There was, at the present, a need to move with purpose. Had the Tashania arrived when they said they would, or the border guards taken the bribe then Deva could relax. Since that was not the case purpose was to be expected. The Galactic Federation taught her that, move with purpose. If you could then impossible becomes possible. As it stood now customs would be tearing down the hanger doors any moment, if they survived that then the planetary defenses would tear their ship down from orbit, and if they survive that then the largest trade blockade since the Federations Civil War would tear them to shreds. It was all for silweed the most lucrative drug in the Galaxy. Billions where being made off of getting people high.
Deva shoved Rickshaw off the pallet jack, “Forget the decoys move the silweed. We’re leaving hot.”
Rickshaw gave a huff, but Deva made the message clear, they needed to shit or get off the pot. Deva clicked on the cockpit communication link, “Silvia, we’re leaving now.”
“Sorry Captain, the cartel hasn’t given us the go ahead.”
Deva clinched the com tightly cracking it. “Tell that slimy alien that he is about to make a huge donation to Customs.”
Deva didn’t wait for a reply clicking off the com. The cartel had hundreds of pilots flying silweed off world to the core planets. If caught, they were an acceptable loss and would be disposed of in prison. It’s better to be dead in the sky then a Tashanian prison, even better alive on a pleasure moon.
As if a prophetic sign from above the hanger doors blew open. Custom agents filled the gap aiming large deadly rifles at the crew. The law was only fire when fired upon. If the Galactic Federation had any balls they would just kill them all right now and glass this hellhole stopping the cartel. Today bleeding hearts would save the crews lives. Before they could demand anything, Rickshaw opened up on them with the ships rear turret cutting down the customs agents. Deva pulled out her handgun looking down the sights. Move with purpose. Deva pulled off four shots hitting three plus the officer. Customs open fired back, but most were under cover now. Deva ran up the ramp toward the cockpit. Silvia launched off two rockets into the blast doors blocking their escape out.
“Do we have permission now?” Deva said.
Chariot, the ship, lifted off out of the hanger into the Capitol skyline. Rickshaw kept firing at the fading custom agents till they were out of sight. Silvia kept them low weaving in and out of buildings staying lower than the anti-aircraft towers. All it would take is one of those homing missiles to bring Chariot down killing them all. No ships followed them in the city, collateral damage would make the Federation look back turning what little support they had here with the royals. They would wait for them to clear the city to pursue. Plenty of desert in Tashania. The three suns of the desert planet shined off the glass buildings blinding Deva. The ships view screen adjusted.
In past runs they wouldn’t have to weave in between the buildings. They were in and out with clearance without so much as a shot being fired. Customs either got smart, or they got sold out. Deva knew what her gut told her. The city walls were ahead, and Deva could see the sweat on Silvia face. They were about to be in a case for their lives. Deva clicked her communication link to the ships encrypted battle frequency.
“Who is not at their post.” she said.
It was always better to ask who wasn’t doing their job rather than listening to kiss-asses. The all clear came back from each of the turrets. All signs where green, they wouldn’t die from lack of preparation. Deva gripped Silvia’s shoulder.
“I don’t want to die today.” Deva said.
“I’ll do my best captain.” Silvia replied.
Chariot would be a sitting target flying straight up. The G-force would blow off any unlocked turrets sending them back down planet side. They would have to fly at an angle slowing them down substantially but giving them a better chance to protect the ship from the pursuit of customs ships.
Deva opened the hatch just behind the cockpit and jumped down. She belted herself in the 360-dual gun turret. Her crescent moon necklace hung around the trigger. Move with Purpose. Looking down she could see the custom ships launching off and going into pursuit. All of Chariots turrets opened fired casing falling back planet side. Deva couldn’t see any of the ships, yet they were still too low for any of them to sneak under their belly. On the COMS she could hear the other crew members.
Deva was white knuckled waiting in anticipation. This was the most dangerous position to be in as it was just her verses anything coming underneath. Deva took it because she didn’t trust anyone else with the job. Chariot picked up altitude and three custom ships slipped under and opened on their belly. Their guns where still hot from firing. She pulled the trigger unleashing a stream of bullets. Most ships don’t have a belly turret, so the first ship was an easy target, they never knew she was there. Once the other pilots released they opened fire on her.
