Here is a something to whet the appetite. Please keep in mind that this is a rough draft and is likely to change between bouts of writing. Now that I’m drawing near to the end of the reworking, I’ll try to return to my regular broadcast time.
Hope you enjoy. Keep on reading, keep on getting vitamin D, and keep on flying the black
* * *
The soft glow of a recessed, track-light conveyed the illusion of surface light to surround the crew as they wove through the light foot-traffic of the warren. Just as they rounded a corner and Atom pointed out their destination, the lights dimmed, flickered out and then surged back to life with a squint-worthy flare.
A moment later a low rumble shook several steams of dust from the ceiling.
“What was that?” Hither asked as the party came to a halt among the frozen flow of startled pedestrians.
“Power fluctutation,” Atom said with concern.
“Should we be worried?”
Atom shrugged and turned to a man grease smeared mech who had come a halt beside the party and asked, “Is that normal?”
“Not in these parts,” the man said with a shake of his head as he stared up at the overhead rock. “Our grid is top end. I’ve never seen a flicker like that. You might find something like this in some of the outliers.” He pulled his pad and started scrolling through screens. “Or maybe in a mass duster, but it’s the wrong season and there haven’t been any alerts.”
“Anomaly?” Atom exchanged a darting glance with his crew. “Could it be the imps?”
The man swore under his breath. “Looks so,” he replied. “According to the local feeds, they just dropped a k-bomb close enough to our plant to shake down the power.”
“Reckin this ain’t as friendly as our migo would like to believe,” Shi drawled.
“They can’t be in orbit yet,” Hither piped in.
“No,” Atom replied. “That had to be a distant message that they were coming for a routine checkup. Toks is on the warpath.
“Regardless.” He waved a thanks to the native and turned on towards their destination. “We have enough time to get a meal, get hunkered, and slip out for some intel before Toks even pulls into orbit.”
“What do you think we have to look forward to?” Lilly asked.
“From what we’ve seen, she’s not afraid to come down hard.” Atom led the way to the entrance to the inn and paused at the door. “My estimate is that she’ll lock this rock down as best she can. She only has five ships and four of them are light. That probably means no more than a couple regiments of drop marines between them. They’ll be heavy assault, trained to put down uprisings hard and heavy. They aren’t typically trained for prolonged occupation.”
“Could we just lie low and wait this out?”
Atom pressed the pram through the hatch into the low murmur of the inn’s front lobby. A half-dozen low couches circled a simple fountain that burbled a calming song. Several groups of people sat or stood in nervous clumps about the room, but none of them bothered to register the entrance of Atom and the crew.
Measuring the room’s occupants for danger, Atom lifted Margo from the pram before tousling her hair and turning her loose to wander over to the fountain.
“If only it could be that simple,” Atom sighed. “Toks know this system is our destination from the Genkohan files, but that’s all she knows.”
“Then she won’t be leaving anytime soon?” Lilly frowned.
Atom watched Margo wander around the edge of the fountain, trailing a hand on the ceramic tiles. The girl pranced without a care in the world, her eyes focused on the trickles of water dancing from a plain stone basin into the waiting pool below.
“Yeah,” Atom mumbled. “We’ll have to figure that one out. She’s logged our ship. That means if we lift, she’ll be able to ping us as long as she has line of sight.”
“And that shouldn’t be too hard, seeing as she has five ships at her disposal,” Hither said.
“I don’t reckin we’re aimin’ to figure this right now.” Shi tapped a quick tattoo on her guns beneath her poncho. “What say you we line us some rooms and we’ll snatch a table in the cantina and save you a seat? I’ll order y’all a hot bevie and some munchers.”
Atom fixed her with a steely glare.
“Ah, Cap.” She thrust out her chin and flashed her cocky, lopsided grin. “Y’all ain’t serious about workin’ the angles right this instant. We all know this is going to take some rollin’ the pans to work out. Fact a the matter, we’ll probably need Daisy’s pan to work things fully.
“Plus, I do reckin Go could use some vits.” Shi glanced around at the others. “An’ no offense, but I could use some meself that ain’t cooks by the lot a you.”
“Fair,” Atom grunted. “Grab me a red chi. I need something calming.”
“Righto, Cap.” Shi tapped a knuckle to her forehead. “And when you line a room for me, make sure it has a bath. I’d love a soak before we head out to die.”
“We planning on dying on this one?” Atom asked.
“Hopefully not, but either way, I could use a soak.” She grinned and followed her nose towards the inn’s dining room. The others fell into step with her.
As they drew near the entry to the dining room, Shi stopped and chirped a low whistle that caught Margo’s attention. The girl saw the crew and took a step in their direction before glancing to where Atom stood by the front door to the inn.
With a grin, Margo scampered off to join the crew, leaving Atom to push the empty pram through the common room in search of the proprietor.