At five feet tall and just as wide, the medical crate in the back of the frigate’s cargo hold adequately hid the crouching Romulus from view. Which was good, because the Red Star would probably kill all the crew and leave the ship as a warning to the Banner. Or they’d scuttle it. Romulus cursed. He should’ve taken up hiding near an escape pod.
Regardless, the virus was perfectly hidden among the cans of steri-gel, antibiotics and other supplies inside the medical crate, ensuring it wouldn’t fall into the hands of fanatics who cared little for life-saving medicines.
He heard a strong but distinctly feminine voice in the distance, but resisted the urge to look around the corner.
“Copy that. Okay, David, get Jason down here to start hauling the medical crates to the Rosebud. That’s our priority. If we have to jet, I want at least that stuff aboard.”
Romulus heard the indistinct reverb of a response over a communicator, but couldn’t make out the words.
“Good idea. Ransack it next. We’ll install our own medical bay aboard the Rosebud.”
The source of the voice was almost directly opposite Romulus’s crate. He gripped his pistol and inched himself to one side. If he could poke his head out briefly …
He felt the cool steel of the woman’s rifle on his forehead before he saw it.
“Drop the gun and back out of there slowly,” she said.
Romulus complied and found himself facing a striking young woman with piercing green eyes and ebony hair. Her perfectly-sculpted legs stood wide to brace herself should she need to use the massive grav rifle in her arms. Only after she spoke did he realize she wasn’t alone.
“Ivan,” she said to a man with thick, tattooed arms, “take this man prisoner with the rest in the lounge. And make sure to strip him like the rest. The market value of that button-up shirt alone could feed one of us for a week.”
The big man with the flamethrower smiled. “Yes, ma’am.”
Romulus’s head reeled. Tattoos? A woman in charge? These weren’t religious fanatics after the virus, these were common pirates looking for medical supplies! He cursed inwardly as he obeyed the man’s prods to move down the corridor. It was a complete fluke, and they were about to get something far more dangerous than they could possibly realize.