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Lucky Universe – Raw Excerpt [Part 3]

“How are our readings, Malby?”

Malby looked curiously at Lucky. “Come again?”

“You getting any interference?”

Malby shook his head. “No, why?”

They reached the nearest of the small ships, which Lucky decided to call little giant. He leaned against the access point on the side and it slid open with ease.

“Defensive positions!”

Jiang looked over sharply. “Why? Just get Rocky to fly us the hell out of here!”

But Lucky was looking at Vlad now. “But we can’t, can we?” he said.

Her eyes widened. “I didn’t know.”

“Bullshit.”

Lucky flipped the clip on his pulse rifle in one practiced action, spinning the weapon on his palm.

Then he shot her.

Vlad exhaled sharply as she was thrown off her feet, the blast folding her head down to meet her feet, which in turn quickly rose above her head, and she somersaulted backward, flipping over and landing facedown.

“What the hell, Lucky!” screamed Jiang.

Lucky frowned at Jiang. “It was just a stunner.”

“Wicked,” said Cheeky with a grin.

“Vlad!” screamed Orton as he ran to her side.

“But why?” said Jiang.

Lucky looked over at Malby. “Time?”

Malby seemed to shake himself out of a stupor.

“Uh, one minute, give or take.”

The Marines instinctively started scanning.

“Rocky?”

“I’m working on it,” she said. “This place is crawling with Union dirtbags, especially aft.”

“Work faster.”

Lucky turned back to Vlad. Blood spilled from a gash on her head, and she clutched her arm where more blood was seeping out.

“You’re going to need to talk fast,” he said. “But I’m going to start. You know we can’t pass through the fold without those little magical orbs, those T’ket’ka. And there isn’t a single one of them here. We’d be getting interference like crazy being this close to them,” he said. “Everything you have done since the moment we arrived was about getting those antimatter orbs. You have known everything about them before we got here.”

“I didn’t—”

“Maybe you didn’t notice, but the lies are piling up,” he said. “You also said the Marines didn’t come inside the ship. But you knew where these little suckers were based on readings you got from your scientist pals inside the ship. Now I’m no CO, but there’s no goddamned way that your brainiacs were climbing around this ship, unattended, while the Marines held a circle jerk out front.”

Vlad opened her mouth, then closed it.

“You know this, right?” Lucky said to Orton. “I saw your face. She shouldn’t know what she knows about the layout, right? She has consistently known way more than you and your research buddies.”

Orton glared at Lucky, but he wasn’t disagreeing.

“Time!” he barked at Malby.

“Thirty seconds!”

“So, now we’re screwed,” he said. “Do you have some plan to save your own skin and get these orbs back to your precious Empire handlers? Now would be the time to unveil it to dramatic effect.”

Vlad curled her lip. “I don’t have to answer to an overgrown monkey with dead sister issues.”

Lucky jerked his head back like he’d been punched.

“I know the book on you, Lucky. It’s pretty thin. And for the record, everyone I’ve talked to at command agrees. It would’ve been better if she’d lived and you’d bought it. But you can’t pick who lives and dies. That’s war.”

“Score one for the bitch,” said Rocky. “Better play your cards.”

Lucky was rattled, but Rocky was right.

“Sounds like something the Da’hune would say,” he said.

“That doesn’t actually make sense,” Rocky offered.

“Shut up.”

He just wanted to get the word out there and see how she reacted.

It was Vlad’s turn to look like she had been punched.

Orton shook his head. “Who?” he said.

“Ask mama bear,” he said.

Orton turned to Vlad, reading her expression. “What is he talking about?”

Lucky answered for her. “This ship was real talkative inside the fold. I’ve got some answers that I bet your fearless leader here would really love to hear.”

“Ask and ye shall receive,” interrupted Rocky.

Two energy-banded locust drones burst into the room.

Cheeky jerked his rifle up to his shoulder.

Before he could squeeze off a shot, Lucky kicked the back of his leg, causing him to wobble and fire straight upward.

“Dammit!”

“Trust me, you don’t want to be shooting that.”

The locusts slipped into the little giant. A pearl-colored orb was suspended between them.

Vlad looked horrified. “You brought one of those here?”

“Well, since you couldn’t be bothered,” Lucky said. The drones slid the T’ket’ka into the shielded compartment that all the lines along the bottom of the container flowed into.

“We’re leaving, Marines!” he yelled. A smile crept onto his face. As soon as they were back through the corridor, this whole thing would be some else’s problem. They could figure out what the crazy scientists were up to—Empire and Union.

And he could go back to being very, very drunk and try to forget this whole episode even happened.

And most importantly, never give another order again.

“Hot damn!” said Malby, jumping inside.

Cheeky turned back to the ship doorway.

Jiang began slowly stepping back along the outside lip of the ship.

Farther down the hull of the craft, Dawson and Nico were doing the same.

Finally, Vlad seemed to break. “You’re right,” she said at last. “I have been hiding information from you. All of you. I didn’t know if you could be trusted.”

Lucky realized he was holding his breath.

“But you’ve got it all wrong,” she said.

And then the walls caved in on them.