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“There might be something in our blind spot. I see the edge of something here, look.” Soleil, who had gained some experience with camera spotting, indicated a corner detail on two views. A thrill tingled across her scalp – the glint, the curve, felt familiar.

Draig recalculated the external viewing camera aiming parameters. There was a ship where there hadn’t been one before.

“That’s Drift X!” exclaimed Toller, pointing.

“That ship brought us back to Alisandre,” Soleil explained to her old friend. “I don’t believe them to be hostile. Can we comlink?”

“Let’s,” said Draig, establishing the channel for vocal exchange.

The linkup established with a chime. A woman’s voice came through, straightforward and urgent. “We were sent, by the people who need you, to pick you up and bring you to them.” At the sound of her voice, Derringer could not stop himself from smiling with an edge of incredulity, but he didn’t interrupt. “We should use this ship. Please consider coming aboard quickly. We are in danger.”

Toller requested, “Ask them if Wendel Harper is captain of that ship.”

Soleil looked at Draig and Toller, asking, “Which of us is least pursued by authorities right now?”

“That would be me, amazingly,” said Derringer. “I’ll talk.” He arranged his shirt and mustache a little before speaking when prompted. “Is Wendel Harper the captain of that ship?”

A pause. “Yes. She knows you.” The voice also sounded knowing.

“Let’s go!” said Toller. Soleil nodded to Draig. Derringer also nodded.

Draig took all this in and responded with a nod. “Okay, here we go.” He began to trade boarding details and equipment specs with Drift X. They had a hopper. He aligned their entrances. Before prepping everybody for the crossing, he informed them, “When we’re off, this ship is going to go home with no record of this voyage. I’m going forward with you; that way your information will be safe from my being questioned, and perhaps I can be of more assistance.”

“Okay,” replied Soleil, “Thank you.” His risk being with them was immense. They were lucky to have him.

The hopper took them over two at a time, gliding across the air between hatchways. Leiv Gruun and Gretz Manoukian did the receiving. Toller high-fived Leiv, and Derringer and Gretz played a volley of ghost ping-pong before embracing each other. Draig observed all the surprise familiarity with a touch of wariness, keeping an eye to their surroundings. Soleil patted the ship.

After the hacked government vehicle sped away on its own trajectory, they were joined momentarily by Captain Wendel Harper and Karma Ilacqua. Wendel recognized General Alisandre from news, and judged the unofficial nature of his presence by their circumstances, and his lack of baggage, uniform, or attendance. The rest, she knew. She had gotten accustomed to the talented street kid, the private investigator, and the Princess Ascendant.

Karma was smiling despite herself, with the private investigator eyeing her surreptitiously from within her field of vision. This was already serious business, but these were serious guests. That was General Alisandre. That was the Scion Princess. Both had missing persons alerts, the General’s fresh to the occasion. Plus a kid. She walked up to Derringer and stood six inches from him, looking up into his face. “What are you doing here?” she ended the question in a half chuckle.

“Being right where you want me, I hope.”

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