Episode 1: Lights Out

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The Dauntless—an Imperium Navy starship–vanished while answering a distress call outside the borders of imperial space. Ship and crew: gone.

The Red Kestrels, paramilitary activists and outer-sector thugs, are thought responsible. But, for a small, fringe group like the Kestrels, pulling off a heist of this scale and risking the wrath of the empire isn’t just unlikely, it defies reason.

Imperium field-operative Samantha Mori is hunting down a Kestrel lead when startling new intelligence offers a more plausible—and damning—explanation, one which threatens not only her mission, but the stability of the empire. When a dangerous figure from her past offers an ultimatum, Samantha must abandon her plans and turn to an unlikely ally that no one, including herself, would have suspected.

Far outside the empire, freelance ship captain Decker Sagan is out of both funds and luck. When an unsavory offer for easy money arrives, he is forced to consider that his principles might be a luxury he can’t afford. One quick job, what could go wrong?

With all her loyalties severed, Samantha’s adversaries have all the advantages: they are ten steps ahead, have unlimited resources, and control the story they want the public to hear. Samantha has just one: everyone underestimates how much damage a rogue agent with a vendetta can do.

And Samantha is determined to show them.

“Lights out in three, two, one. Go.”

The voice in Samantha’s ear went silent just as the power to the overhead lights were cut, the night vision overlay of the hallway coming to life through the transparent surface of her visor. Wasting no time, she pivoted away from the wall she had been pressed against and sprinted into the room. 

Samantha’s visor automatically adjusted the augmented overlay of the image it projected onto her retina to compensate for the contrast of light and dark, allowing her to see the layout of the room even as her targets scrambled to comprehend what was happening. Though the lights in this section of the building had been deactivated, the computer systems that lined the walls and desks all had their own uninterruptible power supplies, their screens and indicator lights leaving just enough darkness for Samantha to do her work.

A trio of figures were starting to react to the sudden darkness, their silhouettes outlined and easily identifiable in Samantha’s enhanced vision. The one closest to the door had begun to turn just as Samantha was upon him, the curved blade of her karambit finding little resistance as it cleaved through his neck. Unable to cry out or raise his arms in self-defense, the man fell to the ground in a lifeless heap.

Two remained: one seated directly in front of a terminal, still operating it with his back to the room, while the other target frantically tried to draw a weapon from a holster under his armpit. Samantha’s free hand shot out and released a small stun charge at the back of the seated man while her body continued hurtling toward the other. The stun charge hit its target, causing the seated man to jerk upward in his chair and gurgle in pain.

Samantha lowered herself into a crouch and lunged toward the other man’s midsection, her gaze locked on the man’s arm that was attempting to draw the energy-pistol of undetermined capacity from its holster. Before he could bring the weapon to bear, Samantha slammed her shoulder into his body, keeping the arm holding the weapon pinned crossways against his chest. They crashed together into one of the server racks bolted to the wall. He struggled to free his weapon, but, pressed against his body, Samantha was too close for him to train the muzzle of the weapon on her.

Keeping the weapon pointed away from her and anything else important, Samantha frowned at the lack of challenge. The man’s reaction was that of an amateur; he should have realized the advantage an attacker with a blade had over an opponent with a holstered weapon in close-quarters. Instead of countering her grapple, he was focused on maneuvering himself into an effective firing position. Had this been a training exercise, Samantha would have ordered a restart, explained the tactical error, and forced her opponent to go again. But this wasn’t training, and this opponent would never have a chance to benefit from any lesson.

Samantha thrust herself up from the crouched position, the curved blade of the karambit protruding from the bottom of her fist. The tip sliced through the man’s clothing and bit into the soft gap of flesh between two of his ribs, cutting a path through sinew, lung, and heart. Samantha gave the weapon’s handle one more shove before ripping her arm back and letting the body collapse. 

Two down.

