Darkship Revenge – Snippet 07

I came up on the other side of Circum, totally unused the last time I’d been here.

It still looked unused.  I couldn’t see movement of ships around the periphery, and there were no lights save for beacon lights and those weak.

So far so good.  Finding an unused bay was relatively easy, too.  Well, finding a bay.  It was almost impossible to tell if it was unused or not, until you were entering it. There were membranes at the entrance to all the bays.  Two sets of membranes, forming an airlock.  And maybe the membranes had been transparent at one time, but they were all opaque now.

Given the size and lack of maneuverability of the Cathouse, that meant things could get dicey.  It was kind of like going into a mountain tunnel in your flyer without knowing whether there was a flyer already in there, coming the other way.  There were no traffic lights to help guide you on the way.

Eris didn’t like it.  She was strapped on, under my suit, to my chest, her head just beneath my chin.  I wouldn’t subject her or myself to the helmet until I had to, and I would only use the helmet because some portions of Circum didn’t even get oxygen and I couldn’t be sure where I’d end up.

She hated the pressure of the belts across her front, and the fact that I was concentrating on piloting and not on her.  Being my daughter, and not liking something, meant she kept up a continuous, low-grade complaint.  Only, of course, because she couldn’t kick my ass.

I realized stealth might not be possible with her.  Ah, well.  All I could do was try.  Most people, would probably frown at taping the baby’s mouth shut.  Kit would if — when I found him.  I held my breath, and plunged through the first membrane that covered an opening large enough for the Cathouse.

Inside the tunnel war dark as the distant reaches of space.  I took another deep breath.  Backing out of here was going to be a right bitch, if I needed to do it.

There shouldn’t be anyone inside, not in this part of the station. Why couldn’t I just turn the lights on?  Because, idiot, there might be someone, I told myself.  And that would be disastrous, if Circum is in enemy hands.

In front of me, more guessed and “felt” than seen, was another membrane, this one, probably from being sheltered from the vacuum still semi-transparent.  I held my breath as I plunged through the membrane, afraid I’d find it occupied at the last moment, and have to pull back, a maneuver easier described than done in a completely spherical, almost-too-large ship, piloted by someone who was no pilot and who had a squirming baby strapped to her midriff.

I pushed all the way in, and when no other ship materialized, turned on my lights.

Eris continued squirming and complaining, in a thin, creak-like cry as I brought the Cathouse to rest on the floor of a cavernous and abandoned warehouse.

I made all secure, removed any materials – mostly data gems – that would give away where the Cathouse had come from, or that it had come from somewhere else, armed myself with all the burners onboard, strategically distributed about my person and Eris’, put the diapering material in a bag slung over my shoulder, put the helmet of the suit on, and locked down the Cathouse.

I didn’t like leaving the Cathouse behind.  It wasn’t just that Kit and I had a substantial portion of our net worth, or rather our net debt, invested in the ship. It was also that, no matter how carefully scrubbed, if it fell in the wrong hands, it would give people who might want to destroy us or Eden substantial information that would make it easier. Eden might not be the refuge I’d once hoped it would be, but it was still Kit’s beloved homeland.  I couldn’t risk seeing it destroyed. Or his family, who had welcomed me with open arms.

On the other hand, I couldn’t “park” the Cathouse in Space.  Sure, I could set it in orbit somewhere, but without a lifeboat, there was no way to leave it.  And it was more likely to be detected in orbit than in a Circum bay.

Which didn’t make it any easier to walk away from it and towards the inhabited side of Circum. I needed to get to those areas, if I wanted to steal a ship that could take me to Earth.

It took a long time.  I walked towards the busier parts of Circum along a corridor that went from derelict and dust-covered to looking like warehouses filled with cases and warehouses filled with scientific equipment.

I knew I was approaching the inhabited parts of the station when I started hearing human steps, and muffled voices, as a long distance away.

If I could have come across a bay with one of the Earth-bound ships that took packages to Earth and brought supplies back, or even one of the bigger harvesters which could withstand atmospheric reentry, I’d have stolen it and have left Circum with no more trouble.  Contrary to what Kit, and friends of mine have said at various times, I don’t actually try to leave a trail of destruction in my wake.  Not on purpose.  It just tends to happen.

And this time, it just happened that, as I rounded a corner of a pile of crates, I ran headlong into a young man.  We both stepped back, and he hesitated a moment.  Long enough.

Part of the way I’ve been bio-improved is to be faster than anyone else.  Than anyone else who wasn’t bio improved, at least.  So when he hesitated, I pounced, jumped behind him, grabbed him around the chest pinning his arms.  I was completely out of shape, but still had naturally improved strength.  He struggled, but not long, because I’d pulled a burner and had it to his head.

I had to speak louder than I intended, because Eris had started crying louder, but I was speaking almost in his ear, so he couldn’t avoid hearing it.  “Stop struggling right now.  If you do what I tell you nothing will go wrong.  I just need a ship.”

He stopped struggling.  He was a little taller than I, not much, and thin to the point of stringy.  His sparse blond hair looked like had been self-cut, in the dark, without the benefit of a mirror.  One of the scientists in Circum, I imagined. Though there were exceptions, they tended not to be magnificent physical specimens.

He was trying to look at the burner, with his head somewhat turned, and his eyes trying to escape sideways off his face.  “Is that really a burner?” he asked, his voice very low.

“No, it’s a toy.  What do you think?” I asked.

He swallowed.  “I think it’s a burner.”

“Bright boy.”

“Would you really shoot me?”

“Only if I have to,” I said.  “I don’t want any trouble.  I just want a ship back to Earth.”

A long shudder went over him, as though he tried to recoil from my touch at the same time that he was trying not to upset me.  “Are you… can I ask a question?”

“Sure.  But then we have to go find me a ship.”

“Okay.  Okay, but…”  His voice was very low and hard to hear over Eris’ crying.  “Look, do you really have two heads?”


I think it was the surprise of this and also the racket that Eris was making that made it possible for me to be ambushed the way I was.

Just after I said “What?” I felt something heavy hit my skull, and then everything went dark.