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Pirates Round Robin

Chapter 5

By Francis Cooke

Business VERY unusual

"But I do..."

The figure stepped out from the shadows. He had recently shaved off his beard and cleaned his clothes, but to Mel he was unmistakable.

"Glitz! Why aren't I suprised? The first dirty spaceport we dock at and-"

Glitz waved his hand, silencing Mel for the moment. "Well, I must admit its quite a suprise to see you again too...although I see you're not short of new friends." He scowled. "That really wasn't very nice of you now, leaving me like that, but I suppose we best let bygones be bygones and just give me those crystals and I'll be off."

Glitz approached Chris, hands outstretched. When Chris began to move away he whipped out a blaster. "Look, come on ain't going to be no use to you...but just give it to me and I'll have enough grotzits to retire and live the good life. Just hand it over and I'll let you get on with your game of can even have the Nosferatu 2, if we consider this as payment."

Glitz casually turned round and casually blasted Mel, who had been creeping up behind him. Chris, dropping the crystal, ran over to her aid.

"Don't worry lad, its on stun" Glitz told Chris and the others, glancing round at Mel's prostrate body. He took the crystal from a gaping Chris, who ran over to Mel's aid. Turning to the exit, he gave a small wave -

And then all hell broke loose.

"There was this huge flash of light -" explained Chris.

"Big white light it was," commented Grinker.

"VERY big and VERY white," added Lathra

"Although there could have been just the slightest hint of pink..." pondered Grinker.

"Shut up," said Chris. "Anyway, there was this flash, and then Glitz screamed. I mean he _really_ screamed. And then I saw the crystal...and that was where the light was coming from. There was all this heat coming off it and it was white, more than white hot. And I don't think Glitz could let go. It looked like he couldn't."

The two Sloathes tried to imitate Glitz's state to Mel, who they were carrying on a makeshift stretcher to the Nosferatu II, not succeeding very well. "Was heat," explained Lathra.

"VERY heat" said Grinker.

"Very HOT hea-"

"Shut Up," said Chris. "And the scream wasn't just Glitz. I looked at the crystal, and it was screaming too! No, really," he said, seeing Mel's expression.

"And then it came off pretend - move - nasty - things hands," said Grinker.

"Yeah," continued Chris, "and then it sort of floated-"

"To pretend-move-nice-Chris-thing," completed Lathra, motioning to Chris, who had the crystal clutched tightly in both hands.

Their conversation was stopped as they walked into the Nosferatu II and heard Krimda shouting at the screen. "Is talk!" it shouted, leaping up and down in frustration. "Is must talk! Is must obey rules and TALKS!"

Mel leaped off the stretcher, assuming command immediately, much to the suprise of Chris and the rest of the crew. Striding over to the controls, she asked Rakaar what Krimda was upset about. Rakaar motioned to the ship on the screen.

"It won't talk to us, but it seems to be following us. Our scans reveal that there isn't any problem with its communications equipment, so they must be choosing not to speak."

"What sort of beings are on the ship?" asked Mel.

Rakaar shrugged. "The scan was stopped almost as soon as it started. Whoever is on that ship, they've got some amazing technology."

Mel turned. "We'll look at that in a second, Krimda. What we need to do right now is get this back to the lab." She took the crystal from Chris, and they both moved off to the laboratory.

Thella was drinking a bottle of fruit concentrate and flicking through a paperback version of 'How to reverse the polarity of a neutron flow' (author unknown) when Mel and Chris came in.

"That again..." she commented when Mel threw the crystal down a nearby bench.

"We need a full computer outline," Mel told her, after explaining what had happened at the space-port. "I want to know about every material that makes it up, and information on why it did what it did before." She grabbed a bottle of fruit concentrate from Thella's fridge and left. "Come on Chris."

Thella watched Chris's back as he left, before sighing and turning to her keyboard.

On the bridge, nearly everyone had forgotten about the mysterious ship. A card game had started up near the entrance, and in one corner a group of Sloathes were trying to start up a band (acting as both players and instruments). Grinker was playing Pac-Man at the weapons console. None of them had noticed that the ship seemed to be moving closer.

When Mel and Chris entered, they noticed it immediately. Everyone turned their attention to the viewing screen when Mel ran over to it and started assessing the information. Chris started working at the communication console.

"They still aren't talking," he shouted over to Mel.

