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More enemy fire deflected off the Rubicon’s shields, causing both the ship to bounce in space and Cade’s stomach to bounce into his chest. He wrapped his hand around a strap that hung from the cargo hold wall, steadying himself as he swallowed his insides down. After taking a deep breath, he looked over and saw Kira smirking at him.
“What?” Cade asked, agitated.
“Nothing, nothing at all,” Kira said. “I just didn’t know you were so delicate. But it’s fine. Totally cool.”
Cade groaned. “You know, even by our standards, this is excessively stupid.”
Kira put up her hands. “Hey, don’t look at me. This is your friend’s idea.”
“Huh?” came Mig’s voice from the back of the cargo hold, where he was tinkering with something or other. “Is Cade complaining again?”
“I’m not complaining,” Cade said. “I’m just … processing. Verbally. I’m verbally processing.”
“Verbally processing your complaint,” Kira said. “We got it.”
“You know what? I’m ready. I am ready to jump out of this ship now.”
“Such a sensitive Chosen One.” Mig snickered as he stepped in front of Cade and started fiddling with his grav suit. “I’m just going to shut this clasp. If you’re going to leap into the cold, deadly abyss of space, it’s best if your enclosure is airtight.”
Cade rolled his shoulders, unable to find any comfort inside the cumbersome exoskeleton. Grav suits were nothing new; crew members used them all the time, especially on larger starships, to make exterior repairs. But in those instances, the grav suits were tethered to the ship. They moved slowly and safely.
Mig’s version was neither slow nor safe. He’d reinforced Kira’s grav suits so the exterior was harder to penetrate, but Cade was less concerned with the ramifications of taking enemy fire and more concerned with the suit’s propulsion capabilities, which, thanks to Mig’s upgrades, could now power a small starhopper. Having that kind of power right beneath his feet and hands didn’t sit well with Cade. Especially since he was supposed to use that power to propel himself through space and hope nothing went wrong—and in this case, wrong could send Cade careening off into space, where he’d die a long, excruciating death. Cade had one fear in life, and that was it. He could take on a squad of Praxian drones with hands so steady you could rest your drink on them; he could fly any ship through a furious dogfight with a smile on his face. While he didn’t relish the idea of meeting the sharp end of a quanta staff or being incinerated by an enemy starfighter, at least those ends would be quick. But confronting the vast, emptiness of space? Where he’d float for days and do nothing but think? That scared the crap out of him.
The ship was rocked by enemy fire again, and Cade nearly lost his lunch.
“You know,” Kira said, “if I could hand over the control of my ship to your cranky drone, you should be able to handle this.”
“I never thought I’d say this, but for the first time, Duke is actually the least of my problems,” Cade said.
From over his shoulder, Cade heard 4-Qel’s heavy gait as he lumbered down the cargo hold’s ramp. He “whistled” a monotone tune as he joined Cade, Kira, and Mig.
“Personally, I’m excited,” the drone said. He’d been equipped with the propulsion units, but he didn’t need the grav suit. Because, apparently, nothing could kill him.
“So you like the idea of hurtling through space with a questionable amount of control over your body?” Cade said. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
Copyright © 2019 by Michael Moreci