Tricked out in green and gold, the raider orbited silently around the small planetoid of Royale 11. The craft was sleek and aerodynamic, in theory to improve performance in atmospheric conditions, but in practice more because Sarryl Tarth thought it looked cool that way. Xolly could have cared less. She sat in the cockpit, working the helm controls and nurturing her anger at the universe.
“Ease off, you’re getting too close,” came the smug voice of Tarala, her Tarth-assigned copilot.
“We’re fine,” Xolly replied, although she did tweak the thrusters slightly.
“Now, see? Isn’t that better? Try to keep it there.”
Xolly glared at Tarala. Some copilot. Tarala couldn’t fly her way out of a docking ring. This is Tarth making my life miserable.
Tarth saddling her with a competent copilot would have been mildly insulting, but tolerable. But Tarala’s main and only talent seemed to be annoying her. She was related to Tarth, somehow, a distant cousin of some sort. Related enough to believe she could boss me around.
For now, Xolly put up with it. I’ll show that bastard Tarth what I’m worth. It’s poetic justice, having the chance to kill Theus, the man who ruined my life.
She made another tweak to the raider’s thrusters, keeping just the right distance from the yacht. In theory, with the same orbital trajectory as the yacht, she could keep the raider in a narrow window that just barely maintained line of sight to Tarth’s old yacht. In theory, this meant that Xolly could detect any vessel approaching the yacht, while remaining undetected by that vessel. In theory, I live in a meritocracy, and with hard work and a good attitude I can join the elite. Theories are great until they collide with reality.
A proximity alert pinged. “What’s that?” Tarala asked.
She’s completely worthless! “It’s on your console,” Xolly replied. “You tell me.”
Tarala harrumphed, but pulled up the tactical display and studied it. “There’s a small ship approaching, from the opposite side of Royale 11. It looks like it’s headed for the yacht.”
“How small?” Xolly asked. “Could it be a SpaceGuard shuttle?”
Tarala frowned. “I don’t know, how do I check that?”
Xolly violently stabbed her finger at the image of the ship, bringing up an expanded view.
“Oh,” Tarala shrugged. “It’s about the right size — could hold maybe five or six passengers. But it’s not transmitting an identification signal.”
“Do you really think Keldt would be broadcasting openly?” Xolly sneered. “After she stole one of her own shuttles? No, it’s her, and she’s got Theus. I’m going to drop back for a few minutes, just in case they can detect us. Then I’ll move back into line of sight and we can get a closer look.”
“But we’ll lose track of them. Sarryl wanted us to watch them closely,” Tarala whined.
The voice of Tarth, sitting just off my right shoulder. How nice. “They’re not going anywhere. Keldt will take a minute to assess the situation before she docks. I want to make sure she doesn’t see us.”
Xolly eased back the thrusters. On the tactical display, the yacht and the approaching craft moved slowly out of range. On the other side of the tactical display, Tarala’s eyes stared at her with passive-aggressive reproach.