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       Dovis, p.4

           Laurann Dohner
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  “This was more important.” She calmed. No rules had been broken, and that meant no punishment. “I’ll be done in about fifteen minutes.”

  He muttered something under his breath that she couldn’t hear. Then he turned away and left her alone again. She returned to the task. The gloves she dug out of the toolbox were a bit big but they worked fine to protect her skin from getting a shock as she replaced the wires and cracked joint. Now the system should work perfectly without any problems.

  She put the plate back over the deck flooring and sealed it tight. It only took her a moment to clean up her mess, return the gloves to her toolbox, close it, and toss the jacket over her arm. She left to go to the lift that would take her to her cabin.

  The sight of Dovis waiting by the lift had her steps slowing. He turned, maybe sensing or hearing her approach. She came to a halt.

  “I didn’t mean to scare you.” His voice was deep still but he was no longer snarling. “That thing you said, about people liking you…well, that’s bullshit. Cathian and Nara are determined to keep you. Sleep next time and allow a repair to wait. York wouldn’t want you missing sleep to give him more steam.” He grumbled something else under his breath.



  He came toward her suddenly, and her entire body went rigid. He didn’t strike her though, but instead tore the toolbox from her fingers. He backed away with it.

  “It looks heavy, and you’re too thin. There’s no rule that says you must limit what you eat. As much as you care to consume is a crew benefit that comes with the job. Why do you have Harver’s jacket?”

  “I didn’t steal it.” She stared at the floor. “The Pods said I could have anything in the maintenance locker that was left behind from the person who had this job before me. I’ll put it back.”

  He frowned. “I didn’t accuse you of anything. Stop assuming the worst. I was curious why you have it, that’s all.”

  “I needed to crawl into the Y shaft first to see if the steam problem started there. It’s very cold since it’s next to the outer hull of the ship. I was freezing, and then I remembered seeing the jacket. Once I realized the problem had to be a direct link to York’s cabin, I just didn’t return the jacket to the locker.”

  “You shouldn’t wear something that baggy. It could get caught while you’re working around moving parts.”

  “I’m aware, but that wasn’t the case tonight. I knew it had to be a connection problem once I inspected the Y shaft.”

  “Next time, wear your own jacket.”

  She opened her mouth but then closed it. Never fight or talk back to a superior. It was an important rule to remember.

  “Is that a problem?”

  She swallowed. “I don’t have a jacket, master. I only own four outfits. The Teki sent me with a tool case but it had been stripped of my work gear. No gloves, jacket, safety boots, or chemical suit. Luckily, the last worker here left his behind.”

  He snarled. She jumped.

  “Stop reacting that way,” he said. “You’re too sensitive to sounds. You should have informed Cathian or me of your lack of clothing. It’s dangerous if the uniforms you’re required to wear are ill-fitting. Why didn’t you speak up?”

  “I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

  “Hauling your ass to med bay to have you patched up or explaining why you died to the captain would be a nuisance. I’ll send a message to the Pods to correct this mess. It’s not as if they have much else to do. They can have proper equipment replicated to fit you, including uniforms and other outfits. You can’t live in four sets of clothing. I’ll return this toolbox to the maintenance locker. Give me the jacket.”

  She passed it over, careful to avoid his sharp-looking claws. “Thank you, master.”

  “Call me Dovis. I’m not your owner. I’m head of security, and the one you should come to if the captain is busy. Next time, speak up if there’s something you need. Your job is secure. Nara saw to that.”

  He spun away, called for the lift, and got in when it opened.

  She didn’t move.

  “Are you getting in?”

  “I’ll wait. You’re going down. My cabin is up two floors.”

  “Fine. Go to bed. That’s an order. You need sleep. Accidents happen if you’re too tired to focus on your duties.”

  The lift doors closed and she breathed easier. “At least he didn’t try to eat me.”

  Dovis ignored the low vibrations coming from his chest. It happened when he was upset.

  The female wasn’t anything like he’d expected. She had large dark brown eyes that he’d enjoyed staring into. Her features were strangely appealing too. That had stunned him since Nara wasn’t attractive to him. He was certain he’d feel that way about all human females. That wasn’t true. Mari had tempted him to reach out to see if her skin felt as soft as it looked. It left him unsettled.

  He was also angry with himself. The sweet scent of her fear made him feel guilty. It wasn’t something that had ever happened before. He normally liked that reaction from anyone he met.

  York had been correct. Mari appeared too thin. It was possible malnutrition had also stunted her growth. He remembered she’d been a child when sold into slavery. She was shorter than Nara by a good inch. Of course, York had probably been paying more attention to her breasts than her height.

  It bothered him that she hadn’t felt the need to tell any of the crew that her previous owner had sent her with so few possessions. Her loose clothing could put her in danger.

  He contacted the Pods. One of them answered, sounding disorientated and sleepy.

  “It’s rude to wake us. What do you want, Dovis? It better be urgent.”

  It sounded like the ill-tempered one. “Two, first thing in the morning, replicate Mari some clothing and everything she’ll need to do her job. Those bastards on the repair station sent her with next to nothing. That includes a coat, gloves and fire suit. Understand?”

