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This is the story for which the earlier segment was backstory - there's a whole... thing going on here. The relevant bits are thus: Gwen is the owner of a fueling port in a desert on a fairly backwater part of a planet in a semi-busy sector. Enoch is her manager - Adel, Bolt, and Kasia are crew. Kasia fixes mechanics, Bolt fixes magic, and Adel is security/weapons nut. They're all a little on edge, because one of their regular customers, a smuggling crew, sort of took them by surprise, knocked them out, and left with some kind of important artifact that they didn't know was buried under their port. They have, at this point in the story, discovered by looking into the port, that the stolen artifact is responsible for keeping the atmosphere attached to the planet, which has a sizable air-breathing population.

Enoch looked out over the long corridor, leaning against the wall. Things had gone awry more, and faster, than he'd figured on. That was the rule, though, wasn't it? If you planed for things to go wrong, they'd only go wrong farther than you'd planned. It was some kind of a cosmic law, he was pretty sure.

But they'd be alright. Kasia wasn't fatally injured, Gwen was in charge, and Bolt was figuring things out. They'd be fine. He walked down the long hall, feeling every second of the past two days drag their weight along his bones. It was going to be an interesting journey.

Heh. An interesting journey, he though, shaking his head. As if they'd just decided to go on some kind of holiday, rather than fleeing the planet one step ahead of the city guards--

oh, shit.

He turned around, shaking his head, and strode back up the hall to the cabin. Bolt was still at the controls, humming a low, deep note that resonated across the room, his eyes closed - probably still looking over their course. Kasia was stretched out behind him, watching his hands move across the dashboard, probably taking careful notes in her mind. Gwen was sitting against the wall, asleep, he saw, unfortunately.

He grabbed her shoulder and shook, lightly. She was awake in an instant, looking blearily up at him; he jerked his head to the hall, and she stood up and followed him, quietly, so as not to disturb the team.

"What's up?"

"It just occurred to me," he explained, rubbing his own eyes. "What are we going to do if the General comes after us?"

She sighed. "Yeah, I thought of that. I don't think there's anything we can do, at least not over what we're doing already. We warned them - if they look down in the station, they're only going to find what we did. Hopefully, they'll all have better things to do than chase us down."

Enoch grinned wryly. "Should've guessed you'd be ahead of me," he said, nodding. "Alright, then. Is there anything you want me to do, precautionary sort of?"

"If you think of anything, let me know," she told him, shrugging. "I can't imagine there's anything we can do, like I said. I hate the thought of some anonymous military craft creeping up behind us, but if they do - what are we going to do, put on the shields? Bolt's a great runic engineer, but I rather doubt his sigils are going to stop a full-fledged attack from the government - any government, if it comes to that, aside from maybe Sector [O]."

He ran a hand over his head, sighing. "Yeah, I probably should've figured on that. It just occurred to me - not something I'd had time to think about yet."

"Don't worry about it," she replied. "That's why you've got me - if we both miss it, that's when we get to worry about things. I'm going to get some sleep - you should probably do the same."

"Yeah, will do."

Gwen turned back into the cabin, and Enoch shook his head. It might be harder to catch a nap now, picturing that great hulk looming over them from behind, a wave of fire turning their ship into so much slag...

Yeah, pleasant dreams. He wondered how Gwen planned to fall asleep. After about half an hour staring at the ceiling with no luck, he sighed, pulled on his work clothes, and went off to find Adel. She was probably up doing some kind of exercise somewhere.

"Hey, Enoch - can you give me a hand?" Bolt was yawning, looking like he hadn't had more than a wink in about a week, and the crate he was trying to move looked like it weighed about three times what he did.

Enoch nodded and went around to the other side, throwing his weight behind it. The heavy box budged, then slid a few feet - they managed to get some more clearance behind it, and then Bolt straightened.

"Thanks. I'm going to try and set up some kind of alert system before I hit the hay - Kasia's working on getting the display to pull up, but she's got a way to go, and I want to make sure anyone can check up on it, in case something crazy goes wrong. Wronger."

"Hah. Yeah, I'm not sure what we'll do if anything goes wronger," Enoch agreed, leaning against the box. "What are you planning on?"

He was attacking the crate that'd been behind the one they moved with a crowbar, prying the lid off.

"Gonna make a map," he grunted. "Astral sort of map - hard to explain, much easier to demonstrate. Among other things... there you go, you bastard-- it'll give us a little bit of a warning if something starts creeping up behind us."

"You thought of that, too?"

Bolt cast a look over his shoulder, half amused. "Yeah - your coworker bleeding on the cabin floor behind you while you plan a wild escape from your home tends to put one in a paranoid sort of mood."

Enoch laughed. "I guess I've been too carried away with the details to worry about the overwhelming danger," he said, sitting down against the floor.

"Yeah, and too tired," Bolt said, pulling a long, slender box out of the crate. "You obviously aren't feeling yourself, you haven't tried to correct my prying technique yet."

"Maybe I'm being nice?" Enoch suggested. Bolt laughed.

"Now I know you're overtired," he replied. "Nice try, though."

When he woke up, the crate was back against the cargo like it had been - apparently, Bolt had managed it himself. More noticeably, there were several scratches on the floor, in what looked like charcoal - they looked like mathematical notes of some kind or other. He blinked - against the wall, more prominently, were several more arcane symbols, looking like they'd been painted in starfire - and like they'd been there forever. The design was a pretty one, loops on concentric loops, continuously winding around itself, and around several small points that, on closer scrutiny, proved to be some of the more basic runic symbols Bolt used more frequently. The design continued across the span of the wall, ceiling to floor. Shaking his head, Enoch stood, stretched, and left the cargo hold.

Adel was in the pilot room, watching Kasia work the controls - she appeared to be using something between the two methods, something that would probably make Bolt wince visibly. Her hands moved across the dashboard quickly, deftly, flicking at the little knobs of unmarked metal that stuck up from the smooth surface, but her eyes were closed.

"She came up with it halfway through," Adel said, quietly. "I'm thinking Bolt is going to have some kind of a long speech about the dangers of experimenting with this amount of stake, but I kinda like it... reminds me of."

Enoch glanced down at her, but she seemed to have cut herself off. He shrugged, and sat down on the makeshift chair on the other side of the room. "So we've got the ship pinned, then?"

"Yeah. More or less, anyway - it helps that they'd left traces in port. I just... can't help but wonder..."

"Why?"

"Yeah. They had to have known - I'd never have expected it, not from them. I don't know why. I guess - we all knew what they were, what they did, but..."

Enoch shrugged. "Price must've been too hard to pass up. If we'd known it was down there, maybe we would've been more prepared."

"Maybe."

"I'm pretty pissed, too."

She snorted. "We all are, boss. Gwen's been talking about what she's going to do with the bastards when she catches up with them."

"Heh. We'll see."

"That we will."

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May 2013

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