Amelia took out her blaster, leaping to the side of the deck. Tried to sight it. No! Doppler and the pirate were swaying too hard – she couldn't aim, and would likely hit the Doctor. But she could help another way. "All free hands! Get to this rope and pull!"

Doppler heard her order, heard the clatter of feet as the crew slid to his aid. He had less time before being rescued, but it wouldn't matter if he was killed before being hauled aboard. The pirate was a Shiva, with four hands – two to climb with, and two to wield his weapons: knife and blaster. He looked up. Grinned at him. Doubled its climbing speed.

Dilbert clutched his own blaster, swaying deliberately to throw the Shiva off his balance. He led his target. Pulled the trigger. The fusion crystal ignited, creating an incandescent bolt of plasma that hurtled at the Shiva. Dilbert saw the telltale flash of a blaster impact, and whooped...

But no. It had done nothing but knock the pirate's blaster out of his hand. And it's knife was the deadlier weapon.

Dilbert hauled himself up the rope. He felt like his muscles were about to burst. He tried not to think of the words "lactic acid," "rope burn" or "laceration." But he was jumping up the hull now, only seven hand-spans away from safety on the ship.

He felt steel pierce his left foot.

Dilbert bayed, kicking downward. He had to ignore the pain. He had to haul himself up. The Shiva slashed again. Dilbert swung his leg, catching the Shiva's arm for one moment before kicking at his head. The pirate caught the leg and hauled himself up, corps a corps with Dilbert now. He grabbed the Doctor's torso and preparing for the strike that would be fatal.

Dilbert leapt from the hull onto the deck, bringing the pirate with him. Amelia took her one instant to grab the thug's arm and twisted the knife out of it, kneeing him in the back. He fell to the deck. Amelia drew her sword and held it to his throat.

"Ailurians can react in a tenth of a second," Amelia remarked. "Can you?" Her eyes flicked towards the Doctor. "Are you alright, Doctor?"

"All right? By no means. In a state I can recover from? Undoubtedly." Dilbert limped to his feet.

"Good man. Would someone take him to his quarters?" The crew recognized that Amelia was never this quiet before. Two trimsmen went on each side of him, hauling him to his feet.

"Go on then," the Shiva snarled. "Kill me. The Halfbreed will find our ships and kill you all anyway. We will have our revenge."

"I look forward to meeting your Captain in combat. Especially if he isn't the simpering, simpleminded ninny typified by your ship." Something was nagging at Amelia. Something vitally important, but inaccessible to her waking mind...

Wait. "The Halfbreed? Unusual name. How did he come about it?"

"You mean you have not heard of Dual?" The Shiva corsair snickered. "Dual Astarte, the Halfbreed himself? He is called The Halfbreed because he is a Halfbreed. Some say he's half Proycon, some say he's Canidian, others say he's part Taoscan, but all we know for sure is this – he's half your kind," and here the pirate snarled, "half Ailurian – and for that half he hates Ailur and all her children!"

Amelia realized it had been ten seconds since the pirate had spoken. "Ludicrous," she found herself saying, chuckling and closing her eyes with a confidence she knew she was lacking. "And how did this, ah, mingling happen?"

"Ask him yourself," the Shiva smiled, before jumping and cutting his own throat.

NOTES: I came up with Dual for this fanfic before I came up with him for The Etherium. Yes, The Etherium, the very finest in Treasure Planet Roleplaying. And MORE CLIFFHANGERS! Don't you just hate that?

Oh. By the way. Although it has nothing to do with the subject, please read Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. Now.