A yelp jolted Atom back from that darkness.
Unlike the previous surfacing, Atom rose from unconsciousness to immediate and full alertness. He surveyed his surroundings with a practiced eye, tested his restraints, and formulated possibilities. The armored woman still stood beside the hatch, but she had donned her helmet. Atom recognized her height and stance despite the concealing helmet.
She stood alone, blaster held loose, but tense in her readiness.
Moving with subtle care, Atom kept his head drooped as he nudged Shi with his knee. The gunslinger remained motionless. Atom studied her and detected the slight rise and fall of her breath. He noted with amusement the drool-fall she fed down the side of Daisy’s shirt to pool below on her bunched-up poncho. Relieved, Atom turned his attention back to his captor. Tension hunched the woman’s shoulders. Even as the hold remained silent and still, the woman stepped back, her movements defensive and calculating.
Atom watch her with puzzled fascination.
Before he could act, another cry echoed from the upper landing of the aft stairs. A pair of troopers stumbled down the steps. Somehow, they managed to keep their footing as they fled some unseen terror.
As they sprinted across the deck towards their beckoning commander, the lead soldier thrust his hands out to halt his momentum against the inner hatch. But the hatch flashed open. Atom imagined the look of surprise as the man stumbled forward, overbalanced, to plow face-first into the outer hatch. A dull crunch reached Atom’s ears as the soldier crumpled to lie motionless on the floor inside the hatch.
The outer door hissed open, unleashing an icy blast into the hold.
A few steps behind, the second soldier continued in flight. Just as she touched the boundary of the outer hatch, the doors snapped shut. Like a ship-shear in a scrapyard the doors crushed into the soldier, catching her in the midriff and crumpling armor as easily aluminum foil in the hands of a toddler.
Atom made to rise.
The crouching commander caught the motion and raised her blaster. Squeezing off a wild shot, she backpedaled and slapped open the hatch. The body of her trooper fell to the floor in a crumpled mess of flesh and armor and leaking fluids.
With a scowl, Atom scrabbled to his feet. He watched as the woman snatched the body of the first trooper from where it lay inside the airlock. With her back pressed into the corner of the lock she cycled the outer door open and thrust the body into the hatch beside the first. Like darting a hand into the mouth of a beast she held the body just right for the crushing doors to jam. The dead carved just enough space for the commander to slither through and make her escape.
Just before she disappeared into the swirling snow, she turned and took a final shot at Atom through the narrow gap in the door.
Instinct saved Atom. He threw himself to the side . . . headfirst into a crate.
* * *
Whet your appetites, Trinity is set to release April 1. That’s only two and a half months. In addition, I’m looking to visit a convention or two in the immediate aftermath. I’ll keep you posted with more information on that front.
In the meantime, keep on reading, keep exercising mind and body, and keep on flying the Black