KASMA MAGAZINE

Salvage in the Void

By Alan Baxter

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Artwork by Jose Baetas.


"I don't know how long I can bear this," Peevy said. Deep fear churned his stomach as he absently stroked the SimHound's head. "I didn't want to die back there on a doomed ship, but I don't think I can take this."

LaVey whined in sympathy, looking up to lick a kiss across his master's cheek. Peevy hunched in the cramped pod, the demi-sphere of radiation-shielded plasglass at his back. He felt the black out there, a yawning void trying to suck him into icy depths. He tapped and flicked in the holographic cube before him, called up images and charts. "I know I can manage the ‘fear, LaVey," he said as he worked.

LaVey huffed in agreement.

Peevy read speeds and vectors, tried to correlate the information with on-board charts. There was very little in the way of accurate cartography so far out on the edge.

As the mind-numbing enormity of space became ever more apparent Peevy trembled more deeply, ‘fear tightening his chest, constricting his throat. "It's so much easier to manage on-board ship," he said.

LaVey whined softly, sitting close to his master, resting his chin.

*****

A sharp beep brought Peevy out of a fitful doze. LaVey, curled at his feet, looked up.

"A ship!"

LaVey sat up, barked in excitement.

"It's a small vessel," Peevy said. "What's it doing all the way out here? Looking for the Clara Halo? It 's..." He cast a haunted look at the SimHound. "Dead. They 're all dead." LaVey gestured with his nose at the comm.

Peevy keyed up a comm-link, took a deep breath to calm himself. "Vessel callsign VSC7811, do you read me, over?"

Man and dog sat still in tense expectation. Nothing but a soft hiss came back over the comm.

"Vessel callsign VSC7811," Peevy said again, "This is Chief Engineer Peevy, recently of the USV Clara Halo, sole survivor. My pod has limited range and supplies, please respond."

More crackle and hiss. Peevy's eyes were wide as he looked at LaVey. "Can't they hear us?"

LaVey shook his head, lips forward in concern. He tipped his head, flicked one ear.

Peevy read the dog's body language, their bond deeper than anyone ever understood. "You think they're ignoring us?" He growled with annoyance. "Vessel callsign VSC7811, this is Chief Engineer Peevy, sole survivor of the USV Clara Halo..."

"We hear you, engineer." The voice was gravelly.

"Oh, thank everything in the deep, wide black! Please, can you pick me up?"

A guttural laugh came across. "Hold your horses there, engineer. United Spaceways Vessel, huh? You're a company man."

"Yes. But the Clara Halo is gone."

"Really? Well, I don't want any contact with the company or the Democratic Alliance of Planets. I'm sorry."

"What? Wait! I don't want to drift in this pod forever." His stomach lurched at the thought. "I'll die of starvation or lack of oxygen before I find anyone."

"Why is that my concern, engineer?"

"Simple human kindness?" Peevy ventured weakly.

A moment of muffled conversation drifted over the comm, a female voice, cajoling. The gruff male voice came back. "Here's the deal. I pick you up and drop you at the first piece of civilisation we find, but there are three conditions."

"Oh, thank you. Anything."

"One, your escape pod becomes my salvage. Two, you don't call anyone about anything. I don't want you contacting the company, the DAP or anyone else while you're on my boat. Three, you lend your muscle to our current endeavour first."

"You got it," Peevy said.

*****

The smell of oil and rust hissed in as Peevy released the pod's door. He stepped out into a messy cargo bay and smiled nervously at four ragged people before him. Three men and a woman. "Hi."He moved aside to indicate his best friend, still in the pod. "This is LaVey, my SimHound."

A rangy, scruffy fellow with straggly shoulder length hair, made a face of disgust. "SimHound? Really?" His was the gravelly voice from the comm.

"He's been my buddy for nearly twenty years."

"Why do you have a SimHound?"

Peevy bit back his embarrassment."I have some issues. When I was a kid they put me on the program."

"What kind of issues?"

"Nothing serious. When I joined the company they let me keep the ‘Hound as part of my psych profile, but they took me on."

"Bloody strange soul to make Chief Engineer at the company, aren't you? Where's your ship?"

"Rake, please." The woman put a hand on the man's shoulder. She seemed cleaner than the men, softer. "Let's not interrogate him."

Rake sneered. "She's too kind by half. I'm Captain Rake and this is my boat. What I say goes."

