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Ghost Squadron: Evolution

Snippet 4


Intelligence Center, QBS ArchAngel, Lorialis System.

Julianna was already in the Intelligence Center when Eddie arrived.

Harley ran over, wagging his tail at him, his tongue hanging limply from his mouth. Eddie kneeled over, rustling the dog on the top of the head.

“Hey there, Jules. Saw the list of new recruits you brought in. We’re starting to fill out a bit, aren’t we?” Eddie smiled at Marilla who was hunched over her desk, same as usual.

“Not as fast as I like, but yes, we’re making progress,” said Julianna. She gave Chester a nod, letting him know to proceed with the briefing.

Chester smiled. “Thanks for joining me. I found something I thought you both might want to see. I only just picked up on it,” he said, blowing up the image on the largest screen above his desk. “This is a shot taken from Federation Border Station 7.”

He zoomed in on the image until a small ship came into view. Eddie raised his brow at the image. This ship—it was a Black Eagle, albeit heavily modified. It looked to be painted gray, unlike the standard charcoal color Eddie was used to seeing. There were black streaks on the nose that appeared almost like whiskers and something on the side that resembled a fin.

“What’s going on here?” asked Eddie, stepping forward and narrowing his eyes. “What’s a Black Eagle doing out here and why does it look like someone pulled it apart and pieced it back together? Don’t tell me that’s a Federation ship.”

“I don’t think so,” said Chester. “Which is one of the reasons that I alerted you. This guy, from everything I’ve been able to tell, just flew in from the Frontier. I don’t think he realized he was close enough to Station 7 for anyone to get a shot of him.”

“How did you get this feed?” asked Julianna.

“I picked up some of the comms traffic from Station-7. They tried to make contact with him when he was close enough, but he cut the line as soon as it happened. He tried his best to stay off the radar.”

“Tried?” asked Eddie.

“Well, he did sever the line with Station-7, but I had already leeched into his comm, which granted me the opportunity to track his movement.” Chester rubbed his hands back and forth, a cunning look in his eyes.

“You’re one smart son-of-a-bitch. Have I told you lately I’m glad you’re on our side?” said Eddie with a laugh.

“You haven’t said it nearly enough for my liking,” joked Chester.

“He likes having his ego stroked more than Harley likes his head scratched,” said Marilla, not looking away from her screen.

“It’s true. I’m just like a dog.” Chester tapped on his keyboard, enlarging the image of the ship even more. “Anyway, just before the comm severed completely, I heard the guy in this rogue ship say, ‘Damn Federation can’t protect me from the Brotherhood. No one can.’”

“Brotherhood? He said that?” Julianna asked, standing up straighter. Harley had eagerly been eyeing her, like hoping she’d acknowledge him or maybe even pet him. She’d kept her eyes trained on the image over Chester’s desk.

“Yeah, that’s what got my attention. Hence why you’re here,” said Chester.

“What’s that on the side of the ship?” asked Eddie.

“I’ve been trying to find out. The image is getting cleaned and I’m hoping a clearer version refreshes soon. The cameras on Station-7 aren’t the greatest, but we should be grateful they captured what they did.” Chester pushed up his glasses just as the image refreshed, magnifying the text on the side of the Black Eagle.

“DTC?” asked Julianna, squinting. “Am I reading this right?”

“I’ve seen that before,” said Eddie. “Not long ago when I was visiting a fringe planet.”

“You mean when you were taking a drunken tour of bars on shitty planets?” asked Julianna.

“Yes, actually,” said Eddie, giving her a wink. “Tons of bar fights. Lots of waking up in alleys. Good times.”

“What’s it stand for?” asked Marilla, poking her head above her desk.

Eddie thought for a moment. “Defiance Trading Company, if I remember right,” he finally answered. “They deal in black market weapons. The Federation pushed them out of their borders a long time ago, the last I heard. I don’t know much more about them, though.”

“Which means if this guy is flying around next to the border,” began Julianna.

“Then something’s gone wrong,” Eddie said, completing her sentence as his gaze drew distant.

“Something involving the Brotherhood, it sounds like,” said Julianna.

“Yeah, if they’re after him, then there has to be a reason. I’m guessing this guy has some stories he could tell us.” Eddie stood tall, the adrenaline already starting to pound in his veins. “Commander,” he said, glancing at Julianna. “You up for an impromptu game of hide and seek?”

She grinned. “Absolutely.”

Marilla chimed in. “I’m guessing this guy is going to do his best to give you the slip. He sounds scared.”

Eddie nodded. “Which means we need to double our odds. I’ll have Lars come along. We can practice that pincer movement we were talking about yesterday,” said Eddie, his voice growing more excited.

Julianna smirked. “Thanks Chester for keeping your eyes on the radar and constantly scanning. Good work.”

Chester leaned back, placing his hands behind his head. “Someone has to have eyes out there.”

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