Captain Monroe stood at attention just like she'd done countless times before. Today was no different than the previous inspections, at least that was what she'd been telling herself for the last hour. These inspections usually last half this time. She'd hoped the rumors of tightened Inner Ring security were just that, rumors.
All of the manifests were in order, all of the seals on the shipments were unbroken and had been resealed perfectly, and the transponders were reprogrammed and working. Every step she'd been trained to follow had been followed meticulously. In the vacuum of space she had nothing but time to engage her inner obsessive compulsive disorder to follow orders. Everything had been reviewed several times over.
Her mind was doing circles now and her heart was beating erratically. Nervously looking around the room, she briefly made eye contact with the guard they'd left with her in engineering while they did inspections. She instantly regretted it. She had to focus and get herself under control. Any sign of weakness of nervousness would certainly give her away. She closed her eyes for a second and started to center herself. Breathing in and out in a controlled manner like all good Outer Ringers learned at birth. Air is precious, air is life … air is precious, air is life. Breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out.
She often wondered if the ability that the Outer Ring people had to quickly center themselves and control their emotions gave them an edge. Her academic friends certainly thought so but right about now she didn't feel like she had any advantages. Under the stress of looting while at the same time delivering a supply run she wasn't sure she had any sort of upper hand.
A loud noise jarred her out of her focusing routine as she stumbled slightly to catch her balance. The noise of a docking port attaching to a ship is very distinct and unnerving for any captain. It was usually accompanied by the relief of a voyage finally ending or the stress of a random inspection or repair.
One could usually discern the nature of the attachment by the noise it made. The louder the clang the worse the pilot, the worse the pilot the more stress to come. Her flight instructor would have scored that docking job as a first run freshman from a gravity well. It was only when the blast charges went off that she realized this wasn't another freshman inner ring inspection force. It was something far worse, pirates!
Without a thought she leapt across the room and broke open one of the supply lockers. The last thing she wanted to do today was die from exposure. Inside she grabbed two helmets and slammed the door closed. Turning around she was greeted to a gun pressing into her temple.
"Don't move!" shouted the guard. She swore she could hear the firearms capacitor charging as he nervously pressed the gun to her head. He was clearly freaking out as he was trying to unsuccessfully subvocally communicate with his crew mates.
"Are you going to shoot me before or after I save you from exposure?" she asked looking down at the helmets in her hand. Slowly she raised one and held it up to the guard. He hesitated, unsure if this was a ruse to throw him off.
"How about I make this easy for you," she said carefully lowering the helmet. "I'll set it on the ground slowly and back away. Then you can pick it up and safely put it on."
"Ok, yea … that … that sounds good," he stammered.
As she bent down to set the helmet on the ground she could hear it. The distinct sound of feet quickly shuffling toward engineering. That shuffling sound a space born crew would make living in irregular gravity, never fully trusting physics. She only had a few seconds to act.
"Do you hear that?" she asked trying to draw his attention to the aft door.
"Nice try. I'm not falling for…"
Before he could finish his sentence she tossed his helmet toward an aft storage locker to draw his attention. At the same time she tucked hers into her stomach and rolled toward the bow. Just as she stopped rolling in front of the exit the door slid open, sensing her approach. She'd gambled successfully that the security overrides the inspection crew had on her computer would be preempted by the prevailing emergency.
The guard however wasn't quite as green as she'd hoped. While he was initially distracted, he'd quickly seen through her ploy and had crouched preparing to fire on her from a better position. He was however greeted to a loud clank outside the aft engineering door. The distinct sound of a blast charge being placed on a 4 inch thick pressurized door meant to prevent cascading depressurization of a ship. Rather than fire he turned slowly and began subvocalizing something, she assumed to his crew.
That was all the distraction she needed. She shoved her helmet on and launched herself through the bow door. As she cleared it she subvocalized a command to her ship to both lock down engineering and cut the ships gravity. Even though everyone involved was trained in zero-g maneuvers she knew most of them would be caught off guard giving her she hoped a few seconds advantage.