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Game Armada The Cup: Part One

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Writer’s Note: Part one of The Cup was published originally in Jump Point 1.8.

Hello everyone, and welcome once again to GSN Spectrum Broadcasting’s continuing coverage of the Murray Cup Race. The MCR, or The Cup as it is more commonly known, is one of the finest sporting events in the UEE. Nearly 100 racers compete in the Classic Division’s grueling 10-stage run, which winds its way through Ellis system’s many wondrous planets and dual asteroid belts. Racers compete to determine who’s the fastest and strongest, as they struggle to maintain the integrity of their racecraft amid some of the deadliest conditions in the Empire. This year’s competition promises to be one of the toughest, as the top 25 share in a meet-and-greet with media and sponsors in GSN’s sports atrium in orbit above Green. Though many come to race, only a few are considered real contenders, and those contenders are now awaiting their chance for glory and honor.

This year’s darling is Ykonde Remisk, a Human who surprised everyone by winning both the Goss Invitational and the Cassini 500. He comes into the MCR with a real chance to be the first racer to win the Triple Crown in twelve years. Then there is Nyanāl Mo’tak Xu.oa, the finest Xi’an racer in the history of the sport. If he prevails, he will be the first to ever win three MCRs in a row.

Zogat Guul, the old Tevarin warhorse, can’t be counted out, either. This legend has won the MCR more than anyone else in its history, but fate and bad luck have prevented him from winning a major event in over five years. His second place finish at the Cassini 500, however, has brought his name back to prominence. Can he win it once more before he fades away?

And finally, newcomer Hypatia Darring has turned heads by taking the pole position away from Remisk. She has never won a major racing event in her short career, but her consistent top ten showings for the last two years indicate that her pole position is no fluke. Can this youngster handle the enormous pressure placed upon her? Only time will tell . . .

Let’s throw it back to GSN reporter Mike Crenshaw, who is making his way through the reception as we speak. Who do you have for us now, Mike?

Hypatia Darring didn’t even notice the reporter’s question as she stared across the busy reception floor. The Tevarin looked lean and elegant amid a gaggle of reporters who crowded around him. Part of her felt like joining the crowd. I should feel the need to whip his ass, to blow past him on the final stage, to force his ship into an asteroid. That would be the feelings of a great racer, a great competitor, one focused and ready to win. But no. Try as she might, she could not feel that way toward this legend who stood only a few meters away. Much to her sorrow, she hadn’t had a chance to speak with him when their paths could have crossed at Cassini. Now, she had to find the time. She fought the urge to walk across the room, push past the media hounds, invite him to dinner, and ask him to sign the worn, faded, dog-eared poster of him in his youth — standing proudly next to his silver M50 — still hanging on her hab wall.

She shook her head and blinked. “I’m sorry. Say again?”

Mike Crenshaw cleared his throat. “Do you think Admiral Darring is proud of his daughter?” Darring clenched her teeth and forced a smile. “Of course he is. Why wouldn’t he be?”

“He has stated publicly, more than once, that he believes you are wasting your talents as a racer. That you should drop all this ‘nonsense’ — his word — and pursue a more fitting career in the UEE Navy.”

“My father has never been one to restrain his opinions,” she said, taking tentative steps toward Guul. “But if you really want to know the answer to that question, you should ask him yourself.”

Another reporter fought her way in. “Alice Frannif, Terra Gazette . . . taking the pole position from Ykonde Remisk was a marvelous achievement. How did you do it?”

Her smile was genuine. “Luck.”

“Oh, come now, Hypatia,” Crenshaw said, regaining the floor. “Achieving a time one point five seconds off the record is hardly luck. How’d you do it?”

She chuckled. “Patience, dedication, focus and an acute attention to detail. That, plus the fastest damned M50 on the circuit. All things I’m sure my father would appreciate.”

The reporters laughed and hastily transcribed notes. Darring made a few more steps toward Guul.

“Ms. Darring,” another reporter interceded, “how do you intend on maintaining your ‘luck,’ as you put it, through the entire race? Ten stages, all timed, many with narrow, dangerous channels, especially through the asteroid belts. You’ll be racing neck-and-neck with some of the finest racers in history. Being a relative newcomer, how do you intend on handling the pressure, maintaining your good start, and ultimately winning the cup?”

“She’s a natural!”

All turned, including Darring, and found Mo’tak Xu.oa, the Xi’an, dressed in a bright purple jumpsuit, standing among a pool of sycophants who followed him to every event. Some of them were ex-GSN reporters, now under full employment by the Xu.oa house, captured by his fame, notoriety and wealth.

Darring controlled her scowl as the stout Xi’an stopped a few feet from her. “She’s a natural,” Mo‘tak repeated, to make sure the reporters could record his reply. He was shorter than Darring by a centimeter or two — which was still unusually tall for his race — but his cool, amber eyes scanned her face carefully His powerful jaw muscles pulled back in a tight approximation of a smile. “She’ll win it by being the best racer on the circuit.”

“Do you really believe that?” Crenshaw asked. “She’s the best?”

Mo‘tak nodded slowly, diplomatically, his eyes affixed on Darring. “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t.” He blinked. “How are you, my dear? Rested from your trials at Cassini?”

“Rested enough,” she replied, beneath her breath. The reporters leaned in to hear. “But you should know all about that.”

Mo‘tak waved her off as if she were his lesser. “The dangers of the trade, my dear. I did what I had to do to gain advantage.”

Darring nodded. “But you didn’t win, did you? Cutting me off in a move that, technically, was illegal, only gave you third place.”

“Still, a better finish than you.” Mo‘tak chuckled. His devotees did the same. “The Cassini is not all that important to me, my dear. The MCR is the crown jewel. You’ll understand that in time . . . if you last long enough.”

“Can we get a picture of the two of you side-by-side?” a reporter piped up. The rest confirmed that desire with exaggerated nodding.

Mo‘tak turned to the crowd, preening for all to see. “Of course you may have a picture,” he said, offering his hand to Darring in goodwill. “I’m honored to be a part of this great tradition. The MCR is dear to my heart, and with such brilliant competition, like Hypatia Darring here, this year’s race will be one to remember.”

Hypatia took his hand cautiously. She wrapped her fingers around his broad palm. Forcing herself to relax, she turned toward the reporters to let them take their pictures and ask their questions.

