Opsfleet Chapter Twelve

“Okay,” Lowe said defiantly while pointing at the printer. “That wasn’t there before. I know this ship like the back of my hand and there was no molecular printer aboard, especially not one this obvious, and in the middle of a damned hallway.” Lowe demanded.

 

“Oh?” Lisa said. “So, you’re telling me that this thing just showed up overnight and you had never seen it before in your life?” The pirate snickered and ran her hand through her ear-length blonde hair, revealing a sizable scar on her forehead that the hair normally covered. The thick blonde strands covered the scar once more as she brought her arm down and grabbed one of the two sidearms she had strapped to her side.

 

“Wait, what are you doing? You can’t kill me here. They’ll find the body!”

 

She pulled and aimed point blank and smiled.

“No, they won’t.”

 

She squeezed the trigger. There was no recoil but the pistol did get hot. A flash of light hit Lowe in the chest and he staggered backwards. Lisa reholstered the gun while Lowe still stood in front of her.

 

“What the hell was that?” Lowe asked. He started to shake and sweat. He looked at his hands as they apparently bothered him. The other two men that were with him backed away, as did Lisa. Before Lowe could look up, he was gone; all that was left was a familiar sulphur smell mixed with what could have been mistaken as burnt steak.

 

“What was that, fifteen, twenty seconds?” Lisa asked.

“We weren’t keeping count,” one of the men said with a chuckle.

“Alright, let’s load this up.” Lisa said.

 

At the party, Shannon, Sean, and Jenn got a notification on their communication bands to return to the ship calmly but promptly. It was automated, but it was a sign that things might become a little tense.

 

“Got to go guys,” Jenn said while taking some of the sobriety pills out of Shannon’s flight suit pocket. “Wait…” Jenn turned around and grabbed a beer off one of the tables. “.. I can’t be too sober for this shit.”

 

“What do you mean?” Shannon asked.

Jenn pointed toward the second level of the bar. There were a few people walking around with guns, taking in the room as if looking for targets.

 

“All you fuckers look like smurfs and you really stand out,” Jenn said. “Come on. We aren’t getting to the airlock with you guys looking like this.” Jenn took her fellow crew members around behind the central stage area where they would be out of sight from the men in the rafters.

 

“I printed a fuck-ton of counterfeit currency. I was gonna spend it on a good time but, seeing you guys look like scrubs will do,” Jenn said.

 

Shannon stopped just as they got behind the stage to see a fat man, covered head to toe in a strange red substance, cursing loud enough to be heard over the music. She had no idea what it was about but he wasn’t the only one covered in it and they looked as if they were in extreme pain. Several people attempted to pour water on them but as the substance spread, so did the pain as anyone who got near them ended up losing all the contents of their sinuses out their nose. Shannon felt a firm tug as Jenn pulled her along and told her This ain’t no Sight Seeing Tour.

 

They stepped into a dealer’s shop and Jenn slapped the money on the counter in front of a man that looked as if he hadn’t bathed in weeks.

 

“Six Hundred for anything in the store we choose to walk out with and five minutes of your shop with no visitors,” Jenn said. She turned to Sean, “I don’t know what you all did but it obviously wasn’t lethal, so keep that weapon on stun.”

 

“I didn’t bring a weapon,” Sean said. Jenn’s eyes widened and she looked to Shannon who shook her head as if it didn’t even occur to her. They got an update on their wrist communicator in text.

Local Authorities on Watch: Confirmed theft of goods from the Barrow. Stand by while pirate arrests are made.

 

Shannon looked out the windows into the large common area to see police searching as well, however, they walked right past the people that were covered in an agitating substance.

 

“This isn’t making any sense,” Shannon said. “They’re not arresting them.

“They’re looking for us!” Jenn said while pulling jackets and clothing off the racks and throwing it at Shannon. “This looks like it will fit.”

Sean found some clothing that looked as if it had been either freshly manufactured or freshly cleaned before pawned off by some lowlife and stripped to his boxers. Jenn took one look at the hearts on his ass and started to laugh. Sean looked over to see a Marine that could break him in half and his eyes widened like dinner plates before he could return a proper insult.

 

“Holy shit…” Sean said as he got a look at her

“Take a picture so that we can live longer…”

 

Shannon emerged from a rack of clothes wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt cut just above the hips. Sean found her much less intimidating than the muscular Sergeant Hanks.

