A/N: Lraine, thanks for the compliment on this story. B.L.A., I always appreciate your input and your fics. Iorekbyrn, I'm glad you enjoyed Trial of the Eureka Maru and this story too. I really can't stand to leave a story unfinished, so I am continuing this as it is one of my favorite fics to write. Besides, I'd hate to leave Beka/Tyr fans hanging.
Beka came to a standstill. "Wait!"
Rafe frowned and kept walking. "What do you mean wait, we're almost--"
Tyr grabbed Rafe's shoulder. "Hush!" He listened and heard it too.
Beka crinkled her forehead. "What is that?"
The high-pitched whine ofpulse weapons reached their ears clearly now.
Rafe's frown deepened. "Oh, no! They're early." He fell suddenly to the floor ripping out of Tyr's grasp, rolled, and leapt back to his feet. Rafe was off running around the corner before either of them could stop him.
Quickly, Beka and Tyr followed his fleeting form. Rounding the corner, they spotted Rafe, dodging behind some crates and scrambling in the direction of the weapons' fire.
Rafe must have heard them behind him. He raised his hand in a gesture that begged for silence and peered between the gaps in the crates.
Beka crawled up beside him. Peering over the crates cautiously, Beka spotted a nasty-looking pair of Nietzscheans. Worse still, she recognized one significant Nietzschean symbol. "Those guys aren't the Sabra-Jaguar, Rafe," she whispered in her brother's ear.
"Not quite," Rafe agreed.
His lack of surprise concerned her. "You knew they were coming?"
A smile grew on his face. "Hey, the more bidders. Bigger bids."
"Are you crazy?"
The mocking smile left his lips. "But I didn't schedule these appointments so close together. They weren't supposed to arrive until tomorrow."
"Cut me a break, Rocket. I don't control the universe."
"You sure try to manipulate it enough!"
"There's nothing wrong with trying to juggle the odds in my favor," Rafe returned.
Tyr looked out upon the scene of the Nietzschean fire fight and a blaze kindled in his eyes. "The Drago-Kazoz," he rumbled. "My sworn enemies."
Beka grew almost as somber as Tyr. She never did like it when he got that dangerous, brooding look in his eye. She clapped a hand on his shoulder, wishing to pull him back from whatever dark place his mind was visiting. "Yeah, but who are they fighting?"
The rapid fire ceased abruptly and the Nietzscheans in sight turned and ran down the corridor.
Rafe turned away as well. "I'm not sticking around here to find out."
"Hold it, bro! The Sabra-Jaguar and the Drago-Kazoz. It's like mixing oil and water. You invited them both here. What do they want?"
"This isn't my fault." The self-assured Rafe suddenly turned ashen at the thoughts her question provoked. "The meeting," he replied, urgently. "You're right. We better go." Rafe stepped around the crates and into the corridor. Tyr moved after him, clearly determined not to lose him this time.
It was on Beka's tongue to ask again who they meeting with, but she thought it better to waste no more time and followed them swiftly.
His world snapped back into focus accompanied by hot and searing pain. Lying on the floor, Charlemagne Bolivar clutched the back of his head and decided if his bodyguards weren't dead already, he'd kill them.
That is, after he survived this attack on his life. He sprang to his feet, bone blades ready, but no one met him in battle.
The room was clear of any foes. The maze of storage containers filled with boxes, bags and other bits and pieces of trash and treasure were another story. Not to mention how various items littered the floor, obviously thrown there by some careless hand.
So his attackers were gone? Leaving him alive? Why?
Footsteps sounded out in the corridor. Maybe they hadn't left after all.
There were no high power weapons available, but Charlemagne readied himself, prepared to use the element of surprise to gain a brief upper hand on his unseen opponents. His throat was dusty and it took all of his willpower to halt a sneeze that threatened. He pulled his shoulders back, trying to appear taller and less injured than he actually felt.
His ears caught the voices before they rounded the bend and came through the hatch.
"You were keeping it here?" asked Beka in disbelief. "Might as well stash it your quarters under a neon sign!"
"Why so surprised, Booster Rocket? Haven't you ever heard of hiding something in plain sight?"
"But a storage room?" Beka asked, still doubtful.
Bolivar cleared his throat as they entered.
The bantering siblings halted at the sight of him. Tyr Anasazi came up close behind them and fixed a suspicious stare upon him.
"My allies." Charlemagne spoke with relief. "You are a sight for sore eyes. Literally. I only wish you might have appeared sooner and saved me this nuisance." He no longer tried to hide his bleeding nose.
Beka quickly tore a corner from a nearby sheet, balled it up, then pressed it against his nose. "Tilt your head. Press here."
