Chapter 02: Information

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Mark suppressed a sigh.

He was feeling stupid and a bit immature. He and Jennifer were crawling through the vents now, having just left the locker room. He was staring dead ahead of him at Jennifer's amazingly well-maintained ass.

It wasn't like he had anywhere else to look.

He'd also seen her naked now, not that it had apparently bothered her at all, and that just made him feel ever weirder. Here he was, thirty years old, and he was still felt awkward around attractive women. Jennifer North definitely fit the bill for exceedingly attractive: fit, dark blonde hair, vivid green eyes, tall...Mark had always been weird around women. He thought it was something he'd have gotten over after high school but he supposed he was stuck with it. Especially since his last relationship had ended not with a bang but a whimper.

Why was he even thinking about this?


Jennifer stopped. Mark stopped too.

"What?" he whispered.

"When you pass by this vent, take a look out," Jennifer replied softly.

That didn't bode well. It at least kicked most of his awkward feelings out of his head, replacing them once more with fear. Maybe that's why he'd been so focused on her great ass and his shyness: he was terrified, and a human brain will, if given the chance, do pretty much anything to shift thoughts away from that terror.

Jennifer kept crawling and he followed, pausing briefly to stare out of the vent grate beneath him. It was, he realized, the corridor beyond the locker room and the cargo bay where they'd both awoken in. There was a long trail of blood smeared along the cold metal floor, as though a corpse had been dragged slowly but steadily. He frowned, studying more intently, and could see a few bullet holes in one of the walls.

"What..." he whispered.

"Come on," Jennifer hissed.

Mark broke his gaze and began crawling again, swallowing his fear for the moment. He could feel his stomach churning, his heart thundering in his chest. What could have possibly happened? Obviously there'd been some kind of attack. He tried to piece it together. Both of them worked for a corporation. Maybe this was some kind of raid by another corporation? It seemed more than likely. It was kind of like the old Wild West. When you operated in an isolated enough location and you had enemies, and if your enemies thought they could get away with it, they'd come in and kill you. Rob you blind, too, and burn the bodies.

They were pretty far out here. If some rival corporation thought they could get away with stealing research, then they'd leap at the chance to mount some kind of assault. Or it could be slavers. Slavery was extremely illegal...but not all colonies or systems were under the protection of the Galactic Alliance. Some people struck out on their own, which meant they had to fend for themselves, and mercenaries or pirate groups weren't above using slaves. So maybe this was that. It was something Mark had always feared.

But how had they gotten them all into stasis pods...and why?

That was the big mystery.

If it were just slavers or pirates, they'd take those they could, kill those they couldn't. Those kind of operations were usually smash and grab, or so he'd heard. Mark had spent most of his life deep in the cradle of humanity. He'd been born on Earth, grown up there, had only just recently decided to get out and see what life among the stars was like.

Obviously, it had been a poor choice.

They came across a second vent. Jennifer stopped and seemed to stare out of it for a minute. Mark glanced back the way they had come. Paranoia laced his system as his fear continued to rise. What if there was someone in there with them? He'd seen enough movies, played enough games where the protagonist had to go into a vent and they weren't alone...

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