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The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet Chapter (Cover Art)

Chapter 29 - The Wind at my Back, Stars at my feet[]

Wreck of the CBS Exsanguine

What constitutes a 'destroyed' ship? Conor Lees003 grew up in the new burrows in the Arluna system, his pa wasn't a rock-hunter, but a biologist and farmtecher. His mother was a maintenance engineer, and he was Old Family Coast Guard, Black Fleet from birth.

Joining The Guard is what you do when your whole kin-line back to the Great Escape have served at least their five year minimum tour.

The former CBS Exsanguine had fire damage and burst points on the hull-she'd been pounded and scorched until the pressure envelopes gave way, gutting much of the ship.

Conor floated through scorched corridors with rents showing stars, the debris of the battle occasionally presenting a minor obstacle to his progress toward the ventral weapons positions.

Occasionally, a body would float past. The Crew of this ship didn't wear skinsuits or even decent pressure gear-their uniforms must've been impressive, before they bled out and froze in darkness.

But Conor wasn't just looking for a clear path to the ship's storage magazines. He was noticing things.

Sparks from a severed power cable, for example, telling him that some of the aux generators were still operating two years after the ship went down.

"Careful. set a snaplight on that conduit, it's still live." he instructed the men with him. They were in bulky 'Dirtyfoot bag' space-suits, the kind you keep for guests in the Burrows, or for stranded Dirtyfoots whose ships had bad ends, almost too bulky to be worth anything.

He supervised the cherry Clanner as she snapped a chem-light and peeled the adhesive backing to lock it onto the live conduit. It would warn others not to approach that bulkhead, but it gave Conor a few ideas that he shelved silently. might be worth it to back-trace that generator and mark it for salvage.

They'll need the power for burrows out here, and clearly someone hadn't thought to even spend the manpower recovering bodies, never mind salvaging usable equipment from the wreck.

The deck plan lit on his faceplate again, and he noted the location, "Let's go people, air's turning to carbon!"

Really, the Blood Spirit personnel were probably nice enough, but...

They weren't suited for this work. They weren't trained, they didn't know how to survive, and he didn't see himself as any sort of great teacher.

On his hud, he picked up location data from Chief Toi, who was investigating what was left of the ship's bow, with another pack of poorly trained incompetents but, at least the Chief could kind of understand them on an emotional level.

To Conor's mind, they were worse than Heinies. It had taken him an hour to correct their bloody worthless suit training in the boat bay-one he refused to bring with, because the man insisted on chewing on Tobacco in his helmet!

He came to a bulkhead passageway bent outward, the pressure door had frozen mostly closed.

Cut or lever? hmmmm... Conor reached up, and pulled out a roll of silly-string. The bulkhead door was Endo-Steel alloy, probably from when this ship was the SLS Brian Muir. He laid the silly-string in a pattern around the inside of the hatch's distorted frame.

Then he popped the igniter. It was basic salvager's work-you cut as little off as possible for re-use, a habit drilled into every kid who apprenticed with a salvager-and he couldn't make himself waste that much metal in a single sheet.

"Watch it when you come through." he told them, "The edges will still be hot and those bubble-bags you're wearing will combust."

He led them past the rungs welded to the sides of the shaft, a ladder meant to be used under thrust as a ladder, it was now the wall.

"You show such respect." the girl who set the brightstick interrupted his train of thought.

"Ships have souls." he said, "You don't defile them even when you salvage them, because out here, every scrap of karma counts...finagle...they didn't even bother to sweep it for survivors!"

The body at the far end was suited, he floated closer, "See the bloat? that suit's still got pressure, when he or she died, they decayed, hell is dying in darkness as you breathe your last, bastards didn't even check."

He reached into his toolbag, and pulled out a registration marker, then said a prayer over the body.

"What made that tech different?" girl asked him.

"He...should've survived." Conor said, "He was abandoned here. Probably lasted a few weeks on recycles and scavenged air, but based on the condition, it was either starvation or thirst that got him."

He found another hatch, this one wasn't distorted out of shape, and opened smoothly.

"Here." he said, playing suit lights on ranked cylinders. "Ventral ammunition magazine...and it's stocked."

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