Nightfall found us in a clearing ringed by trees. Klaid let Cracker build a small fire and sent Gathus back to check our trail for signs of searchers. Jake and Arr were cuffed to trees like the last two nights. I was staked face down in the grass. My suit had suffered some more damage at the hands of Klaid. It was now ripped up the left leg. I had been lying there for over an hour in horrible dread of what was sure to come my way soon.
Gathus returned and nodded to his leader.
Klaid came to his feet. I didn’t see Cracker come up behind me, but I moaned in pain as I felt him straddled me and sit down across my carved up back.
“Release him,” Klaid told Gathus and nodded toward Arr.
Gathus un-cuffed him and pulled him up to his feet.
“We’re going to play a game,” Klaid said. “I’m getting hungry and I feel like a nice juice flank steak.” His tongue flicked out to lick his lips at Jake and Arr. “Cracker is going to carve it off your lady friend. You get to try and stop him. If you can, she goes back in you and Harcourt’s custody, and I eat the dried beef in my pack. You lose and I get a nice piece of her.” He smiled. “Ready, set, GO!”
I screamed as pain shot down my thigh. Cracker hadn’t wasted time starting to carve, but he didn’t get far before Arr tackled him pulling him off my back. Cracker still had the knife in his hand. He sliced at Arr. Arr tucked and rolled out of range, but right into Gathus’ arms. Gathus held the much smaller henu for his partner. Cracker flicked his blade into the dirt at his feet. He started to pummel Arr in the face and stomach.
“Stop!” Jake yelled. “Damn it, Klaid. I’m going to kill you.” He kicked at the ground in frustration, jerking on his cuffs until I saw blood ooze down his wrists.
Arr took several blows before he managed to flip his way out of Gathus’ hands and landed a kick to Cracker’s chest. It knocked him off balance, but when he came up he had his knife back in his hand. Gathus hit Arr from behind and he went down to his knees. He fell forward catching himself with his bad hand. He rolled over in agony. Gathus fell on him and pinned him down. Cracker moved up to work on Arr with his knife.
Kayo came out of nowhere. He hit Gathus so hard he knocked him off Arr. Blaster fire hit Cracker in the chest. He went down like a rock.
Klaid had his blaster in his hand and it was pointed directly at Jake when he was hit by two blasts simultaneously. He crumpled to the ground.
Tim and several Ukhta came out of the trees. Tim leaned over Klaid and dug through his pockets until he found the key to the cuffs. He went over to release Jake. Arr made his way to my side and helped the Ukhta release me.
Jake exploded to his feet from the base of the tree the minute Tim released him. He pulled Tim’s blaster out of his holster as he pushed past him. He stomped over to Klaid and blasted him four more times in the chest. He started to kick Klaid’s limp body.
Tim came up behind him.
“Stop it, Jake,” he said as he moved to pull the blaster from his hand. Jake jerked away and fired into Klaid’s dead body again.
“Jake,” Tim coaxed. “It’s over.” He held out his hand. “Give me the gun. Arr and 3su need you.”
Jake handed over the blaster and leaned down to dig through Klaid’s pockets until he found the fuser. He gave Klaid one more resounding kick before he turned back to me and Arr.
He fell to his knees beside us and pulled Arr into a man hug and held him. He reached over and handed the fuser to Tim. He squeezed my hand as Tim started to fuse the slice in my thigh.
“It’s over,” Jake said. “It’s over.”