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The wormhole, what sailors called the Spiral Path, led to only one of the many dimensions in space-time. Unfortunately, Lara might not be crossing into any of them today.
"Gryphon, your launch slot has been denied," said a voice from Cassini Command. "Captain Soto, please report to the embark bay antechamber for inspection."
"Inspection? What's stuck up those Star Union asses now?" Camryn Rossa, Lara's first officer for the past eleven years, locked down her station and unsnapped her restraints.
Lara leaned back in her command chair and clicked her nails on the arm. Those damned royal pains. All her permits were in order, immaculate even. The Gryphon's manifest had been logged days ago. Star Union officials could be sticklersespecially out here at Cassini Stationbut no one had ever denied her launch before. No one would dare threaten a Creed aristocrat, even one with a reputation as tarnished as hers. Plus, pissing off the Creed prime minister by detaining her daughter could destroy diplomatic relations, which meant the Union might have finally given up on peace.
Except, like the rest of her crew, Lara wasn't just Creed, she was also half-Terran. In other words, a Chimeranborn of both dimensions. And neither Terra nor Creed trusted the Chimerans. They were unnatural, after all.
Lara's stomach clenched and a cold sweat shivered on her skin. Maybe the Union was finally trying to make good on their threat to enslave her and her Chimeran crew. Maybe her days of freedom were over.
"Captain, are we going?" Cam stood statue-still and patient, gods bless her, hands clasped behind her back. Despite walking out of the Union Academy with her over a decade before, the woman had learned her lessons well. No way could Lara let her longtime friend down now.
Lara stood and smoothed the creases out of her leather jacket. Outside the viewport, Saturn's rings floated behind its moon Titan. She glanced at her young navigator. "Chandra, you have the conn. If we don't return in fifteen minutes, blow through that launch bay and rendezvous with the Centaur on Alpha Haven."
The ensign swallowed and nodded but took her command seat without hesitation. "Yes, ma'am."
Lara clenched her jaw. This was the boy's third mission. If anything happened to Chandra, his uncle would kill her.
"Expecting trouble?" Cam fell into step beside her. "We're not even transporting anything illegal this time. What's Union's diss?"
"I have no idea, but activate your wrist-sync." Lara kept her gaze trained ahead and pushed her panic away. If the Union wanted a fight, she'd give them one, but not at the risk of her crew. She'd ceased following their orders a long time ago. "We're stopping at the weapons locker on our way."
Mitch stared out Cassini Station's viewport at the C.S. Gryphon, the command ship of Lara Soto's little Chimeran navy. After Lara walked out on him eleven years ago, asking for her help was the last thing he ever saw himself doing. And he'd be damned if he'd ask for it now.
No, as a Star Union citizen, Lara would fall in line and obey her duty. Or she'd be spending some time in Cassini's brig, to hell with her aristocratic Creed family connections.
"Captain Soto and XO Rossa have left the Gryphon, Commodore."
"Thank you, Ensign." He nodded. "Dismissed."