The wave-o-scopes in the office crackled with news from the Kingdom of Colores and the reporters at the Logansport daily struggled to process what had happened; to put together a headline and what few facts they knew in a way that helped to inform the citizens of their isolated world of the gravity of the situation without creating a frenzy for war. But there were adverts to sell and deadlines to meet. Mistakes are sometimes made in the news business, and when they are we might all pay the price. But not this time. This time . . .
Project Iowa, Episode 5
Colorado Rex-Avis and her team race back to the RACT Enhance and rendezvous with their escort, the command cruiser TFS Alecto.
While Inquisitor Guimar and his companions make their escape to the Imperial Attack Transport Furribundus.
"That's a big damn ship," Guimar says to his helmsman. "And they've cut us off from our route out of here."
"Yes. Yes it is," the ensign replies. "But we won't need to fight, since we can outrun them. And I assure you, sir, our own forces are more than a match for such as these. They can't block every path. While you dealt with the heretics I scouted around the system and I believe I've isolated the spinward end of the route they must have used to get here. If we travel along it, we can break out in the Tartarus Rim and run through coreward towards Holy Terra. If I'm right about where we emerge, it will be almost due south."
Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Enhance . . .
"What will we do, Colorado? They're getting away with the imploder. That thing might be the one advantage we have if the Terrans decide to come knocking around."
"Oh, Sir Stanley! Don't you worry too much. Arthur and I didn't leave the back door unguarded like a couple of newbs! There's a plan. Those poor saps won't know what hit them."
Sir Stanley felt inwardly relieved at her smile, but quietly wondered precisely what she and Arthur had cooked up.
Meanwhile on the opposite end of Red Route 1 . . .
"Splendid!" cried Captain Sieghimmel. "The helsman was precisely correct! We've emerged into the Blanding System. Three jumps will take us to Anesidora. From there I think I can navigate to the Erinyes Stars and thus avoid the major checkpoints at Proserpine, Tartarus Gate, and Kerberos. And see? There's a Rim merchant in the distance we've just identified! We can stay in her shadow for a while, so long as she doesn't do anything crazy."
"What's that contact off the port bow?" asked Guimar.
"That? A modular launch. It's a small merchant on an old standard plan. There're still quite a number of them out this way. Nothing alarming. It's squawking a Helvetic ID . . . Golf Bravo Alpha Foxtrot Mike . . . Nelson? Come over here. Have a look at this. I need you to check it out stat!"
"Sir, it's not maneuvering and it's on something very close to a collision course. We received a somewhat garbled transmission saying they needed to bring their thrusters online and it would take a moment . . . Sir? Oh sh . . . "
To be continued
The saga starts with Episode 1: New Friends from the Tartarus Rim from the Governor General of Sector Six. My own more journalistic and less complete telling begins with Moab Daily News: Rex Avis to Sector Six.
Continued in Episode 6: Snow Drop.