She turned to the last target, the one she was here for. Despite the effects of the stun charge, the man had scooted his chair back from the desk and turned toward the center of the room. Samantha closed the distance between them and—karambit still in hand—grabbed the thick fabric of the man’s jacket collar. Careful to avoid the stun charge and its effects, she yanked him from the chair. Unable to put up any resistance, he half-fell, half-flew through the air and smashed into a patch of wall between computer hardware, his chair tumbling to its side.

“Time index?” she murmured, pressing a button on the comm wrapped around her forearm that deactivated the stun charge. The man let out a gasp and slumped, his body no longer contorting from the charge’s effects.

“I was not exactly keeping time, but I can assure you it felt very impressive.”

Samantha scoffed, looking toward the ceiling. “Not keeping time? I don’t buy it. Roll the recording back and count if you have to.”

“I do have other things I need to be attending to at the moment. Mission related things,” the voice in her ear replied, making no attempt to mask its toothless disapproval.

Samantha stood in the center of the room, eyes on the man who was crumpled and struggling to breathe against the wall. In the corner of the overlay in her augmented vision, she saw a command from the ship in orbit flash an activation status to her tacsuit. At the top of her back, just below her neck, a small drone, no larger than a hand, detached from a mounting point on the suit. Four small rotor arms flipped out, instantly stabilizing it into a hover. It glided to the now-unoccupied computer and attached itself to the terminal where tiny, tendril-like probes emerged from the drone’s body and embedded themselves into the terminal’s access ports.

“Eight seconds from lights-out to body-against-wall. Seven-point-five if you want me to count from the moment he left the chair. Of course, if you really want to review the recording, I can have a copy find its way to your personal files.”

“Not necessary. Felt shorter, though.”

“Yes. Right. Beginning data transfer.”

Samantha grinned at the dry voice in her ear. A data transfer indicator appeared in a tiny readout in Samantha’s visor display as the drone began collecting. Samantha also had something she was here to collect, though what interested her was not technically part of the mission objective.

She stepped to the center of the room and crouched to pull the red scarves from around the necks of the two dead bodies that lay in their awkward final poses. The scarves were trophies and collecting them was explicitly condemned by the agency whose business was supposed to be objective and impersonal. Each kill was regrettable, not something to commemorate. That was the official stance, but, as long as she kept the macabre habit discreet—and kept completing her missions—her superiors pretended not to notice.

The scarves dangled in her grip, flitting in the air as she moved. She pulled the overturned chair up off the ground and set it upright in front of the man on the floor. He was still struggling to regain his faculties, drawing in ragged breaths through a broken and bloodied nose, courtesy of his face’s impact with the wall. He had scooted to the side, leaning his weight against one of the server racks mounted to the wall. One hand clawed to find a grip on the tangle of cables that ran down the rack’s side, his eyes still blinking tightly open and closed as he fought to regain lucidity.

Samantha straightened the chair and tested its stability. Still good. She seated herself and swiveled so she was facing the man. Leaning forward, she rested her elbows on her legs, letting her hands hang between her knees, the tritanium karambit—a non-standard weapon from her personal collection—dangling on her finger by the safety loop at the base of its handle. As the objective had been obtaining information, both verbal and digital, discharging an energy weapon near the computers was to be avoided. That is where the karambit had come in. Though, if she were being truthful with herself, using the blade would have been her preference even if there had not been sensitive equipment present. 

Samantha let the knife swing back and forth gently like a pendulum as she waited for the signal in her ear. The man’s face, and everything else in the room, was unevenly lit by a mix of glowing screens and harsh shadows. He winced in the flickering light created by the chaos of Samantha’s entry.

“Transfer is complete. Local data wiped,” the voice in her ear said. On the desk behind her, the hand-sized, insectile drone finished its digital feeding. The tendril-like probes detached from the terminal—its prey—and retreated into the drone’s body. The four small rotors at the end of its splayed arms came to life, lifting the drone back into the air and gliding it across the room, stopping just over Samantha’s shoulder.

