This is an extract from Chapter 4 of Running Out of Space, which I’m planning to publish in the summer, along with Dying for Space and Breathing Space. Jezell is being carpeted by her father, the Iberian merchant space captain when a situation flares involving the ship…
As the Cap and Josian continued playing tunes on the emergency console, a rumbling shudder started somewhere beneath our feet.
That’s the engines. Is this a mega-bluff or is the Cap really going to take on the whole station?
SS Hawking was one of the planetoid class of space stations. Trader Level was sited around the equator, with the docking bays fanning out from reinforced spokes known as pontoons. The Cap was threatening to blast the pontoon connecting Bright Nova to Hawking.
Not that he’ll do it. There’s three other merchanters docked in the same bay… he won’t, will he? Because if he does and those three ships find themselves adrift, they could crash into the air membrane, or each other. Hundreds could die…
Screens dotting the console reflected rainbow colours across their faces, while the Cap and El Segundo watched the firefight on the docks, in between dealing with the coms-traf stacking up.
Watching all this unfold in front of me – so like a holovid – felt unreal. Seesawing between terror and excitement, I held my breath, hoping the Cap would continue to ignore my presence till the emergency was over.
A series of percussive bangs boomed sullenly from outside the ship.
That’s the tethers blown. The Stationmaster won’t like that one little bit.
“Stationmaster is demanding alpha priority comlink, señor.”
The Cap’s grin pimpled my skin. “Is he, now? Make him wait two more minutes, then patch him through. Jonte – you there, amigo?”
Jonte Prado, Chief Engineer, was one of the Cap’s primero compadres when he was Military. And it showed. He reckoned not to have favourites, but he did. Generally, they were all his old army pals.
I zoned out the stab of jealousy.
“…train those guns onto the pontoon on my mark. Un, dos, tres… Now!” His face was lit up, his eyes sparkling. It came to me that this emergency was bread and air to Papá.
“Capitán, I have the Stationmaster on a priority hail for you.” The careful formality told me that the Stationmaster could hear all this.
“Capitán Campo at your service-”
A spluttering roar cut off the Cap’s greeting. “He’s done what? The piratical fuse-brain! Estrella Fugaz why are your armaments deployed? And you’ve blown the tethers at your docking station. Explain yourself, sir! You’re going the right way to be blacklisted from all Sector Two stations!”
“We are under attack, señor. Station security is doing nothing to help. Our assumption is that you are in alliance with the forces assaulting our crew,” the Cap’s voice was measured, but an underlying vibrato raised the hairs on my neck. He was furious. If I were the Stationmaster I’d be choosing my words with care, just now.
The Stationmaster did nothing of the sort. Chiefly because he was also enraged. “What wet-headed piece of reasoning brought you to that conclusion, sir? From where I’m sitting, a petty squabble ‘tween two Merchanter ships has gotten out of hand-”
The Cap’s voice coshed across the Stationmaster’s blustering like a durasteel bar, “Entirely due to the negligence of your own security in not restraining the crew of Bright Nova when they started attacking my crew, señor!”