"Is no good..." muttered Krimda, reshaping from an electric guitar to hir normal figure of a pelican wearing a large rubber ring. "How does they expect to make friends if will not chit-chat?"

"It looks like they want to board us though..." said Mel, glancing at a readout. "Think we should let them Chris?"

"Is shoot them! Load the cannons! Man the deck! Brace the-" Grinker was finally shut up by a Reklonian.

"If we want to learn anything about them I think we'd better," said Chris. "We'll need to be careful though...they could be dangerous. Judging from the exterior weapons they've got, I think they could be _very_ dangerous."

In the grip of the Reklonian, Grinker brightened noticeably, no doubt thinking about whet fun it could have if it ever got a go with the weapon controls on the approaching ship.

There was an explosion somewhere deep in the Nosferatu II.

Chris and Mel looked at each other. "Thella!" shouted Chris and ran off towards the lab, followed by Lathra and another Sloathe. Mel turned her attention back to the approaching ship.

Thella was lying by the door, crumpled against the wall, but apart from her there was no other sign of the explosion they had heard from the bridge. Chris immediately checked her pulse, while Lathra and hir friend, Eltave, twittered in the background. "Still breathing..." he muttered. He tried to move her - she opened her eyes and screamed.

"Chris leaped back, and then was at her side again. Lathra morphed hirself into a stretcher, while Eltave, who had been spending a lot of time in the medical bay, started inspecting Thella. "Is pretend-move-thing lost whopping great big lot of blood" it said, prodding Thella to see how much it could hurt her. "Is think see doctor now."

"Ta," said Chris, trying to shift Thella into the Lathra Stretcher. When she was in, he and Eltave carried her off towards the medical bay.

Mel was watching the ship on the viewer, listening to Chris, and trying to convince herself that she was totally in control and not worried at all. She wasn't succeeding in the slightest.

"So she's alive...but we reckon she won't be out of the medical bay for a while. At least half of her bones were broken...and we still don't know what did it. I left Eltave to fuss over her..."

"They'll be able to board in half an hour," shouted a Pakhar who was at the viewer. Mel again ran the list of horrible life forms that could be on the ship through her head, and then tried yet again to tell herself that they would more than likely be friendly, and if they weren't than it would be nothing her little group couldn't handle. _Yeah, right_ said a little voice at the back of her head, which she quickly squashed. She was certain that she should be doing something.

"And meanwhile that crystals still sitting there and we still have absolutely no idea what it is," continued Chris. "Thella only managed to get through a few preliminary tests, and we haven't got a single other computer expert on the ship-"

Mel looked up.

Chris saw the look in her eyes. "Oh no," he muttered immediately. "No way. You saw what happened to her...what would we do if the same happened to you?"

But Mel was already off and walking towards the lab. Chris sighed, sat back in his chair, put a hand over his eyes, and tried to get some sleep.

He was woken up by Krimda jumping up and down on his stomach half an hour later. Rubbing his eyes, he sat up and tried to assess the situation. Everyone on the bridge was at the controls, and there was a sea of chatter around him.

"No-talk ship is docked!" shouted Krimda, going red in the face. "Is HERE!"

Chris leaped out of the chair immediately. "Where's Mel?"

Krimda was still jumping up and down on the chair. "Is still gone! Is still in silly laboratory looking at stupid crystal!"

And then the viewing screen lit up behind them.

Mel had been working for half an hour, running as many scans over the crystal as she could. So far she had found nothing of interest. As the results of the latest test appeared on the screen, she leant forward. "Now that's interesting..."

She had rigged one large screen on the other side of the lab to show the approach of the ship, but had all but forgotten about it as she continued with the tests. Suddenly the display on it changed, as a huge, grubby face appeared.

"Well well well," said Glitz, his face looming on the screen. I guess you should have handed over that crystal when I asked eh Mel? The guys who want it, they ain't happy you know. Fairly blew their tops when they beamed me back up here actually...but we're back to get what's theirs..."

And behind Mel, the crystal glowed.

"Actually," said Glitz, as all of the crew on the bridge looked up at him on the screen. "I think I better let you know what you're up against. They're right here..." he moved to the side.

"Oh shit..." whispered Chris. "I think I'd better get Mel."

He reached the lab in record time. Panting, he opened the door. "Mel, I think you better..."

Then he looked into the lab.

Chris screamed.

Part 6

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