The Colchis Job Snippet One

Here is the first snippet from my upcoming novel coming on August 3rd.    The Colchis Job is a military science fiction novel, set in Mark Wandrey’s and Chris Kennedy’s Four Horsemen Universe.

Chapter I

The Anauros System

High velocity MAC rounds screamed down the corridor of the Argos. I went flat against the bulkhead. “Dammit Professor, this is all your fault!”
“Sorry, Staff Sergeant, they said they were customs inspectors!” Grimes shouted from where he clung to a stanchion behind a metal frame. He wasn’t really a professor, he just seemed to know a little bit about everything. I was rethinking everyone’s nickname for him as well as wondering why the hell I’d put him in charge of the ship while I wasn’t on the bridge.
I leaned around the corner and cut loose with my MAC in turn. Two of the dimly-seen figures flew back, their bodies tumbling in zero-g. One’s wavering scream echoed down the hallway. I pulled myself back while return fire scythed down the corridor in response. Gunfights in zero gravity sucked.
“Reedie,” I called over my radio, “where the hell are my reinforcements?”
Reedie’s voice puffed through the radio, “Sorry, Staff Sergeant, uh, I mean Colonel. We ran into a few of them and we’re having difficulties making it to the armory.”
I’d wanted them to get into their Mark 6 CASPers, which should have turned the fight in our favor, but of course it hadn’t gone that way.
Reedie mumbled something unintelligible through the com before it went silent. At this point, I’d gone through my extensive vocabulary of swear words and started inventing new ones. This was supposed to be a quick, easy, voyage back to Karma. We had a ship, we had a cargo of battle-earned loot. We could have jumped straight there… but no, I’d detoured to the Anauros system for a “quick” stop.
And now we were being boarded by pirates.
“Grimes,” I snapped, “cover fire.”
“Yes, sir!” He put his MAC around the frame and fired blindly down the corridor. His chances of hitting any of our attackers were slim to none. There was a better chance of one of his rounds punching through the hull or damaging some important equipment, but at this point, none of us really cared about that.
As the pirates dropped behind cover, I lunged past Grimes and flew along the corridor until I slammed into the bulkhead on the shipboard side of the airlock. My arm clamped on the bar next to the airlock to keep myself from bouncing off the bulkhead and ricocheting down the corridor.
The “customs” cutter had docked and pirates had started swarming out. We’d driven them back into the inner airlock, but there seemed to be no end to the bastards. I doubted they’d expected to find armed mercenaries on the ship they’d boarded, but it wasn’t like there were a lot of us left, after all. We’d left Bedarine Seven with only twenty of us left out of the whole company. The Argos was a Styx-class patrol ship, which were rare enough that they may not have even realized we were armed, much less guessed that we had mercenaries aboard. At this point, though, they had to know that if they didn’t kill us, then we’d turn the Argos’ weapons on them.
I reached up with one hand and found the emergency access panel to the side of the airlock. I ripped it open and my hand gripped the red pull-bar inside. For just a moment I considered offering the pirates a chance to surrender. Gunfire tore past my ear, close enough that I felt the passage of rounds. To hell with them. I pulled the bar down with a grim smile.
The airlock slammed closed, cutting one of the pirates in half and spraying a wide fan of blood. I heard a loud rumble on the other side as the explosive bolts detonated. That was followed by a rushing roar and then total silence. Sound didn’t propagate through the vacuum, after all.
In case of emergencies, most ships mounted emergency detachment systems on their airlocks. If a ship or station caught fire, it was easier to blow the airlocks loose than to go through a full undocking procedure. Since the pirate cutter had clamped onto our airlock, we couldn’t have detached them, short of what I’d just done.
Grimes pulled himself up to where I clung, his eyes wide, “Sir, did you just…”
“Blowing the airlock can only be done from a manual station, to verify that the airlock is clear of personnel,” I grinned. The pirate’s blood had splattered in a wide fan, much of it still hanging in the air and I figured would probably require a good bit of cleanup. I pulled up my radio, asking, “Bridge, status?”
“Uh…” the tech on the bridge clearly wasn’t proficient with the sensors and systems. Not yet, probably not ever if she, like most of the Argonauts, decided to leave the Company on our return to Karma. Since we’d taken the ship from some Cartar mercenaries back on Bedarine Seven, none of my people were what I’d call proficient with the ship’s operations. “The pirate cutter is spinning out of control. I think it’s venting gasses, too.” I heard someone in the background start to gag. “Oh, God, and…” there was an audible wet cough, before she continued, “people and pieces of people. One of them just hit the bridge viewport and bounced off.”
“Perfect,” I said feeling a bit more cheerful. Hopefully we’d captured a recording of that, it would make great promotional material of us fighting pirates to give to potential clients. “Reedie, how’s it coming with the pirates near the armory?” I glanced at the watch on my wrist as I said that, not really sure why. It wasn’t like the battered thing had shown the right time in the twenty-seven years I’d worn it.
It was Staff Sergeant Ruel who answered, which made me frown. I’d asked Reedie. Reedie had been in my squad, I knew where I stood with him. Ruel was an unknown factor. Be’d been a squad leader in Third Platoon and I had a low enough opinion of the Argonaut’s former and now-deceased previous commander that I didn’t trust anyone he’d put in positions of authority. I mean, after all, he trusted me and I basically killed him and took over as soon as things got desperate. “Whatever you did, they started throwing down their weapons. I have secured the survivors.”
“Good, search them all, then lock them up in the aft cargo bay, and we’ll deal with them later,” I grunted. I didn’t know that he had my squad frequency, which I’d been using to manage Reedie and Grimes to run the ship and move people around without the other surviving Argonauts inferring. While no one had resisted my taking charge in the immediate aftermath of the Cartar attack back on Bedarine Seven, there’d been mutters and grumbles from some of the other surviving NCOs.
I turned a baleful gaze on Grimes. “Next time, Professor, when someone wants us to heel too and board us, you wake me up first, understand?”
“Yes, sir,” Grimes swallowed nervously, his gaze going to the floating droplets of blood and crushed remains of the pirate in the airlock door. He turned a little green and I sighed.
I slung my MAC and pulled myself past him, rubbing at the watch on my left wrist. Things hadn’t gone as well as I’d hoped since leaving Bedarine Seven. They hadn’t gone bad, exactly, but they hadn’t gone well either. If I’d known how much of a headache it would be, taking over the Argonauts, I might have taken the Lotar’s pay and blown it on booze and women instead of claiming the Cartar’s ship and command over the remnants of the nearly-destroyed Argonauts. “Get some people down here to clean up the bodies and loot what they can. Also, have Reedie see what kind of damage we did to the ship in this little firefight and prioritize repairs.”
I sniffed the air and a funky, rotting fish smell hit me once again. That same smell had haunted us since we left Bedarine Seven. The Argos had been owned by the Catar, an octopi-like species of ocean-dwellers. At this point we’d done everything, including putting the whole ship in vacuum and we still hadn’t got rid of their damned smell.
I sighed, “Oh, and have them clean the corridor again while they’re at it, it stinks like a damned fish market in here.”

***

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