The overalls were scaled with reflective polygons. In an environment like the inside of nearly any space station of ship, with all the gray metal and white paint around, he was not so much invisible as hard to spot and identify. Slits all over, for accessing the weapons and tools on the belt.
The combat helmet, mostly for the secure communications.
He sealed it, all green lights. Hood up.
"Right. Blow it."
The explosive bolts popped, cutting off the ship's docking points.
He gave the fools in the docking boom ten seconds to react.
A tiny jolt of the side thrusters.
"Outer Airlock unlocked and cycling—closing. Good seal."
Green light and he hit the emergency exit sequence on the pad. Not standard. Not at all.
The inner door slid open. He leaped in. It closed immediately and the outer door popped. He jumped with the burst of air.
The skinsuit inflated, the liquid in the tiny bubbles throughout flashed into gas, expanding, squeezing his limbs and torso. The padded shoulder harness leaked glue and sealed to his skin. Helmet already sealed. Not as safe as a hard suit, but then he wasn't doing anything remotely safe here.
He was in line with the station, all he needed was something to grab . . . one of the cables that steadied the docking boom . . . was going to be a little out of reach . . . he reached through a slit and pulled out the hook, extended the handle and snagged the cable, rotated around it and grabbed it left handed, squeezed it hard enough to slow and slide down it to a soft stop on the outside of the long tube of the dock. He turned toward the wheel and pushed off to skim along the tube.
All he needed now was an airlock . . .
Chapter Marshal on 15
"I've got to say it's a relief to be back in civilization." Gerald looked both ways, at vistas of normalcy.
The rotating wheel of the station maintained an apparent gravity of 1g and right here was split vertically into three levels. Large openings in the floor/ceilings gave the whole an airy spaciousness, even if he could see from the edges that they could be sealed off, and something he'd judge as an eighth of the wheel had vertical partitions extending all the way up and down with airlocks inside a sealed area accessed by rotating doors that, in theory, in the event of a hull breach, would slow the loss of air while minimally impeding evacuation.
"We try, we try. Now, the hotel is spinward," Mayor Benny Morgan jerked his thumb to the left, "and my offices are anti. Delilah, why don't you take Mrs. Fallon and the kids and get them settled in, while I brief the Marshal on some recent events?"
Gerald met Sarah's gaze and she nodded. "I know it was barely half an hour in zero g, but I'd love to lay down and let my balance re-adjust."
Not to mention, your stomach? "Good idea. I'll meet you at the hotel."
He watched them walking down the broad aisle, and tried to put aside his doubts.
Damn Spence for making me worry!
He turned back to the Mayor. "Yes we heard about the attack on the ferry. Do you have details? That's exactly the sort of thing I'm supposed to prevent. I wish, now, I'd been enroute to Station 345 so I could question the crew and passengers in person."
The mayor nodded. "I have top of the line communications gear in my office. Nothing I can do about the time lag in the signal, but as soon as the ferry gets to 345, you should be able to talk to them . . . in fact we'll check in on them immediately. They should be close, if not there already—at this point they may have opted for a bit more speed over keeping a safety margin of water."
Water equals fuel and air. I'm starting to understand the mindset out here.
"Excellent idea." Gerald followed the mayor through the revolving door. The airlock had both doors open, so they walked straight through, and through the revolving door on this side. This side looked to be mostly businesses and light manufacturing.
"I . . . am also curious about Harold Spence. He seems to have quite a history out here, but no one on Ganymed would talk much about him. It was a bit ominous, but he was the only ride out here. Where he’s obviously got some history."
The mayor shrugged. "It's all gossip and rumor. To the best of my knowledge he's never been a pirate, himself. But being based out of Zero, he probably deals with them regularly, and knows who's who."
"Yeah. I wondered about that, for all he seems to have a pretty good mining setup."
The mayor gestured Gerald to the right. A broad white painted building with a few tall, narrow windows and two sets of double doors. City Hall painted above. "Not fancy, but definitely functional."
Gerald noted the guards, the thickness of the outer wall . . . defensible. Do they actually worry about pirate attacks at a major station?
"Come into my office for a moment, then I'll take you down to the communications room." The mayor led the way through a spacious lobby, and turning to walk between two concrete stair cases, one going up to the rear of the building and one heading up toward the front. A short corridor and into his office. The mayor waved Gerald into a chair and circled the desk to face him.
The doors closed him. Gerald glanced back. Two guards had entered behind them, one threw a pair of bolts, then they both turned and put their backs to it.
He glanced at the laser watch as if checking the time, touched the arming button.
The mayor grinned. "Does Earth really think they can send one man out here to clean up piracy? Ha! But don't worry. You and your family are very valuable. Bait to catch that annoying prick. 'Spence.' The Old Man. The Sliders all follow him."
"Mayor Morgan, this is a very bad idea . . ." He broke off at the mayor's laugh.
