Freya's Tears

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Mission: Book Two - Ginnungagap
Location: New Pacifica - Freya's Tears

“Still no word?” Els asked. She made her way through the cramped engine room to the dorsal airlock, her stride stiff in the EVA suit. A couple of portable generators sat in the middle of the deck, surrounded by her engineers and gunners. Five people in a working space meant for two made moving about difficult.

“Not a peep.” Kasli attached the glove of her suit, wiggling it to confirm it had locked into the clamp at the end of the sleeve. She picked up her helmet, tucking it under one arm. “Naya’s been pinging their ship and on the horn for an hour now without a response.”

A faint clunk overhead indicated physical contact had been made with the yacht. A whine heralded the extension of the inflatable airlock from Freya’s Tears to the Kusanagi. Els slid past Kolodka, Hrothgar and Tobias—all similarly clad in heavy suits—to access the intercom. “Austin? How’s it looking?”

“Right on schedule, Skipper. Airlock is attached; just give it another minute to hook into their systems and I’ll send an announcement over their internal comms.”

“We’ll wait for your word.” Els turned to the others. “You’ve all had a look at the schematics, so you know the layout. I want Kol and Hroth to head aft to the engine room and survey the damage. Look for survivors, but focus on the engines. I doubt we’ll get this bird up and running again, but maybe we can part out the remaining drive.” Turning to her gunners, she continued. “The three of us will start at the bridge and work our way back. There’s always a possibility that someone’s still alive in there.”

Tobias grinned, patting the pistol at his side.

Hrothgar grimaced. “That’ll only work if there’s atmo inside, hinge-head.”

As Tobias’s eyes narrowed and the smile faded from his face, Els stepped between them and glared warning at her brother. He made a face and looked away. Sometimes she wondered if she should just lock him and Tobias into a room and let them have at it. Maybe that would cut through their testosterone-laden animosity toward each other. Turning her attention to Tobias, she said, “And if someone’s alive, we’ll render assistance. I don’t run that kind of ship. Is that understood?”

Austin interrupted Tobias’s grumble. “No response to the announcement, Skipper. Not a blip in any external readings, either. If there’s someone still breathing in there, they don’t have access to ship systems.”

“Looks like this is it, then.” Els pulled her helmet over her head, twisting it until it locked in place. A faint hiss of air ruffled her hair, indicating the seal was good and the oxygen feed worked. She hit a button with her chin, accessing the suit’s comm signal. “Gear check and then we board in pairs. Tobias and me first, then Kasli and Kol. Hrothgar will bring up the rear.”

They took a final moment to visually confirm the operation of each others’ suits before Tobias climbed up the ladder, Els behind him. Tobias plugged a command into the control panel and a metal iris dialed open, revealing a three foot diameter hole above him. Els followed as he pushed through. Once she passed into the airlock tube and beyond the ship’s confines, gravity disappeared. She looked down at Kasli with a smile and a thumbs up before closing the airlock behind her by the external controls.

Tobias had already traversed the short distance to the other side. He waited for Els, one hand bearing a pistol and the other hovering over the yacht’s door controls. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.” Despite the lack of contact with anyone aboard the yacht, Els nevertheless braced herself as best she could.

Tobias tripped the entry mechanism, aiming his pistol as the door sank in an inch and rolled to one side. He switched on his exterior suit lights and cautiously floated inside. “No gravity.”

“Use your boots.” What had been “up” in the airlock now became “forward” since the yacht’s entry point was via the starboard side of the ship. Els reached the entry and mentally adjusted her perspective as she pushed inside, turning on lights and the EVA suit magnetics. Pushing down from the airlock door, her boots connected with the deck. Walking didn’t feel natural in magnetic boots, but it beat flailing around in an unfamiliar ship. She slapped the airlock mechanism, the door sliding shut behind her. “Kasli, airlock’s closed. No lights or gravity on this end.”

“Got it, Els.”

Els scanned the room which looked like the primary entry foyer for the ship. She accessed the sensor pad on her left arm. “This atmosphere is soup.”

“At least no hull breach,” Tobias said, moving away from the entrance. “That’s something.”

“It also means someone survived to have used all the available air.” Els surveyed the room, turning in place. Other than a few oddments floating around and a lack of lights, the place could have been open for business. A plaque on the far wall showed a romanticized image of the yacht streaking through space along with its name, serial number and the date its keel had been originally laid down. “You were right, Austin. This baby’s only five years old. She is top of the line.”

