Agent 957, H’Spar System
Agent 957 couldn’t find them. He’d set the fighter’s computer to run simulations to find out where they could have gone. None of the simulations made any sense. Agent 957 knew why. The ship used a standard hull, one commonly used to create groups of small gunboats for planetary defense.
Nothing else about the ship was standard.
It had a Xiniti registry for one. For another, an analysis of its acceleration indicated that it had considerably more power at its disposal than any ship its size ought to have. Finally, it had slipped over from near space into jump space. Agent 957 knew this was impossible until he started researching the phenomena with his implant.
It turned out that in the early stages of faster than light travel, physicists had discovered jump space while experimenting with oversized power plants. They’d discovered blink space in the same way, but intentionally that time. Since then, some still speculated that there were higher levels of FTL to discover. The implant wasn’t aware of anyone doing research at present. Scientists had tried after discovering blink space, but over time funding had disappeared. No one was willing to fund research that showed no results.
Agent 957 made a mental note to pass this along. Someone might know how to recreate the technology.
That left Agent 957 back where the agent had begun. The agent knew how they’d disappeared, but didn’t know the technology’s capabilities or limitations. He hit his console. Even he, one of the powered elite, could do nothing more than connect to the ansible and wait.
He stared out into the depths of space wondering how long he’d be there and what awaited him on his return. If he found the world where the Alliance hid the refugees, he’d be rewarded. If he didn’t, he wasn’t sure. He’d had enough successes in his life that he didn’t think they’d execute him, but he couldn’t be confident.
Hours later, his implant notified him that he’d received a message from the mole. It came from a deep space relay that should not have any clients at all, and more to the point, couldn’t possibly be real. The rebels could never have reached there from here.
The mole didn’t know where they were. All the mole knew was that they were somewhere in the Alliance, that it was only possible to reach there via jump space instead of blink space, and that it had taken one blink and a jump from the Human Ascendancy’s attempted ambush.
It sent pictures of the world and of its sky. Agent 957 forwarded everything back to the fleet and the homeworlds. He didn’t recognize the place, but someone would.
* * *
The Heroes’ League, Council Building, Hideaway
We’d opened the windows and even though the smell wasn’t quite right, it smelled like summer. For lack of a better word, the air here smelled “spicier.” Haley might have been able to explain why, but she was literally light years away.
Jaclyn’s eyes went from one of us to the other. “Are we really going to do this?”
Cassie grinned. “Why not? How bad can it be?”
“Exactly,” Marcus leaned back in his chair. “It’ll kill time and I liked it as a kid.”
Tikki had come to visit us while we ate supper. She bounced once in her chair. “It sounds fun.”
In all of our heads, Cassie’s gun said, WHAT ARE THE RULES OF THIS GAME?
Eyes widening, Jaclyn muttered, “Oh, no. No.”
“Trust me,” Cassie said, “It’ll be better if it plays than if it gets pissy about being excluded.”
At almost the same time, Tikki asked me, “Where did the loud voice come from?”
“Cassie’s gun is an AI,” I began, but the gun interrupted me.
YES, INSIGNIFICANT FAILED EXPERIMENT OF MY CREATORS, I HAVE RETURNED. LAST OF THE ONCE FEARED GREAT WEAPONS, I COME TO EXACT VENGEANCE UPON THE IMPURE! AND ALSO TO PLAY MONOPOLY! EXPLAIN THE RULES, HUMANS, OR FACE MY WRATH!
Tikki leaned forward to look at Cassie’s gun. It adjusted, shifting between shapes, but at that moment, it was the size of a small submachine gun, holstered alongside Cassie’s right thigh. Bluish-green with silver sparkles, it didn’t look as fearsome as it must have imagined.
Whispering, Tikki told me, “That’s an Abominator weapon.”
Nodding, I said, “I know. Please don’t tell anybody.”
Hal, the ship’s AI, spoke up. [I’ll send it the rules and explain them as needed. It will save time.]
I couldn’t argue.