"Certainly, Captain," Peevy said.

Rake indicated a heavily muscled, angry-faced man beside him. "This is Timmo. You can consider him security. And that's Ollie, he's our Chief Engineer."

The thin man on the end of the line nodded a greeting, glanced up briefly under his brow before staring at the stained deck again. His shoulders were hunched, hands working together. Peevy recognised a fellow sufferer but chose not to mention it. "Nice to meet you."They said nothing in return.

Peevy turned back to Sally, the only one with anything like kindness or amity in her eyes. "Sally? Good to meet you, too."

She smiled at him. "Would you like something to eat?"

"Sure. There are some supplies on the pod that..."

"That are mine," Rake said. "Condition number one."

Peevy inclined his head.

*****

Peevy sat in a threadbare armchair in the ship's galley, LaVey curled at his feet. Images of the escape pod and the enormity of space kept sending shivers through him. Along with echoes of grief for his shipmates.

Sally made coffee and cracked a tin of beans. "No bread," she said, flicking an apologetic look over her shoulder. "We're a bit short on supplies."

"There's all kinds of recon food in my pod," Peevy said. "Captain Rake's pod, I mean."

"Maybe later then."

"Pretty small crew here," Peevy said.

Sally flicked her long, dark hair back, poured coffee into a tin mug, passed it over. "Yeah, Rake's kind of a hard guy to get along with. But he and Timmo are thick as thieves. Ollie's too scared to do anything else. I've always thought he was hiding from something. Punishing himself maybe."

"He doesn't like the black, huh?"

Sally's face was sad. "No, he has the ‘fear pretty bad. But for some reason he won't stay worldbound."

Peevy nodded, sipping at hot, acrid coffee to avoid having to say anything for a moment.

"What about you?" Sally asked. "How come you're all the way out here?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you mask your ‘fear well, but..."

The galley door whooshed open and Rake stood in weak light from the corridor. "Peevy was it?" he asked.

"Yes, Captain."

Rake dragged a chair out and sat, thumped his heels onto the table and waved a hand at Sally. She brought him a coffee. "I want to know the details," the Captain said.

"Details?"

"You're in a company escape pod. What happened?"

Peevy wondered how much to tell before they laughed him off the ship. "We were investigating the disappearance of a colony cruiser. The nearer we got to the last known location of the ship, the more I sensed a... malevolent presence."

Rake's eyebrow popped up. "Sensed? You a telepath? Magicker?"

"They tell me no. I can't do any of the other stuff, never sensed anything before. But this time was different. There's a massive entity out there, well, millions of entities that act as individuals and as one. They're formless, energy beings. They trawl through the void and have this effect on ships and people that draws them in, oblivious. And these entities feed on them."

Rake sipped at his coffee, doing nothing to conceal his disbelief. "That right?"

"It is. I could feel them but the captain wouldn't believe me and kept heading on. I knew everyone would die, so I bailed."

Timmo strode into the galley, slumped heavily onto a sofa. "Coffee?"

"In the pot," Sally told him, eyes hard.

The big man grunted, dragged himself back up. Sally served plates of beans to Peevy and Rake, leaving a plate on the counter for Timmo.

"Sure you didn't just freak out and run away?" Rake asked.

"Freak out?"

"Don't fuck with me, Peevy. You're right out on the edge here, you and your issues. Did the big black get too much for you?"

Peevy sighed. "I manage the ‘fear. Seriously, if it's a choice between a huge company cruiser and a tiny escape pod, I'd pick the huge cruiser every time."

Rake stared, pulling absently on the salt and pepper stubble of his chin. "That is true," he conceded eventually. "Why are you a company man anyway?"

"I'm a good engineer. Working on USV boats allows me to work with the best tech in the galaxy."

Rake laughed raucously. "Well, here aboard the Whore's Gambit you'll find things a lot less impressive."

"I'd really like to contact the company," Peevy said. "Tell them what's going on. I'm convinced the Clara Halo is already lost, but they might send more ships. They need to send a Battlecruiser..."

"Not a chance." Rake drained his coffee and attacked his beans like a starving man. His voice was half muffled by chewing. "We're not drawing any attention. The number of times I've come across a prime salvage only to have some company or the DAP muscle in. Not this time. You contact anyone and you'll be swimming in space before you can fart in fear."

An icy wash of dread swept through Peevy. "But you'll drop me somewhere soon, right?"

