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Area 51/ Space

The explosion gave Rhel that last distraction he needed to get back safety to the ship. He hadn’t expected to see Malcolm up in the control room, but thanks to him the roof had been opened giving them a clear getaway if everything else went smoothly. Entering the ramp, Rhel closed the door behind him and rushed towards the cockpit where he found Avis in the co-pilot’s seat, looking lost but at least she managed to insert the memory device.

“Where are we?” he asked.

“Well, it’s downloading, and the engines and core seem to be running…” Avis said with an anxious sigh. “But I don’t know how to fly this thing. And there are no windows! I can’t see a thing.”

“That’s why I’m here. Crescent Moon, right?”

//Eycian Class Vessel 23.56.99001 aka Crescent Moon eighty-five percent download completed.// The computer replied back.

“Good enough. We need a take off sequence.” Rhel said.

//Voice recognition required. Crescent Moon is registered to the Rision family, only a Rision member can begin the take off sequence.// The ship replied back.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Avis say your name.” Rhel said with a growl of his voice. It must be some anti-theft program the family installed who knows how far back.

“Ah, what?” Avis asked a confused look on her face. “Avis Rision, daughter of Nyria Rision?” Rhel waited as the ship began to process the information, a green coloured scan emerged from the seat and scanned them both.

//DNA scan approved. Captain of Crescent Moon is Avis Rision, daughter of Nyria Rision. Pilot is Rhel Valentine, Bounty Hunter. Take off sequence in progress.// The metal walls around the pair faded away as display screens were turned on showing them a view of the hangar and the soldiers still inside.

“Bounty hunter?” Avis asked, her eyes wide. “I thought you said you came to rescue my mom?”

“Later!” Rhel shouted, the ship powered up and lifted into the air. They passed through the open doors of the hangar and continued to rise into the atmosphere. “We’ve still got a military base below us to deal with.”

“We’re in the air, and in a space ship.” Avis shouted back. “What the hell did the AI mean?”

“They still have fighter planes and missiles.” Rhel said with a sigh. “Crescent Moon, be prepared to make evasive manoeuvres, we’re going to have a situation soon.”

//Confirm.//

As if on cure, two jets appeared on either side of their ship. Suddenly the ship increased in speed, and raised it’s nose upwards gaining distance and altitude on the jets. Both Rhel and Avis were tossed back into their seats from the g-force.

“How long is this going to last?” Avis asked.

“Trust me, it’s not as bad as it could be.” Rhel said. A few minutes later they broke through the atmosphere and entered space. The force on their bodies left as they ship began to drift casually. “Crescent Moon, plot course to the nearest port you can find.” He glanced over at Avis who said nothing but looked like she was about to puke.

//Current space is uncharted by the Alliance of United Planets.//

“Of course it isn’t. I guess TSInc gates are out of the equation too.”

//Affirmative.//

“What about this?” Avis asked. She pulled out a small, pocket watch artefact from her bag. She avoided his sight, but held the watch out to him. “I think it’s the star chart everyone was after.”

“So you found it?” Rhel asked, with surprise which was quickly turned into an approving grin. She had talent, that was for sure. Maybe she will be of some use to him.

“Yeah… I did.” Avis said with a sigh. The AI of the ship seemed to be following their conversation as a panel between them opened up.

//Place external Star Chart here.// Rhel hesitated. After all these years, the object he was hired to get was being handed to him. Would the ship give the crystal back once it gathered it’s information?

“What is it?” Avis asked, finally looking at him. Whatever trust he might have achieved on earth, seemed to have left. Before he could answer her, the ship rumbled as if they had hit something.

“Fuck, those stupid pirates are still here.” Rhel said as a close up of the ship was zoomed in upon their right side.

//Evasive manoeuvres activated.// The ship responded, though a bit late Rhel thought bitterly. It was clear they were done playing nice. There was no communication request, not that Rhel would have accepted it if they tried. The shot they just fired wasn’t even a warning one. They would sooner blow them to pieces than negotiate. It was fine by him, Rhel was done playing nice as well.

“Please let there be guns…” Rhel hissed under his breath.

//There are a total of six lasers attached at various positions around the ship.//

“Damn, low-level too.” Rhel growled, his demeanour worsening by the minute. Laser shots would only scar and burn their haul, Rision’s ship was useless in a real battle, what sort of family were they?

