This is from book four of my Blown Away Series. Here, Avery and Trouble go out on their first mission to investigate an abandonned mining scoop called The Gold Digger.
“This whole situation seems unusual.” Trouble stepped into an open bay and let her gaze travel across the immense interior. The deck had an inoperable lift and emergency ladder for evacuation, should the power be cut, which it was. One shuttle remained in the bay, ice caked its exterior like frosting. Crates full of raw ore sat packed, waiting for transport to a smelting plant—billions in abandoned credit, left behind like trash.“ Why would anyone abandon the scoop and this cargo? A captain would never leave this behind. I see one shuttle, perhaps it belonged to the command crew, but why wouldn’t they have taken it? It’s weird.”
“They didn’t abandon it.”
“Well, it’s the only one left.” She surveyed the hold again; nothing retained any heat as though anyone were present, or had been present for quite some time. The lights in the bay flickered on. Trouble closed her eyes to block the brightness. She reached for the controls on the lift, but it didn’t move. Frozen like everything else onboard. She’d have to take the ladder down. “This whole ship looks pretty abandoned to me.”
“Not from where I’m standing. I’ve got bodies stacked up like firewood—a total of seven. Looks like your command crew. Well, some of them. I see the First Mate, but the ordnance officer, medical officer, security officer and captain aren’t present. Looks like a skeleton crew. Bare bones—what they’d leave behind to watch the ship until help could be brought in. Heating malfunction maybe.”
“But that doesn’t make sense. The captain wouldn’t abandon his ship to anyone else,” she said. “Not for a broken boiler,” she mumbled.
“A mutiny might explain it, but I’d expect to see blast marks and bodies everywhere. The ship would look like a war zone.”
“Who would kill them? They’re miners, right?”
“Yeah, but the question you should ask yourself is who stacked the bodies. It looks like they were prepared for a burial. I’ve got some kind of funny ritual marks carved all over them—post mortem. No blood.”
“Ritual marks?” Only people she could think of, used ritual marks to prepare the dead for the afterlife, and as Avery had mentioned, carved into the flesh. The funny symbols designated their rank and position after translation. Not good. Trouble’s heart pounded against her ribs. “What kind of marks?”
“Circles inside circles, intertwining braids and hash marks. I’ve even got a sun, pierced with what looks like a lightning bolts. This is unlike anything I’ve seen before.”
“What you describe sounds like an Odroxian ritual preformed prior to cremation.”
“What did you just say?”
“Oh crap.” Trouble fired up her blaster rifle. It began to hum. “Avery?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“How far away are you?”
“One minute—and running.”
“I’m starting up the shuttle. Did you see the bomb?” She put the blaster on percussion and fired a bolt at the shuttle. Ice shattered and slid off in sheets, dropping to the deck around it.
“No. Did you?”
“Negative.” Trouble slid the strap of her blaster onto her shoulder and yanked her helmet off. She needed to see each step and the visor hindered too much of her visuals. She scrambled down the ladder descending as fast as she could without losing her footing. One of the frozen steel bars snapped like a twig and her boots slipped out from under her, slamming her face against a metal rung. A crunch filled her head.
Bells rang in her ears. Trouble kicked out, trying to reclaim her footing, but the soles of her boots failed to find purchase and slipped again. Her weight dropped, breaking her grip. The blaster strap came free from her shoulder and the weapon raced her to the frozen deck, landing first with a loud clang and then sliding several feet away. She hit on her back and smacked her head again. Pain pounded through her skull and bright lights filled her eyes.
She rolled to her knees, her head swimming, and her lungs burning. The world around her spun. She didn’t want to die, not like this—not this way. The knees of her squeeze suit stuck to the decking as she tried to crawl and her hands slipped out from under her. Trouble collapsed to her belly. “I’m stuck to the deck. The heated threads…” She gasped, still unable to draw a solid breath. Why had she thought taking her helmet off was a good idea?
This time the voice wasn’t in her head. The rails of the ladder sang. Pellets of fractured ice bounced off the docking pad, followed by a loud thud as Avery’s feet hit the deck. A hand circled her bicep. He lifted her up, heaved over his shoulder and ran across the deck, breathing heavy but otherwise unaffected by what she suffered. Everything blurred before her eyes.
“Stay with me, Devoe.”
“Not going anywhere.” Then everything went black.