Chapter 16

I pulled my hands away from my ears as the sound subsided. The room seemed to spin, and I stumbled forward a step. A pair of hands wrapped around my waist, holding me upright. Is this blood? My eyes focused onto my hands, the only thing not spinning. A red smear stained my right palm, a small bead of red sliding down towards my wrist. My left hand grabbed onto the arm around my waist.

Breathe. The ringing in my ear slowly subsided along with the spinning. The arms around my waist disappeared, and I looked over my shoulder, a bit surprised to see Raven at my back. I turned back to the smuggler, his long limbs flailing and his eyes wild as Dušan held his body to the ground. Emil rifled through the draws and the central console, searching for the second metal cube.

Shit. We need to get out of here. I turned to the door, my mind reeling as it tried to remember each turn in the hallway but drawing mostly blanks. Thundering echoed, and several large mercenaries poured into the room, overcrowding it. How dumb could we be? We went to room with only one exit. They cornered us from the start!

I reached a hand out to Raven, gripping her shoulder. I widened my eyes, communicating faster than words could, do it. She nodded, her eyes fierce. She gripped her fists and breathed out. Whisps of green escaped her mouth. No time to watch.

I leapt toward Emil and Dušan, the mercenaries moving as I moved. My hand clamped down on Emil's mouth, sending the message don't breathe. He turned to me eyes wide. His eyes darted between the mercenaries and Raven, quickly noting the change of situation.

"You and Dušan need to get out of here." I could already feel the familiar tingle of the poison in my lungs. I started to push Emil towards the door.

He resisted, "We need the second box."

I scrunched my eyebrows, seriously? "Go, I'll find it." I pushed him again, and he relented. Emil and Dušan darted between the mercenaries. The mercenaries were slow to respond, most had released their grip on their weapons.

With the boys gone, I focused on my breathing. The poisoned air started to burn, but hours of training had me ignoring the sensation. Raven increased her intensity, the green gas raising. She had discarded her gloves, touching her bare hands to any exposed skin of the mercenaries. The mercenaries' skin bubbled under her touch. Thump. The smallest mercenary collapsed to the ground, followed not long after by the others.

I turned to the central console, the display of screens and buttons blinking with different navigational information. I yanked open the leftmost draw, shuffling its contents. No. I moved to the middle draw, nothing. I checked the last draw, despite being thoroughly searched by Emil already.

"Saskia, we've got to go. It's not here." Raven stumbled forward; her energy drained. She slung an arm around my shoulders and put some of her weight on me.

I hesitated, if we don't bring back both cartridges, how will Ms. Lovin react? Can we claim ignorance? I scanned the room, searching for any other storage places. The central console spanned the entire section under the window, taking up the majority of the space. Passed out mercenaries took up most of the floor space.

Wherever it is, its not here. I supported some of Raven's weight as we picked our way through the room, being careful not to trip over the slumped bodies. The poison burned, the sensation moving from my chest outwards.

The poisoned air thinned considerable as we stumbled out of the room into the hallway. The hallway which split into three.

"Which way? Do you remember?"

Raven cursed, "This is a small ship, I bet they lead us in circles to confuse us."

"They didn't train us for any of this." I sighed. I turned down the left pathway.

Raven straightened up at the sight of the narrow hallway, "Let go, I'll be fine." I took lead, and Raven followed. I opened random doors, not caring to be quiet, finding utility closets, bedrooms, and even a bathroom. All were small and cramped. A couple turns later, and we came to a dead end. A single door sat at the end of the hallway; a hand scanner built into the wall beside it.

"What do you think is in here?" I poked the scanner. It beeped red. I tilted my head and narrowed my eyes, I wonder.

Raven rolled her eyes, "Does it matter? We need to get going, the guys will get sick of waiting soon."

I smirked, "Maybe if it was just you. They wouldn't leave me here." At least I would hope not.

Raven crossed her arms under her breasts, "It's good to hear you being snarky again."

"Huh?" I turned towards her, seeing a slight smile on her lips. I raised an eyebrow, "What do you mean? You like me being mean to you?"

Raven shrugged, "I don't know. You've just been so quiet lately. Not yourself."

I narrowed my eyes, "Wait, is that why you've been nicer lately? You've been worried about me?"

Raven's eyes darted, "What? No. Don't be ridiculous. Everyone's been worried about you. I mean, Ms. Lovin's training is… intense. And you weren't eating. Emil was cleaning your room and doing your laundry. I had to yell at Dušan for checking on you almost every hour while you sleep. I swear he's worried you'll stop breathing or something." The words spilled out of her mouth in a jumble.

My eyes widened, my voice came out as a whisper, "I didn't know." I turned back to panel on the wall, scraping the sides of it as I tried to get a good grip.

"Never mind. Just- are we leaving?"

"In a minute," I tugged at the panel, "This looks the same as the one at the cafeteria back at the Applicant Facility." With a final tug, a pop sounded, and the front panel came off, revealing the mess of wires underneath. What's a smuggler keep behind locked doors I wonder?

"So?"

I unplugged a red wire, and the panel lights dimmed. I put the panel back in place, while the door slid open. "So, I'm curious. I want to find out what's behind the door." I flashed her a grin.