Baby, Hit Me One More Time
“Aeryn,” Pilot’s voice called quietly in the stillness of the sleep cycle.
She slid his arm gently from her, rolled easily from his side where she’s been sleeping, head cradled on his chest, and reached unerringly in the dark for her comms.
Her voice was low and quiet, but she felt the mattress shift as he stirred beside her. He rolled over, draped an arm over her midsection and rested his head on her shoulder.
“I think you should go to command,” Pilot suggested softly. “There is something there that you should see.”
“We’re on our way, Pilot,” John said through a yawn.
He rolled to his side of the bed, swung his feet to the floor, and reached for his leathers.
“1812, stay with D’Argo.”
By the time he snagged his shirt and holster from the chair and Winona from under the pillow, she was already walking out of their quarters. He slid through the open grate a microt before it slid shut with a whisper. In three long strides he was beside her, falling into step as they made their way to command.
“Pilot, has there been any communication from the Prowler?” Aeryn asked as they watched the ship floating dead in the forward portal.
“None, Aeryn. The ship has neither hailed Moya nor acknowledged our transmissions.”
“Where did it come from, Pilot?” John asked.
“We have no idea. It was simply…there.”
“No approach vector?” Aeryn asked. “It was just…there?”
“Moya did not register any ships on her long range sensors. It was only with visual contact that we realized what it was.”
“And it hasn’t moved since you acquired visual contact?”
“How many on board?”
“Moya’s scans show no life signs.”
“Not even a Pilot?”
“The ship’s systems?”
“Are not operational.”
“Can Moya retrieve the ship with the docking web?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea, babe? Sure you don’t wanna just give it a wide berth?”
“Dead Prowlers don’t just show up in space. There may be a command carrier nearby that Moya hasn’t picked up yet.
“All the more reason to run.”
“The navigation data would tell us if there was.” She slid her teeth over her lower lip as she stared out the forward portal. “And at the very least it would also give us the ship’s last vector, its origin and destination.”
“All of which is very interesting, but why would we care?”
“If there is no carrier nearby, and it’s nowhere near its destination, and no one is left on the Prowler,” she arched an eyebrow and shrugged a shoulder, “we could just keep it.”
“You want a new Prowler?” John smirked.
“We could always use another Prowler.”
“Pilot, does Moya think it would be safe to bring the ship on board?”
“Moya senses no weapons locks, no power surges, nothing to indicate that bringing the ship on board would pose any hazard.”
“Pull her in, Pilot,” John called, winking at his wife. “Race you to the docking bay.”
“Pilot,” John commed. “First sign of this going south you give Chiana a holler to get D.”
They pulled their weapons and checked their charges in sync as they watched the sleek black ship settle on the deck of the docking bay. Standing motionless they waited as a silent count ticked off long microts until the air lock cycled and the door whooshed open.
Aeryn slid her eyes to John for one last look, then snapped them forward and took point. She felt him take up position a step back and to the side as they crossed the open bay. Through the canopy she could see the still form of the pilot hunched in the cockpit.
She reached the ship. “Ready?”
“Do it,” he replied quietly.
She raised her left hand and raised one finger, then a second. When the third came up she popped the canopy release and took a stance.
There was no reaction from the pilot.
She moved to the steps, felt John shift into position behind her as she began to climb. The figure in the cockpit slumped boneless against the controls as her pistol came to rest at the base of the pilot’s neck.
“Full flight suit,” Aeryn said softly.
“Inside a dead Prowler?” John’s voice floated to her in the stillness. “What the hell?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, picking up an arm. It fell with a thud when she released it. “Help me get it out.”
John climbed the steps carefully, fit his way into the cockpit, and settled behind the pilot while Aeryn released the restraints. With a tug he wrenched the body loose, and together they wrestled it out of the cockpit and down the steps.
They laid it on its back and John again took up position as Aeryn hunkered down and with her free hand popped open the face plate. Her eyes went wide in a face suddenly bloodless as a muffled grunt escaped taut lips. She reached inside the suit to pull the ident tags and then looked at her husband.
“Captain Aeryn Sun.”