by Travis Perry
The shuttle separated from Avenir, Ernsto’s steady hand guiding the controls. As the vessel pushed away from the station, the commo panel lit red.
“Government shuttle two alpha, this is Avenir Control, please respond.”
Ernsto grimaced before replying. He didn’t know much about spaceship protocols at this level. All his previous experience with Avenir Control had been to the lower cargo levels. “Control, this is two alpha, go ahead.”
“We have no scheduled flight itinerary for your vessel. Please dock at sector four bravo of the station ring until control receives your plan.”
“Sure, sector four bravo. Headed that way.”
He eased the vessel outward to the habitation ring. He actually had no idea where 4B might be relative to where he was, but he had no intention of docking anyway.
“Your current location is sector two,” volunteered control.
Ernsto steered the shuttle to follow the ring clockwise. Soon he passed some one hundred meters over a giant number 3 painted on the gray metal ring encircling the metallic dark shape of Avenir. So four should be next; bravo will be in the middle of the outer edge of the ring.
At 200 kph he hit sector four in less than 30 seconds. He maneuvered the shuttle to the edge of the ring and plunged downward. The alpha docking port at the top of the ring held a cutter with enforcer stripes. The vessel broke free from dock as he passed by and fixed a laser on his ship, a missile-guiding type, flickering spotty red at the rear of his cockpit window.
“Dock now or we will fire!” blared his radio. Ernsto accelerated hard, throwing as much rocket exhaust backward as possible.
Pressed hard into his seat at the four gee acceleration, his back screamed in agony. “Return to dock now or we will fire!” shouted his com system. He shut it off and plunged downward toward the gray skies of Eclectia below.
His anti-collision radar picked up no fewer than four vessels in pursuit, far more than would be expected from a missing flight plan. It seemed Hobson had found him already…