Melting Iron Page 26

Interest sparked in his beautiful gaze. “How?”

“You have emergency pods, correct? Some of them are outfitted with older parts on the nonessential equipment. If you take me and a repair kit to one of them I can open up some panels and try to find some of them.”

He hesitated and then glanced at the clock. She knew he was probably calculating how much time that would take. She spoke before he could veto her suggestion.

“I know your shift starts soon but it wouldn’t take me long at all. Worst case scenario, the Rally has to swing back and get us after they drop off your guys first but it would help ensure your mission of getting that old hunk of junk off the surface to dock it with the Moonslip. I think that’s worth half an hour of time, don’t you? It’s only logical to want to do everything possible to make sure something doesn’t go wrong. The more systems we have online and functioning on the shuttle, the better chance it has of reaching orbit without a problem.”

He nodded and Dawn wanted to jump up and down with joy but she managed to hide it as she ducked her head. “Great.”

Fear and nervousness fought within Dawn as they left their quarters. Iron led her to a lift and they went down three floors before it stopped. He walked her into more crew quarters, it being obvious what it was by the lines of doors on each side and their spacing. She saw the emergency signs posted giving arrow instructions on where the life pods were.

A hundred things could go wrong with her plan. She was thinking of every single possibility as Iron stopped next to a pod door and opened up a panel on the wall, lifting out a repair bag. He pressed his hand to the scanner that controlled the lock and the ship doors opened to allow Dawn see a short docking sleeve to the pod. As they stepped into the short hallway the pod doors slid open to reveal a decent-sized, twenty-five person life pod.

Thank goodness for class-A starships and their comfortable emergency pods, Dawn thought, grateful that the ship was large enough to fit her needs. Her gaze darted around the room, taking in every detail and making mental notes of what she could use to help with her plan.

“Where do you want to start?”

“The panels under the pilot console,” she said.

Iron carried the heavy bag and placed it on one of the two pilot seats. Dawn opened the bag to remove the tools and light she would need. She forced a smile, hoping he couldn’t read that she was up to something when he glanced at her.

“Why don’t you go down under the dash to look for older styled relays while I take off the top deck of the console? The wiring is packed pretty damn tight in there.” She lifted her hands. “And I’ve got the hands for it.”

Iron picked up a light source and an all-purpose tool. In less than a minute he was flat on his back on the floor, half his body under the console. She quickly flipped open the top panel. She worked fast, cutting through the computer’s connections to the piloting systems. She left it open and grabbed the cutting tool, waiting.

“Can you turn on the power to the controls?”

“Why?” His voice sounded a little suspicious.

“I think I found two relays and I want to make sure they work before I pull them. It’s just the screen scanner lights but I need juice to do it,” she lied.

The silence was eerie as she waited for him to speak. When the monitors and systems on the console suddenly came on she jumped a little, startled. “Thanks.”

Dawn worked fast, slicing through the autopilot that allowed Iron to control the system. Now he would be unable to shut it off with a mere thought via his uplink. She said a quick prayer as she leaned over to grab the emergency med kit next to the pilot’s seat.

“Will they work?”

“Yeah, sexy. This is going to work. It has to,” she said honestly as she tore open the lid, scanning the contents.

Relief flooded her as she grabbed one of the med injectors all pods carried in case an unruly passenger got space sickness. She tore away the protective covering and uncapped it, glancing down at Iron’s legs as regret swamped her. I don’t have a choice, she thought. She bent and jabbed the air needle med injector into his lower thigh and depressed the release valve.

Iron jerked and his body stiffened as his h*ps rose until his chest held him down where the console pinned him. Tears filled Dawn’s eyes. She hated what she was doing. She knew the drug would hit his system fast, because when she was a newbie, she’d suffered a panic attack and her supervisor had jabbed her with a knockout shot. She counted to nine and then yanked the med injector away. Iron’s body went totally limp, collapsing on the floor.

Dawn threw away the med injector and grabbed his legs to drag him out. He was damn heavy and it wasn’t easy but she had desperation on her side. She got him clear of the console and straddled him to check for a pulse. Relief hit her when she found it, knowing he wasn’t having an adverse reaction.

She straightened, stepped over him, and went to work. She finished cutting all the computer controls first, preventing access to the piloting functions by the onboard computer. She rewired the engine controls directly from the computer into to the console. It took several minutes and she kept watching for any sign that Iron was coming around as she worked. She dropped into the seat, slammed the cover down on the panel and reached for the pilot controls. The engine roared to life as she switched them on.

“Malfunction,” an electronic male voice stated as the onboard computer booted up. “Engine misfire. Attempting to shut down.”

“You can try,” Dawn told it, knowing damn well it wouldn’t be able to now that she’d cut the auto pilot connection. She licked her lips as she pushed the release button for the docking clamps.

“Warning,” the computer announced. “Docking clamps disengaged.”