Samantha took in a deep, cleansing breath and rotated the translucent visor up over her forehead, the device’s arms connecting to a pair of flat, circular, pivot plates adhered just behind her ears that linked to the tacsuit’s embedded computer. She exhaled slowly and looked to the man in front of her with a puzzled expression. 

“Eddie, do you know why I am here?”

Eddie breathed heavily through his nose, specks of blood spattering out as he did. Trails of red mixed with sweat, running down his mouth and chin in rivulets.

“Someone sends a hit squad out for a Fring like me? To get at the computers? You just killed the people who knew things. I’m just their tech. I’m not worth shit!”

Eddie turned his head and spit out a mouthful of blood, refusing to make eye contact with Samantha. She’d read his file; he was not just a tech. He’d been picked up by local system authorities multiple times in the past for high-end computer crimes, targeting corporations, municipalities, and financial institutions. If he shaved his thin goatee and put on some proper professional attire, Eddie could have passed as a legitimate businessperson. But, that wasn’t how he’d chosen to apply his skills. Eddie was no stranger to being squoze by the authorities, though this time, it would be a little different from what he was used to.

“Ah, he does not suspect who we are. That is good. I wonder how many groups he assumes are looking to kill him. Must be hard to keep them straight.”

“Hit squad?” Samantha looked over her shoulders dramatically. “It’s only me, Eddie. Just you and me. Well, and him,” she said, nodding toward the remote-controlled drone that had moved to hover a few feet over her head, bobbing up and down with its insect-like eyes pointed at them. Eddie eyed it apprehensively.

“No one ever knows what to think of the drone. Maybe it needs a nickname. Humanize it a bit.”

Samantha stopped dangling the karambit and flipped it up into her hand, casually gesturing at Eddie with the curved tip. She bobbed the blade up and down, emphasizing each word that she spoke. “You brought me here, Eddie. The Dauntless, impressive op, vanishing an Imperium patrol cruiser.”

Eddie stared up at her, a hint of pride in his eyes he could not hide. “Got the navy’s attention then?”

“Navy?” Samantha feigned bemusement, glancing down at her tacsuit. “You see a uniform? No, Eddie, the navy has their own operation underway for recovering the Dauntless and punishing those responsible. I’m more concerned with how a back-sector group of Fringe irritants like the Red Kestrels intercepted the intelligence needed to plan such a stunt. I would not have thought the Kestrels were capable of that without help, and I’m here to extract that intelligence from you.”

Eddie’s eyes widened, then shifted to the gun that had been thrown across the room by his fallen comrade, just out of his reach. The drone pitched forward and maneuvered to hover in Eddie’s line of sight between him and the beckoning weapon. Samantha tilted her head, tutting with disappointment.

“Come on, Eddie. We tried that way already.” She gestured with the karambit to the two bodies behind her. “You don’t have to end up like them, you still have a chance to be useful and make it out of this alive.”

“If you and the bot there,” Eddie jutted his chin to the drone, “pulled the data off my rig already, there’s nothing else I can do for you. Like I said, I’m nobody.”

“He still thinks I am a bot. No matter, I suppose.”

Samantha nodded slowly and pursed her lips. “Don’t worry, your data will be analyzed by people far smarter than me. I’m here because I’m the people-person. A conversationalist.”

Bursting to her feet, Samantha threw the chair aside. It smashed against the wall and clattered down onto a pile of discarded computer parts. Eddie flinched and let out a muffled yelp, bringing his hands up to protect his face.

Samantha crouched and placed the hand still holding the two red scarves on the floor next to Eddie, her other fist still gripping the karambit. She leaned close. Dropping the glib affectation, she spoke matter-of-factly, “Enough. I know the Red Kestrels were responsible for luring the Dauntless to the space near the Protus Nine asteroid mining colonies with a phony distress call after having taken over the mining facility. That much the Dauntless had already reported back to navy command. But then the ship goes dark. Vanishes. By the time the Imperium shows up, there was no debris, no bodies, no one around. You know how it was orchestrated, so talk.”

