“What the hell IS that thing?”
Dimitri glanced at the man but didn’t bother to respond. If the rookie couldn’t keep his comments to himself and his jaw off of the floor then he wouldn’t be with the company long enough for any advice to mean anything. Not that he hadn’t thought the same thing as the giant oblong structure they were overseeing the security for had taken shape over the past months. It really was something to behold but the amazement wore off rather quickly once you realized it was a death trap. Things built by the lowest bidder who liked to cut corners tended to be.
His brother Kenric sent an annoyed look at the rookie with a hissed, “Eyes front and mouth closed!” That almost made Dimitri laugh but he’d been doing these private security gigs too long to give in to the urge. Plus his brother looked to him to set a good example for new recruits. He hated being an example.
“It’s just as I told you, Senator Lawrence. Our new research vessel will be finished in time for the voyage. There really is no need for all these checks.” Researcher Lazen grumbled.
By the look on Senator Lawrence’s face Dimitri doubted that he agreed. With good reason. Having been part of the security detail since the beginning he knew the construction of the new research vessel had been anything but smooth. There had been the radiation leak during the designing of the new engine, the collapse of the upper levels, and other issues. He could hardly wait for this job to be done.
“That remains to be seen, Lazen. We aren’t the only ones attempting to reach Berith 2. The laws on property rights for new planets are quite clear. If someone else reaches it first then all of this is a waste of time and resources.”
The group moved out of earshot but Dimitri filed the comment away. It was old news that several companies were trying to reach the newest planet suspected of being able to sustain human life. Berith 2 was an Eden waiting to be claimed if the report from the recon drones was correct. Kenric was always suspicious about those types of reports until someone had actually landed on the planet and Dimitri had to agree. You could only tell so much from the reports after all, they tended to miss things.
“Dimitri! Help a girl out?”
He gave in to the urge to smile this time. Daisy was a research assistant who had taken quite a liking to him from the start of the project. He walked over to help the leggy blond with the boxes she was juggling. “Don’t you have a few grunts to help with this sort of thing?” Usually Daisy had at least two of the other assistants to order around. She hadn’t gone through school to do menial labor she had told him once and carrying boxes around qualified as just that in her mind.
“Researcher Lazen has everyone making sure the biolab is ready for inspection. Personally I felt that having essential areas like the infirmary stocked was a good idea but I was vetoed. I’m doing it anyway though. I have no idea where Senator Lawrence will head to but I’m not taking chances. The farther along we look the better his report to the board will be.”
“Sure you’re not just trying to get me alone in a deserted part of the ship?” Dimitri asked her as they reached the infirmary. They were both shameless flirts and had been going back and forth since first being introduced months ago. He wasn’t looking for anything of a personal nature but he couldn’t help liking the attention. It also irritated his brother which was an added bonus.
Turning around the cute blond gave him a flirty half smile and leaned against the examination table. “Maybe? Would you try something if I did?” Her eyes slid down his body lingering over his tight abs and narrow hips. Her white teeth bite her lower lip in a rather sexy way that had him wondering if she was serious this time. He was still debating what would be an appropriate response when the ship shook under their feet and all the lights went out.
Soon the red emergency lights came on overhead and he quickly moved over to Daisy. “Please secure yourselves for take off. Take off will commence in five minutes. Please secure yourselves for take off.” The computer continued to advise anyone on board to prepare for take off as he grabbed Daisy and practically dragged her toward the nearest exit off the ship.
“What the? What’s going on?!”
“Looks like there’s about to be another accident on this project and we are NOT going to be on this ship when it happens!” She was still trying to process what was going on and dragging her heels. Too slow. Much too slow. Need to go faster. He was NOT going to be here if this fucking death trap took off. Faster faster faster.
His new mantra now echoing in his head he picked her up and started running with her in his arms. Rounding the corner he saw their door to freedom already half closed and still lowering. Kenric was there at the door trying to shove things under it to keep it open.
“Move your fucking mule D! This shit is closing and I can’t keep it open!”
“Shit!” Locking eyes with his brother he saw Kenric already knew. He wasn’t going to make it in time. Gripping Daisy he put all his weight behind his toss and threw her across the distance to Kenric. He caught Daisy and pulled her through the small gap before it slammed closed. His momentum sent him crashing into the door. This was not the way he’d planned on his day going. Fucking Mondays.
He knew his brother would get Daisy to safety so he swallowed past the lump in his throat and set off back into the dark halls. He had very little time to gather up whoever else was still in the ship and get everyone ready for…what? Take off? Blowing up? Whatever was going to happen he needed to get the poor SOB’s trapped in the ship ready for it. It was times like this that he really hated his job.
Running down the hallways as fast as his legs could carry him, Dimitri tried to think back to where the others could be. Daisy said the tour was focusing on the biolab but he’d never make it there in time. Why had they made this thing so fucking big? He’d have to trust that the members of his crew escorting the tour would take care of that group. He’d focus on getting everyone else safely secured in the nearest passenger bay. As he ran he kept calling out just in case someone was close.
“Anyone down here?! We need to get to the passenger bay!”
Thinking back to the meeting he sat in about the structure he mentally pulled up a map of the ship. It was a good thing Kenric always made them memorize the layouts. Which way was it? Skidding into another wall he barreled through a cargo bay again yelling out for anyone to hear. The computer’s voice calmly informed him how many minutes he had left before take off. He was really starting to hate that voice.
