Chapter 16:



   There was a rather uncomfortable air inside the cramped cabin of the tiny stolen vessel. Perhaps it was the strangely naïve yet joyous air that hung around the rising idol, or the uncomfortable atmosphere created by the awkward silence that was stitched between the rather passive and uncaring man and the deeply aggravated and bitter cloud around the foreign woman. Legs and arms crossed, she only watched the quiet and soft discussion between Filth and Quil about launching the ship.
   Silje gave a very audible huff before looking at the fidgety star that sat in the seat just across from her. The jaunty starlet seemed to be lost in her own world. Her eyes loosely dancing around the cabin of the ship, occasionally darting quickly to the bag with the broken zipper that rested in the corner of the ship. After the starlet's conscious told her to ignore the bag, her eyes would dart back to the last spec of who-knows-what to continue her loose dance.
    "I don't think you two have been properly introduced." Filth smiled smugly towards Silje.
   She rolled her eyes. "The young master will introduce himself when he is ready. You don't need to push him."
   Quil cocked an eyebrow, looking away from the console of the ship. "'Young Master'?"
   Filth shrugged. "Yeah, it's a weird Telkian thing. They give high honors to young boys or something – I don't know." Filth returned his smug grin to Silje. "Don't worry about him. He's about as shy as a fox –"
   "Don't you mean 'sly'?" Silje muttered to herself.
   Lilli shook her head. "He's not a fox. He's Rabbit!"
   Silje rolled her eyes, pushing Filth away. She gave a respectful bow towards Quil. "I'm Silje Yuritan, but you can call me Silje if you like."
   Quil's eyes scanned across the foreign woman. He returned her respect with a shallow bow of his own. "Quil Alighieri." He replied with soft breath.
   Filth blasted his way into the exchange, "And you can just call me Filth Verne. Filth works too."
   Silje ignored Filth as her eyes lazily drifted over to the fidgeting starlet.
   She froze as her eyes perked up realizing it was her turn. "Lilli," she smiled briefly before it quickly diminished as she looked across Quil Alighieri, Filth-Jack- Dirty-Stupid-Idiot-Jerk-Jackass-Cheating-Ungrateful-Bastard Verne, and finally the new, funny looking rabbit named Silly U-Turn (that was her name, right?). "Uh," Lilli grimaced. "I'm Lilli. Just Lilli."
   Silje gave a swift bow towards Lilli.
   Filth returned his eyes to the console. "I don't know who is more awkward."
   "You're the one who brought your unnecessary drama aboard." Quil retorted as he finalized the launch of the ship.
   Filth pushed Quil's hands off the console so that he could jam the launch key. "Let's just get a larger ship and lock her in the rear cabin. Everyone will be happier that way."
   Lilli raised her hand. "I'm happy."
   Silje's voice came muffled behind the hand she rested her chin on. "You won't make it very far."
   The ship roared through the pressure barrier of the Seraph and into the dark reaches of space. Filth turned to face the disgruntled Telkian. "And why is that?"
   Before Silje could even respond a violent rattle shook the entire ship.
   "That's why." Silje gave a simple reply.
   Quil keyed in the various commands, bringing up the monitoring dialogue boxes. "G.I.E."
   "They've had the Seraph surrounded since we brought you aboard." Silje's eyes drifted to the monitors. "I guess I forgot to tell you that."
   Filth attempted to leap out of his seat, though his seat' belt held him down. "What!?! Is this your way of getting back at me? Because it sounds really stupid. You realize they want us dead, right?"
   "They want you dead, Jack." She jabbed at him.
   "How does that even make sense, Silje? You're part of this crew now. You are in the same ship as us. It doesn't matter now; you're going to get blown up with the rest of the ship."
   Quil briefly turned his gaze from the control. "They won't use lethal force as long as we have Lilli."
   Filth gave a vicious snarl towards Quil. "But she doesn't know that. I'm trying to make her feel guilty."
