The southern continent’s coast appeared as a dark mass outlined in white surf. Next to him in the left seat, Andrea lay with her jaw sagged open in restless slumber. Hope you had a good nap, Rick thought, watching two bright stars detach from the constellations and begin a rapid descent ahead. Moments later, the flyer rocked from the passage of much faster vehicles.

“What the...” Andrea blurted, bringing her seat to an upright position.

“Fighters. They just buzzed us.”

She looked out the side window. “Don’t let them intimidate you, Rick.”

“Now why would they do that?” he replied dryly as a dagger silhouette eased up on their right. Green navigation lights flashed off wings bristling with ordinance. Inside a bubble canopy illuminated by the red glow of instrumentation, a helmeted pilot pointed a finger downward.

Smiling sweetly, Andrea waved back. She pointed to the dashboard and shrugged, suggesting an inoperative radio. “See the call sign below his canopy?”

Rick glanced over at the white letters against the dark hull. “Hell Razor?”

She nodded. “That’s Ronny Gonzales. Steve’s sent friends. Paul’s probably behind us. Steve didn’t want a bunch of cowboys on intercept.”

“He’s not buying the dead radio,” Rick said, watching as the Exploratory Corps pilot again repeated his gesture.

The flyer rocked once more. An orange flash shot past their nose.

“Paul, you son-of-a-bitch!” Andrea yelped. Slapping at the window, she gave their escort a rude gesture of her own. “Just hold to course, Rick. Steve and I are going to have a few words after I’ve slapped Paul’s face off!”

Another burst of plasma ripped by their cabin, streaking into the distance like a berserk comet. This time, Rick provided the obscene gesture when the pilot beside them vehemently repeated his order to land. “Hell with this.” He turned the dashboard radio back on.

“...ordered to land immediately! You have entered a restricted military quarantine zone.”

“One more stunt like that and I’ll be phoning the media,” Rick replied curtly before shutting the radio back off again.

“Well that worked,” Andrea said after a few minutes of silence. She looked at him. “I’m sorry, Rick.”

He sighed. “Yeah, that pretty much took me off of the Colonel’s team roster, didn’t it. Talk about a short tenure as Colonial Curator.” Rick smiled. “There’s life after Interstar, Andrea. As you said, we’ll be making our own careers.”