Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Mid Week tease. I’m late posting this morning, but Eloisia, Episode One, Stowaway is finished and ready to upload to Amazon. I hope to get it up and running by the end of the week.
Things have been crazy around here, but I’m hoping they’ll settle down soon.
Thanks to Sandra Bunino, for providing this weekly platform for all of our efforts.
Today, I want to share the last little bit of Episode One with you and my gorgeous cover, courtesy of Danielle Doolittle.
The tweet beneath his skin indicated an incoming message. He tapped audio.
“Striker,” he said aloud.
“Captain, it’s Lewis with team five. We have a problem in Cargo Bay 49.
“What kind of problem?” he asked, praying it wasn’t another stowaway.
“We’ve found six bodies, sir.
Striker frowned. “Say again?”
“We’ve found six bodies in a storage compartment—been here a while, Colonel.
“I’m on my way.” He turned to Ames. “You three are with me.” He pressed his communicator. “Clint. We’ve got six bodies in Cargo Bay 49. Meet me there.” He touched the com link to end the conversation.
“Gentlemen, if you’ll wait outside…”
“Yes, Colonel,” they answered as one, and moved toward the door.
Darla sat on the sofa where she’d dropped after hearing about the bodies. “Is there anything I can do?” she asked.
“Not really, not now. Clint will know how long they’ve been dead. That might even tell us how long we’ve been in space. If you don’t want to sleep, I can have Alpha take you through the crew manifest—at least for the 42 we’ve revived so far. I’m assuming our saboteur is one of the Children of Earth, so you may want to look through the full manifest for those who originated on the planet. You’ll have to use the com link on my desk. I’ll see to it Clint implants one in you tomorrow.”
He smiled at her. “I always am.” He opened the door. “Let’s go.”
Striker led the marines to the transport tube and then into an anti-gravity vehicle. Cargo Bay 49 was at the farthest end of the ship. He was surprised to see the doctor was already there when they arrived.
“What did you do, fly?”
“No, I transported here from Sick Bay.”
“I didn’t think of that. I forgot this vessel has internal transport capabilities. Have you been inside?” he asked.
“I have. They’ve been dead for some time. They were all shot with an old-style projectile weapon, and placed in the storage locker. They must’ve been in there two or three weeks before the cargo bay decompressed. Putrefaction was in full swing, but the lack of atmosphere stopped it. It started again when life support was activated.”
“Can you identify them?”
“Not the way they are, but while the flesh is a mess, the bones are in great shape. Once I have a face, I can compare them to the manifest, but Jim, we didn’t have six empty cryobeds. There was only one in the children’s pod. My guess is that whoever killed these guys, took their cryotubes.”
“Are you telling me I have six traitors aboard instead of one?”
“I’m just saying it’s a possibility.”
Striker stepped into the room, noting it was several degrees warmer in here than it should be.
“They’re in here,” Lewis said, indicating the large storage bin. “The smell led us to it.”
“This place is like a sonic shower on high,” Striker asked, trying not to gag. “Why?”
“Don’t know, sir, but engineering is sending someone to check it out. We pressurized all of the cargo bays together when we got those search orders. It’s been heating up all day.”
“And when it heats up, decomp starts again,” Clint said, standing beside him. “My guess would be that, when they stuffed the bodies into that storage bin, they cranked up the heat to speed up the breakdown. I’ll have the bodies transported, box and all to autopsy and see if I can figure out when they died. Once the temperature is back to normal, the ship can purify the air. For my money, Jim, there’s a reason these guys were killed and left here. What’s significant about this bay, other than the fact it’s at the extreme end of the ship?”
“Lewis?” Striker asked.
“I don’t know, Colonel. We expected to find the place empty. The contents manifest is blank.”
Striker looked around the room, stacked floor to ceiling with crates. The damn place certainly wasn’t empty. He hoped to hell there weren’t any more bodies in them. Six potential traitors aboard were more than enough.
“Get some masks, and then I want every one of the crates, barrels, and boxes in this place opened. Ames, you and your team help them. No one else comes into this area without my express authorization.”
The storage bin and Clint Mathers glowed, indicating they were transporting back to Sick Bay. He hoped Clint would be able to identify the cadavers, but the odds were whoever had killed them had altered the manifest. The problem was, he was the only one supposedly with the ability to do that, and he was sure he hadn’t—at least he hoped he hadn’t.
“I’m going back to my cabin. Oh, make sure you look for an old gun or rifle. That could be the murder weapon.”
He left the cargo bay and headed back to his cabin. The possibility of a terrorist unit, not a lone wolf, scared the bejesus out of him. He’d recognized the standard issue coveralls all the ships’ passengers had worn those first two weeks. Clint had said they’d been dead two or three weeks before decompression. That fit. Someone has snuck aboard the ship, probably in that cargo container, killed the six people, and then taken their place. How had they known who to kill?
He hurried back to his cabin, pleased to see Darla awake, sitting at the computer console, examining the manifest as he’d requested. She turned at his arrival.
“You’re upset. Your thoughts are jumbled. What did you find?”
“Six bodies. They were killed shortly after we left Io, but they are badly decomposed, so it may take a while to identify them, if we do.”
“I see. There’s something you want from me,” she said. “I can sense it, but you’re hesitant.”
“Darla, someone altered the crew manifest. You saw me do it in the transport tube. I’m supposed to be the only one who can. I need you to scan my mind and make sure I’m not the one who sabotaged the ship and murdered those people.”
“You wouldn’t do that,” she whispered, and he saw she was shocked by the words he’d spoken.
“But you said the person who’d sabotaged the ship could’ve been telepathically ordered to do so. I need to know it wasn’t me.”
“And if it was?”
“I need to know I don’t have anything else planned. If I do, God help us all.
To be continued…
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