"Once we're done with our mission I'll drop you at the first opportunity."

Peevy slowly ate his own beans. "What's your mission?" he asked.

"A fucking wild goose chase," Timmo growled.

Rake pointed his fork accusingly."You shut the hell up. You'll be thankful when you get your share." He turned back to Peevy. "There's a planetoid out this way loaded with value. I aim to find it and claim salvage."

"How do you know about it?"

Timmo barked a laugh, then scowled at Rake's look.

"I just know," Rake said.

"He paid a telepath seer back on Cerunia." Sally was clearly scolding Rake more than explaining to Peevy. "Money that could have bought us fuel and supplies."

Rake pointed one grubby finger at Sally. "A planetoid of great import to the galaxy," he said angrily. "That thing is going to change our lives."

"If it's even real," Timmo snarled."We've been trawling through the black for weeks already."

"And what does ‘great import' even mean?" Sally asked.

Rake scraped up the last of his beans. "Salvage and colony laws, you cargo rats. I aim to plant my flag and take it from there." He pushed his chair back and stomped from the room.

Timmo grumbled into his plate and Sally looked apologetically at Peevy. He leaned down and patted LaVey to hide his discomfort at their bickering.

*****

Shouts from the bridge caught Peevy's attention.

"Told you so!" Rake said as Peevy entered.

"That is pretty big," Timmo allowed.

"Found your planetoid?" Peevy asked.

"Looks like it." Rake beamed.

Sally made a noise of derision. "Ever the gambler, eh, Rake?" She left the bridge.

Rake watched her leave, turned back to the scanner. "We can't read any composition details yet, but we'll be catching up to it in about two hours." He turned to Peevy. "Go to the back and find an atmo suit that fits."

Tremors wracked Peevy's body. "What?"

"You'll be earning your passage by helping us on the surface."

Peevy shook his head dumbly. "I can't. It's bad enough seeing outside. I can't go EVA!"

Rake sneered at him. "Well, brace yourself, cos you're going to."

*****

Peevy stood at the airlock, feeling claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the same time. His legs trembled in the heavy material of the atmo suit, his breath loud in his ears. The infinite black waited right outside, ready to swallow him. LaVey leaned reassuringly against his leg.

"Ollie's taking us down," Rake said, voice tinny over the comm, his face a shadow behind the faceplate. "The whole thing is strangely smooth. We'll get samples and readings and stake the claim. Then decide what's next."

Peevy looked at the geo-reader in his hand, saw the trembling through the gloves. He tried to take long, deep breaths, employing all the coping mechanisms he could remember from his counselling sessions. He'd passed screening for a USV boat, he could manage his ‘fear. He could manage this too.

A soft roar sounded through the ship as the thrusters fired and they bumped against something. They staggered slightly with the gravity shift.

"We're down, Cap'n," Ollie said.

Peevy allowed himself a moment to hate the nervous engineer, now the lucky pilot who got to stay behind. Rake keyed the airlock and they stepped into the chamber. The door behind irised closed as the main hatch before them swung open. A low, slightly curving grey surface stretched away below an enormous veil of black the size of eternity. Peevy swallowed quick, sharp breaths, clenching his free hand compulsively. Eyes on the surface.

Rake pushed a powered buggy loaded with surveying equipment down a short ramp to the surface. Timmo followed. Without giving himself time to think about it Peevy hopped out behind them, staring at the grey, dusty ground. LaVey trotted alongside, incongruous in the wide open, airless space. He barked silently in reassurance, taking long, loping strides in the low-g. Peevy reached down and ruffled the dog's thick fur with one gloved hand, wished he could feel it against his skin.

They moved a short distance from the Whore's Gambit and Rake began pulling gear off the wagon. "Take your readings," he said to Peevy. "Then help us with the core sample." He planted a beacon and flicked it on. It flashed with a bright blue light. "This big old rock is now mine," he said triumphantly, as the beacon sent his claim across space.

Peevy turned on the geo-scanner, sprinkled a handful of surface dust over the sensor. "We should be careful," he said as he worked. "There are dangerous things out here."

"Ha!" Rake set up a tripod and drill unit. "So you said. We'll let the DAP and all those suits worry about that shit. Our concerns are here and now." He hefted the core-drill into place.

Peevy looked up from his scanner and the black expanse swam through his vision. His knees turned to jelly. Don't look up! Don't look up!