Eddie gave a weak shrug. “You’re mistaken, because I don’t know.”

Samantha brought her karambit close to Eddie’s face. “This is how you want to do it? I know you’re my guy, Eddie, I just don’t know the specifics. Continued denial only makes it worse for you.”

“Careful. Playing ‘good-agent, bad-agent’ only works if you have someone there to play ‘good-agent.’ Presuming you are playing.”

Eddie’s face hardened. He looked away, spit, then grinned at Samantha with blood-soaked teeth. “I know nothing about a distress call or where this ship, whatever it’s called, would be. I heard rumors that an Imperium ship had left Imperium space with hostile intent and was trespassing in the Fringe where it shouldn’t be. Just like you here on Senali. If people were just defending their own territory from unlawful incursions, I can’t blame them.”

“That’s an awfully specific rumor. Memory coming back to you?”

“Word spreads fast, especially when it has to do with continued Imperium aggression.” Eddie pushed the back of his head against the wall, squeezing his eyes shut. “You pulled my data, and now you’re gonna cut my throat next. No point in talking and hurting our cause more.”

Samantha nodded, slipping the karambit into the magnetic sheath on her thigh. She raised the pair of red scarves and admired them for a moment, then tucked their ends beneath the tacsuit’s belt. Reaching into one of the many pockets that lined the form-fitting tacsuit jacket, she pulled out a small metallic case half the size of her hand.

Eddie’s eyes locked onto it, precisely as Samantha had hoped. She opened the case and removed a small remote control, keeping it in her hand as she pulled out another object. She held the device in front of her and smiled grimly. It was called a halo, used for medical procedures where the patient had to be kept unconscious, or nearly so. Eddie’s face wrinkled in fear as he tried to scoot away only to run up against the server rack, his heels looking for purchase on the floor but finding none.

“Oh fuck, no no no,” he said, shaking his head back and forth, eyes locked onto the device.

“You’re familiar with this then? Good.” She turned the device over in her hand, looking at it curiously, “I usually have to explain it.”

“You can’t use that. There are rules, right? Ways you have to treat captives?” Eddie sputtered.

Samantha looked around in bewilderment. “Captive? This is your place, Eddie. You’re nobody’s captive. And like you said, Senali isn’t in the Imperium, so their laws don’t apply here. But, trust me, there are worse ways to be forced to talk than this.”

“I find that assessment highly subjective, though the halo is less invasive. Also, I am obligated to remind you that Eddie is correct regarding rules. You are about to break several agency operational edicts if you employ that device.”

 “Mitigating circumstances,” she said. In a ship far up in orbit, she knew the voice had just started to say something but had stopped himself; guessing her invisible partner’s nonverbal communication was one benefit of a long-term working relationship. In the room, Eddie’s face contorted with confusion at the exchange.

Samantha unfolded the halo. It was a curved metal band shaped like a half-circle with two round nodes at each end. A black line ran down the center of the band, and each node had the Imperium-standard ‘medical’ symbol etched into it, an eleven-pointed star on the palm of an upright hand.

“See, if I hurt you—more than I already have—you’ll say anything to make me stop. Maybe the truth; maybe what you think I want to hear; maybe an elaborate, made-up tale. A waste of time for both of us.” Samantha twirled the halo in front of him. “With this, we get it over without a fight. I can go home, you can go… wherever people like you go. We’re all happy.”

“I do not think he will be terribly happy.”

Eddie held up his hands, shaking them back and forth in surrender. “So I can go? Look, I’ll talk, okay? I’ll talk! No tricks! The Dauntless, right? We got access to—”

Samantha shushed him sharply. “Stop, Eddie. Stop. I know you’ll talk. That’s why I brought the halo. I don’t need your cooperation and I don’t have the patience for more denials.”

