The transport rushed down at a reckless angle, its tip glowing from air friction. The ground below came steadily closer by the second. Features in the landscape grew sharper, obscured slightly by white wisps of cirrus.

They burst through a cloud and suddenly the outlines of Port Ryan, Lute’s capital city, came into view.

A voice came over the air.

“Ultima Mule Transport, this is Port Ryan Air Control. Your vehicle is unauthorized for this area. Please return to orbit.”

Maxwell said, “I’ll take this, Roddy. Control, we are responding to an emergency request from personnel in the Administration Building. They are under terrorist attack. Shots are being fired as we speak. We will be landing in Port Ryan and assisting authorities in this matter.”

“An attack on the Admin Building? That’s news to us. We’ll have to check with LuteNet to verify. She hasn’t said anything.”

“I’ll think you’ll find Lootie has been incapacitated and is offline. I recommend you manually activate a general warning for Port Ryan.”

“Roger that, Transport. We’ll check into it. Be aware we still consider your incursion unauthorized.”

“Just don’t shoot us out of the sky, Control. Take up any fines with the Ultima Mule Corporation after the dust settles.”

Jeter said from his seat in the back, “Would they really fine us over this?”

“Don’t care,” Maxwell said.

The city quickly filled up the transport’s holoscreen.

Maxwell said, “Roddy, do you know where the Administration Building is?”

Roddy nodded and said, “Yeah, I know what it looks like. But we’re after a sniper, right? Keep an eye out for blaster bolts. That’s where we want to land.”

Skylar unbuckled and stood, holding onto seats as she walked down to the front. It was like walking downhill since their angle was so sharp.

She said, “There!” and pointed to where green bolts rained down from the rooftop of a building.

She flickered several times and blinked out of sight.

From the back, Jeter said, “Why does she flicker so much?”

Roddy aimed for the rooftop of the building and prepared to brake.

He said, “I think it has to do with how far she’s teleporting. The farther the distance, the greater number of flickers.”

He pulled back on his control stick and the craft decelerated suddenly. Its angle leveled out and he began a rapid vertical descent to the rooftop.

Below, Skylar popped into existence behind the sniper. He never saw her. She shot him in the head.

The transport bumped down onto the rooftop and the door swung open. The men inside swarmed out, guns ready. Skylar stood over the dead body, holding her pistol loosely by her side. A breeze caught her pale white hair as she looked back at them.

Maxwell relaxed and pointed his rifle down.

He said, “Death never looked so good. I’m glad you’re on our side, Skylar.”

She smiled and said, “Tell Customs I have nothing to declare.”

She flickered several times, and disappeared.

Maxwell touched the implant under his ear and brought up a connection with Raleigh.

“Captain, our bogey is dead, compliments of Ms. Skylar and her special set of skills.”

Raleigh said, “Great. Give her my thanks.”

“Oh, she’s gone home already. But I’ll mention it next time I see her.”


Raleigh picked himself up off of Jillian and stood, cautiously.

He said, “All clear!”

He bent down and offered Jillian a hand up. She stood and dusted herself off.

The lobby was a mess, with small fires of furniture burning, leaving the air full of smoke. Dust and debris covered everything and the formerly smooth floor was now cratered and pockmarked.

Kim and Pak came out from cover and made their way back to the damaged trap.

Raleigh met them and said, “Did she get out?”

They both nodded.

“Did you see where she went?”

Pak pointed up to the lights. He said, “She could be anywhere in the city by now. Or still hanging out here. No way of telling.”

“When we get Lootie back, ask her if there’s a way to secure our building’s electric grid from her.”

Kim and Pak looked at one another. Kim nodded. Pak said, “We can probably figure that out without her.”

Raleigh touched his neural implant and said, “Max, send the ship back up to the Mule with a pilot only. We need to be ready to bring the rest of the crew down without teleportation. The rest of you get down here with your guns and give us an armed escort home. If somebody is trying to take us out, I want to be able to fight back.”

“We’re on our way, Captain. Meet you on the street.”

Raleigh, Jillian, Pak and Kim headed for the door. The engineers grabbed the now useless trap and took it with them. Outside, Jillian frowned at the piles of ashes that used to be her luggage.

Raleigh said, “You can buy more clothes. But you can’t buy another life.”

She raised her eyebrows in an expression indicating agreement. The four walked down the steps, keeping a nervous eye on the surrounding rooftops.

Back inside, police streamed into the lobby again, checking on people and making sure the area was secure.

The elevator opened and Ambassador Huntington stepped out. He looked around curiously.

He stopped one of the officers and said, “Were there any casualties?”

She said, “Yes, one of our guys was struck down.”

“Any civilians?”

She shook her head and said, “It’s something of a miracle that nobody else got hit.”

He said, “Yes. Yes, that’s very good.”

The officer continued on her way. When she left, the Ambassador looked out the huge windows, up at the rooftops across the street, and frowned.


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