 

“Alright,” Jenn said. “First things first, we adapt to the situation. Shannon is going to be your date for the night and you’re going to be all over her. “I’m going to be the wing-girl and we’re enjoying the party.” Jenn pulled a backpack off one of the walls, stuffed all three flight suits into the bag, and tossed it to Sean. “Take that.” Jenn pulled some knives from the display stand and handed one to both Shannon and Sean.

 

“Hey, you’re starting to push the limits of your money with those knives.” The man behind the counter said. Jenn turned Sean around after he strapped the backpack on, digging into the bag to find her green Marine flight suit, and she pulled a whole wad of cash amongst the three, and flung it at him.

“Feel free to take more!” The man said happily. A stack of fake bills had made the Marine and the shopkeeper firm friends. Jenn smiled at him.

 

“I have a feeling you do have more… Where’s your guns?”

 

Sean and Shannon stepped into the back room with the keeper. He flipped a few shelves over to reveal several things he shouldn’t have been selling.

 

“I… Normally don’t tell people about this back room, but considering the large sums of cash, and the thought that the muscular woman might come back and kill me, I — eh, make ya happy, yeah?”

 

“None of this stuff is Fleet Regulation. How do you use it?” Sean asked.

“Most of this stuff is basic.” He pointed to a set of handguns, “These are projectile powder driven weapons. Old-style but they’ll do the job if you have something to make the ammo.” He then pointed to another row of pistols and collapsable stock rifles, “These are your selective velocity micro-rails. Not as powerful as the ones you have, but the shots are so tiny if you need more than one mag you’re in a war.  Would you prefer – ah… full length or carbine?”

 

“Hell if I know… Can I take both?” Sean said.
“He can have mine. I can’t hurt people,” Shannon said.

 

“They’re here to hurt you. What are you? An android?”

“Yes…” Shannon said. “I’m bound by my programming.”

“I can fix that too.” The shop-keeper grinned. He reached under the counter and pulled a folded piece of data paper out. “Take it… I have a million of them. It sells quick with the pleasure bot owners because they can unlock all the stops.” He tapped the paper to his head and then handed it to her. Shannon, if for nothing else but out of curiosity, took the paper from him.

 

“Check that out when we get back to the ship,” Jenn poked her head into the door. “Let’s go!”

 

Sean grabbed the two guns and holstered them with the holsters that he was given.

“Ground rules,” Jenn said as they stepped back out onto the main area of the station. “… we get as far away from this area as we can, we do it together, and we find their EVA airlock. We steal three sets of suits, cross the hull, and get our asses back to either the Barrow or the Yutomaky. If we get to the Barrow first, we’re taking a shuttle to the Yutomaky. They’ll expect us to try and board through the docking collar but we all know that’s not going to happen. They might not expect EVA. Pirates are fair game, but avoid killing the local police, even though they’re bent.”

 

“What happens if we shoot a cop?” Sean asked.
“Then it’ll be up to McArthur whether or not to turn us over, or paint over OFS and replace it with a fucking Jolly Roger.”

 

“We have a ships lawyer,” Shannon said.
“If we get caught up in legal before we can even get out and explore, it’s really going to piss the captain off,” Jenn reminded her. “Just — Don’t — Shoot — The — Cops… Clear?”

 

“Gotya…” Sean confirmed.

 

“I won’t be shooting anyone.” Shannon said.

“I don’t know,” Jenn said… “Maybe you should —,” Jenn stopped and pulled that paper out of the androids hand and took a look at it. She reached into Sean’s backpack quickly, throwing the young enlisted man off balance from the force of her entry into his pack. She dug out another sheet and rezipped him. Jenn stopped walking with him a moment and overlaid the software sheet over her sheet and selected analyze.

 

The computer data on both sheets started talking to each other and finally, the Opsfleet issued sheet started telling her the bullet points and summary of the sheets contents.

> Viruses — Scanned — None
> Android Mod Program  — Paradigm Systems Software Inc.
> Warning: Small modification instances suggest software is not genuine. Possibly not from Paradigm. The use of this software on a Paradigm Android is illegal if not genuine.
> Analysis of Software:

    Code Lock Switch:
    3RR _ Unlock
    Ethics-Panel_Unlock
    Free-Will_Unlock
   

> Program Suite..

Jenn continued to look down the programming suite longer than she was supposed to and smiled mischievously at Sean. He noticed this about Jenn as she turned on the local transmitter on the data page.

 

“Shannon, I need you to load the page into your programming. Can you partition it so that you can turn it on or off at will?”

 

“Did you scan it?”

