Tino did not wait to see if his shots had done lasting damage. As soon as he heard Aleksander’s pained scream he dropped below the bench he was using for cover and spun around to see what had happened. Eiríkur was lying on the floor, Aleksander had just reached his side, the others were also moving quickly to see what had happened. From the looks of things Eiríkur had attempted to find better covered after the bench he had been huddling behind was destroyed. He had been out in the open for only a moment, but Ivan’s shot had hit him.
“What happened? Is he okay?” Tino asked, rushing to his side as well.
No one answered because no one yet knew the answer. Aleksander kept repeating his brother’s name desperately as he picked him up and cradled him in his arms. Eiríkur’s left arm and shoulder had taken the brunt of the blast. His clothing had been singed away and the skin beneath badly burned. The teen was unconscious, pale except for the angry red and black scorches up the side of his body.
“Is he…?” Tino asked hesitantly, afraid of the answer.
Mathias crept closer to the pair of brothers and held his fingers up to Eiríkur’s throat. “No,” he replied after a tense moment, much to everyone’s relief. “But we need to get him back to the ship. He needs medical attention.”
Just as he finished speaking there was another gunshot. The pulse slammed into the bench they were hiding behind. Aleksander gasped and held his brother tighter.
“I thought you got ‘em, Tino,” Berwald said, already reaching for more objects to shelter them with.
“I did!” Tino said defensively. He turned back around and peeked over the top of their makeshift shelter. He had taken down both of the police officers and there was no one else in the building. Then he noticed the woman. She still lay on the floor, and she was bleeding badly, but had managed to grab one of her guns again and point it toward them. Tino ducked back behind his cover and cursed as he reloaded his rifle with swift, practiced fingers. The woman fired another shot, but it went wide, though not by much. She was injured enough to impair her aiming, but she was obviously a good marksman, perhaps even a match for Tino. Had they been on friendlier terms he might have challenged her to a contest. But that was not the case here. They were enemies and Tino was determined to defeat them. Rifle reloaded, Tino balanced the barrel on the splintered wood that separated him from their attackers. He watched as the woman waited for her guns to recharge and attempted to push herself up off the floor.
A squeeze of the trigger and Tino felt the butt of the rifle kick back against his shoulder just as the crack of the gun firing filled his ears. His brain said to duck back behind his meager shelter, but his ego would not let him. He had missed his shot before, and Tino prided himself on almost never missing a shot. He had to redeem himself. With a sense of morbid pride and triumph he watched the bullet pierce through the woman’s neck. She collapsed to the floor immediately, not dead, but bleeding profusely and gagging. She would drown in her own blood before she could bleed out.
“It’s clear,” Tino said flatly, and rose to his feet. “Let’s go.”
Berwald held Eiríkur as tightly as he dared as they rushed back through the city. The teen still had not woken or even stirred since his injury. It was not a good sign. Aleksander hovered close to Berwald, looking over at his brother as frequently as possible while also watching his footing on the uneven ground. But he did still stumble a few times, his attention obviously far more focused on Eiríkur than their surroundings.
It seemed to take far too long to reach the gates again, though they were going straight there this time and not taking any diversions as they had on the way to the temple. But finally they reached the outer wall of the city and passed through the gates. The plains between the city and the Hofvar were empty, but as they drew closer the crew grew nervous and more alert of their surroundings. There was at least one more person aboard the police ship that was possibly on the lookout for them. So they snuck by as quickly as they had that morning and slunk up to the hatch before slipping into the ship. If they had been noticed there was no sign of it yet.
Berwald took Eiríkur to the cabin the brothers shared and set him down on the lower bunk of the bed. Immediately Aleksander was pushing him aside to get to his brother and attempting to get Eiríkur to wake up. Berwald was quick to step away, but hovered by the door, unsure what to do now.
Aleksander was still repeating his brother’s name over and over and over, touching his face and nudging him in an attempt to wake him, but Eiríkur remained asleep and unmoving.
“Berwald, go get whatever medical supplies we have. Tino, get cold water and towels,” Mathias ordered quickly, watching the brothers from the doorway. They did not have much left after treating Berwald’s burns, but there had to be something they could use. The pair nodded and immediately ran off to do what they were told. Then Mathias slowly crossed over to Aleksander’s side and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Aleks… It’s going to be okay.”
“He won’t wake up,” Aleksander breathed, and tore his gaze away from his brother to look up at the other man. His eyes showed the most emotion that Mathias had ever seen in them, but it was all terror and worry, not the emotions that Mathias had hoped to see there someday.
“Let’s get his shirt off,” Mathias said, and knelt down beside the bed to help.
After bringing the supplies Tino and Berwald were banished from the brothers’ cabin, and there was not really enough space for all of them in there anyway, so Tino understood. He was incredibly worried, though. Eiríkur was not doing well, but pulse gun wounds could be recovered from if they were treated properly. Berwald had survived his potentially life threatening injury, so Tino was confident that Eiríkur could as well, provided they could get him proper treatment. Rather than hover around the door forever Tino went into the galley and sat down on he sofa with a heavy sigh.
