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They entered the bay and saw a girl sitting on the floor in front of the hatch. She had short black hair and dark eyes. Kaz recognized her at once and he wasn’t all that pleased to see her here.
She rose to her feet at their appearance. “Kaz,” she said with a smile. She was acting as if he was a long lost, old and dear friend.
“What are you doing here, Jat’Lyn?” asked Kaz, his voice cold.
“Kaz, aren’t you pleased to see me?”
Rice looked surprised. “I’ll be going now.”
“No, please, Rice. Stay a while, I would like to talk with you more,” said Kaz.
Rice nodded and stood aside.
“Is this one of your little friends?” asked Jat’Lyn.
Kaz didn’t reply; he thought the remark ludicrous considering the fact that Rice was nearly twice her size.
“Come on Kaz, I thought you would be pleased to see that I was one of the pilots who were chosen for this mission, and one of the few who survived. Aren’t you pleased? I didn’t know you were here too, until Nathyn came back and told me. He was in such a fuss.”
“So Hae’Nathyn sent you to see what I was doing,” said Kaz coldly.
“How can you say that?” she asked indignantly.
“I can say it very easily. Ever since he let you know who my parents were and you left me to go with him.” Kaz’s voice grew even colder if that were possible.
“Oh Kaz, you don’t think I have feelings for him, do you?”
“I don’t think you have feelings for anyone. You just stood to gain more rank from matching with him than if you had stayed with me. And now that we’re here, you think you’ll do better by matching back with me, don’t you? Go back to Hae’Nathyn; you’ll not get another chance with me.”
“I’m sorry to hear you say that, Kaz.” She backed away. “Oh no!” She moved quickly away from him.
The rest of the pilots entered quickly through the hatch and then spread out; one of them lingered long enough to make sure the hatch was locked. Hae’Nathyn grabbed Jat’Lyn by the arm and thrust her violently away and to the rear of their group.
Kaz went to his ship’s hatch and slapped the panel. “Rice, get inside.” He helped his words by thrusting him into the ship. “Ship, don’t let him out until the fight’s over.”
* * * *
Before the hatch closed, Rice saw two of the others close in on Kaz’s back and then just as quickly, one of them lost at least half of his face and the other just dropped out of view. “Ship, what’s going on out there? Let me out. He doesn’t stand a chance against all of them alone.”
The quiet voice of the computer frustrated Rice in his near panic. “Pilot Aaitt’Kaz’s fighting record is exceptional and he has sparred against almost all of the pilots that are here. There is a twenty-nine point four percent probability that he will be able to deal out enough initial damage to cause the others to back down and acknowledge his superiority.”
“Let me call the bridge and get security down here.”
“I am sorry, Corporal Rice. This fight must be settled here and now. If this fight was to be interrupted, and another encounter was to occur, his odds of success would be much less.”
“What are you talking about? If he gets killed out there, who will be your pilot then? Who will rank then?”
“You are correct; my next pilot will be the victor of this fight and will therefore rank among this group.”
Rice thought about that for a moment during which time he heard someone slam against the bulkhead near the hatch. “If Kaz dies, then I declare myself your next pilot.”
“You are not a pilot. You do not know how to fly.”
“You’ll just have to teach me.” Rice paced the three steps available for such an activity.
“As you wish, Pilot Rice, but you should know that it is likely one or more of these pilots will challenge you for that right.” Another body met the bulkhead and a muffled cry of pain could be heard through the hull.
“Oh, well then, let’s just pray he survives. What’s going on out there? Isn’t there some way I can see?”
The screen came to life and a high view of the docking bay floor could be seen. A few steps from the hatch stood a tattered and bleeding Kaz with his right hand tucked into his waistband. Around him lay several bodies; it was impossible to tell if any of them were still alive. As he looked, three more closed in with him while other tattered fighters hung on the perimeter waiting to see the outcome.
Rice watched in astonishment as Kaz met one of his attackers with a foot in the throat. Another attacker received his hand in his chest—Rice had to look closer. Yes the left hand actually entered the man’s chest. The third attacker was forced to hesitate when his eyes were filled with blood… Where did the blood come from? …and then his feet were swept from under him. Kaz then leaped to straddle him and drove his hand down onto the man’s chest hard enough to break every rib; Rice could see the man’s chest flatten and bulge unnaturally. The others backed away to the bay doors. As the bay door opened, a flood of men entered.
Thirty pages to go - might have it done tonight - and then it's back to the editor.