"Not nearly as bad an idea as bringing your family along." A toothy grin. "I really like teenage virgins. And Delilah loves little boys. He . . . oh, excuse me . . . she is probably having a great time, right now."
The controls for the airlock at the base of docking tube C were easy enough to hack. He turned off the alarms and cancelled all notification instructions and changed the password.
Overkill. Unlikely I'll be coming back this way. But I haven't lived this long by assuming anything.
He cycled through and found the tube empty. Floated out into the rotating hub, grabbed a handhold to get his feet on the floor. His tracking scope showed three blips near spoke one, and the other blip a third of the way around the outer rim.
Damn. They've split up.
He persuaded the door to the elevator shaft to open and grabbed the ladder rungs. Head down at first, going fast. The spin of the station held him against the ladder, more than he'd like actually, slowing him down as it rotated into him. He slowed at the bottom, swung around and climbed the last few meters to the first floor. The tracking scope still angled down.
Clicks and hums, muffled voices . . . The elevator rose. He dropped down a few more rungs and flattened. Plenty of room as the car stopped beside him to disgorge people. And stayed there.
Spence edged down and clear of the motors under the passenger section, dropped to the second floor. Yes this was the one. He triggered the door latch, pulled door apart and slipped out. Stepped to the side and kept going, a moving mirage. Pulled back the long sleeve of the reflecting suit to watch the tracker . . . right there.
Hotel. Dare I hope they're safe? Should I have found the marshal first?
Running footsteps behind him. He stepped in front of a multicolor jumble of pipes . . . two men in uniform ran past and barreled through the door of the hotel. Spence threw himself through the door in their wake.
"In there! In there!" a bald man waved at a massive door with an electronic lock. "I've locked them in but I think they attacked Dalilah!"
"Unlock the door."
The bald man scurried over to punch in numbers. And frown and try again.
"They've done something to the lock!"
The uniformed men shifted, lifting their guns . . .
Easy to shoot through the door and hit someone . . .
Spence pulled out the hook. Turned it around and used the back of the hook to pop Baldy on the back of his head.
Flip the hook, reach over the first man's shoulder and snag the bottom of his unsealed helmet, and jerk hard. Off with the helmet and rebound to hit his skull.
And then as the second guard turned, block his rifle with the hook, left hand pistol up under the faceplate, and a single shot took care of that problem.
He rapped his knuckles on the door. "Slider Spaceways. Anyone need a ride?"
The door flew open and the first woman through grabbed him and hugged him, mirror suit and all.
She let him go quickly. "We knew someone would come, and when the new woman said Spence brought them . . . "
"Is everyone here?" He spotted Sarah and the kids . . . and the dissected lock panel. Grinned. Atta boy! Two women from Zero he knew, the other three were strangers, and looking as frightened of him as of the goons at his feet.
"Yes. This is all of us." Keri was blinking back tears.
Sarah shot her a dirty look. "No! Spence, Gerry went off with that mayor person."
Keri snatched the downed guards' weapons, handed the one to Mona.
"Relax, I've got a bug on him too. But first we need to get you all to a ship. Keri? Mona? Did they let you roam at all?" He headed across the lobby to the main doors.
"We got here two days ago. Got took out once to a ‘party.’ The city hall is a fortress. If her husband was as naïve as they were, well . . . " Mona shrugged and tucked the pistol out of sight.
"Right. Just walk out like you have every right to be here. Take the elevator to the hub." Spence slid out the door. Shaking his long sleeves down over his hand and darting away. Everyone will look at the women . . .
But looking was all they did. A few dubious glances, but they all crowded aboard the elevator and the doors closed. Spence eyed the people, going back to work, popped the doors open and headed up the shaft.
The elevator stopped at the next level.
Masculine tones. "Ooo wee, what do we have here? Going somewhere, ladies?" The doors closed and the elevator rose again.
Damn, how do I get out if no one summons the elevator? Spence climbed, the apparent gravity dropping as he got closer to the hub. Above him, the car stopped and he heard everyone getting off. Masculine laughter.
"Hey, kid don't push the button . . . Damn it . . . "
The elevator doors closed and Spence flattened to let the car pass.
He pried up the latch and shoved the door open as a sharp double-bang echoed around the hub.
Mona had her purloined gun out. Two men floated off, a double trail of blood globes floating behind them.
"Well, there's one problem settled." He grabbed Sarah Fallen by the foot as she flailed helplessly. Lost her sticky shoes.
"Those were part of the pirate crew. Damn them to hell. What now?" Keri was standing still, the rotating hub had a tiny but of centripetal force, if one was in contact with the outer ring.
"There are several ships in dock, a big one at B-3 and a smaller one at A-8. Neither look like mining ships. I couldn't get a good look at the others."
Mona gazed up at the wide holes in the wall. "The ship that took us was small. They talked on the radio with at least one other. We docked at B-1."