A reminder that these are still a rough first draft of the story and set after PKWars. All feedback is welcome.
This part is rated PG.
Baby, Hit Me snippet 7
“So you’re my frelling new guy.” The senior tech snagged a cup from the workbench, took a long swig, pointed at it John. “You’re not a Peacekeeper but you know about Prowlers. And I’m supposed to train you. I miss anything?”
“Nope.” He flipped his hands out, palms up. “That’s about it.”
“You got any…” senior tilted his head and narrowed his eyes as his smile pulled to the left, “…skills I should know about?”
“Skills?” He snorted a laugh, an angry puff of air. Used it to bank the bluster, knock back the urge to trot out the patented John Crichton dog and pony show. “Your Captain seemed to think I was good enough to make your cut.”
He shoved his hands into his pocket, let his shoulders drop and rocked back on his heels. “Give me schematics and the right tools, and I can pretty much figure things out from there.”
Senior nodded once, tossed back his cup. “Couple of house rules.” He raised a finger. “One. Don’t torque off the team. They’re Ghosts. They’re elite. We’re their techs. That makes us elite.”
He dropped and pointed the finger at John. “You’re only here because the good Captain wanted you here. Don’t frell that up.”
“Right.” He pulled his fists out of his pockets, rolled his shoulders, ran his hand along the back of his neck as he cracked it. “No frelling it up. Got it.”
“Good,” he nodded, starting to walk across the bay. “Come on. You can meet the rest of your team.”
John fell into long, loose-limbed step. “You said there were a couple of rules. That’s only one.”
The senior tech slid his gaze toward him. “Don’t torque off the team.”
They came to a stop in front of a group of three techs elbows deep in the guts of a Prowler.
“Quit playing around in there,” senior barked. “Listen up.”
Three heads came up and around. Three pairs of eyes locked on the newcomer.
“This our frelling new guy?” The taller of the two males leaned back against the Prowler, crossed his arms.
“This is the guy?” The shorter one grabbed his cup from a workbench, tossed back a quick gulp, tipped it toward John. “The one Larraq almost whacked?”
The senior tech slapped him in the head. “Shut the frell up. He may be gone, but that doesn’t mean anything.”
The ache that had been a baseline of anger and fear humming just behind his eyes exploded as rage roiled and boiled up. He let it roll, forced his lips to curl up unpleasantly with effort. “Yeah. That’s me.”
The senior tech pointed at the rest of them. “And Captain Sun wants him trained. So guess what?”
The two males pointed as one toward the female.
“Fine,” she snorted, rolling her eyes.
“Now that that’s settled, you two get your stuff and meet me over at the Vigilante. We have a major overhaul that should’ve been started two solar days ago.” He ran his eyes over the newest member of his team one last time before spinning on his heel and setting off across the bay.
“So tell me,” the taller tech shifted against the Prowler, angled his head, leer lighting up his face more than a little taunting. “How was the very fine Captain Sun?”
It’s a kick to the head. His jaw clenched and he heard his teeth grind, the sound an unpleasant undercurrent to the pounding in his head. He shoved his hands back into his pockets, felt his fingers curled tight.
He’s seen that look, aggressive and hungry, worn it, especially around Aeryn. He wanted to smack it off this bastard’s face, bounce his head off the Prowler.
Don’t frell this up.
He throttled back his urge to reach out and touch someone.
“For frell’s sake,” the female snapped. “Give it up.”
“Yeah,” the shorter male laughed. “Like the very fine Captain Sun was gonna frell a tech.” He moved off the Prowler, leaned in, thumped John on the shoulder. “You probably thought about frelling her. Wanted to, right?”
Keep your shit together.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” The female threw a bag at him.
“Frelling hezmana,” the taller one grabbed his own bag. “Not like we haven’t all thought about it.”
Frell this up, she’ll kill you herself.
“You have some kind of death wish, even thinking about that,” she observed dryly rolling her eyes again.
You get yourself killed, she’ll never forgive you.
“Yeah? Well, we’ve never had a pulse pistol shoved in our faces.” He smacked her ass and set off laughing.
