After the welcome distraction by Lopez, I had to make double time to Bounty. The feel of her body on mine is still a fresh memory and I still ache for her to be here. I think I can safely say that neither of us would claim what was between us was true love, but sometimes life out here gets lonely and friends are few and far between. I sigh and say a little prayer that she'll be safe on her next assignment. She doesn't need my prayers, she's a better agent than I'll ever be.
I turn my attention to a few nav charts floating in front of me and calculate my latest arrival time. After paying a few exorbitant tolls on some premium jump gates, I managed to figure out a way to Bounty that would get me there just in time. All I need to do is start my new assignment by pissing off the CO. I'm sure there'll be plenty of time for that during my tenure there. I stretch in the tiny cockpit anxious to arrive at my destination. Then it all starts to settle in and become real. I'm going to Bounty.
Since I've been in the Agency, I've been stationed on the Inner Cluster. The bulk of the agents are stationed on Inner Cluster planets due to the fact that all the money and the important people live there. To them, the Outer Cluster planets aren't good for anything but mining ore so only a scant fleet of agents are sent there. Most of them are suboptimal agents or, like me, are being reprimanded for something.
Growing up on the Outer Cluster, we learned to be self-sufficient. My whole family mined ore. My daddy died mining ore and that would've been my fate, if it wasn't for a friend who believed in me. Piper Scot was the closest thing to family I had after my mother and father died. She ensured my future here in the Agency and I have her to thank for my life. A thread of guilt runs through me thinking of how I left that world behind. It wasn't for shame of being associated with the Outer Cluster, but somehow it was just ... easier. When I first went into training camp, Piper and I would keep in touch with video comms and messages. As the weeks and months wore on, her responses grew further apart and so did mine. My heart ached for her and I couldn't stop being angry that a stupid little thing like her bio-augments would prevent her from leaving Bounty and being with me. Soon it became easier to just stop responding to scant messages I did receive.
I look up at my window and a red pock marked planet pops into view, my stomach knots and turns. In just a few minutes, I'll be landing. What will I even say to her? I'm sure we'll exchange a few awkward pleasantries and she'll have nothing to do with me. Before I can go down that path too far a cacophony of buzzers and alarms fills my cabin.
The computerized voice of the ship says, "Proximity sensor alert."
"Fuck," I say in a harsh whisper. "Computer display 360 of the ship."
Instantaneously, the outside view of my ship pops up before me, and two Scymitar class ships are displayed to my port and starboard sides.
I make a few swipes at my comms and say, "This is Wil Barstow, Consortium Agent. Scymitar class ships please identify yourselves."
Like I don't know who it is.
There's no answer from them. The ships stay on their course closing in on me. I flip a few switches to prime my weapons then take a slow breath to steady myself. I say over the comms, "Scymitar class ships, you're in an exclusion zone ... kindly back the fuck off."
My speakers crackle and pop with dead air then someone breaks the silence. "LaSaber wanted to send you off with a parting gift for your next assignment."
I'm met with a few blasts to my ship and my ship rumbles and shakes.
I grumble and reply, "Well, that's right kind of you fellas. I don't think I can accept that gift though. I'm gonna have to return it."
I pull back on the throttle and let the Scymitars pass me. Then I engage my blasters and give them both a few shots to remember me by. Unfortunately, my blasts are no more than a love tap to their brand new ships equipped with the latest shielding tech.
The Scymitars turn around and make a B-line toward me. There's nothing I can do but head for Bounty and pray that I'm a better pilot than they are, because this ship ain't gonna out maneuver their new technology. As I fly, I make a few clicks to my console.
"Bounty Port Authority, this is Agent Wil Barstow, reporting for duty. I have few bogeys on my tail. I'd appreciate some help here."
I'm met with static and pops.
My ship rumbles again with blasts from the Scymitars.
Over my speaker comes a man with a slow draw, "Hey, Wil, I haven't seen you in a blue moon. How the hell are ya? You're a big important Agent now. Ain't that excitin'?"
I gnash my teeth and swallow down what I really want to say. "Well, like I said, I got a couple bogeys on my tail. I really need some assistance here." My ship rumbles with another blast. "Now!"
More static then the same voice come through. "See that's a no can do there, Wil. Our Agents are currently off at -" I hear him ask someone else where the Agents are then he continues, "Yeah, they're at uh, Harvest. I can't rightly remember what they're doing. Hold on let me ask."
My ship is rocked again. I burst out, "I don't give a damn what they're doin'. Do I have permission to land?"
"Oh well, yeah, sure. Ain't like our landing pattern is full or nothin'. Use whatever dock you please. Hey, you know you got a few fellers followin' you awful close. Right?"
"You don't say. Barstow, out."
I slam the comms off and prepare to make the fastest atmospheric entry I've ever made, hoping to hell that my two pursuers aren't experienced enough to pull it off. My ship bucks and sways as my cabin is filled with flashing lights and a cacophony of buzzers and alarms.
"C'mon, girl. If you pull this off, I'll get you a detailing from head to toe and that new inertial stabilizer I've been promising you."
Sweat pours from my brow as we break through to blue skies and a familiar red rock covered surface. If I wasn't within inches of my ship being blasted from under me, I might get a little sentimental right now.
My ship is rocked again.
Think, Wil, think.
Then I see it ahead, that same canyon I used to train in as a kid when I ran the amateur air runner circuits here on Bounty. Time to see what these assholes can do.
I make a steep dive into the canyon blocking out all the alarms blaring in the cabin. In one of my floating displays there are two Scymitars closing in on me in another display there's a towering hoodoo.
I grumble under my breath, "That's right assholes, keep on followin’."
Once I'm within what feels like centimeters of the formation, I start to swing around it. This canyon is much different to navigate in a full ship rather than a tiny air runner I used to fly as a kid. But my ship is not as wide as the Scymitars. My ship scrapes the rock walls taking out one of its engines. The ship shutters and starts its decent down the canyon. Fortunately, the wide Scymitars suffer the same fate as me.
I yank on the levers of the ship to coax the emergency engine to take over. "C'mon, baby, I promise, if you get me out of this I will get you waxed tip to tale. Anything you want, baby."
At that she starts up the canyon. I pull the throttle all the way down ascending to a half-loop. At the top of the loop I see the Scymitars starting up towards me. I pull out of the loop with a half roll then turn my ship to aim my blasters on boulder perched precariously on the edge of the canyon. The blasters tear the boulder into a thousand fragments raining down on the Scymitars before they can reach the top the canyon.
I hover over the canyon and fix my cameras to the bottom. My floating display shows two Scymitars in a heap at the bottom. I sigh and lean my head back on my seat. I'm sure the Scymitars are outfitted with some spectacular crash cages and I haven't seen the last of those guys. But this should buy me some time until I can get to some reinforcements. I take a few breaths then acknowledge the alarms going off all around me.
"Good girl, now to get you some help," I say as I pat the console.
The ship putts away from the canyon toward the relative safety of town.