The Currents of Space – Episode 2.8

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‘Call up all information we hold on Lieutenant Crossland, Serial number 023488.’

‘Believe me, there is nothing sweet about the Lebkuchen.’

‘RACHEL!’ yelled Achernar; ‘fire the fracking retros and take avoiding action. God’s sake, what’s up with you?

Rachel sighed and rubbed her eyes. ‘I know because I used to be her pilot.’

‘What!’

Rachel sighed again and turned to the Miranda’s controls. ‘I’ll take you in.’

‘Hold on’, said Paula; openly holding her gun. ‘We’re not going anywhere until I get some answers. What are you up to, who was Mason, why did he get killed and what the f**k are you on?’

Rachel pushed some buttons on the navcomp. ‘This ship will hit Aurora in three days. You want to waste time; fine.’ She swung the couch round to face them.

‘I’m Swedish, but I grew up as a ward of the Kinako Corporation; I don’t know who my parents were. I was trained as a pilot and taken on in 2219 as an executive pilot to Mitsuro Komatsu, flying his private yacht, the “Oberon”. Competition amongst the Pilot Corps is fierce; you are under constant pressure to excel and be the best for your employer. Smart Drug ups your reflexes and reactions; we all took it. I made a bad mistake and got caught; they used the drugs as an excuse to fire me. It was all I could do to get a job as a shuttle pilot with Parkfield.’

‘How can we trust you?’

‘TRUST ME!’ screamed Rachel. ‘Trust me? Do you think I arranged for the ‘Oberon’ to be here at this time? I don’t know why she’s here. I do know that Kinako would pay well for salvage. So, let’s go salvage.’ She turned back to the controls; then spoke over her shoulder.

‘Paula. Don’t pull a gun on a spaceship unless it’s a softshell or flechette weapon. Only a very stupid person would fire a conventional weapon on a ship.’

Rachel matched speed and course to the “Oberon” and moved in to the docking bay.

‘We can send an emergency code; but that depends on someone being awake on the bridge. However; I still have my pilot codes: – let’s try those first.’

The pilot code worked and the shuttle bay doors opened.

‘Now that is really bad security;’ said Paula. ‘When a company person leaves; the first thing you do is change the codes.’

Rachel expertly guided the Miranda into the bay and landed next to a ‘Nomad’ ship’s boat. The bay boors shut and the bay pressurised.

‘Okay,’ said Achernar. ‘Let’s search the ship. Bella, you and I will check out the bridge, Etamin, check the cryo chambers and hypersleep pods, Rachel, check engineering and then come up to the bridge, Paula; give the living quarters and recreation areas, then check the holds. Everyone, keep in touch via comms.’

The bridge was deserted and running on flight power. Achernar checked the log.

‘Her last listed port of call was Telluride, out in the New Concessions Zone. Know anything about it?’ Bellatrix shook her head. ‘It’s in the Mu Ceti system; that’s all I know. There might be more in the ship’s library. The navcomp shows the ship is set up for another translation to Epsilon Eridani, the Solomons.’

‘So why hasn’t it left?’ mused Achernar. ‘Ah, this could mean something. There’s a decompression showing on deck B1.’ He activated his comms unit. ‘Etamin, where are you?’

‘Deck B1, outside the one of the cryo chambers, the one assigned to the crew. The chamber is showing as decompressed. I’m going to get a vacc suit and check it out.’

‘Wait; I’ll join you. Bella can seal off the area so we don’t decompress the whole deck.’

‘Rachel here. This is weird. I’m in the ballroom …’ ‘The where?’ interrupted Bellatrix. ‘The ballroom,’ repeated Rachel. ‘That’s what we called it. It’s a large area on deck C that can be set up for social events or other functions. Part of this has been dressed as a ship’s bridge; it looks authentic but the panels are dummies. There’s a battery of cameras, lights and sound equipment. Oh, and there’s a functioning hypersleep pod in one corner; it looks like it has an occupant.’

On deck B1; Achernar and Etamin dressed in ship suits and entered the cryo chamber. The pods were open; half-dressed bodies lay around the chamber, three male and three female.

‘It looks like they were getting ready to go into the pods and then they died of asphyxiation.’ Etamin was hunting round the room. ‘Found it!’ He pointed to a tiny hole drilled through a bulkhead and traced it across the room to a corresponding hole. ‘A million-to-one chance; a micrometeorite strike. The air must have gone slowly; they would have been drowsy from the sleep prep drugs and didn’t notice until it was too late.’

It was easy to patch the holes and pressurise the chamber.

‘We need to move the bodies to the sickbay until we can identify and decide what to do with them’

‘Achernar, this is Paula. I’m in cargo hold one. You need to get down here, fast.’ There was real fear in her voice.

Achernar and Etamin hurried down to the cargo bays on deck C. Paula was waiting outside hold one. She handed Achernar a flashlight and indicated that he should look inside. Achernar gave her a puzzled look, but did as instructed. He saw ten cargo pallets, each holding four half-ton drums; forty drums in total. He glanced at Paula and shrugged.

‘Look again,’ she said. ‘That’s quinitricetyline; twenty tons in total. This ship is a flying bomb.’

To be continued …

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