, , , ,

Fleet 28

The rear room of the security office wasn’t actually a room. It was another set of stairs. They looked like emergency stairs, close set to the wall and narrow. Cord barely managed to fit down them. Just to be on the safe side I waited until I heard the pained grunting stop before sliding into the cramped space after him.

The ladder came out in the bowels of the ship below the first deck. The ceiling here was barely enough for me to stand in and I could see Cord hunching mightily as he moved toward a workbench bolted to the wall on one side of the trough-like room. Heavy machinery was bolted together in a long row on the floor and the trough seemed to run almost the full length of the ship. Everything was coated in a strange, non-reflective dark steel coating.

“What the hell is this?” I asked.

“It’s our A.G. drive system.” Cord said with a grunt. “The trough runs the full length of the ship, and the machinery projects our grav field. This is where we keep the control circuits for the grav guns. It’s the most heavily shielded area of the ship. There are only two access points, both controlled and manned constantly. And if that ain’t secure enough for you, the control chips are in a blast proof safe.”

He waved at a heavy brown box on the wall and I shrugged. “Okay, okay,” I said. “I get it. Sorry if I thought you were a dumb ass earlier.”

“Damn right.”

Cord pulled a key card from his pocket and used it and a punch code to open the heavy locker. He pulled on a pair of anti-static gloves and took out a small crystal board. He waved his free hand in my direction. “Grav gun.”

I dropped the butt of the grav gun into his waiting hand and stood back to watch. Cord put the crystal board to the side and methodically took the gun apart, checking and testing every wire and contact inside frame work before powering the system and checking everything again. He moved like a pro, smooth and easy, shifting from one test to the next with barely a break between to adjust the instruments.

“You’re pretty good at that,” I said.

He snorted. “Better be. I was assistant chief electrician on an orbit liner for about five years before joining the ‘Mercy’.”

“What made you sign up for the long haul?”

Cord paused in mid motion. “Got in a bit of a mess with some of our regular tourists. Ended up being three different families wanting a claim on my hide.” He leered at me over his shoulder. “One of them with twin girls. Anyway, back in those days there was no where else to run and the people after me were mad enough to send the law along with an order for genetic comparison so I signed aboard the first long haul ship that would have me. Been here ever since.”

“How long ago was that?”

“About twelve years waking ship time, maybe eighty or more Earth time. I don’t really keep track anymore.”

He finished testing the circuits and slipped the crystal board in place. “Give me your implant arm.”

I held out my arm and he scanned the implant with a frequency scan unit and fed the data into the system. After a few more tweaks he handed the gun back to me. “It still won’t work,” he said. “The Captain will have to authorize it from her office terminal, but everything else is ready, so as soon as she gets the time, you’ll be good to go.”