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   Chapter 3 No.3

Demonspawn By Christina Engela Characters: 5630

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

Locate the Corsair home world.

Engage any Corsair ships with the aim of fulfilling point 1.

Otherwise capture or destroy any Corsair vessels encountered by any means necessary.

The crew of the Mordrake had followed those orders for three months now; three months without a pause, patrolling the fringes of the OQ while in the last few weeks their ship experienced technical problems and equipment failures. Most of the time they found nothing, hearing rumors of Corsair sightings from passing loderunners and other traders on the fringes of known space, until three days ago – when they were finally heading back to a repair base with technical problems. The stardrive had gone on the fritz to the extent that it was becoming unreliable. Blaine had known the condition of the ship when he ordered them in pursuit of the Corsair. He'd simply chosen to ignore it.

Joe Lofflin carelessly tossed the photos at the chair against the bulkhead. They thudded onto the seat and slid over sideways. He was the first officer, the Exo – and if anyone knew the Captain was a tough, thick-skinned stubborn son of a bitch, it was him. …And that's the way it used to be – the old Blaine… not the new one. Where was the Captain now? After hearing the damage reports… after he'd realized what he'd done – how much his selfish glory-seeking pride had cost them – he quietly slunk off to his cabin and refused to answer any calls.

Lofflin had tried to talk to the man, to reason with him. Later the same day, after he'd given a hand to the rescue and recovery effort of the crew, he went to see him at his cabin – but Captain Blaine had locked his door. Not that protocol allowed Joe Lofflin to just try the handle and barge in – at least under normal circumstances… Blaine would've skinned him alive and nailed his hide to the outside of the door! But, after ringing the door chime continuously for twenty minutes, he eventually did try it – to no avail. Pounding on the door and calling loudly for Blaine to reply didn't help matters either – that only served to draw attention to the fact that the Captain was acting like a child, which also unsettled the crew even more.

That effectively left Lofflin in charge of the ship – or rather, what was left of it. That was three days ago, now. The rumor mill was having a field day – it was all over the ship: 'The Captain's given up on us, ' they were saying. Morale had taken a steep nosedive even before their predicament had become general knowledge, while they were still sweeping up the pieces and patching up the injured… but knowing that the Captain had abandoned them was a nail in their coffin.

Meanwhile, Lofflin knew very well what Blaine was up to in his cabin.

"Getting drunk!" He said out loud. There was an edge of bitterness to his voice. "Probabl

y so smashed up drunk he won't notice when the air runs out!"

'Damn it! Hiding in his room like a sulking kid! They deserve to hear it from you, Blaine! They deserve to hear it from you!'

Lofflin ground his teeth angrily. Why should he bear it all alone? Then he got up and straightened himself out. A cool shower and a shave helped him feel better. Then he put on aftershave and a clean, crisp set of uniform, and ran a brush over his short brown hair, and left his cabin. He would see the Captain – for whatever the man was worth! He'd drag him from his drunken stupor and force him to take back the responsibility of being in charge!

'Captains don't have the luxury of abandoning their responsibilities just because they can't face up to them!' He thought determinedly as he briskly walked to the Captain's cabin. It wasn't that far away from the officer's section of the general crew accommodation block amidships, and took him all of five minutes, every step echoing in the strangely quiet and deserted corridors. He didn't see a soul on the way there, nor did he hear a sound of life – not even as he passed the – he felt all alone on this normally bustling and busy ship, and he could even hear the extractor fans working above the grid work of the ceiling! It was so quiet he could almost hear his own breathing. 'How do you tell a man he's going to die? Well, Blaine – Captain – you're going to share your thoughts with me on that!'

Lofflin rang the chime. There was no answer. He tried again, with the same result. He wasn't in the mood for a repeat performance of his previous attempt to see the Captain. Then he put his ear to the door and listened. He heard music… The words were drawled, American. If he strained his hearing, it sounded like country music… Seriously, Blaine? It was real depressing stuff! But then, wasn't everything right now?

He started banging on the door again with his fist until it occurred to him there was only one way he was going to see Blaine – his security access code. He punched it into the keypad beside the door. A green light on the faceplate winked on and the door unlocked itself. He turned the knob and opened it a crack, noticing that no light showed through the gap. Consequently, when he swung it open, the fact that it was the largest cabin on the ship – practically an apartment – having a lounge, dinette, bedroom and bathroom, went completely unnoticed. The music was just reaching a heartbreaking crescendo, something indefinite about a horse with a flowing mane and a girl with big boobs – it was hard to tell from the song which was which. Under ordinary conditions, Lofflin would've laughed at it.

"Captain?" He called from the doorway. Receiving no answer, he took a few steps into the darkness. "Lights!" He ordered the computer.

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