Chapter no 32

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

A persistent beeping roused her.

Annoyed, Kira forced her eyes open. In the holo, she saw the time displayed: 0345. Fifteen minutes until departure.

She groaned and rolled out of bed, feeling every second of missed sleep. Then it occurred to her that she’d forgotten to set an alarm. Was Gregorovich responsible for waking her?

As she dressed, Kira opened a new window and sent a single line to the ship mind:

Thanks. – Kira

A second later, a response arrived:

De nada. – Gregorovich

It paid to be courteous with ship minds, especially if they were anything less than sane.

Still groggy, Kira ran through the ship and climbed toward the nose of the Wallfish. The ship hadn’t stopped thrusting, which meant the shuttle had yet to arrive. Good. She wasn’t too late.

She found the crew—along with the Entropists and the four Marines in power armor—at the top of the ship, by the airlock.

“About time,” said Falconi, and tossed her a blaster. He was wearing a skinsuit, helmet included, and his oversized grenade launcher, Francesca, was slung across his back.

“Is the shuttle close?” Kira asked.

As if in response, the thrust alert sounded and Gregorovich said, “Initiating docking maneuvers with the UMCS Ilmorra. Please secure yourself to the nearest handhold, seat belt, and/or sticky pad.”

Vishal saw her yawning and offered her a pill of AcuWake. “Here, Ms.

Kira. Try this.”

“I don’t think—”

“It may not help, but I think it is worth trying.”

Still doubtful, Kira popped the capsule into her mouth. It burst between her teeth with a sharp, wintergreen tang, strong enough to make her nose tingle and her eyes water. Within seconds, her exhaustion and mental haze began to dissipate, leaving her feeling as if she’d had a full night’s sleep.

Astonished, she looked back at the doctor. “It worked! How did it work?!”

A sly smile graced the doctor’s face, and he tapped the side of his nose. “I had a suspicion it might. The medicine, it goes straight into the blood and then to your brain. Very quick, very difficult for the Soft Blade to stop without hurting your brain. And it is supposed to help, yes, so maybe the xeno knows not to interfere.”

Whatever the explanation, Kira was grateful for the chemical assistance.

She couldn’t afford to be sleep-deprived right then.

Then all sense of weight abandoned her, and bile filled her throat. Docking was swift and efficient. The UMC shuttle approached the

Wallfish head-on so both ships were safe from radiation within the cones of their shadow shields. They made contact, nose-to-nose, and a light shudder passed through the Wallfish at the touch.

The joined airlocks rolled open. A Marine poked his head through on the other side. “Welcome aboard,” he said.

Falconi gave Kira a crooked smile. “Time to go poking around where we don’t belong.”

“Let’s do this,” she said, and jumped into the Ilmorra.

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