2950-07-05 – Tales from the Inbox: A Personal Reservation 

The passenger emerged from his cabin six hours after departure and wandered into Jen Daley’s lounge. Ramiro, reading on his slate while ignoring Livia’s glare across the compartment, looked up at the little man and gestured to one of the several empty chairs without saying a word. Normally, it was Livia’s job to see to the social management of passengers, but she seemed far more interested in divining what Ramiro was reading. 

“Do sit down, Mr. A.” Ramiro gestured to one of the empty chairs secured against the far bulkhead. “Do you need anything?” He glanced at Livia, hoping to jog her memory as to her role as the passenger wrangler. 

“Oh, th-thank you. I’m all right.” The thin man disengaged the stowage latches on one of the chairs and jumped at the sharp hiss as its foam-cell cushions inflated. Once the chair had finished making itself ready, Mr. A pushed it over to the wide viewpanel on the outboard side of the lounge and flopped down into it. 

Ramiro’s eyes followed the passenger across the room over the top of his reader, and he made note of two different concealed weapons. If the man had not been so thin and drawn, or his clothes had been reconfigured to account for this condition, his weaponry would have been invisible. 

After glancing over to make sure that Mr. A. was engrossed in the light-enhanced starfield beyond the viewpanel, Ramiro fixed Livia with a narrow-eyed glare. He didn’t mind passengers to carry weapons as a rule, but when passengers were as jumpy, flighty, and obviously stressed as this one, he knew he had to get Livia’s pet project disarmed, and fast. 

Livia, of course, had no interest in helping. She blew a silent, sarcastic kiss in Ramiro’s direction, then spun her chair halfway around, perching one leg on its armrest. “We’ll be eating our next meal in about an hour, dear, but the food-fab here in the lounge is set to accept your commands.” 

Mr. A. glanced from Livia to the new-ish nutrient dispenser unit in the corner. “Er, does it do coffee?” 

Ramiro winced at the inane question, but Livia laughed, using the musical, flighty tone she used to put passengers and marks alike at ease. “Of course. Help yourself.” 

As the man got up to fiddle with the food-fab machine, Ramiro realized for the first time that he was wearing neither wrist computer nor earpiece, and that no computer devices hung from his belt, not even a foldable reader. If he had any, he’d left them in his luggage. Ramiro knew of only one type of person who carried multiple weapons, but no digital devices – and he’d generally done his best to keep that type of person off his ship. He tried to glare at Livia again, but she avoided his gaze. 

“I’m going to go check the controls.” Ramiro stood, blanked his slate, and left the lounge. He kept his hands far from the big Dragan pistol strapped to his hip, but he could feel the passenger’s eyes on the weapon until he turned the corner and headed up the inclined passage to Jen Daley’s bridge. Even if he was right about the man, Ramiro doubted there’d be any trouble before they reached the Allenden system; that meant he had at least a few days to figure out what to do about the enigmatic Mr. A. 

Flopping down into the command chair and scanning the displays, Ramiro decided that he would be implementing any contingency plan alone. Livia had made this man’s journey, or more likely a sob-story fable that hit too close to home for her, a personal mission, and that would blind her to the reality of what she’d brought aboard. 

A soft footfall in the corridor made Ramiro spin his chair around, and he only realized his hand was on the grip of his gun when he saw Livia standing there and staring wide-eyed at the weapon. With a sigh, Ramiro relaxed. “If you followed me up here just to watch me read-” 

“No.” Livia glanced behind her, then slipped over the threshold and closed the cockpit door behind her. For a moment, she said nothing, just looking at Ramiro. Whatever she was looking for, she did not seem to find. 

“If you’re so worried about whether I’ve read one of your files yet, just tell me which one, and I’ll have seen it by dinner.” Ramiro waved his slate reader. “I’ll find it eventually.” 

Livia scowled and looked away. “You’ll see me differently after you do. Damnation, why did you have to-” 

“Ask yourself that.” Ramiro spun his chair back to the controls. “None of this needed to happen.” Though she couldn’t see it, he grimaced, hoping that he wouldn’t have any reason to say that again before they were free of Mr. A. 


Though the fleet is in the middle of a high-level command shakeup, a two-battleship detachment including their full cruising squadrons made a brief foray this past week. While it is not common knowledge where they went, and the force returned undamaged and apparently after having seen no action, there are only a small number of star systems within range for such a sortie in so short a time; many are suggesting Methodi, a nearby dwarf star system that was, until the fall of Håkøya spurred its evacuation, populated only by the inhabitants on several mining installations. 