But then Mo‘tak began to squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze until she felt the small delicate bones in her hand giving beneath the pressure. She squeezed back against it, but that didn’t provide much relief as Mo‘tak continued to grip. Don’t cringe, she said to herself. Don’t cry. Don’t give him the satisfaction. But the pain spread up her arm, into her shoulder, through her neck. God, he’s trying to break my hand. He’s . . .

He released, and the pain subsided. She sighed and wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead with her other hand.

Crenshaw was about to ask another question, but then someone spotted Ykonde Remisk, and they all scurried in his direction.

At her side, Mo‘tak chuckled. “We are only as important to them as our last quote.” The Xi’an turned to her again.

This time he didn’t offer his hand. He winked. “.athl’ē’kol to you, my zealous competitor. Safe travel. I’ll see you down the line.”

Mo‘tak disappeared into the doting arms of his fans. As he walked away, Darring caught the eye of a lean, surly-looking fellow who maintained a watchful position behind his employer. He nodded at her. She ignored him and imagined driving a knife into Mo‘tak’s back.

“Don’t let him get to you.”

The voice was soft and amiable. Darring turned to greet it.

There he stood, towering over her. In his shadow, she felt truly small, both in stature and in status. Zogat Guul radiated a kindness and a quiet experience that steadied her rage. She offered her sore hand humbly. He took it without complaint.

“Don’t let that pompous twit get under your skin. He’s infamous for his mind games.” With a quick grin, he snapped into formal posture, as if he were greeting an officer, thrusting his chest out though it was wrapped comfortably in a black-and-gold half-coat. “My name is Zogat —”

“I know who you are,” Darring interrupted, embarrassed immediately by her rudeness. “It’s an honor to meet you. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a kid.”

“And I have been following your career with great interest.” He took her by the arm and began to lead her toward a table filled with three large punch bowls and an assortment of seafood appetizers. They walked slowly. “You are rising steadily on the circuit. Your name is on the lips of many. Your fifth place showing at Cassini was quite impressive, especially for someone so young.”

“Thank you. It would have been even more impressive had I won, if Mo‘tak hadn’t forced me back.”

“You let him get too close,” he said, with no malice or indictment in his tone. “You had the inside lane, but you slowed down to spar with him.”

“He pissed me off!”

Guul stopped, “Such behavior may be tolerated in the smaller, roundabout races like Cassini. But not here. Here, such raw emotion will get you expelled or killed. True, there are stages along the way where the racing will be tight, where you will have to maneuver for position. But speed matters the most here . . . speed and time. Remember, Hypatia Darring, the one most important fact about the Murray Cup: Speed is life.” He tilted his head to side. “Speed is life . . . or death, if you are going in the wrong direction.”

She laughed at that, letting the seriousness of his words trickle away. “We will speak no more of these things now,” he said, resuming their course toward the food table. “We will have further opportunities to talk later, when the lamprey are not so thick and hungry.” He ignored the wave of a reporter nearby. “Every word we speak here is interpreted and reinterpreted until, in the end, they will make us lovers in the eyes of the public.”

Darring forced a wry smile. “Sorry . . . you’re not my type.”

Guul let out a hearty laugh. He shook his head. “Story of my life.” He quickened his pace toward the food. “Now come, and treat me to a glass of the greatest gift Humans have bestowed upon the galaxy.”

“What’s that?” Darring asked.

Guul smacked his lips. “Lemonade.”

* * *

Mo‘tak crushed the thin shell of the jumbo shrimp in his mouth. He did not bother shucking it as a feeble Human might do. Blast this Human food anyway! What he wouldn’t give to be back at the family complex, gorging to contentment on huge handfuls of fermented needlefish. Their gallbladders had a bile that was as sweet — no, sweeter — than anything a Human might concoct. Nothing on the table before him was actually enjoyable in his superior opinion, but he tolerated it as best he could, smiling humbly as he picked at this dish or that for the benefit of the media. Mo‘tak nodded at a Human reporter as she walked by.

Humans had their uses.

And so did the one that stood now in the center of the media frenzy. Why weren’t the reporters surrounding him, asking him questions, begging him to divulge his secrets for winning the race, just as they had asked Darring? These damned Humans and their inferiority complex! So unwilling to recognize Xi’an superiority. But Mo‘tak was the best racer that had ever climbed into a cockpit, and his perfectly modified 350r, with its purple hull and reinforced golden-striped wings would do what no other racer had ever done: win the MCR three consecutive times. Neither Remisk, nor Guul, nor Darring could claim such a feat. So, why weren’t the GSN nya•osen’p.u surrounding him?

But perhaps that was best, he reconsidered, popping another shrimp in his mouth and sipping on a warm, frothless beer. Let Ykonde Remisk have his moment in the spotlight. Let the media have their favorites. For when they fall, when they fail to live up to the hype, Mo‘tak’s victory will seem that much sweeter. Yes, let them bask . . . then let them fall. And I will see that they fall hard.

“Is everything in place?” he whispered to an underling at his side.

“Yes, sir. Your maintenance crews are dispersed through the Ellis system per your specifications and per the MCR guidelines.”

Mo‘tak scratched his neck in frustration. “That’s not what I meant.”

The underling gulped and wiggled his head. “Yes, that matter we spoke of has been taken care of as well. But I would recommend against it, sir. The risk is too great, and besides, Mo‘tak does not need to rely on such things. He is the best racer on the circuit.”

“I do not pay you to give me such advice or praise. I pay you to do what you’re told. Now go, and make sure everything is ready as I have instructed.” He put his beer down. “And I will go and remind the ‘favorite’ of his obligation to me.”

The underling nodded and ran off to do his duty. Mo‘tak sighed deeply, put on his happy face, and walked confidently toward the madness surrounding Ykonde Remisk.

* * *

She loved her Origin M50 Turbo more than life. Banged up, scratched, red and white paint slopped on to cover a hull that needed an integrity sweep, but there had been no time for any of that after Cassini. Nor had she won enough credits yet for such repairs, not with having to pay for transport ships and her pit crew. But what of it? The power plant was sound, the thrusters new and top notch. In a pinch, she doubted that any racer, anywhere, could match it. Certainly, none of the other twenty-four challengers behind her — including Guul — could beat her in a straightaway. But the MCR had few straightaways. Hull integrity mattered.

