Chapter 31

"You're William."

William looked up from his work on the warp drive, which had finally become a worthy enough distraction from his thoughts, to the pair standing over them. Victor had told everyone to rest for a bit before they gathered everyone together. Long enough that the two lenkai could become acquainted with the ship, its crew, and for Victor and Jeymi to hash out details with them.

After bringing the Huntress Two a respectable distance away from the slavers' Behemoth ship he'd holed up in his room and away from everyone else. Still, he felt lighter, and his chest didn't seem to ache so much anymore knowing that Veylas was alive, if slightly bruised and roughed up. He felt better knowing that the two lenkai would no longer be trapped, either.

"Last time I checked, yes," he said. "I'm William Voss."

"Look, Maddy, they've all got the second name thin' goin' just like Veylas," Donati said. She folded her arms across her chest. "What's that even do you people?"

"It's the family name," William said.

"Right, the other little 'uman had the same second name as you. That means she's family?"

"Yeah, my sister. You're...Donati? And Madovick?" he said. They nodded. He stood to meet them, but they were both still quite a bit taller than he was, and he wasn't tall to begin with.

He jumped when massive hands cupped either side of his face. Donati ran firm thumbs across his cheekbones, grinning in his face. "Oh, you're 'andsome," she said. "Veylas wasn't kiddin, right, Madovick?"

Madovick nodded and raised his hands to William's face as well when Donati moved away. Madovick didn't say much. He didn't say anything even now as he ran his thumbs across his cheekbones, velvet skin gliding easily across them, an act that William was starting to think was a form of greeting. And of goodbye, as he remembered Madovick and Donati doing so to Veylas before they'd left.

"'E told us a lot about you," Donati continued. Madovick nodded again as he pulled away. "That you're smart and it looks like it. That's a warp drive there. Very nice. Almost done, isn't it?"

He rested a hand on the table as he looked at his work. "Just...just needs cooling fans, some new rubber dividers, that's it," he said. "Might take a week, I think."

"'E told us that it'll make you guys the fastest in the galaxy you get that workin'," she said. "Opens doors. Can you imagine? Intergalactic travel might be right there. How much faster?"

"In theory a lot faster," he said. "A lot faster. But I haven't gotten to really test it yet. I couldn't give you much of an estimate. At least four times as fast as we can go now, though."

"Incredible. The 'eksa, they're a bit ahead of the 'umans there, right? I got to work on their ships a lot," she said. She flexed and shot him a grin. "Never let me near the small work, but I could lift thin's. That right there, though, not even the 'eksa got that. Although this ship on its own looks like it's too high tech for the dinkie little drive you've got now, eh?"

"It does but who knows where it came from. I'm still discovering new things about it," William said. He shook his head, but he couldn't think about the warp drive or the ship. He was eager to be moving. "I'm sorry, sorry, but what are we doing? What's happening? How are we getting Veylas out?"

"Well we ain't buyin' 'im out, I know that," Donati said. "We're broke ass slaves. Free gannan, I should be sayin', actually. Thanks for buyin' us out."

"I, I had nothing to do with it," he said. "Aren't you upset that we technically own you?"

"You and your crew promised our freedom, why should we be?" she said, ears swivelling forward. "Are you implyin' that we should be?"

"No, I don't know," he said. "It feels wrong. This shouldn't be necessary."

"World ain't like that, though," she said. "Sentiment's nice, I guess. It'd be nice but if we need some document to cover our asses and if it's in the 'ands of someone good then I guess I can't complain. But anyways, there's gonna be some kinda meetin' thin' and Victor there wanted us to come with you down there once we were done talkin'."

"We should go then," William said. "I don't want Veylas in there any longer than he needs to be."

"Don't worry. Neither do we," she said along with Madovick's firm nod of approval. "'E's one of ours, now, and you never leave one of the crew be'ind."

He didn't know much about the lenkai, but if most of the race were anything like these two, then he decided that he liked them. They were worthy members of Veylas's bloodline. He let Donati take the lead down from his room to the kitchen, everyone's normal meeting place. Madovick joined him at his side.

"You don't talk much," William said. "It's hard to believe you're Veylas's father. He likes the sound of his voice."

Madovick's harsh, choking laugh, though rough and forced, was surprising and somewhat pleasant to hear. William winced when he turned to him, mouth wide open. Behind a row of misshapen teeth, some sharp and some not, mostly crooked, was a scar and a muscular stub where a tongue should have been. William paled and flinched away and Madovick laughed again.

"Don't let 'im fool you," Donati said, glancing over her shoulder. "If 'e could, 'e'd never shut up. Finally learned 'ow to 'old 'is tongue when they cut it outta 'im. Not the only thin' they cut off, either."

She swung her tail back and forth as example. Madovick snorted.

"Sorry. That was insensitive of me," William said.

"Oh don't worry about it," she said. "'E's over it."

Everyone was down in the kitchen and chatting quietly among one another. Donati and Madovick both offered Osvald respectful nods when they passed to pull up chairs for themselves. William sat down beside Jeymi.

"Where are we going to get the money?" he said, cutting through conversation.

"We're not," Victor said. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, a frown touching the corners of his mouth. "We have no more options. The money we need is far from forthcoming. We're going to need to use force."

At least they wouldn't be owning him. "Then fine. What are we doing?"

"Those two probably know the Behemoth better than anyone," Victor said, nodding towards the lenkai. "We can use that to our advantage. But we're going to need the big guns. I think we're going to need to send word to Captain Maximillius. She won't be pleased to hear about this, so I'm sure we can expect aid from her."