What might have required such a force in this generally inconsequential system, I cannot say. 

[N.T.B. - My guess is that this was a reconnaissance in force to keep the crews fresh; while we are being prevented by Naval Intelligence from listing the ships dispatched, most of the battleships in Fifth Fleet have not seen any action since Håkøya.]  

2950-07-05 – Tales from the Inbox: A Personal Mission

Still working on that interview. I thought I had something lined up with one of the senior members of the Fifth Fleet command staff, but the officer who’d scheduled with us canceled at the last moment and I later learned that he has been reassigned to Admiral Abarca’s Seventh Fleet staff effective immediately. 

In the meantime, I’ve received a series of messages from a previous correspondant, pseudonymously named Ramiro W. in this space, who sent in an account I broke down into several segments for this feed (the first two are Tales from the Inbox: A Spacer’s Ruination and Tales from the Inbox: A Spacer’s Tempest). Where prior events took place late last year, he claims the events of this new account took place recently – perhaps ending as recently as this prior week, though he was deliberately vague as to this detail.
While as usual with these accounts I cannot verify them, I find the events described quite plausible, and will use them in this space until either Fifth Fleet Headquarters gives me the interview I’m looking for, or something else worth immediate coverage takes place here on the Frontier. 

The moment moment Livia escorted the passenger aboard, Ramiro knew he’d be trouble. The little man’s deeply shadowed eyes stayed firmly locked to the deck in front of his feet, and the fine smart-fabric clothing that had once been carefully configured to hug his stooped shoulders and wiry frame now hung limply after a recent and apparently extreme weight loss. He clutched a satchel to his chest with both hands, and a single self-powered, wheeled valise trundled behind him, unheeded. The man had the look of a thing hunted and tired of running. 

Ramiro caught Livia’s eyes over the man’s shoulder and gave her the slightest shake of his head. He had let her talk him into configuring Jen Daley for limited passenger service and flying her all the way to Maribel on the understanding that they’d be ferrying well-off but boring Maribelans to safer ports farther from the war’s ravages. If they turned away the worn-out little man, they’d have five other clients lined up in an hour, none of whom were being hunted by anything worse than their own fears. 

Livia met Ramiro’s gaze with a smile and a wink before sealing the airlock behind her. “Mr. A., this is Ramiro, Daley’s skipper.” 

Ramiro winced, but squared his shoulders and extended a hand. “I understand you’re looking to hire passage to Allenden?” 

The man glanced up at Ramiro only for a moment. “Uh, yes, Allenden. When can we leave?” 

“I’ll request departure clearance when we’ve-” 

“When we're done loading your cargo.” Livia held up a hand behind Mr. A, rubbing her fingers together in the universal signal for money. “Come on, Mr. A., let me show you our passenger cabin. We just had it re-done in January, you know. Right this way.” 

Ramiro did his best to stare daggers at Livia’s back as she led the stranger deeper into his ship. He wanted this “Mr. A.” off his ship, and was wondering whether or not to offload Livia with him. Their arrangement had been clear – he had the final say in who came aboard, and where they would be taken. 

Just as she herded the man around the corner and up to the hab deck, she flashed a sunny and entirely insincere smile over her shoulder.  

Ramiro dropped his shoulders, shook his head, and headed up to the ship’s tiny one-seat command deck. Livia would explain what she was up to if she wanted the ship to go anywhere; she couldn’t fly Jen Daley even if she could hack past his access codes. 

Almost as soon as he sat down, Ramiro heard Livia’s quiet footsteps in the corridor behind him. 

“Poor bastard barely made it to the bed.” Livia chuckled, snaking one arm around the back of the chair to grip Ramiro’s shoulder. “How’s that departure clearance?” 

“We aren’t moving. Get him off my ship, Liv. You know better than I do that he’s-” 

“That he’s got all the Hells following him?” Livia pulled on the chair, turning Ramiro toward her. “Damned right I do, based on what he paid. I’ve got that covered, as long as we get out in the next few hours." 

Ramiro folded his arms and shook his head. He was still Daley’s skipper. He’d gone to space so that he wouldn’t have to answer to anyone, especially not Livia Farran. “I don’t care what he paid. Give it back and get him off my ship.” 

