Saphira connected the last wire as the Balok ship moved. It dropped down in the sky, but not far, and began to disgorge small ships, probably fighters from an open bay. Saphira spoke when the first was launched.
“Set the radar on the mother ship. The pulse is tied to the radar.”
Katie knew that, but this reminded her not to be distracted by the fighters.
When the second fighter was successfully launched, Saphira spoke again. “Ready. Boston?” She had to shout, but Boston answered.
“Almost. Just a minute.”
A third fighter got launched and away before Saphira said, “Go.” To be sure, her fingers were crossed in one hand while she threw the switch with the other. Theoretically, the microwave pulse should burn out every electrical system on the Balok ship, provided they used electrical systems and provided the Balok screens were not strong enough to ward off Saphira’s strike. Even Martok could ultimately only use what was available to him.
The pulse went out, and there was a second where nothing seemed to happen. Saphira had to take her finger off her switch lest she burn out the Stick systems. The Balok ship began to wobble. By the time Saphira joined Katie at the radar scope, the Balok ship was plummeting to the ground. It fell like a stone and exploded on impact. It was not an atomic explosion as Saphira feared it might be, but it was big enough to assume there were no survivors.
“Boston?” That left the three fighters.
“Ready!” The word echoed in the stick ship.
“Zero in on a fighter,” Saphira said, but Katie was already doing that.
“Now.” Katie spoke into her wrist communicator, and Boston sent out a plasma pulse. The Balok fighter disintegrated in a crimson ball of fire. Immediately, the two remaining Balok fighters began to move around to avoid being targeted, but Katie and Boston got a second one before the last dipped below the radar.
Saphira grabbed Katie’s hand and spoke into the wrist communicator. “Lockhart. One fighter landed. Meet us at the front door.”
“Already there,” Lockhart responded. They vacated the stick ship for the firm ground, and a few of the stick people followed them.
The stick leader looked sick. He bobbed up and down a couple of times before he spoke. “You are mad, like the Balok. We did our very best to escape them, but since they found us it would have been better if we had died than participate in their madness.”
No one knew what to say until Alexis stepped up. “You have the right to live in peace.”
“We have no right to take life,” the leader said, and with that he moved his people away from the travelers.
“I guess we screwed up,” Lincoln said even as Saphira, Katie and Boston came huffing and puffing down the ramp.
“Alright,” Saphira said. “We need to find that ship.”
“They would rather die than be part of the killing.” Alexis summed things up and pointed to the stick people who were keeping their distance. Saphira looked, but she had an alternative view and said so in her own tongue.
“We are protecting my people. We are protecting the human race, even if I am sorry the stick people got in the middle of it. We won’t survive if the Balok come here.” That seemed to satisfy the group. “Now, I want to split us up. Despite the X-whatever-teen single man fighters are current with your military, most space fighters have two occupants. There are too many systems to keep track of. So Decker and Roland, you take Coramel’s sons and circle around quietly to approach the fighter on the flank. The rest – where is Mingus?”
“Doctor Procter has taken a fever,” Roland said and Boston looked at Alexis.
“I do wounds, occasionally help avoid surgery. I don’t do sickness.”
“Alright.” Saphira adjusted her thinking. “Alexis, would you stay with your father and Doctor Procter? We should probably leave someone here to watch over the stick people, even if they don’t want our help. Katie and Boston, Coramel, Lincoln and Lockhart. We go straight for the ship.”
“Works for me.” Captain Decker checked his rifle.
“A last thought,” Saphira stopped them all. “We need to kill them. No, there is no alternative, and do not hesitate or they will certainly kill you.”
Roland nodded and lead the way into the open fields. They stayed in sight for a time before they dipped down into a gully.
“We go.” Lockhart had judged the time and distance, and they started off into the tall grass. There were stubby, non-descript bushes here and there and the occasional tree, but it was mostly grass to the knees and sometimes to the waist. There was no way to move quietly, but they spread out and kept their eyes and ears as open as they could. A slim trail of engine smoke still rose into the air in the distance. They headed straight for it.
When they topped a rise, they saw the ship down below, and it was much larger than they had imagined. The grass was much taller there, too, being on the side of a hill where most animals would not bother to graze. All things considered, it should not have come as a surprise when the serpent rose up and wrapped itself twice around Boston.
Boston screamed and struggled, and that made it hard for the others. They dared not fire at the creature for fear of hitting Boston. The snake kept trying to bite her, but it could not get its head at a good angle. Saphira dropped her bow and waited three seconds for an opening before she brought the butt end of her spear down on the snake’s head. The snake nipped at her, but by then the others were moving.
Lockhart pulled the same stunt with the stock of his shotgun, and the hit appeared to hurt the serpent. Lincoln and Lieutenant Harper were still trying to get off a shot, but Coramel came up with a stone between his hands. The snake responded by showing a hand of its own. The hand pealed out from the side of the creature and it held something. There was no sound or light or anything, but Coramel dropped to the ground, stunned, maybe dead.
Then the snake took Boston to the ground while Boston screamed the words, “I can’t breathe.”
Lincoln went to Coramel while Saphira’s next shot hit the snake in the hand. It dropped the weapon but began to roll down the hill with its captive. Lockhart, Saphira and Lieutenant Harper followed, and when Boston and the creature slowed, Lockhart managed another whack at the creature’s head.
The snake roared from pain and appeared to speak, though no one knew what it was saying except Saphira. Then it suddenly let go of Boston to slither away in the grass. Saphira, with the snake’s weapon in her hand, went to her knees beside Boston.
When the serpent reached what it no doubt imagined was a safe distance from the primitives, it put its rear legs down and reared up eight feet in the air. It spoke again, more clearly as another hand made itself known, and whether they retained some vestige of the primal tongue of Shinar or the magic of the Kairos was working overtime, they all managed to catch one distinct word. “Die.”
“Balok!” Lockhart shouted to distract the snake, and Lieutenant Harper’s rifle went off. The creature looked stunned as the bullet tore through its neck. Then Lockhart fired the shotgun and the snake head shredded. The body fell after a moment.