The hovercar was going fast, so fast that Kylinn had to shout her directions over the roaring of the wind. There didn’t seem to be any sign of pursuit, fortunately. It was not long before they had left the lights of the city behind and were flying over fields and small copses of low-growing trees. Kylinn looked at the navigation screen on the car and directed Morgan to alter course slightly.
“Hmph.” Morgan did, slowing a little. A small cluster of light could be seen just ahead of them, resolving into what looked like a farmhouse.
“That is our destination, Anla’shok,” Kylinn said. “What do we do now?”
“I will be going in. You can guard our transport, if you would rather – I appreciate your help so far, and would not insist on more.”
The Minbari looked disappointed, but tried to put the best face on it. “I am not well skilled in battle, but I can defend myself,” she said. “We may need to get away quickly, so I think guarding our transport might be the wisest thing.”
Morgan nodded. “I will be as quick as possible. If you are in danger, though, get yourself away.”
“I understand.” She loosened her holdout pistol in its holster.
Morgan pulled to a stop, outside any logical perimeter the gang might have set up, then hopped out. She nodded to Kylinn before hurrying away, keeping to cover.
“Valen go with you,” the Minbari said, holding her staff at the ready.
The building appeared to be a farmhouse, but most of the fields and orchards surrounding it appeared to be poorly tended if at all. Several rows of overgrown fruit trees offered good cover up to the last few dozen yards. While she was in a hurry, from the edge of the grove Morgan took the time to have a good look at the house, to see how likely she was to be seen.
It was fairly good sized, built only one story high. She could see narrow windows a few inches off the ground, which suggested a cellar. A large veranda circled part of the house facing the orchard. One Narn was lounging in a chair near the front door. There were lights on in several rooms on the main floor, and as she looked, several of the cellar windows lit up as well.
She had a feeling Kordieh would be in the cellar, but seeing no apparent way to get in, she opted to go in the front, and quickly, to take the one guard by surprise. Morgan moved slowly at first, but once she let her denn’bok open, she broke into a crouching run.
Hearing some sound, the Narn guard stood up, and took a few steps toward the edge of the veranda, but it was far too late. She hit him in the face. As his head snapped back, Morgan kept moving forward to catch him and settle him back in his chair. He slumped into it, the only sound a faint wheezing.
The door beyond him was unlocked. Morgan opened it a little, then had a listen to the room beyond. She could hear several sets of voices, both male and female, all speaking Narn. After a moment, she realized that most of them were recorded. Someone was watching a vid program, apparently. She took that cover to slip in, have a look around.
She found herself in a small foyer, with a hallway stretching out in front of her, and a set of partially closed double doors to her right. The sound of the vid was coming from there — she could now make out two voices from that room. She moved around to have a look through the doors. Two female Narns were sitting inside, close to an old video screen, laughing at what they were watching as well as chatting between themselves.
While Morgan wasn’t one to underestimate anyone, she knew female Narn could be quite capable fighters. She pushed the door farther open with her denn’bok, ready. The door, which had been fine up to that moment, took the opportunity to scrape loudly against a warped section of floor. Both the Narns turned, and one jumped to her feet, grabbing a short club as she did so.
Morgan cursed under her breath, then stepped in, staff ready. The Narn with the club charged forward. Clearly her plan was to swing first and ask questions later.
Morgan turned her staff, to deflect the club, then flipped it to retaliate. A swift counterstrike dropped the Narn where she stood. As she crumpled, her companion ducked behind the chair, trying desperately not to be noticed.
Morgan thought briefly, then said, quickly, “If you are silent, I will only lock you in.” Met with an obliging silence, she stepped back out, making sure the door would lock after her. This time, she was careful to lift it over the warped place.
As she made her way down the hall, she heard a scream, a single sound of pure distilled agony that cut through the stillness like an ax, despite being slightly muffled by distance and intervening walls.
Her stomach clenched, fear for Kordieh. She quickened her step, not worried about silence now, and kept her eyes open for a door leading down. The hallway ended in a large, dimly lit kitchen and pantry area.
Morgan headed into the kitchen – it was one likely place for a fusebox. It was a large space, with one door that clearly led outside, two others that she couldn’t tell where they might connect to, and a large, open closet filled with shelves — a pantry. On the side wall of the pantry closet she spotted a small box on the wall that appeared a likely prospect.