   "So you stole this girl -" Lilli's head cocked with Silje's jabbing finger, "from the G.I.E.?"
   "We didn't steal her first." Filth clarified. "The G.I.E. stole her from INTAL. We stole her from the G.I.E."
   "And I stole this pudding." Lilli held up a cup of jiggly yumminess.
   "Discuss later." Quil spoke staccato as he kept his focus on the console.
   "They've out classed our ship." Filth looked at the displays watching as the much larger and faster jets pulled ahead of them.
   "I haven't prepared the program like the last time. With how aggressive they are pursuing us, I cannot run commands and take evasive action at the same time."
   Lilli leaned over to the cockpit. "Don't worry, Rabbit. I have your bag." She held it in front of her.
   "Put that down," he quickly snapped towards Lilli. "Filth, do you know how to pilot the ship?"
   "Uh-duh," his eyebrows narrowed, "I just didn't know how to start this stupid thing."
   "Good. Take control."
   A rumble shook the whole jet, just as Filth took control. He rolled the ship through narrow gaps between E.M.P. fields, looped out of the way of incoming harpoons, and rocked the ship out of the way of any oncoming assaults.
   "I don't think the young master would appreciate you touching his property." Silje tried to coax Lilli into her seat.
   Filth gritted his teeth as the entire crafted was yanked off course by a harpoon.
   "I can't eject the wing at this moment Filth." Quil kept his focus on his work as he hastily typed in his commands. "Please cut the line."
   Silje looked toward the cockpit. "And how exactly is he going to do that?"
   Filth laughed, "Let me take the kid's line; 'now's the time you stop doubting me'." He pushed the ship forward, closing the small craft in on the enemy ship. The line squealed and whined as it wrapped tight around the tip of the enemy's wing. The tension increased and the moans of crushed metals groaned louder as the small craft weaved around the ship.
   "Kid, I need a little more gas."
   Quil took a brief minute to flip the four switches up that almost immediately caused the ship to fire more warning messages at the crew.
   The ship roared under the vibration of the taught line before that line finally gave way, snapping with a great force that sent both ships flying off course in a tumble.
   Through the uncontrolled tumble, a pounding vibration casted the emergency lights of the ship.
   Quil brought up the various displays, looking at the durability display. "Engine four is offline." He flipped the far right and far left switches off. "Rerouting power."
   The ship quieted for a moment as the hum of the engine dimmed briefly.
   "We have inbound harpoons, Kid. Hurry and do whatever it is you plan on doing."
   The life of the ship began to return, quiet at first but grew exponentially. The life grew as did the temperature percentages of engine's one and two. It grew past ninety percent. It grew past ninety-five percent. It past ninety-eight percent.
   The displays began to fill with glowing messages. "Meltdown imminent."
   "Young Master," Silje leaned forward through the force of the acceleration, "you can't push the engines like this. You're going to blow us up!"
   "We can't turn back around to Corp-Two." Quil opened up a display window of a Jumper arch. "Our best bet is to use the Origin System jumper. We will be within jump range in about twenty-five seconds." He brought up a display of the pursuing ships as they sank further behind. "Engine output exceeds standard acceleration of the Sequin jets. Engine temperatures have exceeded the threshold, however, they should be able to maintain stability until we arrive at the Jumper."
   Silje's eyes parted in concern. "Except with the stress you are putting our engines through they will be destroyed from jumping."
   Filth pushed Silje's anxious concern out of the cockpit, "Silje, just leave it to the kid."
   "I will use the emergency thrusters to push us to our destination after we have made our jump. Our main concern should be to escape the G.I.E.'s pursuit." Quil pushed the holographic keyboard to Filth's seat. "Please input the jump co-"
   Quil was unable to finish his sentence before the cold metal snake wrapped tight around his throat. The constricting appendage lifted him from his seat and tossed him to the rear of the cabin. There he could see the waves of hot air lift Lilli's hair. There from the rear of the cabin he could see her so distantly and coldly suffocate Filth as he was lifted from his seat.
