* * * * *
“There’s an obstruction in the main exhaust!” Cyd’s voice echoed down the chamber to her, reminding her of the empty expanse on either side of her.
She checked the clips on her harness for the fiftieth time. The lack of gravity was now her friend. If the engine suddenly powered back on, it would be her worst enemy. Without the harness, she’d be sucked straight out of the ship. In pieces. The grates were designed to keep metal and rock out. To a soft human body, they were vacuum-powered meat grinders. She’d seen it happen.
“I can see it, but I can’t reach it. Send Banj up.”
“He’s not with me.” She switched on her radio. “Banj, do you copy?”
Fingers clutched her arm. She unholstered her weapon and spun. Her helmet light illuminated Banj’s face, and she kicked him backwards with both feet. “Nice one, kid. Sometimes I forget I gotta keep an eye on you.”
Banj’s helmet light flicked on. “Easy prey, sweetheart.” He’d just had his thirteenth birthday. Now he thought he was a man, thought he could get away with calling her sweetheart. Even though he’d been calling her that since he was nine.
“Climb up with me.” Banj tossed his line up a few sections. His light got smaller and smaller.
She slid the cover over the control panel. Nothing she could do here would fix an obstruction. It was all up to Banj. Pretty soon he’d be too big for this job, and they’d have to find another kid.
She followed Banj’s light up the chamber. Cyd hooked her line to the wall next to his and Banj’s, then helped Banj into the exhaust opening. When Banj was out of reach, Cyd caught her eye. She knew what he was thinking. This is no job for a kid. She was thinking the same thing. Especially after what happened to Banj’s predecessor.
Shock waves rippled down the chamber as Banj worked the obstruction free. The air shuddered with each strike, releasing pressure that would kill them all if the engine powered on. Mindstorm creaked and groaned around her. She looked at Cyd. The ship should be silent. All systems should be down.
Cyd went for his radio, and she scrambled up her line to Banj.