“Yes…”

“It’s not illegal software is it?”

“Of course not!”

 

She watched as Shannon closed her eyes a moment and leaned against the wall of one of the shops.

“Well, anything?” Sean asked as they all three piled tightly into a corner, out of sight of most of the passers by. Shannon smiled and opened her eyes.

“No, because you hit transmit on the Opsfleet Sheet, not the Merchants Sheet..”
Jenn looked down and tapped the sheet twice, folded it, and put it in her pocket while cursing herself. Sean let out a hint of a laugh as he witnessed Jenn’s blunder. Jenn then tapped open the sheet that Shannon got from the merchant.

“Okay… Sorry. Anything now?”

 

Shannon opened her eyes again as well as her mouth as she pushed at Jenn playfully.

“You tricked me! That’s not legal!” She then turned to Sean, “Give me the gun.” Shannon reached into Sean’s waistband and pulled the spare gun, holster and all from him.

 

“You can thank me later… Who are you going to bone with all that sex programming?” Jenn asked.

“Come on, Jenn…” Shannon playfully grabbed Sean as they walked out of the main open atrium area of the station and into the more silent corridors that were carved within the rock that was the station. “Sean of course…”

 

“What the fuck did you get me into, Jenn?” Sean asked with a hint of fear in his voice.
“I thought you liked getting around at port?” Jenn asked. “This way.” She pointed toward one of the turns in the corridors. They passed a few people, but nobody threatening, and they blended in now that they were out of the flight suits.

 

“Yeah… You don’t screw people you know. It’s easier that way.”

“And how many people are you going to know when we get out of the bubble?” Jenn asked, referring to the core systems.

 

“Why aren’t you offering then?”

“Because I saw how you looked at me when I was naked. You were scared shitless!”

“That’s because your muscles are bigger than my head!”

“Fine, fuck Shannon!”

“Um,” Shannon side-glanced the both of them as they advanced toward whatever Jenn’s paper was taking them to. “… don’t’ I get a say in this?”

“Yeah… A little. I mean, come on… You opened pandora’s box you may as well enjoy it.”

“Topic change!” Sean suggested.

 

“Oh, alright…” Jenn giggled slightly. “So, how about them Starbursts?”

“I don’t know,” Shannon said. “I never kept track of space races.”

“Sarcasm program needs an update, still…” Sean said in a low, unenthusiastically drawn out blurt.

“You won’t be caring about that when she’s screwing your brains out back home.”

“Jenn!” Shannon exasperated.

Jenn just giggled some more.

 

“What does her sex programming have to do with getting off this station?” Sean asked.

“I’m right here,” Shannon said. “It unlocked my Asimov Chip. I can shoot people now.”

“It also unlocks her free will…” Jenn said.
“That was already unlocked, actually. All Opsfleet operations droids have free will. The program was intended for sex droids though.”

“So, all the sex droids on the station have free will?” Sean asked.

“Probably,” Jenn said.

“That’s disturbing.” Shannon added. “Especially if they unlocked their learning potential.”
“Well, did they?” Sean asked.
Shannon peaked around a corner toward the operations bay.
“Two guards, they look like pirates… And no, they’re all just spaceport-girls.” She said, Spaceport-Girl being a derogatory term for uneducated girls living rich of their parents wealth and experiencing the dream of mindless inter-system transport jobs and resorts.

 

“Alright, space cadet… Let Shannon try her new programming and us hang back here.”

 

Shannon stepped out into the hallway and instantly, the men noticed her as she walked around the corner toward them.

 

“This is a restricted zone,” one of the men said.

“I’m just using it to get by,” Shannon said. “The other way to my section is closed off too, why is this one closed down?”

“What do you do?” One of the men asked.

“Waitress,” Shannon lied.

“What bar?” The man asked. Shannon instantly ran through her events and found a bar name.

“I work part time at Winnie’s Arcade, and I waitress at the Spread Eagle.”

 

“Bullshit! I go to the spread eagle all the time and I –”

Shannon jumped next to him, extended her right foot and placed her hand on his face, pushing him backward. The man’s lower legs came off the floor as he went over her leg, as Shannon leveraged his weight to bring him all the way to the deck. She kept her hand on his face the whole way down to hasten the speed. His head impacted the floor so hard that it instantly sent him into convulsions as blood poured out of his ears. Jenn emerged from the corner with Sean as they fired as many shots as they could at the other guy. His shirt caught fire for a moment before it was put out by the blood. He fell backwards against the wall while Jenn and Sean kept firing. Shannon rolled out of the way and witnessed the man jerking and twitching with each impact while Sean and Shannon rushed right into him. One of the rounds even split his face open and brain matter went everywhere. By the time he fell down, his chest was torn open like the grand canyon, and his face was deflated.

