Sasha’s Calling

by T.  C. Archer

Chapter One

No day was a good day to die. As far as Sasha was concerned, today was no exception.

Yet now, the footfalls of Pinkerton security forces echoed ever louder in the spaceport’s sterile, wide passageway, converging on her. She sprinted faster, lungs and leg muscles burning with the effort in her mad race to outrun them. Dammit—dammit all to hell. Damn the scientist who’d walked in while she was downloading the retrovirus model from Centor’s main computer. She forced back the mounting panic that twisted her stomach to near pain. He’d sounded the alarm before she could knock him unconscious. That was the one piece of bad luck that might get her killed on this mission.

A doorway materialized on the right. She plunged through it onto an open catwalk high above empty space. A bone-vibrating hum ripped through her. Sasha slowed, the gecko-grip soles of her boots making a snicking sound as she stutter-stepped to a jog. A roar filled her ears, and she winced at the throb that pounded in her head in sync with the wild beat of her heart. She shook her head against a sense of light-headedness, and her surroundings snapped into focus.

No railing bordered the ribbonlike walkway, which spanned a room that stretched almost to infinity. What was this place? On each side of the catwalk, dim light emanated from a dozen giant warp generators made of pulsing blue rods. Surrounded by coils of opalescent crystal, the rods rose like huge springs from the dim depths below and disappeared out of sight.

She veered left and peered over the edge into a bottomless gray abyss. She slowed even more. Infinite space inside a spaceport? Impossible. Her pulse jumped. She stopped and stared. Oh my gods! It couldn’t be. Sasha slid her gaze up the rods until they disappeared into the infinite space above. Yet it was. Excitement flared in the pit of her stomach.

This was the heart of the star-drive she’d broken half a dozen galactic laws to find. She gazed around in astonishment. All along, it had been right here at the center of the spaceport.

A laser pulse sizzled past and hit the platform inches ahead of her, kicking up a shower of sparks. Sasha spun and dropped, yanking the Omegatron from her hip holster as she landed on her belly facing the direction the shots had been fired. Three Pinkertons in battle armor piled through the opening. They fired, their shots going wide.


She aimed. Zot. Zot. Zot. Three quick shots, three recoils from the Omegatron, and three Pinkertons collapsed onto the walkway. More would follow, and soon, now that they’d pinpointed her location. She had to get video of the warp drive and get off Centor. Sasha pushed to her feet and, touching a stud on her weapon, activated the record feature of its built-in camera.

Winded and still shaky, she raised the Omegatron and pointed the camera at the rods. “I hope you get all this, Newton.” She darted a glance at the empty doorway, then ran the Omegatron’s aim-point up and down the power rods.

Hope—the first she’d felt since news broke that the sun her homeworld, Magnus 3, orbited was going unstable—rose in a sudden rush that tightened her chest. She snorted a laugh. All her hard work and planning and dumb luck had thrown her into a room she hadn’t known existed. Talk about lucky. Damn, incredibly lucky. Warp-field coils this big weren’t thought to exist. Technology imbued in a warp generator that huge could save Magnus.

Sasha terminated the recording and reholstered the weapon as she sprinted toward what she prayed was an exit on the far side of the walkway. If this wasn’t a way out, she and her planet were finished.

As if she were running on a moving walkway, the catwalk zipped under her feet at unbelievable speed. No sense of acceleration weighed against her body, but the far end zoomed closer. She came to an abrupt halt a meter from the opening.

She glanced back, startled to see that the other end looked a kilometer or more away, ten times farther than she had run. As with all warp fields, this one disrupted perception, but on a monumental scale. Unexpected tears stung the corners of her eyes. Magnus 3 stood a real chance at survival—if she got out with the video intact.

More Pinkertons appeared in the far end doorway. Two scrambled over the bodies of the three unconscious Pinks and fell flat, while two more halted behind them, holding their fire. She couldn’t help a condescending laugh. They feared hitting the coils and didn’t want her to return fire.

Double fools.

Sasha drew and fired twice: Zot. Zot. Bolts sizzled across the expanse as she holstered the weapon and sped through the opening into a shiny metal corridor. She skidded to a halt, glanced left, then right. The empty corridor curved out of sight in both directions, as if wrapping around the generator room she had just crossed.

Which way? Which way? Her gut said left. She turned right. Nothing had gone as planned on this mission. Sasha slowed to a quick stride as if late for a meeting, but anyone who recognized the Omegatron strapped to her thigh wouldn’t be fooled. This was what she got for carrying a weapon that wasn’t standard issue on any planet in the empire. Too bad. Omega radiation was the cutting edge of weaponry. She’d won the oversize pistol with the lucky draw of a straight flush instead of sitting on a pair of aces. That was the kind of luck someone like her needed. But she believed in making her own luck.

Sasha slid the zipper on her bodysuit down and exposed enough cleavage hoping to keep unwanted attention off her gun. Upsizing her breasts to double-Ds might have been the smartest move she’d made on this mission.

Numerous footfalls running in double time echoed from around the curve behind her. She quickened her pace. A man waiting for an elevator came into view. An unexpected flutter of anticipation closed around her heart. His golden hair cut precisely at the nape of his neck gave him a surgical look that didn’t—couldn’t—detract from broad shoulders emphasized by the fashionable lime green Nauru jacket he wore. He stood a head taller than her one and three-quarter meters. A triwheeled robot like those ambassadors used as aides waited two paces behind him.

The man turned. The bot followed suit, stupidly mimicking the movement. Sasha’s breath caught. The ambassador either wore contacts or had surgically implanted chrome irises, but the polychrome eyes that followed her approach didn’t disguise the intense stare. Despite the pebbled nipples that now strained against her suit, his gaze never wavered from her face. Damn her luck. She’d encountered the only male on Centor who had morals.

The footfalls of the Pinkertons behind her grew louder, and more footfalls sounded from around the curve ahead. She flicked a glance down the corridor. No doors or branching hallways were visible, only the elevator that hadn’t yet arrived. Her pulse spiked. Trapped.

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