As her crew chief rattled off the final systems check in her ear, Darring pulled up the map for the first stage. It appeared with a bright blink to display row after row of rings winding their way through low orbit above Ellis III. Darring studied the rings carefully, reminding herself which ones were large, which were small, where the cameras and timer buoys were located. All racers were required to stay within the “invisible” lane running through the rings; if a racer strayed outside, he or she would lose time. This first stage was both timed and awarded extra credits to first, second and third place. Having the pole position, then, gave her an advantage. But for how long? Darring leaned over in her seat and studied the course carefully.

It was not unlike one stretch of the Goss Invitational, so she had ample experience with this kind of run. Her M50 was built for strenuous zigs and zags through tight spots. But how well would she fare later on, when the courses got more deadly, more strenuous?

From Ellis III, the racers quantumed to Ellis IV where the so-called Seahorse Shuffle took place. Then on to Ellis V and the “Noble Endeavour.” After that, it was through the first of two asteroid belts, a course called The Sorrow Sea, where hulls of previous racers floated as obstacles. Then around the gas giant, Walleye, where ships could be easily ripped apart by one foolish move. A longer stage followed, across the outer asteroid belt (formerly Ellis XI) and finally to Ellis XII. Then the race turned back toward the heart of the system to finished at Ellis VIII. She had run this race before, but never as a true contender, and thus she had taken her time, flown each stage slow and steady, like a marathon runner, to learn all the ins and outs. This time, though, the pressure was on. She held the pole position, the top spot. Everything was different now.

The MCR starter’s voice crackled over the comm link. “Racers, prepare for launch.”

Darring closed the map, affirmed the standard agreement to MCR rules and regulations in unison with the other racers, strapped herself in, and gave a small prayer. She was not religious by any stretch, but figured it wouldn’t hurt. The prayer calmed her nerves as the bay doors of the starting carrier opened to space.

She could see Ellis III through the door. It was beautiful, green, its orbit peppered with corvettes and pleasure craft of the well-to-do who had come out to view the race firsthand. There would be plenty of spectators along the way, a lot of media, and Darring had to just put them all out of her mind. She focused on Zogat Guul’s words — Speed is life — and looked back through one of her cockpit panels to try to get a glimpse of the Tevarin’s upgraded Hornet. But he was too far back. All she could see was Ykonde Remisk’s M50, with its garish gold and blue trim. She noticed that he was too close to her; by rule, there was a specified distance that racers had to maintain prior to launch: the privilege of the pole position.

She gnashed her teeth and cursed beneath her breath. Someone was already violating rules.

“Hypatia Darring . . . you may launch.”

She didn’t even wait for the spokesman to finish. Darring burst out the carrier bay door at top legal speed.

Through a narrow channel flanked by media and spectators, Darring flew the ceremonial lap. The rest of the racers followed behind, releasing one after another, but maintaining their specified positions within the line. Ahead of her, the pace craft sparkled with a flashing red light. Nervous energy spotted her brow with sweat. Her crew chief gave his final comments and instructions. She signed him off and focused on the course ahead of her.

In her ear, the MCR starter counted down — ten, nine, eight . . . Darring thrust to the left, trying to keep directly behind the pace craft. Ykonde Remisk was right on her six, the nose of his racer dangerously close. Back off! Darring mouthed silently, wanting to flip on her comm link and tune to his frequency. It wasn’t strictly against MCR rules to speak to other racers, but officials discouraged it, fearing that frequent conversation during the race could produce distractions that would lead to crashes and injuries. Besides, there was enough chatter going on between racers and their crews. Still, Darring wanted to open a channel and scream into Remisk’s ear, Get off my back!

Five . . . four . . . three . . .

Now, all the racers tightened as the pacer made the last turn to set them up toward the first rings. Darring gunned it a little herself, closing in on the pacer. She put herself now just a little to the right of it, to keep Remisk from rushing past her at the last minute. Darring’s heart raced, her hands shook on her joystick. She tried concentrating on the small object that grew and grew in her viewport: The first ring, its rotating lights swirling around its virtual frame, signaling the beginning . . .

Two . . . one . . .

The red lights on the pacer flashed green, and it fell to the left quickly, breaking formation.

Darring pressed herself into her seat, gunned her thrusters, and blew through the first ring.

* * *

The flashing lights of the rings caused her eyes to ache.

They flew by her quickly and she was concentrating on them too much, too worried about her time, her position in the line. She had fallen to third place by count of the last timing ring. It had been her fault, too, worrying so much about conserving fuel, letting some pilot with a overclocked Avenger take the inside lane. Her crew chief yelled at her for it; she ignored him. The little shit was right, of course, but he was an old academy friend of her father’s, and she was in no mood to listen to him yell at her. Besides, she could overtake an Avenger at any time.

The real focus of her recovery had to be Ykonde Remisk.

The smarmy son of a bitch had forced her against the left wall of the tunnel they were speeding through. Her wing had actually broken the virtual plane, and the voice of the MCR caller came over her comm . . . “Ten seconds added to your time.” Damn! Remisk’s press was not strictly against the rules since his ship had not touched hers, but it was certainly dirty pool and against the spirit of the competition. She had no way out of the pick-and-roll either; it was as if he and the Avenger pilot were in cahoots. That wouldn’t surprise her in the least.

She refocused and thrust her M50 forward, dipping beneath the Avenger and slipping past it on the low. It tried muscling her back, pointing its right wing down to mask her view, but Darring anticipated the move, shifted in kind, and kept her position and composure. Meanwhile, the Avenger pilot had lost his focus on the lane ahead of him, and failed to notice the ring closing fast and to the left. Darring hit her thrusters hard and shifted left, at the last minute moving out of the Avenger’s path. Darring took the turn and ring perfectly; the Avenger saw it too late, tried to adjust, and clipped the ring with its left wing. It broke the invisible plane of the tunnel and then overcompensated into a spin through the void.

Eat that!

She hoped that somewhere behind her, Guul was cheering. She could almost hear his resonant voice singing her praises. She liked the thought, but the most pressing concern now was right in front of her.

Remisk had been pushing his craft at full speed the entire course. How was that possible? she wondered. Sure, he had customized his M50 like all the rest, removing everything extraneous for extra fuel and cooling equipment, but he must be running on fumes by now after boosting like that. There was no other explanation. He would have to burn out soon, and the sooner the better.

She ignored the three other racers pressing hard at her six. She took the next ring and the next, letting the strong inertia pull and propel her craft forward. That was the best way to avoid overheating, she had learned racing around Saturn. Release thrust on the turns, and let your craft drift at top speed into the vector. Then you had enough thrust to pick up the few seconds you might have lost on drift. This racing gig was a game of milliseconds, and each one counted.