Get her killed, you’ll never forgive yourself.
“See you for Last Meal.” The shorter one nodded at John, snagged his cup off the workbench and followed.
“They’re not as stupid as they sound.” She combed fingers through her shoulder length blonde hair, pulled a tie off her wrist and wrapped it in a high pony tail. “Almost, but not quite.”
“Yeah, well, that’s a guy thing.” He unclenched his fists, let his fingers drum against the naked spot on his thigh.
“Everybody around here just seems to have an…interest in the good Captain.” She slid her eyes over him, swept him up and down, and shrugged a shoulder. “But you’re the only one Captain Larraq ever threatened to kill over it. Makes a good story.”
She’s white noise in his red haze of rage. “And your interest?”
“I know my role. No Peacekeeper Captain is going to frell any tech.”
“Right.” Anger turned the word to ash in his mouth. “Peacekeepers always follow the rules.”
“One set of rules for us, one for them.” She shrugged again. “But even by their rules that is one very non-regulation relationship.”
“What are we supposed to be doing?” He needed to breathe.
“We need to overhaul this engine,” she gestured vaguely to the guts of the Prowler, “upgrade the ECM, and run a general diagnostic on the weapons system.” She snagged a scanner from the workbench.
“Can you handle the engine on your own?” He needed to be somewhere else.
“What?” She threw the question over her shoulder. “Tech girls don’t do it for you, either? Or is there something really wrong with you?”
His voice was as flat and cold as his eyes as he pinned her in his line of sight. “I’ll take the weapons system.”
“We’ve got great intel.” She keyed on her console, let her eyes run over her team.
They’d all sprawled in various stages of exhaustion, sweating and slouched in their seats, arms and legs akimbo, waiting for her. She’s tired and hot, swiped the back of her hand across her forehead, wiped it against her thigh.
“The most efficient entry is here.” She zoomed in to a spot on the enlarged image. “Team ropes in, silent entry. Two levels down, we do it in the courtyard. Pick up the package. Out the way we came in. Four hundred microts.”
“Security?” The lieutenant shifted in his seat, raised his water bottle to his lips.
“This place is pretty isolated.” She swallowed hard, felt shards scrape against the back of a dry, tight throat. “A high-end pleasure planet with compounds in this sector widely scattered.”
“No guards up top?”
“Shouldn’t hit any until one level down.” Her voice sounded oddly harsh and distant in her ears. “The bulk of their people will be between there and the courtyard. The Marauder takes up station patrolling the perimeter, takes care of any danger there.”
She reached for her own water bottle, drank long and hard.
“We’ve run the sims, mission specifics have been downloaded to your personal terminals. Any questions?”
Three pairs of eyes locked on hers.
“Then we wait for the go. Dismissed.”
She keyed off her console, pulled herself up out of her chair. She’d stop in the commons, grab a few extra water bottles, then a shower.
She needed to sleep.
She scrubbed roughly at her face, wiped the fine sheen of perspiration on her leathers as she stepped into the corridor.
The planet was too frelling hot. Why the frell hadn’t her intel told her that? It was hot, and there was a stream of sweat sliding down the curve of her back to pool at the base of her spine. Sweat that pasted her leathers to her ass and her thighs, gathered between her breasts, pulled at her shirt.
She chafed under her body armor. It was heavy and restrictive, not the comfortable second skin it usually was, but oppressive like the heat.
It’s dark, and she didn’t understand how the frell it could be so hot in the dark. She’s alone on the planet and can’t find her team in the dark.
What kind of officer can’t find her team? Frell, she can’t find her ship. She can’t even find her water bottle. And she’s thirsty. Her throat ached and she needed to drink.
But she couldn’t frelling move, couldn’t frelling see in the blackness that surrounded her. All she could hear was the frelling buzzing of the scavengers in her ears.
Louder, closer, coming for her.
Her eyes snapped open and a semblance of conscious thought returned, gave her something to beat back the worst of the terror.
Her bed. Her quarters. Her own sweat soaked sheets.