Livia reacted to the phrase “give it back” the way most people would react to a blow to the chest, gasping and stepping back into the corridor. “Ramie, you don’t understand, he’s-” 

“You are damned right. I don’t understand. Next time, it might be smart to rectify that before you promise anything to anybody.” Ramiro removed her hand from his chair and spun it back to the controls. “Get him off.” 

Livia stood silent and still at the threshold for some time as Ramiro initiated several systems diagnostics and checked the ship’s various security feeds to look busy. He didn’t doubt that she was trying to seem hurt and confused, but she knew perfectly well what she’d done. She’d been aboard his ship nearly seven months now, and this was the first time she dared to push their little partnership to see how far it would bend in her favor. Ramiro had honestly been secretly impressed that she’d been so well behaved for so long, but the habits and instincts of a con artist died hard. 

“Look, Ramie, I’m sorry. I didn’t have time to comm.” Livia stepped forward again, leaning on one of the outlying console displays. “He paid fifty thousand up front, and he says he has fifty more if we can get him to Allenden in ten days or less. He’s only got a hundred kilos of cargo. We can’t pass this up.” 

“I am passing this up.” Ramiro did his best not to let slip how impressed he was with the sum the would-be passenger had promised – it amounted to nearly a fifth of the value of his entire ship. It wasn't a high enough sum for him to surrender final say over his own vessel, but it was impressive sum for a simple passenger and cargo haul. “And you know why.” 

Livia’s silence indicated that she did indeed know exactly what she’d dome wrong. Her full lips pursed and twitched from side to side as she considered the situation and searched desperately for some way out of it. 

Ramiro shook his head. “If he’s not off the ship in thirty minutes, I’m putting you both on the other side of an airlock and setting a course back to Philadelphia.” 

“Fine.” Livia winced and looked out forward, where the hull panels of the spaceport curved away into the darkness. Neither the stellar primary nor the planet of Maribel were visible, but Ramiro knew that in a few minutes, both would appear. “If you dump him, I’m going with him anyway.” 

“I-” Ramiro shut his mouth before a traitorous thought could escape and enslave him to Livia’s will and whim, perhaps forever. He took a slow, deep breath. “What about this poor bastard’s got you so worked up? What happened to all the time you need to work your big score?” 

Livia squeezed her eyes shut. “Can you just trust me with this one? Please?” 

Ramiro wanted to say yes, but he knew the folly of that course. “Liv, if you knew I’d say yes to carrying him, you’d have told me the problem. You think I’d refuse to fly him if I knew what you did, so you’re making me either throw him out or admit that you own me.” 

Livia straightened. “Is that what you think this is? Some petty power struggle?” 

Ramiro raised one eyebrow, not bothering to agree. Livia already knew that’s what it looked like, and he had no interest in pretending her surprised reaction was genuine. 

Livia met Ramiro’s gaze for a few seconds, then looked away. “Cards on the table, Ramie. This one... it’s sort of close to home. You can keep the whole hundred thousand if that helps.” 

Ramiro wondered how much of her hurt expression was genuine, and how much of it was exaggerated for effect. Somehow, he knew that not all of it was fake. Making a show of thinking about the situation, he held out one finger. “On one condition.” 

Livia nodded suspiciously, expecting a hard counter-bargain. 

Ramiro shrugged. “Hand over your encryption keys. All of them. You can change them after we drop him off." 

Livia paled, her lips parting in a quickly-stifled gasp. “You can’t be serious. You know how much that’s-” 

“Trust for trust.” Ramiro pointed to the console. “Transfer them and I’ll call station control.” 

Livia stormed out and down the corridor. For a moment, Ramiro wondered whether he was wrong and she was going to eject the passenger after all, but his console pinged a moment later.  

After verifying that the keys she’d sent worked on all her files in the ship’s datasphere and on several items tagged to her wider digital footprint, Ramiro requested departure clearance, curious what could be so personal to Livia Farran that she’d lay bare her entire catalogue of fraud over it. 

2950-06-28 – Tales from the Service: The Professor’s Landfall 

As Rubicelle Randy sailed past the huge doors of the enemy transport’s launch hangar, Rachel Aldershoff shut off the ion drive and kicked on the standard gravitics. She’d watched several shuttles do this, so it was fairly easy to mimic the acceleration profile of these larger, lumbering transports. At first, she was tense, worried that a particularly attentive sensor-watching spacer aboard the transport would raise the alarm, but as the seconds ticked by, she was increasingly certain that none of the various members of the Incarnation crew had noticed anything amiss or started to ask questions. 

