The solitary gunshot from the police guarding the Governor’s Mansion took out another one of her crew.

Down to four, Benson thought, plus me. Vargas had stayed behind to care for the two who survived their wounds at the campsite, and gather up anything they could use. He would move out with the wounded tonight before anybody else found their hideout.

That left Benson with Curly, Kilmeade, and two more, now that they had lost another.

But the police paid a price. By her count, there were four down outside.

She saw lights come on in the mansion, upstairs and downstairs. She walked fearlessly toward the front door, carrying two rifles over her shoulder.

Curly hurried to catch up with her.

He said, “Careful, ma’am. There may still be gunmen about.”

“That witch, the Governor, has killed the last of my crew. You have a blaster. Take out that door.”

Curly nodded and aimed toward the heavy wooden double doors marking the entrance.

Thoop! Thoopah!

The doors burst open in a fireball as the blasts hit. The others ran up to their location just as Benson started for the door.

Curly said, “Ma’am, you can’t just go up there! They might have—”


Somebody fell down to her right, thrown back by a Minni ball striking them in the chest.

Everybody else dove to the ground.

Three plus me, Benson thought, staring at the dead sailor beside her.

Kilmeade lifted her head up carefully and squinted into the gloom.

“There’s some kind of counter inside the room. Looks like a gunman behind the counter. At least, that’s where the flash came from.”

Benson said, “Do you see the counter, Curly?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Take it out with the blaster.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m running low on juice.”

“Do it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Thoop! Thoop! Thoop! Thoop! Thoop!

Green energy bolts sailed into the mansion’s interior, striking home on the booth. They burst into the wood, lighting it up.

BLAM!. . . BLAM!. . . BLAM!

“How many loaded guns do they have in there?” Kilmeade said to the sailor on the ground next to her.

When she received no reply, she turned to look, only to see a gusher of blood and brains pouring out of a hole on top of their head.

Kilmeade grimaced. Softly she said, “Man down over here, ma’am.”

“Great,” Benson said. “It’s just the three of us, then. We’re gonna charge the door.”

She reached behind her back and pulled out one of her two rifles. She stood up before the other two could say anything and shot into the doorway, aiming at the burning counter.


She ran for the entrance.

Kilmeade and Curly scrambled up to follow her in.

Inside, a slow fire licked away at the wooden booth. An older policeman was on the floor behind it. Benson’s bullet had shattered his face, leaving the lower half covered in blood.

Curly said, “Good shot, Captain.”

“Never trade your luck for skill,” she said smiling. She swapped out the empty gun for her other one.

Curly smiled back. That was something she used to say on the Excelsior after particularly close calls.

He said, “If I had to guess, ma’am, I’d say he was guarding that doorway.”

“Right. Let’s go.”

She charged through the door, rifle ready to shoot at anything that moved. They hurried down to a hall and came to a stairwell, Benson leading the way.

“Must be the entrance to their private quarters. Come on.”

Benson ran up the stairs, Curly and Kilmeade close behind.

She threw open the door at the top.


She pulled out of the way as a slug sailed past, thunking into the wall behind her.

Benson aimed carefully but quickly at the figure in the hall. She squeezed the trigger and the flintlock struck.


The man in the hall jumped back in a doorway just in time.

“Curly, take your blaster and take him out. I’ll reload.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

For such a large man, Curly could move quietly when he wanted. He crept quickly down the hall toward the doorway, blaster held out in front.

He came within a couple meters of the door when the man stuck his arm out, a pistol aimed at Curly’s chest.


Thoop! Thoop!

Curly collapsed to the floor, his punctured lung deflating. He crouched with his arms holding himself up.

The man stuck another pistol out the door. This time he hazarded a glance, saw Curly in a kneeling position. He aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger.


Curly crumpled in a heap, blood flowing from his head.

Benson ripped off a few choice curse words as she shoved the gun’s ramrod down the barrel, reloading it.

“Let’s go, Kilmeade, before that bastard can reload.”

Without waiting for the ensign’s reply, she stormed down the hall, holding a rifle in either hand.

The man in the room stepped out once more, his rifle reloaded. Benson squeezed the triggers of both guns, running full tilt. The shots went wide. One missed, sailing down the hall. The other grazed the man’s head, whipping him around and knocking him out cold.

Benson stopped at the doorway, panting. Kilmeade ran up behind her with a blaster. She stopped to pick up Curly’s.

Benson looked through the open door and said, “This room’s empty. Must by the guardroom. That means the next one over is the witch’s.”

She walked over to the next door and held out a hand.

“Give me Curly’s blaster.”

Kilmeade handed it over.

The Captain aimed it at the doorknob.

Thoop! Click! Click!

“Out of power. I got the door open, though.”

“Your luck’s holding out, ma’am,” Kilmeade said with a smile.

Benson nodded. She said, “Cover me.”

She kicked the broken door in and jumped back, letting Kilmeade sweep the room with the blaster.

In the middle of the area, huddled together, a large dark skinned man stood with Governor Seldom holding onto him. In his other arm he held a little two-year-old girl.

The little girl screamed.

“Shh! It’s alright, Lilah.”

“No,” Benson said, walking into the room with Kilmeade. “It’s not alright. It’s not alright at all.”

“You need to leave,” Seldom said.

“Ha! I told you, when I first came here Governor. I am taking over this planet in the name of the Navy. I claim authority under ad coelom. Your people have killed almost all my crew. My first act as the new Governor of Halcyon is to order your execution.”

Ignoring Lilah, who was now crying uncontrollably, Benson turned to Kilmeade and said, “Shoot her.”

“What? Right now?”

“I said shoot her! That’s an order, Ensign.”

“She hasn’t had a trial, Captain! You can’t just shoot her in front of her husband and child!”

“She has shot all my crew, right in front of me! Her life is forfeit! I will not wait any longer! Either you shoot her right now or give me the gun and I will do it!”

Lilah buried her face in her father’s shoulder, sobbing. He stepped in front of the Governor and said, “You’re going to have to kill me first.”

“So be it!” Benson snapped. “Kill them both. Do it now!”

“I am not going to shoot two people in front of their little girl.”

“Give me the gun, Ensign.”


“What? Give me the gun. That is a direct order from your Captain.”

Kilmeade stared at her. Benson stared back with her hand out, waiting. Fire sirens wailed in the distance.

Kilmeade said, “You’re really going to do it, aren’t you? You’re going to shoot both of them in cold blood right in front of their little girl.”

“Shut up and give me the gun, Ensign. I’m not asking again. I’ve lost too many people to delay this any longer.”

She turned to face Kilmeade, her face radiating anger and heat.

“Now. Give. Me. The gun!”

Kilmeade lifted the blaster to her face and pulled the trigger.


Captain May Benson’s body fell to the floor, her head blown off at close range.


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