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Episode Eight

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I had my payment, so there was no reason to stay. Pak'ma'ra had little other races wanted. I was glad to get away from that blighted planet and get back into clean vacuum. We jumped several times, heading back to Babylon 5. I was looking forward to seeing So'Kath and Na'Kath.

Then it happened.

We were in normal space, scuttling between two jump gates at a transfer point when the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal's scanners picked up unidentified ships. Raiders.

Even at maximum thrust the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal could not outrun them Our vectors would intersect some two hours from the next jump point. As they closed in, I sent out a distress call. I also informed the raiders that we had nothing but some Pak'ma'ra prayer mats for cargo. We weren't worth it. But they still pursued us.

Eight raider fighters and one troop transport versus an unarmed freighter. Not exactly a fair fight, but we Narn are used to that. As soon as they got close, I tried a crazy manoeuver. The Na'Ka'Ri'Tal may not have weapons but I have a few tricks and would not go down without a fight. I waited and waited, then flung my ship around 180 degrees whilst venting fuel. The raider ships hit the vapour.

It wasn't as effective as I had hoped. Two raider ships were decommissioned. Leaving six to attack. Plus the troop carrier. In their first pass they took out engine one. I had to shut it down. They were targeting the engines and then took out the other two before I could use any of the other tricks in my arsenal. No engines. No way of manoeuvering. They had effectively destroyed my ship. I was furious.

There was only one option. The Human rigged the computer records to indicate that we had abandoned ship after the jump point and that the ship had been running under remote instruction. They'd have to be pretty stupid to believe it, but anything was worth a try.

Everyone was already in vacsuits - that was my standard policy in battle. The Pak'ma'ra was still having trouble getting his helmet on as I shut down the ship's systems. I left the intercom patched in to our vacsuit helmets on a receive channel so that we could hear what was going on in the ship.

I bundled everyone into the environment pod. I could see the Pak'ma'ra eyeing off his surroundings. He had not been able to figure out where I had kept the "medical supplies". I had the environment pod specially built just for concealing my more illicit cargoes. It was shielded so that it showed machinery and emergency backups for environmental maintenance. As I shut the door, I muttered "Never thought I'd be smuggling myself in this."

We waited for what seemed a very long time, but probably counted only minutes. It was dark and crowded - the pod wasn't designed to take four beings in vacsuits. It was not pleasant being hidden in the pod, waiting for my ship to be boarded. Eventually, something attached itself to the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal, making its hull ring like a gong. Through the intercom I could hear sounds of grinding and hissing - shrock! They were cutting *through* the hull! Why not use the perfectly functional airlock?

I was already considerably annoyed by the attack on my ship. Now, listening to these raiders cutting my ship open and hearing them tromping around my ship, I became furious. I was ready to leap out of hiding and tear them to shreds with my bare hands. I fumed and I cursed and to no avail. I could not take on an unknown number of mercenaries. G'Quan counselled patience and retreat in the face of an overwhelming enemy. Wait until the time is right. This was not the time.

There were simply too many unknowns. I could hear them tearing my ship apart, looking for bounty. The teachings of G'Quan are a useful guide but Nar'Bon practically had to hold me down as my fury peaked. It was a great effort to restrain myself. The only thing that kept me from going out there and trying to tear them apart like they were doing to my ship was the knowledge of the certain death that awaited me. I had to live, otherwise I'd never see Na'Kath and So'Kath again. So with the greatest effort, I calmed myself and meditated on the writings of G'Quan. The Na'Ka'Ri'Tal was put on tow - the mercenaries never found us, nor did they find much of value.

The trip was long. The Pak'ma'ra rustled and whispered his thoughts to himself. He did not like being crammed into his vacsuit - it was somewhat smaller than a being of his head size needs, but better than trying to breathe vacuum. He had seemed extremely uncomfortable about the loss of atmosphere in the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal. Great, a landcrab that couldn't deal with working in a vacuum. Welcome to the real world, Pak'ma'ra, the world outside those tiny fragile shells of air.

The Pak'ma'ra was annoying enough, though it got better after I told him to switch his suit intercom off. The Human became a greater problem - he started hyperventilating. His earlier encounter with the escape pod had demonstrated his inability to deal with enclosed spaces - ha, try being in a medium weight fighter for 16 or 20 hours at a stretch. The environment pod was not large - only just big enough for four bulky, vacsuited beings - and Russell was not handling it well. He was using up his oxygen supply rapidly. I had seen one death from asphyxia, and I would not wish it upon another being, even one as annoying as Russell (the Pak'ma'ra however...). There was little I could do, however, for my attempts to calm him only made him hyperventilate more.

We were towed some distance, and a number of hours passed. Russell's air supply was getting dangerously low, and the Pak'ma'ra had little more oxygen left. Nar'Bon and I had no problems - we had slowed our metabolisms down. Our momentum was slowing, though, and I guessed that we were coming to the end of this journey. The Na'Ka'Ri'Tal stopped and another thing clunked against the hull. Soon after, my external air pressure sensor indicated that my ship was being flooded with air. As the air pressure rose, the Pak'ma'ra ripped his helmet off and gulped what air was present. The air pressure rose a little more and the Human unlocked his helmet. His air tanks were in the red. Nar'Bon and I waited until the air pressure was more than nominal.

Noone entered the ship. It seemed that we were docked and had been left for the time being. We cracked open the environment pod and Nar'Bon and I scouted out my ship, inspecting the damage the raiders had made. From the control centre, Nar'Bon could see the raiders refuelling. Russell and the Pak'ma'ra refilled the oxygen tanks.

The offspring-of-motherslayers had taken my family's copy of the Book of G'Quan. Only the lowest of the very low would do such a thing. Such books are heirlooms, passed on from generation to generation, each hand made and exact replicas of the original. G'Quan help the poor fool who took my mother's Book, for they would not live long. At least they had not found my secret store of data crystals - recordings of old days and things that would never happen again, messages from So'Kath. Noone is ever going to know that I am even slightly sentimental cos generally I'm not.

From the Na'Ka'Ri'Tal's bridge Nar'Bon noted that the raiders appeared to be leaving - off on another mission, presumably with fresh pilots. The mercenary carrier was again accompanying them. That was when I decided that we should take over the raiders' base.

Why not? I was very, very angry. They had destroyed my ship, my Na'Ka'Ri'Tal, my dream. I needed to take vengeance against the beings who had done this to me and mine. It was Cha'lar. They had damaged, nay destroyed my ship, so I would make sure that their property was destroyed and that they suffered in return. Nar'Bon would not let me go alone, and the others did not want to stay on my crippled ship.

So we armed ourselves and crossed into the base.

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Na'Tiel's Story / Lynne / last modified 29 February, 2000