Above her Adam called,pulled the rope from which she hung. Her fall stopped and her harness bit into her thighs. That hurt.
"I rescued you".
There was neither time nor breath to talk. Neither were climbers but necessity put them here on the face of a very nasty mountain. Cliff, Tessit amended.
It wouldn't matter what it was called if they didn't get to the top before the sun sunk below the horizon. One hour 90 to go, a glance at her chrono told her.
She searched for a foothold, found a crack and wedged her left toes into it. A handhold for her right hand, and she pulled herself a little further up. If there was an opportunity she would put on the gloves that hung from her belt. Her fingertips were slippery with blood.
The day was cool but had begun hot. They left their jackets with the disabled ship, and as she climbed, she felt the bump of the rifle against her bare shoulders.
There was fear, dislike and the urgency they both felt. Tessit tasted fear carefully - the somewhat abstract fear of falling, her dislike of Adam, annoyance that of all the surviving crew only they were able.
Above all, there was the terrible fear of failure.
She breathed a silent prayer for the strength to continue. Prayer for success would be inappropriate. This was revenge. Make it sound as pretty as you would, that's what it was.
"I see" Adam panted. "We're closer than I thought. How.. are you doing?"
"Better" she called. "We're going to make it!"
"There's a ledge" he said, bracing his back against the rock. She pulled herself up another 2 metres to where she could see him. She braced herself and pulled on her gloves, using her teeth to hold one as she donned the other.
"Any sign of him?"
He squinted into the westering sun.
"Nah, he'd be daft to stay where we could see him. Ready.?"
Her reply was a grunt, as he hefted his weapon and continued his ascent.
Maximilian had left the ship in the early dawn. No one knew what inspired him but the message he left made clear his intentions.
"This is not our world" he let his authority as Captain, carry his words. "None of them are our worlds. It ends here. I have one transmitter. You will find the other - no use to you."
Even his remembered laugh was scary.
"We've been evading our enemy long enough. But they have the right, this is their system, Earth has no right here,the Dendradi do! I'm calling them in."
He could do that at sunset only,and 75 minutes remained on the chrono.
Execution or revenge? It didn't matter. They would find Max and he would die.
Twenty minutes remained when they gained the top of the cliff. Adam twisted the top off his water bottle and drank noisily, passing it to her. Tessit swallowed, looked around.
One hundred metres distant and beside it on the grass, something dark - and still.
"His gear.Come on"
She hefted her weapon and as the chill of evening fell, they strode across the cliff top towards the gleaming metal tower.
Tessit stopped. Panicked. A gun in her back.
"Human." A grating voice said. "Thank you for calling us to kill you". It prodded her along. Dendradi. Beside her, Adam kept pace, his captor laughing in the wheezing way they had.
The 'gear' they saw, was Max, his handsome face burned away.
"He wanted to 'treat' with us" the Dendrad laughed. "A traitor, yes!"
"We didn't call you" Tessit spat.
"Matters not" the Dendrad said, raising its gun. He shot her dead.