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textbook perfect landing until she saw Dinah's smile.
"No contact from Aaron's Rod," Odelia reported crisply, "but sensors
report several strange things, including a higher power load on the reactor
and a higher readiness levels from Engineering."
Judith frowned, but signalled to begin powering down the shuttle.
"Forward your report to Samson's Bane, and tell them to be ready . . ."
Odelia gave a slight start, and held up her hand in mute interruption.
Then she switched what was coming over her ear-set so the rest of the cockpit
could hear.
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ABC Amber Palm Converter, http://www.processtext.com/abcpalm.html
"Hey, Joe," a laconic male voice she recognized as Sam, one of the
caretaker crew, said over an audio-only channel. "Looking good. We'll be
bringing out the carry flats when pressure and atmosphere are reestablished.
Why didn't you take Blossom? We were a little surprised."
Judith made a quick motion for Odelia to put her on.
"Hey, Sam," she replied, trusting that the computer simulated male voice
wouldn't sound too unlike Joe. "Before he left the big man ordered Blossom be
given a thorough scrub."
"Sounds like him," Sam replied. "Pompous prick. Big problem when his
private limo has blood stains on the fabric. Pressure's almost up. Seeya . .
He signed off, and Judith blinked. She knew she had to say something
calming or many of the Sisters would panic. Dealing with a caretaker crew
aboard Aaron's Rod had been in their plans, but it sounded like Joe, Sam, and
who knew what others were doing more than minding the ship.
"I guess we weren't the only ones taking advantage of Ephraim being
away," Judith said, making her tone matter-of-fact. "We all know Joe's been
smuggling for years. Makes sense he and his pals would use a ship in orbit as
a rendezvous point."
"Explains why we weren't challenged before this," Dinah agreed, rising
to leave the cockpit, doubtless to spread her own form of calm. "Joe must have
filed a flight plan. God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes even sinners can
be His hands and feet. Let's not disappoint Him by refusing a miracle when He
offers it."
Odelia had connected Zaneta, head of Samson's Bane, into the loop and
now her voice came back, crisp and assured.
"We're going out before the men come in. There's no hope they wouldn't
be suspicious if we left the shuttle armored up after they got here. This way
they may overlook us. Pray for us."
Judith heard a soft murmur through the open cockpit door as those
Sisters who must stand by and wait did precisely that. She lacked their faith,
but found the soft, rhythmic sound oddly comforting.
"Odelia," she said to the com officer, "remind those who have suits to
seal up. We don't know what other surprises there might be. Seal the inner
locks of the shuttle as well, but leave the outer ones ajar, as if we're
waiting for them to come aboard."
Odelia paled slightly, but she gave the order, even as she closed her
own seals.
There was nothing they could do but wait, and they did so in silence,
the only sounds Zaneta's terse report.
"We're off the shuttle, forming up on either side of the door."
"Lights show hatch into ship opening."
The next words were not meant for the waiting Sisters, but for Samson's
"Steady. Let them through . . . Miriam, you make sure that door stays
open. We don't want to be sealed in the bay."
Odelia suddenly remembered that Flower had external cameras and turned
them on. The image was distorted, for Odelia didn't take time to center, but
the command crew watched as one, two, three men strolled through the door,
heading toward the shuttle.
None wore even a vac suit, much less carried weapons. That was what made
what followed so very ugly.
The fourth man coming through the hatch glanced casually to one side and
caught sight of the suited figures flanking the portal. He started to cry out
and Zaneta fired. Her shot caught him squarely in the throat and he went down,
gouting blood.
The other members of Zaneta's corps were no less ready. The three who [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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