A klaxon sounded out, and the passageway lighting faded from brilliant to dark and back to brilliant in time with the klaxon’s wail. It had been less than twenty minutes since an explosion rumbled the Matsue’s deck plates, triggering the alarm. The crew of the Matsue wouldn’t stand for saboteurs aboard their ship any more than Erika or her surviving Kerwood shipmates would, and the Matsue crew was determined to stop the mutiny. Mutiny, Erika Ängström thought, as if they would call it anything else.
“Stop!” A Matsue crewman burst around the corner, leading with his tranquilizer gun. He dropped to one knee, his forearm resting on the other knee. He sighted the running form of Captain Winchester Hayes, of the crippled Kerwood. “Don’t make me shoot you, Captain Hayes!”
Erika stepped out of an alcove where she watched the scene unfold and thrust a syringe into the security man’s shoulder. The hiss was more felt than heard as the syringe discharged the sedative directly into the man’s skin. He had only a moment to look up at the new threat before he collapsed onto the deck.
Captain Hayes returned to the scene and eyed the pair of launch suits in a pile in the alcove that Erika had hidden. His eyes kept wandering to Erika’s missing hand on her right arm. The suit glove was required to maintain suit integrity, but her glove was limp and ineffectual.
“Stop staring,” Erika grumbled and flipped her launch helmet over her head with her good hand. She rotated the collar of her suit and helped Captain Hayes into his launch suit. “We’ve only got six or seven minutes, so get your slag together.”
Captain Hayes’s eyes were blank and uncomprehending. Erika reached up with her good hand and rotated the captain’s collar. “It’s a race against time,” Erika said over the private communication link that she and Captain Hayes had created. “We’ve got to be through the umbilicus by 17:30 Kerwood time.”
Captain Hayes gave her a thumbs up. He shifted to look at Erika’s flaccid glove. She rolled her eyes, pushed the captain away with her good hand, and jogged down the passageway. Captain Hayes fell into step beside her. When they arrived at the makeshift airlock that the Matsue was using to shift goods and matériel from the Kerwood to the Matsue, they stopped to see two suited figures guarding the temporary airlock. One was rotund, and the other was so tall he had to stoop in the Matsue passageway.
A pair of Matsue security personnel lay at their feet. A third figure knelt over the prostrate guards and was affixing oxygen-breathing apparatuses over their noses and mouths. The figure turned, and Erika heard her over the COMS, “Just in case this goes sideways.”
“Move it, Funky!” Captain Hayes ordered over the COMS.
Femke rose and placed her hands on her hips in defiance. She turned to respond to her captain, “Stealing the Kerwood is one thing, but if anyone dies, it’s all our asses.” Femke pulled the recessed handle in the hatch, swung it open, and stepped through.
“It’s our ship,” Captain Hayes grumbled. “We’re not stealing anything.”