and Kay's friend is totally alone, although they don't know exactly where. We have to move and move now!

"Kay, help me out of my suit. Dante, check the passage."

"We already know it dead ends at the..."

"Shut up Dante!" Cody hissed, "I was a Force commander for a reason. Now move!"

"You'll freeze!" Caleb tried to counter even as he started to help Cody out of his suit."

"I'll be fine for a few minutes and that should be all it takes. Dante, keep your suit lights on but do not point them back this direction." Cody shivered noticeably as he allowed Caleb to pull off the suit's pants.

Caleb looked at the boy in front of him with bewildered and scared eyes. "What now?"

"Relax and flip on my suit's lights. Once you are set, take it down the passage toward the central dining room. I want both you and Dante to switch your radios' back on to the open channel and sound scared and confused when you get there. Make it sound like I am with you. Go really slow and move my suit around while you are down there as well so they will see 3 sets of beams."


With an almost evil glint to his eyes Cody simply grinned, "GO!"

As the two baffled younger boys moved out of the lounge, Cody pulled a few of the bodies over toward the bar. He then found a couple of towels and wrapped them around his mouth and nose to kill almost all of his visible breath in the very cold room. He then used a few other pieces of linen including a red tablecloth he found behind the bar to cover himself. Within a few seconds, he realized the attempt to keep himself a bit warmer also would help to hide him. Even as Cody wrapped himself up and then used another table cloth to break up his outline, he found himself thanking God for having had Robin as a tactical advisor for over a year. Unusual and unexpected tactics had propelled his Force from being one of the worst in head to head competitions to being the best by a wide margin.

In addition to transforming the whole of a 155 member strong cadet Force, it had taught Cody how to think outside the norm of basic book teaching in areas going well beyond simple tactics. Deceit may have been frowned on back at the Quaker VII military Academy, but it had proven itself to be invaluable in the academy and now, as Cody fought the cold, he realized the very way Robin had been brought up and how he thought was what made the whole of the Grenadiers so successful. As he hunkered down behind the bar, he wondered if it would save his life for real as it had done so many countless times in simulated combat.

Across the hall and a couple of doors up, Robin's eyes scanned the room he was now in. Just like all the others on this deck, it had few belongings and was divided into multi rooms. Puzzlement continued to plague him as he finally decided to use the built in entertainment station for cover from the door.

Even as he readied his laser pistol for anyone moving in the passage, the sight of a floating remote controlled hover car caused him to wonder where everyone was at and where everything went. Each room had held signs of occupants, but most of what one would expect to find was simply not there.

In addition to the broken items which were everywhere, even up here, the rooms on the lower decks had been filled with all sorts of floating items people used on a daily basis. Clothing, toys, valuables, bathroom stuff, and space traveling kits floated everywhere abandoned or keeping the dead they once belonged to company. Up here, there was little to no items of the sort. Another look around caused his frown to deepen.

For the first time, he realized this room had open drawers in the dressers and the small closet was also open. It was all empty. A quick thought back to the other rooms he had checked on Bravo Deck had been basically identical. It was as if the entire deck had been evacuated prior to the miss fold.

A beam of light in the hall caught his attention. He turned on his external speaker, "Who the hell are you?"

A rather smug female voice responded. "Surrender kid. We'll use you as a hostage and release you once we get down to the planet."

Robin winced as he tried to take a deep breath. "Yea, sure you will. Why don't you come in and get me bitch."

"Oh, we will, don't worry none." A deep sounding male voice responded. "Just give us a few minutes to round up your buddies."

Another male voice spoke up, "I'm going to wrap around to room 12 with Janice and Luther to grab the other two."

The deep voice replied. "Good, just make sure to float over the top of the door frames so one of these little monsters don't shoot you. The mercs may not have been given decent ranks at the academy, but they damned sure can shoot and are a great deal tougher than the average brats from our planet. Also, remember we have heard nothing about or from this Bob, so he may be an adult although I doubt it. If you need to, just keep them contained until the rest of us get there. We'll need as many as possible alive, so don't go on any killing sprees either."

Another male voice responded, "I wasn't in the slam for killin' commander. I want them every bit as alive as you do."

The deeper voice growled, "Luther..."

"You got others tucked away in our alternate escape craft for that Luther." The woman responded with a light chuckle, "We gave the commander our word his cadets would not get you or your friends' special attention."

The male voice Robin now identified as Luther, responded from over the top of the door frame, clearly being ultra careful to keep his whole body out of the firing line. "Fine, but once we're off this tub, I'm gunna have some fun one way or the other."

Robin stayed crouched behind the large entertainment unit shaking his head in frustration as he saw more beams of light move up and over the door frame. Knowing his line of sight was limited to the angle he was facing the door and the door frame, he kept his pistol ready. The conversation between the group seemed very strange, although the implications were anything but. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what the woman meant by saying his cadets. Something was not adding up, but at the same time he really didn't have time to focus much on it. Just as Robin figured all three had successfully moved past the door safely, he caught sight of a foot. He didn't hesitate in the slightest.

With practiced ease he flipped the pistol's switch to burst and fired, not bothering to take careful aim. A trio of orangish-red beams lanced across the short distance between Robin and the carelessly held out foot. One hit the door frame, one grazed the heel, but the third hit the ankle almost in the dead center of the outside bone.

The light e-suit surrounding the foot provided no real protection. Plastic melted, skin burned through, bone expanded and finally cracked as the laser super heated it inside the body. A shrill scream of pain echoed off the all but deserted passage and a pair of hands reached down to hold the devastated impact point.

A cruel smirk played across Robin's lips as his thumb once again found the selector switch and flipped it back to single shot. Before anyone on the other side of the door could react to help their crippled comrade, another flash of deadly light erupted from the tip of Robin's pistol. This time it was aimed. The laser hit toward the center of the woman's left hand but since the weapon didn't have to split the power three ways, the beam was much more powerful. It entered the left hand but it didn't stop there. It went clear through the hand, the already destroyed foot, and continued on through the woman's right hand before finally impacting the wall on the far side of the passage.

The woman's scream rose in pitch for a second or two before it halted. Robin, however, was completely prepared for what happed next. Another body appeared, moving at a high rate of speed across the open door. The arms were out kind of reminding Robin of the way flying super heroes were portrayed in holovids, only this one was not immune to lasers like those in the movies were.

Yet again, Robin's marksmanship proved up to the test. His shot struck the head of the figure as whoever was in the light e-suit tried to get his or her teammate out of the line of fire. The body continued forward slamming into what Robin could see of the woman he had first shot. Both moved well out of sight as momentum carried them forward, but the fact he could hear the high pitched whine of the e-suit's fan as it tried to counter the sudden change of temperatures inside the suit told him he had scored a good hit. A few seconds later, a popping sound of the suit followed by the shrill whine of the suit's main power cell itself, told him the suit had tired a bit too hard and had literally blown itself up. There were only two possibilities for the person inside. Either he was seriously burned by the power cell's overload or he was dead. Since there was no screaming, he figured the latter was a much better guess.

