Accepting their company’s assignment as medic and nurse on Glacialis, Shae and Bless find their welcome as frigid as the planet itself. Neither Adair, the mine’s foreman, nor Merag, his head of security, make the men feel welcome or wanted.
When one of the miners seeks medical attention for an injury he doesn’t want Adair to know about, Shae and Bless quickly find themselves investigating illegal activity at the mine and embroiled in danger.
When Shae falls in love with the undercover Ranger sent to investigate the mine, and he and Bless choose to help him. Peril takes three forms, each different, but as deadly as the other.
“Tell me again why we got lumbered with a month’s stint in frozen hell, Shae?”
Glancing across at his friend, Shae couldn’t help but laugh softly. Bless’s tone was one of pure disgust and he looked like a petulant child.
“Good luck?” He laughed at Bless’s inelegant snort, and this time Bless joined in. “I’m glad you’re with me. I’d hate to be going there without a friend. All those warnings about the regular miners are a tight bunch. I thought Cartwright was exaggerating, but everyone’s said the same thing. They’re not going to like us, they dislike substitutes, and avoid the medical facility unless they have a dangling limb.”
“Great.” Bless threw his hands up in surrender. “This is just what I always wanted. A bunch of lowbrow, hairy-arsed miners with whom I can exchange wit and sparkling repartee. All I need is the champagne and caviar and I’m made for the month. You have some serious making up to do.”
Bless’s acerbic comment only made Shae laugh harder. In truth, it was almost impossible to imagine Bless on Glacialis. Blond, beautiful, and svelte, Bless would be far more at home stretched out in a warm, dry climate with an ocean nearby in which to swim. Even now, he looked smart and fashionable in his white leather pants, grey shirt, and black leather corset, which laced up diagonally at the back. Shae still didn’t know how Blass could wear the combination so well.
“So apart from the cold and the company, what else did I miss about Glacialis?” Bless wriggled to get comfortable, and looked over at Shae.
“Didn’t you listen to any of the tutorials on Glacialis?”
The look of incredulity on Bless’s face gave Shae his answer.
“Right. Fine. Forget I asked. Glacialis is one of the smaller planets Britannia has in its portfolio. However, the mining colony is state-of-the-art steam operable from its lighting and heating to the machinery at the mine face -- all very modern and with all the comforts of home.”
“I’ll reserve my judgement on that until I see the place first hand,” Bless muttered.
Shae grinned at his friend. They were now aboard one of the company’s space ships, comfortably ensconced in deep, red leather seats, the brass fittings polished till they gleamed richly. Shae had checked out the ship’s specs. The Empress was one of the company’s flagships. She could hold a lot more people than just Bless and him, but they were going to be the only passengers on this trip. Her engines were state-of-the art, electro-thermal -- super-heating water for her steam power.
The main reason he and Bless had chosen Britannia to work for was that they believed the company to be more eco-friendly than their biggest rivals. Earth had stretched out a long arm and come a long way since almost destroying itself. Despite which it seemed some people never learnt, taking without thought for what would be left behind. Britannia, however, carefully preserved its colonial outposts’ integrity.
If a world has civilised denizens, then one trades with them. If not, you are free to seek out its resources, provided the world remains relatively unspoilt. It’s expressly forbidden for exploratory companies to deal in life forms, unless dealing with sentient beings who offer them for pets, food, or pelts. Even then there is a flotilla of paperwork to ensure everything is legal. Although I have heard that there are flourishing black markets in illegal goods.
Shaking his head, Shae flicked at an imaginary piece of lint on his black leather pants. As befitted his status as doctor, he’d opted to team them with a crisp white shirt, black leather waistcoat, and a grey topcoat that currently hung alongside Bless’s more military-styled frock coat.
He settled more comfortably in his seat. “Just think of it this way. One month’s credit for this job is equal to three at home. You can take a nice holiday to warm up.”
“What about the bits I could lose from frostbite? They’d best have good heating at this station.”
“Didn’t you go to any presentations?” Shae rolled his eyes. “Stupid question. Of course you didn’t,” Shae answered when he saw Bless’s raised eyebrow and mischievous grin. His friend hated going to them and generally left it to Shae. “Fine. Steam gives the place light, heat, and powers the hydraulics in the mine and the protective perimeter fence. Apparently there are some pretty nasty predators that would find you a nice, tasty snack.”
“Marvellous. Can it get any better? So basically, if anything happens to the steam, we’re either frozen to death or walking meat popsicles for the local fauna.”