Some things lost are too dangerous to be found.
Some call her a pirate, but Destiny calls herself treasure hunter. When she and her lover Shane Richards happen upon a derelict Kirsoval harem slave ship, the Yeoman’s Curse, they chance a salvage operation that could be the bonanza of a lifetime…or a lifetime of horror. But when it comes to Kirsoval treasure, there may be no one better suited than Richards to face the dangers. His dark violet eyes are the only hint of the Kirsoval blood that flows through his veins—the very thing that might save them, or pit Destiny against the man she loves…
Read an excerpt:
He stepped into the hallway and down the ladder to a sealed hatchway. The door to the cargo bay slid open and Destiny’s heart jumped at the sight of the cages and crates that nearly filled the space. The hold had to be about fifteen meters tall and thirty wide, but it was hard to tell from the video. She put the length at about fifty meters with a whitish light at the far end—probably the passage to the bridge and slave master’s quarters. The walls of the cargo hold had the typical honeycomb structure—several levels offset from each other for cells that housed slaves.
The Kirsovals’ genetically modified intelligence averaged the same as normal humans, but had a wider spread. Some could be very, very, smart and others dumb as a toad. Rumor was, they ate infants with below average intelligence. Destiny shivered. Nobody knew what went on in a Kirsoval hive. No one had ever gotten out of one alive. Richards was one of only thirty-seven registered humans with Kirsoval DNA. The doctors had traced his ancestry in a direct line to a distant great-grandmother. That made him one of the six of that thirty-seven who got their Kirsoval blood from a direct descendant. The others inherited Kurse DNA from one hundred percent human ancestors who had been genetically altered.
The center alleyway of the hold was open and littered with individual cages and ploy-plastic shipping crates common to the Kirsoval. Excitement tingled deep in her belly and she straightened in her seat. What valuable technology and trade goods might be inside those crates?
“There’s still gravity,” Richards said. “How can that be without some kind of electromagnetic emission?”
“Kirsoval technology, maybe, or something well shielded.”
“Damn, Angel. Who’s to say there’s not a lot more going on behind that shielding?”
“Do you see anyone?”
“No. Nothing on the heat sensors either. I’m taking my helmet off.” The picture jerked, panned, and tilted at the deck. “Hello? Anyone here?”
Destiny held her breath. The only sound that came over his link was a clicking noise like a relay that kept rhythm with the flickering lights.
“Did you hear that?” Richards asked.
“One sec.” She rewound the recording that replayed the sound. “Nothing here.”
“I heard a whisper that sounded like ‘There you are.’”
Her pulse skipped a beat before she remembered that Richards was a superstitious man. It was strange in a man as big and tough as him, but he believed in ghosts, the afterlife, and generally things that went bump in the night. She teased him mercilessly about it, but he never budged an inch in his beliefs.
“You’re just being—”
His video feed flickered and cut out.
Her heart went into hyper-drive. “Dammit. Get back here. It’s a trap.” Destiny poised her hand over the cutting lasers. Could she cut a hole and grab him in the tractors as he and the air blew out of the hole? “Richards!”
“What?” came his voice.
“What happened? I lost your video feed.”
The sound of him smacking his helmet came over the audio. “Duh-know. I’m fine.”
Destiny blew out a breath. “Time to come back, Mister.” Sending him in—stopping to investigate—had been one colossal mistake. Near silence stretched over the audio link, clicking, clicking, clicking. “Richards? Do me a favor and put your helmet back on.”
She shouldn’t have allowed him to take off his helmet. She’d have to cut, grab, tractor, and get him onto the Pale Dawn fast. If she opened the outer lock door and left the air valves open, he’d get oxygen quicker. He still risked a blown eardrum, or two. Maybe an aneurism.
“Richards!” She drew a mental circle on the Kirsoval ship where he was likely to be without her hitting him with the beam. “Richards. Answer me.”
“Looks like—what the—”
“What is it?”
The sound of him drawing his weapon came over the link. “There’s someone here.”
She scanned the sensor displays. Nothing showed except him. No radio wave activity. Thermal looked stable, cold as hell. No subspace or warp bubble activity. “Sensors show no life signs other than yours aboard. Put on your helmet, you fool.” She scooted closer to the cutting lasers. Damn him for taking off his helmet.
“I don’t know what, but something is here. Can’t see him, but I can feel him.”
“Him?” she echoed.
“Just saying, not thinking.”
What the hell did that mean? He was losing it. Despite his superstitions, she had never known him to show fear or dread. That was part of the Kurse. Especially when he was outnumbered, like he’d been by those pirates, he was cool and collected, almost detached like a machine, and that freaked the hell out of everyone else, including her.
So what now? Destiny looked at the sensors. There was nothing unusual about the ship except for the fact it was intact, a slave ship, still had gravity, life support, no signs of damage or foul play, and what else? What the hell else did she need? That was way too many coincidences. The long-range sensors showed quiet space all around. The sooner they cut the thing up and got out, the better.
A sharp intake of breath came over the audio.
“What happened?” Destiny set the laser on low and centered the beam on the Yeoman’s hull. At low power, the laser wasn’t cutting, but was drawing a wide circle where she wanted to cut. She kept the tractor beam poised and on automatic in readiness to grab him as he was expelled along with the air inside the ship.
“The lights went out,” he said.
Her heart pounded. “I heard a gasp. I thought… I don’t know what I thought. So you’re getting back here, right?”
“There is only one light on now. I think whoever’s here wants me to go to the bridge.”
“There’s no one aboard, dammit. The lasers are warmed up. We’ll cut this tub from the safety of our ship. Get back here. Now.”
“Yeah,” he replied, but she didn’t feel any better.
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T. C. Archer is comprised of award winning authors Evan Trevane and Shawn M. Casey. They live in the Northeast. Evan has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, and Shawn is a small business owner. Their collaboration began on a lark with the post WWII film noir story The Pickle My Little Friend, and has evolved into over a dozen works, which includes their new series The Phenom League, and Daphne Du Maurier winner the romantic thriller For His Eyes Only.