Sheltered by the Sea Lord (Lords of Atlantis #10) - Starla Night
Starr opened her eyes.
Cold gray light from the port window reflected on the slatted ceiling. Her bunk rocked with every swell.
There was no sound of an engine. No captain. No crew. Only the splash of seawater against the hull and clanging from something unsecured sliding across the deck overhead.
Her stomach growled.
She rolled upright and rested her clean tennis shoes on the floor.
It would be so easy to lie down again…
Do this. Get up and eat food before you lose the will. Again.
The voice in her head sounded distant.
Her stomach growled again.
She donned her personal protective gear, first putting on the plastic pants and then snapping on the long-sleeved jacket. She slid protective glasses on her face, fit her mask straps over her ears, and pulled the hood tight.
Her warm breath felt moist.
She opened her portable medical kit. Antihistamines, antacids, eyewash drops, nasal spray. She sucked in a breath through her mouth. Her nose was always stuffed. She counted the long tubes. EpiPens. One…two…down to two? Not enough. She grabbed both, stuffed them into her jacket pocket, and closed the medical kit.
How could she ration them?
How could she not?
Starr opened the door, crept out of the stateroom, and closed it behind her. The empty captain’s cabin was to her right. The guest cabin to her left was filled with network and security equipment. Tool sets, cables, testers, switches. Neatly stacked. Utterly useless.
Past it was the small bathroom, called the head on a ship, and the door that led to the silent engines. She couldn’t smell anything, but the air had an aftertaste of oil. Sour.
Stairs led to the kitchen, called the galley.
A large wave shoved the floor beneath her shoes.
She grabbed the railing and ascended the steps. Just before the top, she paused.
Seating cushions slid across the polished wood. Rough waves had tossed them off the benches and overturned abandoned coffee mugs. The contents of a cracked mug stained the floor.
Next to it rested one small brown sphere.
Her breath stopped.
A honey-roasted peanut.
More were scattered across the floor. And the counters. They rattled like caltrops across the galley.
Her heart thudded in her chest.
Peanuts couldn’t make her sick just by looking at them, but the dust floating in the sunbeams streaming through the enclosed windows could.
Her throat tingled.
She raced through the galley and burst out onto the deck.
The gray Atlantic stretched in every direction.
She ran to the side, gripped the rail, and tore off her mask, gasping. The wind whipped strands of hair across her face. Her lips tingled and turned numb.
Her heart thudded out of control. One hand quested in her pocket. Her fingers closed around the EpiPen. Could she even use it properly? She could barely feel it in her cold, trembling fingers.
A film descended over her. The day seemed to recede. Her vision grew narrow, as though she were looking out through a periscope on the infinite ocean.
None of this matters. You’re not here.
The film wrapped around her chest embracing her in tight plastic. Her breathing slowed, and the tingling of her lips went away.
Panic, not an allergic reaction, had caused the sensation.
She released the EpiPen and followed the railing to the back of the boat. Her movements were mechanical, almost mindless. Her stomach growled. She needed food. Here was the lifeboat. Wherever the captain and crew had gone, they hadn’t taken the lifeboat.
Where had they gone? Why had they left here? Had they washed overboard? Were they all dead? Had they left her to die?
Her heartbeat accelerated.
The film thickened. What does it matter? Alive or dead, it’s all the same. None of it affects you. Nothing affects you.
Her thoughts echoed. Nothing affected her.
She undid the clumsy bow ties, pulled back the tarp, and opened the tub of emergency supplies. Unlabeled silver granola bars filled the tub. Starr selected one and a bottle of water, resealed the tub, and retied the tarp. She carried the water bottle and unlabeled silver-wrapped bar to the edge of the ship and knelt.
A rogue wave slapped the hull. Droplets of seawater sprayed her.
She wiped the spray off her face with the back of her hand. Seawater was fine, but the slightest hint of fish, shellfish, or seaweed spelled death. She squeezed the emergency meal bar.
She needed food. She needed to survive.
Please don’t kill me.
This food wasn’t contaminated. It might be safe.
Unlabeled wrappers ought to be illegal. Of course, even labels could be misleading.
She’d lived her whole life trying so hard to be safe. Trying so hard to isolate herself from dangers.