“Let me do the talking,” Lovelace says, holding the gun in her hands, a wild look in her eyes.
Lambert nods once, twice, and turns back to the wall where their “weaponry” was stashed. In truth, it was two rifles (one of which she was carrying) and a shotgun (which he was taking with him. It had been emptied out, a small transmitter in instead of the inner guts of the weapon. His idea.) It would be fine.
Lambert knows he’s lying to himself.
The door’s creaking open, and Lambert steels himself— it could just be Selburg, or it could be Marcus Cutter, or anyone, and the thought makes his head hurt.
Lovelace is rock still, and pulls up her weapon the second people are visible behind the door. Lambert cocks his gun just a moment after, and aims for the one that looks the most official— a short woman with a ragged bob. She’s holding a weapon of her own, but the man next to her isn’t.
“Stop right there,” she commands, her gun flicking between the two.
“Back away,” Lovelace warns, “back away right now.”
The woman’s scowl deepened. “Nu-uh. Not until you both drop those weapons.”
“Back away, and let us through.” Lovelace demanded.
“Not how it works. Nobody comes into my station pointing guns at my crew, so turn it over or turn the hell around.”
“I’m not just surrendering to any—“
“Hey, hey, easy,” the man raised his hands, “let’s all count to ten before we see if anyone else is feeling lucky, okay?”
“Who the hell are you?” Lovelace snapped.
“Doug Eiffel, comms officer, big fan. Let’s talk.” Lambert’s eyes widen— he recognizes that name, it’s the one that was on the weird copy of Pryce and Carter. There’s a beat of silence, and Lambert looks to Lovelace, but she doesn’t say anything in return. “Guys, please,” Eiffel adds, “We’re all friendly here, so let’s just—”
“What happened when the blue ship and the red ship collided?” Lovelace asks, cutting him off. Lambert glances at her, puzzled. It must be some form of command code, one she hadn’t let him in on.
Eiffel blinks. “Uh. Gesundheit?” He offers, but it’s clearly not what Lovelace is looking for.
“Blue ship. Red ship. Collided.” She repeats pointedly. “What happened?”
“I’m really not sure what—”
“Both crews were marooned.” the woman says. Everyone turns to her. In their silence, she elaborates, “He’s not command level, he never got the authentication codes. Confirmation: Victor-Uniform-Lima-Charlie-Alpha-November.”
Lovelace finishes the last part with her, Lambert following along in his head. He’s heard the code enough times by now to have it memorized, what with Lovelace tossing it around to verify some of their… riskier plans.
“It really is the Hephaestus?” Lovelace asks, and Lambert can tell she doesn’t want to believe it, wants this to just be one more test.
“It really is,” the woman says, “I’m Lieutenant Commander Renée Minkowski, your… successor.”
“That’s a really interesting story, which we can totally get into, right after a tiny bit of disarmament.” Eiffel says.
Lovelace throws her weapon over, and snatches Lambert’s and throws it over as well. “Take them. How?”
“There we go,” Eiffel smiles, emptying out Lovelace’s gun and moving on to Lambert’s. “Isn’t that much—” he frowns. “This clip is empty. What’s the point in carrying an empty gun?”
Lovelace wasn’t listening to him. “How?” she practically shouts. “How did you bring us back here? Why did you bring us back here?”