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Danger’s Dock — Part 11 — Valentina and the Echoes of Empire

December 9, 2021
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Danger’s Dock

It was stupid. It was so stupid. It was the kind of stupid Valentina actively avoided.

Sometimes stupid was the only reasonable choice.

Valentina had already swung through a number of systems staying ahead of Grumpy and Icy, who were on her tail as soon as she made the faster-than-light jump. She didn’t even know exactly where she was, but she finally found what she was looking for: An Arbeiter ship. This was enemy territory (at least at the moment), but she had to sneak aboard in search of answers.

This particular Arbiter ship was a Titan. Practically a floating colony, so there was no way for them to know every single face aboard. Even better, unlike the Garrison, the Arbiters didn’t bother with uniforms as long as everyone followed a general sort of dress code. Valentina’s orange exo-suit blended in nicely with all the other mechanics, pilots, and service people who kept the huge ship running smoothly.

There was a special sort of attitude that was needed when sneaking into somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be, an artistry that Valentina expertly appreciated and always used to her advantage.

The first rule was to act like you belong.

Valentina casually landed the Asterias in one of the smaller hangers, off to the side but still primed for a quick getaway.

“Got a delivery,” she said when one of the hanger’s overseers swung by to find out what she wanted. Valentina affected a bored expression and jerked her thumb back towards her ship while proffering her credentials as a certified delivery ship with her other hand. The overseer looked them over skeptically. “Dame Sophie Anja. She’s meeting me in the Upper. I know where I’m going.”

Lies, every word, but there was a loud crash from across the hanger. The overseer thrust her tablet back at her and whirled on his heel. That was damned lucky, and Valentina hated to rely on luck.

“If you get lost, check the consoles,” he called over his shoulder. “Don’t wander. Security does regular sweeps.”

With that, he was gone and Valentina offered a half-hearted wave. The tablet went back on her belt and she headed for the nearest console. She had a very expensive little slicer, bought for the rare occasion that she needed to get into a ship’s memory banks in a hurry. It wasn’t subtle, but she was only a few steps from the Asterias, and the hanger doors were too big to close fast. She could be gone in a flash if necessary.

As soon as she plugged the slicer into the console, it lit up and went to work. She had already programmed it to look for anything on Sigis Station, her name, and references to Prince Gabriel. To cover the slicer, she pulled up a map of the ship, and scrolled through it casually. Before long, the slicer flashed and the files popped up on the screen. Valentina quickly copied them to a data chip, but froze when a document caught her eye.

It was about the Miasma.

Valentina skimmed over it while the other files copied. For a minute, she was confused about why it had gotten caught in her slicer’s information net. Then when she saw her own name, what she discovered chilled her blood and paled her face.

The Miasma. The Arbiters were looking for the source of the Miasma. They thought it was a weapon, and worse, they thought she knew where that weapon could be found.

As soon as she was done copying the files, Valentina headed back for the Asterias. It took all her strength to walk slowly, and even to wave at the overseer who had checked on her before. Anything to keep a low profile. Anything for them to ignore her just long enough for her to get out of the system and figure out what her next move would be.

Part 1 — Kepler’s Remnant

Part 2 — Sovereign Protectorate

Part 3 — Lightspire

Part 4 — Shepherd’s Void

Part 5 — Celestious Nox

Part 6 — The Crucible

Part 7 — Edge of the Miasma

Part 8 — The Pale

Part 9 — In Too Deep

Part 10 — The Quick Slip

Valentina’s adventure gets deeper and more dangerous with every chapter. Now that she’s discovered her her own unavoidable entanglement in this nightmare, where will she go? How will she ever be able to complete her work again with a low profile?

Valentina has not yet decided her next destination, but once she does, it will be high time for another round of the Celestial Claim Land Presale in a new Star Cluster.

Pay close attention and watch what happens next!


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