As O’Brian moved with this unknown pilot towards the door he caught sight of a picture of his wife and son on the wall. Upon seeing it, he thought about the current situation he was now, and of his deceased… No… Murdered… wife and kidnapped son. His self-pity and sadness faded away and was replaced with an intense anger. A fire in his heart, burning like the depths of hell had been lit in his soul. Adrenalin pumped through his veins and in lapse of all self-control he let out a yell “Shaw! You’re dead!” as he ripped the picture from the wall and threw it to the ground shattering the glass cover.
This sudden yell startled the female pilot, who spun around and scolded O’Brian, “Hold it together! Just because you are no longer an officer in the Imperial Navy, does not mean you can get rookie on me! Get focused!”
The surprised look on O’Brian’s face at this sudden scolding must have been easy to read. “Look, I know this is all so sudden for you, but you aren’t the only person to have lost loved ones in this whole mess. My brother was flying on your wing and died the day you tried to save the freighter. He certainly wouldn’t approve of you falling apart now!“
O’Brian realized her brother was Epsilon 3, who was vaporized by missiles shortly before the freighter went down. He tried to apologize but was quickly cut off “Do not apologize to me just yet. There will be plenty of time to talk later.” O’Brian could see her fighting back tears of her own, and after a brief pause she continued “You asked my name earlier, it is Lieutenant Sarah Franklin, of the Outer World Alliance. I will tell you more once we are on our way to the jump point, we must move. NOW! We have wasted too much time here already!” With that, she turns around, and moves to the door way and makes a hand motion for O’Brian to stack up behind the door way with her. O’Brian vaguely remembered basic hand signals from the naval academy, he never was one for close combat, and preferred to stay in the pilot’s seat. He used to think that is what the Marines were for, and now, he was wishing he spent a little more time training for this as he was obviously way out of his element.
Once O’Brian was in position, Franklin made another hand gesture and abruptly opened the door and crossed the doorway out into the hall. O’Brian followed and nearly tripped over a body that was lying on the ground. It was the Marine who was posted as a guard outside his room. The body had a metal spike protruding from the side of his head. O’Brian felt queasy. In his entire career he had never actually seen a dead body or the end result of warfare up close. He knew when he spaced a Vanduul fighter or a pirate Cutlass that he was killing a living being, but he never actually saw death this close. He looked around and spotted four more bodies on the ground in the hall. The four others were the Advocacy agents that were to transport him to a docked Advocacy Freelancer for transport to his trial. He decided not to stare too long and stayed behind Franklin.
At the end of the hall Franklin stopped just before the bulkhead and said quietly “The rooster has crowed”. O’Brian confused was about to ask what that gibberish meant when suddenly from the opposite side of the bulkhead came a low male voice the replied “at midnight!” Franklin rapidly pulled a very confused O’Brian past the bulkhead where he saw two men waiting, both in flight suits with laser pistols in hand and crossbows leaning up against the wall next to them. The crossbows must have been used to silently dispatch the guard and agents. O’Brian instantly recognized the two men. The man closest to him was Warrant Officer Vladimir Kutuzov, his flight engineer that used to be responsible for keeping his old Hornet in combat ready condition. Kutuzov and O’Brian were good friends and O’Brian was glad to see him. The other man was Ensign Terry Michaels. Michaels was well known on the Artemis for his marksmanship and was assigned to Hotel Flight’s heavy fighters as a rear gunner.
“Vlad, glad to see you. But, how did you…..” O’Brian started to ask his friend how we got joined up into this whole mess and escape plan. But Kutuzov interrupted.
“Tom, it is a long story. For now, let’s just say that I never told you all of my history. I used to be a Marine, and I tried to escape my past by transferring to the Navy and being a lowly flight engineer. What happened out there with you was the last straw. The corruption must end. Things really have not changed from the Messer era nearly as much as we think. It just happens behind closed doors now”. Kotuzov calmly spoke. There was conviction in his voice. This is something that he obviously has thought through. O’Brian was surprised to learn Kutuzov was in the Marines before the Navy. He never suspected it. O’Brian was beginning to realize that he was in the center of something much bigger than himself.
At Franklin’s beckoning the four began to the move down the hall at a brisk jog. There was no time to waste. As they approached the lift that goes from the pilot’s quarters to the flight deck the door to the lift opened. Two security team members started to exit the lift, their weapons holstered. The security team saw the four running towards them, and while they did not recognize most of them, they recognized O’Brian immediately and started to draw their pistols. “Stop! Show yo…..” they started to give the command to stop and show their hands, but where cut short as Kutuzov and Michaels both fired two rapid shots from their laser pistols. Both of their targets staggered forward and collapsed as each took two laser impacts in the center of their chests. The smell of charred human flesh filled the air along with a small amount of smoke from the burned uniforms and flesh and vital organs that the uniforms covered.
“Go! Go! Go! Get in the lift!” Franklin yelled. She knew the laser blasts would alert the ships systems to their exact location and determine that they would be trying to get to the flight line. They need to get down the lift and to the flight deck before security can lock it down and trap them. Fortunately, the sheer size of a Bengal has an advantage to a small group trying to escape: there is a lot of ship to cover. Much of the preparation Franklin did for this escape involved planting false evidence showing an attempt to mutiny and take over the ship so security teams will be performing sweeps of the entire ship, not just the flight deck. “Plus” she thought to herself “the Empire doesn’t know of the jump point I am going to lead the four of them through, so they will not likely be anticipating an escape plan. “
The four escapees rush into the lift and Franklin inputs the command to head to the flight deck. As the door to the lift closes, there are yells heard in the hall. A second security team approaching from the other direction spotted them and the leader of that team yelled out commands. Just before the door fully closed a laser blast hit the back of the lift burning a small crater into the surface. “Everyone ok?” Franklin asked while catching her breath. Everyone looked each other over and nodded. A few seconds later the lift reached the flight deck. The easy part was over…