The doors slid apart. I held my breath, looked down the barrel of my pistol and waited.
Thirty metres down the corridor, the airlock hatch to my ship stood open. Cavendish waited for three beats, long enough for anybody in hiding to come out of cover.
Immediately Acre was moving, swinging her weapon to the left to cover the first cross corridor. Livingston was next, the soles of her shoes making hardy more noise than Acre. As she was left handed, she covered the right hand side.
I pushed off from the wall and ran, following the first two Bad Girls through the airlock and into the circulation space on deck seven of my ship. I expected to see bodies on the floor; marines from the Stobo assigned to guarding the connection to the citadel class.
“Permission to come aboard?”
“Permission granted, Captain.” Replied Gregory.
“The engineers are on board and the power plant is on-line.”
“That was quick.”
“The flight officer lost the key to the sealing mechanism a couple of nights ago.”
“Where are the guards?” Asked Cavendish.
“They got called away by the Captain of Marines.” She held up a small comms unit.
“Interesting. Tell us later about all the people you had to sleep with. The rest of my crew?”
“Cromwell and Hall are bringing the command crew through the forward airlock. We lost track of Chakrabarty. Nansen’s gone back to find him. And I don’t kiss and tell.” Gregory stepped back into the airlock and fired two rounds down the corridor. “We’ve got company.”
Acre trotted back from the weapons locker carrying weapons and ammunition. She passed them out to the other three Bad Girls and they took up a defensive position facing out through the airlock.
I activated the intercom. “All stations, report.”
“Engineering, three crew, power plant on-line. We’ll have drives and main systems in approximately thirty minutes.” Dodd; the most chatty of the three engineers.
“Give me a ten minute warning.”
“Yes, sir. Engineering out.”
“Hemingray on deck one. Pearce and Ash in tow. On the bridge in one minute, critical systems on-line in ten.”
“Let me know when they are. I’ll be on channel one.”
We would have an operational ship in thirty minutes. The citadel was locked to the Stobo but there were emergency procedures we could use that would force the docking clamps to release us. Getting away was another matter. We would be in range of the Stobo’s weapons long enough for them to reduce us to molten slag and, if the reconnaissance group was carrying enough fighters or fast attack boats, they could do the same.
The weapons locker had other equipment. I took a comms set and linked it with my implant, then selected channel three.
“Cromwell on three.” I smiled. I could rely on my troops to find weapons and comms sets as a matter of priority.
Two rounds entered through the open hatch and put a hole in the partition to the EVA suit locker. We’d need to check all the suits for damage later. I filed it onto the implant. Livingston responded with several short bursts from her flechette rifle.
“Lights going out.” Called Cartier. She trotted over to the locker and selected a new weapon. From the length it was either a plasma rifle or a long-barrelled large-calibre rifle. Cartier was my main sniper so I presumed the latter. She had turned the lights off so she could fire down the corridor without being seen. In the dim glow from the emergency markers I could see her hitch up the skirt of her sari then kneel and bring the weapon to her shoulder.
“Cromwell, I need you and Hall to gear up in standard marine kit.”
“Are we going back out?”
“Received. We’ll be ready in five.” She didn’t bother to ask why and complain about the danger.”
“Belay that order. Get down to deck seven immediately.” Interrupted Cavendish. ”I’ll go out with York.” I sighed, but there was no point in arguing with Cavendish.
Cromwell and Hall arrived in less than a minute. In that time Cartier had fired three rounds and, from the noise levels from outside the ship, achieved three hits. Gregory and Acre were in the airlock, protected by the outer hull but positioned where they could fire down the side approaches. Cromwell and Hall found the best place to add their firepower to Cartier’s. Our position was secure against an assault with small arms but once they got organised they would bring sonic emitters or grenade launchers into play
I followed Cavendish and Livingston down to the assault deck where the main armoury held the ship’s largest supply of weapons and military equipment. Quickly we dressed in standard Imperial Marines uniforms and armour.
“What are we going back out for?”
Cavendish considered this. “We’ll never get near her.” She started to select her equipment. I looked at the racks and took half a dozen ammunition packs, then clipped as many grenades and diversion devices to the body armour as I could fit.
My implant activated as the comms set received a transmission. “Hemingray to York. Bridge systems are up and running.”
“Received. I need a download of the Stobo’s deck plan and security systems. Tell Pearce to intercept their communications and direct us. We’ll also need to know what Ladywood’s intentions are.”
“Understood. She’s already got the plans. Ash will be Zero.”
“Received.” I switched the set to channel zero.”
“Cavendish to Zero.”
“Can we get back through the airlock on deck one?”
“Negative. There’s a full squad of marines up there and we’ve sealed our outer hatch. You need to fight your way out from the main lock.”
“Understood.” I took an extra pair of smoke grenades from the rack.
The other Bad Girls looked so incongruous in their brightly coloured clothes and assault rifles.
“Listen up.” called Cavendish. “We need to hold an outer perimeter otherwise they’ll start bouncing RPGs around.”
“They’ve got a rotary launcher already.” Said Cartier. She paused to sight her weapon and fire another round. “Don’t trip over it.” I glanced down the passageway. "Or the marine who was carrying it." There were two or three bodies in sight.