  “This couldn’t have waited?”

  “No,” he said, ending the call.

  He returned the toolbox and jacket to the maintenance locker before heading to the bridge. He took a seat in the captain’s chair and stared out at dark space, finally relaxing.

  He liked being alone…most of the time. Dovis was good at it. He’d been sentenced to outcast status the moment his mother had birthed him on Amarai and had fled the planet the first chance he’d gotten at the age of fifteen.

  Past memories of his childhood surfaced but he pushed them back. They only made him angry.

  A red light flashed on the console before him, and he straightened just as the computer announced a problem. He hopped out of the seat and approached the pilot controls, his fingers flying over the screen to get more information.

  Suddenly, there was some kind of power surge—and the engines shut down.

  An alarm blared.

  He silenced it fast, scanning all the readouts. Power seemed stable all over the ship except to the engines. They refused to restart or respond. Next, he checked if any other ships were in range. Nothing showed on the radar.

  He turned, opening comms. “Cathian? We have a problem.”

  Long seconds passed before his friend’s voice responded. “What?”

  “The engines went down and aren’t restarting. We’re floating dead in space but internal power and life support haven’t been effected.”

  “Did we hit something? Are we under attack?”

  “I don’t think so. I’m leaving the bridge to go down to the engines to see what the hell happened. The computer isn’t reading the problem. It only registered some kind of power surge before the engines shut down. I just wanted to let you know what’s going on.”

  “Call Mari to help.”

  “I’ve got this.”

  “Damn your stubborn ass! She’s our mechanic. Wake her, Dovis. That’s an order.”

  He snarled, ending comms and storming off the bridge. He didn’t need the human. She was w
eak and he’d ordered her to rest. No way did he plan on waking her.

  A quick trip to his cabin and he was changed into something more suitable to work in the engine room.

  He made it to level one and exited the lift—coming to an instant halt at the sight before him.

  Mari was already there, carrying the toolbox he’d recently put away. She turned, staring at him.

  He took in the fact that her hair hung loose instead of in a rope of braids. It tempted him to touch it. Would it be as soft as it looked? He imagined running his fingers through those long strands. It made her appear even more attractive, showcasing her delicate features and large brown eyes. She also wore a clean version of the same outfit he’d seen her in half an hour before.

  “I didn’t call you.”

  “The computer alerted me to the problem.” She dropped her gaze.

  “You’re not needed. I’ll find the problem and fix it. Wait until you have proper gear. Pod Two will outfit you first thing in the morning.”

  She bit her lip and finally lifted her head, holding his gaze. “I can think of three reasons why a power surge would happen, one that could shut down the engines. What would they be?”

  “You’re questioning me?”

  She tucked her chin fast, dropping her focus to the deck between them. “What I meant is, do you have a guess what might have caused the power surge that killed the engines? I have three.”

  He stalked past her into the engine room and walked to the computer relay, pressing his fingers to the screen. It lit up, and he ordered the computer to run diagnostics to find the problem.

  Mari came into the room behind him and set her toolbox down. “It would have already shown the problem if the computer was able to tell us what went wrong.” She moved away, crouching near a floor hatch and opening it.

  He watched her turn on a flash beam, running it over all the breakers located there. “Are any blown?”

  “No.” She closed the hatch and stood, moving around to one of the large shafts.

  “What are you checking next?” He followed.

  “The genpower regulator. It could send a surge through the system if there’s a short or a leak. Cross your fingers. It’s an easy fix.”

  He watched her withdraw a tool from her pocket and begin to open the seal on a round, thick tube near the bulkhead. “If it’s not?”

  “I hope we have spare parts. It could be the power cuplet that runs the engines. That would be really bad if the surge happened there. I can do a workaround to get us going again, but it would mean replicating small parts and at least six hours to make a temporary repair. Those parts wouldn’t hold for more than a week, and any speed over flash two would be too much for replicated metal to withstand. We’d have to return to the station we just came from to get specially coated ones from them.”

  He frowned, not liking that idea. He drew closer, watching her remove the top of the tube and flash her light inside again, bending a little to reach inside. “You’re not wearing gloves.”

  “I know. It’s hot but not burning. Shit. Everything looks fine.”

  He moved even closer, watching her lift some of the wrapped cables inside to view the circuits underneath. They were all lit, none dark or showing signs of damage. There was also no hint of a coolant leak. Minutes passed as she inspected the unit.

  She rose up and turned, almost slamming into him. He backed off.

  She moved past him, went to the toolbox and got more tools. He watched as she shoved them in the many pockets of her dull gray outfit, and then she began to climb a ladder beyond the backside of the massive engines.

  He softly growled, following her up. “Your hair is free. That’s dangerous.”

  “The engines are down. No moving parts to worry about. And I’m just checking the cuplet.”

  He wasn’t even sure what a cuplet looked like, not that he’d admit it. She reached the top, and the crawl space beyond, and disappeared. He made it to the top of the ladder and hesitated to join her in the small space. It was little more than five feet wide and high.

  He stayed on the ladder, watching her crawl, attempting not to stare at her ass. The outfit molded tight to her bottom since she was on her hands and knees.