Robin quickly moved around the back of the holographic center so those outside the room could not use the locations of the beams to locate and shoot at him blindly. He was not disappointed. Less than three seconds later a trio of lasers set to burst fire sprayed beams into the room. Two found the entertainment center the rest found nothing but wall.

Robin couldn't help himself, "You guys suck. How in the hell did you ever beat Q Seven?"

The higher pitched man's voice snarled as he spoke, "You're going to die kid but not before me and my buddies make you suffer in ways you didn't even think possible!"

Robin forced a laugh and instantly regretted it as the pain in his ribs flared up. Still he managed to make his voice sound a great deal stronger than he thought he could as he responded. "At this rate you won't have any buddies to help you. I still have plenty of battery power in this pistol and part of it is just waiting for you."

A wrath filled snarl erupted out of another guy's mouth, "Boy you're gunna wish you had died by the time I'm done with you!" His voice stayed heated but was clearly not directed toward the door as it vibrated off the walls. "You four get the kids in the lounge and make damned sure you stay clear of the door, he may be a kid, but someone sure as hell taught him how to shoot."

Yet another voice, this of a woman, yet spoken low in tone, but not in volume. "It sounds like they moved into the dining area and found it was sealed up in all other directions. We'll take them before they can get out of the dining area. You other two move on down to room 12 and get the others. This god damned brat is all yours commander!"

"Dante, Kay, Cody, they're coming!" Robin shouted into his radio.

Dante responded. "There is no way around. All passages out of the dining room have blast doors down. We're trapped."

A bit confused, Robin responded, "Why the hell did you move..."

Dante cut him off. "It was 'bob's' idea. He told Cody to try to go though the kitchen area and into the supply shaft on the far side to get up to Alpha so here we all are."

Not knowing exactly what was backwards Robin frowned, but he knew 'bob' was at work somewhere in what Dante just said so he had to play along. "Take cover and hold them then. If you have contact with 'bob', warn him they know what room he is in."

"Still no radio contact with 'bob' since you left him with Yuri, and Cody's radio is on the fritz again." Caleb answered as if on cue. "We'll just have to take them out and hope 'bob' keeps Yuri safe. At least there is some heat and life support going in here so we can hold out indefinitely."

Robin's eyebrow went up as he realized whatever was going on was Cody's doing and the fact that 'bob' and Cody had both been talked about as having a bad radio meant that all three had to cover for Cody for some reason. "OK, be prepared for at least four. There are at least two more moving on 'bob'."

The deeper sounding man's voice echoed in the hall, yet seemed to diminish in anger and grow in confidence. "You know, cadet Senior Sergeant Lerrik, you really should have been made a cadet officer, a high ranking one at that. But you should also know talking on an open channel is a very poor idea. On the other hand I am certainly going to enjoy figuring out who the hell Bob is. I am willing to bet he single handedly caused more talk than any cadet in the history of the academy."

Robin felt his brow crinkle before he even realized he had done it, "Who the hell are you?"

The man's voice took on an almost haughty tone. "Assistant Commandant Jordavich, cadet. Now why don't you drop your weapon and float out here before some of those with me do some very vile things to you."

Robin felt his heart speed up to an almost painful rate and his throat grew suddenly very dry. "Sir, how could you be part of this? This ship had hundreds of cadets on it!"

The man's voice took on a tinge of regret, but only a tinge. "Yes, I know. I helped book one whole deck for cadets and their families and another for cadets who wanted off world but we couldn't find their parents. Unfortunately, I was arrested shortly before the ship left the spaceport or I would have been with the others. Then, when the Quaker Six Royal Guard team failed to gain access to the main computer they pulled me out of the tiny cell I had been tossed into and gave me a choice. I could be part of preventing this ship from leaving the Free Planet's Association and get paid a very large sum and a chance at having my old job back, or I could die after spending many years in a room only slightly bigger than a frame simulator pod. Once I agreed, they guaranteed my loyalty by putting a detonation chip in my chest and sent me up here with others from Quaker VII who were released from various military prisons in exchange for this one task for Quaker VI.

"Trust me cadet Lerrik, you all will be far better off surrendering to me than letting those with me get to you. They were in military prisons for a reason, many for war crimes against men, women, and children."

The low spoken female voice gave credence to Jordavich's words. "Yeah, and he sounds like about the age Luther would love to get his hands on. Out of all of us, him, Sergei, and Boris were the most eager to do Q Six's dirty work, especially after being told they could enjoy themselves up here."

Jordavich's voice took on a bit of a growl, "Go round up the others, Lieutenant. I'll take care of this one and remind Luther and Boris one more time about what I told them. They keep their hands off these kids and any other academy cadets we find. There are plenty of non-cadets around and the cadets are mine."

Robin shook with fury. His fists clenched tightly as he slid around the room and sought cover behind a dresser. "We do not belong to anyone!"

"You are correct, cadet Lerrik." Jordavich spoke with certainty that caused Robin to shake with anger, "You merc brats had clauses which allowed your parents and or your units to pull you out when the contracts ended, which they did the day Quaker VII surrendered and released your units.

"On the other hand the kids who didn't belong to merc units still technically belong to the academy. There may be some questions when it comes to kids from the academy that now belong to merc units, but since Quaker VI didn't stop you form recruiting I would have to say anyone who is now part of your unit is probably in the clear as well. The contracts their parents signed are for full semesters, and the current one has another three weeks to go. It is all very clearly spelled out."

Robin frowned deeply, "You don't own no one!"

A man's voice from further down the passage joined in the conversation. "Own, no, but we are guardians of all the cadets with valid contracts. How else could we put kids under arrest for disobeying orders and even formally court martial kids and throw them in real prisons when they really screwed up?"

Jordavich half sighed. "Nor could we have legally booked passage for kids who wanted to leave without a parent if we were not their guardians."

"But you can't kill those you are guardians of!" Robin bellowed in a combination of anger and horror.

The voice from down the hall seemed to gain a bit of aggravation behind it. "We had no intention of it kid."

"You put them on this ship!" Robin shouted.

Jordavich took over, snapping at the other man down the hall. "Relax, Taras. Looking at it through their eyes, it would have to seem we are not doing everything we can for the kids from the academy."

Jordavich let out a long breath. "Sergeant Lerrik, The truth of the matter is, none of us from the academy knew Quaker Six wanted to kill everyone on this ship. We were not brought in until after the Royal Guard team failed to get to the central computer. Then, we were offered the chance to take all the Quaker VII cadets we could locate back to the academy and reopen it with Quaker VI oversight and the new rulers sending political officers to make sure the kids didn't graduate until they were found to be loyal to the new combined Quaker system government.

"You see, cadet, as long as any Quaker VII academy cadet is in the FPA they belong to Quaker VI, at least until the contract ends in three weeks."

Robin's eyes suddenly lit up. "But Quaker VI failed! We folded out of the Free Planet's Association. If getting out of the FPA voids the contracts none of those still alive belong to you or anyone else!"

