Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The Ravaged Angel.

That’s what was painted in red nail polish on the nose of the three-person cryshuttle. It had docked on autopilot with good codes but wasn’t answering hails. The dock’s computer was talking to the shuttle’s compnav to ascertain where they’d come from and what their sitrep was when the hatches blew on the three ovals on the top of the Ravaged Angel’s hull.

It was a human ship, possibly an escape pod, but the decorations on the outside of the polished hull looked old and slightly archaic.

With a well-oiled creak, the vacuum pump kicked in and the ovals on the top of the ship swung up and back to reveal three capsule bays, each one holding a naked, blue, cryosleeping body.

The Ravaged Angel held three sleeping women.

The silence held for a few moments before noise amped up into procedure again and we got the three girls disembarked and taken to sick bay.

Cryosleep Restart was a fairly routine procedure but all the same, the doctor felt the need to ‘dust off’ some manuals from the backup banks. He also requested an emergency download from homeship for immediate protocol deniability with maximum instruction. Just to be sure.

None of us had seen a woman for our entire lives, you see. Neither had our grandfathers.

This must have been a capsule from one of the fabled ‘golden seed’ whoreships that had traveled from colony to colony hundreds of years ago.

It was too late to keep it a secret. As the bay commander, it was my duty to report what had happened to the captain and relay his decision on how to proceed.

I had no idea how I’d react in the presence of a woman. Something about the way I swear I could actually smell them from all the way across the cargo-lock floor while standing behind thick glass told me I should stay away from sick bay until I was fully ready for the briefing.

Three colours of hair haunted my dreams that night.

They’d be awake in eight hours. I wished there were flowers somewhere on board that I could bring them to make them feel safe.

I’m sure all sixteen thousand of us felt the same way. I’m sure at this very moment, every last person on the ship who wasn’t in the bay was downloading and reviewing those three pod-doors swinging up and back.

It was going to be a different ship in the morning.

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