The ship was not still, but at least it was no longer under power. The relentless drive had been silenced, and the marines hung silently in the cargo bay, bunched up with attention pointed outward. Not weapons, with no signs of life or movement, just aware of their surroundings. The comms woke up.
“Engine is shut down, sir. We will run diagnostics on it, but the initial evaluation indicates we should be able to reverse thrust, after spooling it back up under control.”
Which meant that the ship would be brought to a halt, from the dizzying speed it had built up on the long chase through space. The comms fell silent again, with a grunted acknowledgment from the leader of the boarding party. He made a hand gesture, now, rather than using the comms built into their armor, and saw his men respond. They had drilled for this, on the battleship while they had tracked the derelict starliner. Now, they broke apart into individual components, and started moving across the big cargo bay. Once they passed through the hatch and into the corridors of the ship, the team tasked with killing the runaway engine had reported the gravity was functional. Here, though.
In the dark bay, large enough to swallow up their smaller, faster ship, the men maneuvered with tiny thrusters, using headlamps and suit lights to find their way. Over the suit comms, which were held open in times of combat, or, in this case, a search, there was a grunt of effort.
Captain Tressach saw an indicator flash yellow-green in his heads-up display, spilling sickly color onto the inside of his helmet. He toggled the team channel.
“I was drifting through and it hit me…” There was another pained noise, and the light went to full yellow. “I’m ok, sir, just bruised I think. There’s loose cargo flitting about.” The rest of the transmission was pithy but heartfelt cursing.
“Form up on me.” The captain ordered. “Consolato. Do you want to return to the ship.”
There was a grunt, then, “Sir, I’m on a ship. Can’t get rid of me that easy.”
Tressach waited a moment, tracking them all on his display. Once he was sure they were ready, they moved again, lights deployed to give them a wedge of visibility. There was another box, no, he mentally corrected himself, a cargo cube, bigger on each face than he was tall, adrift between them and the target hatch. They moved like a school of fish around it. Predatory fish, checking their speed and sweeping the hidden planes of it before they broke cover. There had been no life-signs in the scan of this bay, but Tressach knew that scanning was not infallible.
They reached the hatch without further incident, and he waved Jelica forward. The stocky sergeant clamped a magnetic handhold to the bulkhead by the hatch, then plugged a tablet into the controls of the hatch.
“All green, sir, the codes we were given are still good.”
Tressach nodded, even though they couldn’t see him inside his helmet. “Let’s get in there, then.”
My prompt this week came from Becky Jones, with “I was drifting through when it hit me…”
I prompted Fiona Grey with “Aim small, miss small.”
You can read all of the prompt responses, or play along with the creative challenge yourself, over at More Odds Than Ends.