There was a long pause, "If we had, the chip in my chest would have gone off. It was set to only go off if it stopped getting a transponder signal from an FPA held system."

"Then they lied sir. We are in the New Brunswick system in the Great Outback, a full 15 light years or so from the Free Planet's Association."

"Are you sure?"

"Totally sir. The ship didn't miss fold by much. We are in the New Brunswick system, but way further out than intended. We have even been in contact with...."

Robin's words were cut off by a powerful explosion. "What the hell was that?"

Across the hall, Cody waited and watched as four people entered the lunge, glanced around and played the lights mounted on the top of their laser rifles over the mass of dead bodies. It was obvious they were in a hurry and didn't take much time to make sure the area was secure.

A woman's voice sounded out from the front of the pack. "OK, we need to get to the dining hall before they get set. I am seeing three sets of suit lights so they all went down toward the main dining area. Remember, the General wants them alive if possible."

Cody took aim at the lead figure and waited until she moved into the hall, then without warning he fired the micro missile pistol. Vents on the side of the weapon channeled the fiery exhaust of the small missile forward causing a large kick back, but Cody had been fully prepared for it and had braced his back against the wall behind the bar so the firing didn't send him floating backwards. Still the force and kick of the weapon caused some physical pain in his elbows and shoulders. It also ignited the table cloth he had been using to break up his outline.

The missile's flame trail told Cody the shot was right on track, but the noise of it firing caused all four to turn his direction. On the other hand, none of them had a chance to fire before the round blew right through the woman's front and out her back. It then slammed into the wall and exploded. Deadly shrapnel from not only the exploding warhead, but the mangled wall sent razor sharp metal fragments slicing through all four before they got off a single shot.

Shouts of pain and out right terror filled the room. One of the troopers managed to fire his weapon aimed at the discarded burning table cloth, but all it did was strike one of the dead bodies Cody had put up in front of the bar and broke off its frozen right arm.

It took Cody a moment to realize the explosion had done far more damage than he had expected and that he really didn't need to hit the remaining three directly. He tossed the burning cloth away from himself then ducked behind the bar. He then fired another shot blindly in the general direction of the laser shot. A moment later another bright flash of light, followed a fraction of a second later by a loud report told him the small missile had impacted the back wall. Better yet, new screams told the young cadet he had indeed done more damage to the three remaining troopers trying to get to Dante and Caleb.

Robin tried to peer out from behind the holo-center only to duck back as the second explosion resonated off the bulkheads and sent small shockwaves out of the doorway the four men and women had entered only seconds earlier. "Hey are you guys OK?"

Cody's voice was strong as he shouted, sounding almost giddy. "Don't worry Robin, we're fine." He then snickered, "Oh, gee, did someone fail to mention we have heavy weapons with us?"

It suddenly became clear to Robin what Dante's use of 'bob' had meant. "Hey General Jordavich, unless I miss my guess you just lost four more of your buddies. You sure you don't want to surrender to us instead of the other way around?"

Before the stunned man could respond, a single flash of light went off inside the lounge area. Dante's voice then came over the radio and loudspeaker built in the heavy e-suit. "You're clear Cody. Three were dead and I just dusted the last jackass. He was still moving but looked like he wished he wasn't."

Cody responded an instant later, "Pump a shot into all four of their heads just to make sure. Their days of mass murder are over!"

Four more flashes came from the room seconds after Cody gave the orders making some weird shadows appear on the walls outside the open door for an instant. A deathly silence fell over the entire deck. It seemed as though an eeriness of the calm and quite caused a makeshift cease fire to descend on the whole deck as both sides took stock of the situation and moved themselves to get into the most secure spots they could find.

Dante used the break in action to check over the four laser rifles floating around the four newest bodies in the room while Caleb helped Cody back into his heavy E-suit.

Finally Assistant Commandant Jordavich's voice came over the radio. "Well done cadets. It seems you have turned the tables in your favor. Cadet Captain Meschev, it appears your time spent with Senior Sergeant Lerrik was not wasted. You two really did transform that sorry cadet Force into something that would have been special."

Cody looked around the dead, many of whom had been blasted into multiple pieces by the detonations of the micro missiles. "We were special, all of those under me were. Now thanks to Q Six and you, this ship is the resting place of many of them. If Robin doesn't kill, you I will!"

General Jordavich responded with little emotion. "I tried to limit the deaths of actual cadets. You will find many of them are in escape pods scattered throughout the ship. I secretly sent an alert through all the academy's note pads and hand held's alerting anyone who still had any of them to get to a pod. Most on this ship kept theirs because some of the instructors came with them to continue to teach and help those who came aboard without family. Furthermore, I know for a fact there were numerous cadets in pods on the decks we booked. But you are correct, what we have done here caused hundreds if not thousands to die."

Robin couldn't help but think about Jessie and others in his cadet Frame Force. "Yea, lots of good you did the ones you didn't kill. You sent them to life pods with life support lock out. Thanks for nothing."

"What?" a note of confusion entered the man's voice, "I was told they didn't get to the central computer!"

"They didn't need to you idiot!" Caleb shouted, his voice filled with pure hatred, "Those you were with locked out the primary power to the pods from the secondary security terminal on the bridge along with locking them into place so they couldn't escape! You sent them to a slow death you bastard!"

The sound of a slight sob escaped the General's lips, "NO! I was trying to save them!"

"Great job you did too. Every kid in the academy looked up to you, even us mercs." Dante's voice quivered with deep anger as he verified one of the laser rifles was undamaged and pushed it over to Caleb. "You betrayed all of us and killed hundreds more just to save your own ass. I hope you can live with yourself, at least until one of the four of us kills you!"

Caleb's voice seemed to drip with venom as he glanced around the lounge at all the dead bodies, "And this room is proof you are a murdering ass-wipe!"

"They wouldn't tell us where the other cadets were and didn't give us access to their ships!" The man Robin now knew as Taras shouted from down the hall. They were given a chance to go back to the shuttle as prisoners, but they refused even when I tried to trick them by thinking their stubbornness would result in the death of a cadet I stuck in with them, my own kid. None of them spoke even as my boy plead with them to hand over the others and their ships!

"They died quickly though, I grabbed my kid and pretended to shoot him then dropped a nerve gas grenade into the room and closed the vents. It only lasted a few seconds."

"Oh God.... Please forgive me!" General Jordavich's voice picked up an octive, "You killed them all?"

"Of course I did, General. Quaker VI didn't want those rich idiots to form a Quaker VII government in exile. The whole reason they wanted to kill everyone on this ship was to get rid of those who might cause them problems in the future. You really are a gullible old bastard, you moron!"

"Nerve gas?" Robin gasped, "I thought only Earth Core used nerve gas!"