Samantha leaned forward to place the halo across Eddie’s forehead. He brought up his arms to fend her off, grunting and trying to stand. He had fight in him, Samantha could give him that much, but resisting would only make this harder. She needed to get his hands away from his face.

In a flash of movement, Samantha pulled the halo back while her free hand effortlessly drew the karambit from its sheath. In one motion, she plunged the blade into the meaty part of Eddie’s shoulder, just above the collarbone. He screamed in pain as she placed her palm on the base of the handle and shoved the curved blade entirely into the muscle.

Eddie’s hands reflexively came up to grab the weapon and try to pull it out. While he was distracted and groping with both hands, Samantha slammed the halo onto his face, its nanoclaws initiating and gripping into the skin. She pressed the activation button on the remote and Eddie’s arms slumped to his lap.

“You know, he may start to lose trust in you.”

“I can live with that. Eddie and I won’t be talking again after tonight.”

Samantha grabbed Eddie’s chin and turned his head to face her. It lolled to the side. His eyes were drooped shut and his expression blank. He labored to breathe through his mouth, his nostrils clogged with congealed blood. Eddie was not doing too well and would only get worse.

“Eddie? Can you understand me?”

“Y-yeh,” came his strained response through the halo’s thick haze of neuro-interference. Samantha knew how Eddie felt right now. Most people feared the halo’s effects and fought against it. The neuro-interference could cause pain if the operator mishandled it or exceeded its safeguards, but pain only put up another barrier between the person and their thoughts. Samantha preferred the opposite. Numb them out and reduce the mental barriers, keep them in the fuzzy zone of lost inhibitions just between wakefulness and dreams.

“Okay, Julian, what do we want out of this guy?”

The drone lowered itself and hovered close to Eddie’s face, then turned to aim its eyes at Samantha. The corner of her mouth curled at the affectation. The drone had three-sixty degree vision, the movement was purely theatric; Julian liked to feel as if he was there in the room.

“Access keys to any Navy computer core are rotated on a synchronized daily schedule specific to each ship’s central encryption seed, linked with a master clock on Kestris itself. Those cores are not completely air-gapped, but close. Critical core processes require on-premise, physical access.”

Samantha took her gaze off Eddie and glared at the drone. “I’ll take the detailed explanation once we’re off Senali; how does this apply to the current interrogation?”

“Right. Well, if an external source accessed the Dauntless, it means the keys—or access to keys—were supplied the day of the attack. The initial assessment of the hijacking and lack of any debris indicates a non-invasive approach, meaning the Dauntless was likely compromised before any attackers set foot on its decks. As the Dauntless had no time to report any external attempts to board it and physically breach its core systems, that would indicate the ship was accessed from inside at some point in the past to obtain the keys before the attack itself.”

“Okay. Accessed ahead of time. Let’s dig into that,” Samantha muttered. She moved her head down in an attempt to make eye contact. “Eddie. Did the Kestrels devise a way to access the Dauntless’s core systems and bypass the normal safeguards to disable communications?”

“Sorta’. Had help,” he murmured.

She spoke firmly to Eddie, as if addressing a child. “Yes, I had presumed the Kestrels were helped. Who helped you plan your method? Was it someone on board the Dauntless at the time?”

Eddie’s words came out slurred and distant. “Huh? No.”

“Then it was someone from the outside. Who?”

“Uhh, boss.”

Samantha sighed. “Your boss here on Senali? Kat Basara?”


There was a brief pause. The drone bobbed. “There is no recent activity on Basara’s file to indicate she would have been anywhere near Protus Nine. She is not shy of being seen in public. We have confirmed sightings on Senali during the planning and attack window.”

“Covering their tracks. Okay.” Samantha continued, speaking slowly, “Eddie, your boss, Kat, can you tell me what she did to help you? What did she have that made this possible?”