   Silje attempted to fight back but was thrown to the rear of the cabin with Quil.
   Lilli stepped forward, an open cube from Quil's bag was clutched in her hand, her hair glowed brightly as did her eyes. An appendage reached to the console as command after command was placed into the terminal of the ship. Jump coordinates were set.
   Filth thrashed his legs, kicking Lilli, knocking her back into the wall, though her appendage kept a tight grip on its prey. In retaliation, she slammed Filth in the wall of the cabin making him choke on the little air he could manage to breathe.
   Quil recovered. A spare battery for his watch. A spare battery for his goggles. Some small tools. A portable docking station for his watch. And the cubes he had picked up from the Lotus. His bag floated through the cabin wide open, as it spilled its contents across the ship. In the middle of the debris stood Lilli, her hair gave off waves of heat as it glowed a hot white, her eyes shined equally as bright through her vicious gaze as she attempted to subdue Filth.
   Filth looked towards Quil, "Stop feeding her pudding, Kid." He wheezed through the tightening grip.
   Silje tackled Lilli. "Let go of him!"
   Lilli's eyes looked at Silje. Her glowing eyes pierced deep into Silje. "Anata wa naze jibun no yume no tame ni tatakawanai nodesu ka?" She spoke with a soft harshness before an appendage whipped Silje away from Lilli.
   Filth fought for his life as he clawed at the metal snake that clung to his neck, attempting to pry it free, or, at the very least, pry it loose so that he could breathe.
   Lilli pulled Filth closer to her glowing eyes. He could feel the heat coming off of her hair. "Nande temē wa jibun no wagamama de tanin no yume o kowasu nda?"
   Silje pulled herself together shaking her head. "She's speaking Japanese."
   "Great." Filth choked, "can we figure out her behavior after you save me?"
   Quil looked at the open cube in Lilli's hand, then to the cubes floating around the cockpit.
   "Something has amped her polling rate," Silje kept her distance from Lilli as she examined her.
   "She's being overclocked?" Quil looked at Silje.
   "I believe so. Something must be causing her cores to boost their poll."
   Quil's cowlicks leaned back as he moved his gaze to the cube she held. He dived right towards her hand, snatching the cube out of it and closing it. Lilli's gaze shifted to Quil's recovery.
   Filth took this as a chance to drive a punch right into her stomach, loosening the grip of the appendage as she stumbled back into the wall. She quickly recovered to her feet, swiping Filth away, sending the debris of Quil's bag scattering even more throughout the ship.
   Quil dived toward one of the other closed cubes that had fallen out of his bag. He attempted to catch it, but as he crossed in front of Lilli her appendage gripped Quil around his neck.
   She grabbed the cube, stopping its drift through the cabin as it gently came to rest in her own hand. "Kimi wa jibun no yume o wasurete shimatta no?" Her hand squeezed the cube tightly as the gears inside slowly gave way to the button, opening up and showing the shining glowing red liquid inside.
   Lilli threw Quil to the rear of the cabin as the red liquid darted out of the cube and into the end of a nearby appendage of hers. The wave of heat splashed across the crew, hotter than the first wave. Her hair only grew brighter as did her eyes. The waves of heat sent the remaining cubes scattering. Lilli's eyes followed each glowing cube one at a time as she watched their trajectory in the low gravity. And so did Quil. He pulled himself together as he pushed towards the cubes, collecting one just before Lilli swatted him away. He leapt over her head as each appendage attempted to stab into Quil. He grabbed the next cube just before he hit the ground. He pushed himself out of the onslaught of incoming appendages as he leapt towards the last cube. Just when he thought he had reached the cube he stopped midflight.
   Lilli pulled Quil close to her, an appendage gripping his throat. Its tightened grip was stronger than before. Not a single molecule of air could enter or leave Quil as the appendage wrapped tighter and tighter crushing his throat.