Taras actually snickered for a moment. "Who do you think has been supporting Quaker VI this whole time, cadet? There is no way those sorry ass Quaker VI idiots would have been able to fund a war let alone find the needed supplies to take on Quaker VII. We had them outmanned, out gunned, not to mention the fact our world was way more technologically advanced. It took the backing of Earth Core to even give them a chance. It won't be long till Earth Core moves to take the whole system, especially since Blood's Honor is conveniently embroiled in a civil war!"

"So you are all just want-a-be Earth Core troopers now?" Robin asked in some shock.

Taras chuckled, "Well it is better to be an EC officer than an EC captive!"

"I'll never be an Earth Core anything!" General Jordavich snarled as he yelled, "Taras, if you are working with Earth Core and Quaker VI finds out, they will rip your heart out."

"They'll never find out! All we have to do is grab these little jerks, hand them over to Boris, who is an Earth Core agent, and go back to Quaker and await our rewards."

General Jordavich let out a long growl. "Captain, go check on the guards watching the docking bay and shut the hell up."

"Or what?" Taras asked with a hint of haughtiness.

"I am still your commander and unless you want everyone finding out who you are working for, you best close your mouth and follow orders!" Jordavich's voice then lowered into a trembling whisper that didn't come through the radio any longer. "All I wanted was to get all the cadets back to Quaker VII and reopen the academy!"

"Yeah, with the Q seven cadets as prisoners until they were properly brainwashed by the advisors from Q Six or worse Earth Core." Cody snarled. "You are a traitorous, murdering, power hungry bastard! It's probably a good thing you killed most of the cadets, because you would have turned them into something far worse than the dead bodies they are now!"

"You don't understand cadet..."

"Oh, yea, he does." Robin responded as he tried to gauge where the man was by his voice. "He sees you are nothing better than the filthy Earth Core bastards who dropped rippers into the kids of my unit back on New Bravaria! Even if you had managed to save the cadets, you seem to have no problems letting the animals you are with do what they want with the others. You are a disgrace and if it is the last thing the five of us do, you will die here so you can haunt these passages and deal with all those you helped to murder!"

Caleb cringed as he realized by the way Robin spoke, Dante had let it slip there were only four of them, not five. He sent a scolding glare over at Dante, but didn't give Dante or the man a chance to respond as he piped up with a fury no one had ever heard spill out of the most timid kid in the Grenadiers. "If you think what happened to those cadets up in the zero G combat module was bad, you ain't seen nothin'! I'm done with you assholes. You're all going to die!"

Dante nodded at Caleb as he too realized his earlier mistake and vowed not to let it happen again. He added in his own thoughts, yet his best friend's words and tome were enough to where he actually found himself sliding a bit away from Caleb, "For a man who filled in for the chaplain a few times you are no man of God, you are a demon!"

"Don't you get it..."

Caleb snarled, "Sure we do, you get to go to the hell you preached about several times and we are going to send you there!"

A female voice let off a bit of a snort, "Come on commander, this is getting us no where. Let's put an end to these brats."

General Jordavich took on a nasty edge as he responded to the woman. "No, actually, I think this is going somewhere, Major. They're right!" A thudding sound out in the hall followed by a burst of laser fire and the sound of another exploding light e-suit cut off further comments. Before any of the four boys could respond the General's voice could be heard, albeit softly. "OK, kids, just listen for a moment, cause the rest will be coming back any second.

"Captain Meschev, there were actually three I sent around to go after Bob and whoever Yuri is. They are all former military war crimes prisoners and without me they will try to hurt you all.

"Caleb, if you are the same Caleb who got his IPSC cert, and I bet you are, there are a pair of fighters in the docking bay, one on each side. They have the same start up codes as when you used them last and the weapons release codes are the angle of re-entry needed to still fight during re-entry; just add a 55 before both. They are fully armed and we refueled them from onboard stores the second we got them on board. The code is a hidden one we put in as a backdoor so even if Q Six changed the access and start ups those will still work.

"Dante, sneaky little guy that you are, you only managed to get three of the five who tried to sabotage your science project. One of the other two kids who stole the parts from your robot is with his dad, and is part of the strike team. Cadet Sergeant Andrapov was offered a cadet command slot in the new Quaker VII Academy and his dad was your math instructor, Captain Taras Andrapov. I think they used his dad's key to get into the locked room. Cadet Andrapov was the ring leader. The fifth one was Cadet Robbie Kastrarov who is now locked in the hold on a Delta class ferry in the docking bay with the few other cadets we managed to locate from this deck. There should have been close to 16 on this deck, but we only found 9 and it was before the miss-fold so they have to be here somewhere. I heard one of you mention Cadet Corporal Kiev on the radio once, he is not one of them we found.

"Sergeant Lerrik, there are at least two real hardcore RG Six personnel still in the Delta class ferry in the port side bay and two other instructors who were probably traitors along with Taras well before Quaker VII lost. However, there could be more; we were never allowed anywhere but the cargo hold on it. There is also an old Gamma class cargo shuttle with a couple of Quaker VI troopers on it. That is what I and most of the others you are currently fighting came up on. It is now holding most of the non-cadet kids we found on this deck, along with a few other adults who were on a wanted list we were given. A few others were tucked away by Boris and a couple others somewhere, but I don't know where.

"One last thing, a fairly large yacht on the starboard side bay broke loose and fried about half of those I came with as they tired to check the other two yachts birthed next to it. It then turned its thrusters toward the main passage and cooked a few more. There are still three guards I set to look that way, but don't go in there unless you can establish some communications cause whoever is controlling the loose ship, burns it thrusters at anyone who even looks suspicious."

There was a short pause before the General spoke up again. "All told there are ten left up here plus those on the ships. That number is soon to be nine. Please tell everyone I... I... am... sorry." A second later there was burst of laser light followed by a scream of pain. Laser fire crisscrossed the hall several times and the sounds of at least 2 others screaming could be heard. Suddenly there was a loud shout of pain followed a moment later by a wheezing gasp, "I got at least two more. Good luck cadets. Tell..." A final burst of laser fire cut off whatever the General was about to say.

"What the hell?" Dante asked as he floated over to Cody and handed him the laser pistol while holding up a second undamaged rifle.

"I think he went down in a blaze of fire." Robin answered. "I'm going to check."

"No, let us." Cody responded while pointing to one of the still intact dead bodies. "There was a lot of shooting out there!"

Dante understood instantly. He grabbed the frozen woman while holding up a third rifle to Cody. "It looks like their bodies took most of the damage to their backs. Only one of the three rifles was damaged and I have four full spare power packs as well. You want one?"

"Yeah." Cody holstered the pistol and secured the larger weapon. "I am way better with a rifle."

Dante gave a thumbs up, ripped some cloth off of one of the other dead bodies, then pushed the damaged laser rifle into the dead woman's hands and tied it in place with the cloth.

Caleb looked over, "I didn't know someone messed with your robot. Was the kid in your class who got scalded one of them?"

