Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: In the Black, by Sheryl Nantus

Hey, I get to help a fellow Carina author out with release-week promo, how awesome is that? Because Sheryl Nantus has just dropped a brand new science fiction romance, In the Black, and if you’re a Browncoat who’s thinking that title has an awfully familiar ring to it, you wouldn’t be far off. I’ve seen Sheryl citing Firefly as an influence on her story, especially with how her heroine’s the captain of a ship full of high-class courtesans! Just the sort of job I could see an AU Inara taking on.

And now I TOTALLY want that fanfic. But until I get it, here’s a newcomer to the Belle, with a real simple goal–settling in, with the help of Jenny the mechanic, who is apparently this book’s Kaylee, and who apparently has the goal of some side dealing, hmm? Check it out!


In the Black

In the Black

You from Diego? My name’s Jenny. That box you’re carrying got the stuff I agreed upon with D? Great—come on this way. We’ll talk in my quarters, I don’t want the captain seeing us doing business. She’s not hardcore but I don’t want to put her in any sort of compromising position. Climb down in here.

Hey there—look out for that pipe! It’ll take your head off if you smack it hard enough. I’ve got more than my fair share of bruises from that ventilation shaft. Took me only a few weeks aboard the Bonnie Belle to learn my lesson and duck. Just follow me and don’t take any side trips—you get lost in here easy enough and I don’t got the time to track you down.

The Belle? She’s a fine ship, a good ship. A Mercy ship but don’t let that stop you from admiring a good piece of work. I know Mercy ships got all sorts of reputations and we run hard, taking the courtesans from base to base to keep the miners happy but it’s what’s underneath that counts—and mechanics like me are what keeps them running to make everyone get what they want.

It might not seem very glamorous, crawling around the undercarriage of a big ship like this and keeping out of the way of the women and men above but I don’t mind. The new captain, she’s a nice one. Sam Keller—she lends me books and stuff and we talk a lot about things. She’s new to the Guild so she needs help getting settled and doing what a captain does when you land on a base full of horny miners all wanting to get to the men and women ‘board the Belle. Don’t know what she did before she decided to sign on with the Guild but she’s got ghosts in her mind. Ex-military, I figure, since she likes those damned combat boots and don’t want to wear nothing but her old fatigues. Which is fine except she’s got to make the presentation when we make landfall and those guys don’t want smelly old boots and stained green pants. Well, not stained in that way, if you get my drift.

The crew? Fine folk as long as you know your place. I don’t want to say too much about them ’cause we work different jobs and all that. Usually you keep the same crew for months, maybe years unless one of the courtesans asks for a transfer or buys out her or his contract – that’s how we got Halley. She transferred in after a catfight on another ship and hooked up with Bianca. Only ones here who might be able to buy out their contracts might be Kendra or April but I wouldn’t ask them ’bout it. Not good manners. Lots of the women stay around and take a second tour or third ’cause it’s what they want to do. Plenty more get caught in the company store trick with the Guild and end up owing everything they have. I stay ahead of the game and so does the captain but it means we don’t get a lot of fancy stuff like hot showers and all that. But I’m saving up for a ship of my own, one of those fast cutters like you see here on my wall.

Good, good. Just what I needed. Gotta keep the washing machine going otherwise I’ll be up to my ass in dirty laundry and those women, they don’t like recycling their sheets if you get my drift. Don’t seem important to you and me but they got paying customers who don’t want any evidence of who’s been ’round before them.

Here’s your cred stick. Just what I agreed on with Diego and don’t let him stiff you on your cut for making the delivery. Let me show you back to the landing bay otherwise you’ll get lost and I’ll end up asking Belle to find you.

The computer AI, silly. She’s smarter than most anyone I know and she keeps the ship straight and level. She sees everything ‘cept what she’s not supposed to ’cause of her Guild programming. Still don’t want her having to trace you through the shafts so keep close behind me and I’ll get you out of here in a jiffy.

There, see? Easy to avoid smacking your head when you keep your wits about you and keep your head down. Don’t worry I always got a list of stuff the courtesans want so I’ll be in touch. Diego knows I’m good for a few extra creds whenever we make landfall where guys like you can meet us.

Yeah, the landing bay’s huge. Trust me it seems mighty small when you’ve got a mob of hungry men waiting for their turn with the courtesans. They all behave however else they’ve got to deal with Captain Keller and she doesn’t take kindly to any misbehaving. Not until they’re behind closed doors and all.

After all, like the ad says – “Everyone loves a Mercy woman”.

See you In the Black!


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