Chapter 11-Trap

"Mister Hoshizaki?"

I tossed restlessly on my flimsy cot, opened up my eyes and stared into the cold darkness in Cynful Cinnamon's cloyingly scented room. As I expected, my mind was wound up tightly like thread wrapped too tightly up on a spool to be able to sleep. I groused silently, Stop churning up my libido, Angel-san.

Her alto voice sounded apologetic, "I'm sorry to disturb you, sir. I can't help but notice that your breathing hasn't slowed down into a rhythmic pattern of slumber for over three hours."

I huffed in frustration and turned on the crimson paper lanterns overhead that illuminated the room like a photography darkroom. I turned to face Cynful and nearly yelped in shock as I saw that she was stark naked atop her blankets! I whirled back around facing the door and hissed at her, "What the hell? Where are your clothes?"

She wasn't the slightest bit fazed by my raised voice. I could only assume that she was genetically programmed to take abuse passively. "Oh? I always sleep in the nude," she replied softly. "I need to be ready in case anyone needs my assistance."

I groaned deeply in absolute mortification and frustration as my mind tried to ape being a mature adult, whereas my body reveled in its adolescent excitement and lustful expectation. The spirited and passionate Angelia that I was mesmerized with from the Paradox was entombed within the 'happy hooker' persona that Cynful was compelled to always display. "I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not going to sleep with you, Miss Cinnamon."

"As you wish, Mister Hoshizaki. Still, I can tell that you are aroused by me, so if you need some sexual relief-"

"No thank you," I pleaded as I rued that she could read the scent of my teenage libido like it was a signboard inscribed with meter-high kanji. Damn it. Why could I never control my unruly body whenever I was around this winged beauty? I frantically attempted to picture the most boring lecture imaginable from my village school in Hamasaka; it utterly failed as I ended up thinking about the 356 mm caliber main gun battery of my dad's ship, the battleship Yamashiro! I meekly gave up on trying to rest. "If you're not sleepy either, then please get dressed. Take my spare jumpsuit out of my duffel."

"As you wish," she purred with her beguiling voice. She quickly zipped up the outfit and gently squeezed my shoulder. "I'm ready, sir."

I turned to face her and flashed a melancholic smile. "You can call me Shiro, you know. I don't much care for formality anyway."

"Shiro. Sure, I'd be happy to call you that."

She looked downright adorable in my white jumpsuit. I couldn't resist my impulse as I gently took her hand and led her out into the corridor. I clambered up into the rotating railgun seat at the apex of the corridor and waved her up to join me. She nimbly climbed up and sat across my lap with her arms around my shoulders and a contended expression.

I looked at the countless unblinking pinpoints of light as I pondered the vastness of space. "Isn't it beautiful, Angel-san?"

She look over to me in mild surprise at the nickname. "That is sweet of you to say, Shiro, but I am a fallen angel, if anything."

Idiot. That's Angelia's name, not Miss Cinomon's, I berated myself. "I uh…sorry about that. I just like you as you, Cyn-san."

"Thank you." She gently cuddled into me and looked up at the stars with an expression of wearied contentment. Before I realized it she was fast sleep. I reached over and gave her an affectionate kiss on her forehead. Why was this gentle soul fated to die? Of all the Ironback crew, she was the one most innocent of any sin; this despite her degrading given name. I cradled her close to my body as I felt my stress drain away her soft contact. Before I knew it, slumber claimed my mind and for the first time since I boarded this doomed ship, I got a good night's rest.

"Awww, look at the widdle lovebirds…" A most unwelcome voice interrupted my sleep. I turned to my left and stared at the scruffy and slovenly Ironback gunner. Samuel's dark brown eyes sparkled with amusement as he took in the sight of the passenger innocently napping with the ship's synthetic pleasure girl. He broke out into an unhelpful snicker. "I'm sorry that I have to break up your little love nest as I need to take my station. We're about to come out of warp."

"Angel-san, please wake up." I gently nudged my ally awake. She stirred awake and gazed at me with affection plainly visible in her pink eyes. I managed a half smile as I urged, "Uh…we have to get down."

"Sure thing, Shiro." She instinctively gave me an electrifying kiss on my lips, and then gently hopped down to the deck below.

"Snowy and Cyn, up in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G," Sam sung with a grating warble as he descended the ladder looking unduly pleased with himself.

Jerk.