She moved up behind Remisk, taking advantage of the last straightaway before the final turns through the ultimate three rings. There was not much time left, and she had to make her move now.

She tried shifting up and over his craft. He moved to block her. She shifted down; he moved again, in perfect unison, their ships equal size. She shifted left, right, and each time Remisk moved to counter. How is he doing this?

He was a great racer. There was no doubt of that. He was strong, athletic and cool-headed. Remisk had not gotten where he was on the circuit without being smart and precise. But his moves, his instincts were almost supernatural, as if his senses were enhanced. But that was impossible.

Every racer went through a rigorous medical exam to ensure that no drugs had been introduced before the race, and further testing would be conducted along the way to ensure none had been taken after the first stage. Remisk was just that good.

Then I have to be better.

She pushed her engine to its limit, exceeding safe levels, much to the ire of her crew chief. He implored her to back off, take second or third place, don’t risk blowing your ship so soon for so little reward. Little reward, my ass!

She had taken the pole position, and she was going to let everyone know that it was not some fluke, that Hypatia Darring was here to stay. She wouldn’t give her fath– the media — grist for their mill.

She barrel rolled, letting the rotation of her M50 spiral her forward like a screw. Remisk, fearing that he would be clipped himself, shifted ever so slightly to his left, and Darring pounced. She pulled alongside him, letting her craft settle. She punched her thrusters again, feeling them wail their discontent through her arms and hands. Her stick was shaking, her heat warnings blaring. She could feel it all through her body, and there was, in all the galaxy, no feeling like it. It was something her father had forgotten. He was a good fighter pilot himself, or at least he was in his youth. But he had spent too much of his life in slow giants like destroyers, cruisers and battleships. He had forgotten what it was like to feel flesh tingle as strong g-forces threatened to rip your skin from its bones. Guul understood it. Remisk most certainly did. And even that sorry son of a bitch Mo‘tak understood the ecstatic feeling of sheer speed.

She pulled ahead. She took the next ring flawlessly, shifting against inertia and rolling through the next ring, which appeared immediately after the last. The final ring loomed large in the distance. Her crew chief, his attitude suddenly changed, barked “Go! Go!” into her ear. She smiled. She’d made the right decision. She most definitely deserved to be here racing among the greats.

Remisk pulled up above her, obviously giving her first place. She kept her course forward and strong, letting her warning systems holler. She giggled like a child, accepting praise from her chief. The flashing lights of the last ring did not make her weak or sick this time. She welcomed them happily.

Then a shadow came up over her, darkening her cockpit. It was Remisk, his M50 finding new life and overtaking her ship. In her joy, Darring had not realized that her thumb had lightened its pressure on her throttle, and she had slowed just slightly. Slowed enough for Remisk to swing his craft up and over her hull and plant itself, with its main thrusters, right in front of her cockpit. Darring tried keeping her speed and course, but Remisk kicked his boost and threw a gout of yellow fire across her cockpit windows.

Darring rolled left. It was a serious mistake. She tried regaining her position, pressed her thumb deeply into the throttle, but it was too late. Ykonde Remisk passed through the final ring in first place. The Avenger and one other racer took second and third, while Darring, her ship rolling uncontrollably through the last ring, barely finished fourth.