Charlemagne allowed her ministrations. He could feel his nose beginning to heal already, the benefit of superior genes, but there was no reason to tell her. "Did you see them?" he asked, hopefully. His words were smothered a little. "My unknown assailants?"
"The Dragons," Rafe replied with a frown. Rafe surveyed the upset state of the room in dismay. "We saw them alright."
"Drago-Kazoz. Impossible! Do you think they would have left me alive?"
"Besides the nose, no broken bones," Beka agreed. "You got off easy."
"Maybe they'd didn't recognize you?" Rafe suggested.
Charlemagne ignored the human like he had never spoken.
"And my escorts?" Charlemagne continued, trying to retain his dignity.
"Dead," Tyr confirmed.
Beka took a step back, leaving the soiled cloth in his hands. Charlemagne looked stronger than he had moments ago. "But you'll live. Shall we contact your ship?" she inquired.
Charlemagne scowled at Rafe and immediately regretted it as his nose painfully protested such a contortion of his features. "I demand you take this man into custody for luring me here with intent to take my life. Call the authorities and place him under arrest."
Beka whistled. "First, the Monarcheans then the Sabra-Jaguar pride. If you're trying to win the record for making the most people mad at you, this certainly is your week." She smiled at Charlemagne. "I happen to be acting in an official capacity for Monarchea and he's already in my custody. If you want to charge him, you'll have to get in line."
"I had nothing to do with this attack," Rafe protested, raising his eyebrows. "Believe me, Beka. I might get involved in a few underhanded schemes now and then, but murder is never a good business."
Tyr held up an accusing pointer. "Correct me if I am wrong, but did you not scheme to destroy the Andromeda which would in turn, have involved the loss of all lives onboard?"
Rafe held up his hands. "That was all a big misunderstanding. I warned Beka and besides, I didn't go through with it! But believe me Your uh High Sabra-Jaguarness, I never meant for any harm to come to you. A deal is a deal."
Bolivar looked unconvinced. He spoke to Beka. "Contacting my ship would do me little good without proper protection aboard it. Our enemies may be searching for it as we speak and I have no backup support nearby. This operation was to be a covert transaction that no one was to know about."
Beka's eyes twinkled shrewdly. "Not even Elsbett?"
"There was no reason to involve her in a venture that might prove to be a sham. If such proved to be the case, I wished to avoid embarrassment from all quarters. Therefore, I traveled lightly."
Rafe, tearing busily through a huge storage bin he'd waded into, stopped dead. "It's not a sham and you know it. Where is it? Did you find it and move it? Did they take it?"
Beka shot her brother a warning look, but Charlemagne didn't seem to mind. He responded to Rafe briefly, in the tone one addresses a child. "If what you promised ever in fact existed, I never saw it. Upon my arrival here, a group of miscreants attacked me from behind." He nodded at Beka. "Having lost my entourage I should like to call upon the services of your ship, Captain Valentine. I need safe passage off this drift and if there should be more hostile Nietzscheans lurking in the area, I would rather avoid them." He peered over at Tyr. "Present company excluded, of course."
Tyr grinned unpleasantly at Charlemagne. "You traveled foolishly, especially if you were listening to this miserable liar."
"Hey, watch it!" Rafe protested. "I like to think of myself as a happy liar. Although, I don't think I'm going to be anymore if my merchandise doesn't show itself." He pulled another box from the bin and sighed. "It's definitely gone."
Charlemagne looked at Tyr with contempt. "I made an enterprising decision. A brain exercise which you obviously would not understand, being you spend most of your time exercising your muscles if only to make up for what you lack in other areas."
Beka decided to put a stop to these gibes before things escalated. She frowned at them all. "Well, I don't know about you boys, but I don't think standing here butting heads is going to get us anywhere but killed, especially if the bad guys suddenly realize they didn't finish the job on Mister Royal here. Let's get back to the Maru first. Then, we talk."
Charlemagne nodded. "A wise choice, Captain Valentine."
Tyr walked over to the bin to retrieve their prisoner.
"I can't leave now," Rafe complained. "Someone stole what I rightfully stole first!"
Beka's eyes narrowed slyly. "Okay, Rafe. You're free to go."
"I am?" Rafe suddenly felt very uncomfortable. What game was Beka playing?
Beka nodded. "Of course without a ship you'll have to explain to what other buyers you've got lined up that they traveled all this way for nothing. Your friend the Nightsider might get a little antsy before then. I'm sure the Monarchean government will find that punishment enough."
"Very funny," Rafe replied. He climbed out of the bin in defeat. "Alright, I surrender. Let's fly."