My first kiss was stolen without any thought, I mused unhappily. I hustled down the ladder only to find Aaron, and Timothy standing in the hallway glaring at me.

The burly engineer gave me a rough shove that nearly sent me tumbling as he growled, "Cargo deck, you pussy." I just barely righted myself as he shoved past me heading aft.

I slowly turned around and walked through the open doorway leading to my dire fate. Apparently the captain was on the bridge holding down the fort. Surrounding me in a rough semicircle were Cyn, Sam, Justin, Aaron and Timothy. Cynful and Justin looked mortified, Aaron looked delighted, Samuel appeared to be indifferent, and Tim looked uttered enraged. He snarled, "Tell me Snowy, did you have fun with Miss Cinnamon?"

I shook my head and futilely tried to avert this altercation. "I never did anything in-indecent with her." Oh, just perfect. My stutter was starting to reassert itself at the worst possible time. I guess the implanted device couldn't control a stammer triggered by fear.

"What's the matter, Sn-sn-snowy," Aaron gleefully jeered from the sidelines.

Tim roughly seized my collar and raged, "I didn't care if you fucked her or not! All I care about is that Cyn is my girl and I will use my share from this venture to buy her outright from Captain Stot." His pale brown eyes narrowed into slits. "You snuggled with her like you had any right to treat her as your girlfriend. You need to be taught a lesson about how epically stupid a move it was to make a pass at my Cynful!"

"My apologizes for acting out of line." I bowed deeply, and impotently rued that this man was apparently on board with Cyn whoring herself to the whole crew, but not to have even the slightest bond of tenderness with anyone but him. "Timothy-san, I'm not go-going to fight you," I sadly remarked. I removed my glasses and stowed them away in my hip pouch in expectation of being beaten to a pulp.

"Bitch," He punched me in the stomach, and the shooting pain shot through my slight frame as I tottered on my feet and gasped for air.

He hauled back and gave a solid punch to Cynful's left eye as she stupidly dashed between us. She staggered back and crashed into me as we both tumbled to the unforgiving and unyielding deck plates. I did my best to cushion her fall; however my chivalrous efforts caused my head to bang against a wall-mounted pipe, and I soon blacked out from dazed shock.

I was far from certain when I came to again, but I realized that I was lying on a table in a cramped room that served the dual role as a suiting up in vacuum suits for EVAs and an extremely crude medical bay in a pinch. Justin finished using the external regenerator tool to mitigate what I suspected was the aftereffects of a concussion. It was far cruder than the regeneration tanks aboard the Paradox, but I was intensely grateful for this kind man's assistance. I arose as I groaned softly and inquired, "How's Cyn?"

"Uhh, well, I treated her with an injection that will reduce the swelling and bruising around her eye socket." He started to flush pink in his cheeks. "She's with…she's with Tim as we speak in her room."

I quickly turned crimson as well as I rubbed the back of my head. "Er…I guess I'm okay if Timothy-san considers the matter settled." I hopped off the table and steadied my balance after the dizzy spell passed.

"Yeah. He told me to let you know that you'll get a pass only if you never try to be chummy with Miss Cinnamon again."

"I understand. Thanks for patching me up, Justin."

"Oh you're welcome. Do you want to get something to eat? In all the ruckus, we skipped breakfast." He hit a wall-mounted switch that caused the table to smoothly glide down until it was even with the floor grates. We walked out into the cargo bay and sat together to slurp up instant noodles as Timothy's gasping grunts and Cyn's loud moans assaulted our ears through the thin metal walls. I also felt the torment of fire in my insides as the situation felt uncannily like I was being cuckolded…despite the fact that I had no claim to either Cynful or the reborn Angelia. It was beyond intolerable, and yet there was nothing I could do. Justin and I ate in humiliated silence for a few minutes, until the cries of passion finally died out.

"Well, aren't we a pair, Mister Shiro," Justin remarked with a sad laugh.

"Why haven't you…?"

He broke out into a weak laugh as his blue eyes clearly radiated a miserable sense of self-loathing. "Why have I never lain with Miss Cynful? It's because my affections for her are of one-sided admiration. I try so hard, but I can't help but to lust after her of course…" He couldn't finish his painful thought as his fingers tightly bunched up the fabric of his overall pants legs.