"Yea, and I knew I didn't get to 'em all but the three I did find out about all paid for it, two with blackmail and money, and Petra with a blast of hot water I channeled off the fusion heater into the cold water pipe. All I had to do was wait for him to use shower 7 and click a remote control button. It was only a 10th of a second burst, but it was plenty to get my point across. Besides, it cracked the pipes all the way up to the shower with just the 10th of a second shot. Any longer and I don't think the plumbing would have held at all. I just can't believe my bunk mate was in on it. I never liked Robbie, but I didn't think he was one of the anti mercs."

Cody glanced over with a bit of sadness, "He may have been forced into helping. Some of the senior cadets put a lot of pressure on younger ones to help get rid of all the mercs. It looked like it was going to work for the most part, but then cadets started getting hurt and finally a couple of instructors did as well and many of the early efforts were abandoned out of fear. Revenge is a business with you two isn't it?"

A smirk played over Caleb's features. "Yea, it seems it is, and at the academy, business was good."

Cody let out a light whistle as he continued to guard the door, "I heard there were quite a few cadets at all levels who were starting to say bad things tended to happen to anyone who crossed mercs and in particular the Grenadiers. Until now, I thought most of it was just the rumor mill gone wild because of a few isolated events."

Caleb let out a light snort, "There was more than a few, and they were far from isolated. I also managed to gain a few allies at some pretty high levels. So did Dante, Zane and Kerri."

Cody's face twisted into a scowl once he realized Caleb was not going to say more. Hoping to get more information he decided to probe a bit. "So what exactly did you do to the kids in the zero G lab Caleb."

Caleb shrugged as he checked the charge on the laser rifle battery and slapped it back in place looking far more like a military veteran than an 11 year old kid. "It depended on who was doing what and how I could just get to the kids who hurt Yuri. The second night we where there, I snuck out of my room through the vent tubes and got into the main computer room. It wasn't secured well at all and it wasn't even manned at night. The last user didn't even bother to log out either so I had free access. It took me only a few moments to pull it out of sleep mode and I used the slide care left next to the terminal to activate it. Once in, I created a backdoor admin level access, Finally, I used one of Dante's receiver chips along with replacing a light duty capacitor with an ultra heavy one and spent about an hour painting it with Zane's model paint to make it look identical to the one I had replaced.

"I was then able to use my academy issued hand held to access the mainframe and change settings when I wanted. The first one was simply changing the shock setting of the shock suits used in laser fighting. Instead of a light jolt with each hit, I overrode them on four of the kids to maximum and changed the time duration from 1 second to the most it would go, a minute thirty."

Dante noticeably cringed, "Damn dude, that's like 20,000 volts!"

"Something along those lines, but almost no amps." Caleb replied rather smugly. "From what I heard, it actually melted their hair. Anyway, I managed to get most of them in several different ways before they shut down the pod. When we got ready to leave the space station, I sent out a signal to the capacitor and fried the chip and the circuit it was on. I'm sure they just replaced the whole board and never looked at why it zorched because they were too worried about all the accidents and the board itself was only on a secondary sub routine."

Dante glanced over, "I didn't know you knew how to..."

Caleb cut him off with a mean chuckle, "What can I say, you're a good teacher Dante."

"Yea, and I tend to take all the blame for both of us." Dante grumbled, but with a slight grin. It took a few seconds for him to maneuver the body with the damaged laser rifle firmly tied to its arm over to the open door, but he waited a few extra seconds for Cody to get in place at the edge of the door as well. A hand signal from Cody followed a split second later by Caleb told Dante they were set.

Finally, he radioed Robin, "OK, we are going out to check the passage. 'Bob' thinks it would be a good idea if we each took a side and prepare to keep it covered. Since you are on the opposite side it should work great if we both turn to the left."

"It sounds like 'bob' has a good idea." Robin responded. "Let's do it."

Dante pushed the body out of the door and paused. He didn't have to wait long as a trio of lasers cut through the dim light, two from his right and one from the left. Two hit the body while the other shot went well wide.

Cody moved out a split second later and fired a burst from the laser rifle down the passage to the right catching one of those shooting at the body totally off guard. His marksmanship was perfect. All three beams stitched across the chest of the light e-suited figure. Sparks from the suit told him at least one of the shots had hit something important on the suit itself. He continued moving across the passage into the room across the hall using the body as a makeshift shield. One more laser zipped down the passage but hit neither Cody nor the body.

A moment later Caleb and Dante poked their rifles out and fired bursts blindly to their right. A shout of pain rewarded their efforts. Both ducked back before any return fire could find them. A single hiss of a laser striking the door frame was as close as anything came to them.

Across the hall, Robin saw the first beam cross his door followed a couple of seconds later by another. This gave him a great gauge as to where the fire was coming from so he went low and peeked around the edge of the door frame. Knowing where to look helped a great deal. He instantly spotted a pair of figures in the dim glow. He triggered a single shot at the larger target and quickly ducked back in. The screech of yet another overloading light e-suit power unit filled the halls of the rapidly dying ship.

A young sounding voice echoed through Bravo deck, "Dad!" A spray of laser light suddenly stitched across the whole hall as whoever was behind it burned though a whole battery pack in less than half a minute. A couple more shouts and one more exploding e-suit followed. The fact the sounds came from the direction the laser flashes went, caused all four Grenadier kids to correctly guess someone they were facing had fallen victim to friendly fire.

The kid's voice sounded panicked, "Dad, come on! Dad!"

Dante's eyes narrowed to mere slits, "Andrapov ... Guys, that son of a bitch is mine!"

Another stream of laser fire, again from a fully auto fired rifle blazed down the passage. "You shot my dad!"

"And you're next!" Dante growled loudly.

"Easy Dante." Robin shouted out. "You can take him, but if what the General said was true, there might be as many as nine of these assholes."

Cody added his own observations. "He's right Dante. Even if the General was honest, and he did get two and we just polished off three more, it is still a four on four fight.

Dante glanced at the laser rifle he was holding and turned to Caleb, "Give me some cover. I'm getting me a thieving dickhead!"

"He's still armed and..."

Dante had a mean smile play over his face. "He only thinks he is." Dante held up the captured rifle. "Just keep it on burst fire only and let it cool after each third or fourth burst. These are Zip Tech made pieces of crap!"

Caleb didn't have time to argue or ask any more questions as he saw Dante shed the bags holding the boxes from the purser's office and pull a long pry bar out of one of the stuffed bags. Instead, he poked the muzzle of his rifle out the door and fired a pair of bursts out of the top corner of the door to his right. An instant later, Dante pushed off a wall and headed out into the passage going to the left.

A single laser hit the edge of the door just a few centimeters down from where Caleb had shot his rifle from.

Caleb shouted, "Dante's in the hall heading toward the other kid. He needs cover!"

"Shit!" Robin shouted as he quickly moved to the door and fired a burst down the passage just as Dante moved past at a high rate of speed. "Dante, I am going to kick your ass when I get a chance! Kay, help him, we'll cover you! 'bob' says to stay high!"

