And then it struck me–the voice sounded familiar. I couldn’t figure out why at first, but his next line brought it back.
“And dammit,” he continued, “please tell me that Alex isn’t on your ship.”
I clicked the comm on speak. “Sorry, no. He’s not.”
Raptor had been in charge of the South California Defenders when I’d been visiting Alex in L.A. Preserver, Alex’ dad had been up in space with Technomage, and some other people from their group.
I wondered if Raptor held a grudge because we’d caused millions of dollars in damage, and pissed off Syndicate L, causing them to attack the subdivision where most of the Defenders lived, and take hostages.
OK, I didn’t really wonder that at all.
It didn’t take a genius to guess it might have made him look a teensy, tiny bit incompetent. Having Alex, Brooke, and Jenny skip out of L.A. last month with Carlos to help us probably hadn’t given him a better impression.
It was a safe bet Alex hadn’t asked permission.
” Alright, Rocket, what are you doing here?”
I ran through possible answers in my head. Neither “Haley and I flew up here to make out,” nor “I had a spaceship in my basement that was just begging to be used,” seemed likely to get a positive response.
Haley clicked on her comm before I made up my mind. “Night Cat here. Is there a problem?”
“Is there a problem?” Raptor sounded shocked that she’d even asked the question.
“Night Cat?” An older man’s voice spoke in the background. “Oh, they’re dating.”
A woman’s voice said, “I have no idea how you keep up with that stuff.”
“Easy. The ‘Double V’ gossip column. Did you know that Diamond Edge is back with Lightsight?”
Raptor said, “Could you two be quiet?”
Then he said, “Yes, there’s a problem. You’re in space. There’s a red alert. Go home.”
“Alert?” I asked.
“Yes, alert. The Kay’s hunting aliens. Now, go away.”
I thought about that. Turning around would be a pain. Decelerating would take us to near zero around the gate, and we could go home from there.
Beginning to turn around immediately would be annoying. We were going much too fast to stop on a dime.
“I was planning to do a lap around the gate and fly home. Would that be okay?”
“Are you crazy? We could be in combat at ANY time.”
Haley looked over at me, scowling. “How were we supposed to know that?”
And that wouldn’t have caused any problems if I’d been the only person to hear it, but I still had the comm open, so Raptor got to listen too.
“The same way anybody else does. You ask before you go up, and then you check in with the Jay or Kay to see if conditions have changed.”
Haley said, “Well, it would help if anyone bothered to tell us. They didn’t even try to talk to us, and we flew right past the Jay.”
“How did you expect them to see you?”
“What?” Haley sounded as confused as I was–at first.
Then I realized that she’d taken me seriously when I was talking about the shields. She’d turned them on, and they did as good a job at absorbing energy used to detect ships as they did energy fired at ships.
It wasn’t as good as being cloaked, but it did the job.
And anyway, I wouldn’t have put it past Grandpa to improve the shield until it was nearly as good as being cloaked.
Muting the comm, I turned to Haley and said “Our shields almost cloak us.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I forgot, and I didn’t know it mattered.”
She sighed, and I unmuted the comm.
“How’d you detect us?” I asked.
So they, at least, were cloaked.
The older man in the background said “A drone’s nearly on them.”
Almost as he said it, I heard a clunking noise from farther back on the jet’s body. I didn’t know what it was, but I doubted I’d enjoy finding out.