“You okay?” Berwald asked.
Tino glanced up at him and offered Berwald a weak smile. “I’m still worried,” he replied, “It’s really bad, but it seems like he’s going to make it, right? I mean… he won’t die, at least.”
Berwald nodded, but that was not what he had been asking about. “Meant earlier, with the police,” he clarified.
“Oh, that,” Tino murmured, and looked down at his lap. He should have expected that question from good-hearted Berwald who was nothing but good intentions. “You’ve never seen me kill anyone before…” Injure, yes, and shoot down ships, but that was different, impersonal. Not like this. “I’m a soldier, I’ve done it before.” He wondered if this would make Berwald think differently about him. “I don’t enjoy it, but it’s the only thing I’m good for. It doesn’t bother me anymore.” He did not look up, though he was not sure what he was scared of. Berwald would not be in this line of work if that sort of thing bothered him. Although, they had not done much killing since Tino had joined them, so they were not stereotypical outlaws. “I mean, I’d rather not kill anyone, but sometimes there’s no choice. They definitely would have killed us, and even though I shot first it’s not as though they were going to let us out of there any other way.”
Realizing he was rambling, Tino shut up and forced himself to look up at Berwald to gauge his reaction. The engineer had not said a word, and his expression was as unreadable as always. “S’okay,” Berwald said when he realized Tino had stopped talking. “I know it was necessary. Just wasn’t sure if y’were okay with it.”
“Oh,” Tino said, suddenly feeling both relieved and slightly embarrassed by his outburst. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just don’t think about it.”
Berwald nodded slowly. “Good.”
Tino fell silent after that. He was relieved that Berwald did not seem upset after seeing that side of him, but he still wished it was something the engineer never had to see. In all his time with this crew he had never actually had to kill anyone before, which was a strange realization. Before becoming an outlaw himself Tino had thought that pirates killed people all the time. Almost all of his preconceived ideas about piracy had been changed drastically since then. However, he was too concerned about Eiríkur’s condition to be overly happy about any of that. So he just sat in silence, worrying and taking only a minimum of comfort from Berwald’s silent presence at his side.
After a long moment Mathias emerged from the brothers’ cabin and came back to the galley to join them. He looked exhausted, which was unusual for the usually energetic and optimistic captain.
“Aleks won’t leave his side,” Mathias sighed and flopped down in his usual seat. “So I don’t know how he expects us to get him anywhere he can get proper help.”
As far as Tino knew the brothers were the only ones who knew how to fly. Maybe Berwald could do it, though; he knew the most about how the ship worked. Tino certainly could not, he had barely passed basic flight training in the military, and this old-model ship with its jerry rigged parts was far too complicated. Then something occurred to him. “What about the police ship?” Tino asked.
“What about it?” Mathias replied.
“There’s only one or two other crew members left, three tops,” Tino explained “Somehow they don’t seem to have noticed us yet, so we might be able to catch them by surprise.”
“And do what?” Mathias asked.
“Steal it?” Tino suggested. “Raid it for medical supplies?”
Mathias sat up suddenly. “They’ve always got medics on these government ships, right?”
“Yes,” Tino confirmed. “It’s required.”
“Get your guns,” Mathias said as he stood up again. “We’ve got a ship to invade.”
Tino did not understand how they had not been noticed yet. The police ship should have had someone on look out, or sensors set up at the very least. Were they that confident their commander would take the outlaws down? Or were they just waiting for the crew to try something as stupid as this. And this was incredibly stupid.
From behind the Hófvar’s landing gear Tino watched as Mathias dashed across the rocky plain to hide in the shadow of the other ship. Still no signs of life from within, so Berwald headed after him. Only when he saw that they were both safe did Tino run to join them.
The hatch was just above their heads and Mathias reached up to pull on the handle. Locked. The captain stepped back and Tino sent three bullets into it, effectively destroying the mechanism. Of course the rest of the police were bound to hear that and would now be on alert, but it could not be avoided. They did not have the time for Berwald to try and disarm it. Mathias grabbed the handle again and pulled with all his strength until finally the hatch broke away from the hull of the ship and swung down to meet the ground, revealing a set of stairs leading up to the airlock.
This time Tino took the lead, quickly mounting the stairs and stepping into the ship with pistol held in front of him. The airlock opened easily now that the outer door was open and after checking up and down the corridor Tino stepped out.
The corridor was empty, and Tino could hear no alarm, but surely one had been set off by now. Silent, perhaps. Cautiously he waved for the others to follow and began making his way toward the front, where he assumed the bridge to be. The ship, just as polished and new on the inside as it was on the outside, was eerily quiet. Too quiet.