As the huge transport moved out of view behind Randy, Jarvis Courtenay drummed his fingers on the back of Rachel’s chair. “This is the fastest we can go, yes?” 

“This is as fast as we can go without being really suspicious, Professor.” Rachel tightened her grip on the controls. “You’d better go below and get strapped in. Re-entry tends to get bumpy, even through the A-grav.” 

Courtenay made a grumbling sound but hurried down the passage all the same. Rachel switched one of her screens over to show the bearing to his landing coordinates, then focused on trying to fly an atmospheric insertion as much like a lumbering cargo shuttle as she possibly could. 

It was only as the controls started to vibrate and jump that Rachel put two of the things at the forefront of her mind together and found that they did not match. The shuttles were going down to various places on the surface of Adimari Valis with their gravitic drives indicating lighter loads, and they were coming back with their drives straining and clawing for every meter of climb. On a world like Margaux, an industrial powerhouse by Frontier standards, that would make perfect sense – the invaders would have co-opted the planet’s industry for their war machine. Adimari Valis, however, had nowhere near the industrial base or the agricultural output to fill so many shuttles or the cavernous holds of as many transport ships as had just departed. 

In fact, other than a few minor deposits of rare earths, Adimari Valis had virtually no resources worth extracting. What, then, was the Incarnation dragging away in such quantities? 

The increasingly violent attempts by the planet’s upper atmosphere to hurl her craft off course forced Rachel to sideline this thought for a little while to wrestle with the controls. When Rubicelle Randy leveled off at ten thousand meters and flew level to let its hull cool off, she turned toward their destination and flicked on the ship’s intercom. Shadows cast by the planet’s bright blue-white primary lengthened and traveled across her consoles as Randy performed a wide, sweeping turn. 

“Welcome to Adimari Valis, Professor Courtenay. Altitude is ten klicks, pursuit is negative. You may now walk about the vessel, and if you would be so kind, could you come up here?” 

“On my way.” 

Courtenay stumped up the passage a moment later. Rachel switched the controls to automatic and spun her big chair toward the passenger. “Something’s been bugging me here. You’re an analytical sort, and you know Valis reasonably well, but you didn’t ask the obvious question.” 

Courtenay bowed his head. “I fear I’ve asked many obvious questions with obvious answers since you’ve had me aboard. Which did I miss?” 

“You saw all those transports same as I did. Shouldn’t that much traffic be odd? What are they moving around that has to come from Adimari Valis?” 

Courtenay raised his head, and one eyebrow. “Mathematically, yes, it is odd. I might have asked, had I not already been aware of the level of activity.” 

“You know what they’re moving.” 

“So do you, Captain Aldershoff. At least, you do now.” Courtenay looked out at the blue-gray sky beyond the canopy. “There really is only one possibility, isn’t there?” 

Rachel scowled. “That’s damned insane. Even for Nate. What do they want with all of it? Where will they take it?” 

“That, I neither know nor care.” Courtenay’s face suddenly took on a hard-edged look that Rachel didn’t like. “They are taking it from here, knowing as well as I do how much knowledge is lost in the very moving. Knowing, and still doing it... It is worse than sacrilege.” 

Rachel wouldn’t take it quite that far, but given her passenger’s academic specialization, she could hardly blame him for his anger. “You can’t do a damned thing to stop it, though.” 

“No.” Courtenay shook his head, his eyes still focused on the distant sky. “I cannot.” 

The console behind Rachel beeped, and she spun her chair back around to find that they were approaching the top of their long spiraling arc toward the ground. As Rubicelle Randy overflew the landing site, she used the ventral cameras to spy out the place. It looked like just another stretch of rocky Adimari Valis uplands, far from the nearest of the lush valleys where most of the population lived. There was no sign of life, not even the crumbled foundations of a Xenarch ruin. “You said your son was at a dig site? I sure don’t see anything like that here.” 

“Much work has been done to conceal it from the invaders.” Courtenay leaned over the side of the controls to point at the images. “Can you put this ship on that open ground there?” 

Rachel chuckled. “Old man, I could park this ship on a lighter’s tailplane.”  