She checked the equipment she had with her, then went to find out. It wasn’t identical to the sort of thing one might find in a house on Earth, nor aboard the Phoenix, but it was nevertheless identifiable. At least some of the farmhouse’s wiring passed through here.
She started flipping switches, presumably to “off”. Nothing happened from the first few, but then the lights in the kitchen went dark, and a fraction of a second later, on the next throw, she could hear shouts of alarm in Narn from behind one of the two doors. There were heavy footsteps to go along with it.
Morgan turned her IR eyepiece on and quickly put earplugs in. Rather than wait, she strode towards the door and flung it open.
Two Narn stumbled out — they had just been about to open the door themselves. They tried to step back, to let their eyes adjust so they could see the rough shape in front of them. But Morgan’s staff was ready and she quickly took care of them. As they dropped, she could hear another set of footsteps from the same doorway. She could see now that it opened onto a set of steps leading into the cellar.
She pulled a flashbang out of her pocket, set it, and rolled it down the stairs, squinting already, even with the visor to help cut the brightness. The explosion was followed immediately by a howl and, a fraction of a second later, a heavy thud.
Morgan headed down directly, looking around. A large, heavy Narn lay at the foot of the steps. He was rolling over, spewing curses, preparing to get back on his feet. Beyond him the cellar was largely bare, save for a slender figure bound to one of the concrete support pillars, head and shoulders dangling limply.
Unseen, she bared her teeth — it wasn’t hard to guess who the captive was. With her staff, she pressed the Narn back into the floor, more forcefully than necessary. “You kidnapped a friend of mine. I don’t like that.”
The Narn coughed and blinked, trying to get his eyes to focus again. “Mistake,” he managed to croak out. “My boys … made a mistake.”
“Clearly. Don’t make it again.”
“Right, sure. He’s right over there. We were going to let him go in the morning.”
She scowled, then pushed a little harder. “Do you think I am deaf?”
“No, no, of course not. What’s the problem? You can take him and go.”
“I am tempted to return the favor,” she said, quite bluntly. “However….” She took out a pair of handcuffs and trussed him up, not gently. He grumbled, but resisted little.
She poked him with a booted toe, but then turned her attention to Kordieh, stepping up quick to look at his bindings.
They looked like large zip ties around both his ankles and wrists, but as she looked down past the wrist, she saw the shattered ruin of his left hand. Even with the restrictions of infrared, she could make out the too-bright edges of bone and fluid movement of blood.
Morgan’s stomach turned, but she cut him free, supported him down to the floor. Then she pulled off one of the hand braces she wore. “Dunstan?”
His eyes opened slowly, in a face that seemed almost covered in drying blood. “Margaret? Cherie?”
“Ie. I need to splint your hand,” she added, apologetically.
Supporting him with her shoulder, she did it quickly. She could feel his teeth grinding, but he said nothing as she set the four fingers back into something close to their natural alignment.
Morgan snugged the straps, practiced at from splinting her own hands. “I am sorry,” she murmured.
“It’s all right,” he said. “We are … still in the cellar?”
“Ie. But not for long.” She put his good arm over her shoulder, stood up slowly.
He groaned a little, but once up, he said, “I can walk.”
She let him. “I will stay close, but we should go as quick as you can.”
“Oui.” Through his mask of blood, he looked her in the eye, close enough that she could make out his expression. Though she had seen emotions in his eyes ranging from catatonic blankness to the height of physical passion, she saw now one she had never seen before: slow-burning rage. He spoke slowly. “Give me a weapon.”
She did, her own service PPG. “We have a ride waiting outside.”
“Stay close,” she repeated, then headed for the stairs. She could feel him close behind. As she neared the top and looked through the door left open, the two bodyguards she had dropped a few minutes earlier had apparently recovered enough to move — they weren’t on the floor where she had left them.
Morgan cursed. “Two loose,” she murmured to Kordieh.
“Where is our ride?” he asked, drawing several quick, shallow breaths.
“Almost out of sight, waiting on my signal.”
“I’ll try to be quick.”
She scowled, but didn’t argue with him. She stepped forward cautiously. The kitchen was empty, no sign to tell where the two Narn had gone. It crossed Morgan’s mind that they might have fled, but that wasn’t their luck, as a rule.
