​Kaine's Reparation: Sample Chapter co​​​​ntinued...

​Whatever he stole was not something they were willing to let go of easily. It was a lot of overkill to apprehend a single scavenger kicking around a junkyard for spare parts.


Every planetary system they visited over the past six months had a different way of coping with the collapse of the interstellar jump gate, but one thing was common among them. They were all xenophobic in the extreme. The once united Confederation of almost a thousand suns was fragmented and formerly connected worlds were now isolated. Forced to rely on their own resources, it seemed a human tendency to protect whatever remained, even if it was useless.
With even the closest occupied systems years apart at light speed, humanity had been plunged into a dark age. Hayden feared what the long term outcome would be if the situation persisted much longer.


His speakers crackled with demands for him to stand down and prepare to be boarded. He was in no mood to comply. Plotting an evasive course, he broke orbit and rocketed away from the planet.
The four pursuing ships were now joined by two more, and they were closing on him.


A red light bloomed on his console, informing him his engine was overheating. The sub-orbital fighters did more damage to his ship than he’d realized. Entering his command override, he closed the alarm down, and pushed his thrust to the maximum while he still could.


Even with his intervention, the AI system would shut everything down when it reached critical temperature. There was nothing he could do to prevent that. He would be at the mercy of those who chased him. Based on their unfriendly reaction to him, he doubted they would give much credence to his reasons for violating their airspace.


Another alarm flashed, and a klaxon boomed. The ships had fired a missile. Hayden had only a few seconds to brace for impact, and he prayed his ship’s hull held.


His ship shook. His engine output sputtered as it was shut down.
Now, with only inertia to carry him, he was minutes away from interception.


He mentally kicked himself. He was given the opportunity to install weapons in addition to the defensive armour. He declined because if he thought he could survive a firefight he might be tempted to take unnecessary risks. He didn’t want to hurt anyone. Now such naive sentiment was going to get him captured or killed when they learned his identity.


An hour from his rendezvous at full burn, there was little chance of him escaping. Activating his comms, he issued a mayday. Pavlovich would be pissed. This was supposed to be a stealth operation. The last thing anyone wanted was to attract attention. Now, if this mission had any hope of success, he was going to need some assistance.


After a long interval with no response, Hayden repeated his distress signal.


Still no reply.
 His pulse racing, he expanded his broadcast to the other channels. He didn’t really care at this point if his pursuers heard him call for help.


Silence was his only reward.


The ships would be on him in a few minutes. He tried to reactivate his engines, but the failsafes prevented him from doing so.


The speaker crackled to life, and, for a brief moment, his heart raced in anticipation of hearing Pavlovich’s gruff admonition. Instead, an unknown voice ordered him to prepare to be boarded.
Now it came down to likelihoods.


When they arrived, they would search the ship and find the pilfered component. Once it garnered the attention of the authorities, it would become impossible to retrieve. It was an outcome he could not be allow to happen.
 Without the object, humanity was defenceless against a threat it couldn’t imagine.


A cynical laugh escaped Hayden. There was a good chance even with the component and what it would lead them to, the human race was doomed. He and the others had been chasing this ghost for months and were no closer to learning what the cynosure was. During that time, they convinced themselves it was the last great hope. Nobody really knew how it might help. So desperate was the situation, they were grasping at myths and legends.


All he understood was the Malliac horde would eventually arrive. When that happened, no one stood a chance.


He unbuckled and retrieved his prize. Pushing off from his chair, he floated to the storage locker.
Rummaging through it, he carelessly tossing items aside to drift about. His desperation grew as his search failed to turn up the item he knew had to be there. If he got through this, he promised himself he would adhere to Cora’s demands he keep things better organized.


Finding what he sought, he checked to assure himself it was charged. After setting its delay timer, he duct taped it to the contraband component, then launched himself across the cabin to the galley, even as the insistent voice over the speaker demanded his reply.

 
With a manic chuckle, he forced his package into the waste disposal chute. Before he closed it, he jammed other random objects in until it was filled. He had no idea if his plan would work, but the time for brainstorming was over. He heard the sound of trucking thrusters being clamped to his hull, and knew his time was almost up.

 
Forcing himself to be patient, he waited for the right moment. His hand tightened on his handhold as he anticipated what would come next.


When the attached rockets fired to bring his ship to heel, his body was jerked forward. Only his grip on the handle prevented him from being dashed against a wall. He pulled himself back and hit the ejection release. They’d interpret the cloud of debris escaping as damaged parts shaken loose by the braking maneuver.


Hayden pushed himself toward the storage locker and removed a pressure suit, in case they decided not to use the docking hatch. As he activated the HUD, a proximity alert came up. Another, much larger ship approached at high speed.


He hurried to the pilot seat and strapped himself in. A quick review of the sensors showed his captors breaking off and fleeing.


A loud voice boomed in his ear. “Your new playmates didn’t stick around, Kaine. Was it something you said?”


Pavlovich had arrived in Scimitar, and he didn’t sound pleased.

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