LaVey trotted over, ruffing silently in the vacuum, his eyes reassuring. Peevy patted him again, doing his best to stem the shivers rippling through his body. "This sensor is only picking up general debris on the surface. The dust is only an inch or so thick, standard composites, no trace of anything valuable." He swept his hand back and forth, clearing the dust away. It wafted and spiralled lazily. "The actual planetoid surface is kinda smooth and hard, but not any rock or metal this sensor recognises. Not ice either."

Rake and Timmo fired up the drill and drove it down. It carved quickly into the surface, collecting a core sample through its centre. They fell forward, all resistance gone.

"I think we hit an air pocket," Timmo said.

Peevy changed his sensor settings, scanned again. "The surface is only about a metre thick," he said, not sure he believed the readings himself.

"Where?" Rake asked.

Peevy turned, scanning around, keeping his eyes down. LaVey circled with him, staying in sight all the time, doing his job. "Everywhere," Peevy said. "At least locally, but the indications are this whole planetoid is hollow. I'm getting pingbacks of solid objects inside, unknown composition, lots of space around them." His trembling increased, the deep fear accompanied by a strong sense of foreboding.

"Get the laser cutter," Rake said.

"Laser cutter?" Peevy could hear the terror in his voice.

Rake and Timmo dragged over the huge tool, fired it up. Rake set the cutting depth and they walked the wheeled unit around in a circle, roughly two metres across.

"I don't know if you should be doing this," Peevy said.

A large disc of planetoid surface sank away out of sight. Rake and Timmo leaned over the hole and whistled in wonder.

The circle they'd cut sank through a strange, fibrous web of membranes that seemed to fill the entire planetoid. Large spheres with smooth opalescent surfaces nestled among the fibres, each one over a metre across. The cut-away chunk of surface sank through the membranes, tearing a channel down into the planetoid, leaving more pearl-like spheres exposed.

"What are they?" Timmo asked.

"Our meal ticket," Rake said. "Sensors can't read the things, so we've found something new here."

Peevy looked across the surface. Before the black swallowed him he looked down again, into the fibrous depths. "This is far from normal, guys," he said, his voice weak. "We should come back with better equipment before we disturb this stuff too much."

Rake laughed raucously through the comm. "What makes you think we can afford better equipment?"

"Well, the stake is claimed," Peevy said,

becoming  desperate.  "Let's find someone to help us out. Get a proper team out here."

"I ain't sharing this find with anyone. Timmo, get the belay lines out. I want to bring one of those shiny balls up to the ship for a proper look."

Peevy's trembling became harder to control. The wide open black loomed all around, the claustrophobic confines of the suit, the downright weird situation below his feet, all began to overwhelm him. "Guys, please, can I go back inside? I need to..."

"You need to control this belay unit," Rake barked at him.

The Captain and Timmo attached lines to their suits and jumped down into the hole. Peevy dived for the controls, slowed their descent. His hands shook violently. LaVey barked mutely beside him.

"Stop us by the first sphere," Rake said.

Peevy watched the two men descend. He braked the lines as they came alongside the nearest sphere and they began pulling at the membranous fibres supporting it.

Ollie's voice burst into their ears. "Captain, we're being hailed."

Rake leaned back to look up towards the surface. "By who?"

"The USV Armstrong, Captain. They want to talk to you."

Rake cursed under his breath. "Peevy, did you contact someone, you bastard?"

Peevy's sense of trepidation grew stronger. "No, really, I didn't."

"They've tracked the distress beacon in a USV escape pod to this location," Ollie said.

Realisation dawned in Peevy's mind. The auto-beacon. It would have been singing out across the black since the moment he ejected from the Clara Halo.

"Fuck's sake," Rake said. "Patch me through."

"You're connected, Captain."

"This is Captain Rake of the Whore's Gambit. That escape pod is my salvage."

"Good day, Captain Rake. This is Captain Jules Vestry of the USV Armstrong. I'm afraid that escape pod is not subject to galactic salvage law. It's the property of United Spaceways."

"Screw that, Vestry. I found it drifting in space, it's my salvage."

"The pod and all data on board is company property, under DAP protocol, article 15b, paragraph 7, Deep Space Exploration Regulations. The law is not on your side here."

"Screw you and screw the law. You want to bring a DAP arbitrator out here, go right ahead. In the meantime, fuck off."