“Stay here,” Tino instructed in a whisper. “I’m going to scout ahead. I’ll be back in a minute.” He did not so much as glance over his shoulder at the others before heading off down the hall, moving as quickly and quietly as possible. Something felt very wrong, and he wanted to check everything out before he risked bringing the others into a situation that was quite possibly beyond their skill to handle. The rest of the crew had no military training, and they had never faced anyone with more than a minimum of it, either.
Tino had felt the muzzle of the gun press against his hair and stopped even before the order was given. But he was shocked. Someone had managed to sneak up on him. No one had been able to do that since – No one had ever been able to do that before. He had underestimated the sort of people Ivan would pick for his crew.
“Put down your weapon.”
Tino was not stupid enough to underestimate another of them; that had nearly gotten Eiríkur killed the last time. So he obeyed, slowly lowering his gun and tossing it to the ground.
“How many others?”
“Two,” Tino answered honestly.
“There are five in your crew,” The voice behind him said. They had done their research. “Where are the other two?”
“Injured,” Tino said. “We killed your captain. And the woman,” he added.
The gun against his head trembled slightly. “And now you’ve come to kill us?”
“We came for medical supplies,” Tino said. “We’re not equipped to treat such a severe injury.”
“Not very well prepared pirates, are you?”
“Actually we were,” Tino replied. He was getting bored of this conversation, even with the gun pressed to his head, and wished the officer would just get on with whatever he planned to do. “But we’ve already been blown up a couple times since our last resupply so we’ve run short.”
“So you decided to resupply from us?”
“I don’t think you’ll be needing it,” Tino said with a shrug.
“Well too bad, because you’re not getting anything from us. You’re coming with me. Put your hands behind your head, no sudden moves.”
Tino was less convinced now that he would get shot if he did anything, but he still did not try to escape. Before he even finished moving his arms, though, there was a loud thump from behind him and the gun fell away from his head. More curious than frightened, Tino turned out only to see Berwald standing behind him with a wrench in one hand and the officer sprawled on the floor, unconscious. But if that officer had been able to sneak up on Tino, then how had Berwald managed to sneak up on them? “You’re a lot stealthier than I gave you credit for,” Tino said.
“Are y’okay?” Berwald asked immediately.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Tino assured him. “He was just threatening me. Where’s Mathias?”
“Got tired of waitin’ and went to look for the cargo bay,” Berwald replied. “Said there probably wouldn’t be anyone down there, so don’t worry ‘bout him.”
“And you let him go?” Tino asked, then sighed. “Anyway, what do we do with this guy?”
Berwald looked down at the unconscious police officer and frowned a little. “Hostage?” he suggested.
“Guess so,” Tino agreed, and bent to pick up the gun he’d been forced to drop earlier. “Should we tie him up?”
“You have any rope?” Berwald asked.
“No,” Tino had to admit, and frowned a little. “Well, can you pick him up? I still think we should find the bridge, I guess there’s only one other crewman, and they wouldn’t want to leave that unmanned in case we decide to steal it.” Berwald nodded and bent down to pick up the prone officer, slinging the body over his shoulder easily. Tino went on ahead as soon as he saw that Berwald had the situation under control. He just hoped the officer would not wake up soon and start to fight.
The pair continued moving toward the nose of the ship and it was not much longer before they reached a closed hatch labeled in a clean and efficient script ‘Bridge’. There was no window on the hatch, so Tino could not tell if there was anyone inside waiting for them, opening it was just a risk he would have to take.
“Ready, Berwald?” Tino asked, and Berwald nodded, but while holding the unconscious police officer there was not much he could do to back Tino up. Well, hopefully the hostage would keep anyone from shooting them right away. Putting his gun back in its holster for the moment Tino took hold of the hatch handle with both hands and pulled hard to open it. Except for their individual cabins none of the hatch doors on the Hófvar were ever closed, so Tino was not used to using the strength necessary to open a reinforced door like the one that sealed off the bridge on a police vessel. All the same, the door moved slowly at first as he pulled, opening with a clank and protesting the first few inches before swinging open easily. As soon as it did, Tino pulled out his gun again lightning fast and pointed it into the room. But they were not confronted with resistance. There was only one person in the bridge, presumably a pilot, a small figure, a boy who looked like he was not much older than Eiríkur who cowered back in his chair and held up his hands defensively.
Tino actually felt a little disappointed. Other than Ivan and that woman no one in this crew was putting up much of fight. Were these really the people that Ivan had chosen to surround himself with? Well, if they were no good at fighting they had to have other merits or he would not have bothered himself with any of them. “Just you?” Tino asked, trying not to sound as unimpressed as he felt.
“Please don’t kill me,” the boy stammered. “I was just following orders! I’ll tell them you overpowered me, that there was nothing I could do!”
