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Freighter Stardance, stand down any weapons and lower screens. Turn to position three-three-niner and prepare for inspection.”


I winced. I don’t like this at all. I left the voice pickups turned off, looking toward Desantis and Jack. “Turn to position, but lay on the speed, Mac. I’m not in any mood to be inspected today.”

He winced, too, but nodded. The look he gave me told me that he wanted to ask why we were running. Then it seemed to hit him. “You don’t want them to know about the guns.”

“Now you’re using your head.” I don’t want to blow my cover, either. “Too many of them to hide quickly. Get ready to run.”

“We’re not going to start shooting at them, are we?” Jack slowly straightened from his lean, watching as the Vanguard closed on us.

I shook my head. “I’m not in any mood to get blown out of the sky, either.” I flicked the voice pickup on. “This is the freighter Stardance. What’s this about?” We were getting closer to the position they’d designated for us—and so were they. They’re playing a game and I’m not sure I like what I’m seeing.

“Reduce speed to zero, Stardance, and lower screens.”

“We seem to be having an engine malfunction, Vanguard, wait one.”

Desantis flicked off the voice pickups. “They’re blocking our exit vector, Cap’n.”

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