Free Fiction: “The Watchers” – Part 7

‘The Watchers’ is a short story set in the universe of ‘Shallow Space’, exploring the worlds and people of this upcoming computer game. For more information on Shallow Space, visit our website.

(For previous chapters, click on the links below:
Part 6: The Big Rock
Part 5: The Sanctuary
Part 4: The Limp Home.
Part 3: The Flight.
Part 2: The Investigation.
Part 1: The Find)

7: The Illicit Route

“Check your navi computer,” Bones said, his high wattage smile equal parts pride and guilt.

Digger narrowed his eyes at Bones but booted up the computer. An image of the stellar system coalesced before him, the orbits of each major planet represented by a green ellipse. The six Jumpgates appeared at their expected places.
Then another blip appeared. And another. And another.

Digger stared at the screen in confusion, his brain struggling to comprehend what his eyes were seeing and what Bone’s open smile suggested.

“Maps?” he said finally. “You stole maps?”

Bones’ smile stretched his face to breaking point. “Salvage, Digger. It was an add-on to their navigation array down by their engines. Every Map in Shallowspace – that the Navy knows about – is now programmed into Asteria!”

Digger felt elation he’d never experienced before, the pressure of the last few days melting away, his chest a little higher, his spine a little straighter. He grabbed Bones’ shoulders. He could have kissed him. “Well done you drunken son of a bitch. Well fucking done.”

He turned to the controls and headed for the closest Map. “We’ll plot a route from Map to Map all the way back to base. Like hidden stepping stones that only we can see.”

“Unless it is the TCN chasing us, in which case they know all the Maps we now know.”

“But do they know we know?”

Bones growled and rubbed his forehead. “We’re not playing that game.”

Digger considered it, but liked his odds. Unless of course they knew who he was, and they knew what he knew, and they knew how he would think and knew he would then return to MFC HQ, then they should be safe.

If whoever was chasing him was omnipotent and knew all those things. . .then perhaps he should advise HQ he was coming in hot.

The Asteria effectively operated as an independent ship, almost like a contractor, but only in practical terms. Digger and Bones were bonded to MFC and they did technically have a supervisor. As long as Digger hauled what he was supposed to haul, when he was supposed to haul it, he was left the hell alone. But if he needed it there was a chain of command.

He considered sending a priority one signal to that supervisor to inform her of his arrival, but that might also just broadcast to these people his intentions.

No. He’d come in fast and cold. No other way.

“What’s the fuel like?” Digger asked.

“Your bunny Antonio topped her up. We’re good to go.”

Digger nodded. The comm lit up as the assembled freighter fleet assaulted the asteroid. They sounded like they were having fun. An excuse to use their weapon systems without the chance of anyone shooting back. Fish in a barrel.

Finally the asteroid fractured enough that its constituents would miss Lucifer or burn up on entry. Success.

“Well there goes the distraction designed to keep us occupied while someone did something nefarious to us. Now what?”

Bones grinned. “Now we keep our eyes open.”

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