“This is insane. And I love it.” Sam put her hands on her hips and shook her head. “You should write this up for one of those engineering ‘zines, Jen.”
They were floating in the corridor in front of the door leading to the landing bay, all of them crammed into the hallway.
The mechanic beamed. “Don’t give me all the credit. It took Belle only a few seconds to calculate how to fire the thrusters to back us up into position after venting our atmosphere. No more difficult than trying to maneuver into some of those little docking bays on the smaller mining bases.”
Sean clutched his medical bag tightly, straining to hear the smallest whisper of air escaping. Of all the deaths he’d seen and imagined, dying by suffocation or explosive decompression ranked up at the top.
“Sort of threading a needle, isn’t it?” Kendra had changed into a dark red track suit and leaned against the wall, floating with her arms crossed. “How are you going to get the pod through the hatch? It’s barely enough for us to get through, and the life pod’s got to be larger than the person it’s carrying, right?”
Jenny laughed. “Not through the hatch, silly.” She flapped her arms, reminding Sean of a flightless bird attempting takeoff. “There’re larger doors on each side we pop open for delivery of supplies. Bring the skids in piled with whatever you want or need—furniture, mattresses, the bigger items that can’t be broken down. If we had to bring everything through the single door we’d never get loaded in time.” She rapped on the door with her knuckles. “How we doing, Belle?”
“We have successfully backed up and captured the life pod,” the AI announced. “I am now preparing to seal the bay and restore atmosphere.”
“Any problems?” Sam swam up and down the short hallway, brushing by the gathered crew with each pass. “Life signs still good?”
“All is well with the survivor.” A roaring came from beyond the closed hatch, reminding Sean of a vacuum cleaner. “I estimate two minutes before you may retrieve the pod.”
Sean watched Sam make another circuit before speaking. “She’s got enough oxygen until then, right?” The last thing they needed was to go to all this work and lose the survivor at the last second.
“Affirmative. The pod is undamaged from the debris field. We have also captured other bits and pieces in the bay from the ship.”
Jenny rubbed her hands together. “Salvage. I doubt there’ll be much I can use on the Belle but who knows?”
Sam nodded. “About the debris...Were you able to avoid any biological, Belle?”
Translation—were they going to open the door to a horror of broken bodies and shredded arms and legs?
Sean saw April look down and mutter a soft prayer.
“Yes, Captain. By the time we were able to approach any and all biologicals were at a goodly distance, scattered among the ship’s remains. We captured only the life pod.” A loud pop came from behind the hatch. “Full atmosphere returned. You may enter at your convenience.”
Jenny twisted the handle and shoved hard on the hatch. It swung open with a whoosh of fresh, cool air, allowing them into the landing bay. She stepped back to give them all a clear view.
The sixty square feet of empty space in the back of the Belle wasn’t made to do much else than store equipment and serve as a holding pen for waiting customers. Sean used the open area as a jogging track, cycling past the tables and chairs strapped to the walls.
“Why aren’t we watching via the cameras?” Bianca whispered to him, a tremor underlying her words. “There’s a feed coming through, right? We could be in the galley and far away from this.” She gestured toward Jenny and Sam.
“Let them take the risk. They can call you in later.”
He couldn’t blame Bianca for her caution. She’d lost Halley not so long ago. The last thing she needed was to see more death.
He had seen enough for both of them.
“This sort of thing you need to see up close and personal,” Sean replied. “Can’t judge anything through a lens.”
Sam went through first with Jenny close behind. Sean swam through with the other four courtesans following.
“Be careful,” Sam warned. “Don’t smack your head on something.”
Debris floated around them, the largest no more than a fistful. Most of it seemed to be pieces of the hull with the occasional engine piece here and there.
It smelt too fresh. Belle had overdone the air freshener. There was something wrong about swimming through the remains of someone’s life with the laundry-fresh scent clogging up your lungs.
The life pod spun end over end in the landing bay. Sean swam over to the cylinder and grabbed one of the handles, steadying the pod. He looked in the viewport.
A wide-eyed woman stared at him, her mouth open as she screamed something unintelligible.
Welcome to the Bonnie Belle.
It's going to be another rocky ride for the men and the women on board the Bonnie Belle again as they find themselves the target of space pirates determined to relieve them of their cargo and possibly their lives.
Pre-order this new voyage on the Bonnie Belle at Amazon, B&N, iBooks and Carina Press!
And while you're waiting to board check out this FREE short story! Interlude 1.1 is available at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and many other ebook retailers including Overdrive and ebook lending services.
When Jenny, the chief mechanic for the Bonnie Belle hops off to work a deal with the local black market she ends up bargaining for more than just fresh fruit.
It's a good time to come on board the Belle - why not see what the fuss is all about?