“Thanks for letting me know.” Dawn took a deep breath as she grabbed the thruster control, flipping the switches to turn them on. “Go silent now.”

“You do not have access to issue orders,” the computer stated. “Warning. Thrusters preparing to fire.”

“That’s the plan,” she stated while she grabbed the twin thruster controls firmly in each hand, knowing it depended on equal balance as she pushed them forward.

The pod shot forward, nearly tossing Dawn back in the chair but she had braced her knees on the edge of the seat, prepared for the jerky launch. She knew that, right now, alarms in the Star had to be stating that a pod had just jettisoned away but she didn’t want to worry about that.

“Pod 5 is clear of the Star,” the computer announced. “This is an unauthorized function. Trying to link control access.”

“Good luck with that.”

She released the thrusters and reached up to open the shielded window so she could see where she was going. Driving a pod half blind and without a computer was tricky as hell but they were in deep space. She’d never be able to pull this off if other ships were around where heavy space traffic existed. It would be too difficult to navigate tightly without the fast calculations and adjustments the computer could automatically make.

“Sending emergency signal,” the pod announced. “This is an unauthorized flight.”

“They are already aware, I’m sure.” She saw wide-open space clear of anything in her path and reached for the thrusters, opening them up, and felt the entire pod vibrate from the full burn she was initiating. The pod launched forward at an alarming speed, her back slamming into the chair. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Iron’s body roll a few times but he didn’t slam into anything.

“Computer, are the collision senses still activated?” She hoped it would answer since it would be a non-security-related question, one the computer shouldn’t be programmed to ignore.

“Affirmative.”

“Awesome.” If something came into their path the computer would warn her so she was free to move away from the controls now.

Dawn got out of her seat and moved quickly to the repair kit in the other pilot seat. She dug inside and found a cutting tool. She glanced at Iron then nearly ran to one of the passenger seats. He was going to wake up soon and she needed to secure him before he fully roused. She gripped the belts and sliced through them. She moved to the next seat and then the next. In less than a minute she had four lengths of thick belt. She turned back to Iron and went to work.

She secured his hands together over his head around one of the seat legs that was bolted to the floor. The belts were thick and sturdy. She was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to break them. She stood and went to the repair bag and grabbed out a clamper-attachment tool. She crouched and stapled the belt ends together. The clamps were heavy-duty, designed to hold sheets of metal together. She tied his ankles together next, clamping the belt ends to secure it. When she was done she repeated the process, double securing his wrists and ankles. It was better to be safe than sorry.

“Are we being pursued, computer?”

“You are not authorized access.”

She hesitated. “What ships are in range? Let’s try that one to get around your stupid-ass security measures.”

“The Star is in range and the Vontage, both designated Earth—”

“Stop. I don’t want their birth certificates. Just give me distance.”

It told her. She nodded and then asked again a minute later. Relief swept through her as the computer told her a greater number. If the ships were pursing they would be closing the distance instead of increasing it.

She pulled up the star charts, surprised that she wasn’t as far off one of the main travel zones as she feared. She calculated time and factored in the use of fuel. It would take five days to reach her destination. She adjusted course, deciding manual piloting was harder on long-term flights than just traveling from planet surface to a space station. She turned and gazed lovingly at the big male tied up on the floor. He was worth it.

Dawn removed her boots to get comfortable. She knelt to check Iron again. His pulse was strong. She brushed his hair back and leaned over him to place a kiss on his forehead.

“I’m so sorry I had to knock you out like that, sexy.”

He didn’t answer. Dawn got to her feet to double-check that the pod was fully stocked as they were required to be on all ships. She was happy five minutes later when she walked back to Iron and sat down next to his chest. They had plenty of food and water to last them the five-day trip. She’d barely settled on her butt when Iron jerked awake suddenly.

His entire body went stiff and then he struggled as his gaze darted around the pod, a confused look on his face until he saw Dawn. His struggles ceased and then anger tightened and flushed his features.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I hated to knock you out but I had no other choice.”

“You deceived me.” His voice was ice cold and his beautiful eyes glittered with pure rage. “Have you taken me hostage to make sure my people do not attack the pod?”

“No. God, you are paranoid. Do you always jump to the worst conclusions?”

He struggled against the belts but to her relief they held, keeping him restrained and his arms trapped above his head. His fighting ceased and he closed his eyes.

“Unable to comply,” the computer suddenly stated. “Access to piloting controls has been severed. The pod has been stolen by a pirate.”

Dawn smiled sadly, knowing Iron had just tried to take control of the pod. She responded to the computer. “I’m not a pirate. I’m a mechanic.”

She waited for Iron’s eyes to snap open, which they did. “I disabled the computer from all piloting functions. I can hotwire anything with an engine and I can tear out computer controls because I fix enough of the damn things to know how to screw one up if need be.”

“Release me and I promise I won’t harm you, Dawn.”

She stared into his furious gaze. “I can’t.”

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