It was harder for them to hit her then for her to hit them. They had to line themselves up. Deva opened on the next ship setting fire to its wing she cheered to herself in a small victory. The last ship had her lined up in its sights firing a bust into the turret breaking the seal that held her in. All the air was sucked out and as the speed of the ship prevented her from catching any breath. This high up there wouldn’t any air to breathe anyways. She opened her mouth panicking from the shock. She pulled off the emergency kit in her turret pulling out the rebreather. She set it in her mouth regaining some sense. The custom ship kept firing putting more holes in the belly. Deva could hear over the coms that the top wasn’t doing any better. They had lost two turrets, and engines where critical. Bad news turned worse as Silva screamed over the coms, “Nuke.”
Deva kicked on the coms sill out of breath, “Silvia lock up, everyone, we’re diving.”
Ships like Chariot are too small to have escape pods. The only alternative is a drop suit. Used by Federation special forces they had a poor survival rate when used properly. Jumping from a ship this high was suicide for most people, the alternative was getting nuked.
Deva locked the turret kicking the hatch open to the ship. Silva had already locked the coordinates in to fly straight up. It was their best bet to get a clean jump and get as far away from the nuke as possible. She jogged down the hall to the cargo hold putting on her jump suit, and emergency bag. Clicking her helmet in place she ran toward the edge of the hold past the silweed meeting the rest of her crew. She counted heads and clicked on.
“Goon, and Furrow.”
Good no one important. “Survive the jump, we will find each other planet side. Let’s go!” Deva said before jumping out of Chariot as it took its vertical assent.
Immediately air rushed passed her as they made their return decent planeside. She had to get far enough away to survive the heat radiation from the nuke. Custom ships had already peeled off. A locked-on nuke to an old school freighter like Chariot was sure destruction. Deva watched the nuke as it flew up passed her. The air current knocking her a bit off course. Just a moment later a bright light blinded her followed by an incredible heat on her back. The suit should hold, but if it melted…
Tashania’s red and brown surface grew in front of them. The drop suits were made to withstand orbital drops behind enemy lines completely undetectable. The speed of the fall was dangerous if even one finger slipped its place she would send them into a death spiral rupturing every organ bleeding out of the pores in her skin. Deva saw it more than once. Even the most hardcore panic with anti-air cannons firing at them. At about a mile from the surface the suits kick into a slowdown mode allowing for a smooth descent. It was impossible to talk on the fall, and impossible for Deva to turn her head without snapping her neck. She would pick a spot to land, some of the crew may land nearby. Or maybe they were all dead from the blast. Either way she wouldn’t know where they landed until she had.
Deva’s landing was graceful, and silent. She came in hitting the ground, but not so loud that it would be heard more than 100 ft. It took practice to accomplish a feat such as that. She unloaded her emergency bag taking inventory of her supplies. Two pistols, a rifle, med kit, water, food, and a million Galactic Federation units. Everyone had an account tied their name to buy and sell just a matter of using a finger print. Deva had several accounts protecting her money, but if her suspicions where correct this mission went to hell for one reason alone, someone sold them out. If she was right all of her accounts would be depleted, and without at least some money getting off world would be impossible.
Each drop suit would have a beacon to bounce off the others. Deva had rewired her suit beforehand to just seek, and not ping. Paranoia, had always been a close friend, but it was the wisest choice she had made. Each crew that smuggles silweed is different. No two crews have the same members after meeting for the first time. This was done to prevent anyone from ratting on each other. Too much unpredictability for her, but silweed smuggling paid more than slaves. A lot less sad too. She opened her seeker looking for pings. She found one a few miles from her. Move with purpose.
Deva hiked the mile cautiously taking extra time. Tashania had three stars orbiting the planet creating constant light, that mixed with an incredible spanning desert made it difficult for anyone to hide unless they were using a cloaking device.
Deva crawled up a mound of dirt to peak over the other side where the ping was coming from. She cradled the rifle in her arms careful to watch her six. At the peak she covered the scope to prevent a glare and looked down at the basin. A figure was there sprawled out and unmoving. It didn’t look as if anyone had left the suit, and this had been the only ping not moving since landing. Deva picked up after a while and hiked down to the body.
It didn’t move an inch as she worked her way down. Coming closer the body lurched up, Deva quickly shouldered the rifle. The body held up its hands.
“Whoa whoa, chill it’s just me.” The body pulled off its helmet revealing Gavin.
Gavin was one of the ships engineers and not much else. He helped with the loading of the silweed, and repairs of the ship. However, Deva knew that anything could be under the surface. Gavin could be truly capable of anything, but if he thought he was going to fool her he was wrong.
“Why did you set us up Gavin? Was it the Cartel paying you or the Federation? Better answer quick traitor.” Deva said.
