Of course, they hadn’t mined the entire solar system—just the best places to come out of jump space. We’d appeared on the dark side of the planet. Mines surrounded the area in a sphere. Unlike a normal minefield, the people hadn’t designed the pattern to hide the mines. They’d designed it to make them extremely obvious.
Checking the sensors showed that that the mines weren’t close to us. A ship large enough for a jump or blink drive would have had enough space to turn around and jump out. So, this wasn’t so much an attempt to kill as much as a pointed invitation to leave. I imagined that all the nearest jump points had been mined.
If we turned on the shields and let Hal calculate the route, we might be able to blow through them before much damage had been done. The same wouldn’t be true for the colonists’ ship. It would go down in flames. In space, mines could aim themselves at their targets. Plus, they’d probably mined near space too, so that wasn’t an option either.
Of course, that assumed that the mines were owned by unfriendly forces.
Before I could call back the colonists to ask them if they knew more, a message came from the planet. A deep, deep voice said, “This is Alliance world Hideaway’s starport. Identify yourselves.”
The colonists’ ship replied first. The male voice I’d heard before said, “This is The Bug’s Revenge. We were hired to carry Jadzen Akri and her followers to Hideaway by the Alliance government. The ship accompanying us carries members of the Xiniti nation who were escorting us here.”
“We’ve been given your public ID. Send us your private ID to allow us to confirm. If you don’t think you’ll pass confirmation, I’d advise leaving the way you came in.”
In an even voice, the man on The Bug’s Revenge said, “No worries, Hideaway. Transmitting ID.”
“Xiniti ship Beeblebrox is also transmitting ID,” I said, hoping there weren’t any problems. K’Tepolu hadn’t cared about our ID. Of course, a big, outlaw station might care less about a ship’s identity than a hidden world of refugees.
The deep voice spoke again. “Identities confirmed. We’ll send you a path through the mines.”
As quickly as he said it, the ship received the message and I read it. Not sure how much of this anyone else had heard, I checked the ship’s settings, found that communication was private by default, and shared that with everyone.
I heard Cassie’s voice in my mind. “I’m keeping the weapons ready. I’m assuming you want the shields on.”
It hadn’t occurred to me that she could take control of those, but on the other hand she was sitting at the weapons and shields console. “Yeah,” I said, “we need the shields until we get through the minefield. I don’t think we’ll need weapons, but you never know, I guess. Just don’t make us look menacing, okay? I don’t want them to think we’re going to attack.”
“Course not,” Cassie said, “but they don’t seem to have the same philosophy.”
She had a point. The mines didn’t widen to give us a comfortable distance as we flew through them. The colony had given us a route that gave us all the room we needed to maneuver and no more. I flew only as quickly as I felt comfortable—which is to say slowly. I could only wonder why they’d do it.
They’d given The Bug’s Revenge a route with more distance from the mines. They made it out before us.
All the same, it didn’t take too long because for all the dots in the sensors, I’d been right about them protecting choke points. Once we were away from the spot we’d appeared at, space was as empty as its name implied.
Following Hideaway’s starport’s instructions, we flew around from the night side where we’d come out of jump into the planet’s day. The starport lay near the mouth of a river on a massive continent at least the size of Africa. My strongest impression of the place could be summarized in one word: green.
Plants covered everywhere I could see. Tall grasses blanketed the fields. Trees and flowering bushes covered the rest of the land near the settlement, some of the flowers as much as two feet wide.
The starport, however, was something of a disappointment. Mind you, I should have known what it would be like when I’d seen the houses—hundreds of identical egg-shaped buildings that must have been the product of some sort of kit.
Despite that, I still wasn’t prepared to discover that the starport had a collection of three egg-shaped buildings and half a dozen dirt circles, some larger, and some smaller. That was the landing pad. The deep voice directed us to land near The Bug’s Revenge.
People descended from the spaceship in a large group, all of them centered around a blonde woman in flowing robes. The question of who led the group couldn’t have been clearer if she’d worn a crown. They all watched as she descended and followed her as she strode up to our ship. My implant identified her has Jadzen Akri.
We’d only had one very short flight of steps to work with, so we were all there waiting for her.
“You’re the Xiniti escort,” she said, looking us over, and undoubtedly noting the humans, a single Xiniti, and a floating plant. “Interesting. Tikki get your things and come with us. The rest of you can go. You have our thanks for your service in getting us here safe, but there’s no further need for you.”
Cassie met Jadzen’s eyes, jaw set, voice even. “No. Our mission’s not over and we’re staying until it is.”