“Anyone here?! We don’t have much more time!”
Finally! Rounding another corner he saw two researchers running toward him with one of his security team. Ryan was trailing behind them half carrying a third researcher who looked like he had an injured leg. Dimitri didn’t bother stopping or slowing but instead motioned with his head that the two men in front keep going toward the passenger bay and grabbed the injured man by his other arm. Between him and Ryan they picked the smaller man up and kept running without missing a beat.
“Seen any others?” Ryan asked, not even winded despite dragging the extra weight and running breakneck.
“No. I got Daisy out but the door closed automatically. The inspection group should be in the biolab right?”
“As long as the Senator didn’t drag them elsewhere. Passenger Bay!” With relief they reached the first level Passenger Bay. Heading straight for the seats along the wall he and Ryan got the injured man strapped in.
“Get those other two and anyone else who wanders in secured. I’m going to call the biolab and make sure they’re ready in there. Those seats are cleared for take off right?”
One of the assistants answered him, a short man with mousy brown hair whose hands couldn’t stop shaking enough to click the buckles for the straps in his seat. His voice was a little shaky too but he wasn’t panicking at least. “Yes. They finished that section last week. Lazen insisted.”
Running over to the wall console he punched in the code he hoped was for the biolab. He owed Kenric his ass for making him memorize all this shit if he lived through this. When. WHEN he lived through this. The screen flashed a message reading “connecting to biolab” and Dimitri sighed in relief.
A frantic voice answered. “Hello? Oh my God, who is this? We need help in here!” There was more yelling in the background. He was again really glad no one on his end was freaking out too badly.
“This is Dimitri Thorne, part of the security detail. The exits are closed so unless one of you can cancel the take off sequence you’re all going to need to secure yourselves into the seats there.”
The frightened man on the other end started gibbering in panic so Dimitri repeated himself. “If this thing takes off and you’re not restrained properly you’re going to be a stain on the fucking wall, get buckled in NOW! I can’t make it there in time to do it for you!”
He heard hyperventilating and a whimper before someone else must have moved the first man out of the way. “We’ll get in our seats now. Where are you?” This time the voice was stronger, more confident. Ah, so the Senator was there. He recognized that voice from the political podcasts his brother was always listening to.
“We’re in the first level Passenger Bay. Two from the security detail and three researchers, one who’s injured. We didn’t see anyone else on our way here. Get everyone strapped in and we’ll make our way to you once things settle down. Out.”
Ryan had managed to get the other two men in their seats and was buckling himself in on the far side of them. Dimitri got into a seat on the other end of the row so that the researchers were between them. Taking a deep breath his mind blanked. How much longer did they have?
He hoped the seats held up. Just don’t think about that collapse they had on the upper floors. Great. Now he was thinking about it. Fuck. Cursing his brain he looked up at the ceiling half expecting it to come falling down to bury them all when the computer piped up with a new message.
“Please begin breathing protocol. Take off sequence initiating in Ten…Nine…Eight…”
Breathing protocol? What the fuck was that? There was a protocol for fucking breathing?
Deep breaths. Just like in skin diving. Oxygenate the blood or whatever the hell you called it. Fuck, he hoped they didn’t blow up. If he did he was coming back to haunt whoever signed them up for this job.
“One…Take off sequence initiating.” That announcement was met with a loud roar and rock of the ship. Everything started shaking and Dimitri couldn’t help watching the ceiling while praying it didn’t fall in on them. That they didn’t blow up. Radiation didn’t start leaking from the engine like before. That he didn’t soil himself, he hadn’t worn his brown pants today. Over the sounds of the engines firing up he could hear that he wasn’t the only one praying.
“Please God, don’t let me die. I don’t want to die here!”
He would have added his own endorsement to that prayer but the sound of labored breathing and shouts brought his attention to the hallway across from where they had come in. Another researcher came running in full tilt. Oh shit was all he could think before the ship gave a great lurch and they were all pressed back into their seats. Even his lungs felt flattened.
Any discomfort he felt was forgotten as they all watched the tardy man tossed across the room into the wall. The sickening crack kept everyone’s attention there, they couldn’t look away. The pressure from their acceleration kept the dead man pinned to the wall. He was oddly grateful that vomiting wasn’t possible at the moment or else he might have. That was when the ship really started to shake.
Great. Turbulence. The ship was going to be torn apart and they were all going to be tossed out into whatever bit of air or space they were at now and they were going to die. Fuck. He didn’t want to die today. He always knew he’d die on a Monday. Because Monday’s hated him.
The shaking kept getting worse and Dimitri’s certainty that Monday was going to kill him just grew. The man next to him started making an odd strangled whimpering noise. Dimitri didn’t know why but suddenly it had him laughing his head off. Probably all the adrenaline in his system but the whole situation struck him as ridiculous. As the pressure increased his laughing turned into more of a choked gasping. He couldn’t get his lungs to expand enough against the pressure. The ship jolted forward suddenly and sent his head snapping back toward the top of his seat. Not having time for the luxury of adjusting his headrest the back of his skull hit the metal top of it rather than the padding and Dimitri slipped into blessed unconsciousness.