That would not be a lie. Berwald would easily be able to overpower the boy, and even Tino probably would not have that much trouble. “We won’t hurt you if you cooperate,” Tino said. He did not want to hurt anyone, but it was good to keep up pretences. “We need medical supplies. Where can we find them?”
“In… In the cargo hold, or in sick bay,” the boy answered, voice still trembling. Then he noticed Berwald, holding the still unconscious officer and shouted. “Toris! What did you do to him? Did you kill him?”
Tino looked over his shoulder at Berwald, who just shrugged. “No, he’s just unconscious,” he assured. “Your captain and the woman who was with him are dead, though.”
“You… you killed them?” the boy asked in horror.
“In self defense,” Tino said, though he doubted that made much difference to the boy’s feelings. “Now come on, show us where to find the supplies.”
“It… it’s down the starboard corridor…” the boy said, pointing at the door.
“No, no, you’re coming with us,” Tino said, and gestured with his gun for the kid to get up. “Just in case you’ve got this whole place booby trapped and locked down with key codes or whatever the military uses these days.”
The poor young pilot looked petrified, especially with Tino waving the gun around like that, but he managed to push himself up onto his feet, legs trembling and hands wringing together anxiously. He just nodded and walked toward the door. As he passed Tino and Berwald he kept glancing at them nervously, afraid to take his eyes off them for too long. Not that the boy was in any real danger. So long as he remained no threat to them or their mission he would not be hurt, just frightened a little. It was important to maintain a reputation of danger. Still glancing back at them very often, the boy lead them off the bridge and down the corridor, they took a few turns, and Tino realized that this ship was actually much bigger than their own, though it did not look it from outside. Perhaps developments in engine technology gave them more space to build living areas.
“Its here,” the boy said when they reached a door labeled in the same efficient font as ‘Medical Bay’.
“Open the door, then,” Tino said, and gestured to it, still waving his gun around carelessly. That was practically driving the poor young pilot into a panic, but he opened the door quickly and stepped inside in front of them. Tino followed him and looked around. The room was small, with two medical beds squeezed against one wall and all the others lined with drawers and cabinets. Each of these was labeled, but mostly with long scientific words that Tino did not understand. He had had basic medical training during his time in the military, but none of the technical jargon ever stuck.
“Berwald,” Tino said, gesturing toward the beds. The engineer nodded and dropped the unconscious pilot onto one of the two beds that sat against one wall. “You can tend to your crewmate,” he added to the pilot, who stood quivering by the door. “Who was your medical officer?”
The boy hurried over to the bed where his comrade lay and Berwald stepped back so as not to frighten him too much. “Th- The captain was the best trained,” he stammered, looking over his friend, “But Toris was the official one.”
Tino sighed and looked at the unconscious form. Great, of the two people who knew what they needed to treat Eiríkur one was dead and the other was unconscious. He turned around and began pulling open drawers and cabinets, looking through them. But everything was in close to identical containers, differentiated only by a single colored stripe and a name, none of which Tino recognized. “Okay… We need at least bandages and painkillers,” he said, tearing open another cabinet.
“Why do you need them?” the pilot asked.
“One of our crewmembers was shot,” Tino explained without looking away from his task. “And we’re short on supplies.”
The pilot hesitated, watching the two pirates tear through the medical bay in search for what they needed. Should he help them? They had not hurt him yet, but they had killed two people and incapacitated another. But when they had what they wanted they would leave, right? “Bandages are there,” he said, pointing to a drawer not far from where he was standing beside his unconscious friend. “And painkillers are there,” he added, pointing to another drawer. “Just… don’t take everything, please.”
Tino stopped riffling through every drawer within his reach and looked over in surprise. No one in the military had helped him since he was also a member, and even then he had not had much help from anyone there. “Thanks,” he said, and rushed over to the indicated drawers. “Berwald help me carry these,” Tino was already grabbing as many rolls of bandages as he could hold in his arms. Berwald went over to his side and took the bandages from them. When Berwald had all he could carry Tino moved on to the painkillers. There were multiple types, but Tino grabbed all of them, stuffing the little bottles into his pockets until they were full. “What else do we need?” Tino asked, looking around. “I don’t remember how to treat plasma burns.”
“Somethin’ to clean it?” Berwald asked.
“Right,” Tino said, and looked around. “So he doesn’t get infected… um… antibiotics.”
“I don’t know where those are,” the pilot said. “I… I’m sorry I can’t help you more.”
Tino grumbled in frustration and looked around again. “Oh well. Maybe Mathias had better luck in the cargo hold. Let’s find him and get this stuff back to the Hófvar.” Berwald nodded and headed for the door, Tino on his heels. But at the hatch Tino paused and looked back. “Sorry about your friend,” he said. “He should be okay when he wakes up, but check for a concussion just to be safe.” Then he turned back around and hurried after Berwald.