 

Sean went to holster his sidearm and his pants started smoking. Jenn quickly pulled his pistol out and patted at his hips.

 

“Damn Sean… You act like you’ve never rapid fired a pistol before.”
“I haven’t!” Sean said as he helped Shannon to her feet with one hand while holding the cherry red muzzle of his pistol away from his body with the other. The man Shannon killed was still shaking and twitching. Jenn aimed the gun down at his head and fired a round through his skull.

 

“That’s better…” Jenn said as the dead man’s twitching stopped. “Alright… Let’s go EVA!”

 

—–

 

“Trackers show a half dozen crew moving toward station detention,” Chief Warrant Officer Wang said as his face hovered over the glow of the sensors console.

 

“That dog ain’t gonna hunt,” McArthur said as he stood and grabbed his M1 Garand from its leaning spot against the back wall.

 

The present bridge crew looked at him confused by such an old saying.  “Kenya, new bulletin to all crew. Station is now hostile territory and all station personnel to be considered enemies of the spaceforce, armed, and dangerous.  Put the Yutomaky to general quarters. Whatever Marines are on the ship have them suit up and meet at the docking ring.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Kenya said.

“Wang, start playing the music,” McArthur added.

“Already jamming all frequencies,” he replied.

“No, the actual music.  Metal, please.”

McArthur pulled a data sheet out of his pocket and started accessing a remote system as he finally left the bridge.  The bridge crew started to ask among themselves if they were really going to assault a civilian station.

 

Sean, Shannon, and Jenn carefully traversed the station on the outside using their thruster packs to keep them in contact with the outer rock. They had already tripped a few sensors and knew what was going to happen next. The Barrow was the closest ship at nearly 500 meters away, with the Yutomaky over the mountain that was the asteroid on the other side at almost a kilometer away. They walked into a small valley that had been traversed before by station crew; it was easy to tell because there were floating gloves, water packs, battery cells here and there along with tool marks on the rocks and even some graffiti. Over the years, there was probably no surface of the asteroid that hadn’t been noticed or discovered. Jenn motioned toward a small cave or a tunnel that showed signs of having an exit on the other side.

 

“Do we know if this will get us closer to the Barrow?” Sean asked.

“Yeah, it gets us out on the other side. Better to go through than around. They’ll be able to see us up there.” Jenn said.

 

Everyone’s wrist comms vibrated with an update, but they couldn’t read them as they were in EVA.  Jenn started to fidget with the EVA suit controls, trying to bring the text alert up on the suit’s HUD.  “Shit,” Jenn said.

 

“Don’t worry, I already know what it says,” Shannon said.

“And?  What does it say?” Sean asked.

“Good news is I am certain the captain is fine with us shooting anyone, including cops.”

“That doesn’t sound like good news,” Sean commented.  “That sounds like shit hitting the fan.”

“What’s the bad news then?” Jenn asked as she lead the way through the tunnel.

“The situation means I am taking command,” Shannon said.  “Once we reach the barrow my orders are to secure and defend it from boarding.”

“I’m fine with that,” Jenn said.
“I’m not,” Sean said.  “I need to be on the flight deck of the Yutomaky getting birds ready to fly.”

“Do you really want to be in a transport shuttle if the station tags you and opens up its point defenses on you?” Jenn asked.  “I’ll take my chances with a docking bay brawl.”

“If Weir is still on the Barrow you can do whatever he orders you to do,” Shannon said.  “Until then I’m sticking to fleet protocol for being docked at a hostile port. We keep them away from the Barrow until it’s loaded and ready to undock.”

 

Meanwhile, on the Barrow, Weir received the information regarding the outcome of his trolling tactics and decided that it was best not to brag about it.

“Wow…” Weir said while sitting in the transport that Andrea came over on. “I meant to piss in their cornflakes but I didn’t know that was going to happen.”

“What’s cornflakes?” Andrea asked.

“Oh, well… Our ride home got cancelled.” Weir stated.

Andrea giggled and skipped out the back door.
“How are we going to get off the ship?” Andrea asked.

“We’re not. Any officers aboard the Barrow from the Yutomaky crew have been ordered to defend against boarding.” Weir said.

“How many people are onboard?”

