In complete darkness, Romulus fumbled around in his footlocker. No time for body armor, but if he could get to his gun, he could at least put up some defense.
Who was he kidding? They were under attack, and there was only one faction desperate enough to track the Penance here: the Red Star, a group of militarized religious zealots. They’d almost certainly overwhelm with numbers and fight to the death until they completed their objective. No, he didn’t need to protect the ship, he just had to protect the virus sample.
Romulus adjusted his datapad to provide at least a dull ambience of light. He punched the entry code on the safe and snatched the virus canister. His cargo pants would have to serve as transport. He started another, better-lit, search in the footlocker, but the datapad light faded out. Romulus cursed its battery-saving design. He found his datapad in the dark and disabled the auto-shutoff feature. Back to the task at hand, Romulus pulled out the first aid kit and emptied its contents on the bed. A canister of painkiller injections. Perfect! He began scraping off the instructional label with his combat knife.
Satisfied with his crude handiwork, he placed the bottle, only half the size of the actual virus sample, in the secure safe at his bedside. The ruse wouldn’t fool any of the Red Star scientists, but the frontline grunts wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
The lights blinked on again. That probably meant the Red Star had effectively taken the bridge. With their efficient interrogation procedures, it wouldn’t be long before the zealots determined where his quarters, and the virus, were.
But he didn’t’ intend to be here when they arrived. If he could get the virus sample to the cargo bay and stash it in one of the medical crates, the religious fanatics wouldn’t be the wiser. He dumped the remaining first aid supplies into the footlocker and retrieved his sidearm. After checking the magazine, he loaded a round. With a lethal virus in his pants pocket, and a single X31 Flechette pistol as his only defense, Romulus opened the door and stepped out.