Raleigh shoved her back in the door, dropping her luggage and his bag. A bolt slammed into one of the suitcases. It exploded in a fireball.


He pulled Jillian inside as streaks of bolts followed, tracing their footsteps on the marble floor. They jumped over a receptionist’s counter just as green beams of light lit it up in more explosions.

Kim and Pak dropped the trap and scrambled out of the way. Kim dove under a desk and Pak jumped behind a sofa.

People screamed and scattered as the shots continued flying through the glass. An alarm sounded, the klaxon ringing and lights flashing red overhead.

A stream of armed police poured into the lobby, blasters ready. They were met by a storm of green bolts. One of them went down immediately, a black hole in his chest. The others dived for cover.

Behind the receptionist’s counter, Jillian lay belly-flat on the floor. Raleigh sprawled on top of her, using his body as a shield. His close presence proved very distracting, despite the energy bolts raining around them. She also found herself thinking this was the most chivalrous gesture any man had ever made toward her. Despite everything, she actually found herself smiling.

Raleigh touched the implant under his ear to activate the neural net.

“Lootie! What’s going on?”

“I apologize, Captain. I cannot—”

“Lootie? Lootie! Dang it, I lost her.”

Shots continued firing into the lobby, tearing the place up. Furniture flew and marble disintegrated. Nobody dared raise a head or peek around a corner as energy bolts littered the area with explosive fury.

Raleigh shifted through his contacts, down to “M” on the list.

“Maxwell! Get down here with a team right away. We’re pinned down in the lobby of the Port Ryan Administration Building. Somebody is lighting the place up with sniper fire.”

“Captain, Lootie is offline, evidently. Our next party is ready to disembark, and they’re just standing there. I don’t know where she is or what’s going on, but we can’t teleport right now.”

“Load up the transport, then, and get down here. Take out this sniper!”

“Aye, aye, Captain.”


Back onboard the Ultima Mule, Maxwell touched under his ear and clicked off the connection. Then he made a new one, an all call on the ship.

He said, “Alright, people! The Captain needs help! He’s under fire at the Admin Building. Jeter! Escobar! Roddy! Get your butts on the transport! On the double!”

He ran for the elevator pod. He jumped in and it shot up to the flight deck. When he arrived the other men were already there, heading for the transport.

He stopped and palmed a storage door marked Armory. It slid back revealing racks upon racks of weapons. He reached in and grabbed four rifles.

Skylar flickered, appearing in the corridor.

She said, “I’m going with you.”

“Then get in there, girl! Hurry up!”

She nodded, grabbed a pistol from the racks, and ran to the transport.

Maxwell palmed the armory door shut and ran for the transport himself, loaded with guns. The ramp went up before he entered and he jumped on board. The craft levitated up before the door closed. As the door snapped shut, it shot down the tarmac and through the force field. Once free of the larger ship, Roddy pointed its nose toward the surface. Its afterburners lit up and they headed down to the atmosphere at full speed.


The minutes dragged on as the shots continued. At first the bolts peppered the atrium lobby seemingly at random. Then they focused on a few things. All the bags of luggage Raleigh and Jillian dropped outside the door were hit, and subsequently incinerated.

A bolt found the radiation trap holding Raquel. Kim and Pak had abandoned it when the shooting started. The blast knocked it over, and the red opening dimmed. Her silver pixelated self flowed free from the canister like a cloud.

Pak saw it from his cover and said, “Aw, man!”

He and Kim watched as the pixels drifted up to the lights in the ceiling and swarmed into one.

Eventually the bolts began concentrating on the counter Raleigh and Jillian hid behind.

Green explosions peppered the floor around them, and bolt after bolt slammed into the counter.

Jillian jerked, startled when the first blast hit with a loud, Kabloom!

Raleigh said, “We’re okay. They made all these counters blaster-proof as a security measure. So long as we stay put, we’re safe.”

She nodded that she understood, but she was very happy to have him lying on top of her at the moment.

Raleigh touched the implant beneath his ear.

He said, “Come on, Maxwell! Where are you?”

“We’re almost there, Captain! The Admin Building is in sight!”



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