Ladies and Gentlemen and Scoundrels of all ages, it is the weekend once more. That means, among other things, that I get to post another story! Let’s see what I’ve got down in the bin this time….
Jumpgates of Our Star first appeared on the TeamDystopia.com boards in 2007-2008. More to follow.
As always, this is my own work (the Sarge and Smoke are courtesy of Luke Newman) and the usual rules apply. Link, don’t copy. Do not claim as your own. Enjoy!
Yes. “Enjoy!” is one of the rules here.
Continued from Part One:
For a long time Hazard did not know where he was—he was lying on something soft and narrow: an army cot with extra blankets, perhaps. Voices, sounds, smells! He was back on Geiger Seven and his right hand was cold—so cold like the night after Doublenight. Where was the Sarge? Probably sealing wounds with cling-wrap and duct tape somewhere in camp. Some people never changed. A snuffling sound beside his ear said that one of the Reipus had gotten into the tent. He shooed it weakly with his hand and he heard it snort, and felt the heavy leathery trunk flop across his chest.
“Go away!” he protested as he sat up, rubbing his eyes. He needed coffee, maybe bitters. The light was glaring. Hospital? No, he worked here. In a couple more blinks he recognized the Beta Gate waiting room. People were standing around looking concerned, or running around looking worried. Something had happened. An accident. A green-grey Greater Reipus stood beside the bench he was sitting on, looking as confused and stupid as every other Reipus he’d ever seen that wasn’t panicking. Dark, beady eyes on a silly head, gangly neck, two big drumsticks underneath to stand on and that swamp-sucking trunk. Two more of them lounged beside the far wall. Nobody was in charge, which meant that he was. He got to his feet immediately.
“Sir, you’ve had a nasty spill and aren’t fit to stand. Please lie down!” insisted someone in jeans who was playing doctor. “Everything will be fine, just rest.”
“Fine my granny’s fanny!” said Hazard. “What happened?”
“There was a little bit of an accident and you hit your head. Really, sir, you’re in no condition to be up! Your right arm has no circulation and might have to be ampu—”
“Shut up and make yourself useful,” said Hazard, flipping the woman a bionodigital bird. He unplugged the neurocircuits and unscrewed his right arm below the elbow and handed it to her. “Run down the corridor and tell the station manager there’s been an accident. Big steel Secure Area door on the right, half-way down. Can’t miss it. Palm the Gypsy Panel with this, then run upstairs and look for the yellow door with smoked-glass panels.” He pressed a switch on the arm’s stump to relax the hand and he ushered the would-be medic out the door. There was a sharp tingle in the ghost-limb fingertips but he bit down on it and kicked another Reipus out of the way. They had to be from the Jumpship.
“Who’s been running things? Where’s the pilot?” he hollered. People looked up and several stopped what they were doing. The old man who had clapped was sitting in the corner crying on a dead girl in his lap. Two or three EuTrans One station nurses continued to treat burns and gashes. The corpse in the fleet uniform did not stir an eyelid. The tall droid stuck in the control-booth window was shorting out and flailing one arm repetitively. He had everyone else’s attention.
“The pilots were killed in the accident,” said someone in Septogeigeran colonial clothes. Their styles had not changed much in the fifteen years he’d been back. “The decelerator failed and we hit the gate-port too fast. Seven of us made it off—one only technically—and three Reipus.” The speaker nodded to the body in the fleet uniform. One of the animals was snuffling the soil at the base of a potted art plant. “I think the jumpship’s hull welded to the station’s on impact,” the G7-man was saying. “There wasn’t any depressurizing—thank the One-God for that.” Hazard remembered how popular the Chapel of Grace religion was in the G7 colony. “I’m afraid the airlock’s ruined, too.”
“Yeah, thank the Man Upstairs as many made it as did,” Hazard said curtly. “What’s your name, Rev?”