Eddie groaned but didn’t answer. The shock from the stun charge, the knife in his shoulder, and the halo appeared to be more than his mind could manage all at once. 

“Setting is too high,” Samantha said as she made adjustments to the halo’s remote, increasing the neuro-arousal and decreasing the neuro-interference. Eddie’s body jerked as the effect shifted.

“Running sedation and arousal at the same time is not advised. You risk inducing a seizure. Or a coma.”

“He’ll be fine. Or not. Doesn’t matter.” Samantha lowered her face closer. “Let’s try again. Kat gave you information instrumental in the attack, so how did she get it? Kestrels intercept something I don’t know about?”

Eddied stared into the distance over Samantha’s shoulder. “Nah. They gave it to her.”

“Who gave it? Tell me a name.”

“Secret, dunno. Kat don’t say.” Eddie’s eyes opened and rolled back in his head. His broken nose and artificially relaxed throat made his voice gurgle.

Samantha leaned in closer. “Then tell me what it was. I know you know that much. What was Kat given that allowed this?”

Eddie answered through a cough, “Access.”

Samantha huffed in frustration. “Access? Eddie, I know you gained access. What did Kat give you that allowed for the access?”

“Access,” Eddie repeated, seemingly confused by Samantha’s reaction.

“Julian, any insight into this? Corporate sponsor in the Fringe selling military tech on the black market, or some vulnerability on the Dauntless the navy overlooked?”

“It is a possibility that this is a break-in, but I surmise it is much simpler than that. I could be wrong, but given the nature of the breach and surrounding circumstances after the fact, I believe he is being literal.”

Samantha’s eyes shifted to the drone. “Literal? Elaborate.”

“Well, hacking the daily rotating keys that allow access into a navy vessel’s core computer systems would require a tremendous amount of processing power and take, well, millennia to find a match. If one started at the beginning of the universe and attempted to process combinations of-,”

“Right. It’s difficult, I got it. What is relevant to me right now?”

“Yes, well, my guess is that the Kestrels breached the Dauntless as effortlessly as it appears. Someone with internal navy access gave them, well… access to the Dauntless the day of the attack. But, it could be that the Dauntless was not breached at all, but taken over with legitimate navy access.”

“Given access from within the navy?” Samantha scoffed at the thought. “You’re saying the Dauntless was set up and the Kestrels just… walked through the digital front-door?”

“It is a plausible hypothesis that would account for the Kestrels appearing to pull off something far outside their normal operational capabilities. If they had the keys to that metaphoric door, walking through unannounced is well within the realm of believability, even if the method they used to obtain said keys still defies our current understanding of the Red Kestrels’ capabilities.”

Samantha’s eyes narrowed. Julian wasn’t known for errant speculation. He was the analyst and controller, the brainpower of the operation. It wasn’t her job to doubt him.

“Eddie, did someone from the Imperium Navy provide legitimate navy access to Kat that allowed the Red Kestrels to seize the Dauntless?”


“Tell me. Who in the navy provided the access?”

Eddie’s eyes stared blankly across the room. He shook his head. “I dunno.”

Samantha’s voice took on an edge of desperation. “Kat never said who gave them to her?”

Eddie only shook his head, eyes still nearly closed.

Samantha grabbed his jaw, forcing him to look at her as she demanded answers. “Tell me about Kat. What’s her part in this? What do the Kestrels want from a warship knowing the kind of retaliation from the Imperium this stunt would bring? Think, Eddie.”

Eddie’s eyes turned to meet Samantha’s. “Piss off,” Eddie growled and coughed up more blood. Samantha checked the halo’s remote. It was at the edge of effective use. If pushed any harder, Eddie would start seizing.

“We need to conclude this interview. I see activity outside. A group of four have exited a vehicle on the skyway level and are entering the building. They are armed, moving fast and with purpose. You are to egress to the Nighthawk immediately.”