“It could be just us,” Weir said. “Everyone onboard was eager to get off, and they had to transfer back. It was only a pilot crew. The rest went with other Opsfleet ships toward Earth and Mars before we even set out.”

 

The little girl spun and hopped while holding her thumbs together and her index fingers up in the air while looking through the gap between them.

“One officer, and an engineering savvy wrenchmonkey — against the world!” She tried her best at mimicking an announcers voice that one might find in a holographic movie, but she ended up sounding like a squeak toy being run over by an antigravitic space-towing barge.

 

“I can’t have you in harms way, Andrea… I’m your legal guardian now.”

“Well, legally guard me while I do some highly illegal shit!”

“Alright, I’ll help you kill some people but stop cursing… That’s not polite. And to make things perfectly clear, we set things up to prevent people from boarding while we make an avenue for enough crew to get aboard to fly this ship.”

 

“How are my tricks going to work if I have to make them discern between the good guys and the bad guys? It’s like — setting up a mote on your sand castle without having your people inside it yet. You’re supposed to put the “No Boys Allowed” sign on your fort only after you fill it up with girls.”

 

“That’s not true!” Weir said. “But it does give me an idea… Let’s get to the bridge. I have to get in contact with McArthur about recognizing some IFF transponders.”

 

 

Captain McArthur, Corporal Loud, and Sergeant Morley were almost done putting on armored assault EVA suits in the marine prep room.  McArthur’s comm unit buzzed.

 

“Actual, go.”

“Hey Wes, it’s Bry,” Weir said.

“I’m really disappointed in you right now.”  Weston started strapping on ammo bandoleers for the M1 Garand.

“Yeah, sorry,” Weir said. “I didn’t think my prank would blow up like this.”

“Not that.  You haven’t even started loading your cargo.  It’ll be less than an hour before the patrol ships are back here from recall.  Did you forget the mission?”

“Oh… shit… the antimatter.”

“Yes, the whole reason we came to this dive.  You were supposed to assign a detail to load it.  You need to get your ass out on the docking bay and get those fuel pods loaded.  By yourself if you have to.”

“What if someone shoots at me?” Weir said.

Weston loaded a clip into his rifle.  “Ask them politely not to hit the pod or it’ll blow up you, the Barrow, the docking bay, and them with it.”

Weir made a nervous laugh.  “I’ll see what I can do…”

“Don’t worry, if you get fragged I’ll load your backup into your fresh blank.”

“I… uh… haven’t backed up since the first time,” Weir said.

“Sucks to be you, then, doesn’t it?” Weston said with a smirk.

“Anyway…” Weir said loudly to change the subject.  “I need your help setting up the IFF recognition for defenses, so they don’t kill our guys.”

“Use the shuttle,” Weston said.

“Huh?”

Weston made a really long, dramatic sigh over the comms.  “The shuttle has a SAAD. Hardwire uplink whatever you’re using to the shuttle, then connect the shuttle to the Yutomaky’s fire control computer.  It’ll work better than whatever potato that piece of shit you’re on has for a computer.”

“Ah!  That’s a great idea, I’ll do that!”

“Weir!” McArthur shouted over the comms.

“Yeah?”

“LOAD THE ANTIMATTER!” Weston yelled.  “Mission critical!”

“Okay, okay! On it!”

The comm link closed.  Weston put on his helmet and gave a thumbs up to the two marines with him.  They checked his suit to make sure he was good, and gave a thumbs up back. They stomped loudly out of the marine prep room to the zero-g tube, and took a quick ride to the docking rings at the front of the ship.

 

The comm link chirped again.  “Actual.”

“Sir, I have the Jackhammer,” Kenya said.  “They finished loading and are undocked awaiting orders.”

“I need them at the Barrow providing security and assisting with loading.  And I’m going to set off the gas soon. Get ready to shut down the station’s entire security system.  Get me the station’s head of whoever is holding my crew hostage on visual comms to my suit.”

“Yes, sir.”

The comms went on hold as Kenya called the station’s sheriff.  An old black man with a droopy eye answered, looking thoroughly pissed off.

“Are you calling me from a combat suit?” the sheriff asked.

“You’re out of your depth,” McArthur said.  “I’ll ask once, nicely. Please release and return my crew.”

“I can’t do that, captain.”  The sheriff leaned forward. “Your people rigged a bomb on my station and injured station employees.  Your ship and crew won’t be going anywhere until my investigation is concluded.”

“Have it your way,” Weston said.