She’s breathing open-mouthed, fast and shallow, each jagged inhale sending shards of glass down a dry, closed, aching throat.
The buzzing hadn’t stopped. She jerked upright, swung her legs off the bed, and slapped at her comms.
‘Yes?” The word was little more than a ragged croak as she reached for the water bottle by the bed and drained it. Leaning forward, elbows resting on her knees, she looked at the empty bottle in her hands.
“Captain, we’ve just received something you should see.”
“Light’s low.” She pushed herself up from the bed, stumbled once before she reached her console, clicked it on. “Put it through.” Leaning over, she stabbed at the keyboard, keyed in the proper codes.
It was barely thirty microts long, and before it was over she’d closed her eyes, tried to will the fine tremors from her hands.
She shook herself fiercely, unsure of how long she’d been standing there. “Yes?”
“We’ve just received word. Your mission is a go.”
Her eyes opened and she breathed deep. “Inform my team.”
Heavy hands pulled him from a hard sleep and his body coiled in on itself as light stabbed at his eyes through the semi-protective barrier of closed lids. Above him he heard the shifting of a body as the senior tech’s booming voice joined the dull, pounding baseline pain playing just behind his eyes.
“Come on, ladies, let’s go. Gotta prep the Marauder. Team’s going out.”
He uncoiled like a spring, jackknifed into a sitting position and swung his legs off the bed. Snagging his coveralls from the foot of the bed, he jammed his legs through, stood up and yanked them over his hips.
Threading his arms into their sleeves, shrugging his shoulders into place, zipping up, he’s only vaguely aware of the others also getting ready.
His leathers were in his flight bag, along with everything else, ready to go. He hunkered down, yanked it out from under the bed. Standing up, he shoved his feet into his boots, and without bothering to lace them, grabbed his bag and the one with the tools, shouldered both and was in the corridor, footsteps pounding furiously on his way to the bay.
She’d been right. He hadn’t seen her. Not at Last Meal. Not since the medbay.
He needed to see her. See that she was all right. Let her know he was there, ready to go. That everything would be all right.
He moved faster down the corridors, bobbed and weaved through the increasing traffic as the carrier came awake. Felt the increasing tension mix with the fear in his gut, spread out and settle in his chest under the steel band that had snapped into place.
He burst through the entry, eyes raking the bay. He’s the first one of the team here and crosses the distance to Aeryn’s Prowler with long, solid strides. He popped the hatch open, tossed his flight bag into the back, closed the hatch.
He’s headed toward the Marauder when the Senior Tech blew into the bay, barking orders, followed by the rest of the team.
The hiss cut into the haze of worry wrapping his brain and he flicked his eyes to see what the hell was wrong. Long, tall tech boy had obviously not been focusing and had the gaping red gash across his hand to show for it.
It barely registered on his radar because he hadn’t seen her yet and they were almost finished.
“Wrap it up and get to the medbay,” a female voice floated over the din of final prep.
He saw her then, long, lethal grace in her body armor as she entered the bay with her team. His eyes drank her in as she moved, ran up her body hungrily and froze.
“Belay that,” senior rasped. “Take care of it here. No one’s going to the medbay.”
Even this far across the bay he could see that her skin was too pale, ash white, not the cream he knew so well. And that her eyes burned too brightly, fever bright, set in dark circles.
His stomach clenched and rolled, ferocious fear hopscotched the hills of his spine, driving straight into his brain. The band across his chest tightened, cut off his breathing altogether.
“They’re locked down. Some kind of virus. Entire section of the carrier’s quarantined.”
White noise like the whirr of a drill washed over him as his eyes followed her into the Marauder.
“Did you hear what else?”
He felt the bite of the bit boring clean and smooth through his skull and he scrubbed his hands roughly against eyes that wanted to pop the fuck out of his head.
“They got a message earlier from Larraq’s team. He’s dead.”
His inner bastard high-fived him through the white noise suddenly turned black-red haze.
“They’ll all be dead by the time they get here.”
He breathed jagged and sharp, swallowed hard against the need to throw up.