microTech SAR had received a distress signal from a ship more than 200mkm north of Stanton’s elliptic, and they were willing to pay a lot to find out what anyone would be up to way the hell out there. The Kalipso had the rescue facilities and could get me there and back…barely…though she was a big ship to take into the unknown by myself and I was clean out of friends. But I accepted the job anyway because I wanted to know what anyone would be up to way the hell out there too.
An hour later, Kalipso’s quantum drive shut itself down with a sulky thud and a litany of warnings on my console. The target was a few klicks off, dead and cold. Without the beacon I’d never have seen her. An RSI Constellation, Phoenix VIP refit, the registry listed her as the Be Quick, My Love. She was shot to hell and looked like more of a salvage job than a rescue. I broadcast when I got close enough to be heard by suit radios.
“Be Quick, this is Captain Rahl of the Kalipso, under contract to render aid, anyone there?”
After a moment, a woman’s face flashed up on my screen from a helmet cam. She was…beautiful. Emerald green eyes, freckles, a lock of bright red hair sticking out from her arming cap.
“Kalipso ohmygod, I’m here, I’m here,” she said breathlessly in a quiet soprano, “I’ve got less than an hour of air. I’m trapped in B-section.”
Her voice sounded calm, but I sensed her urgency. I switched to audio and headed for the airlock. “An hour is plenty of time,” I said soothingly, pulling on my gear. “My friends call me Deb, what’s your name?”
“Becca. Becca Greer. I’m…I’m glad you didn’t stop for lunch on your way, Deb.”
“Me too, Becca.” I finished my checks and stepped out of the lock. Be Quick’s bridge looked like a twisted maze of razor blades, but the dock at the aft of the ship was empty so I entered there and moved forward.
“So Becca,” I said, cutting through the engine room door, “you’re a long way past the red line, what are you doing out here?”
“I’m honestly not sure where we are,” she replied. “we…” she hesitated, I could hear her voice tighten. Suit-to-suit radio made it feel as if she were right next to me. “It was supposed to be romantic, a get-away….”
The hatch to the VIP suite popped open and disturbed a miniature galaxy of debris – bits of bottles, drug paraphernalia, shattered furniture and blood. A man in casual clothes had been staked to the wall near the bar, his body and the surrounding wall riddled with bullet holes and knife strikes. He’d died long before the ship decompressed.
“Deb? I’m really cold.”
“Who did this?” I asked as gently as I could. I got nothing but a choking sob in return. “I’m going to bring you some air, we’re going to grab the flight recorder, and we’ll be out of here.”
“Please hurry,” she whispered in my ear.
I jetted through the mess as quickly as I could. When I reached for the hatch release into B-section, a bit of floating debris caught my eye.
Silk. Emerald green, with just a touch of lace. Torn from some intimate garment.
My blood went cold.
“Almost there,” I whispered, pulling open the hatch.
She was…beautiful. Her red hair was long and curly, and it floated out from her head like a halo. She wore a very pretty black dress, with a hint of green silk peeking out from under the shoulder strap. It matched her eyes, cracked and frozen, staring sightlessly at nothing.
Becca Greer had died with her ship, beaten and chained to a bunk.
“Deb?” the voice on the radio said, as if her lips were next to my ear, ”Can we go home now?”