The laser blast took one of the Centaurian security officers’ forelimbs off at the first joint. It wasn’t a fatal blow, but she staggered, and her colleague sprang at the shooter so fast that all Nyx could see was a blur of motion. The crowd was a living organism, moving in reaction, and it was only thanks to Xrrt that Nyx wasn’t swept off her feet. Flowers grabbed onto Xrrt’s carapace too, one of the only unmoveable points in a shifting sea of people. Her claws dug into the floor so hard they squealed and left tracks.
“What now?” Flowers asked, his hands wrapped around Xrrt’s abdomen.
“We need to get in that service corridor,” said Nyx. “So… forward, I think.”
Xrrt said something, but Nyx’s back was mashed up against her translator, completely covering its speaker. When Xrrt took a step forward, against the flow of the crowd, the two humans stepped with her. Between the three of them they were heavy enough to push through.
When they broke through the front lines of the crowd, Nyx took a look around, assessing the situation. The Centaurians had a man pinned on the ground. He’d been holding a gun once, but that was thrown to the side now, and his hand was pinned to the floor by a heavy Centaurian hindclaw. It had punctured straight through flesh and bone. He was screaming. Centaurians didn’t have a sense of justice in the human sense of the term; they couldn’t fully grasp the concept of an eye for an eye. Fighting was, to them, solely about negating threats. A human had shot at one of them, and so they’d removed his ability to shoot.
Nyx grabbed Xrrt’s foreclaws, peeling them away from her torso. “Can you speak to them?”
Xrrt said something her translator couldn’t quite pick up beyond a staticky burst of syllables about mothers and ancestral hives. One of the Centaurians turned to her and responded. She had her own translator glued to her thorax, a shiny company-issued number. The two of them dropped back, flanking their Eridani boss again. Nyx tried not to think about a claw sliding out from between the bones of a human hand.
Xrrt was scuttling right up to the security officers, so Nyx trailed after her, and Flowers kept pace. He had his hand over his own gun, but he didn’t draw it, just glanced nervously at the Centaurians. The rest of the crowd was holding back for now, but who knew how long that would last?
Nyx glanced at Xrrt, who was still deep in conversation, and headed for the Eridani manager. Eridani didn’t cry, but the nictitating membrane that kept sliding back and forth over her dark eyes was a clear sign of distress. Nyx stood up straighter, tried to project calm confidence. “Are you in charge here?”
“I don’t know,” she said, wringing her webbed fingers. “I tried to message my boss, but the security lockdown’s affecting my com screen too, and I don’t know the override code.”
“You saw the news though,” Nyx said, keeping her voice low. The manager nodded. She looked abjectly miserable. “I think it’s a good idea for you make yourself scarce for a while. Maybe even get off this station.”
Xrrt had finished her conversation with the Centaurian security officers. She turned to look at the crowd and then bent over to Nyx. “We should go now, before they come at us again. The sisters will guard the door for us.”
Nyx glanced over her shoulder. The wounded man was on his feet again, and the crowd was creeping forward, preparing for another rush. “What happens if they can’t get through the door? Is there another access point on this level?”
“They’re all barred from the inside,” the manager said. “It should keep them here until the lockdown’s lifted.”
“Quickly, then,” said Nyx, backing toward the door.
The door slid open. It was small by Eridani standards, huge for a human. The group of them filed in, the manager first, then Flowers and Xrrt. The mass of people rushed forward just as Nyx followed them in. She scrambled through into the corridor just before the Centaurian sisters slid into place, blocking the doorway with a tangle of chitinous limbs. The crowd rushed forward. One of the sisters hooked the door with her claw and managed to slam it closed. The lock clicked. Nyx could hear banging on the other side of the wall, but it was faint.
“If we get back to my ship, we can get off this station,” Nyx said. They set off down the corridor, Nyx keeping pace with the manager, Xrrt falling back to talk to the officers. Flowers walked awkwardly in the middle, part of neither group.
The managed looked down at her. Her eyes were still flickering, the thin membrane sliding over the nearly black irises. “No you can’t. Nobody can get in or out during a security lockdown. The docks are completely shut down.”
“How do we override it, then?”
“I think there’s a way to do it from my boss’s office. It’s a couple floors above this one.”
“Right,” Nyx said, spotting a ladder. “We’d better start climbing.”
The manager grabbed a rung of the ladder, then looked down at her. “By the way, what’s the name of your ship, and who the hell do you work for?”
“My ship’s the Benevolence,” Nyx said. She squared her shoulders, raised her chin, and finished, “I’m Captain Dysart, and I’m with the Coalition.”
The manager stopped blinking and just gave her a long look. Eridani expressions were subtle, but Nyx got the sense that this would be an inscrutable expression even on a human. “Okay, so you’re just some crazy person. Good to know.”
“I really do have a ship,” Nyx said, deflating just a bit.
“Good enough,” said the manager. “Let’s go.”