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In Too Deep — Part 9 — Valentina and the Echoes of Empire

December 8, 2021
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In Too Deep

Although the cleaned-up transmission had more to say, it only created more questions for Valentina, who generally liked answers more than questions. After listening one more time, she grumbled up to get a cup of caf from her small galley.

It wasn’t getting better the more Valentina listened to it, that was for damn sure. She didn’t even know why she had it on repeat, but her curiosity kept getting the better of her.

The relics are in here somewhere. Finding them could change the face of the galaxy,” a male voice crackled through the static. He sounded older, perhaps middle-aged. Had an educated accent. Maybe a noble… someone high up in the Arbiters or the Garrison. Education was expensive these days. “The historic records maintain that Sigis Station was the key to the Monarchy’s military power. The weapon must be there somewhere. If we can find it…the… will pay through the nose. Prince Gabriel will know our names… huge reward.

Treasure hunters? Perhaps. Faction Spies? Probably. The mention of the prince told Valentina that they were aligned with one of the Factions, but she couldn’t tell which one. It was a shame. If she could just figure out what they were after and how to initiate contact, maybe she could spin this into a tidy little commission. She did know that sector of space better than anyone.

Suddenly her comm crackled, just as it did on Sigis Station. Valentina turned the recording off and leaned forward increase the gain on her comm. She shouldn’t be picking up random transmissions. Maybe that last comm router she picked up was too sensitive. She knew better than to patch with non-standard parts, but sometimes it was unavoidable.

Do you see it?

Valentina sat upright and stared out the viewport. The Asterias was moored up under an abandoned mining rig near one of the older claims, well hidden and protected from most forms of detection by the rig’s thick defensive plating. She could see out, but she was fairly confident that no one could see in.

Goosebumps crept all over Valentina’s flesh as she tried to stay calm. She knew that voice. It was the same voice from her transmission.

Our informant said they saw her head off this way,” another voice crackled in reply. This voice was a cold, female one. Two ships, then. Maybe more. Not the best odds. “She overheard our transmission in Sigis Station, and we know she was down in the ruined control sector. There’s no telling what she found.

Why else would she run to Felix?” the man asked. Valentina cursed under her breath. Of course they thought she found something. Their informant must have heard the transmission she played for Felix and assumed everyone was there for the same purpose. If they were looking for a weapon, like the first transmission said… no. That was more trouble than Valentina wanted. “She found something to sell. If you hadn’t been such an idiot…”

Watch your mouth. Do you see the ship?

No. It’s like she disappeared. What now?

Valentina breathed a little easier, knowing that she was not yet spotted. The Asterias was good at hiding.

Keep looking. There’s no Dust echo so no FTL jump. She’s got to be around here somewhere.

They fell silent and Valentina watched, holding her breath even though there was no way they could have heard her. She double-checked her own comm to make sure it wasn’t transmitting, and slowly powered up the Asterias.

There was no point in sticking around here. She used her attitudinal thrusters to slowly back out of her hidey hole, keeping the rig between her and her pursuers. The moment she spun up FTL they’d be on her and there was no way she’d be able to make the jump undetected. She needed another option.

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

Valentina may have left The Pale with the closing of the second round of the Celestial Claim Land Presale, but her mysterious pursuers have followed the Asterias into the space near the Miasma.

To find out how she will evade them and where she will seek refuge next, look for the next installment of the story tomorrow!


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