“I knew it! We can’t leave until I can get aboard, Skipper. Okay?”

Els smiled. “Wouldn’t dream of denying you.” The airlock door opened to allow Kasli and Kolodka aboard. The old engineer shoved a portable generator ahead of him.

Kasli closed the airlock. “You’re up, Hrothgar.” She walked to Els’s side. “Why don’t you and Tobias get started? I’ll stay here with Kol until Hroth gets here, then meet you on the bridge.”

“Sounds good.” Els took the portable generator, knowing that her brother was bringing the other. “Austin, Naya, we’re heading to the bridge. Hopefully we can get enough juice running through the computers to open a comm line.”

“Can’t wait, Captain,” Naya chirped.

Beyond the forward door was a tiny common room with nothing more than a kitchenette built into a bulkhead and a table with four chairs. Four doors—two on each side—opened up to crew quarters and a fifth door loomed ahead. The schematics they’d located indicated these rooms were two cabins and two bunks for staff and crew. All but one of them was sealed. Tobias poked his head into the fourth. “Found our first victim.” He stepped inside to give Els room.

A man floated in a cloud of crimson dust. His body had putrefied, bloating and sagging in ways a human shouldn’t. Els approached with revulsion, glad she was breathing from an oxygen tank rather than the fetid air of the yacht. A number of items floated in the room with the corpse, the detritus of a life. A pistol drifted past her feet, and she stooped to capture it. Forcing herself closer, she peered at the body, uncertain whether the significant damage at its temple was self-inflicted or not. “Looks like he might have offed himself.”

Tobias scanned the room. “Can’t blame him.”

Els had to agree. She tucked the pistol into the utility belt at her waist, giving the room another glance. There were three bunks bolted into one wall and a row of three lockers occupying another. The corpse was dressed in stylish clothing, not a military uniform or utilitarian jump suit. “I’d say he was the comp sys or a steward.”

Hrothgar’s voice came over the comm. “I’m aboard. Kol and me are heading back to engineering.”

“Kasli, Tobias and I are going to continue forward,” Els said, stepping out of the bunk room. “Check the three other rooms off the common area as you make your way toward us.”

“Will do.”

Els gestured for Tobias to take point. As they reached the door at the far end, she glanced back to see Kasli entering by the kitchenette.

“Two more bodies,” Tobias intoned. He shouldered onto the bridge.

For a smaller ship, the Kusanagi boasted a bridge about the size of Freya’s Tears. Four work stations were crammed into the same area and the computer bank occupied the back wall. Els released the portable power generator, letting it drift near the door as she stepped inside.

Two of the workstations were occupied, each body in as bad a state as the one she’d already seen. The consoles where they sat showed heavy damage, one from fire and the other had literally exploded. It was at this station that Els noted the shards of plastisteel embedded in the corpse’s chest. “Major damage to the controls…looks like the primary computer system console and navigation.” She got as close as she dared to the explosion victim. “I’m not sure, but I think this was the captain.”

Tobias gave the body a critical examination. “Looks like shrapnel severed an artery. He probably died within minutes.”

“I’ve got four body bags in the crew habitat,” Kasli stated.

Els looked out the yacht’s window, seeing the dorsal bulk of her ship to starboard. “So the one man at least had time to take care of their remains before giving up.”

“We’ve got four more back here,” Kolodka said. “Two in the passenger area and the technicians in the engine room.”

“Are they in body bags?” Els asked.

Hrothgar answered. “Nope. The passengers were shot. Looks like the techs died from wounds received when their drive engine was ruptured. One’s a crispy critter and the other is in pieces.”

Els felt her gorge rise. “I think we can safely say this ship’s available for salvage.” She swallowed and turned to the computer banks at the back of the bridge. “Tobias, head aft and check out the rest of the ship. Kasli, get up here and help me with the power generator. I want to get Naya hooked up to this computer so we can find out what happened.”

“On my way.”

Tobias tapped his helmet with his fingers in salute before leaving.

Els located the appropriate panel and began removing it. “Kol, any chance of this ship starting up again?”

“Nope. The damage to the drive is too extensive. Can’t see it from outside, but the hole blew right into the guts of the second drive. Ain’t an engine on board this ship that’ll ever run again.”

“Okay.” Kasli’s appearance interrupted Els a moment as they shared a solemn look. “Tobias, locate the medbay, see if there are any more body bags. Let’s at least get take care of the remains before ransacking the ship.”

As her crew went to work, so did she with Kasli at her side.


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