Cody also shouted a few obstinacies as he switched back to the micro missile pistol. He pushed off the floor and entered the passage high and fired a single round down the passage. The launching of the round pushed him back, but once again he was ready and had fired it at an angle so the force of the launching missile simply pushed him rapidly across the hall and back into a door up from the lounge and directly across from Robin. A single laser flashed harmlessly down the middle of the passage.

A split second later, Caleb pushed out into the hall keeping as low to the ground as he could while the missile found a wall somewhere down the passage where the laser fire had come from. The resulting explosion caused a single shout of pain and a spray of laser light up high along the passage.

Cody glanced across at Robin and used voice not radio, "We are getting further from Yuri."

"I noticed."

Dante's voice suddenly reverberated off the walls cutting off further discussion. "Well, if it ain't my old team leader! You thieving, lying, sack of shit!"

Caleb, who was more worried about someone being with the kid and shooting at Dante than the boy himself, was at first relieved to find the boy was alone holding on to a body with a laser burn hole in the center of the chest. Suddenly, he felt his eyes grow wide for a moment as the kid pointed his laser rifle at Dante and pulled the trigger. Confusion rippled across both Caleb face and the kid trying to shoot Dante when nothing happened.

Dante, on the other hand, let out a very nasty laugh. "You burned through the batteries on both yours and your dad's rifles and there is no way in hell you could have replaced them cause they would have overheated and locked into place until they cooled, and it ain't been near enough time for em to cool and unlock yet!"

With a vicious golf club like swing, Dante propelled the long bar toward the boy still trying to hold on to his deceased father.

The kid tired to block the swing with the rifle, but Dante had way more experience in zero G and it showed. The bar crashed though the blocking attempt and snapped the rifle and the kid's arm like a pair of twigs being hit with a truck.

Even as the kid screamed, Dante used his feet to push off the upper bulkhead and switched to a backhand swing. "That's the thing about Zip Tech crap, they don't have a manual over ride for an overheated power pack like most real weapon makers put in. You were screwed the second you auto-fired your dad's rifle!" The bar descended again, this time striking the now defenseless boy in the back. The bar propelled the kid into wall with enough force to shatter the light e-suit's face plate.

Caleb quickly moved up and grabbed Dante before his friend could bring the bar down a third time. "You'll kill him!"

Dante shook with anger but stopped his swing. He stared down at his handy work and slowly let the bar slip out of his grasp. "The power pack in that cheep ass Zip Tech suit will kill him soon enough anyway! It looks like Earth Core sent them the cheapest junk they could find."

Caleb glanced down and saw the heating coils inside the suit start to glow. Without a second thought, he pulled out the knife in the built-in leg sheath and cut the back panel of the kid's suit open. With a quick yank, he ripped the already whining power pack out and pushed it as far away from the three of them as he could.

"What the hell are you doing!" Dante shouted. "He tired to kill us and he messed with..."

Caleb held up a hand cutting his friend off. Watching the power unit glow and suddenly burst open he then let a truly nasty grin play over his lips. "No Dante, I have a better idea." His voice held a very malicious edge to it and with the help of the glow of the overloading power pack, Dante couldn't help but make out Caleb's very wicked looking stare.

Robin chanced a glance in the direction Dante and Caleb had gone, somewhat happy the curved passage had carried them out of the line of fire from those down the hall, but concerned he could no longer see either of them. "Hey, you guys clear?"

"Clear!" Caleb shouted. "Hey Robin, I have an idea."

"What you got Kay?" Robin responded.

"Can I take the lead for a minute?"

Cody glanced across the hall to Robin with a puzzled look only to get a shrug in reply. He cocked his head to the side, "Alright, go for it."

"Thanks." Caleb grinned while moving back down the passage until the curvature allowed him to make out a figured crouched down in a doorway. "Hey mister, I think we can work out a deal here."

The pain filled voice of a man responded. "We're listening kid!"

"OK, from the way it sounded, you all have a way off this ship, right?"

The voice of the man they all knew as Luther answered. "Maybe we do maybe we don't. What of it?"

Caleb let out a long breath, "Well, if you do then I think we can work something out."

"Like what?" Luther shouted.

"OK, I'll take that as you do have a way off." Caleb stated as he glanced back to Dante and the knocked out kid next to him. "We didn't kill Cadet Andrapov, but he is messed up and is going to freeze pretty soon cause his suit doesn't have a face plate or a battery. Anyway, if you all agree to move into the dining room where there is still heat and some life support, we'll secure our friends and leave the kid in the lounge for you. You then give us an hour and you can all make your escape however you were planning to. We just want this deck for another hour to find the rest of our friends."

The pain filled voice yelled back, "How do we know you'll leave him?"

The question was followed by the voice of Luther, "The hell with this Boris! What do we have to loose! They have at least one heavy weapon and we are down to our last power packs!"

The injured man let out a long sigh, "Fine! If you brats want this deck you can have it, but we searched high and low. There ain't no one else here!"

Luther quickly spoke up. "Leave the kid in the lounge. The second we get in there we'll crank the door shut and you can lock us in, how does that sound?"

Caleb started to answer but stopped himself, "Robin, do you agree?"

Robin held up his arms and looked across to Cody, not knowing what to say.

Cody peaked out and glanced down the hall in both directions then sighed. "OK, but only because we get 'bob' and Yuri, and it sounds like Cadet Andrapov will freeze unless he gets to somewhere with functioning life support and the dining hall has it. Bring him down here and push him into the lounge, Caleb. We'll cover you.

"You and your buddy back past room 12 so we can secure our friends. Once we do so, we will move back this way and let you move into the lounge. As soon as you close the door, we will lock it from the outside."

"You ain't giving us no guarantees." Boris yelled.

"We are giving you our word which is far more than you can give us." Robin snapped back.

"Let's do it their way." Luther shouted. "The three of us can't hold out here forever especially with you two having suit breaches."

"Let's do it." A weak sounding woman's voice responded. We'll pay them back later."

"Sure you will." Cody growled. "We hold the upper hand here."

A figure tentatively floated out of a doorway as if expecting to get shot at. When it didn't happen, he quickly reached in and grabbed a second figure and pulled the person down the passage out of sight. A few seconds later another form floated slowly out of a door on the opposite side and followed the other two, a full minute later Luther's voice came over the open radio. "Alright, we are well past room 12, almost to the dropped blast doors leading around to the far side of the ship. Come get your damned friends!"

Cody moved quickly and spoke softly though the suit speaker, "Keep me covered Robin. The second I get Yuri, and pull back to here, we'll give the go ahead to the others to put the other kid in the lounge."

Robin secured a rifle from one of the dead bodies, checked it over, pulled the power pack, slapped it back in place and fired a single shot, and finally handed it over to Cody, "Give this to Yuri, it works and has over half a charge on the power pack. If he needs more than 15 shots, we are in more trouble than I think we are."

Cody gave a bit of a nod as he moved from door to door crisscrossing the hall at random intervals to prevent anyone from lining up an easy shot. After a tense minute or two, he made his way down to room 21 and whispered, "Yuri?"

The boy quickly pulled himself out from the closet and nervously looked over. "I thought they were going to get me."

