"What are you planning, Irina?" Burke was so close she could feel his breath on the back of her neck.
"To live," she said. "Deck three," she said to the computer. When she received no response she entered the code for her cabin manually. The lift jerked into motion.
"By destroying the Argos?"
"By escaping from the Argos before she collapses and kills us all." The lift doors opened a hand span and stopped.
"Power's low," Sean guessed. Working together, they pushed the doors the rest of the way open. "We'll be down to life support in half an hour."
Irina sprinted down the hallway, talking in short bursts over her shoulder. "If we stay on the Argos, we'll be moon dust in half an hour. Or cooling our badly burned heels in a Vladdinian torture cell." She stopped outside her cabin and looked at him. "I don't think either one of those is an attractive option." She slapped her hand against the access panel and the doors opened sluggishly.
"So your other option is to destroy our ship?" He shook his head. "We don't have to do this. We can —"
"What, Sean?” She faced him, her features tight with anger. “What can we do? The Vladdinians are one of the most violent, vengeful races in the known universe and you stole their crown jewels. They aren't likely to forgive and forget."
He backed up a step, holding up placating hands. "To be fair, the jewels in that crown are Earthen rubies, the only ones known to exist. As a human, that makes them mine by..." Seeing her expression, he trailed off.
She entered her chambers and hefted the small jewel chest from her desk. "Get the scepter and the orb." He hesitated and she lost her patience. "Now," she shouted.
"Fine!" He trudged down the hall to his own quarters and returned a few moments later with a long staff of silver, topped with a fire opal the size of his fist. In his other hand he held the stone's twin, banded in gold, encrusted with rubies and emeralds, all of Earthen origin, if the stories were to be believed. While she watched, he slid the orb and the staff into a slim velvet cover. Over his shoulder he carried a packed bag.
"What else are you bringing? We won't have room for non-essentials."
Self-destruct sequence activated, preparing for countdown. All personnel to bay seven for evacuation.
The mechanical voice of the ship's computer system stopped her and a lump rose in her throat. She shoved the chest into Sean's arms. With hasty precision, she threw her personal possessions into a canvas pack. It was less than half the size of her first mate's bag, but it held every item she considered essential to her life.
"Let's go," she said.
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