Stupid tin can. Stupid fucking job.
Niamh Sullivan sighed and her head fell back against the sticky couch. She stared up at the little domed cabin, sealed tight against the hard vacuum of space.
Popping the buttons on her service suit, she scratched at her collarbone. Nowhere on her body was free from itching. And she ached like a bitch. She arched her spine and groaned against tight muscles. “How long until I reach Zeta-Draconis-prime?”
The pod’s soft voice filled the cabin. “The final refuelling at Berenicis Station proceeded on schedule. Planetfall for Zeta-Draconis-prime is expected in two hours and thirty-six minutes.”
For five whole days, she’d sat in the tiny control cabin or slept, showered and ate in the cramped compartment directly beneath her bare feet. Scheduled landings at government service stations had not broken the monotony of living in a windowless and stinking copper can. An official seal was stamped across the pod hatch and wrapped in an evolving net around the exterior metal.
She couldn’t get out. And nothing—absolutely nothing and no one—got in.
The penalty for tampering with a government transport vehicle carried an immediate death sentence. And government security tended to err on the side of extreme prejudice.
Niamh pressed her toes against the cool tiles, stretching and flexing. She had to prepare for her evaluation. She’d wasted her days…but the damn pod had her nerves shot. Metal and synth-material and recycled everything made focus impossible.
Fuck, what she’d give in that strained moment for one whiff of fresh, untreated air…
She’d had a cursory glimpse at the file in her office. But that thought only threw her back to the image of her little balcony overlooking the small, green courtyard. Open space, grass-scented air, bliss.
She squeezed her eyes shut, denying the tempting image. It was no surprise to her that she hated working in a pod. It made her thoughts spin.
Niamh pushed fingers through her tangled hair and straightened her shoulders. With only hours left, now she had no choice. It was time to work. “Show me the file on Isaac Rand.”
A faint hum whirred through the air and a hazy image formed over the twisting, central stairwell leading down to the lower compartment. With a groan, Niamh stood. She rubbed her aching lower back and paced around the chrome guardrail, the tiles uncomfortably sticky under bare feet. The image followed her as it coalesced into the solid image of the man central government had packed her off to evaluate.
“Isaac Rand. Authenticated human.” The pod’s lilting voice wrapped around her. “Former security consultant for the Zeta-Draconis-prime franchise—”
The image of Isaac Rand steadied and his dark brown eyes held hers. She blinked. Niamh hadn’t been expecting someone quite so…pretty. She snorted. Not the most professional thought for a field service agent to have, but it was hard to describe Rand as anything else.
Smooth features, flawless skin, eyes that held her mesmerised. His parents had certainly perfected his DNA. He could’ve been in the Service. “More than pretty—beautiful,” she murmured, a smile finding her lips. It turned wry. Her fingers drifted above the image, ghosting the firm line of his mouth.
Not that she could explore those full lips in reality. She was an agent of central government, assigned to assess Rand, not to sleep with him.
Pity. She could certainly work out a good few kinks with him. Quite literally.