They found Mathias back at the airlock, holding a box full of medical alcohol, canned food, and a government-issue communicator and scanner. Even with Eiríkur’s life on the line he could not contain his desire to take anything that struck his fancy. They would be useful in the future, though, and they might never have a chance like this again.
“We got bandages and painkillers,” Tino announced when they met up.
“Great,” Mathias replied. “I’ve got med alcohol, and this scanner thing that I think has a medical setting? And food.”
“I hope that’s enough,” Tino said in concern, and headed out the airlock, hopping back down onto the ground. He was no longer worried about the police and just ran across the space between their two ships. The trio climbed back into the Hófvarpnir as quickly as possible and went straight to Eiríkur and Aleksander’s room.
“We’re back,” Mathias said at the door and set down the box he had been carrying to rush over to the side of the bed. Aleksander had not moved since they had left; he was still sitting there, staring at Eiríkur and holding his hand as tightly as he dared. “How’s he?”
“He woke up for a moment,” Aleksander said, and it would have been good news except for the hollowness in his voice. “But he… he was in so much pain. And there was nothing I could do to help him.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Mathias assured him. “Tino got painkillers. So next time he wakes up it won’t be so bad.”
“Yeah, here,” Tino said, and began emptying his pockets onto the small table beside the bunk bed. “I didn’t know what was best, so I just grabbed a few of everything. There’s some that you can inject, that’d probably be best right now, don’t you think? And Berwald has the bandages.”
“Thanks,” Aleksander murmured, accepting the supplies that they had brought back with them. He did not know how much help they would be, but it was better than nothing. Then again Tino and Berwald were pushed out of the cramped cabin so Aleksander and Mathias could tend to the teen’s wounds.
Mathias and Aleksander were closed up inside the cabin for a long time while Tino and Berwald could do nothing but wait. Tino tried to sit still, but failed. He paced up and down the galley, wandered up to the bridge to look out the windows, walked back down the corridor, hovered by the cabin door to try and hear what was happening. The whole time Berwald watched him nervously, wondering if he should try to get Tino to settle down but knowing he would probably fail. So instead he just watched and occasionally trailed after Tino as he moved from one location to another restlessly.
That was how Berwald found himself in the bridge, watching Tino fiddle with some of the dials that thankfully did nothing important, when movement outside the window caught his attention and he looked up to see the two remaining crewmembers of the police ship emerging through their damaged hatch and heading toward them. He called to Tino to get his attention and pointed out the window toward them.
Tino cursed and jumped up from the pilot’s chair, immediately rushing to the cabin where Mathias and Aleksander were still holed up. Knocking on the door urgently he waited impatiently for it to open. “Mathias you should come see this,” he said when the captain finally showed his face.
“What is it?” Mathias asked.
“Potentially trouble,” Tino replied. “Just come.”
The captain glanced over his shoulder, then slipped out of the room. “This better be important,” he said.
“It is,” Tino assured, and lead him back to the bridge, where Berwald had not moved and was still watching the two policemen approach their ship.
As soon as Mathias saw them out the window he cursed colorfully. “Shit. What do they want?”
“They’re not carrying any weapons,” Tino observed, leaning toward the window to get a better look at the two men on the ground.
“I’m definitely going to be,” Mathias muttered, “Come on, Tino.”
Tino followed him off the bridge and to the hatch, which lowered slowly once the airlock was opened. On the ground outside the two policemen were waiting patiently for them, but Mathias approached cautiously. “What do you want?” the captain asked defensively, stepping down onto the grass. Neither of the remaining police officers were particularly intimidating, but he was not willing to take any chances.
“One of your crew is injured, right?” the taller of them asked, the same one that Berwald had knocked unconscious earlier. “A plasma burn from a pulse gun?”
“What do you care?” Mathias asked. It was probably no use denying, but he did so out of habit.
“I was the medical officer on our ship, along with the captain. If you want, I can take a look at your friend.”
“You want us to let you into our ship and let you tend to someone that badly injured?” Mathias asked in disbelief. “That would just make it easier for you to kill him, and the rest of us.”
“I won’t harm you or any of your crewmen, you have my word,” the officer assured. “I don’t have any reason to hurt you.”
“Of course you do,” Mathias scoffed. “It’s your job.”
The officer sighed faintly. “I am Toris Laurinaitis, the medical and technical officer aboard the Military Police Ship Alsviðr . My job is to enforce the laws of the Althing and respect the orders of my superior officers. We are currently outside the jurisdiction of the government that employs me, so I’m under no obligation to enforce their laws, and my commanding officer is dead. I’m currently the highest ranking officer on my ship, which puts me in charge. I’m willing to help treat your crewman and let you leave here freely. All I ask in return is the information you learned about this side of the galaxy, including the coordinates of this and any other planet you found on this side of the asteroid belt. Of course, I’d have no way of knowing if you were hiding anything from me.”
Mathias frowned and stared down at the police officer. “And you expect me to take your word for this? What are you going to tell your government about how your captain died?”
