Airlock In High Orbit; Tinny Taste Of Adrenaline
“You about ready?” Eddie asked. “Your window’s coming up, in about–“
“FIVE MINUTES!” Sanchez’s voice blared over the intercom. Eddie grimaced.
“Yeah, in about five minutes or so. Give or take. Just, you know, kinda guessing at it.” He helped with one of the clamps, checked the holster, and handed me the case. “We’ll be watching for you at the rendezvous in ninety minutes. Don’t miss us, or it’s a long walk back home.”
“I’ll be fine, Mother,” I grumped. Eddie grinned at me and we went to the small airlock.
The method we used is called a cargo slingshot, and it’s not designed for people. The idea is, the ship you’re in starts building up spin so the cargo in your airlock reaches several Gs. A clamp releases at a precise angle, and the object is slung across space at a moderate speed — the spin added to the ship’s own momentum. It has the advantage of not needing thrusters, which otherwise show up on the customs man’s screens; it’s an old smuggler’s trick. It works great, particularly on larger ships — not so much on Sonny’s little hopper, but not so bad either.
However, the human body isn’t really designed to withstand massive G forces — or, more to the point, the shock of sudden release. The combat armor would give me some protection, and it helped that I was eyes-in to the ship, but even so there was a very real danger of me passing out. If that were to happen, worst case Sonny could swing around and pick me up to try again, but that’s the sort of thing orbital watchers notice.
It’s not easy to cross your fingers wearing power armor. Funny how nobody mentions that in training. Scratching your nose is tough too, but doable if you know how; you wouldn’t think so, but there it is. Presumably, the designers planned to wear it themselves. I contemplated such matters as the G-forces built up, and then…
…I was free, weightless, floating in space… It was so peaceful, so very…
The sky was full of stars, blazing overhead. They were so lovely, so brilliant… so bright. Even without the moon, there was no good place to hide, and they were coming. I had to get away, maybe get under something, or—
“Gotcha! Haha; you led us quite a chase, ya little squirt! Well, it’s over; you’ve been pressed now. Welcome to the Militia, my lad!”
He was vast, gigantic, with a billowing coat and huge stompy boots. He picked me up in one beefy hand and looked close.
“First things first, we’ve got to get a few decent meals into you — and a bath! Man, you stink! But don’t you worry, son; the Fleet takes care of its own. No more running!”
I didn’t know it yet, but I was finally safe…
…safe, safe under the stars… no, this isn’t right… there are no stars here… nebula…
No stars overhead to give us away; the nebula kept them shrouded. It was the perfect hiding spot; the Redcaps wouldn’t even notice us if we kept quiet. Again I hushed the younger ones behind me, then reached out from the alley mouth and dragged in one more out of the terrified crowd — just a child, she was, with mismatched eyes.
She didn’t understand at first; swung at me with her small gully knife. I clamped my hand down over hers. “Ssh! We’ve got you! You’re safe now! Now hush!” And with that I thrust her behind me, back with the others, hunkered down out of sight as the Redcaps thundered past. We were safe, safe in the dark…
Gradually, I came out of it to see the face of Founder’s Landing tumbling overhead. A little at a time it started coming back to me; I was… I was… cargo?
OSTRICH TO CARGO, DO YOU COPY, OVER — OSTRICH TO CARGO…
Everything snapped into focus — I’d passed out! Ah, Hell, where was I? Where was the ship? Where was… the case? Oh, Hell; the case!!
I can’t tell you about that case, but THIS case is heating up! What’s going to happen? Tune in next time to find out!
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