Chains – Chapter Twelve

Acrid blue smoke filled the cockpit. Alarms assaulted Shauna Raani’s ears while at the same time what seemed like every display fought excitedly to be the first to deliver their tranche of the inevitable bad news.

The computer blared out an audio message.

“Cargo preservation protocol enacted for consignment 32246-27-56.”

Shauna, puzzled looked over at the cargo manifest screen and scrolled through the list of canisters.

“Since when does tantalum have a preservation protocol?”

The computer buzzed and spoke once more.

“Please restate request..”

“Sod off vox!”

The voice interface had been installed by the Type-9’s previous owner. It was useful occasionally but gave most of it’s worth in the form of something to curse at.

The cargo manifest screen read: “Tantalum, 345t”

That was odd. The contract had loaded 400 canisters. She refreshed the screen.

“Tantalum, 331t”

Very quiet pirates perhaps? The only scanner contacts were a good 10 kilometres away. Wreckage and canisters.

“The cargo computer must have given up the ghost just like the hyperdrive.. Let’s find somewhere to sell this stuff.”

There was only one outpost. A surface depot named “Launders Station”.. She frowned; She probably wasn’t going to get a good price down there even if she got down safely. But she needed to fence the cargo and sell the ship before the original owner reported the delivery missing.

Dismissing the alarms with a gesture across the systems panel she settled the ship into a shallow glide to the surface port.

Unbuckling her restraints she pushed herself out of the seat over to the bridge door. The shield generator might be persuaded to sputter into life again for the descent. Hull burns would considerably dent the ship’s resale value. She turned to look out at the little blue world for a moment as light from the star cast a brilliant golden reflection over a wide area of sea. She absently reached behind herself and pushed the door release just as the wideband comms crackled into her earpiece.

“Type 9 vessel Helenica, you are entering Breckland Aegis, please state your flight plan.”

The door began to whirr open. She’d almost forgot the name of this thing, it had been so long since she named a ship. They all seemed just dead things until you went through some ordeal with one and it saved you..

Hands grabbed around her middle and sharply pulled her out of the doorway.

She screamed out in panic into her EVA helmet, deafening herself as she looked up into the wide eyes and pale faces of a man and a woman.


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