//Affirmative// The computer replied. //There are also two mid-level cannons on either side of the ship and can be manned from the co-pilot’s seat.//

Rhel sighed, looked over at Avis and gave up trying ease things over. “Avis, take control of the cannons and try to hit that ship. They won’t do much, but they may give us a bit of a lead on them.”

“Gotcha.” Avis replied, her face hard as stone as two small screens appeared almost directly in front of her. Two joysticks also emerged from the seat, each controlled the angle and aim of the gun. Rhel also took the time to nab the star chart off Avis and insert it into the ship’s navigation port. To his surprise, a map of their current solar system displayed before them. How an ancient star chart would be aware of their current position in space was beyond Rhel’s understanding. He knew the start chart was worth a lot, after all not only he, but these pirates were after it, but he never asked why.

Rhel began to focus on a route that would help lose the pirates while Avis began firing the guns. “Take it easy!” Rhel said as her first two shots missed by a mile each. “We don’t have unlimited power here kid, only shoot when you have a clear shot. Quality over quantity.” He noticed the sour look she gave him in return but at least she didn’t go shooting the ship up like crazy.

The only area Rhel could foresee that could be of assistance to them was the main asteroid belt in this particular star system, located just between Mars and Jupiter. He recalled the difficulties it took him to come in and knew if there was any way of crushing those pirates it was through there.

Another shot rumbled through Crescent Moon that lurched both Rhel and Avis forward in their seats. “Crescent Moon, we need some speed, head for the asteroid belt. Avis, hold your fire until we get in there.”

The ship increased in speed as it sped through space, avoiding shots from the pirates behind. It didn’t take long to reach the asteroid field where Rhel recklessly dove in the nearest opening he could find. Looking up at the one rear screen off to his left, a grin passed along his face when he saw the other ship following them through with the same recklessness.

//You are entering an unsafe flight path.// the Ship replied, sounding a bit worried to Rhel’s imagination. He ignored the warning and kept manoeuvring the ship through the smallest of openings of the rocks. He had to admire the little ship, size never meant better and right now he thought the pirates were regretting their choice.

“Avis, see that asteroid there.” Rhel said his voice was calm, and level. “The second we pass it, I want you to focus both of the guns on it and fire when I give you the word.”

“I… won’t we be hit by the debris?” Avis asked, worried.

//I agree, the plan you’ve suggested only has a success rate of 21.32 percent.//

“Trust me with this. Both of you.” Rhel said. There were no further protests and he saw Avis’s hands itch on the triggers. Behind the pirate ship was closing in fast, they were blasting all asteroids in their way. Rhel directed the ship towards the asteroid, coming inches from scratching the outer haul and circled around to give Avis a better shot. His eyes on the screen with the pirate ship closing in, Rhel slowed the ship down. There was going to be their only chance.

“Okay kid… now.”

Avis fired the cannons, and through the screen, Rhel saw the asteroid explode. He pushed the accelerator down hard, flaring the engines that caused several of the dust particles to react in a blinding light. Crescent Moon shot forward and Rhel had to hold on tight to the controls to steer their way through. Thankfully, the ship’s AI kicked into overdrive and took control of navigation before they splattered across one of the dwarf planets. Both he and Avis kept their eyes on the rear screen, anticipating the massive pirate ship to emerge out of the dust field they had created. A minute passed, then five. Eventually they existed the asteroid belt with no sign of the pirates on their tail.

Both eased back into their chairs, Rhel let out a chuckle and turned his sights on the emptiness of space ahead of them. “You did good, Rision.”

“Thanks.” Avis replied back. She still clenched the edges of her chair tightly, afraid to let go.

“I guess we’ll see if Locklear’s ART-Grave device actually works.” Rhel commented, testing the waters.

//Anti-gravity systems in operational condition.// The ship replied back instead.

“What about damage report?” Rhel asked.

//Damage was dealt to the rear portion of the haul, but no breaching. Suggest maintenance at next port stop.//

“Well no surprise there.” Rhel grunted. “Any idea when that will be?”

//Estimated arrival at Rodiff Station, 11 months, 29 days.//

“Perfect, just perfect.” Rhel said with a heavy sigh as he leaned back in the pilot’s chair and set his feet up on the panels and controls in front of him. This was going to be a long journey.

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