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Last Resort, Part 10 – Astra Nullius

Last Resort, Part 9 – Astra Nullius
Last Resort, Part 11 – Astra Nullius


Jianyu opened the door of his room and nearly ran into Sera, who was raising her fist to knock. Xrrt was right behind her, rubbing her forelimbs together in a gesture that Centaurians used when they were anxious or preparing for a fight.

“Hey,” said Sera, not quite meeting his eyes. They hadn’t spoken since their fight on the beach, not even a few words in passing. Jianyu had been afraid that Sera might take his suggestion to leave seriously, that he might wake up one day and find out she’d left without speaking to him. But she’d stuck around, at least so far, and though he’d spend hours mulling it over in the water he wasn’t sure how to break the silence between them. “Did you just get some weird messages?”

“Yeah, from the captain and Weyland. What are you going to do?”

“I’ve got a gun, so I’m going to find the captain,” said Sera, patting the pistol holstered on her hip. “Xrrt’s coming with me.”

That left him to go after Weyland. Jianyu felt a flicker of annoyance that she hadn’t thought to ask him where he was headed, tempered by the realization that of course she’d already guessed where he was going. Jianyu wasn’t the sort of person who thought to bring weapons to a beach trip. Of course he’d leave whatever dangerous situation the captain had gotten herself into to the people who knew how to handle it.

“I’ll figure out what’s going on with Weyland and meet you at the beach,” Jianyu told her. “Message me if there’s anything you need me to know.”

Sera nodded and spun on her heel. Jianyu tucked his com screen in his pocket and headed for the address Weyland had sent him.

The island was small, and the useable land on it was smaller still. The crew’s hotel was one of the cheaper ones, comparatively far from the water and close to the center of the small town. He passed a few tourists and locals, some walking and others riding tiny hovering vehicles that kicked up stinging clouds of sand. It wasn’t quite the crowd Jianyu had expected when they’d first come here. The restaurants seemed too large for the number of people actually in them, and most of the hotel windows he passed were dark. This planet didn’t have an off season, it had practically no wobble to its axis. With the galaxy teetering on the precipice of war, he guessed visitors would be sparse for a while.

He was still a few blocks away from the address when he saw a small figure running full tilt along the sidewalk. He watched Weyland come to a cross street, look nervously over his shoulder, and then bolt into traffic just ahead of a vehicle. It swerved around him, nearly tipping as the anti-gravity device fought for purchase. Jianyu raised his arm and shouted, and Weyland headed in his direction.

He didn’t look like he was having any trouble moving, even after his near miss with the hovercraft, and Jianyu didn’t see any obvious blood or signs of injuries. Not that it would be easy to tell in the dark, with only the light spilling from a nearby window to see by.

Weyland reached him and grabbed his arm. “Run,” he said, his voice low but firm.

Jianyu didn’t move. “What’s going on? Who’s in trouble?”

“I don’t know her name,” said Weyland. Although he’d been sprinting, he didn’t sound out of breath, just annoyed that Jianyu wasn’t following directions. “It doesn’t matter. We have to go.”

There was someone else running down the street, not moving as fast as Weyland but travelling at a decent clip. Weyland tensed and pulled harder at Jianyu’s arm. “We have to go now.”

Jianyu kept standing still, staring at the runner in the faint light. He looked human, heavily built, his hair light and his clothing practical. There were two other people behind him, one dragging the other by the wrist. The street had emptied out; ambling tourists had decided to take a different path, and a waiter was back inside a bar and slamming the door behind him.

The runner in the lead got closer, and Jianyu thought he looked familiar. The last time he’d seen this man, he’d had a beard, a plasma rifle, and a pile of stolen paintings.

He turned and ran, following Weyland’s directions a little too late. Although he had a long stride, he wasn’t a habitual runner, and soon enough his chest was painfully tight. It was hard to figure out where to go in a town he didn’t know well. Weyland pulled out ahead of him, loping in the kind of steady gait that experienced runners could keep up for hours, and Jianyu followed him.

They were heading away from the center of town, down the island’s gentle slope to the place where the buildings stopped and the dunes began. Weyland headed for the walkway, and Jianyu followed as close as he could, gripping the splintering handrails as he climbed the stairs and knocking his shin with bruising force on a post.

Then they were down on the sand, and Jianyu was really struggling. It was hard to get purchase on a shifting surface. Every step he took barely seemed to move him forward. Weyland had his com screen out and was checking something as he ran straight toward the water. Jianyu hoped he was sending a message to the rest of the crew, but couldn’t spare the breath to ask.

When they reached a smoother, damper patch of sand just ahead of the waves, Weyland turned left. It was a little easier to run on that ground, although Jianyu still wished he weren’t running at all. He had a stitch now, turning every panting breath into a stab of pain.

“The captain’s signal’s up ahead,” said Weyland. He was barely breathing hard at all.

The sand deadened footfalls, and the sound of the waves made it impossible for Jianyu to hear anything but the sound of his own pulse pounding in his ears. He had no idea how far away their pursuer was now.

Last Resort, Part 9 – Astra Nullius
Last Resort, Part 11 – Astra Nullius

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