No Exit

Reaper Storyhead

Aboard the Runner II, Eystur, Heimatar

He had learned his lesson from the loss of the Vanguard. Of course, every veteran pilot had said it time and again – “Don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose.” Not that the ship was that expensive to replace, but replacing the crew on short notice had been a disaster and getting a new Probe at a decent price had required a very long and somewhat dangerous trip out of the way, which could very well have resulted in the loss of the Vanguard II before it could have even been put into real service.

Instead of going to look in remote systems, he tested out the new crew in Eystur, a safe, heavily populated Republic system, scanning for things he figured he wouldn’t find. He was shocked how quickly he found a stable wormhole in the busy system. He had returned the Vanguard II to dock, and taken out this Reaper, which he could both afford to lose and operate fully without a crew, and jumped through the hole.

He dropped a return beacon at the hole, and started planet-hopping. It would be interesting to see how the resources were and how the planets were being used by the people who must occasionally visit there.

The resource deposits were unreal. Off the scale compared to most of the worlds he had scanned down – even the lowsec ones. As he investigated world after world, his concern grew. Every base he found was tagged to the same corporation – the Sons of Alexander. Something made him sense that, after the third planet of finding the same, this was no unoccupied tourist hole like the last one.

Lost in thought, he nearly missed the new blip on his sensor readout. The Sons of Alexander Manticore stealth bomber had appeared from nowhere.

He banked toward the align path to the wormhole marker, but it was too late. The torpedoes meant for much larger targets shredded the Reaper instantly like so much tissue paper. But Rhavas was ready, and smiled a smug smile as his pod shot toward the marker he had left at the wormhole exit.

His confidence had been misplaced – he had left his return beacon too far out. A Sons of Alexander Onyx heavy interdictor was waiting between him and the hole.

Scourge missile signatures, light, heat, pain … and back to the clone bay in Hek. More lessons learned. At least this time, Rhavas thought, he had been in the right ship to learn those lessons.

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