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This is coming along really well. I think I still need to do a little work with the main character. I have to settle into his voice a little more completely, but I’m liking how this is turning out.


Fleet 6

They threw me back into my cell with less ceremony than I felt I deserved but with about as much as I figured I’d get. My shoulder and sides ached from Cord’s knee and at least one of his massive fists. I jumped to my feet as soon as they took the gravity back to normal and spun on the door with a fighter’s smile splitting my face.

“C’mon, boys.” I yelled at the retreating guards. “Line ’em up. Let’s get this wagon train a movin’!”

They shared a worried look that made me laugh. It’s hard to explain to most people, and impossible to really understand unless you’ve been there, but there is something about being in a fight that just makes you love life. It’s not the violence or the pain, it’s the pure primal savagery of it. The primitive act of standing against an enemy. Mankind is going to have to evolve for several million more years before we get rid of that one. I knew laughing like a maniac and screaming lines from old American westerns wasn’t going to help my reputation on ship any, but at this point I figured it probably wouldn’t hurt it very much either.

The cuff of my left sleeve had torn at some point during the fight so I tore it the rest of the way free and used the cloth to wipe blood from my cheek. So much for clean clothes. I turned at the sound of running feet and found Janet jogging to my cell with a medical bag in hand. She slowed to a stop outside of arm’s reach and raised an eyebrow. “Do I have to re-test you for psychosis?”

“No,” I snorted. “But you might want to check Cord for rabies.”

“Why? Did you bite him?”

I laughed again and pointed at the med bag. “Got an ice pack in there?”

A smile snuck across her face and proved me right, she was stunning when she let herself be. She tapped the controls on her grav-gun and my cell door slid open, letting her in. She forced me to sit while she cleaned and examined my wounds. I swear she made it a point to jab every forming bruise at least twice and pour generous amounts of alcohol on every cut. Her fussing hurt worse than the fight had.

I heard more running feet about the time she finally handed me an ice pack. Curtis rounded the corner into view. “What the hell, Wade?” He didn’t waste any time. “I heard you was beating on Cord.”

“That was quick.”

“You kidding? There’s already a petition going around to have the secure cam footage edited and aired after supper.”

“Did you sign it?” I asked.

Curtis beamed. “Twice.” He seemed to see Janet for the first time. “You okay?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I gave better than I got, but I think the freak liked it.”

“Maybe, but maybe now isn’t the time you should be finding things like that out.”

“They can’t really think I killed Isabella?”

Curtis and Janet shared a look and she handed me a small bottle of pain killers. “Well, no.” Curtis said. “I don’t think anyone really thinks that.”

There was a note in his voice I didn’t like. “But?”

“Well…somebody killed her,” Janet said. “And she’s not the first.”

Curtis’ jaw dropped. “Janet!”

“Jesus, Curtis! What the Hell did you drag me into?!?”

“Hey, I -told- you to leave that party!” He snapped back at me.

“Okay,” I roared back. “Fine. Its not your fault. You didn’t kidnap me. Just tell me what the Hell is going on.”

Curtis shrank away and dropped his gaze. Janet watched him for a second and then answered for him. “We have six dead,” she said.

“Six?”

“Maybe seven.”

“What the hell do you mean ‘maybe seven’?”

Curtis answered for her, “Well, the third mate got a bad dose of gas in his tube so he never woke from cryo. But we were pretty sure that was an accident.”

“Pretty sure.” I muttered. “And the others?”

“First two we thought the AG field was malfunctioning, it happens some times, but I checked that system top to bottom. The rest were just like Izzy.”

“Shot by their own grav-gun.”

“Which we didn’t find after, yeah.”

I started to shake my head, thought better of it, and tore the top off the bottle of pain reliever. The medicine was old enough to still be in pill form but with luck it was still potent. Janet watched me choke down a few of the bitter tasting pills and slowly zippered the medical bag shut. I looked from one to the other. Neither of them met my eyes and neither of them was saying anything. “Okay,” I said. “What else?”

Janet pretended I hadn’t spoken and Curtis tried to play dumb. “Huh?” he said.

“Why did you revive me? You’re a couple weeks from breakdown and people are dying on the deck. The last thing you need is to start waking up people you shanghaied.”

Janet gave a half-hearted shrug. Curtis turned, stepping back out of the cell. “C’mon man,” he said. “The Captain is waiting on you.”

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