“We were exploring a planet in the uncharted portion of the galaxy and he met with an unfortunate accident. We were unable to retrieve the body,” Toris replied.
Mathias’ frown deepened and he glanced over his shoulder at Tino, who just shrugged. “You’re going to leave your companions here to rot and lie to the government? And help a bunch of pirates? In return for coordinates you already know and a story about how we have the best pilot in the galaxy?”
“We were hoping for a sort of… We’ll help you and you’ll help us,” Toris replied. “Two of our crew are dead and we are low on supplies after a long voyage. You help us get back through the asteroid belt and we’ll help keep your crewman alive.”
Again Mathias looked back at Tino. They all wanted Eiríkur to recover, and he had a much better chance if a proper doctor could look at him. “I’ll discuss your proposal with the rest of my crew,” Mathias answered eventually. “Wait here.” He did not wait for a response before turning around and going back into the ship, Tino close on his heels. Mathias headed straight back to Aleksander and Eiríkur’s cabin. The only person he would let make this decision was Aleksander. It was his brother whose life was on the line, he should be the one to decide if they put it in the hands of a police officer.
“Aleks?” Mathias asked, peeking into the room nervously. Aleksander was still sitting by his brother’s bedside and from the looks of it Eiríkur had still not woken up. Berwald had wandered back from the bridge and was standing by the wall just inside the door, staying as out of the way as possible while still keeping an eye on the situation.
“What?” Aleksander asked without looking away from his brother’s prone form.
“The doctor from the police ship is outside,” Mathias said, “He… He wants to help.”
That got their pilot’s attention and he slowly turned around to look at Mathias. “Why?” was all he asked.
“I’m… not really sure,” Mathias admitted. “He said something about he’ll help us, we help him. He wants to know everything we’ve learned about this side of the asteroid belt.”
“That’s it?” Aleksander asked.
Mathias shrugged. “That’s what he said,” he replied. “It’s up to you whether you want to let him in.”
Aleksander turned back to his brother and stared at him. “Let him in,” he said finally.
“Are you sure?” Mathias asked hesitantly.
“If he can help let him in,” Aleksander replied, and bowed his head over Eiríkur body. “If he can save my brother…” He cut himself off as his voice grew tighter and choked back a sob.
“Alright,” Mathias said, and turned around to go back out. He motioned for Tino and Berwald to follow him and they did, leaving the brothers alone for now. “I want one of you with this cop at all times. If he even thinks about making a wrong move I want him off the ship. We’re only letting him in because Eiríkur needs a doctor. If we could I’d get him back to Alfheim, but Aleks won’t leave him and no one else can fly this ship. Maybe when Eiríkur’s stabilized he’ll be willing to fly long enough to get us there.”
“So as soon as Aleks is willing to fly we get rid of these cops,” Tino said.
“Exactly,” Mathias replied. “They already have the coordinates of this planet, and I’m sure they’ll figure out how to get back through the belt if they got through it before. They don’t really need us. And I don’t want to give them Alfheim. Imagine what the government would do to a place like that.”
“Understood,” Tino replied with a curt nod. If the government came to this uncharted territory the first thing they would do would be to strip Asgard bare of all evidence of the Aesir and their technology. Then they would probably set up a colony while they bastardized any technology they could. Then they would move on, invading Alfheim if the people there would not agree to assimilate into the Galactic State. They would do to this side of the galaxy exactly what they had done to the rest of it, crushed its people and stripped it bare of it resources. Mathias did not like to think of himself and his crew as heroes of any sort, but would not let the government come to this unsullied side of the galaxy if he could help it.
As they reached the hatch again Mathias looked down at the police officers standing outside. “The doctor can come in,” he said. “Only the doctor. And only to treat injuries.”
“That’s fine,” Toris replied, although his comrade looked distressed by this news. “Lead the way.”
“Do you need anything from your ship?” Mathias asked.
“I won’t know until I can see his wound and decide what needs to be done,” Toris replied.
“Fair enough,” Mathias decided, “You can come up,” he said, and stepped aside to let him through the hatch doorway.
Toris stepped up into the ship nervously. He was wary of entering what was undoubtedly the pirates’ territory. He was not sure what had possessed him to do this in the first place. They had already knocked him out and threatened his friend before raiding their ship for supplies. He had no reason the help them, but here he was, following a pirate captain through the cramped halls of his ship to save the life of an outlaw.
When they reached the room where the rest of the crew was waiting, hovering around the bed, Toris was a bit surprised by the atmosphere, tense with worry and heavy silence. It should not have been surprising, though. Toris would have been just as worried if someone he cared about was badly injured.
“Berwald, Tino, out,” Mathias ordered. The room was too cramped for all of them to be there. The pair looked up and reluctantly filed out of the room. “Aleks,” Mathias’ voice took a much gentler tone and he approached the man slowly. “This is the medic I told you about, will you let him look at Eiríkur?”
