Ophelia switched on her communicator. “We’ve got a lot of ships heading our way from all directions and I need options, fast.”
“We bring as many people over as we can and destroy the Space Blazer,” Grace’s voice suggested.
“That’s a lot of refugees dead,” Lucy observed.
“I know,” Grace stated. “But it may be the only way to get any of them out of here.”
“We could fight our way past the ones coming from our exit route,” Leon stated.
“No chance,” Kat said. “There are just too many and the others would be on us before we could break through.”
“Damn,” Ophelia muttered. “Farah, go get the shuttle. Cram as many in as you can. Hopefully, we can get three or four trips.”
“Wait, wait,” Elijah said. “I know you won’t like it, but there is another option and I’m the only one who has to take a major risk.”
“You have thirty seconds to explain,” Ophelia stated. “And make it good.”
“The preparations are almost complete,” Kat reported. “Yuri and I will be waiting for the inspection, assuming this crazy plan actually works.”
“Let’s hope it does,” Ophelia said. “Otherwise, we’re going to have no choice but to fight and it won’t end well.” She turned off her communicator.
“You worry too much,” Elijah said. “Trust me, it’ll work.”
“Lucy, hail them,” Ophelia said.
Lucy nodded. “Drothon vessels,” she said. “Special akumillian forces delegates of the Cerberus reporting. We’ve taken a wanted criminal into custody, please grant us passage to Akumil so that we can take him in.”
“And now we see if this might work,” Ophelia muttered.
“They’re hailing us,” Lucy said. “Audio and visuals.”
“On screen,” Ophelia said.
“Cerberus,” The drothon representative said, he scrutinised their bridge, spotting Elijah in cuffs. “That criminal is wanted by the drothon empire. You will turn him over to us for trial.”
“This man stole an akumillian ship,” Ophelia said. “We can’t just turn him over.”
“Hold on,” Lucy stated, interrupting their conversation. “Under regulation 53-TL, we can turn him over to them.” She glanced at the drothon captain. “Provided they allow us to take the stolen property back.”
“We have the superior numbers,” he stated. “You’re in no position to demand anything.”
“And we know that,” Lucy said, smiling. “But, Captain, you have no reason to lay claim to the ship and wouldn’t you rather not further strain diplomatic relations between our people?”
He stopped and gave the signal to mute their communication, quickly conversing with his crew, his back to them. Finally, he turned around. “There may be stolen property aboard that ship. If you’ll allow us to investigate it and remove anything belonging to us, we’ll permit you to take the ship itself.”
“Agreed,” Ophelia said. “I have two of my crew manning the ship to bring it back. I’ll let them know to await you.”
“One more thing,” he said. “He had a coranus accomplice. Did you see her?”
“Vaporised by one of my crew during the boarding raid,” Ophelia answered.
He laughed. “Good. Good. I think we can finish this well. I’ll send my investigation team over right away.”
He cut off communications and Ophelia breathed a sigh of relief. “So far so good,”she said. “Let’s just hope that Kat and Yuri don’t get caught.”
“If they do, I didn’t teach Kat well enough,” Lucy said.
Kat and Yuri waited at the docking bay. The drothon investigation team boarded, a young woman with a clipboard and a couple guards.
“Thilpia Fithul,” she said. “drothon empire investigations.”
“Katie Horne, akumillian special forces,” Kat returned. “Are these plants the goods you were referencing?”
“No,” Thilpia answered. “The merchandise I’m looking for is quite different.”
She headed directly for the cargo bay. When she opened it, there was nothing inside.
“Small cargo space,” Thilpia noted. “You could fit… maybe a dozen good-sized crates. What was this ship used for, exactly?”
“It’s a private cruiser,” Kat answered. “Used mainly for family trips.”
“I see,” she said, jotting down some notes. “Please continue the tour.”
The investigation team quickly concluded their search of the Blazer and Thilpia grabbed her communicator. “Captain,” she reported. “No merchandise was found. I believe that the prisoner probably has a hidden base where he stashes it.”
“We’ll have to get it out of him,” he said. “Good work. You may return.”
The team boarded the shuttle and returned.
“It is fortuitous that they did not think to check the Cargo Bay wall’s thickness,” Yuri observed.
“Very,” Kat agreed.
“As promised, you can have the ship,” he said. “I’ll bring a shuttle over to take custody of the prisoner.”
“We’ll be waiting,” Ophelia said. The communication ended. She turned to Elijah. “It’s all up to you and Leon now.”
“And your engineer,” Elijah said. “But I’m sure she’ll get the modifications done and this’ll all work out.”
“I wish I shared your optimism,” Ophelia said. “This is a very courageous stunt. Reckless, but courageous.”
“Just promise me you’ll get Ussie and them safely to Earth if it doesn’t work out,” Elijah said.
“You have my word,” Ophelia promised.
“Then it’s worth the risk,” Elijah said. “Come on, you’ve got to get me to the docking bay to turn over to them.”