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      Gavin knew his brother well enough to know that Walt was berating himself inside. He didn’t deal well with guilt or re­sponsibility, and Gavin suspected that was a big part of why Walt always ran.
      The gathering started to break up. Pilots and the hangar crew busied themselves with tasks around Rhedd Alert’s battered fleet of fighters. Dell didn’t move, so he stayed there with her. Walt rested a hand on his shoulder.
      “Gavin. Oh gods, Dell. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
      Jazza leaned in and spoke in a low tone, almost a whisper. “Landing gear up in ten, boss. Your rig is on the buggy.” She motioned with her chin to where his ship waited.
      Dell turned into him and squeezed. “Be careful.”
      “I will, babe.”
      “You come home to me, Gavin Rhedd. I’ll kill you myself if you make me run this outfit on my own.”
      He pressed his lips to the top of her head. Held them there.
      “Wait. What?” Walt’s jaw was slack, his eyes wide. “Tell me you aren’t going back out there.”
      Jazza bumped Walt with her shoulder, not so much walking past him as through him. “Damn right we are, Quitter.”
      “You know what? Screw you, Jazz. All right? You used to quit this outfit, like . . . twice a month.”
      “Not like you. Not like some chicken sh—”
      “Jazz,” Gavin said, “go make sure the team is ready to roll, would ya?” With a nod to Gavin and a parting glare at Walt, she moved away into the hangar.
      “Let it be, Walt. We really do need to go. After last time, we can’t risk being late for the pickup.”
      “Screw late!” Walt’s eyes were wide and red-rimmed around the edges. “Why the happy hells are you going at all?”
      “Walt —”
      “Don’t ‘Walt’ me, Gavin. There is a pack of psychopaths out there trying to kill you!”
      “Walt, would you shut up and listen for two seconds? We don’t have a choice, okay? We’ve got everything riding on this job. We’re months behind on this place and extended up to our necks on credit for fuel, parts, and ammo.”
      “They can damn well bill me!”
      “No,” Gavin said, “they can’t. Your shares reverted back to the company when you quit. But I’m legit now. You think we lived life on the run before? Just you watch if I try to run from this.”
      Walt turned to Dell for assistance, “Dell, come on. You gotta make him listen to reason.”
      “Boomer’s shares transferred to me when he died,” Dell said. “We’re in this together.”
      “Okay, boss,” Jazza called. The three of them looked to where she stood with a line of determined crew. “It’s time.”
      Walt watched the big bay doors close as the last of Gavin’s team left the hangar. His fighter and the few remaining ships looked small and awkwardly out of place in the big room. Standing alone next to Dell gave him a great appreci­ation for that awkwardness.
      “I’m so sorry, Dell. If I’d been there —”
      “Don’t,” she stopped him with a word, and then contin­ued with a shake of her blue-tipped hair. “Don’t do that to yourself. I’ve been over the tactical logs. He got beat one-on-one, and then they OK’d him. There was nothing you could have done.”
      “I still feel rotten,” he said. “Like, maybe if I hadn’t left . . . I don’t know.”
      “Gavin blames himself, too. That’s just the way you two are built. But believe me, there was never a soul alive able to keep my dad out of the cockpit. He was flying long before you Rhedd boys tumbled into our lives.”
      That gave him a smile. A genuine smile. It seemed to bright­en Dell’s mood, so he did his best to hang onto it.
      “Come on,” she said. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. Join me for some coffee?”
      He did, and for a time they spoke softly at the tall tables in the hangar’s kitchenette. Dell caught him up on life aboard Vista Landing since he had left. She was clearly exhausted and not simply from a sleepless night and her father’s funeral. Her shoulders sagged, and dark circles under her eyes were the product of weeks of labor and worry. The constant apprehension of the Hornets’ vi­cious attacks had apparently exhausted more than just the pilots. It seemed odd that the attacks felt strangely personal.
      “You know what I can’t figure out?” he mused aloud. Dell looked at him, tired eyes politely expectant. “What the hell are these guys after?”
      She nodded, “Yeah. There’s been a lot of speculating on that question.”
      “Hard to say, isn’t it? Could be political wackos opposed to the research in Haven. Or maybe it’s one of the old gangs that don’t like us going legit. Could be it’s a group of Tevarin lashing out against UEE targets. Who knows?”
      “Naw. If they were Tevarin, we could tell by how they fly.”
      “Then you tell me, if you’re so smart. I mean, you were out there. You fought them.”
      Walt shrugged and took a sip of cooling coffee. Something she said nagged at him. “Hey, you said you had navsat tac­tical logs from the fight, right?”
      “Yeah.” What remained of her energy seemed to drain away with that one word. Walt cursed himself for the insensitive ass that he was. He’d just asked her about re­corded replays of her father’s murder.
      “Dell. Ah, hell . . . I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”
      “It’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been over and over them already. Really, I don’t mind.”
      They moved to a console and the lights dimmed automat­ically when she pulled up the hangar projection. She se­lected a ship, and oriented the view so that the hologram of Boomer’s Avenger filled the display. No, Walt reminded himself, it wasn’t Boomer’s ship any more. Dell was his heir and — along with his debt — Boomer’s assets now belonged to her.
      Dell bypassed the default display of the structural hard­points and dove into the ship’s systems. Something caught his eye and he stopped her. “Wait, back up.” She did, and Walt stopped the rotating display to look along the under­carriage of the ship. He let out a low whistle.
      “That, Walter Rhedd, is a Tarantula GT-870 Mk3.”
      “I know what it is. But where did you get it?”
      “Remember those pirates that gave us so much trouble in Oberon? I pulled it before we sold the salvage.”
      He certainly did remember, and the bastards had kicked the crap out of two of their ships with their Tarantulas. “How’d you get it mounted on an Avenger?”
      “Hammer therapy,” she said. He gave her a confused look, and she held up one arm, curling it to make a muscle. “I beat the hell out of it until it did what I wanted.”
      “Damn, girl.”
      “Did you want to see the flight recorder?”
      They watched the navsat replays together in silence. It looked like one hell of a fight. Chaotic. Frantic. The Rhedd Alert fighters were hard pressed.
      Jazza had moments of tactical brilliance. As much as she rubbed him the wrong way, Walt had to admit that she made her Cutlass dance steps for which it wasn’t de­signed. Gavin orchestrated a coherent strategy and had committed extra fighters to drive off the attack. Some­thing was wrong, though. Something about the fight didn’t make sense.
      Walt had Dell replay the scene so he could focus on the marauders. It didn’t look like much of a fight at all from that perspective. It looked more like a game and only one team understood how all the pieces moved. The Hornets flew to disrupt, to confuse. They knew Gavin would send a force forward to protect the transport. He’d done it every time they had met.
      “See that?” he said. “They break apart there and get called immediately back into formation. They never leave a flank exposed. Our guys never get a real opening.” He pointed out one of the attacking Hornets. “That one calls the shots.”
      “That’s the one that OK’d Boomer.”
      Reds and greens from the navsat display sparkled in Dell’s eyes. Her voice was emotionless and flat. Walt didn’t want to see her like that, so he focused again on the display.