“Right-Rev. Miles Leroy, I’ve got a job or two for ya. Get your fold together and give me a report of the accident, what y’all saw, why these contraband animals were on a EuTrans fleet ship through the Jumpgate in the first place, what state’s the gate and the ship in, all of that. You look like a smart man. Find someone to look it over: you yourself I need doin’ last rites for these folks in the waiting room here.” The colonist didn’t waste breath saying he wasn’t clergy—some would have. One of the station nurses was standing up from dressing a leg wound.
“You, Nurse Ratchet!” he shouted, knowing perfectly well it was “Rachelle,” “Where’s your most ambulatory patient?”
“Yeah, and is anybody un-dead? Or better yet unhurt?”
“No zombies here, sir. One of the gentlemen said someone headed for the lavatories before the crash: he might be there still. A couple of ladies were only sick, and they’re with Kat in the lavatory now.”
“Send someone to round them up: I had thirteen paying passengers in this lobby before the accident and with seven off the Ship and y’all nurses I only see twelve, living or dead—thirteen counting the toaster in my window. I sent one off to fetch the boss and haven’t heard from her since. Get everyone in here if they have to fertilize the art trees and keep an eye out for a broad in jeans with somebody else’s arm. I leant her a hand waking up the manager, but I’d rather like it back.”
“Yes, sir.” There was gunfire down the corridor.
“Rev. Leroy’s in charge till I get back, and I’m taking a Reipus!” He seized the beast by its scrawny neck and tucked it under the stump of his arm. Small-caliber electro-enhanced manstopper: there it was again. In the Army they’d called ’em “parlor guns” because of their short effective range, but in close quarters they were deadly. At least there wasn’t going to be a hole in the hull.
He knew the Reipus would find the casualties if there were any: their algae diet was supplemented with leeches—a squishy, nasty little fact of G7 that EuTrans didn’t like to advertise—and they homed in on the smell of blood to find them. The big steel door on the right was scratched more than he remembered and the Reipus was frantic about it. Left hand to the Gypsy panel: employees had both palms coded to the system.
Error: already inside. Process anyway?
He jammed his thumb into the “yes” button and cursed his luck, the computer, and the Reipus that now kicked against his shins.
He bashed it with his fist and it opened grudgingly, but it opened. The Reipus kicked free and was inside before the door was wide enough for Kirk to fit. He shoved it in its tracks and wriggled through. Up the stairs: more shots and the squeal of a startled Reipus. He took them two at a time. The beast would be all right. The boys used to plug them with bigger guns than that during the long wait before Doublenight, and few of them even drew blood. It was too silent up there now. He drew his service Kruger from his hip and screwed on the steel silencer. It put him at a disadvantage: if he didn’t pick his backstop carefully, his weapon not only might, but would punch through the hull of EuTrans One. He tread softly as he approached. The yellow door was ajar and the Reipus moseyed in and out, probing the pooled blood for leeches. Someone in there was still alive: his training and practice told Hazard every breath of the enemy. The hostage—two people were breathing, at least, one other dead—was breathing loud enough for both of them. He softened his own breaths, and the enemy did the same. He’d been heard, then. A tall shadow moved on the other side of the smoked glass. Hazard inhaled as much as he could, thanking the G7-man’s Man Upstairs that his airways were clear. Holding his breath, he scanned the ricochet angles from the bulletproof door and moved himself into position. When the Reipus moseyed out again he exhaled under the cover of its movement, and fired.
There was a soft whump from his weapon, the bullet banged loudly off the door and careened into an air-system intake duct. The echoes filled the ship even as the lumpy headless reipus pulp collapsed in the spray of its own blackish blood. Under cover of the echoes Hazard moved.
The manager sat at his desk, bleeding from an untended head wound—not serious, but he was already in shock. The gal with the jeans was dead on the carpet and his own fleshene fingertips showed under the edge of the manager’s desk. The parlor gun was pointed at the manager’s head and would not just nick the scalp this time. At the other end of the arm was a tall blonde man, implants and scars covering the shaved left side of his face, hair covering the right. He had all the cockiness of an alpha-male I. tyrranus at bay, and a sneer Kirk had never forgotten.
“Damn me now if it’s not little Kiki Haz-Mat!” the gunman said.
“Stow it. Drop the gun, Smoke. You haven’t got a chance.”
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