The majority of the pirates were shattered or dislodged by the whirling statues that buzzed around as they climbed the main structure, but the overwhelming number of them weighed down the mechanisms enough to slow it down to the point where many of their cohorts were able to scramble to the top.

Although there was no where to get decent footing, Alethian’s many arms provided multiple opportunities for swinging around and fending off the approaching pirates with the sword Suzie had borrowed from the warrior statue. She hacked and slashed at the fingers that began to grope towards her, usually just forcing the pirates to lean far enough away to let one of the spinning statues smack into them and sweep them away.

But as more pirates made it to the top it became harder and harder to keep the attackers down on every side. She was trapped and surrounded. It was just a matter of time before she was overcome. Suzie found herself climbing higher and higher on the nude statue until she was standing on the goddesses shoulders.

Suzie watched the approaching pirates closely; then she turned her attention to the rest of the chamber. She dropped the scimitar into the face of the closest pirate, knocking him off the statue with a scream. But she ignored the next pirate who reached toward her ankle. She forced herself to count to five slowly, then pushing hard off the statue; she dove into the open air around the statue. The spinning guardian statues whizzed by just above and just below her as she descended. Careful timing allowed her to pass cleanly between the obstacles before diving perfectly into the water surrounding the island.

Judging by the amount of rain water she had seen run into the pool, Susie figured it was deep enough to catch her. Fortunately she was correct. She pulled herself out of the water onto the edge of the island and began to look for the bridge that led to the exit. Instead she found Darien , just out of reach, pointing a large energy gun right at her chest. Unarmed and defenseless, Suzie raised her hands slowly and took a careful step backwards trying to get the curve of the statue between them.

“You did ask me to come down, didn’t you?” Suzie forced a smile.

“What about the part where you give me the bracelet?” Darien matched her step, keeping just out of reach, but clear of the curve of the statue.

“ Darien , you know I can’t do that.” Suzie took another step backwards. Darien matched the move.

“If you try to run, I’ll just shoot you in the back.” Darien replied coolly. He was right, there was no where to go. She took another couple of steps before stopping. “Now, take off the codex bracelet and set it on the ground in front of you.” Suzie slowly took it off and held it up in front of her.

“Before I give it to you…” Suzie said slowly.

“If you think you’re going to be able to beg for your life, it’s not going to work.” Darien sneered.

“Oh no, that’s obvious. That’s not what I was intending at all.” Suzie said.

“What then? You think you’re going to be able to bargain with me?”

“No… not bargain.” Suzie said slowly, “Just… stall for a few seconds.” Suddenly the insect statue dropped straight down out of the sky and impaled Darien through the back with its metallic stinger. Not pausing, Suzie put the bracelet back on and snatched up the energy gun.

Pirates were starting to descend the statue now and Suzie picked them off as she ran toward the narrow bridge. Her bare feet slapped against the stone as she sprinted up the tunnel that lead toward the surface. The sound of the hordes following her began to get closer, but an occasional shot back down the tunnel helped to keep them just timid enough to keep her lead.

Finally she burst outside where sunlight was just starting to break through the dissipating storm clouds. The pirates had cut down a large clearing to allow room to land their fighters. Suzie leapt into the closest one and started rushing through the power up sequence. She was just beginning to lift off when the pirates appeared and started sprinting toward their own fighters.

Rising just above the tree line, Suzie was just about to flip to her main engines when a pair of red switches caught her eye. With a smile she flipped them before blasting off over the jungle. Below her, two bombs dropped right into the center of the remaining ships. The blast ignited the bombs of the remaining ships building into a greater and greater blast that soon had the entire jungle burning.

Suzie’s ship arched up and shot into deep space. Now it was a clear shot back to headquarters. But something else caught her eye. Hovering just above the codex bracelet on her wrist, a clear holographic sphere with an arrow appeared pointing toward the edge of the system. Suzie realized the danger in going that direction, but frustration at not accomplishing her mission egged her on. With a twist of the controls, she turned sharply to follow the strange compass direction.

As she approached the main asteroid ring, the large rock that housed Captain Klawe’s fortress rolled into view. Still the codex bracelet pointed her forward. She knew the pirate base would detect her and attempt to establish contact, so she focused on scanning the asteroids as fast as possible. But suddenly the worse had happened. Tractor beams hit her ship from multiple directions and her comm. screen came to life.

“Ms. Starstress,” Captain Klawe’s face filled the screen, “When I saw a single ship returning, I knew it had to be you. I trust you’ve returned to bring me the codex bracelet?”

“Nope, just making sure you’re sent to the hell you deserve.” Suzie tried to put as much determination behind the threat as possible as she continued to scan the asteroids.

“You’re amusing, Ms. Starstress. You obviously have a knack for surviving, but I don’t know what you hope to accomplish. You’re firmly trapped by several tractor beams, and it looks like you’ve already lost your bombs. So even if you did get a shot off, there’s no way you could do more than scratch the paint of this fortress before my weapons reduce your ship to atoms.” Klawe laughed. “Since I appreciate a good sense of humor, if you surrender I promise to allow you to live long enough to continue amusing me.”

“Amuse this!” Suzie said as she shot a single energy bolt directly into the asteroid several hundred yards away from the base. Klawe just stared in confused amazement.

“What the hell was that?” he asked. “What was that supposed to do? Intimidate me? And what’s with that retort? ‘Amuse this’?”

“I know that was pretty weak, sorry I was distracted.” Suzie said. But as she said it, at the point of impact the giant asteroid began to crumble and implode. One by one the tractor beams that held her turned off as the fortress crumbled and fell into the collapsing asteroid. On the comm. screen, Klawe screamed as his world collapsed around him. Just before the video feed was lost, Suzie saw him burst into flames.

“I don’t know if that was the hell that you deserved, but it’ll have to do.” Suzie said. But on her wrist, the codex bracelet was flashing a brilliant green.

Suzie turned her attention back to the scanners and saw the rocky debris of the asteroid and pirate base rebounding back away from its implosion. And left in the center were three enormous cargo containers, each one as large as a major city. And on the side was the crossed sword logo of the pirate Bloody Red.

Suzie couldn’t resist laughing, that idiot Klawe was sitting right on top of the treasure he was hunting the entire time and never knew it. She activated her own tractor beams and grabbed the tethered containers before turning away and flying back toward home. Hopefully she’d be able to keep enough of the treasure to buy a new outfit.

The End