   "Lilli..." he weakly managed to speak in broken, grasping syllables. He tried speaking a sentence but "Rabbit..." was the best he could manage.
   The ship began to glow as it approached the Jumper. The hull grew brighter and brighter as the brightening glow blinded the entire crew before finally everything stopped.
   The release of the energy sent the entire crew slamming into the rear of the cabin.
   Few things lit the darkened cabin. The light of the still hottly bright hair had begun a slow, cooling dim. The last remaining cube's glow echoed the luminosity of Lilli's hair, as it glowed bright in its drift alone amongst the debris of Quil's bag. Each object that passed in front of the cube cast heavy shadows across the crew. Filth who was weighed down by the foreign Telkian and the kid who held Lilli's head in his right arm.
   Quil could feel the heat that came from Lilli's hair, assuming it was probably hot enough to give him significant burns, but he couldn't let go of her. He kept her close to her, his numb right arm wrapped in the tangles of her hair.
   Silje tried pulling herself together. "Jack, are you okay?"
   "I never knew despair could smell so strongly." Filth remarked as he pushed Silje off of him. He glided to the cockpit. Everything was offline. The external display monitors were black. The engines were silent.
   "Jack," Silje glided up behind him, "I was worried about you."
   Filth scoffed, "Ah, now you suddenly care about me."
   "I didn't want to see you die." Silje's eyebrows parted.
   The abrasion of past arguments returned to Filth. "That seems ironic since you didn't tell us about the ships in the first place."
   Silje didn't bite back. There was just a moment of silence.
   Filth turned to look at her. The highlights of her eyes outlined her lowered brow and heavy eyes. Filth turned around back to the console of the ship. "Thank you," his voice rang sincere, "Silje."
   Quil came behind, keeping a tight grip on the unconscious Lilli. He grabbed the last cube, stuffing it into his pocket.
   Filth looked at Quil. His eyes stared intently at the dimly glowing hair. He moved his eyes back to the console. "Do you know where we are?"
   Quil pushed past Filth. He flipped a switch on and off a few times. Nothing happened. He reached under the console, holding down a button for a few seconds before trying the switches again. This time, he found success as the lights in the ship came back on and the displays activated, only displaying the diagnostic text as the ships systems booted. With that, Quil returned to the rear of the ship, away from the other two. He remained at the rear where he held Lilli close to him. Her appendages cradled her body limply.
   Filth sat into the cockpit as he waited for the displays to show what was outside of the ship.
   Silje sat in the copilot's seat. "Did you put in any jump coordinates?"
   Filth shook his head, "No. The girl put some weird commands into the ship whenever her sugar rush 'psychopathy' kicked in."
   Filth looked at the displays. Warnings about wing damage came up. Warnings about hull damage came up. Warnings about engines one through four being offline (there are only four engines). He closed the warnings so that he could finally see outside of the ship.
   And there it was. A massive colony that remained in ruins. The five petals of the flower shaped colony stretched out before them with rings of debris from the missing fragments of the damaged petals drifting aimlessly in the space around the colony.
   The flower was wilted. The petals didn't glow. Chunks of the colony were missing. The place looked long forgotten. Forgotten years ago.
   "Quil," Filth spoke baffled as he kept his eyes on the destroyed colony ahead of him. "You might want to see this."
   Quil moved to the front, his eyes looked vacant at the screen. He pushed Filth out of the pilot's seat. He brought up the terminal and entered a few commands.
   "JUMP LOG: SYSMW-67738-111-SCCR322659-1026"
   Without a word Quil stepped away from the console and returned to Lilli. He didn't look back. He never even flinched when he saw the wreckage.
   Filth looked over the information.
   Silje leaned over Filth as she too looked at the information. "These coordinates don't match the Lotus's coordinates."
   Filth looked at Silje as she looked at him.
   "Where do you think we are?" Silje asked.
   Filth shook his head. "I have a better question: Why are we here?"

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