As the ship looped around on its programmed course, she cut the automatics and took control back personally, adopting a low and fast approach that would leave plenty of speed for an escape climb if there was trouble. Fortunately, as the last knob of rock fell away to reveal the landing site, she saw no sign of Incarnation presence in the air or on the ground. With one graceful motion, she flipped the nose up, deployed the landing skids, then brought Rubicelle Randy down lightly onto the bone-white Adimari Valis gravel. 

“Job’s done, Professor.” Rachel held up a hand. “Hand over the chits.” 

Courtenay chuckled, then fished in his pocket for the ring of credit chits he’d showed her prior to departure from Maribel. “You still need to get out alive.” 

“I’ll figure that out when I get to it.” She had already shown the man far more of her secrets than she cared to. “I’ll wait an hour for a welcoming party, then you’re either getting off my ship or paying for the return flight.” 

Courtenay dropped the chits into Rachel’s hand. As she counted her fee, Rachel put the ship’s perimeter security system on high alert. She had no interest in being highjacked by a bunch of desperate mercenaries. 

“Aren’t you curious?” 

Rachel, who had forgotten her passenger’s presence, nearly jumped out of her chair. “Eh? About what?” 

“About what’s down here. What’s right under your nose, that is worth all this money and danger.” 

Rachel looked over her shoulder at the man. “Curiosity gets you killed in my business, Professor. Even when it isn’t lethal, it sure doesn’t pay.” 

Courtenay nodded, his eyes twinkling with mirth that hadn’t managed to tug the corners of his mouth into a smile. “As you prefer.” 

The console shrieked an alarm, and Rachel turned back to see several figures cowled in cloth as bone-white as the rocks coming over a nearby ridge-line. The weapons slung over their backs were similarly wrapped in fabric, but their outlines were unmistakable all the same. 

“That would be my welcoming party.” Jarvis Courtenay extended a hand. “It has been a pleasure flying with you, Captain Aldershoff.” 

Rachel eyed the tall man’s hand suspiciously before shaking it. “It’s been interesting, Professor. Try to be safe out there.” 

“I shall make no promises.” Courtenay turned to head below and collect his effects.  

Things are still in flux here at Maribel, but I am hopeful that next week’s episode will include a transcribed interview with someone in Admiral Venturi’s headquarters. This has been challenging to arrange because about half of the members of Fifth Fleet senior staff have been officially transferred to other commands, but most of them are still in-system and their replacements have yet to arrive. 

[N.T.B.: Before our Maribel readers get worried or Nate gets any ideas, the command shake-up doesn’t extend below the level of the senior staff. Captain Liao and all of his peers remain in their posts. Small-scale operations are continuing, and Maribel will be a tough nut to crack.]  

2950-06-21 – Tales from the Service: The Professor’s Anticipation 

News has reached us here that Seventh Fleet has apparently fought a large battle at Sagittarius Gate in the last few days. Since they still hold that system, this seems good news, but we don’t have good data on losses there yet.  

The only other major news here is that the battleship Maribel, which as far as I know is still slated to be sent across the Gap to Seventh Fleet, arrived here at its namesake system recently. The Navy has been showing the ship off to local officials and celebrities, presumably to show off the vast capabilities of this newest battleship in the entire fleet and to put local fears about this world’s safety at ease. I can't see how a ship about to be sent away will put them much at ease, but perhaps the Admiralty intends the next ship in the class to come to Fifth Fleet.

“This is going to work, correct?” 

Rachel Aldershoff scowled down into her controls, where she knew her passenger wouldn’t see it. For at least the twentieth time in five hours, she reminded herself that Professor Courtenay was no spacer, and probably had not left Maribel in many years prior to booking passage aboard her little ship. 

“Probably.” Rachel tried her best to sound chipper rather than frustrated. “There are no guarantees in this sort of work.” 

“Hmm.” Courtenay tapped on the headrest of Rachel’s chair for a few moments. “Well, do let me know if there’s anything I can do.” With that, he turned and headed back down the passage to the lounge.  

As Rubicelle Randy crept closer to Adimari Valis, the professor’s nervousness – or perhaps excitement – was growing, and with it his obvious sense of his helpless situation. Rachel could hardly blame her passenger for feeling useless and knowing that his fate was out of his own hands, but she absolutely intended to blame him for venting his unease by wandering up to the cockpit every few minutes to pose inane questions.  