“I strongly advise you not to do anything stupid, captain.  Your crew broke interstellar law.”

“Your employees raided the Barrow, killed a crew member, and stole materials including that bomb.  That’s piracy. Per Article 21 of the Mars Convention, by aiding and harboring pirates you are legally classified as a pirate.  Failure to comply with my order to release my crew will be punished.”

The sheriff leaned back and laughed for a moment.  “You’re welcome to try, cowboy.” The comm link closed.

 

McArthur entered codes into his suit’s wrist computer.  The nerve agent he placed when they docked was released into the station’s life support and pumped through the air system into every room.  It was a smart-nanite-based nerve agent, designed to repel boarders from ops fleet and spaceforce ships. Anyone without a fleet ID chip would have their nervous system zapped, putting them quite painfully into a coma that would last as long as the nanites had power, which was roughly an hour depending on the individual subject.

 

The only way to counter the agent was to be wearing an air-tight suit before its release, or spend piles of credits on genetic conditioning and cybernetic implants that purged foreign agents and toxins.  No doubt there were some high-end criminals with those add-ons aboard the station, but the agent would put the crews of the other ships and most of the station’s police unconscious on the deck. There they would be safe from the shooting that would be starting soon.

 

McArthur’s comm unit chirped as he crossed through the docking hatch onto the station’s deck.

“Actual.”

“Uh, sir, big problem.  The station security software had a dead man’s switch.  It just activated a rootkit on every android on the station, and an unknown number of Model M combat robots.”

“Put the ship to battle stations,” McArthur said.

“Aye sir.”  The comm link closed.

“We’re going to fight an army of robot hookers?” Loud said as he charged his particle rifle and set it to high EMP shots.  “This is gonna be great.”

“You won’t think that when I’m sewing your arms back on,” Morley said.  “Captain I’d be more comfortable if you stayed on the ship.”

“I’m not here to make you comfortable,” McArthur said.

“Noted,” Morley said.

The trio thudded across the docking bay to the corridor that lead to the rest of the station.

 

 

Jenn, Sean and Shannon exited the tunnel and they could see the Barrow in the distance, along with three other ships docked in that section.

“Ow!  OW! SHIT!  FUCK! OW!”

Sean and Jenn stopped to look at Shannon and asked what was wrong.

“Fuck you Jenn!” Shannon shouted.  “Fuck you so much!”

“I don’t swing that way but if you insist,” Jenn replied.

“That software had a low-level root-kit.  It just activated and it fried my firewall chip.  Holy crap is this a bad headache!”
“I think I can see smoke coming from your ears,” Sean joked.  Jenn laughed.

“Fuck you too, Sean.”
“It’s a threesome now,” Jenn said still laughing.

“It’s not funny!” Shannon yelled.  “Every android with that software has just been rootkitted with combat software and a single order to kill anyone without a correct ID chip, probably one implanted in the station owner and his henchmen.”

As if on cue for things going from bad to worse, a shadow crawled over them.  They looked up to see a heavily armed tanker ship looming just 100 meters above them, painted in black and yellow like a yellow-jacket wasp.  It was firing its thrusters to stop over them.

“Well now shit’s really bad,” Sean said.

“That’s the Jackhammer,” Jenn said.

Sean looked at Jenn blankly.

“Do you even read the briefings?” Jenn scolded.

“No?”

“Fucking REMFs,” Jenn cussed.

Their helmet speakers crackled.  “Need a lift?” someone on the Jackhammer asked.  “We’re going your way.” The question was rhetorical.  An airlock hatch facing them popped open and a man in light EVA threw a line toward them.  “Hook up and let’s go.”

The moment they were secured to the line the Jackhammer fired its thrusters to continue to the Barrow, not even waiting to finish reeling in the three overboards.

“Oh shit this is dangerous!” Sean said.

“Gotta love mercs,” Jenn said.

“Will you all shut up,” Shannon said as her head throbbed with sensory feedback from her fried firewall chip.  “I just got this body and I already have to swap again.”

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Jenn said trying to be sincere.

“You know what?  I’m going to kick your butt from one end of the ship to the other when this is over,” Shannon said.

“I thought your programming said you can’t hurt anyone,” Sean said.

“Technically it says I can’t KILL anyone,” Shannon said in a sarcastic bluff.

Jenn laughed.  “Bring it.”

The line reeled them into the Jackhammer, and the airlock was shut.  The man that threw them the line didn’t say anything, only opened the inner door and jogged back to his battle station elsewhere on the ship.