He might have shied away from the idea if it hadn't been so brilliant. Ford had an army of her own and would be more than eager to help. He realized, though, that he would probably find out what Veylas had meant about her being brutal to those that she didn't like.

"William can talk to her," Jeymi said. He didn't like that idea as much. "And if we have her on our side, then there's no doubt that there's going to be a full frontal assault. What we'll probably do is use her assault to get in, grab Veylas, free others –if possible– and get the hell out. She can handle herself from there. The BAS is... The BAS is the galaxy's biggest ship, isn't it?" she asked William.

"That's right," he said. "The Behemoth isn't quite as big."

"From the sounds of it, the BAS is gonna 'ave more fightin' soldiers anyways," Donati said. "Most of the, ah, what're you callin' it? Be'emoth's space is for the slaves, right? So yeah, we free them and that's another bunch on our side, too. Madovick knows where the master switch for the cells is, right?" He nodded.

"Then we'll send Roderick and Karen with you to back you up getting there," Jeymi said. "Taya, Osvald, and—"

"Don't you fucking say it," William said. "I can hold a gun."

"Taya and Osvald will stay in here," Victor said. "You're going to be with Jeymi, Isa, and I to collect Veylas, William."

"Good."

"I'd rather he be here to pilot us away," Jeymi said.

"Jeymi, do you know what it's like to be told to sit and wait while the person you love is in danger?" Victor said. Calm brown eyes burned into her as she sighed and turned away. "Chances are there's nothing we could do to stop him anyways."

"You even know the way anywhere?" Donati said, one eyebrow quirked.

"I will be able to guide everyone back to Veylas's cell," Isa said.

"Also, who the 'ell's Captain Maximillius?"

"Captain of the Black Valkyries," William said. "She's the one who adopted and raised Veylas."

She grinned, eyebrows rising. "Whoa. Lucky boy," she said.

"I should call her." He sighed as he got to his feet. Jeymi followed him up.

"I'll go with you," she said.

He felt like he had every right to be hesitant as his finger hovered over the call button after he'd tapped in the number. Jeymi gave him a look anyways and he growled something beneath his breath. It rang many times after he hit it. Enough that he was starting to wonder if she would pick up.

But she did. "For fuck's sake!" she snarled, her face twisting on the flickering, disagreeing screen. Her voice barely rose over the din in the background, static-y, halting yells, gunshots, the sounds of strife that suddenly made him very nervous. "Look, I ain't got time—"

"Ford, wait," William said.

"Ohhh, oh, it's po— It's William!" she said. "I'm serious, though, son-in-law, I can't talk, ain't got no time—"

"No, no, it's about Veylas—"

"Tell the boy to wait—"

"He isn't here."

"He isn't— What?"

"Slavers," he said. "We need your help. It's too much money to just buy him out. We need to take it by force and—"

"Where?"

"Uh, that, that's..." He glanced at Jeymi. "Sector...Three ninety-eight? Three ninety-eight?" She nodded. "The Alabinnus Sector at—"

"Never mind, got it," she said. Words curt. Voice strained. She snarled out a few livid curses when wherever she was tilted and shook, nearly sending her off balance. She whirled away from the screen, which flickered more and more. "Marrickellion Abenanth, you son of a goddamn shit, I'm gonna rip out your intest—" The video cut out.

"Marrick?" William said with shake.

"Something's going on," Jeymi said. "Family feud, I imagine."

"Did she just say Marrickellion Abenanth?"

"Must have taken his wife's name? William, where are you going?" she said when he strode past her.

"I thought his last name was Rudderford!" he said. He strode past the kitchen, ignoring the questions from Victor on how it'd gone. Jeymi followed him as his took the stairs by twos and threes. "I thought, I though it was a coincidence! Fuck. Fuck."

He whirled to face her at the top, nearly colliding with her. "Do you still have your documents about Dalca? About the bounty on his head?"

She froze up. "Marrickellion Abenanth," she said. "I do know that name... Are you telling me that he sent you and Veylas on that wild goose chase for Dalca, too? He contacted you with it?"

"Yes, yes, and I'm confident in saying that he's the one who put the bounty on Veylas's head, too," he said. "Fuck! He's the one who must have poisoned me!"

"No, that was Alizia who put it on Veylas's head," Jeymi said.

He raised his eyebrows at her. "What's Marrick's daughter's name?"

She pursed her lips. "It's Alizia, isn't it? Promiser."

"He wants the ship, he wants control of the BAS and the Black Valkyries," William continued. He ran the fingers of both hands through his hair, pushing his hat off of his head and onto the floor. "I'm damn sure of it. And to get it, he has to get rid of Veylas..."

"...and is in the process of getting rid of Max," Jeymi finished. "And there's no doubt that he has supporters. It's gotta be civil war on the BAS right now. There's no way we're going to get help from the Black Valkyries right now. Not the help we were hoping for, at least."

"She's gonna damn well try, though," he said. "You saw her, too."

Jeymi sighed and leaned against the wall, one hand covering her mouth. "He was the one who contacted the slavers," she said. "I talked with Madovick and Donati and they were being careful. It didn't make sense that the slavers had caught up to them. Marrick must have tipped them off and hoped that they would arrive in time to grab Veylas, too."

"Hey, what's happening?" Victor walked up the stairs to join them. "What's happening with Captain Max?"

"Give it some time," William said.

"I'm sure she's hurtling towards our position right as we speak," Jeymi said. "I don't know how fast that ship can go, though, or even where they are..."

"Didn't you get that information?"

"Give her two weeks," William said. "If she's not here in two weeks, then we'll figure something out."