In the chaotic and crime-ridden settlement of Boxtown on Mars, Minty Storey witnesses a bar fight she has no idea will change the course of her life.
Halfway across the planet, Janet Pilgrim and the Volunteer Space Rescue Service struggle to do something about the pirate menace on the spaceways between Earth and Mars.
But the problems both face are much bigger than pirates and bar fights. When a leader of Earth’s Manifest Destiny movement makes an appearance on Mars, events begin to roll to a climax that will hold the fate of the planet in the balance.
**how funny that the character has the same last name as me and this blog!**
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Bulk Cargo Ship Lisco Gloria, Mars Orbit
Will Saldana wrinkled his nose. “Why oh why did they have to ‘jack a ship full of coffee,” he asked. Since he was alone in the zero-gee centerline passageway of the spaceship Lisco Gloria, there was no answer forthcoming. “I should have stayed home,” he said, pulling himself aft with one hand while trying to keep the semi-auto pistol in the pocket of his coveralls with the other. Fortunately the pistolwas attached by a string to a belt-loop, so no matter what he wasn’t going to lose it.
He contemplated “home” as he continued aft. He’d been born on Mars, and spent most of his 10 Martian years or Mears living in a small station in the Libya Montes region of Mars. It was the most boring place possible, so when a trade convoy had driven by he’d lit out with them.
“That was a mistake,” he said, addressing one of the many equipment panels he was supposed to be checking. Why they needed to be checked every hour, including the middle of the night, was beyond him. But he was getting paid.
“Money is good,” he said. The handheld radio in his other pocket beeped, and he fished it out. “Yeah,” he said, keying the mike.
“You’re late,” came a woman’s voice from the device. The ‘again’ was unspoken.
“You got a hot date?” Will asked. He wasn’t wearing anything under his coveralls, and thinking of his highly attractive boss was starting to create a reaction.
“Down, boy,” she said, as if she could see him. “Report every 30 minutes means report every 30 minutes, not whenever you feel like it.”
“Fine, fine, keep your shirt on.” Actually, take it off please. “I’m at the Number 2 HVAC panel and nothing to report.”
“Copy, check back in 30, please.”
Will continued on his rounds. He’d ran out of money in New Hue City, which was especially problematic because most of the locals spoke Vietnamese and he didn’t. Fortunately he hooked up with the pirates, who were looking for a crew to guard whatever ship they took. Will, desperate, signed up. He ate most of the advance, keeping just enough to get his nine-millimeter pistol out of hock.
“But why, oh why, did they have to ‘jack a coffee-boat,” he said aloud, hoping talking would keep him awake. Martians, or at least those who actually liked coffee and had money to burn, would pay extra for Earth coffee, and coffee had to be shipped in pressurized cargo holds. Thus, the Lisco Gloria, a ship that reeked of coffee.
He came to the end of his round, a zero-gee corridor that led to an external cargo airlock. He pulled himself into the corridor, intending just to eyeball the airlock from the junction as opposed to go all the way down to the lock.
“Who are you?” Will asked, startled. There was a man in a spacesuit about two meters down the corridor from junction. His suit helmet was open, revealing a full salt-and-pepper beard.
“Easy, kid,” the man said, his gravelly voice quiet. He looked and sounded like somebody’s grandfather. The gun in the man’s hands did not fit with the grandfatherly image. “Just stay cool and nobody will get hurt.”
“Look, man,” Will said, his mouth suddenly dry. “I gotta check in, and if I don’t…”
“Your next check in isn’t due for half an hour,” the man said.
A blower kicked on, and Will’s body started to twist in the sudden breeze. He felt his gun slide out of his pocket, and reflexively reached for it.
“No!” the other man said.
“I’m cool!” Will shouted, thrusting his other hand toward the man. This caused Will to twist some more and the gun to fall completely out.
There were two pops, each as loud as a handclap, and Will felt a burning pain in his chest. His eyes suddenly wouldn’t focus, and he was spun in a different direction. He looked down the corridor and saw the old man’s gun flash, producing a muted clap. Will screamed as something hot drove into his shoulder.
The gun spun away from his suddenly nerveless hand, dangling at the end of the string. The room was getting dark, and Will couldn’t catch his breath. He tried to talk, but couldn’t get any words out.
“Nice shooting, Nick,” Will heard somebody say.
“Kid gave me no choice,” the old man said, his voice sounding distant. “One pirate down, Junction Alpha secured.”
Will closed his eyes. The last thing he heard was the old man saying “too late for a medic.”
About the Author
Chris Gerrib admits to being a bit obsessed with Mars, but in a healthy way – all three books of his Pirate Series are set on Mars. Chris still has a day job as the IT director at a Chicago-area bank, and holds degrees in history and business from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University. He also served in the US Navy during the First Gulf War, and can proudly report that not one Iraqi MiG bombed Jacksonville, Florida while he was in the service. In his copious free time, Chris is a past President of and currently active in his local Rotary club.