The voice of Artemis pulled him out of unconsciousness. “Henry? Can you hear me? Are you there?”

“Yeah, I’m here. Damn. That was downright nasty. I thought you said it was just a bit uncomfortable? That was the most unsettlin’ thing I’ve ever experienced…and I’m a combat vet.”

“I wasn’t expecting such a violent reaction from you. You do realize that Peri warriors don their first suit as children, right?”

“Mama Goddess…they do that to their children?!?”

“It is the right of passage to adulthood.”

“No wonder they hate everybody. That was damn near torture.”

“That is only the beginning of warrior training. I doubt you would survive the graduation ceremony.”

“Maybe, maybe not. I’m awfully stubborn when someone is tryin’ ta kill me.”

“So I’ve noticed. Oh, this could be a problem.”

“What could be a problem?” Henry asked.

“The Kirasu is transmitting a warning signal. The ship has been contaminated with an unknown pathogen. That explains why it is scheduled for decommission instead of being repaired and returned to the fleet,” said Artemis. “I’m trying to access the service record, but it has been classified. I’m not picking up any life signs on board, but there’s no evidence of contamination, either. Why would they say it was contaminated, if it isn’t contaminated?”

Henry knew the answer, even if he didn’t like it. “They’re hiding something,” he said.

“That would explain why they didn’t just destroy the ship. That’s standard operating procedure in cases of contamination,” Artemis said.

There’s something on that ship they don’t want anybody to know about. That’s all the more reason for us to steal it,” said Henry.

“Perhaps you are correct,” said Artemis. “Still, be careful over there. Just because there’s no sign of contamination doesn’t mean it’s not contaminated.”

Artemis landed the fighter on an empty platform near the ship.

. “That’s as close as I can get you. Unplug my cube, and hold it next to your chest. The suit will absorb it, and keep it safe. Once you’ve made your way to the bridge of the Kirasu, simply will the suit to open, and my cube will come out. Place it in the receptacle in the captain’s chair, and I’ll take over from there.”

“Will do,” said Henry. “It looks like hell. Look at all those scorch marks. It’s been in one major shitstorm of a battle.”

“I will assess the damage from the bridge. We can make repairs on the way, or rather, the ship can repair itself on the way. Just get me on that bridge,” said Artemis.

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