Chapter 50

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"This is Captain Pace speaking," Daniah said, faking a calm she did not feel, as she directed Halcyon to dodge another ion bolt barrage from the autori gunships on her tail. "Your weather forecast is for stormy skies filled with ion bolts, blaster fire, and missiles en route to your destination. So find an emergency evo-suit, strap in, and spend the next few minutes learning how to use it."

While the air cycle swarm had shielded the Halcyon during boarding, the gunships had since whittled it down to a fraction of its former self. As if to drive the point home, an ion bolt passed through the ever-diminishing swarm, and smacked into the Halcyon's rear deflectors. The deflectors held, but the ship had to absorb even more heat it didn't need.

Ion bolts wouldn't destroy the ship, but they would disable it. Daniah grimaced. Krul's trials were proof that capture could be a fate worse than death.

Daniah swore under her breath, and flipped to Til'trius' channel. "You going to lower that shield, or do I need to practice more tricks for the space show?"

"I've found a new hack vector," Til'trius explained. "The shields should be down in five more seconds, Captain."

"Should?" Daniah asked incredulously, as she looped Halcyon in a three-dimensional figure eight, weaving through unseen gaps in the ion bolts. She had a momentary violent fantasy, in which she slammed the butt of her blaster repeatedly into Til'trius' skin-folded face. If Til'trius couldn't remove the shields, she'd have to destroy the shield generators herself or find a coverage gap in an impoverished district to slip the Halcyon through.

"Weather shields down," Til'trius said.

"Confirmed," Echo replied.

"Better late than never," Daniah said, as she directed Halcyon upwards, the ship's drives propelling them off the god forsaken mudball. As they passed the weather shield's frontier, Lieutenant Til'trius had wisely flipped the city's shields back on and disabled the shield warping, trapping the chasing autori gunships. The ion bolt fire following the ship's trajectory rammed into the weather shield, expending its fury in useless frustration.

The Halcyon's sensors informed her that only one squadron of autori spacecraft had redirected from low orbit to pursuit, and they wouldn't be able to overtake Halcyon before she escaped the planet's gravity well. Which was odd for two reasons - why follow them if they couldn't catch them? And why were so few ships pursuing? Daniah flipped to Ben's channel. She could ask Til'trius, but she was too pissed at the flesh-head right now.

"Commander, I was expecting more of a welcome party, but I'm only showing one squadron of autori spacecraft in pursuit, and I don't think they can overtake us. Any idea what's going on?"

"There's a civil war brewing in Rodia Prima right now. During our assault, a squad of marines attacked Adjooto's supporters marching on the capitol. It got ugly, lots of civvies dead. Some of the army appear to be siding with Adjooto, some siding with Mubatoo, and the rest of the planet sinking into a general riot."

"So...what does that mean for us?"

"There is only one thing both sides agree on. And that is that we need to be captured--alive--and returned to Rodia for trial and/or extradition. They're too busy killing each other for now, so they placed a sizeable bounty on our heads instead."

"How much are we worth?" Daniah grinned. A few moments later, the amount flashed on her screen. Her grin faded momentarily and then returned, harsher than before. "Wow. That's a lot of zeroes. We've probably got half the solar system searching for us now."

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