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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Of Nanites and Spies 6

Lannetay had Bill project a holo of the William Placard and the approaching cruiser. The TSN Groushieuwas about the same size as the mid-sized cargo ship. Although a collision between the two would split the William Placard apart without slowing the cruiser.

“They’re launching a yawl,” Bill said. “Six people aboard. Groushieu tells me they’re Marines.”

Olthan smiled. “Marines is family.”

Carnifor looked askance at their own Marine. “Yes, but they don’t know we are family. If they shoot first before asking questions, it can still be bad day.”

Olthan’s smile vanished. “They’s only sendin’ six.”

“That means they’ll be armored,” Lannetay pointed out.

Olthan shrugged. “They’s armored, so we better not fight back. They’ll kill ya. Just sit back an’ do what they say.” Even without combat armor Olthan knew they’d tear through the William Placard.

Lannetay stood and motioned the two men to exit the command center. “Nobody’s going to resist. Bill, make sure everyone gets that.”

Bill paused just long enough for Lannetay to know he’d done as instructed. “Done. They’re along side . . . and docking.”

The whole crew assembled at the starboard airlock and waited a few paces away. That put them about where Goofball liked to run his flight simulator.

The airlock hatches opened without the normal “handshake” to arrange atmospheres and nanites. Six Marines burst in, TH-12 light combat armor and Darsiv-65 disrupter rifles. The first walked straight to where the crew waited, weapon at the ready, the following soldiers alternately covered left and right of their point man.

Lannetay backtracked away from the lead Marine. Her eyes widened and she nearly tripped over a chair Marc had forgotten to have Bill remove.

“On the deck,” the lead soldier demanded, his voice amplified by external sound inducers. The man’s rifle pointed at her head. The other five fanned out, covering all sections of the common room.

Lannetay dropped to the deck, thankful she wore pants instead of a dress or skirt. The “give” of the sofsteel kept her hands and knees intact instead of bruised and battered. She noticed her crew had followed her lead and dropped to the deck.

The Marines consulted scanners built into their weapons. In turn they called out, “Clear.” As one they pivoted and aimed their Darsivs at Lannetay and her friends.

Bill, can you tell them we’re no threat? Lannetay sent. Silence. Bill?

“We took your AI off line,” the soldier said.

Lannetay turned her head to the side and noticed the man’s rank insignia. “Lieutenant, we’re no threat to you. We have credentials from Admiral Choergatan. Gamma. Seven. Six. Whiskey. Mike. Yankee. Six. Confirm.”

“Mom! What should I do?” Marc looked more terrified of the rifle than he had been during the battle.

The soldier covering the boy shifted a few inches closer in a move deliberately threatening.

Lannetay’s heart leaped to her throat. “Do as they say, Marc. Stay on the floor.”

“Face to the deck.” The lieutenant pressed the muzzle of his rifle into Lannetay’s neck. Standard operating procedure when accessing a Core with a potential enemy at gunpoint. After checking Lannetay’s code he said, “Justice seeks an equal level. Authenticate.”

“Ping pong,” Lannetay replied. The pressure on her neck eased.

“You may stand.”

Lannetay rushed over to Marc and yanked the private off her adopted son. “Get off him, you ape.”

The Marine smiled, and Lannetay noticed a scar running from the woman’s hairline down to the middle of her cheek. “Whatever, civvie.”

Lannetay looked around at the rest of her crew, all face down on the deck. “You can let them all up, can’t you?”

When the lieutenant nodded, the rest of the Marines backed to the bulkheads of the common room. Marc leaped to his feet and clung to Lannetay, scowling.

Carnifor was the next to stand. He stood nose-to-nose with the officer in charge and screamed, “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”

“Commander Carnifor, stand down,” Lannetay snapped. “He’s under orders, just as we are.”

“There’s no need to treat us so poorly. We are an unarmed trader.” Carnifor stepped back a fraction, fighting his inclination to punch the man.

The lieutenant switched off his helmet. “Flying in a combat zone, you’re lucky you didn’t get blasted into subatomic particles.” He relaxed the hold on his weapon and turned to Lannetay.

Lannetay stood with fists on hips. “Admiral Choergatan no doubt has orders for you.”

“He does. He would like me to inspect your cargo hold. Only you and me.”

Carnifor raised a hand to object, but Lannetay’s scowl silenced his protest. “This way, Lieutenant.” Lannetay peeled Marc from her side. He went to L-T and stood half-way behind him.

Lannetay led the way through the crew quarters and into the cargo bay.

The lieutenant took a cursory survey of the nearly-empty hold. “Not much here, Major.”

“I’m retired, Lieutenant. Any particular reason we’re here instead of the living areas?”

The lieutenant’s eyes unfocused for a moment. “Bill is back on line, but can only speak to you from here. He’ll connect you with Admiral Choergatan.”

“Bill?”

“Lannetay?” Bill’s voice came from the cargo bay’s sound inducers beside the closed pressure hatch.“What’s going on?”

“The admiral wants to talk to me. Could you connect him?”

Bill made a rude noise. “The admiral?”

The lieutenant’s head rose in surprise. “You let a computer disrespect a fleet admiral?”

“He’s an AI,” Lannetay explained. “He has as much autonomy as you or I do. Besides, he was never a member of the service, and doesn’t even respect me.”

“I have ‘the admiral’ connected, Lannetay,” Bill said.

Choergatan’s voice came from the sound inducers in the lieutenant’s suit. “Lannetay, how goes the mission?”


If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.



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