Pirates ran from store to store along the main corridors in the business district. They burst in, pointed their guns, took money and sometimes merchandise. When bags were full they called up to LuteNet, who quickly ported the booty away and sent down fresh bags. One by one, each establishment in Pegasi Station was systematically ransacked.

Max and Skylar found themselves in a clothing store. After looting the cash box and safe, they wandered the aisles. Skylar grabbed a couple outfits she thought looked cute. She activated her neural net and called Jillian.

“Hey, are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

Mentally, Skylar broadcast her eyesight. She showed Jillian a rack of t-shirts sporting a snazzy design with glowing beads that looked like stars and a hologram of an old-fashioned rocketship floating in a circle around the t-shirt.

“Omigosh, Skylar! Can you grab one for me? Chris doesn’t want me to go down there.”

Skylar heard the note of regret in her girlfriend’s voice. She smiled and said, “No problem. I’ll keep the connection open and if you see anything else you want, just tell me.”

Maxwell leaned over into Skylar’s line of sight and grinned at both of them.

He said, “Remember, it’s not a shopping spree, it’s a stealing spree!”

He laughed and wandered off. He stopped laughing when he saw a dark leather jacket big enough to fit him.

“Oh . . .”

He grabbed it off the rack and tucked it into one of his bags.

Skylar walked down a few more aisles and came across a long line of black shirts and pants.

She said, “Wow. I guess black is really popular out here or something.”

Jillian said, “Yeah, look at that.”

“What’s going on?” Raleigh’s voice interrupted them, next to Jillian

Skylar mentally made an adjustment and added him to the neural net conversation.

She said, “Hi, Captain. I’m just showing Jillian what’s in this clothing store. They’ve got enough black pants and shirts to take care of a small army.”


Back on the ship, Raleigh gazed in his mind’s eye at the sight Skylar broadcast.

He said, “That gives me an idea. Lootie, please port all the black clothes in that store up to our hold.”

“Will do, Captain.”

Instantly, the long rack popped out of sight. The shop owner, an older woman of about 60 standard years who had watched in some distress as Skylar and Maxwell wandered about the store, gasped in dismay.

“Are we going all black now, Captain?” Skylar said.

Raleigh said, “I’m thinking since we’re about to show back up on Lute from the edge of the grave, a change in uniform might be called for. Something about attending your own funeral . . .”

Jillian interrupted them and said, “Wait, Skylar. Go back to those jackets. Look at that overcoat, Chris. Doesn’t it look nice? Don’t you think you’d look good in that?”

Raleigh snorted. “I don’t have much need for a coat in space. We keep the Mule at an even 23 degrees all the time.”

“Yeah, but it looks manly. I like it. And you don’t spend all your time on the ship. Skylar will you grab it for us, please?”

Skylar grinned at the exchange and quickly grabbed the coat off the rack before “Chris” could say anything about it.

She said, “Port this bag up, please, Lootie.”

The bag popped out of existence and Skylar smiled again. The Captain was about to get dressed up by his girlfriend. For some reason, that thought amused her.


Later, the elevator door to the Mule’s bridge slid open. Maxwell and Skylar walked out, smiling. Max flipped a 10,000 credit token with his thumb and caught in neatly in the air.

Raleigh and Jillian smiled back at the pair. The Captain said, “How much have we got, Lootie?”

“Approximately 5.2 million credits have been collected from merchants and individuals, Captain.”

“How much do you estimate we’re leaving behind?”

“Past estimates indicated Pegasi Station currently holds about eight million token credits.”

“And there’s no way you can . . . sense things better?”

“Some of the hiding places are quite ingenious, Captain.”

This was true, Raleigh thought. His people found tokens hidden in floorboards, air vents, and a variety of other places. Short of torturing everybody and tearing apart the space station rivet by rivet, they would likely never find all the money tucked away on Pegasi.

“Well, we don’t have time to do a more thorough search. Get everybody back up here ASAP, Lootie. Let’s go home.”

“Captain, a ship has materialized next to us.”

Raleigh’s blood turned to ice.

“Get my people back on board. Show me the ship.”

The holoscreen on the bridge switched to a view outside the Mule. A giant ship orbited nearby. Meters upon long meters of dark metal panels stretched out of range from the outside camera.

Maxwell said, “Hey! That looks like the Aquamarine.”

“Records indicate this is not Aquamarine, First Officer Maxwell,” LuteNet said. “This is the Coral Reef. StarCen is now aware of our presence.”

Raleigh and Maxwell shared a glance. Raleigh’s mind sprang into action.

He said, “Lootie, activate the net! Port out the pieces and set it off.”

Teleportation mitigation canisters popped out of Ultima Mule’s hold and into the space surrounding Coral Reef. They immediately formed a circle around the ship’s stern.


“It is done, Captain. Their Wu Drive is irrevocably damaged and they are unable to port away. They still have standard drives, though.”

“Send over the service drone that we had reserved for Excelsior to the landing bay portal and take out their repelling guns. That’s more important than damaging the standard drives right now.”

“Will do, Captain.”

Raleigh turned toward Maxwell and Skylar and said, “You two get over there. Take the transport. Hurry. Skylar, don’t even mess with their entry corridor or any other defenses. You know where the bridge is. Get inside, find their Captain and force a surrender. Now, before they have a chance to mount a defense.”

Skylar nodded, curtly. She said, “If Max can get me onboard, I’ll take care of the rest.”

They raced for the elevator. LuteNet already had a pod waiting for them.


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