I'm giving you one more chance.
"Unidentified transport vessel, this is Captain David Anlow of the Argo Protector. You have entered forbidden space above an embargoed planet. Disengage your weapons or we will take this as a sign of aggression and release gunships. Do you acknowledge?"
The UTV's silence mimicked their response to the first two hails.
David's gunship crews were standing by for launch. Normally he would simply fire a warning shot across the UTV's bow. The sight of a blue-white plasma ball rapidly filling the viewscreen was enough to force even the most powerfully equipped ships to surrender. And this mid-sized transport vessel facing off with them now only had low grade weaponry that would simply vaporize as it glanced off the Protector's massive shields.
But David couldn't risk a warning shot here without the plasma punching through the atmosphere of Tampa One and hitting the planet. The sharp silhouette of the oblong UTV was black against the green and white haze of Tampa One. He hadn't been on the pristine planet in decades—few had since Sovereign Prollixer and the Quorum of Archivists designated it an eco sanctuary. That meant no new settlements, no harvesting or mining, only tourists who could pay the exorbitant prices that the Embassy-sanctioned outfitters demanded.
"Third hail," Commander Lyra Simpra said, her cinnamon breath reminding David of his unfinished cup of chai from this morning. "Gunships are a go, Captain."
Lyra had never been a patient woman.
His patience wore thin, too. "Launch gunships two and four."
The situation felt wrong to David. He had been captaining the Protector for ten years and had moved through fleet ranks since enlisting as a teenager. In all that time he learned to hone his instincts. Right now they told him there was something he was missing.
To the gunships he instructed, "Close half the distance. Wait for my order to engage." Then so that only his commander could hear, "Lyra, something feels off about this ship."
"Aside from their outdated registration, non-existent transponder codes, and unwillingness to answer us?" the blonde Armadan asked. "Oh, and there's the bit about their weapons being online."
Only Lyra could get away with talking to him like that, and not just because of how they spent their time together off the bridge. He valued her opinion—she never let emotion cloud her judgment, even when it came to him.
"Do you really think it's a coincidence that the day the Embassy sends down the quorum to reconsider the Archenzon embargo, this UTV shows up?" she asked.
"Why would they do this?" David asked. "They had to know they'd be hopelessly outgunned."
"Desperation. To make a statement." Lyra didn’t sound like she cared about motive. Her mood had been irascible since she returned from a meeting at fleet headquarters last week. She'd never told David what that meeting was about, and he never asked because there would always be parts of their relationship they didn't discuss—because their positions as officers wouldn’t allow it.
Considering their conversation before she attended that meeting, David suspected Lyra had requested a transfer. He shouldn't have brought up marriage again.
The comm officer interrupted his thoughts. "They're responding, Sir."
"Argo Protector we have families on board traveling from Tampa Three. We're requesting an emergency landing. Don't fire."
"Convenient," Lyra said.
David agreed. "Why are your weapons online?"
-- FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HEIDI RUBY MILLER AND GREENSHIFT AT http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com.
Here is the link to her VTB: