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Chapter 24:- Fireworks



Murray pressed hard against the hole in her side and stumbled backwards. The room tilted and she fell against one of the walls, used her shoulder for support and looked down at her hand. Blood stuck to it at the edges. Smoke wisped from her singed suit.

The bastard shot her. She tried to move her hand, to survey the damage, but the room tilted again. Her whole side burned. Small dagger jolts shot out from the wound. She cringed and tried not to pass out. The floor bucked under her feet, and she heard cussing. Zander. Zander had shot her with—she checked the damage again—some kind of disintegrator.

But he’d had the thing aimed at her…

She shook her head, but a fog had settled there. I’m in shock, she thought. I just might be dying.

“What have you done!” Zander’s voice screamed in her ear.

She turned toward the sound, but the room quivered again. Was it shock, or was the floor really jumping around like that? “What have I done?” She struggled to find him without increasing the pain in her side. “You shot me!”

“Not where it counts.” He slid into view, directly in front of her and with a look that put ice in her veins. “I aimed for your brain.” Murray caught the twist of his lips as he raised the muzzle of the disintegrator and pressed it against her temple. She doubted he could miss at that range.

She closed her eyes. She’d miss out on Zora getting old and gray—something she’d always looked forward to watching. She’d miss arguing with her. She’d miss the way the android acted like he really liked her. Rook. She’d forgotten to apologize to him, definitely should have apologized.

The floor heaved again. Murray felt the cool tip of the weapon slide down her cheek. That time, she felt almost certain the room really moved. “What’s happening?” She winced when his hand moved the gun back into position.

“You tell me,” Zander hissed. “I didn’t order any fireworks.”

Murray frowned. Fireworks. The fog cleared a bit and she remembered a black duffel bag. She remembered the plan. “Zora,” she smiled and leaned her head back against the wall. Zander’s gun moved with her. “She’s blowing up your sonic emitter,” she said.

“Who?”

“My sister. You stole her Space Slug, asshole.”

Zander growled and grabbed her by the free arm. He pulled her upright and the flare of pain blinded her for a second. “Your sister? He shook her, and she stumbled into him. “Your sister is tearing my zoo apart? With what army?”

She tried to think. How many charges had they packed? The walls shuddered. A rain of dusty ceiling particles showered down on them, and Murray’s head cleared. Zora most definitely hadn’t done that. They hadn’t packed anything with that kind of punch.

“Not Zora.” Murray looked him in the eye. If he killed her, she intended to really piss him off first. His eyes looked like slits, wicked and with no trace of compassion. Panic touched the edge of his expression. He’d completely lost it. She laughed. He was nothing worth dying over. He was nothing at all like…

He shook her again, and her hand came away from her side. The wound tore. She screamed, felt the burn throb and start to bleed again. “Who? Who is it?” His fingers dug into her arm and the gun pushed hard enough to drive her head down to her shoulder.

“Activists.” She laughed, and he growled in her ear.

“What?”

“I sent them the transmission. The pictures of your illegal plankton.”

His lip curled, showing white teeth. His eyes flashed, and he twisted at her arm until the skin there burned too. “Who did you send them to?”

Another explosion rattled the building. Murray watched the dust swirling like smoke around his head. She giggled. “The I.S.P.C.A.”

Zander howled and shoved her away. Her legs buckled. She fell, crumpling into a fetal position and venting the pain with a second scream. His boots moved across her vision, but they blurred and wavered in and out of focus.

“You bitch.” He sounded closer than he should have. She guessed he leaned over her, imagined the muzzle aiming for her brain again. “You sicked the freaking radicals on me? I’m going to enjoy killing you!”

He grabbed her hair and lifted her head at an angle that twisted her neck and brought more tears to her eyes. She saw the desk swing by. The doorway wandered back and forth as he gave her another shake.

She moaned and curled around her wound. Through a filter of tears she saw the door shudder. Another fall of debris cascaded from the ceiling. Her activists would tear the building down on top of them before Zander had a chance to disintegrate her. When the door exploded, she didn’t even flinch.

The shower of debris clattered into the room. Murray closed her eyes and wondered if their slug would eat Zander before the night was out. If she’d been thinking ahead, she might have arranged it. If the slug ate him, she’d forgive all the trouble it caused.

A choking noise from above killed her fantasy. She opened her eyes, saw Zander’s boots kicking a good six inches off the ground. Murray frowned and twisted to see the rest of him. He hung in mid-air, both hands clawing at the silver arm attached to a big fist wrapped around his throat. His eyes bulged and the muscles along his neck flexed and rippled in the metal grip.

“Doctor Murray?”

“Rook?”

“Doctor Murray, are you all right?”

“He shot me,” Murray forced the words around a spasm of pain. “Disintegrator wound, here.” She tried to roll onto her back, but her body had had about enough of her moving around. The room faded in and out. She heard Zander scream, saw the flash as Rook’s arm flicked the man across the room. The crash of his impact cut the sound short.

“Doctor Murray.” Rook knelt over her. His face was a blank mask, more robotic than she’d ever seen it. “Doctor Murray, stay with me.”

“Rook.” He blurred in and out of focus, and she struggled to follow his orders. Stay. But black filled the edges of her vision.

She felt him lift her--a white flash of pain at the movement—and she saw the hole where the door had been, knew when he carried her through it. She caught a flash of smoke and night between the blackness. She heard sounds. She imagined explosions and huge awkward ships lumbering above the phony landscape.

“Doctor Murray?” His voice sang above the nonsense. His steps rocked her without pain any longer. “Doctor Murray?”

“Wake up, Mur!”

She opened her eyes. Her sister squinted down at her. The usually perfect red hair flopped like a rat’s nest around Zora’s grease-streaked face. Murray chuckled, and the dagger in her side twisted. “Ouch.”

“Hold still,” Rook said. He shouldered Zora aside. “Doctor Murray, it is imperative that you don’t agitate the wound. The seal has not had time to set properly.”

“And we need to get a move on,” Zora peeked around him. “Come on, Stud, back to the controls.”

“Did they get the animals out?” Murray whispered. She tried to decide if she wanted to know what happened to Zander or not.

“Jeeze, Mur.” Zora replaced Rook, and Murray heard him stepping away. “You called the I.S.P.C.A. down on him.”

“He deserved it. Did the animals…”

“Yeah, they got them.”

“Then why are you looking at me like that? Am I dying?”

“No.” Zora grinned. “I just didn’t know you could be that mean.”

“Yeah. I’m a bad ass.” Murray closed her eyes. She felt the vibration as the ship’s engines hummed to life. “Did you get your slug back? Is it on board?”

“Um, about that, Mur. There’s something I have to tell you.”

“Neela?” A stab of fear surprised her. Did she care if the slug made it?

“She’s fine, Mur. It’s nothing. I’ll tell you later.”

She knew her sister well enough to worry. Still, she could find out later. She needed to rest and suspected they’d given her something to encourage it. She nodded up at a very fuzzy Zora. “Okay, later.” Murray closed her eyes and smiled. Anyway, after tonight, how bad could it be?

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