"Hey, I'm just as much as a horny slob as you are Justin-kun." Without thinking, I had unconsciously switched to a more familiar honorific to his given name. I honestly thought he possessed more decency and honor than the rest of the Ironback crew put together.

"Oh, wow, look at the pair of pushover pansy pussies," Aaron hooted with laughter as he entered the cargo bay.

Just go away, I silently groused.

"How's your head, Snowy? You were a real fucking moron to let Timmy turn you into hamburger meat."

I glared at him through my bulky glasses.

He punched my shoulder hard enough for the blow to sting. "C'mon ladies, Stot needs everyone to take their stations"

Justin stood up and flashed a sympathetic smile to me, as he wordlessly went fore to take his post at the navigation console.

I growled, "I'll see if there is anything I can do to help." I walked past Coronado and flashed him a searing gaze of resentment. I nimbly sidestepped the gaps in the decks in order to reach the bridge area at the very prow of the beat up mining ship.

"Haha, good luck, four-eyes!"

I entered the bridge as the captain looked over a holographic display that was flashing an annoying crimson hue. He muttered, "Fuck me. Another breakdown." He toggled the intercon open. "If Timmy's done humping you, come to the bridge, fuck doll."

"Yes captain," Cynful's humble voice replied.

I indignantly opened my mouth, but Aaron's sharp elbow in my ribs put a stop to my protest. The blond-haired helmsman winked back at me as he took his seat.

The door behind me opened and a sweat-stained Miss Cinnamon entered in her red kimono dotted with holes and crude patches. She inquired, "How may I please you, captain?"

"Go EVA, and patch the P70 particle cannon. The barrel is misaligned again."

A fully unclothed Timothy loomed over her shoulder and angrily snarled, "Captain! I'm the engineer on board. This should be my job."

Stot shook his head and flashed a ghastly grin with his few remaining teeth. "Yer not expendable, Timmy. Go to the reactor room, now."

The engineer looked infuriated but saw fit not to contradict his boss. The muscular giant stormed out without a word.

"I'll go EVA with Miss Cinnamon," I spoke firmly. I felt the shockwaves from my bold statement radiate throughout the cramped space. I smirked at I met eyes with the amoral captain and observed, "Am I vital to your operations, Captain Stot?"

The old coot giggled and waved us off the bridge. "Granted, Snowy. If you die, we get to loot yer corpse."

"Yes sir," I responded with a dark smile. I walked away from a perplexed Aaron and flabbergasted Justin and headed to the medbay/EVA annex next to the port airlock with Cyn in tow.

After suiting up, Cyn and I slowly traversed the outside of the hull using our magnetic boots. We walked ventrally to the underside of the hull and walked around the retracted landing struts. It was more than a little disorienting to be standing on the bottom of the Ironback, and 'upside-down'. I was aghast as I saw the four meter long conduit that acted as the magnetic lens for the plasma beam was visibly crooked as several of the retaining brackets were loose or entirely gone…no doubt from repairs atop of repairs from battle damage and excessive hull vibration from a badly mistuned engine. To make things even more fun, none of the spare parts that I had on me were designed to fit with this diameter barrel. I sighed as waved Miss Cinnamon over to the end of the cannon so it could be properly aligned.

Her voice was contrite and almost choked up, "I'm so sorry, Shiro. You shouldn't even be here."

"I have no regrets, Cyn-san." What on earth did she have to be sorry for? I knew that she was compelled to be lewd, but her fundamental courage and sweetness that reminded me so strongly of Angelia was obvious. "You're my friend now, and friends have each other's back." I whistled as I pried off a bent connector and put in my other pouch. I inserted a new bracket and after using a laser level, and Cynful's minute adjustments, I used a foam spray to fill in the gaps between the holder and the plasma barrel. With deft movements I gingerly made my way to the next clamp and repeated the delicate process.

"Why are you so kind to me, Shiro?"

I glanced up and I saw tears pooling in her fuchsia eyes. I softly remarked, "Please don't cry. It will make our task more hazardous."

"Ye-yes sir."

She fell silent as I replaced the third bracket. This time I had to weld on a scrap plate to secure the fitting, as the hull had been badly patched in this area. One to go, I noted with satisfaction. I finished my thought, "I am considerate to you because I admire you, Cyn-san. If I possessed the power, I would free you from your genetic shackles."

Her tan skin flushed with shame as I completed the final repair. She used the aspirators built into her helmet to wick away her tears. She looked too emotional to properly respond to her flaxen-haired comrade.

