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The Quick Slip — Part 10 — Valentina and the Echoes of Empire

December 8, 2021
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The Quick Slip

There was no doubt now. They were after her, but Valentina Barbaro wasn’t about to make it easy on them. Plenty of people had tried to track her down over the years. Bad deals or good ones. Competitors and pirates. She was still alive because none of them had ever managed to catch her.

This time would be no different if she had anything to say about it. A dozen small bursts from her thrusters (not enough to set off a short range scanner) and she was able to fall in almost directly behind her pursuers and shadow their ship, just out of sight. “Know your enemy’s blind spots,” one of Valentina’s favorite mentors had always said.

It was hard work and difficult flying, but the two burly, well-armed battleships we’re expecting her brand of sneakiness. Better still, they were still running that same open frequency that got her into this mess. Really, it was just careless to go around broadcasting your personal business all over space, but Valentina knew better than to curse her enemies for making such an obvious mistake in her advantage.

“Come on, guys. You’ve been quiet for a whole hour,” she said to herself as she wove through the many asteroids of the region. It was the perfect place to determine who was after her this time, and maybe get a shot at losing them. “Get back to bickering.”

The woman, who she was calling Icy, and Grumpy, the man she heard first, seemed to hate each other with a passion. At least they weren’t happy to be working together. Valentina was starting to enjoy their frequent dust ups on comms, punctuated with hoary insults and the occasional open threat.

“We’ve got to find this wretched smuggler,” Grumpy said, right on cue. “The Zeiger is trying to buy that pretentious fool, Felix, but he’s proving annoyingly righteous, apparently. He refuses to tell us what Barbaro is after.”

Score one for Valentina! “Zeiger” was an Arbeiter Functionary title. That answers one big question, and kudos to Felix for not giving her up. Valentina raised him up a few pegs in her mind. She honestly hadn’t expected him to stick to his guns, but then again, she represented a substantial payout for him. Felix was a decent man, but like everyone, he had a price. With the kind of riches the Arbeiters had at their disposal, they would offer him enough money. He would eventually turn, and Valentina wouldn’t hold it against him.

She was going to have to make herself much, much harder to find before that happened.

“I’m about ready to be done with the bickering couple,” Valentina said to herself and thought about her options. Getting creative as a grin made its way across her face, she slowed the Asterias to a crawl to let Icy and Grumpy put distance between them before punching out of the system.

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

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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