Aleksander looked up at Mathias, his eyes red rimmed and dark, then over at Toris. Wisely, the police officer hung back by the door until he had permission to approach the bed. “You can help him, right?” Aleks asked, his voice hollow and desperate.
“I think so,” Toris replied.
“Then do it,” Aleks said, and reluctantly stepped back from the bed, letting go of his brother’s hand as he did.
Toris glanced between the two pirates, then slowly approached the bed and knelt down to look at the injured crewman. Is first reaction was shock at Eiríkur’s age. What was this child doing all the way out here, and in such a dangerous situation? But he shook it off. That was really none of his business. Instead, he focused his attention on the burn. The pirates had bandaged it, and not done a very bad job if Toris was being honest, so first he had to unwrap the gauze strips to get a look at the injury. It was extensive, and that would be a problem. Toris could see burns all the way up the boy’s arm and onto his neck and jaw. The most serious part seemed to be around the shoulder and upper arm. Here the flesh was blackened and hard. The would was probably incredibly painful and it was lucky that the boy was not awake to feel it. “Has he been awake at all since the injury?” Toris asked.
“Once,” Aleksander answered, and tried to look over Toris’ shoulder at Eiríkur’s prone form. “But only for about a minute, and then he passed out again.”
Toris nodded. “It’s a serious burn, he probably passed out from the pain. That’s for the best anyway, he’ll heal best while asleep. Have you given him any medication.”
“Yes, here,” Aleksander said, and grabbed a bottle off the table, one of the many painkillers they had pilfered from the police.
Toris took the bottle and looked at it, then nodded and handed it back. “Those are fine,” he assured. “You should keep him as medicated as possible, either painkillers or sedatives to keep him asleep. There’s a lot of dead skin, I’ll have to cut it away, that’ll help keep the injury from getting infected.” He looked over at Mathias, who was still standing by the door. “I’ll need to go back to our ship to get the tools I need. Actually it would probably be better to move him over there.”
“That won’t be happening,” Mathias assured him, “But you can got get whatever you need from your ship. I’ll have Berwald go with you.”
Toris frowned a little; he did not think he needed supervision just to go get medical equipment from his own ship, but he wanted to stay on the pirates’ good side. “Fine,” Toris agreed, and stood up. If Berwald was the big one then at least he would be useful to help carry things.
Toris and Berwald were not gone long and they returned with all of the surgical equipment that the medic thought he would need to clean and treat Eiríkur’s wound. Toris really wished they would just bring the boy to his own ship. Their medical bay was much cleaner and much better stocked than this sorry excuse for a spaceship.
“Would you allow me to work alone?” Toris asked when all of the supplies were brought back and laid out on the table beside the bed, but he already knew the answer.
“No,” Aleksander answered before anyone else even had a chance. He still had not left the room and had only strayed from his bedside when forced.
Toris sighed, but relented. “This… will not be pleasant,” he warned, and rolled up his sleeves.
“I’m staying,” Aleksander insisted stubbornly. “That’s my brother lying there half dead and I will not leave him until he’s well again!” the pilot exclaimed. He grew mildly hysterical until Mathias placed a hand on his shoulder and Aleksander seemed to realize how he was behaving and calmed down slightly.
Toris was shocked; he had not realized these two were brothers. He supposed that explained what such a young boy was doing living a life like this. The family business, perhaps. “Alright,” he agreed. “But you must stay out of the way unless I ask you for something. I may need help at some point.”
Aleksander nodded in agreement.
Mathias also remained in the cabin while Toris got to work and Aleksander watched nervously from a few steps away. Aleksander did not want to get in the way and risk doing anything that might hinder his brother's recovery. Mathias attempted briefly to calm him, but gave up when it did not work. Aleksander would not be calmed.
Eventually Toris did call them over for help. He tasked Aleksander with holding a light steady so he could see better while working at an awkward angle. He was not used to such cramped quarters, but did not trust Aleksander, who was obviously distraught, to do anything more important. When a second pair of hands were needed for medical work he used Mathias, who got a little queasy at times, but did have steady hands. Unfortunately, Toris had to remove far more dead flesh than he had initially expected. By the time he finished the skin was missing from almost Eiríkur’s entire upper arm and shoulder. It was not a pretty sight. When the worst was removed he had Mathias assist him in cleaning the remaining flesh as best as was possible, and then bandaged the limb carefully in fresh, sterile bandages.
"The bandages will need to be changed frequently," Toris said when he was satisfied that they had done all they could for now. "To prevent infection. Even without infection we might see the wound start to deteriorate. Ideally we would put his whole arm under a regenerator to speed up the process, but it wouldn't be any less risky. Until the new skin starts to grow he'll be incredibly susceptible to infection and further damage to the muscle from improper care."