They went back through the hallway, toward the front door. The door Morgan had locked earlier was still closed and locked, as best as a quick glance could tell. With no other doors immediately obvious, she continued on towards the door.
Out on the veranda, she saw the first guard she had knocked out, still slumped unconscious in his chair. Beyond were the groves of overgrown fruit trees. Morgan pointed towards the trees, indicating where their ride should be. Kordieh nodded. His breathing was becoming too labored to spare any for speaking.
She took a step off the veranda, waiting on Kordieh. Carefully, he made his way down the steps, stopping only when he had reached her side again. There was a small moon that cast a faint light, but for him, it was the only thing to see by.
Morgan kept her pace to something he could keep up with. She kept an eye out around.
A little over halfway there, she thought she caught a glimpse of something behind one of the trees at the edge of the path — a shape too bright to be anything but a warm-blooded body. She stopped immediately. “I think they’re out here,” she hissed.
“Where?” he muttered, slowing but not quite stopping.
“At the edge, on my left.”
As Kordieh turned in that direction, the Narn burst out of his hiding place and charged, in time with his companion on the other side.
Two bursts from the PPG in Kordieh’s hand blazed through the dark and caught the first Narn above the knees. He stumbled, and crashed to the ground.
Morgan pivoted and charged the second, denn’bok whirling. They traded several blows, but hers was the last and hardest. As he fell, a loud whine of engines announced the arrival of their “borrowed” hovercar. Kylinn had one hand on the wheel and a drawn Minbari holdout laser in the other. Seeing the two Rangers, she pulled up. “Anla’shok Morgan — I heard firing,” she called.
“Ie.” Morgan backtracked then, to Kordieh, to help him in the hovercar.
He handed the PPG back to her, then used his good hand to scramble into a seat, suppressing a groan. “Cherie …”
She pocketed it. “We’ll be back quickly now.” She climbed in after, face pinched, then nodded at Kylinn to go – she would take over in a minute, if wanted.
The Minbari pulled the hovercar hard around and floored the accelerator. “The main spaceport?” she yelled over her shoulder.
Kylinn nodded and leaned forward over the wheel, trying to force as much speed as she could out of the shrieking engine.
“Almost back,” Morgan repeated to Kordieh, as if she could will it.
“I’m … sorry … ” he murmured.
“Don’t. Nothing to apologize for.”
“Too kind … cherie … ” His eyelids fluttered and closed. Morgan’s stomach twisted again – there wasn’t anything else she could do yet.
As the lights of the spaceport loomed ahead, Kylinn yelled again, “Where?”
Morgan leaned toward the front to direct. Kylinn slowed, but only slightly, as she followed Morgan’s directions. She smiled as the hovercar pulled up alongside the Hayn’gok. A Narn, holding the yoke of a heavily laden grav-sled, was standing near the cargo hatch. It was their contact from the marketplace.
Morgan was completely surprised by that, quite expecting to go without those supplies. She nudged Kordieh gently, hoping he’d stir. He opened his eyes and tried to sit up almost at once.
“Slowly.” He nodded. Both Kylinn and the Narn were offering hands to assist. “Carefully,” Morgan added to them, helping too. As they got Kordieh up and toward the ship, the main hatch opened from the inside. Kitsune, their passenger, stood silhouetted in the hatchway as the ramp extended. She quickly stepped aside to let them in.
Morgan nodded her thanks. To the others, she said, “I will be back in a minute,” and she continued into the ship, to get Kordieh settled as comfortably as possible.
“May I help?” Kitsune asked.
“This I will do. But if the supplies get aboard, I would be most grateful.”
She nodded, turning and hurrying away toward the cargo hold.
Morgan steered Kordieh to their cabin. “Can you rest until I can get back, Dunstan? I don’t want to be longer on the ground than we have to be.”
Getting the door open, she helped him in. She got him to the bunk, where he slowly lay back, cradling his left hand on his chest. In spite of the rush they were in, she had to sit beside him a moment. “Dunstan,” she murmured.
She shook her head. “I will be back, as soon as I can.”
“Be careful, cherie.”
She nodded, found a relatively uninjured spot she could leave a kiss on, and then got up – there were things to do.