Chapter 28

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Daniah blinked her eyes to make sure she was seeing things correctly. It looked like the island she had seen in the middle of the lake had drifted towards her over the last fifteen minutes. She couldn't be sure, but it made her feel like she was losing her mind.

In order to better hide the Halcyon from the autori, Lieutenant Til'trius had recommended that Daniah station her ship in the outskirts of the city, near an old, mostly abandoned section of the Park. It would be much easier for Til'trius to hack the sparse monitoring systems in this section of the Park and make her presence unknown. 

She smiled to herself. Score one for Til'trius. It must be nice to design the simulations. You can parse out the hard parts to the other members of the team.

There were reasons why this section of the Park was mostly abandoned. Due to neglect, the jungle had begun to take back what Rodian civilization once claimed its own. Predators and their prey had returned, and Daniah could name as many Rodian predators as she could Galactic Senators. None.

That's why Til'trius had recommended a series of training sims to prep her for the Rodian predators. She doubted a Rodian predator could pose a threat to a starship, but then she recalled stories of the rancors of Dathomir and krayt dragons of Tatooine. Daniah would have to power down the Halcyon to emergency power to make her ship harder to detect. If a predator did attack her ship, she would have to anticipate it.

Til'trius might consider it cheating, but Daniah had sent out several of her ship's probes to scout the area surrounding the Halcyon. After loading the predator profiles from the database, it had been a simple matter of locating the probes at a sufficient distance for her to power up the blasters in time.

The few predators that the sim had thrown her way had quickly become fried meat. 

That's the problem with these computer simulations. Everything's so predictable. Daniah leaned back in her seat in satisfaction. It wasn't cheating, just using her resources.

She stole another glance at the island. It was definitely closer now. "Echo, show me the location of that island over the last hour."

"Anything to please my mistress." Echo responded breathily.

The HUD overlayed a map, and Daniah could see that the island had made a slow, inexorable slide across the lake towards the Halcyon.

Maybe they had floating islands on Rodia. If so, she hoped the Rodians wouldn't miss this one. Daniah powered up the weapons systems, which took a 10 second delay. She targeted her blasters on the island, and fired away.

The trees on the island erupted in flames, hurtling in every direction. Yet now Daniah saw a wave from the lake heading in her direction. She thumbed the switch for the drive systems, but that would take another 10 seconds. 

A delay timer counted down as the drives warmed up and the wave surged forward. Daniah fired her blasters wildly into the wave, no longer having a real target to aim at.

Whatever this thing was, it was pissed.

At four seconds, two enormous talon-like hands shot out of the water and plucked her ship off the beach like a toy. The mass rose to its full height and it began to shake the starship violently. Inside, Daniah fumbled with her seat's safety buckle and locked it into place just in time, as the beast whipsawed the Halcyon back and forth.

"Fire missiles - now!" Diana screamed, unable to reach the controls.

Missiles leapt into the gaping maw of the beast, and its head erupted in a massive explosion of gore. The hands lost their grip, and Daniah regained control of the Halcyon as the drive systems came online. 

Apparently her probes weren't as good at monitoring waterborne animals, which was a problem since this region of Rodia was full of jungle and swamp. Sudden movements would have been noticed, but like any smart predator, it had approached slowly, appearing to be one with the environment.

Good thing this was in sim.

Daniah reset the training program. Out in the real world, missile explosions tended to alert the local authorities, and that meant game over. There would be no autosave, no extra lives, no reset button.

And in real life, not only would she have serious whiplash, but her ship would stink for weeks. Not even the hard vacuum of space would suck that mess off her ship.

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