      The marauder he’d identified as the leader broke from the melee. Gavin gave chase, but from too far behind. Boomer intercepted, was disabled, and his PRB flashed red on the display. The Hornet took a pass at the transport before turning to rejoin its squad. Then it decelerated, pausing before the overkill on Boomer.
      “Why take only one pass at the transport? They’ve hit us, what? Six times? Seven? And once they finally get a shot at the target, they bug out?”
      “You said, ‘us’,” Dell teased. “You back to stay?”
      Walt huffed a small laugh. “We’ll see.”
      “We’ve been lucky,” Dell offered in answer to his question. “So far, we’ve chased them off.”
      “You really believe that? They had this fight won if they wanted it. And how do they keep finding us? It’s like they’ve taken up permanent residence in our damned flight path.”
      That was it. He had it. The revelation must have shown on his face.
      “What?” Dell asked. “What is it?”
      “Back it up to the strafe on the Aquila.”
      Dell did, and they watched it again. He felt like an ass for making her watch the murder of her father over again, but he had to be sure of what he saw.
      And there it was. Strafe. Turn. Pause. A decision to com­mit. An escalating act of brutality. And then they were gone.
      “She’s not after the transport at all. We were her target this whole time.”
      “Wait,” Dell said, “what she? Her who?”
      “Please tell me your ex hasn’t drunk himself out of a job with the Navy.”
      “Barry? Of course not, why?”
      “Because I just figured out who killed your father.”
      Morgan Brock called the meeting to a close and dismissed her admin team. Riebeld caught her eye and lifted one hand off the table — a request for her to stay while the others shuffled out of the conference room.
      Riebeld kept her waiting until they were alone, and then stood to close the door.
      “I take it,” Brock said, “that our Tyrol problem persists despite the escalation?”
      “I got word during the meeting” — he took a seat beside her at the table, voice pitched low — “that they should be making the jump to Nexus soon.”
      “Our discreet pilots? Are they deployed or here at the sta­tion?”
      His answer was slow in coming, his nod reluctant. “They are here.”
      Brock checked the time. Did some mental math. “Disguise the ships. We will leave at 1700 and meet them in Nexus just inside the gate from Min.”
      “Morgan,” Riebeld’s eyes roamed the room, “these guys aren’t taking the hint. I don’t know what losses we have to hand them before they back down, but . . . I don’t know. Part of doing business is losing bids, am I right?” She didn’t disagree and he continued. “Maybe . . . Maybe we ought to write this one off?”
      “A comfortable position to hold in your seat, Riebeld. Your commission is based on the contract value. I barely turned a profit on that job for years. I did it willingly, with the expected reward of windfall profits when traffic to Haven surges.”
      “I get that,” he said. “I really do. But at some point we have to call it a loss and focus on the next thing, right?”
      “Then suppose that we let the Tyrol job go, and Greely and Navy SysCom see what they want to see from bou­tique contractors. I can already imagine anti-establishment politicians pushing for more outsourced work. Hell, they will probably promise contracts to buy votes in their home systems.”
      She watched him squirm. It wasn’t like him to wrestle with his conscience. Frankly, she was disappointed to learn that he’d found one.
      “If Rhedd Alert won’t withdraw willingly,” she said, “then they will have to fail the hard way. Prep the ships, Rie­beld. We have done very well together, you and I. You should know that I won’t back away from what is mine.” He seemed to appreciate her sincerity, but Brock wanted to hear the cocksure salesman say it. “Are we clear?”
      “Yes, ma’am,” Riebeld swallowed and stood. “Perfectly clear.”
      “Any luck?” Walt pulled up Barry’s record in his mobiGlas and hit connect.
      Dell sat at the hangar console trying to reach Gavin and the team. Her brow furrowed in a grimace and she shook her head.
      “Damn. Okay, keep trying.”
      Barry connected. The accountant wore his uniform. He was on duty, wherever he was, and his projected face looked genuinely mournful. “Hey,” he said, “long time no see, man. Listen, I can’t tell you how sad I am about Boomer.”
      “Thanks.” Barry had known Dell and Boomer for most his life. He’d probably been torn between attending the service and allowing the family to grieve in privacy. Regardless, commiseration would have to wait. “We need your help, Barry. Please tell me that you have access to the propos­als for the Tyrol contract.”
      “Of course I do. And who’s we? Are you back with Dell and Gavin?”
      “I am,” he felt Dell’s eyes on him when he said it. “Anyway, we need a favor. I need to know the ship models and con­figurations proposed by the incumbent.”
      “Morgan Brock’s outfit, sure. No can do on the ship data, though. That information is all confidential. Only the price proposals are available for public review, and those only during the protest period.”
      “Come on, Barry. We’re not talking trade secrets here. I could figure this out with a fly-by of their hangar in Kilian. I just don’t have time for that. I need to know what ships those guys fly.”
      Barry breathed out a heavy sigh, “Hold on. But I can’t send you the proposals, okay? You guys are already on thin ice with this contract as is.”
      “Tell me about it. And thanks, I owe you huge for this.”
      Walt waited, throat dry. He scratched at a chipped edge on his worn mobiGlas with a fingernail.
      “All right,” Barry read from something off-screen, “it looks like they’re flying a variety of Hornets. Specifically, F7As. I can send you a list of the proposed hardpoints, and I hap­pen to know that Brock herself flies a Super Hornet.”
      The mobiGlas shook on Walt’s wrist. His face felt hot, and he forced his jaw to relax. “Barry, if you have any pull with the Navy, get some ships to Tyrol. It’s been Brock this whole time. She’s been setting us up to fail. And she’s the bitch that OK’d Boomer.”
      “I’m going, Walt. That’s final.”
      Walt rubbed at his eyes with the flat part of his fingers. How did Gavin ever win an argument her? Forbidding her involvement was a lost cause. Maybe he could reason with her. “Listen. When’s the last time you were even in a cockpit?”
      “I know this ship. I was practically born in these things.”
      “Dell —”
      She threw his helmet at him. He caught it awkwardly, and she had shed her coveralls and was wriggling into her flight suit before he could finish his thought. She stared at him with hard eyes and said, “Suit up if you don’t want to get left behind.”
      Dell was as implacable as gravity. Fine. It was her funeral, and he realized there was no way his brother had ever won an argument with her.
      They finished prepping in silence. Walt pulled the chocks on her Avenger when she climbed up into the cockpit. He gave the hulking muzzle of the Tarantula an appreciative pat. “You have ammo for this bad boy?”
      “I have a little.”
      “Good,” he smiled. “Let’s hope Brock isn’t ready to handle reinforcements.”
      Walt mulled that thought over. It was true that Gavin had split their team in each fight, but Rhedd Alert had never sent in reserves. Each engagement had been a fair and straightforward fight. Brock wasn’t likely to know anything about their resources, however limited, beyond the escort team. That could work to their advantage.
      In fact, “Hey, Dell. Hop out for a tick, will you?”
      “Like hell I will.” The look she shot down at him was pure challenge. “I said I’m going and that’s that.”
      “Oh, no. I’ve already lost that fight. But you and your cannon here got me thinking about those pirates in Oberon. Tell me, did we ever find a buyer for that old Idris hull?”
      “No. It’s buoyed in storage outside the station, why?”
      Dell looked at him skeptically and he grinned. “We’re going to introduce these military-types to
