Emergency lights, yellow after years of power drain, flickered in the cargo bay of the species Y-45B slave-ship Yeoman's Glory. Shredded cables hung from the ceiling, and destroyed cages lay scattered about the floor. All signs indicated the ship was completely derelict—a fact which didn’t offer the comfort it should have. Zack Richards couldn’t recall anyone ever disabling a Y-45B slave-ship. The Y-45B guarded their slaves like a jealous lover, and accorded their transports security and stealth second only to their diplomatic envoys.
The tightness in his chest that had started when he boarded the Yeoman thirty minutes ago cinched tighter. Maybe it was the lack of human remains. Maybe it was the odd electrical failures which created the illusion that lighting was always better just beyond where he stood, as if a fog enveloped him.
"Richards. Richards. Answer me," Destiny Svenshenko called over the link.
Richards had forgotten she had lost his video feed when he entered the cargo hold. "Looks like—” Something flitted in his peripheral vision. “What the—”
“What is it?” she demanded.
A shadow darted between two cages to his left. Richards whirled.
He drew his impulse-blaster. “There’s someone here.”
An instant of silence, then, "Sensors show no life signs aboard other than yours."
“I don’t care what the sensors say. I saw something."
He flicked a glance farther left, at the airlock where their ship the Pale Dawn was docked. The small compartment was empty. The hairs on the back of his neck tingled. He spun to face the cargo bay.
Richards took a step backward toward the airlock…and the spot where he’d seen whatever it was their sensors said couldn’t be there. He scanned the edges of the room where shadows darkened amongst the cages. His gaze caught on the half-open door straight ahead leading to a long corridor that disappeared into the murk. He took another step back toward the exit. The creepy sensation increased.
"I don't know what,” he said, “but something is here. Can't see him, but I can feel him."
"Him?" Destiny echoed.
Richards flushed. "Just saying, not thinking."
He took another step backwards. The presence pressed upon him. Could someone really be watching? Maybe the Pale Dawn sensors had malfunctioned. No, their sensors had detected his life signs. Hate seemed to burn into the back of his head. If he turned, would anyone really be near the airlock? He forced himself to look over his shoulder. Despite seeing nothing, his next step was made harder by the oppressive presence emanating from that direction.
The lights flickered, then went out. He jerked his face forward, tensed in readiness for gravity cutting out, then registered a small cold-blue light at the far end of the passageway beyond the doorway. The source had to be the bridge. He tightened his grip on the impulse-blaster. Had this been a power failure, all lights, gravity, and life support would have been lost.
"What happened?" Destiny asked.
“The lights went out."
"I heard a gasp. I thought….I don't know what I thought. So you're getting back here, right?"
"I think whoever’s here wants me to go to the bridge," he said.
"There's no one aboard, dammit. The lasers are warmed up. We'll slice and dice this tub from the safety of our ship. Get back here. Now."
"Yeah. Yeah. Just don’t start without me. I’m going to have to leave my UL here and I want it back."
“What—” she began, then, “You’re a regular clown.”
That did the trick. The fear in her voice was gone. Now if he could just convince himself. He pulled the Universal Light from his utility belt and tossed it straight up, underhanded. The UL hit the steel overhead, stuck, and filled the room with blessed bright light. And shadows so sharp, everything seemed to move as he turned and started toward the airlock. His shadow grew longer and more distorted with distance. The urge to run nearly overwhelmed him. He was acting like a kid who’d got spooked over a stupid ghost story. The airlock seemed as far away as when he’d started. When his shadow finally crossed the threshold, he lunged into the little room and slammed the close button.
The door didn't move.
"What happened?" Destiny demanded. The alarm had returned to her voice.
"Door didn't shut."
He yanked the emergency override. Powerful springs slammed the door closed. The small space went pitch dark. All he heard was his own breath coming out in rapid wheezes. Then scraping sounds drifted in like…fingernails on the airlock door? Maybe boots scuffling on the deck beyond?
Then the opposite door hissed and slid open. Light haloed Destiny. She stood like an angel, backlit by the light of their ship. An angel with a blaster in her hand. That was his Destiny. She’d saved his ass three years ago when Bakmorn hijackers had him cornered behind an asteroid. If she hadn’t yanked his ship out of their line of fire, then dragged him along with her into warp, he wouldn’t be here now.
She lowered the weapon as she reached in and grasped his suit-front. He lunged forward with her yank and they tumbled onto the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. The familiar smells of clean metal and fresh air-conditioning flooded around him. His cock pulsed in response to the pressure of her lush breasts against his arm. Damn, he’d never been more glad to get home. He gave her a hard kiss.
Destiny kissed him back, then shoved to her feet, kicked the emergency close lever, and faced him. She extended a hand and lifted her brow. “You going to stay down there?”
Richards grasped her hand and rose.
"What’s wrong?" she asked.
He frowned. "What?"
"You’re white as a sheet."
"I'm not going back in there."
"No, you're not. We're going to cut that ship up and sell it for scrap."
Eight hours later, Richards and Destiny studied the screen of the Pale Dawn’s cargo hold. They’d stowed all but one remaining salvageable part from the Yeoman’s Glory in the hold.
“Chop up that last piece of the hull.” Destiny rose from the console. She dropped a kiss on the top of his head. “I’ll rustle up something to eat.”
His gaze snagged on her hips and he swiveled in his chair far enough to watch as she crossed to the door. She stepped over the metal lip at the doorway, drawing her skin tight leather pants tighter about the curve of her buttocks. Richards’ heart jumped. She had the same affect on him every time he looked at her. They’d been together three years. A lifetime in space. He’d never told her he loved her. Did she know? He grunted a laugh as she disappeared around a bend in the corridor. She was a woman. She knew.
Richards faced the monitor. He grasped the joystick, then froze. The remaining piece of hull that hung in space in front of the Pale Dawn contained a twenty-by-three meter piece of plexiglass that had once been the window of the ship’s bridge. A figure stood at the window as if standing on the nonexistent metal floor, staring out into space…straight at Richards.
Richards gripped the joystick and jammed down its button. A laser shot in a straight line from the Pale Dawn. He yanked the stick downward and the laser sliced down the middle of the window—and straight through the figure. An animal scream shook the Pale Dawn. Force of the sound threw Richards from his seat. He hit the floor, his head thudding against the metal. Pain bounced off his skull. He groped for the chair, his fingers closing around air. A shadow fell across him. His heart pounded.
The lights went out.
We’ll be giving away a copy of our erotic Space Opera Sasha’s Calling
Spy for hire Sasha Smirnov has stolen classified data. One man stands in her way of escape: sexy diplomat Dirk Roscoepilot. A sizzling kiss burns him into her memory—and her body. She stows away on a spaceship, only to find Dirk is the pilot. She doesn’t count on the passion that explodes between them, or the choice that forces her into his bed. If she is to save her planet, Sasha must get as far away from Dirk as possible.
Available from Loose Id
Available from Loose Id