"Not a chance." Cody thrust the rifle into the scared boy's hands. Fall back to Dante and Caleb. This only has a few shots left but use it if you have to."

The boy's head bobbed up and down vigorously. "OK, but I'm not the greatest shot."

Robin appeared in the door and gently, yet urgently, pushed the young aerospace cadet back down the passage. "Just make sure you know who or what you are shooting at. Now go!"

Cody started to follow Yuri, but Robin pulled him back, "We have to go all the way down to room twelve."


"Because we have to keep 'bob' safe. If these assholes do get out of here, they cannot be allowed to think we have any kind of code. At least one is Earth Core, and there is no telling if he will make another try at any of us or not. One way or the other, they must all think 'bob' is a person, just in case."

Cody gave Robin a 'you're being too paranoid look' but finally sighed. "OK, but if I get shot I am going to haunt you."

Robin snickered, "If they shoot you they shoot me too; then we can go though our afterlives haunting each other."

Cody gave a humor filled snort as he quickly darted out the room and moved down the passage.

Back down the passage, Dante pulled Cadet Andrapov's unconscious body around to the lounge and gave it a hard shove into the lounge the second he saw Yuri nervously glancing back over his shoulder. He glanced back to Caleb who was carefully covering the passage leading toward the internal docking bay. "Kay, it would have been better if you would have let me kill this kid."

"Come on, it got us Yuri and..."

"Come on?" Dante hissed ignoring Yuri for a moment, "You know what the asshole does to me!"

Caleb turned sharply, "Of course I do, or did you forget the night he caught the two of us together! But if I didn't do this, there is a chance one or more of these assholes would have gotten their hands on Yuri or one of us. Besides, I have a plan! Trust me, Dante. You know damned good and well I would never want anyone else to go though what you have."

Yuri glanced nervously back and forth, "Did I do something wrong?"

Dante sadly glanced one last time at his former cadet team leader while he once again secured the bags with the boxes form the purser's office, "No wing nut, you have done great. You are just hearing a very rare disagreement between me and Caleb." He paused peering in the direction Yuri had come from. "Where the hell is Robin and Cody?"

Yuri shrugged, "They kept going for some reason. Something about a Bob?"

"Oh," Dante nodded as if the whole conversation between him and Caleb had never happened, "then help Caleb keep our back door covered. The second they get back we'll pull back and let these bastards have the lounge."

A couple of minute later Robin and Cody appeared and motioned for the others to move further around the passage toward the docking bay. Once satisfied, Robin glanced in noting all the bodies in the lounge, some now blow up from the missile explosions. Seeing a smaller form in a mangled light e-suit he shook his head in disgust and shouted out, "OK, the way is clear all the way to the lounge!"

"Alright kid. You can fry the lock to the door the second we crank it shut."

"Count on it!"

Once out of eye shot of the lounge door Caleb turned to Yuri, "Do you still have your academy hand held?"

Yuri nodded, &ddquo;It's on my belt inside the suit."

Cody raised an eyebrow. "Was there a message sent to get to the life pods before the miss-fold?"

Yuri nodded, "Yeah, but I was kind of locked on the bridge."

Cody nodded, "I understand, but at least the General was telling the truth. There are probably a couple hundred kids on life boats on this ship!"

Caleb gave a weak smile, "I just hope Robin and I were able to get the life support going soon enough." He then turned to Yuri, "Can Cody use it?"

"Sure, but you'll have to unzip my suit. It is on my left hip."

Dante shook his head and responded with annoyance in his voice, "Gee, for a wing nut you ain't very handy in a E-suit. Pull your hand out of your glove, grab the hand held, then with it still in your hand push your hand back into your glove. Then all we have to do is remove your glove and you don't loose nearly as much heat!"

The boy's eyebrow went up for a moment. "Gee, the academy never taught us that!" Within moments, the boys hand moved the hand held unit from his belt to the inside of his glove. He then held up his gloved hand to Cody.

Caleb tried to hold back a laugh but failed, "There is a lot the academy didn't teach us Yuri."

Cody quickly pulled off the glove, grabbed the small communication unit, and replaced Yuri's glove. "OK, I have it Caleb, now what?"

Caleb continued to keep the passage way covered, "Since everything Jordavich said so far was true, there is a good chance he wasn't lying about Robin's friend. See if you can contact him. Use your force's frequency and tell him something so he will know for a fact it is you. Then find out if he is on the yacht that is loose in the bay."

"Why do you think it is him?" Dante asked.

"I don't. But I think he is on it and so are the other missing cadets. I also think one of the others is one of the senor IPSC cadets." He paused only to notice everyone looking at him blankly. "Guys, I really don't want to go into this, but the cadet who scared off those beating on Yuri was Senior Cadet Colonel Vladimir Jandav. He was also the one who helped me get the needed simulator time to get my IPSC certs. He even secretly took me up a few times for practice. He was also on this deck and is probably the only cadet good enough to maneuver a yacht in a docking bay and fry people with main thruster bursts without slamming it into something!"

Robin glanced over to Cody, "It's worth a shot. Let's use our standard challenge and pass. No one else should know it!"

Cody quickly changed the frequency and spoke, "Bravo two three two, this is Command Prime. Ident challenge global. Please respond!"

A moment later a surprised voice answered back, "Command Prime, this is Bravo two three two. Pass Market. Challenge Racer!"

Cody and Robin both let out relieved breaths of air. Cody quickly replied. "Pass Nightmare! Good to have you on the horn Bravo two three two. Can you confirm you are on the yacht?"

"Affirmative. Where are you?"

"I am with Command Five and some other friendlies. We are working are way to the Bravo bay entrance are we clear?"

"Negative! There are two hostiles behind a Delta class ferry and another behind a Gamma class cargo shuttle. I think we can cover you from one for a few seconds but not both."

Caleb pulled on Cody's sleeve. "Ask if they can put themselves between both craft and at least one of the fighters!"

Cody frowned but quickly keyed the comm unit again. "Is there any way you can put yourselves between them and one of the fighters for a minute or two?"

"Just a second." There was a bit of a pause before another kid spoke up. "I can, but it'll be a bitch. You will have to give me about 30 seconds advance notice then I can only hold for at the most a minute. There just isn't much room to maneuver!"

Caleb gave a nasty grin, "I was right. That was Vladimir's voice. Dante act as a relay for me. The second you see me next to the door to the bay give them a signal to Cody so Vlad can start his run!"

Robin took a deep breath and winced, lightly grabbing at his ribs as he spoke. "Caleb, your dad will kill me if you get hurt!"

"In less than a couple of minutes I will be doing the hurting Robin. Besides, you are in no condition to move fast through an open bay with people shooting at us. I'll make sure they never get the chance." Caleb stated with a dangerous edge to his voice no one in the Grenadiers had ever heard before. Not waiting for a reply the boy moved down the passage.

With a rather astonished look, Robin watched the smaller boy move away, "Dante, have you ever seen him like this?"