Sally's voice came over the comm."Rake, let them have it. You've got enough to deal with."

"Principal of the thing, Sal. Fly away, Vestry."

Vestry's voice was hard, all trace of civility gone. "We will not request again, Captain Rake. That pod is our property and we are within our rights to recover it by whatever means necessary."

Peevy suppressed the almost overwhelming urge to run away. "Please, Captain Rake," he said. "The company is not known for its patience or gentleness. Give them the pod and they'll go."

"Shut up! This is your fault. I can't believe this is happening again!" He continued tearing at the fibres around the sphere. "Timmo, help me get this thing up."

"Captain Rake," Vestry said, "this is your last warning. Your claim on that rock stands, but the pod is ours. We won't ask again."

"Ollie, cut the connection," Rake said, grunting as he pulled at the long, sticky-looking fibres.

"That's not a good idea," Peevy told him.

"Fuck ‘em. What are they gonna do?" Rake and Timmo started dragging the sphere away from the membranes, gripped it with hands and feet. "Peevy, winch us up."

Peevy reached for the controls. A huge shadow swept over him, travelling across the planetoid. He vaguely heard Ollie calling out to Rake as he looked up and saw the massive bulk of a USV Cruiser hove into view above them. His legs folded beneath him, his mind swimming in treacle as he tried to process the vast bulk of the ship and the enormity of the void around it. A cannon, absurdly tiny on the massive hull, pivoted towards them.

"They're going to fire on us!"Peevy cried. He wondered if it would be a warning shot or something designed to remove the problem entirely.

The gun nozzle flared, silent in the night, and a bolt of energy shot down to the surface. It struck a good fifty metres away and Peevy felt some relief. Surely even Rake would take them seriously after that.

The shot burst open the surface of the planetoid and flames belched from inside as the strange membranes immolated. Peevy's brain registered a transient thought, How is it burning? before the fire ripped through the inside of the planetoid right below him.

Rake and Timmo screamed in agony momentarily, their cries cut short as fire gouted up through the hole before Peevy. He staggered away, fell to his back, felt the heat even through his atmo suit. LaVey ran, loping long and comical through the low g, heading for the Whore's Gambit, barking without sound back at Peevy. Peevy lay still, stunned and terrified, as the surface bucked beneath him.

Oh my god, they're dead!

He heard Ollie's voice over the comm shouting questions. Sally screamed somewhere. The surface beneath him shifted and cracked, sheets of fire lanced through the gaps.

LaVey bounded back across the heaving ground, landing his front paws on Peevy's chest. His jaw worked with desperate, silent barks. Peevy trembled, paralysed. I have to run! I have to run!  The Clara Halo gone, Rake and Timmo gone. He was about to be cast into eternity from an exploding planetoid.

LaVey grabbed his arm in strong jaws and heaved away. Peevy's arm dragged up over his head and he scraped along the dusty surface. The SimHound's powerful legs bunched and pushed again, as he dragged Peevy in slow, low-g bounds.

"We have to get off this rock!" Ollie yelled through his comm.

LaVey took great leaping strides as the planetoid shuddered beneath them, Peevy bouncing with him in shallow waves. He wanted to get up and run. He yelled incoherently in fear as fire burst all around him, but his body was a dead weight. Fear numbed his limbs, froze his joints, turned his mind to treacle.

"Peevy, get inside!" Ollie screamed, the comm speakers peaking out with his volume.

"Come on, Peevy." Sally's voice was softer, but no less fearful. "Please."

I have to run!  But he couldn't move.

LaVey's jaw gripped Peevy's arm like a vice as he leapt and dragged, strange sideways bounds. Peevy shuddered at the thought of the SimHound's teeth puncturing the sleeve of the atmo suit. He hit something hard and angled and realised it was the ramp into the Whore's Gambit. He saw the thrusters pivot to a take-off angle. With a bellow of determination he forced himself to twist in the air as LaVey jumped and he grabbed the side of the airlock. The SimHound tumbled through and Peevy drew his legs in as the door whooshed closed. The ship roared and shook as the engines fired.

Peevy dragged off the helmet and atmo suit, gasping for air. His heart hammered at his ribs. LaVey pranced back and forth, barking furiously, finally audible. Peevy had never heard anything so good. He grabbed his furry friend and pulled him close. "Thank you, LaVey. Thank you so much." LaVey licked kisses all over his face.

