They left the lab not a moment too soon. Drawn by the gunfire, a full squad of guards descended upon it just as Mas and Alex managed to round the corner out of view. One of the benefits of robbing a campus as big as Behring’s is that it took a while to move security into position. If she ever went straight, maybe she would get a job as a consultant and earn big credits pointing out all the dumb things companies did with their security systems.
Leaving the main research wing, the pair weaved their way back through the labyrinthine building to the executive’s office that they had entered through. Alex stopped them at every intersection to ping the path ahead. It would make them stand out on scanners, but it was safer than blindly stumbling into the roaming groups of armed guards.
Thankfully, when they arrived at the executive’s private hangar, it was unguarded and the Belligerent Duck remained just as they had left it. It was one of those interesting facts of life that powerful peoples’ private hangars are considered so off-limits, security guards assume criminals know not to land there too. That was why private hangars were usually one of the first things Alex looked for when she was casing a building. Plus, they usually had little free water bottles you could stock up with in case you got thirsty during a heist.
Alex brought up her mobi and unlocked the Mercury. Mas headed up the ramp straight for datastorage to make sure the pod was safely secured, while she made her way to the star runner’s cockpit.
The hangar doors opened above them and the Duck lifted into the air. The name still made her smile. She had chosen it to infuriate the cocky infoagent she had won the ship from. The pompous prick had the gall to name the ship Razor’s Edge. Now whenever he wanted to buy data off her, he had to comm the Belligerent Duck as a reminder that it didn’t pay to bet against Alex Dougan.
She eased the throttle forward and the ship’s wide swept-back wings cut easily through Terra’s calm atmosphere. A moment after leaving the hangar, the pleasant Crusader computer voice alerted her that they were being targeted. Sure enough, a Sabre with Behring livery was closing in on her tail. It must have launched when the alarm went off.
The comms chirped to life as they were hailed. “This is Behring Security. Land immediately or you will be shot down.”
Great. And it wouldn’t be long before the Terra police joined in. They needed a fast getaway.
“Mas, weapons, now.”
When they had first met, Mas had refused to do anything on the ship that didn’t involve hacking and computers claiming that it “was not his purpose.” It had been close to six months before Alex had stumbled upon a solution that had worked — she had hooked up a terminal from a busted simpod into the manned turret’s seat so that Mas could stare at a screen instead of out the window. That was all it took. Now he was a crack shot.
Mas slid into the weapons terminal, his long legs at the awkward angle all Banu were forced to adopt using Human seats. “How much should I explode them?”
“None! Knock out their radars and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Alex pulled hard and swung the Mercury wide giving Mas time to line up the distortion cannons. The Sabre reacted quickly enough to avoid the first and second salvos. Alex rolled at the last second to avoid their return fire. They were running out of time.
“Get missile lock,” said Mas.
“Mas, we’re not killing them!”
“No killing,” the Banu agreed. “Just a distraction.”
Decelerating till she saw red, Alex brought the ship to bear. After a heartbeat or two had thudded in her chest, she achieved lock and fired two missiles. The Sabre pilot, acting as expected, lit the sky with flares, pulling the missiles off course. Anticipating the brief distraction, Mas fired the turret again. The distortion cannons bit into the Sabre, disrupting its power. There was no way for it to maintain radar and stay flying after a hit like that.
Maxing out the thrusters for all they were worth, Alex sped the Duck away from Behring’s headquarters. However, rather than angling up to leave the planet, she angled the ship towards the nearby mountainous island range. There, she lowered the ship down into a small alcove cut into the beach beneath a rocky outcropping. Diverting power from the Mercury’s shields and thrusters, Mas booted up their reg-spoof. Now, they would be able to fly around incognito for a little while. Should be fine as long as no one looked too hard or took a shot at them. She hoped they weren’t the only ones in the area flying a Mercury today.
It was definitely not their cleanest escape. No way they were going to make the rendezvous now, but Grouse was just going to have to deal with the change in plans. Bringing up her mobi, Alex began a message to their network of contacts. Behring had a lot of credits to toss around. You rob someone like that and they usually made it worthwhile to hunt you down. Leaving the system wasn’t going to be enough. It wouldn’t be long before the Advocacy and a whole fleet of bounty hunters were breathing down their neck. If they wanted to get out of this in one piece they were going to need some extra help keeping an eye out. Hopefully a few of the friends her and Mas made over the years would be willing to lend a hand and alert them if they caught wind of the authorities closing in on the Duck.
Message sent. Now all they needed was somewhere they could hide out till things cooled off.
“Hey Mas, how would you feel about visiting your old Souli?”
TO BE CONTINUED
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