She watched as Gavin attempted backing up still sitting in the sand putting his hands up, “Whoa Deva that’s not true. All I know is ships. You’re looking at the wrong guy.”
Deva kept the rifle shouldered for a moment studying Gavin. He looked afraid, and legitimate. Her gut had another idea. Just kill him. At least dead he couldn’t hurt her either way.
“I can blow your head off right now Gavin, and I can do that to anyone who comes in my way. What’s something you can do that would make it, so I don’t want to?”
“I know Rome, personally. He will come, I just have to contact him.”
Rome was a Tanashian cartel. Instead of silweed selling he was a pirate of the ships smuggling the drug. Rome was obsessed with human culture and earth. Naming himself after the ancient empire he believed he could ascend to its legacy. If Gavin knew Rome then Gavin was a leak, but not the one that she was looking for.
“I should kill you Gavin, you are a traitor.”
“True, but my plan never actually happened. Enemy of my enemy and all that.”
“You got a gun?” Gavin shook his head, “You still don’t get one, let’s go.”
Deva wasn’t against Rome, and from others accounts he’s open to negotiation. Rome would be much more open to negotiation if she had the person who lost him a profit, whoever brought the ship down. They would have to find a way to contact Rome, and avoid the Federation. The only way for that was a signal scrambler. Those could be found out in the desert in silweed farms used by the Cartels. Deva checked her tracker for nearby structures finding a couple of clustered huts a few miles off. If they were lucky they would find a farm.
Deva checked the tracker for the other pings. She couldn’t be sure if others had altered their suits in the same way preventing it from pinging. She also couldn’t be sure who died in re-entry. About fifteen souls were aboard the Chariot. When she first landed eight of those souls remained. She found one, and now only five were left. A couple expired since her confrontation their lights no longer flashing. Gavin’s suit would still be pinging a beacon to the person hunting them down. The only way for that to change was to kill him or hack the suit. The former actually doable in the desert. It was time to move.
The hike to the farm would be unbearable without the jumpsuits. Temperatures could reach upwards of 54 C able to melt the paint off a ship. The suits were cooled for re-entry making it the perfect option for the hike. However, the walk through the desert was boring made only worse by the constant anxiety that at any moment she could be fired upon. That was the curse from years of dropping into war zones, everywhere was hot. Gavin walked nonchalantly compared, almost a skip to his step. It bothered Deva.
The last of pings, what was left of Chariots crew, met together just as they came up to the farm. A field of burnt silweed spread out from demolished huts. Deva shouldered the rifle sweeping the area. Gavin close beside her. She could feel his panic rising. By the time they reached the huts the other pings had vanished from the tracker, dead most likely.
Inside the were just charred remains of the Tashanian who worked the fields. Most likely the victims of an aerial bombing from the royal family. Unlike the Galactic Federation the Royals bombed first, and never asked questions. Deva sat against a wall facing the door holding the handgun. She took out her water drinking it quickly. The next town would be too far away for a hike. They would have to open a communication link revealing their location. The only people monitoring the links were Federation, and unless they took a bribe it would be prison time. Gavin was across from her vomiting.
He looked up at her, “How can you handle this?”
Deva looked at the charred body next to her studying its face, “Move with purpose.”
“What does that mean?”
“Means you get brainwashed into thinking your fighting for something bigger then yourself. Like somewhere out on the rim there’s a family thankful that you where there killing the terrorists.”
Deva smiled wrapping her arm around the charred corpse, “Just ask her yourself.”
Gavin would never get the chance. Suddenly his head exploded all over Deva. Move with purpose. Deva had an idea of where the shot came from. There was nothing left of Gavin’s body, large caliber. Whoever shot him was far enough away. Deva dropped the handgun taking up her rifle. She crawled toward the exit door twisting out getting cover on the wall. She popped her head out quickly checking for the killer. Deva pulled her head back just in time as a bullet hit the ground next to her. A com kicked on,
“Captain the cartel has cleared you for takeoff.”
Deva laughed, “Silvia, I figured you for dead. What made you want to give up a fortune to screw us all over?”
“Isn’t like that Captain, Federation smuggles more silweed to the core planets in a day then the cartel does in a year. What the Federation can’t take is a traitor. It’s time to answer for your crimes on the rim.”
Custom ships flew in surrounding Deva, hovering just above the ground kicking up dust.
“Give it up Captain, come on home, and stand trial. Do the right thing.”
“Silvia, I’ve been doing the right thing all my life.” Move with purpose.