I thought I'd put up a new excerpt from the book for today's post:
On the beach, there was chaos. An eel, easily two feet in diameter and eight feet long, lay convulsing on the sand, Red’s hunting knife buried to the hilt in one eye. The crewman had the medkit open beside him and was struggling to staunch the blood flow from Sharmali’s lower leg, while she lay on a red-stained towel and moaned. Callina was standing beside them, trying to help. The other men and women milled on the beach nearby, drinking and talking in too loud voices. As Meg headed for the injured passenger, the Primary intercepted her.
“Miss Antille, I demand to know how something like this could happen.” Purple in the face, he waved a hand at Sharmali. “I paid top dollar, if not an exorbitant price, for a safe, enjoyable cruise for myself and my guests, and now the poor girl’s had her foot eaten!” He was so upset he was spitting.
“On behalf of the Line, I certainly apologize, sir. We do everything we can to ensure the safety of our guests under all circumstances, but if she swam beyond the sonic barrier—”
“She was standing in three inches of water right next to me,” Finchon said. “That monster could have just as easily gotten my foot.”
“The barrier’s off,” Red informed her, not glancing up from his task. “Can you argue with him later? I need your help.”
Meg ran to his side, the Primary matching her step for step, yelling at her about lawsuits and refunds. She tried to stem the tide of his vitriol so she could concentrate. “Sir, please, let us assist Sharmali, and then I’ll be happy to discuss the legalities.”
Trever, the retired pro athlete, came forward and took his host by the arm, shoving a drink into his hand and drawing him aside. Meg took a deep breath of relief and knelt beside Red. “What do you want me to do?”
“Apply pressure to the wound for a minute while I see what antivenom we’ve got.”
Gulping against her nausea, Meg set her hand on the makeshift bandages and pressed hard. “You said the barrier was off?”
“Must be. There was more than one of these things right in the shallows at the beach. We were lucky no one else got attacked. I got her out of the water as fast as I could so the blood wouldn’t attract other predators.” He sat on his heels, frowning, holding an inject. “This is only a generic. Will it work on eel venom?”
“It’s all we’ve got on the shuttle. It’ll have to hold her until we get to the ship’s sick bay.”
As he gave Sharmali the inject, Meg eyed the wound with deep misgiving. The woman’s leg was definitely swelling and there were ugly purple streaks advancing toward her knee. “This is my fault,” she said.
“How do you figure?” Red applied a light tourniquet.
“I should have known if the ranger station was closed, the barriers might be shut off, but I didn’t check.”
“Well, keep your voice down, the Primary is pissed off enough right now. Don’t add fuel to his fire. We’d better get her to the shuttle and hustle offplanet, to the ship. What did you find out?” He turned to take more towels from Callina with a murmured thanks and wrapped the oversize, gaily colored fabric around Sharmali. “She’s going into shock, gotta keep her warm.”
“Drewson said he hadn’t heard anything. I called the ship myself, but we got interrupted. Signal failed or something.” Meg rose as he did, admiring the smooth manner in which Red lifted the injured woman, not jostling her.
“We’ll know soon enough.” He shifted Sharmali to lie more comfortably against his chest and walked away as if her weight was nothing to him. “Guess it’s our turn to leave the equipment behind, at least temporarily.”
“Oh, Lords of Space, of course.” Meg grabbed the cleaning supplies bag, since the blasters were in there, thankfully unneeded. She detoured to flip the switch turning off the power grid, dropped the bag inside the nearest robo’s storage cavity to leave her hands free, and then caught up to the guests at the base of the walkway leading to the landing pad.
The rumble of the shuttle’s engines caught her by surprise. How could Drewson possibly know about the emergency? As she decided he must have checked the beach-facing vidscreens for some reason, the tenor of the sound changed from warmup to full power. In disbelief, she saw the shuttle rising from the pad.
“What the seven hells is he doing?” Red yelled.