  “What can I do?” He hated feeling useless.

  “Just stay there. It won’t take long to open the panel and get a looksy inside.”


  She muttered something he couldn’t hear. “Sorry, sir. I’m not used to being supervised while working. Looksy just means I’m inspecting the parts inside. In this case, the cuplet.”

  He hesitated before finally asking, “What’s the cuplet?”

  “It’s where the power reaches both sections of the engines. If it blows, no power can reach the engines. It would explain why they both went down at the same time.”

  He hoped that wasn’t the problem.

  She stopped and twisted to sit on her ass. It was dark except for the flash beam she held between her shoulder and bent head. He heard a small motor come on and bolts hit the metal floor as she opened a panel.

  “A cuplet sounds like a stupid name for a part.”

  She chuckled. “I didn’t name the parts. Engine designers did. It’s an enclosed section though that runs between the engines to send out power to each of them at the same frequency. Since both of them shut down at the same time, the problem has to be here since it wasn’t the first two thing I checked.”

  He heard her grunt as she shoved the panel aside and it hit the floor hard. It sounded heavy. She pushed it out of the way and leaned in the now open section.

  He was instantly worried. “Is it right there or could you fall into one of the engines?” He’d never opened that panel, or even been inside the crawl space.

  “It’s right here. I need to focus. Sorry, sir.”

  “Dovis,” he reminded her.

  Minutes passed. He could hear her working, thumping around, and then she crawled in more until half her body was no longer in sight. More minutes passed.

  She suddenly jerked and a loud bang sounded.


  He began to crawl into the tunnel. “Are you hurt?”

  “No. We’re in trouble!” She backed up and twisted in the tight space, facing him on her hands and knees. Her eyes were wide and she looked whiter than normal.

  He stopped, half inside the crawl space. “We need to replicate the parts you mentioned?”

  “It’s not the cuplet. The U coupling has been shattered. Shit! Shit! Shit!”

  He blinked. “I don’t know what that means.”

  She started crawling toward him. “I’ve seen this only once but heard about it often. Tell me this ship has weapons. You need to alert the crew. We’re about to be attacked.”

  He pulled his upper body out of the crawl space and scowled. “What are you talking about?”

  “Move! Alert the crew! Are you listening to me? This was sabotage!”

  Shocked, he began to climb down. “Explain fast—right now.”

  She popped out of the crawl space and reached up, grabbing a bar above, and then swung around, putting her feet on the ladder. “The Raxis rigged this surge to happen on a timer. My guess? They also put a tracker on us and will show up soon to steal this vessel. Those bastards must have done it while you were docked at my repair station.”

  He reached the floor and waited until she was within reach, then grabbed her hips and pulled her off the ladder. She yelped. He took a step over to the wall and turned her in his arms, pinning her there. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

  “The Raxis are a really shitty race of aliens known for pirating ships. Last year, we had a crippled ship reach the station. They had two shuttles, which they were able to use to haul their vessel. The Raxis had done this same thing to their ship. Fortunately for the crew, the ship was heavily armed and they managed to fight them off. Raxis usually kill any survivors and then claim salvage rights.

  “Do you understand? T
hey’re going to attack us soon and kill us to steal this ship. They rig the engines to die once you get far enough away from a station, without help nearby, where it’s easier for them to attack. U couplings are made of Pelsis metal. To shatter it like that, they had to send a signal to specifically target the U coupling. It kills the engines when it breaks. Shit! They’re coming after us.”

  He set her down on her feet but kept hold of her. The smell of her fear almost choked him. “Perhaps this U coupling just failed. It happens.”

  She gawked up at him. “You’re wrong. This never happens unless it’s on purpose. There’s only one thing that causes Pelsis metal to disintegrate. The Raxis invented a machine that can emit a vibration signal. It breaks down only that specific metal. I’d stake my life that one of those devices is currently attached near the engines on the exterior of the hull, and probably still sending out the frequency that did the damage. We’re about to be attacked!”

  He studied her eyes. They were wide, panicked, and she reeked of fear.

  He believed her.

  “Fuck,” he snarled, releasing her and running to the computer access panel, turning on ship-wide comms.

  “We have incoming pirates planning to attack! Everyone report to stations. This is not me fucking around. Get your asses up and prepare for battle!”

  Cathian responded first, privately. “What’s going on?”

  “Ever heard of Raxis pirates? Your mechanic said they attached some device that caused our engine troubles, she’s seen this before firsthand. No other ships were in scan range when I left the bridge but that was almost half an hour ago. If she’s right, we’re going to be under attack.”

  “Damn it. This is Cathian,” the captain announced, going to full-ship comms. “Get your asses up and strap on every weapon you have.”

  He started to issue orders as Dovis turned, spotting Mari on her knees in front of her toolbox. She tore open drawers, seeming to search for something. “What are you looking for?”

  “I can rig a fix to run the engines for a little while. Someone needs to go outside, find the tracker they must have tagged us with, and stop it from transmitting our location. Then we hope I can keep the engines up long enough for us to reach a colony planet or another station. No way can we make it back to my repair station. It’s too far.”

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