      some ol’ smugglers’ tricks.”
      Gavin held the team at the edge of the jump gate between Min and Nexus. “All right gang, listen up. You know the drill and what might be waiting for us on the other side. Jazza, I want you and Rahul up on point for this jump. I’ll bring Cassiopeia over after you and the rest of the team are in. Anyone not ready to jump?”
      His team was silent as they arranged themselves into position with professional precision. The pilot aboard Cassiopeia sounded the ready and Gavin sent Jazza through. The others were hard on her heels, and Gavin felt the always-peculiar drop through the mouth of the jump gate.
      Light and sound stretched, dragging him across the inter­space. Another drop, a moment’s disorientation, and then Nexus resolved around him.
      Without warning, Mei’s fighter flashed past his forward screen. Incandescent laser fire slashed along the ghost grey and fire-alarm red ship, crippling Mei’s shields and shearing away sections of armored hull. Mei fired back at a trio of maddeningly familiar Hornets in a tight triangular formation.
      Jazza barked orders. “Mei. Rahul. Flank Gavin and get Cassiopeia out of here. Gavin, you copy that? You have the package.”
      He shook his head, willing the post-jump disorientation away. He didn’t remember bringing up his shields, but they flashed on his HUD and his weapon systems were armed.
      “Copy that.” Gavin switched to the transport channel, “Cassiopeia. Let’s get you folks out of here.”
      The crew onboard the UEE transport didn’t need any more encouragement. Gavin accelerated to keep pace with the larger ship as two Rhedd Alert fighters dropped into posi­tion above and below him. Together, they raced toward the jump gate to Tyrol.
      The Hornets wheeled and dropped toward them from one side. Gavin’s HUD lit up with alerts as Jazza sent a pair of rockets dangerously close over his head to blast into one of the attacking ships. Her ship screamed by overhead, but the Hornets stayed in pursuit of the fleeing transport.
      Alarms sounded. They needed more firepower on the Hornets to give Cassiopeia time to get clear. He yelled a course heading, and Cassiopeia dove with Mei and Rahul on either flank.
      Gavin pulled up, turned and fired to pull the attention of the attackers. He spun, taking the brunt of their return fire on his stronger starboard shields.
      The impact shook the Cutlass violently, and his shield integ­rity bar sagged into the red. Gavin turned, took another wild shot with his lasers, and accelerated away from Cassiopeia with the Hornets in close pursuit.
      Navsat data for the jump into Nexus crept onto the edge of Walt’s HUD. Several seconds and thousands of kilometers later, the first of the embattled starships winked onto the display. His brother and the Rhedd Alert team were hard-pressed.
      Walt watched Brock and her crew circle and strike, corralling the Rhedd Alert ships. Gavin tried to lead the attackers away, but Brock wouldn’t bite. By keeping the fight centered on the UEE transport, she essentially held the transport hostage.
      Time to even the odds.
      Jazza tore into one of the Hornets. Walt saw the enemy fighter’s superior shields absorb the impact. He marked that Hornet as his target, preparing to strike before its defenses recharged.
      He killed his primary drive and spun end to end, slash­ing backward through the melee like a blazing comet. His targeting system locked onto the enemy Hornet, and his heavy Broadsword blasted bullets into it.
      Mei’s battered fighter dove through the streaming wreck­age, but the Super Hornet, presumably Brock, waited for her on the other side. A blast from her neutron cannon tore through the Rhedd Alert ship. Mei ejected safely, but their team was down a ship.
      “Gods,” Gavin’s voice was frantic. “Get the hell out of here, Walt. Form up with the transport and get them away from the fight.”
      Walt ignored him. He came around for another pass and triggered his mic to an open-area channel. “The game’s up, Brock.”
      His words cut across the thrust and wheel of close com­bat, and for a moment the fighters on all sides flew in quiet patterns above the fleeing Cassiopeia.
      “You know,” Walt said, “if you wanted us to believe you were after the transport, you should have saved your big guns for Cassiopeia instead of overkilling our friend.”
      “I suppose I should be disappointed that you have found me out,” Brock’s voice was a pinched sneer, and every bit as cold and hard as Gavin had described. “On the other hand, I’m glad you’ve shared this with me. I might have been content disabling the majority of your so-called fleet. Now, it seems that I will have to be more thorough.”
      She fired, he dodged, and the fight was on again in earnest. Walt switched his comms to Rhedd Alert’s squad channel. “Brock was never after Cassiopeia, Gav. She’s been after us.”
      “Maybe I’m a little distracted by all the missiles and the neutron cannon, but I’m failing to see how that is at all relevant right now.”
      “We’re no match for the tech in her ships. If she goes after the transport, they’re toast.” He rolled into position next to Gavin. Together, they nosed down to strafe at a Hornet from above.
      “Great,” Gavin said, “then why did you tip her off?”
      Walt suppressed a wicked grin. “Because,” he said, “she can’t afford to let any of us get away, either.”
      “If you have any brilliant ideas, spit ’em out. I’m all ears.”
      “Run with me.” For all Walt knew, Brock could hear every word they were saying. She would tear them apart if they stayed. He had to get Gavin to follow him. “Run with me, Gavin.”
      “Damn it, Walt! If you came to help, then help. I’ve got a pilot down, and I’m not leaving her here to get OK’d like Boom­er.”
      “This ain’t about doing the easy thing, Gav. Someone I truly admire once told me that this game is all about trust. So ask yourself . . . do you trust me?”
      Gavin growled his name then, dragging out the word in a bitter, internal struggle. The weight of it made Walt’s throat constrict. Despite all of their arguments, Boomer’s death and his own desertion when things got hard — in spite of all of that — his brother still wanted to trust him.
      “Trust me, Gavin.”
      Brock and her wingman swept low, diving to corral Cassiopeia and its escorts. Jazza redirected them with a blazing torrent of laser fire and got rocked by the neutron cannon in return. The shields around her battered Cutlass flashed, dimmed and then failed.
      Walt gritted his teeth. It was now or never.
      “Jazz,” Gavin’s voice sounded hard and sharp, “rally with Cassiopeia and make a break for it.”
      Walt pumped his fist and accelerated back the way he’d come in.
      “Walt,” Gavin sounded angry enough to eat nails, but he followed, “I’m on your six. Let’s go, people! Move like you’ve got a purpose.”
      Walt pulled up a set of coordinate presets and streaked away with Gavin close behind him. The two remaining Hor­nets split, with Brock falling in behind Gavin to give pursuit. Even together he and Gavin didn’t have much chance of getting past her superior shields. Instead, he set a straight course for the waypoint marked at the edge of his display. When incoming fire from Brock drove them off course, he corrected to put them directly back in line with the mark.
      Brock was gaining. Gavin’s icon flashed on his display. She was close enough to hit reliably with her repeaters. As they approached the preset coordinates, Walt spotted a rippling distortion of winking starlight. Correcting his course slightly, he headed straight for it. Gavin and Brock were hard behind him.
      “Come on,” Walt whispered, “stay close.”
      On the squad display, he saw Gavin’s shield integrity dropped yet again. Brock was scoring more frequent hits.
      “A little farther.”
      Walt focused on the rippling of starlight ahead, a dark patch of space that swallowed Nexus’ star. He made a slight course correction and Gavin matched it. Together, they continued their breakneck flight from Brock’s deadly onslaught.
