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7.

After a brief communication with the Primoid cruiser, Park arrayed her fighters, including Acevedo, Santos, Li and Green, who were just getting there.

“First wing: Alpha, as is. Rachel, you guys get first shot at those bay fighters. You and Clay go in first, you’re less likely to completely destroy your target. Second wing: I’ll take Acevedo and Bain and Leith, and we’ll be on watch for the others to come out of their tunnels. Beta, Li, Green, Izawa, Apple: you bottle up the defensive armaments. Those we don’t have any need to capture. Anyone left out?”

“The Primoid fighters?” asked Clay. “What if we see them?”

“Can’t believe you get to go in first, Tail,” said Vera.

“Hey now.”

“Just don’t shoot at any of them,” said Park. “They already are our allies.”

 

They dropped toward the moon’s mostly flat pale surface, and headed for an installation partly visible buried under the floor of a large crater. Big skylights and swaths of solar panel surrounded three closed hatch-like entrances of different sizes and shapes.

“It’s the round one,” said Clay.

“You think?” replied Rachel. “You ready for this, Clay Gilbert?”

Clay let out a breath. “Yeah,” he said. “Your mark.”

Rachel put a marker on the center of the largest hatch. They were decelerating at max, but the hatch came at them fast. “Pinpoint,” she said, and he flicked his laser weapon to its narrowest beam. They both fired at the hatch: clever girl, she’d given him a different spot from her. The hatch popped open. They were through. Somehow they were standing still.

The base’s bay branched: a wider way bent left as it went down into the moon, and a narrower way, three meters wide, took a 90 degree right and went horizontally under the moon’s surface. Clay went that way and Rachel the other.

He rounded a bend and came under fire. He returned fire, cussing as his upper left flectors went down. There was a little electronic explosion ahead of him as the robotic emplacement shooting at him blew up. “Damn it,” he said to himself, “if I shoot at the Fyaa like that, I’ll blow the assholes up and Rachel will be vexed.”

“I heard that,” said Rachel from a few hundred meters away. “Anything? I got nothing. Freight bay.”

“I blew the crap out of an unmanned gun,” said Clay. “Bend. What is this thing, a—?”

Right in front of him, meters away really, there was a T intersection, and there was a Fyaa fighter, skinny and sort of bent wrong, as if its designers were slightly deranged. He fired wild; the Fyaa fired precisely, hitting him in a main control node. His computer and combat systems disappeared.

“Crap. Crap crap crap.” He disgustedly hit buttons, gave sarcastic voice orders. But everything was down except his view screen and his engine. The Fyaa fighter was sitting there in front of him. Laughing at him.

Well, he still had thrust. He had plenty of thrust. He moved up and bumped the Fyaa fighter, which bounced sharply away. He bumped it again, and it smacked the wall and bounded sickeningly sideways. Then Clay was pushing the thing back against the back wall, a closed hatch into a maintenance area. He floridly cursed the Fyaa ship.

Finally he backed off. The Fyaa fighter looked like it had been through a demolition derby, which it had. His Ghost wouldn’t be looking much better. Behind him, he now saw a very fine looking spacecraft indeed: Rachel was in the T intersection.

“Of course,” he said to himself, and this time it really was to himself, “comm’s out too.”

So he backed up to the T intersection. She didn’t move. Instead, she shone a light, not a laser but a floodlight, at the Fyaa craft. It didn’t look especially salvageable as a whole, but its parts were mostly intact. And from it, as they watched, a tiny vac-suited figure appeared. It floated toward them slowly, waving its four little arms in surrender.

 

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