Laleh shifted uncomfortably. She really didn't want to hear about his antics on the pleasure ship. Between the two of us, we worked out the kinks for moving Salida from her home planet to one of your sister's ships. Salida arrived on Friday. Her husband was waiting for her. Quinn smiled at her. That's all I want.
It's just…" Laleh sighed. Not until I figure things out with Pike. If they can be salvaged," she added. They sat in companionable silence as the vessel left the dock and rocketed into open space. A few minutes into the flight, Quinn pulled down the game table mounted on the seat back in front of them and challenged her to a game of holographic chess. He proved to be a worthy opponent, beating Laleh three out of five games.
When they tired of chess, they sat back and sipped drinks—a beer for Quinn, an iced green tea for Laleh—and talked about random things. It was nice and exactly what their friendship needed to heal. Her tummy swooped with anticipation.
She sensed tonight would make or break her marriage to Pike. There was enough blame to go around. Hopefully he'd see that and not grow defensive. She prayed he wanted to reconcile as badly as she did. He leaned across her to stare out the window. He gestured to a rather battered looking ship docked at the main gates of Virgo. Last I heard the entire crew was assumed dead. The ship looked as if it had been to hell and back. Large swatches of the outer shell were missing. Crude patches had been hammered into place.
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How the ship remained in one piece now befuddled her. She expected it to explode or crumble at any second. As their vessel docked, Laleh heard the other passengers discussing the Magellan. She and Quinn stayed in their seats as others rushed to depart the ship.
He took down her one suitcase and slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder. She took hold of her suitcase's handle and followed him down the aisle and out the exit. Laleh laughed and rolled her eyes. Obviously we can't have lunch or hang out together, but I'm not going to run away from you as if you had the Narwadian plague.
He regarded her carefully. Then with a boyish grin, he extended his hand. They parted, Quinn heading off to the left and Laleh to the right. As she moved through the crowd, she quickly realized almost the entire throng of travelers was concentrated in one spot.
Motionless except for the occasional rise on tiptoes, they gawked at some spectacle Laleh couldn't yet see. Unable to squash her curiosity, Laleh joined the ring of bodies. She could just hear what sounded like a fight of some kind. The crowd reacted in unison, gasping and oohing simultaneously. She quickly realized the other man wasn't a vagrant at all but a filthy, bearded Spacefleet member. His flight suit was ripped and stained. There were no boots on his grime caked feet. Even so thin and emaciated, he obviously possessed tremendous strength. Vaguely, Laleh remembered reading about space psychosis.
If this man didn't fit the criteria, she didn't know who would. Wild-eyed, he shouted like a feral beast and lunged at Pike. Laleh screamed, her voice drowned out in the crowd. Pike jumped back just in time. The man stumbled forward but quickly regained his footing and rounded on Pike. Laleh frantically searched the crowd for safety officers. Where were they? Why was Pike the only one doing anything?
Elbows out, Laleh abandoned her luggage and shoved through the crowd. Jostled side to side, she managed to stay upright despite the numerous feet tripping her. She had to get closer. She had to make sure Pike was all right. The man charged Pike.
Entangled, they fell to the ground. Laleh's terrified gaze moved over the men, desperate to find the knife. Her eyes zeroed in on the gleaming blade. Pike held tight to the man's wrist, keeping the knife from plunging into his neck. The crazy man slumped forward as the sedative took effect. Pike's hand flew to the man's chest, steadying the limp body as he rolled the man onto his back and then to his left side.
Security officers rushed to the scene. The crowd dispersed around her, but Laleh remained rooted to the spot. Soon she was the only non-essential person lingering on the perimeter of the scene.
She could hardly breathe let alone move. Relief flooded her body, but the fear of losing Pike was stronger. Nausea bubbled in the pit of her tummy. Her limbs shook wildly. Tears streamed down her cheeks. A desperate need to hold him seized her chest.
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Pike took a hesitant step forward but stopped, seemingly uncertain. Laleh wasn't nearly as restrained. She bolted from her spot, sneakers squeaking on the polished floor, and sprinted the distance between them. Without a care for propriety, Laleh flung herself at Pike. Her legs wound round his waist, her arms curling around his shoulders. She clung tightly as she claimed his lips in a fervent, nearly frantic, kiss. The salt of her tears mixed on their mouths.