Dark water writhed over the ship’s deck, a living thing hunting for prey, stinging like acid where it touched bare skin. Jeani stumbled over the guts of her ship, swearing in every language she knew. Her foot fell through a hole in the deck created by the crash. Hot metal gouged her leg as tears ran down her cheeks.
I don’t want to die like this. There has to be a way out.
There is a way out. The same way the water is coming in.
Running was out of the question. Half-limping, half-swimming through the rising water, Jeani forced herself back to the rear of the ship, navigating by touch and the weak glow of the emergency lights that hadn’t burst, back to the gaping wound that was once the engine room and secondary hold. Pressure from the rapid descent into the gravity well and the gushing water warped the frame, creating a strong current. Jeani grabbed the free-fall handle near the emergency door and pressed her free hand to the glowing lock.
She tried yanking the override.
She kicked the door with her good leg.
Pressure sent the door flying inwards at the head of a tidal wave. Jeani gasped for air and went under. Seconds ticked away as she grappled blindly for the next free-fall handle, the current tugging at her.
The hand-hold slipped out of her grip. She pushed up once, bumping her head against the high ceiling of the engine room as she gasped for air. The current swirled under her, pulling her down into the darkness. Saltwater stung her face. She shuddered as something nipped at her bleeding leg. Ignoring the pain, she clawed at the water until she broke through and gasped in the alien atmosphere. Water crashed over her in the darkness.
Rough, warm sand rubbed against her skin. Sucking in a lungful of the oxygen-rich air, Jeani flipped onto her stomach and pulled herself away from the water. It lapped at her legs, a wayward lover begging her to return.
She laughed as she looked at the strange stars overhead. Her lungs burned, her leg ached, she was shaking with delayed shock, but she was alive. “See, Hothi, I told you I wasn’t going to die that easy.”
When her partner calls her early Saturday morning to report a body in La Jolla Cove, rescue diver Kristin Castaño’s only worry is losing sleep. Once she’s in the water, all that changes.
I’m not even sure where to start. I’m good at my job. Real good. It’s reports I can’t handle. Charlay usually does our reports, but she’s on vacation, so I get the honor of reporting the body.
Or lack of body.
But I’ve no clue where to begin.
Saturday morning, I woke up bleary-eyed to the phone ringing like a fire alarm during mass. Groggy, I hit the speaker phone button. “’Sup?”
“We’ve got a body at La Jolla cove,” Charlay said in the no-nonsense tone of a woman who wakes at four every morning for a brisk five-mile run. “Bring your gear.”
After alien ships have invaded the human territories, destroying planets and sending the survivors fleeing to Earth, the Terran government orders the refugees to settle a new planet. One that has just been terraformed.
Jeff Koenig, one of the few survivors from the Delious system, leads a team of scientists to the planet Dauphin to rebuild his life. They have 70 days until the ship returns with the first wave of colonists, but from Day 1 everything goes wrong.
As the days count down, the colonists watch the skies and pray that the Hurluk won’t find them, or Earth, before they are rescued.
On the view screen the Sol System danced. Planets glowed like phosphorescent pearls in the sea of space. Doctor Jeff Koenig, lead scientist on the Dauphin settlement project, traced the image of Earth with his finger. He’d been born on Earth and left for the Delious system as soon as he could afford the emigration fees. Brilliant Delious, whose fourteen planets and all their many moons had been blasted into rubble by Hurluk world-destroyers. Only Delious Four remained, orbiting in isolation without her three moons.
He’d never meant to come back.
Now he was leaving for a second time.
Earth had been too crowded when he left with his wife to start a new life out in the northern solar rim. Now the world-cities overflowed with refugees scattered by the Hurluk attacks. Accelerated terraforming on Dauphin wasn’t the only plan to alleviate some of the housing pressure, but it was the only one that would show results in the next solar year.
Jeff frowned at the projection of Earth. How many of Sol’s citizens really intended to emigrate to Dauphin? Most just wanted a place to abandon the refugees. But some would earn the money to buy their way free of the Sol system, and how many of them would come?
“Doctor Koenig?” Captain Mac of the Terrance Lee interrupted his reverie. “I need your crew to buckle down. We’re hitting jump in twenty minutes.”
“I thought everyone was settled.” Jeff looked past the captain to the commons room where scientists mingled with the hired hands, all displaced workers paying back the cost of evacuation to the government. “Lawson.”
“She’s in the cargo bay.”
Swearing, Jeff stalked down the hall. What had the congressional council been thinking when they assigned her to the team? But he knew the rumors; Doctor Bella Lawson threatened the wrong people, stepped on the wrong toes. So they’d dumped her on the Dauphin team.
If only he could dump her back.