Sneaking into an Incarnation-occupied system to land on a world wholly under sway of its chip-headed, lockstep legions was stressful enough. Rachel had originally outfitted her ship to evade the notice of the Coreward Frontier’s various overworked, underfunded system authority patrols, lackadaisical militia squadrons, and even the occasional bored crew of a second-line Navy detachment, not to slip un-noticed into actively patrolled warzones. That Incarnation front-line ships seemed to have better sensors than anything else in the Reach was nothing short of discouraging. If the only two major warships in-system weren’t dwindling toward the edge of Matusalemme’s grav shadow, she wouldn’t have attempted to put Professor Courtenay on the ground for any amount of credits. 

As it was, she had to bank on the remaining Incarnation forces having far weaker sensor suites. Of the half-dozen smaller vessels still in planetary orbit with the convoy’s departure, this seemed a safe bet – four were clearly former vessels of the Confederated Navy or its mercenary auxiliaries captured in the battle for the system and put back into service, and the other two were boxy, decrepit-looking transports of some variety. The force was less than the pre-war system defense forces of the large colonies in the region, but Rachel had to wonder as the hours ticked by whether any of them carried the advanced sensors of a proper Incarnation warship. If they did, she and her passenger would never reach the surface, except maybe as a brief meteor shower. 

Getting close enough to enter the atmosphere was only the first problem. When Randy hit the upper atmosphere, its blazing descent would be apparent both on the ground and in orbit. The coordinates Courtenay had given her were for a site near the south pole, so she intended to hide within Adimari Valis’s almost regular displays of aurora australis, but even so, they’d probably have a patrol of strike craft scrambled after them within minutes. There’d be barely enough time to drop the Professor near his destination, then to burn back toward orbit. 

The console pinged, and Rachel glanced over to see that the computer had detected a stream of small launches moving from the planet’s surface to one of the transports and back. The vessels – probably no more than cargo shuttles – were not much bigger than Rubicelle Randy, and they seemed to be moving to and fro from many sites on the ground, so that a wide swath of the sky was dotted with them. 

“Finally a stroke of luck.” Rachel muttered, altering the ship’s course to approach as close to the transport as possible. If the hulk’s sensors were in similar state to its hull, she could probably creep right under its nose without being detected. 

Ninety minutes and three more of the Professor’s interruptions later, Rachel killed the ion drive and synced orbits with the big transport. She had parked on the opposite side of the big ship from the maw of its launch bay, and so far the Incarnation ship still had apparently not noticed her. Watching the stream of shuttles, she tried to estimate how long it took any given vessel to make one round trip. Unfortunately, it seemed to vary; the computer had detected several that had departed and returned in the intervening ninety minutes, but several also had departed and were still groundside. 

So focused on the stream of vessels was Rachel that she didn’t hear her passenger tromp up the passage once more. “My word!” Courtenay pointed past Rachel’s head to the pitted hull barely six hundred meters beyond. “Really, must we be this close? Won’t they see us?” 

“I hope not.” Rachel batted his hand away. “Really not the time, Professor.” 

Courtenay withdrew his hand, but did not return to the lounge. After a brief pause, he cleared his throat. “I think I see. We are going to use those little ships to conceal our landing?” 

Rachel glanced up at him and nodded. “That’s right. But first I need to find the right one.” 

“The right one to follow down?” 

Rachel smiled and shook her head. “I thought you did your research.” Spying a ship returning from the southern hemisphere, she tapped a control below the console and one of the screens changed to the controls for the special operations suite which had cost her more than the rest of the ship put together. “I think that one will do.” 

“Oh?” Courtenay leaned over the back of Rachel’s chair. 

Locking the system onto the rising vehicle, Rachel tapped the control to copy its drive signature. Randy vibrated as various parts of the gravitic drive shifted in their cowlings to achieve a perfect duplicate of the Incarnation shuttle’s signature. A few more taps, and she had queried and duplicated the vessel’s identification transponder. 

“We don’t have to follow him.” Rachel quickly entered a course that would have her ship pass close by the hangar doors, then follow the same course down that the targeted ship had taken on its return flight. “All we have to do is look like him long enough to get down to the dirt.” 

“I see.” Jarvis Courtenay chuckled. “Your reputation appears to have been well-earned, Miss Aldershoff.” 

“Hold the praise until we’re dirtside, Professor.” Rachel’s finger hovered over the button to start their descent, watching her new duplicate line up to enter the hangar. “There’s a damned lot that can stil go very wrong.”