“Damn it, Eddie. You call your friends here to die as well?” Samantha said through clenched teeth. To Julian she said, “We can get more out of him. We can pull these servers. Turn this into a group interrogation and see if we can get anything from the four new victims entering the building.”

Eddie squinted at her, confused eyes flitting back and forth at the exchange. The drone dipped down to hover directly in front of Samantha’s face and tipped itself forward to emulate a frown of disapproval.

“Imprudent. We have no ground response team, and the Mosston cannot make planetfall in time if we did. Even you are unlikely to subdue four opponents who are expecting trouble on their own turf. We have sufficient information from the computers. I am starting egress protocols. Get to the roof.”

Samantha cursed sharply and stood. Egress protocols meant Julian was signaling to the captain of the Mosston and to Imperium command that the mission was concluded and they were to go on active alert until she was back on board. Having the local orbital patrol detect the Nighthawk as it left Senali’s surface and ascended to the rendezvous coordinates, however slim the chance, was a political black-eye the agency wanted to avoid. Samantha’s leash was pulled taut. Julian was right about egressing, even if she disagreed with his assessment of her chances against four more Kestrels.

She reached down and yanked the red scarf from around Eddie’s neck, then pulled the halo from his forehead. As soon as she removed the device, he gasped and fell to the side, his arms struggling to keep his body off the ground. She placed a foot on his abdomen and pulled the karambit from his shoulder. He screamed and jerked his body away, toppling over onto his side.

Samantha gripped his scarf in her fist and held it up to his face, pressing the bloody fabric against his cheek. Eddie could still be of use. Wiping the karambit clean against the fabric of Eddie’s shirt, she spoke with an insidious softness. 

“I want you to remember today. Tell your people what happened. The Imperium is watching, and we can find you anywhere. The Red Kestrels will not go unchecked. Taking the Dauntless was too bold of a move, and we know you had help. It was a mistake you’re all going to pay for.”

Eddie rolled his head and turned to face her. His eyes had not regained their ability to focus, and he seemed to stare into space far past her.

“The Imperium is weak,” he said through his haze, coughing as he did. “Falling apart. Tell the self-appointed High Imperius that he can choke on our blood, and soon his own. ‘We will stand to defend those who cannot defend themselves.’”

“I recognize that phrase. He is quoting one of the Kestrel founders. It is one of the sayings they use to rile up those they try to recruit.”

Samantha glared at Eddie. More Kestrel zealotry. The most dangerous part of these groups was that followers like Eddie actually believe what their leaders tell them.

She slipped the karambit back into its sheath and pulled the visor back down over her eyes. The device’s augmentation projectors picked up her retinal implant patterns and the visual overlay came back to life, the thin-lined interface floating in the air in front of her as the night vision reactivated. The drone maneuvered around behind her and attached itself back to the docking mount just below her neck, folding in its arms and becoming nothing but a smooth, flat bump.

“I have activated and engaged the Nighthawk’s drives. Mosston is moving to an intercept orbit. Course is set, just get inside and engage the autopilot.”

Samantha held up three red scarves and smirked, admiring her trophies. Her eyes shifted to Eddie. Killing him would spread a fair amount of fear throughout the Red Kestrel’s ranks, but letting him tell the story would spread more. He was compromised, they’d have no more use for him after tonight.

“Watch yourself, Eddie Renner. You’ve made some nasty enemies.”

She gave Eddie one last glance as she very noticeably stuffed his scarf into her belt with the other two. It wasn’t the biggest win in Samantha’s war against the Red Kestrels, but it was one that Eddie and his associates would not forget.

Operations officially finished, Samantha backed out through the doorway and disappeared into the darkened hallway. She turned and broke into a run, following the same path to the rooftop from where she had so silently arrived.

“Inbound to Nighthawk,” she muttered, knowing full well that Julian could see through her visor’s camera and could track her tacsuit down to the individual fiber. “See you onboard.”