I squeezed her shoulder as my blue eyes filled with compassion. "You're special and dear to at least one soul. Never doubt that." I toggled from the private to the open comlink and relayed our repairs to Aaron. "Repair team to Ironback. Aaron, we just wrapped up. Give the plasma cannon a few test shots."

"We copy Snowy! Stand by."

I watched with satisfaction as the Ironback, and its spinally mounted cannon lined up with a massive hulk of a Paradigm battleship a few dozen clicks away, The cannon vibrated under our feet and then soundlessly lanced a pale violet beam into the shattered wreck, causing the front three meters of the derelict to peel away from the rest of the wreckage. It looked like the jury-rig repairs were successful. I switched back to the private channel and enthused, "We did it, Angel-san!" I made a courteous bow to show my respect and appreciation for her aid in a most perilous task; plasma cannons were notoriously fickle and dangerous if they were damaged.

She broke into a watery smile and whispered, "As much as I am fond of Master Timothy's strong feelings towards me, it would be my fondest wish if you were to purchase my service contact instead, Master Shiro."

What did she just say? The Arcadian jumping ship with me wasn't part of the plan. How on earth could I reconcile Miss Cinnamon's wish with my selfish need to have her die, so that her clone Angelia could serve at my side? I started to stammer, "Mi-miss Cyn…I don't know what to-"

In the vacuum of open space, I obviously didn't hear the plasma generator at the base of the plasma cannon exploding into a million razor sharp shards. I did see the blinding flash reflect off my visor and the felt the impact of heavy chunks of metal strike my backpack and saw a composite crossbeam strike Cyn's chest. The next thing I knew I was wildly tumbling in the unfathomable vastness of space. I quickly caught sight of Cyn and used my suit mounted gas thrusters to jet towards her. I soon caught up with her and used my thrusters to stop our spin. I pivoted around 180 degrees and saw the Ironback drift in exactly the wrong direction as its running lights were clearly out and geysers of compressed gas shot out within the charred pit where the plasma generator once sat. Shit. The Ironback's engine was offline, and they clearly venting air into space. That meant they were far too busy saving their own asses to worry about two expendable assets. To add a final note of insult to injury, I saw the broken off cannon barrel that we had labored on so hard to restore uselessly pinwheel off into the abyss. I cursed as I shouted, "Shiro to Ironback! Do you copy?"

Only then I realized that my radio wasn't working. Double shit. I turned to a petrified Cyn and touched helmets together, "Angel-san, can you hail the Ironback?"

"Yes, sir. I can but I don't think they can receive us." She sighed and touched her gloved hand on the side of my helmet. "I'm tired of my burdens. If it is my fate to die, I'd rather it was with you, Shiro."

Screw it, I thought and dropped the pretense of further resistance to call her by her successor's name, "Don't count us out yet, Angel-san." My thrusters are at eight percent. Can you get us over to the PCV Denobola?"

"I'm at sixty five percent. I can get us there, Shiro. She broke into a fierce smile. I'm with you to the end."

"Proceed." I clung to her suit as she thrusted us towards the midpoint of the slowly spinning derelict. After we were traveling along at a brisk velocity she shut her thrusters off and we coasted towards the titanic-sized warship. I spent the short journey admiring her tan-hued face set with determination. She put no currency on her own life; yet she clearly thought my worth was incalculable. Her eyes flickered in my direction and she seemed almost happy…happy to be away from those luckless misogynistic assholes that comprised the majority of the Ironback crew. I belatedly realized after the inevitable disaster happened that I would not mourn Timothy's passing any more than I failed to shed a single tear over Captain Stot's grisly death. I had been burning with curiosity about this mystery man that Angelia seemed to remember as caring for her deeply. Now I realized that he was vain and violent peacock who saw owning Miss Cinnamon as a possession rather than a person. It was merely a pale parody of what he regarded as love.

"Heads up, Shiro. Prepare for impact. She reversed her thrust to slow us down as we gently rebounded off the hull. I snagged onto a broken antenna and we quickly used recessed handholds to move to the ruined airlock. Both sets of doors were blown out so it was a clear passage into the interior of the hull. We were now on a somewhat safer space than the vastness of infinity, but we were still on a fatally wrecked ship full of unknown dangers. We were also stranded with no means of getting back to the stricken UMV Ironback.

We were trapped.