“Missile tubes.” Gerald gnawed his lower lip . . . then leaned as an odd sparkle danced across the rounded tip . . . “Is that a laser? Who's got lasers out here?”
"Most miners. Some of the industrial-sized ones are quite impresive."
A white flash, an expanding sphere of gas, dark bits of debris . . . multiple overlapping flashes and gas clouds.
Spence reached and turned off his radio, Gerald did the same, raising his eyebrows.
“Dee’s out there in the Greyhound, running dark.” Spence grinned. “I’m not sure I would have had the nerve to jump if I hadn’t known that.”
Gerald rubbed his temples. “That was well planned. You must have moved as soon as we were out of sight. Dare I ask how long ago you saw this coming?”
“Oh, I knew you’d need to be rescued.” He nodded at the other women. “When we got the news about the pirates hitting the shuttle, I knew there was a chance they’d be there on Fifteen, so we expanding the possible scenarios. And I’m really glad we didn’t have to raid Ceres.”
Gerald sighed. “Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll ask why. Until then, I’m going to enjoy surviving that.”
Spence nodded. “So, ladies? May I introduce Gerald Fallon, the Marshal of the Asteroid Belt? I believe you’ve met his family. Gerald, this is Keri, and Mona. And the other three I haven’t had time to introduce myself to.”
“I’m Angel Baylor, that’s Eppie Weiner, and Irene Young. Umm, thank you?” Angel looked uncertainly, untrustingly, between the two men. Sarah’s death grip on him seemed to reassure them, their wariness settled on Spence.
Who was apparently oblivious to it. He kept glancing back at the screens. “I’m Harold Spencer, and we’re heading for Station Zero. Apparently without further pursuit.”
“You said we were low on fuel?” One of the women looked worried.
Spence nodded. “We’ll rendezvous with my equipment, load up and be at Zero in about six days. My partner is out there with my ship, if we need help.”
“There’s no ship on the scope.”
“Dee stayed well back.” He looked back at the scope himself, and dialed the zoom back. There was nothing coming out of the station, and on the far side, the blinking spots of two ID beacons. “There they are. Equipment and Greyhound. Dee’s coming out to meet us.” Spence stretched and started getting out of his suit.
Gerald leaned to finger it. Polygonal mirrors covering gray canvas coveralls with lots of slits. “Good grief. That’s . . . interesting.”
Almost as interesting as all the stuff under it.
Spence had tools and weapons, strapped over sections some composite armor, strapped over normal coveralls, over his skinsuit.
“This old thing? I just threw it on. I’ll go out and attach the ship-to-ship tube when Dee gets here, and then you have an appointment with my medical kit.”
Sarah sat up.
Gerald winced. “Shot through the meaty part of my leg. Barely slowed me down.”
Spence grinned. “I didn’t even have to carry him once. But I’m going to take a good hard look at it.”
“I’m a nurse.” Sarah glared at Gerald. “You pin him down, I’ll check him out.”
“Deal. Hold these, will you?” Spence handed him the rifle and the belt with three pistols and six magazines. “I’ll be right back.”
Spence went back to the harpoon controls to reel in the cable, then headed for the airlock.
Gerald looked up through the overhead. The Greyhound's lights were obvious . . . But why is it the hull so dark? And . . . not even maneuvering jets in use.
It sank out of sight as Spence closed the airlock door. The pumps evacuating the airlock were loud in the silence. Various clanks and thuds from that direction.
Gerald looked back to where the freed women were huddling.
"You swear he's safe?" Angel, one of the women who didn't know Spence, had her arms wrapped around herself.
Keri reached out and hugged her. "He's good, and we're safe. You'll see."
None-the-less, Gerald floated over to the airlock, guns close to hand. The thumping noises ceased, and the pressure gauge started climbing.
The red light turned green and the door started cycling. Gerald waved everyone out of line with the airlock as it popped out and slid aside.
Spence was lifting his faceplate, and grinned at the gun. "So you're finally listening to me?"
Dee floated past overhead. "Marshal Fallon!" in indignant tones, then she kicked off the frame and soared across the room. "Fawn! Keri! Mona!"
"Dee!" Big floating hugs and tears that couldn't flow in microgravity.
Spence shook his head. "Feeling left out, Cody?"
"Heck no. Girl Cooties everywhere."
Spence chuckled. "Right, now I need to dig a bullet out of your Dad. Dee? Stay here, so there's a pilot on each ship. I'll close the airlocks, but not pump anything."
Gerald helped himself across to the Greyhound and down a deck. Took the pills Spence handed him and let everything fade out for a bit.
When he woke up, the lights were dim but he could see that he was back in his familiar bunk. He could hear a voice . . . Dee’s . . . in a cadence as if reading . . . he picked up the words and smiled in recognition. The Hobbit. But why is she reading it?
He pried himself out of the bunk . . . and realized there was a bit of gravity . . . he moved carefully and opened the door.
Dee was sitting on the floor leaning on the partition between Cody’s and Fawn’s cubbyholes, Sarah was at the table, and rose when she spotted him.
Dee waved and kept reading.
Sarah tiptoed over to him and felt his forehead before she hugged him. “We’ve docked with the equipment package, and Spence set us up in a triangle with a bit of spin.” She kept her voice down.
He felt her shivering and hugged her harder. I almost lost them. Because I’m a hard-headed idiot who believed everything I was told before I ever started. Who wouldn’t listen to the man all the locals respected, who they looked to when there was a problem. Who knew he would take care of it.
“Good. I . . . think I’ll start listening to him, now. Pity I didn’t earlier.” He kept his voice to a whisper.
She shuddered . . . and shook her head. “No, if we’d gone straight to Station Zero, those five women would still be their captives. And yes, they’re all prostitutes. But they weren’t slaves until the pirates took them. They’re pretty tough, but they still were in fear of their lives for two weeks, and beaten and . . . and . . . not treated well at all.”
He tightened his hold. And you feared for the same, for you and the kids.
“Well . . . I guess we’ll find out about Station Zero . . . soon.”