"I'll make sure he's taken care of," Aleksander said. "Tell me what to do, I'll make sure it's done."
Toris did not doubt Aleksander's conviction, but he did doubt his medical skills. "Check him every few hours and change the bandages twice a day at least," he explained. "He'll need to be dosed with painkillers and sedatives, as well as antibiotics and antivirals. Maybe immune boosters, too," he said thoughtfully, "To help start his body repairing itself. He'll need to sleep a lot, but he also still needs to eat a significant amount, healing a wound that size is hard work.”
Aleksander nodded in understanding, committing everything the memory, determined to do everything to help his brother. “I understand.”
Toris did not look particularly convinced, however. “He survived the initial shot, which is more than most people can say after a full power blast from one of those things. But the hardest part is the recovery and this could still all go downhill.”
Aleksander nodded again. “Thank you,” he said honestly. He knew this was more than any of them would have been able to manage on their own without potentially making the wound worse. And the officer had no reason to help them, nothing truly to gain from it.
Toris nodded in reply and began to clean up the supplies he had used to treat Eiríkur. “It would be better if you could get him to a proper medical facility, but…” Toris commented, and trailed off nervously. Did people like this have anywhere to go for medical treatment? Even if they did, could they get anywhere in time for it to make a difference? How long could this kid survive without real medical care? Even the military ship was not properly equipped to deal with an injury as serious as this one. All Toris could do was patch him up, ply him with medications, and hope for the best.
His incomplete sentence did not go unnoticed by Aleksander, who automatically assumed the police officer thought they had no such resources. That was partly correct, but Aleksander did not want to seem like he could not care for his own brother’s health. “We will get him somewhere,” he assured stubbornly.
“Of course,” Toris replied politely, and finished cleaning up the used bandages and empty medicine bottles in silence before leaving the room.
Mathias, who had been standing by the door the whole time, immediately began following him. “How is he?” the captain asked, tailing Toris as he left the ship.
“He’s stable, for now,” Toris replied. “But I don’t know how long that will last in an environment like this. He needs a hospital.”
Mathias frowned in concern and concentration, considering where they might be able to take Eiríkur to get him that sort of care. There were doctors on The Chariot, but that was so far away. “We’ll figure something out,” he mumbled thoughtfully.
“I hope you do,” Toris replied with a sigh. “For his sake.”
“You plan on leaving now?” Mathias asked.
“Not just yet,” Toris answered. “It’s hard to fly a ship with only two people. You’ve killed our captain, engineer and tactical officer. It’ll take us some time to get everything settled before we can head home. And you still owe me the information you promised.”
Mathias had been hoping they would forget about that, “How would you like it delivered?” he asked, fully planning to follow through with their deal after what this man had done for Eiríkur.
“However is best for you is fine,” Toris assured him. “Tell me,” he paused and looked back over his shoulder at Mathias, “How did you really get through the asteroid belt?”
“I told you, we have the best pilot in the galaxy,” Mathias answered, and smiled a little bit, always proud to brag about his crew. “Aleks flew us.”
“Honestly?” Toris asked in amazement.
“Of course,” Mathias replied. “How did you get through?”
“We almost did not,” Toris replied. “Spent several days scanning it for an opening before Captain Braginski forced us to continue forward. It nearly killed us.”
Mathias winced a bit in unconscious sympathy. “He did not seem like the sort of man willing to take no for an answer,” he observed.
“No, he was not,” Toris replied. “But he was a good commander, all things considered. The military will be sad to lose him.”
“What about you?” Mathias asked curiously.
Toris did not have an answer right away. “Braginski was not a bad man,” he replied eventually. “But I think he took his job and his position too seriously. He was harsh with anyone who he felt was not giving their best effort. I think he wanted to see the best in everyone, but he took it as a personal offence if you did not live up to his expectations.”
Mathias nodded thoughtfully, and was beginning to see why the police captain and Tino might not have gotten along very well when they were serving together. “Well, if you ever become disillusioned with the government and want something with a little more freedom…
You know where you can find us,” he said with a flash of a smile before turning around again to go check on Aleksander and Eiríkur.
“Actually I don’t,” Toris called after him.
“You will if you really want to,” Mathias said over his shoulder. “I think we could use a medical officer aboard. I’ll send everything we’ve learned about this region to your ship.”
“Thank you,” Toris replied, and watched with confusion as Mathias climbed back aboard his ship and disappeared again. This was a very strange group of pirates.
Extra long chapter for extra long hiatus. Not proofread, gotta keep up with NaNoWriMo.
Alsviðr – One of the two horses that pulls the chariot of the sun across the sky. Meaning “very quick” in Old Norse.
Althing – In Viking culture a “thing” was an assembly of free men who met to solve disputes and make political decisions, including making laws and electing leaders. Today, Iceland still uses the term Althing to refer to their parliament, and similar names are found in other Scandinavian countries.