Peevy hauled his shaking body up and stared through the airlock window as the Whore's Gambit lurched away. A pearlescent sphere popped up on a column of fire. It cracked open and something unfurled, stretched out into a long, glistening teardrop, glowing with fire inside. It undulated and moved away through space, swimming like a finless whale.

As they powered away the planetoid swelled and cracked, its surface a chaotic network of glowing veins that widened and bulged and the whole thing burst out into space in a golden ball of heat and power. The Whore's Gambit rocked on the wake of the explosion.

As the fire receded, thousands of bright, flame-filled tears swarmed and swirled among the glowing debris. They rippled and flowed together into a huge shoal. As they moved, the flames inside them rolled into balls of incandescence, a thousand tiny suns confined in a thousand glassy, gelatinous piriforms, swimming through space.

Peevy turned and ran for the bridge. Ollie and Sally stared out the front screens as the things swarmed towards them. "What are they?" Sally's voice was a whisper of wonder.

"How do they survive in space?"Ollie asked. "How are they moving?"

Peevy stared with them, heart still in his throat. The same questions crowded his mind, but no answers presented themselves. He realised the creatures were headed for the Whore's Gambit. "Er, guys, are they coming at us?"

Ollie jerked into action. "What do we do? Are they dangerous?" He fired the engines, swept the ship around in an arc to head away.

Peevy saw the swarm shift, alter its course to follow. "Heat!" he said, surprising himself.

"What?"

"They might be attracted to our heat signature, our engines. If the fire and explosion hatched them... Ollie, fly past the Armstrong as close as you can. Their heat signature is far bigger than ours. Sweep by and kill the power."

LaVey stood on his hind legs, paws on the console, watched with them. Peevy buried one hand in the fur of the SimHound's neck, more grateful than words could express.

Ollie aimed for the back end of the huge company vessel. Weapon ports popped open all along the side of the Armstrong and began firing as the Whore's Gambit, trailed by a swarm of thousands, bore down on them. Ollie ducked and weaved the ship, angling in behind to make the firing angle as narrow as possible.

"I don't know if they're firing at us or those things," he said as he wrestled the controls, "but I'm not taking any chances." He made as if to fly right into the Armstrong's exhaust ports. At the last second he banked and cut the power.

Silence sank over the Whore's Gambit as they shot past under momentum, all signature muted. Ollie flicked his fingers in a holographic display and a screen popped up, showing the Armstrong behind them. The creatures engulfed the massive ship as it pumped ordinance into space all around. The bright white hull vanished under a seething mass of glowing entities.

"Will they be okay?" Sally asked quietly.

"Should be," Peevy said. "They can put all kinds of charges through the hull and burn or shock them off. Hopefully," he added dubiously.

Ollie's hands were white against the console. "Rake and Timmo are gone," he said, gulping hard.

Sally rested a hand on his shoulder. "This time Rake's gamble went against him."

They watched the Armstrong disappear aft, the details in the holoscreen getting more indistinct by the second. Pulses of energy travelled around the hull. The swarm burst off. Some disappeared under ordinance fire, blossoming in tiny nuclear explosions, before the mass closed around the huge vessel once more.

"They're beautiful," Sally said, her eyes haunted. "Are they really a threat?"

Peevy took a deep breath, tried to calm his nerves. He stroked LaVey's black and tan head. "I guess that's the Armstrong's problem. They fired on us and started this whole thing." He paused, lips pursed. Maybe it was time he gave up trying to work on the best tech for the big companies and just disappeared somewhere. Maybe a pioneer globe, where the company and the DAP had little presence.

He sat in the co-pilot chair, tapped at controls. Ollie and Sally watched him, saying nothing. "Anything of any value in the cargo hold?" he asked.

"Nah," Ollie said. "We haven't had any cargo but junk for ages. That's why we're so bloody hungry."

The ship jerked as the hold doors popped open and the cargo bay contents vented out into space, including the Clara Halo escape pod. "I made a recording while I drifted," Peevy said. "It explains everything. They get the pod and the data, hopefully they'll forget about me."

"For all they know Rake killed you when he recovered the pod."

The Armstrong was a tiny dot in the vastness of infinity. Nothing seemed to be following them. "Let's get out of here then," Peevy said and fired up the engines.

"Where will we go?" Sally asked.

Peevy dropped a hand to LaVey's head. He pointed out the front screens with the other. "That way?"


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