As they cruise through the Nova system, Mira and BT take a look over the Sparrow to assess the damage. The shields held most of the hits off, but there’s a neat dent by the cargo hold and Mira wouldn’t be surprised if there was a blast hole near the landing struts. The only thing that is completely destroyed is the nav system, so they’ll be flying blind. That part doesn’t worry Mira though. She’s spent her whole life looking up at the sky and studying star maps, and she’s charted out this sector more times than she can count. Good navs are expensive to come by, but her reward should easily cover the cost of a new one.
Mira monitors the radio waves closely for the next couple of hours as they fly cloaked through Leseese space. Once she is sure that there are no more fighters pursuing them, she relaxes and breathes a sigh of relief. Mira turns the Sparrow into the Nova star system and sets it to fly on its own. The entrance to it is narrow and easy to miss, but once inside, it’s a straight path through a star field. Mira, Tana Aleas, and Jorro watch the stars through the largest window on the ship as they gorge on juicy kona fruits. Mira usually keeps her fresh food supplies for special occasions, and this, she believes, qualifies as one.
Mira manages to damage one fighter while Jorro gets rid of the one attacking from the rear. The ship trembles and a klaxon starts to wail as the shields weaken. Mira grits her teeth and flips a few switches on her dashboard, sending power from the shields to the thrusters. Jorro screams at her from the other end of the ship, but she ignores him and prepares herself for what she calls the Wild Moog Chase. The Sparrow accelerates toward the Je’kai fighters, dodging blasts, and loops under and above them. The fighters are forced to give chase and pursue the Sparrow in circles, firing continuously. One falls back to close in from the other side, just as predicted. Mira flips a switch and releases a stream of exhaust, blinding them. There is a racket of blaster fire, followed by two explosions, but the Sparrow is out of range, having swerved away in time. Mira falls back against her seat in relief. She’s thrown their pursuers off the trail.
Mira turns down the warp drive as they move into Leseese space and finds herself faced with two Je’kai fighters! A shout from Jorro tells her that a third is coming at them from behind. Mira tells everyone to hold on tight and tries to swerve the Sparrow around them. They’re bigger and bulkier than her, and she has the advantage in speed, but they quickly triangulate into attack formation and start firing! The ship shakes as the hits land, even as the shields hold off the damage. Tana Aleas wraps herself around her precious cargo, shaking. Mira is furious. No one fires on her Sparrow and gets away with it. Strapping herself in, she tells BT to rev up the shields to max and yells at Jorro to man the rear guns. Holding the controls steady, she accelerates and starts firing back.
After Jorro gives her a pair of new stabilizers as a down payment, Mira takes him and Tana Aleas onto the Sparrow and off the planet. She charts out a course on her nav system, taking a moderately populated smuggler’s run in lieu of sticking to the main space routes. Mira adds a shortcut through the Nova star system and prepares the warp drive to enter deep space. She assures the priestess that she’ll get her home safe.
The stranger, who introduces himself as Jorro, takes them to a nondescript door, where a small security bot scans them before letting them through. The room is dimly lit by a weak lamp and a handful of candles, and a masked young woman in pale robes sits on a mat, holding a box on her lap. Jorro introduces her as Tana Aleas, a priestess from the Temple of Mydia on the planet Aeros in the Cerulis system. Tana welcomes them and apologizes if her bodyguard frightened or hurt them. He had wanted to test them himself before bringing them there. Tana tells them that she is protecting a valuable treasure and needs passage to her temple on an inconspicuous ship with a good trustworthy pilot. She and Jorro had been traveling off the grid ever since their original ship and crew were shot down near Mironea by mercenaries, and if Mira provides her services, she will be well compensated.
Mira debates the proposition, unsure. The Sparrow is fast and well-shielded with a decent set of guns, but it would not survive a mercenary armada. Jorro replies that the mercenaries are far away in the Nicean system, so the most that they would face en route to Aeros would be scouts or a skeleton crew. A lower chance if they took a good route. Mira glances at the box on Tana’s lap and looks up, curious. Tana hesitates, but nods. When she opens it, the room glows with an ethereal light and a gleaming cloud floats out, hovering in the dim, dusty air. Tana tells Mira that it is an ancient artifact stolen from her temple, one that could bring rain to any land it was blessed upon. Once it is returned to its place, they will be safe. Mira gazes at the cloud, transfixed. When Tana takes it back into her box, she exchanges a quick glance with BT and agrees to take the job.
As abruptly as it started, the fight stops. The stranger steps out of the way as Mira strikes downward and puts away with his weapon with a curt “very good”. He removes the device from BT and revives him with a tool from his pocket. BT tasers him on his outstretched hand and zips to Mira, who catches him just as his thrusters stutter. The stranger shakes out his injured hand with a grimace, motions for them to follow him, and walks away without a word. Angry, bruised, and more than a little curious, Mira exchanges a look with BT and lets the stranger lead them into the dingy slums of Corrin Prime.