By Edward M. Erdelac -
Considine stepped out of the lift, amazed he had gotten so far as Morgenstar’s personal hangar.
This was no freighter dock cluttered with utilitarian equipment and personnel in greasy coveralls.
It was much smaller than the main Avenir hangar, and contained only five craft, four sleek metallic blue one-man security fighters bearing the MM corporate logo, and a high end luxury omniyacht with a zero gravity viewing deck made from actual wood and gilded with brass rails. He had hear much about that omniyacht. It could travel in space, atmosphere, even below the ocean.
He opted for one of the fighters, though he knew the damn thing would be too fast and responsive for him to pilot safely.
He found all but one of the fighters locked, the last apparently left unsecured by a crewman who had also left his toolbox on the gantry.
As he slipped into the flight suit, Considine hoped the careless technician hadn’t left anything else undone.
He crammed himself into the pilot’s chair and lowered the canopy, buckled on the artificial air pump harness and firing up the engines just as the lift door opened and a squad of Morgenstar security spilled out.
He pulled on the exposure helmet, smelled the sour artificial air as the unit on the chest of the suit began to pump, and grabbed hold of the thrumming controls as the ship shook and lifted off the deck.
He watched the security men tumble back into the lift as the hangar door blossomed open, and with a jolt that sent the back of his head smacking against the seat, the fighter leapt out into space.
He fought the controls to turn the thing into a wide bank and angle it for the planet. Why did the damn thing have to be so fast?
He slowed his descent and fiddled with the navigational board, trying to find Zirconia, when suddenly he felt and heard a gush of liquid in his helmet.
His suit was filling with seawater.
In a panic, he felt the hose on the pump harness and realized it was leading under the pilot’s chair. He had no room to look under, but the sea water was rapidly rising to his chin in the helmet.
Of course everything had been too easy. The entire escape – the nurse laying the inoculater on the table for him to grab, the guards separating for his benefit, the unchallenged escape to the hangar, and of course the conveniently unlocked fighter craft, replete with a sabotaged air unit.
He gasped as the salty water reached his lower lip, and spat, instantly regretting it as the faceplate of his helmet spotted, making it almost impossible to see.
Warning klaxons whose purpose he couldn’t get began to flash and sound in the cockpit.
Then something slimy and tubular brushed past his ear.
Good God! Morgenstar had put one of those things under the seat and he had pumped it right into his own suit!
He felt it slithering about his throat and clenched his teeth against the maddening shriek building up in his beating chest.
Then there was a flash of light in his mind.
The thing had made contact.