Dante opened his hands, "He has come kind of close a few times, but nothing like this. He is really pissed."

"I didn't know he ever got mad."

"That's cause you have never given him enough credit to spend time with him."

"I'm already working on the way we treat the two of you Dante. We have not been very fair."

Dante half shrugged as he moved down the passage so he could keep eye contact with Caleb, "You shot the asshole. We're good."

Robin hardened, "He will never lay another finger on you Dante, no more black eyes, no more bruises, nothing. If he tries... well let me just say he will never again try."

"You don't know him very well if you believe that."

Cody shook his head, "Dante, He will have to kill me and my dad before he hurts you again dude, and my dad will not take his crap no matter how big or mean he is. Your dad may be a framer, but he has never dealt with an armor commander the likes of my dad before!"

"It would be nice to believe it, but, for the record, I'm not going to get my hopes up." Getting a wave from Caleb, Dante quickly and easily switched the subject. "Give the signal Cody!"

Cody keyed the comm. unit. "Bravo two three two, this is Command Prime, start your run now Second challenge Angle!"

"Confirm second pass Hammer!"

Even from where Robin, Cody and Yuri were floating they could hear the roar and feel some heat wash down the passage as the yacht fired main thrusters for a few seconds followed by several bursts of side thrusters.

Dante watched Caleb move through the door and out of sight. "He is on the move!"

Cody keyed the unit again, "Hold as long as you can, we have someone moving on one of the fighters!"

"We see him, but it has a lock out!" Jessie responded.

"He has an override; you have to give him cover!"

"We are!" Vladimir's voice came over though clenched teeth, "But he damn well better hurry, I am barely keeping this son of a bitch off the walls!"

Another voice came over the hand held, "Holy shit! He's in!"

Less than ten seconds later Caleb's voice came over an open frequency, "All right you Q Six bastards! See how you handle this!" there was a series of loud popping sounds that actually shook the ship slightly followed by another wave of heat blasting down the passage. A second later there were the sounds of thruster burns and heavy weapons fire from the bay.

Yet another voice came over the hand held, "Dear god, he just did a spin and cooked the two trying to hide on the back side of Gamma class while shooting the two using the Delta for cover!"

Caleb's voice came over the radio, "Vlad, it looks like they are trying to pull a heavy weapon from the port side of the Delta! Cook em!"

"Already on it!" the older boy's voice responded followed a couple of seconds later by a long thruster burst and a shrill scream and a large explosion. "I don't think that heavy rocket went off where they wanted it!"

"Me neither!" Caleb laughed then changed tone as he shouted. "Cut hard starboard! They have a large gun out on the Gamma's back hatch. I'm on it!" Another burst of thrusters followed by sounds of heavy weapon fire cascaded down the passage.

Vladimir's voice sounded rather astonished, "You can't do a roll while shooting when you're in a bay with other docked ships!"

"I can't?" Caleb snickered, "Try telling those two dumb asses that!"

"I would, but you shot them!"

Caleb fired the fighter's thrusters maneuvering around the bay checking for other hostiles. "They are buttoning up. The bay is clear Robin!"

Jessie's voice came over the radio, "We concur Command Prime. They are locking down all hatches and there is no more movement outside any of the ships. Give us a few minutes to give it a once over, but it looks like you're clear!"

Robin glanced back realizing the door to the lounge was now shut and he didn't even see them enter. "OK, we'll be there shortly."

Caleb radioed back. "Vlad, come on out and take over the other fighter. I'll talk you through start up!"

"Who is going to pilot this ship then?" Jessie asked.

"I will." Robin responded as he pulled the maintenance hatch and shot the manual controls to lift the lounge door with a pair of single shots form the laser pistol. Robin then let out a light whistle as he looked back over to Cody with a large smile. "Good to hear you made it Jessie!"

"Man is it ever good to hear your voice!" Jessie responded. "Now how do we get out of here?"

Dante answered, "Leave that up to us. Get everyone strapped in. We'll be there shortly."

Robin switched frequencies, "Bridge, this is Robin."

Captain Tanner responded as if he had been holding his breath, "Damn son, we've been monitoring. You all are scaring the crap out of us!"

"What are kids for, sir?" Dante responded with a light chuckle.

"For making parents grow old way too quickly!" a new voice came over the radio.

"MOM!" Robin shouted in pure glee. "Are you OK?"

"I was until the Major pumped in your communications into my room. The two of us need to talk boy!"

"Real soon mom!" Robin stated with a trembling voice as tears spilled out of his eyes. "All we have to do is get out of here! Is everything set Major?"

Major O'Connell's voice boomed over the radio, "It sure is. How many hostile ships are there and how many of the others can you all pilot out of there?"

Caleb answered. "There are a pair of hostiles, but they are old cargo shuttles and I can't shoot them cause they have hostages on them."

Robin continued where Caleb left off. "I think we can take a pair of fighters and the yacht..."

Yuri quickly grabbed Robin's shoulder, "I can take one as long as I can take her all the way planet side and do a slow re-entry and landing."

"Hold sir." Robin glanced over, "You sure?"

Yuri jerked his head toward Dante, "As he keeps saying I am a wing nut cadet!"

Dante snickered, "I'll go with him. I can kind of fly atmospheric superiority craft and could help with sensors and stuff."

Robin tossed up his arms, "OK, We can take at least two craft and the fighters, but we'll need a landing field planet side for one of the larger craft."

"I'll get you all clearance somewhere planet side come hell or high water. It's far safer and easier to land on a landing field." Major O'Connell fired back. "Stick as a group so the fighters can keep you covered. We can't launch any of our fighters yet so they are all you have! In the mean time, I want you two in the fighters to slow up those hostiles. Take out their primary drives and leave them with just thrusters."

"Vlad and I can handle the hostiles and keep the others covered sir." Caleb chimed in with a new sureness to his voice.

Captain Tanner's voice seemed to shake a bit, "Young man, you have some serious explaining to do!"

Vlad came over the radio, "Sir, I don't know any of you, but Kay is born to be an IPSC jock, he really is. But I am fully qualified and will keep an eye on this little fleet until you can get to us. But trust me when I say I am totally comfortable with Kay being my wingman any time."

"Son." Major O'Connell nearly shouted. "After everything we heard up here, you have a slot with us if you want it!"

"I accept sir!"

"Awesome." Major O'Connell stated with some authority. "OK guys find your spots and Robin tell them the plan. The second you are all set we'll proceed. You two fighter... um pilots..." he glanced back at Captain Tanner only to get mystified shake of the man's head. "Um, yea, anyway, you two keep a close eye on those hostiles and make damn sure they can't beat you planet side."

Caleb fired a pair of linked electron cannons on the nose of his captured fighter putting a pair of holes in the Delta's port side engine. "Already on it Major."

Major O'Connell let the mike slide out of his hand as he heard the shots being fired and looked over the bridge crew. It took only moments to see everyone was looking right back at him. "Well shit."

Captain Tanner nodded, "Well put sir."

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