“Captain, I am prepared to bring us back into the solar system.”

“Okay, Lootie. Have you got a place picked out for us?”

“I believe so, Captain. I have factored in all the locations we could hide near Juventas and I have found one that should be suitable for at least several minutes before discovery, which will hopefully be long enough to retrieve the pocket computer Julia Jones is attempting to secure for us.”

Raleigh locked eyes with Jillian.

He said, “Don’t you mean Julia Thrall, Lootie?”

“No, Captain. She was married legally to Biffender Jones, even if under a false name. I have accepted the contract and have recommended the same to PLAIR. As far as we are concerned, she and Officer Jones are legally wed.”

Jillian chuckled. She said, “Let’s hope Dad doesn’t find out.”

“Indeed,” LuteNet said. “PLAIR believes that if she indicates they are married within her public records, spies from the League would uncover it and figure out where she is. Therefore, we have both agreed to honor the contract, but not register it in the records until after the war ends.”

“That’s good thinking,” Jillian said. “Thank you. And extend my thanks to PLAIR as well.”

“I already have, Jillian Thrall.”

“Alright,” Raleigh said. “Back to business. Get us in there, and let’s see what our sensor is picking up.”

Stars shifted in the bridge’s holoscreen as LuteNet ported them back toward Juventas, several hundred million kilometers away.

They stopped suddenly and a scorched, red and black landscape stretched out before them. Rocks and lava and smoldering steam pits simmered in the heat below.

Above, the sun flared brightly, looming larger and much closer than usual. LuteNet dimmed the screen considerably to protect everyone’s eyesight.

Raleigh said, “Where are we, Lootie?”

“We are 100 meters above the surface of Heliades, the first planet in the Juventas system. This world shares similar characteristics to Mercury, in Old Earth’s solar system. Radiation from the sun and the mass of the planet should provide us some protection from the League Navy’s sensor grid, at least momentarily.”

Raleigh nodded in satisfaction.

He said, “You did well, Lootie.”

“Thank you, Captain.”


Dillon heard sounds out in the corridor, but no one else bothered to check his room again. After a while he cautiously climbed down from the equipment above the door.

He held the cylinder out at arm’s length, staring at it long and hard.

“Alas, poor Yorick!”

He burst out laughing. Then he cleared his throat and started again.

“Alas, poor Yorick! A fellow of infinite jest. I knew him, Horatio. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your tambourines of justice?”

Dillon chuckled again and grinned at his reflection on the metal cylinder. It made his nose appear larger and he preened in front of it for a moment.


“What in tarnation is that idiot blubbering about?” Granny said, chomping on her cigar.

“I don’t know,” Raleigh said. “Lootie, who is that and what’s he doing with our sensor?”

“I believe he is trying to quote from Hamlet, Captain. He does not have all the words right. The lines are quite garbled.”

Everyone on the bridge stared back at a close up of Dillon’s face as he brought the cylinder to his mouth. He picked his teeth for a moment in the reflection. They watched his lips spread across the screen as he continued to speak.

“Your flashes of merriment were wont to set the table a’roarin! Not one now to mock your own grinnin’ hey? Quite chapfallen, amiright? Now get thee to a nunnery and tell milady, this be a wild goose chase. Make her laugh at that, Yorick! Boil and trouble, make her laugh at that floating dagger! Kill all the lawyers! Print the legend!”

“Who isthis nut, Lootie?”

“I believe Ms. Jones wishes us to take him with us, Captain. She is currently being interrogated by police. This young man has the pocket computer on his person, and the sensor indicates eight police officers searching nearby rooms. Presumably, they are looking for him. Judging by the scorch marks on his armor, he has recently been in a firefight. Logic indicates Ms. Jones left him with the sensor and the computer in hopes we would extract him.”

“Hm. Okay. Well, since no one is shooting at us at the moment, if we need to we can send him back, right?”

“That is correct, Captain.”

“If he’s in trouble,” Granny said, “he ain’t gonna want to go back.”


Dillon sat the cylinder down on the floor and bent at the waist looking down at it.

“Yorick, lend me your ears! To be, or not to be. That is the question!”

He bowed at the cylinder, then bowed to his right and bowed to his left.

“The crowd goes wild! Haaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaa!It’s a standing ovation, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve never seen anything like it. Oh, here come the flowers!”

He straightened and retrieved an imaginary bouquet.

“I just want to thank the Academy, God, and most of all, my mother!”

The door swished open.

“What’s all the noise in here?”


Dillon popped out of existence before the officer walked all the way in. He looked around and saw nothing, shrugged, and walked out again.

Somebody out in the hall said, “We’ve already checked that room!”

“Okay, okay! Thought I heard something, that’s all.”

The sensor, still lying on the floor from where Dillon left it, popped away too, leaving the room truly empty.


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