Title: A Hero in the Strife
Characters: Percival, Lancelot, Merlin, Arthur
Eventual pairings: Arthur/Percival, Gwaine/Merlin
Summary: Space opera AU.
Word Count: 1318
Prompt: #212, Donate-A-Prompt ("space" by fuckyeah)
Author's Note: So when I went to check out the donate a prompt post, I had every intention of picking an easy one. And then I saw "space" offered. I was doomed. I've been wanting to write a space opera long story for Merlin for a couple years now, and now that the prompt was literally staring me in the face, it wouldn't let me go. What I've done, then, is write what I consider the brief first chapter to this much longer fic. It's not a standalone drabble. It's too long, for starters, and it kind of ends on a cliffhanger. It's also unbeta'd for now, but I'll clean it up later. I'm going to be working on the fic outside of everything else and posting it all at AO3 as I go along. I hope you come along for the ride. :)
They had barely cleared the docking bay when the onboard sensors went berserk.
Percival stared at the display in disbelief. “Bugger me,” he muttered.
“What is it?” Lancelot demanded from the pilot seat.
His fingers flew over the console so he could pull up a closer view on the cockpit’s primary monitor for Lancelot to see, too. “There’s a class C frigate arming its weapons system right behind us.”
The Joyful Keep banked a sharp left, forcing Percival to grab onto an overhead pipe to avoid falling on his ass. His gaze never wavered from the display.
When they straightened again, Lancelot asked, “Still following us?”
“Yes.” He tapped the comms. “I’m hailing them.”
Only Lancelot could get Percival to ignore his instincts. He disconnected the comm, but his nerves were taut with anticipation. “They’re targeting us!” he bit out. “If we don’t clear this up—”
“We’re not going to.” The ship took a sudden dive, scoping beneath the space station to slip back under its artificial gravity field. “I’ll get us out of this.” He surprised Percival by shooting a wry smile over his shoulder. “I suggest you buckle up. This might get tricky.”
Tricky wasn’t the half of it. The Joyful Keep was a cargo ship, designed for short interplanetary flights. It was fast and light, which meant its defense system was galaxy standard, just enough to withstand a casual attack along a voyage. Under no circumstance could they hold off a fully armed frigate, especially since they housed only the bare minimum of weaponry.
The only aspect currently in their favor was that they were still too close to the space station for the frigate to fire upon them. Lancelot’s tactic of skimming as close to the station’s surface kept them out of harm’s way.
As long as they didn’t crash into anything.
Or tried to leave the gravity field again.
The blaring sensors mocked him as he helplessly watched the display. Lancelot was good, but the frigate was more powerful. They were well and truly fucked if they didn’t concede to whatever the warship wanted.
What did it want? The Keep was practically empty. They’d only stopped at the station to pick up supplies for a run to Ealdor. Lancelot had even turned down an expensive job offer because they needed the space for Ealdor’s exported foodstuffs. Nothing had come up on their clearances, so even if some minor infraction from their past had decided to haunt them, it should’ve alerted the authorities before they ever left the docking bay.
Whoever it was, they weren’t official. They wouldn’t care about playing by the rules. Even if Lancelot agreed to surrender, there was no telling what might happen to them once they were boarded. If it even got that far.
His jaw tightened. Lancelot might own the Keep in the eyes of the law, but for as long as Percival had been his crewmate, they had both claimed it in spirit. He would not stand idly by, regardless of Lancelot’s directive. He couldn’t.
He pulled up the fuel manifest and double-checked the figures. “Can you get us close to the station’s refuse exhausts?”
“Those are on the other side of the station!”
“I know that.” He was counting on it, actually. He would need that time to get his plan into place. “Can you do it?”
“Of course, I can. Care to tell me why?”
“We still have some of that theriney from the last haul. If we vent it near the exhausts—”
“—we’ll blind them long enough to slide into the slipstream and lose them,” Lancelot finished. “Go. You’ve got three minutes.”
Percival was running before he said the last word. He made it to the lock-up in record time and retrieved the theriney capsules with well over a minute left to go. One would be more than enough, but he wasn’t taking any chances. He dropped all three into the outermost fuel cell, then punched up the outside visuals on the overhead display.
“Come on, come on,” he coaxed as Lancelot wound them closer. His still fingers hovered above the power console, his gaze steady. One twitch, and this was all for nothing. One blink, and he could miss it.
The explosion from the theriney combusting with the exhausts rocked the rear of the Keep. Percival lurched to the side, jarring his shoulder against the cold, metal wall. Before he could right himself and check on the outside visuals again, however, the familiar sensation of entering the slipstream wriggled its way through his system.
“What would I do without you?” Lancelot’s voice said through the Keep’s internal comms.
Sagging against the wall, Percival chuckled under his breath. No doubt, they’d be dead without each other. They’d saved each other’s lives so many times now, he’d lost count.
“I’m putting the Keep on autopilot,” Lancelot went on. “Meet me in the cargo hold. You need to know what’s going on.”
That sounded more ominous than he wanted to admit, but Percival shuttled away his rising fears and went off to join Lancelot.
They reached the hold at the same time, though Lancelot held up a warning hand to stop him from entering first. “I want you to know, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this before now. But I needed you to be able to pass an interrogation in case something went wrong.”
“Wrong with what?”
Lancelot sighed. “You’ll see.”
Percival’s brows shot up when he unlocked the hold. They never locked the Keep’s internal doors. There had never been any need.
As the door slid open, he heard the whisper of something scraping across the insulated floor inside the hold. He tensed, alert to any danger, but Lancelot remained as relaxed as ever.
“Everything’s all right,” Lancelot called out. “You can come out now, Merlin.”
Merlin. He knew that name. But it wasn’t until the gangly young man appeared from behind a stack of empty pallets that Percival realized how. After all, his visage had been splashed over every single Regency broadcast for the past three days.
“What’ve you done?” Percival murmured, never taking his eyes off Merlin. “Since when do we abet criminals?”
“Since never.” Lancelot left Percival’s side to stand next to Merlin and rest his hand on his shoulder. “Merlin’s a friend, and he needed my help.”
“To escape Regency prosecution?” It still sounded like a crime to him. “No wonder they wanted to fire on us.”
“We didn’t do it,” Merlin said.
“What do you mean...we?” As far as he’d seen, Merlin was the only one wanted for treason against the Regency. Something about divulging defense secrets, though in all honesty, Percival hadn’t paid close enough attention to see to whom.
“He’s talking about me.”
A new voice resonated from behind the pallets, and Percival swung his gaze in time to see a strange, blond man emerge. This face, he didn’t know though he almost wished he did. A strong jaw. A mouth too full and soft to be called anything but sensual. Intelligent blue eyes that locked on his without fear. The man carried himself straight, his chin high, and didn’t flinch under the sudden attention. He merely stood there, broad shoulders squared, and gazed back at Percival.
“This is why I needed you in the dark,” Lancelot said to Percival. “Nobody could know they were here.”
Though it hurt that Lancelot didn’t trust him to be able to withstand an interrogation, he was still too confused to dwell on it. “Except I still don’t know who he is or what he expects us to do now.”
“Lancelot’s offered to get us someplace safe for the time being,” the stranger said. “That’s all.”
“And as for who he is…” Lancelot swept an arm toward the man, bowing his head slightly at the same time. “May I present Arthur, the Regent Apparent.”