Rylan sat down at his desk and opened a direct connection to Annabelle's cabin. The screen flashed up with Annabelle's face, and Rylan grinned. "Are you prepared for the escape?"
"First," Annabelle muttered as she lifted a gem. "Tell me how you got this crystal into my quarters."
With a smile, Rylan tapped his chin. "I'll give you one guess."
"You had Darvan deliver this," she groaned, striking her forehead with her palm.
"Not just yours," Rylan admitted. "He deposited a copy to everyone on the shuttle."
Annabelle tossed the gem into the air and caught it as it plummeted. "You planned on the Captain breaking up that meeting."
"Yes," Rylan said, lifting his back. He grabbed some stuff off his desk and shoved them into the bag. "With as volatile as he and the rest of the crew have become, they needed to stop anything."
"So, you provided them with something to halt."
Rylan nodded, and his smile shifted into a mischievous grin. "Got it in one."
"But what if we're cut off from that shuttle?"
"That's why Darvan already liberated the video from the shuttle's computer." He tossed the bag over his shoulder and gripped the sides of the monitor. "But we can discuss this topic when we are not in pressing danger." He tapped the corner of the screen and noted the time. "Darvan's about to enact our diversion momentarily. Are you ready to go?"
"One of these days, all of your scheming will crumble around you."
"Someday," Rylan replied as he pulled a crystal from his pocket. He brought it into the light and stared at the smooth edges. He clenched his fingers over the stone and looked back at Annabelle. "But it won't be today."
"I hate to break it to you, but there's a massive problem in this plan of yours."
"And what's that?"
Annabelle spread her arms wide and glared up into his eyes. "My quarters are still secured."
Rylan smirked down at her and watched the clock tick to the top of the hour. As the seconds ticked by, his door slid open, and an alarm blared throughout the vessel. "You'll find that's been taken into account."
Her nose scrunched up as she spun, staring at the exit. "You can wipe the smirk off your face."
"Now, secure your gear and get to the shuttle."
She whirled back, inquiring, "What about the crew?"
"They'll be locked out of the corridors and both docking bays." Rylan poked his head through the door and studied the hallway. "Hurry, but be cautious." He hustled out of his quarters, closing the doors behind him. With caution, Rylan scurried toward the shuttle. As he approached the first turn, he slowed to a crawl and peered around the corner and spotted Cederic hurtling down the hall.
Rylan pulled back and crouched down. As the other team leader turned down the hallway, Rylan swept Cedric's legs out from under him. Cederic's face slammed into the floor, and Rylan dove onto him and punched the struggling man in the temple. Rylan climbed up and removed the pistol from Cederic's belt as soon as his body stilled. He checked the weapon and took a deep breath as he stowed it into his waistband.
Scurrying through the corridors, Rylan avoided contact with other members of the crew. When he came to the docking bay, Rylan slammed his palm onto the reader, and the entrance slid open. He rushed to the shuttle, grabbing Annabelle's arm. "Is everyone on board?"
Darvan strode down and patted Rylan's back. "You're the last one. It's good of you to join us."
Rylan slapped the confiscated pistol into Darvan's meaty paw and stalked up the ramp. "I had an unexpected guest."
"Cederic?" Darvan asked as he examined the gun.
"Yeah," Rylan spun and walked down and grabbed their arms, tugging them towards the shuttle. "Now that we're on board," he said as they entered the ship. He released his grip and pulled the lever, closing the vessel. "How about we depart before the diversion ends?"
"That's an excellent idea," Annabelle concurred. She tugged on Darvan's arm and smirked. "What alarms did you set off?"
"Let's just say they're pulling out of the atmosphere."
"Which is an opportune time for us to eject," Rylan cried as he clambered up the ladder.
Annabelle poked the mountain's chest and glared at him. "Don't think I'm done with you." She dashed for the cockpit and claimed the empty chair. "Are we going to leave soon?"
Rylan glanced at the screens laid out for the co-pilot. While Annabelle searched for a comfortable position in the second seat, Rylan completed the departure procedure. "The ship's good to go."
"The docking bay doors are sealed."
"Darvan performed many essential things leading up to this escape, but one of the most crucial aspects was laying out various false readings." Rylan flipped a series of switches, flashing Annabelle a smile. "Thanks to his efforts, while this chamber is decompressing, everyone on the bridge will think it's still secured."
"When should they find out otherwise?"
Rylan looked at her and smirked. "Oh, I believe Darvan's precautions are about to fall apart."
"Fantastic," Annabelle moaned, wiping a hand across her face. "Do you have a destination in mind?"
"Aside from landing on the planet?"
"Yeah," Annabelle growled, "other than that?"
With another lopsided grin, Rylan asked, "Is there someplace you would suggest?"
Annabelle cursed as she started entering coordinates. "Head here. We should find safe harbor there while straightening everything out."
"That's a private residence," Rylan noted. He altered the shuttle's course and rubbed his face. "Don't you believe they'll object to this vessel landing on their property unannounced?"
Annabelle kneaded her temples, closing her eyes. "It's my parent's estate. They won't be happy about it, but they will tolerate the intrusion and help spread the word about this mess."
"That's good enough for me," Rylan said as he plunged the shuttle into the planet's atmosphere towards Annabelle's home.
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A technician performs an update to the Tergaran platform that connects their world to the rest of the Empire. Once updated the platform is dead. Will they be able to connect to the Home World or will they be cut off from the rest of the Empire...