      The small patch of dark space grew as the three ships streaked forward. Walt opened the squad channel on his mic and shouted, “Now!”
      On his HUD, a new ship flared onto the display. It appeared to materialize nearly on top of them as Dell’s Avenger dropped from her hiding place inside the blackened hull of the derelict Idris.
      Walt punched his thrusters. The lift pressed him into his seat as he pushed up and over their trap. He heard Dell shouting over the squad channel, and he turned, straining to see behind him. Bright flashes from Brock’s muzzles accompanied a horrible pounding thunder. Dell had left her mic open and it sounded like the massive gun was threat­ening to tear her ship apart.
      “Heads up, Gav!”
      Dell’s voice hit Gavin like a physical blow.
      He saw his brother climb and suddenly disappear behind an empty, starless expanse. Then Boomer’s Avenger materi­alized from within that blackness, and Gavin knew that his wife was inside the cockpit. She was with him, out in the black where veteran pilots outgunned them.
      His body reacted where his mind could not. He shoved down, hard. Thrusters strained as he instinctively tried to avoid colliding with her. A brilliant pulse like flashes of light­ning accompanied a jarring thunder of sound.
      Gavin forced his battered ship to turn. The Cutlass shud­dered from the stress, and Gavin was pressed into the side of the cockpit as the nose of his ship came around.
      He saw the first heavy round strike Brock. The combined force of the shell and her momentum shredded her for­ward shields. Then round after round tore through the nose of Brock’s ship until the air ignited inside.
      “Dell” — the flaming Hornet tumbled toward his wife like an enormous hatchet — “look out!”
      Brock ejected.
      Dell thrust to one side, but the Hornet chopped into the hull where she had hidden. The explosion sent ships and debris spinning apart in all directions.
      He swept around to intercept her spinning ship. Walt beat him there. Thrusters firing in tightly controlled move­ments, Walt caught her Avenger, slowed it and stopped the spin.
      Gavin rolled to put himself cockpit to cockpit with his wife.
      She sat in stillness at the controls, her head down and turned to one side.
      “Come on, baby. Talk to me.”
      She moved.
      With the slow deliberateness of depressurized space, she rolled her head on her shoulders. When she looked up, their eyes met. Dell gave him a slow smile and a thumbs-up. He swallowed hard, and with one hand pressed to his heart, he shut his eyes silently in thanks.
      Gavin spun his Cutlass and thrust over to where Brock floated nearby, his weapons systems still hot. He paused then, looming above her as she had hesitated over Boomer.
      Her comms were still active. “What now, Rhedd?”
      He remembered her from the meeting with Greely. Tall, lean, and crisp. She seemed small now, drifting not more than a meter away from the battle-scarred nose of his Cutlass.
      “Gavin?” Dell’s voice sounded small after the ruckus of the fight.
      Walt eased into view alongside him. His voice was low and calm, “Easy, buddy. We weren’t raised to OK pilots.”
      “She’s not worth it,” Dell said.
      Brock snarled, “Do it already.”
      He had studied Brock’s reports for months. She had more ships and more pilots than he could ever imagine employing. What drove her to harass them and kill one of his crew for this job?
      “I just want to know why,” he asked. “You’ve got other contracts. You’ve probably made more money than any of us will see in our lives. Why come after us?”
      He held Brock’s eye, the lights from the Cutlass reflecting from her visor.
      “Why?” she repeated. “Look around you, Rhedd. There’s no law in these systems. All that matters here is courage to take what you want, and a willingness to sacrifice to keep it.”
      “You want to talk sacrifice?” he said. “That pilot you killed was family.”
      “You put him in harm’s way,” she said, “not me. What little order exists in these systems is what I brought with me. I carved my success from nothing. You independents are thieves. You’re like rodents, nibbling at the edges of others’ success.”
      “I was a thief,” he said, “and a smuggler. But we’re building our own success, and next time you and I meet with the Navy,” Gavin fired his thrusters just enough to punch Brock with the nose of his ship, “it’ll be in a court­room.”
      She spun and tumbled as she flew, growing smaller and smaller until the PRB on his HUD was all he could see.
      A pair of Retaliators with naval designations were moored outside the Rhedd Alert hangar when Gavin and the crew finally limped back to Vista Landing.
      Crew aboard Cassiopeia had insisted on helping with medical care and recovery after the fight. The team scheduled for pick-up at Haven was similarly adamant that Rhedd Alert take care of their own before continuing. Technically, no one had checked with Navy SysCom.
      Did the Navy fire contractors face to face? For all he knew, they did.
      Gavin saw to the staging of their damaged ships while the others hurried the wounded deeper into Vista Landing. When he’d finished, he exchanged a quick nod with Barry Lidst who stood at ease behind Major Greely.
      “Major,” Gavin held out his hand, “I assume someone would have told me already if I was fired.”
      His hand disappeared in the major’s massive paw. “I sup­pose they would have, at that.”
      “Then to what do we owe the honor?” Dell and Walt joined them, and Gavin made introductions.
      “‘I’ first, then ‘we,’ ” Greely repeated, “I like that, Rhedd. I appreciate a man who accepts consequence personally but insists on sharing accolades with his team. Tell me, son. How’d you get Brock?”
      Gavin nudged his wife. With a roguish grin, Dell pulled her arm from around Gavin’s waist and stepped over to pat the Tarantula on her battered Avenger.
      “Nice shooting, miss.”
      Dell shrugged, “Walt pulled my tags, nav beacon and flight recorder before we left. I was sitting dark inside a decoy when the boys flew her right down the barrel.”
      Barry leaned toward Greely and in a completely audible whisper said, “It might be best if we ignore the illegal parts of that.”
      Greely waved him off. “This is what the ’verse needs. Men and women with the courage to slap their name up on the side of a hangar. A chance for responsible civilians to create good, honest jobs with real pay for locals. That an ex-military contractor tried to muck that up . . .”
      Gavin and the team got a good, close look at what angry looked like on a Navy officer. It was the kind of scowl that left an impression.
      “Anyway,” Greely composed himself, “not a soul in the ’verse would blame you for writing us off as a bit of bad business. I’m here to ask that you stick with it.”
      Gavin was reluctant to bring their financial situation up in front of their one paying client, but they were tapped out. Rhedd Alert didn’t have the cred to buy ammo, much less repair their downed fighters. “Actually, sir. I think we may need to find something a little more lucrative than getting shot up by disgruntled incumbents.”
      “About that,” Greely rested his hand on Gavin’s shoulder. He led him to look out one of the large hangar windows at the Retaliators buoyed outside. “My accountant tells me there may be some room to renegotiate certain parts of the Tyrol contract. But that job won’t be enough to keep your team busy now that Brock’s out of the way.”
      Gavin laughed. “On that point, I most certainly hope you are right.”
      “Well . . . I’ve got more work for an outfit like yours. I hope you’ll accept, because you folks have surely earned it. Tell me, Rhedd, are you familiar with the Oberon system?”
      Behind them, Walt dropped his helmet.
      The End
      Przeczytaj całość
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