Between: Part 5

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.”

15 thoughts on “Between: Part 5”

  1. I decided that I’d wait until this morning to write something here–in large part because I was dead tired and wanted to go to bed.

    So, yeah… Another update from the land of edits. I think I’m going to take a week off from work at some point this month so that I can edit the third LON novel. It seems like a sad use of vacation time in some ways, but I actually have considerable vacation time to burn at this point.

    And if you’re willing, please do vote for Legion at Top Web Fiction. It’s an easy way for you to help increase the readership:

  2. I worry about you Mr. Z. And for entirely selfish reasons. If you burn out I’ll lose the most entertaining web serial out there. As has been recently mentioned, you’ve been doing this for almost 10 years and I can’t remember you ever taking a break except for one trip and you were still posting whenever you could even though out of the country. Please take care of yourself. Without you there is no LoN and that’s not the kind of world I want to live in.

    1. Don’t be too worried. I’ve always deliberately set my schedule so that it fits in with all the other things I want to do with my time. The point at which I’d start to worry is if I felt like I was giving up a lot of things that I want to do in order to write instead.

      As for breaks… I’m in a regular job after a long period of doing contract work. Right now, the fact that I can take paid vacations instead of saving up to handle the missing pay from time off feels like an amazing luxury.

      So for right now at least, I’m happy. In fact, I’m beginning to plan to rewrite a novel that predates LON once I’ve got the current LON novel finished. We’ll see how that goes.

    1. If you want me to lie, I’ll happily answer yes to that question. You’ve just made more sense of it than I did.

      My idea was simply that Nick would have to name the ship and he’d name it something kind of geeky. He’d also try for humor. Beeblebrox fit the bill. It would be amusing to Earth science fiction fans and just another alien name to everyone else.

      Plus, naming it the “Heart of Gold” wouldn’t have been particularly amusing to sf fans, would have led to questions about the Infinite Improbability drive from those fans, and aliens would have wanted to know what the name meant.

  3. ‘who lead the group’ -> ‘who led the group’, I think.

    Arguments? I hope not. Just ignore her; she doesn’t have the authority or firepower to make them leave, so why even entertain her petulance?

    Although her attempts to dismiss them does leave me wondering what she’s playing at; is she trying to remove people who could protect her, or people who could threaten her? She’s either being pretty dumb or somewhat sly, depending on her plans.

    I mean, not _really_ sly, or she’d be smarter about what she’s doing, but yeah. She’s one to watch, either way. A stupid ally is sometimes worse than a clever enemy. 😛

    1. Instead of saying no, Cassie should have asked “why are you so eager to say goodbye?”

      “Plus, they’d probably mined near space too, so that wasn’t an option either.”

      It turned out to be moot, but you’re getting lazy, Nick!

  4. Error: hundreds of identical egg-shaped buildings that must have been the product of sort of kit.

    Fixed: hundreds of identical egg-shaped buildings that must have been the product of some sort of kit.

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