“The ramp began to rise. A few scum managed to grab its rim and spilled into the hangar as the ramp closed. Mwarabu and his crew fired bullets, killing a few of the creatures. One scum leaped onto Mwarabu and shoved its claws into his chest. The major, commander of the Miyari , screamed and fell as the scum tore out his heart. Other scum leaped onto his crew members, cracking them open, and blood splashed the hangar. Marco and the others fired their guns, tearing into the scum in the hangar, and chunks of the creatures flew. The hull dented as scum leaped against it—only a handful at first, then hundreds, then thousands. The Miyari rocked.
“Fuck, the scum already got the wounded we left here!” Addy shouted, emerging back into the hangar from a corridor. “They were fighting all the while we were gone.”
“We got no pilots!” Marco shouted, looking at the corpses of Mwarabu and his crew.
“I can fly the ship, master,” said Osiris. “May I have the azoth heart?”
Marco nodded, pulled the heart out of his pack, but hesitated. For an instant, he wondered if Osiris was the saboteur who had shattered the original heart. He remembered Ben-Ari’s words in the hall of the queen.
The high command knew about this place, Marco thought. They must have if it’s been going on for years. They let it happen. This isn’t just the work of scum. Does Osiris know more than she reveals?
But Marco had to trust the android now. What other chance did they have? He handed Osiris the heart.
“Osiris, fix the engine, then get us off this moon,” Ben-Ari said. “As fast as you can. The hull won’t shield us for much longer. Everyone else, follow me to the gun turrets. We’ll hold off the scum while Osiris is working.”
They all ran out of the hangar. Lailani was able to limp while leaning against Marco, and Stumpy ran behind them. While Osiris hurried down into the engine room with the heart, Ben-Ari and the other warriors ran upward. As they raced through the ship’s dark halls, the Miyari kept rocking, and the scum kept screeching outside. The hull dented as the aliens slammed against it.
“Up this ladder, then branch out,” Ben-Ari said. “There are six gun turrets atop the Miyari , bulging out like six eyes.”
Six gun turrets. Six surviving soldiers. They climbed the ladder, emerging into the attic of the ship, where glassy tunnels branched into six paths like a candelabrum. Ben-Ari, Kemi, and Lailani raced to the left. Marco, Elvis, and Addy ran into the three right tunnels.
The Miyari began to rumble. The power was coming back on, lights flickering across the tunnels. The engines coughed and growled.
Marco reached a transparent silica dome that bulged out from the hull. A cannon thrust out, attached to a two-pronged handle inside the dome. He grabbed the prongs, pulled hard right, and aimed the cannon at scum that were racing up from below. Through the silica, he could see Addy and Elvis emerging into their own turrets. The scum were everywhere, thousands swarming from the ruined city like rats from a drowning ship.
As the Miyari rattled, Marco fired the cannon.
Bolts of plasma blasted out, slamming into the ground. Scum flew, torn apart, their claws peppering the ship and denting the hull. The cannons boomed across the ship, ripping holes into Corpus, sending creatures flying. But more kept racing forward and climbing the hull. A few scuttled up toward the turret, and their claws slammed into the silica. A hairline crack appeared in front of Marco.
The engine’s grumble grew to a growl. The ship began to rise, belching out dust and smoke and steam. Fire blazed. The Miyari soared.
Flames roared and dusty air streamed across the turret. The scum tore free and tumbled into the fire. Across the hull, the aliens slid down, claws making last, desperate attempts to cling on, then tore off and fell toward the moon.
The ship rattled as they rose higher through the atmosphere. The hairline crack grew on the turret’s cockpit. From up here, the ruins seemed so small, the towers mere needles, the swarm of scum a mere puddle. Finally they emerged from the atmosphere into space. Corpus, a rocky moon, and Indrani, a swirling red gas giant, filled nearly the entire view, but in the distance, Marco could just make out a sliver of stars in the black. He breathed out in relief.”