Dec. 19th, 2011

The cargo flats slammed into each other, a train wreck on a grand scale unfolding in slow motion. The barges were a quarter mile long. One was empty and the other was full of recycling waste. They buckled and rippled down their lengths, cracking open on all sides, their momentum nearly cancelling out and leaving the wreck dead in space. The contents of the full barge, an uneven silvery chaff, billowed out into a shimmering cloud. Tiny tugs jetted around like gnats, trying to figure out how to disentangle the mess and keep it from impacting traffic around the port at Gray Lady.

_Golden_Empire_ was in no danger from the wreck, but her outbound trajectory necessarily carried her through the chaff cloud. The long, slender cruise liner soared gracefully through the mess, leaving disorder and mayhem behind as she glided for the stars.

I got on the comm. "Nice driving, Grabsy," I said. "I was just telling Lopez: the best way to get a giant cactus to successfully ram a target is to tell him to miss it."

"Funny," replied Grabsy after only a brief pause, "*I* was just telling Kima that the best way to get a failed space marine to fuck off is to tell him to fuck off." He cleared his throat. "Fuck off," he added.

"Less talk, please," said McMillan. "We're still at a delicate phase of the operation. Grabsy and Kima, jettison immediately and join up with Jackpot. Lopez, you're ready to go EVA?"

"Aye aye, cap'n," said Lopez tonelessly. I felt a pang, hearing my weasard engineer call another man 'captain', even though I knew Lopez was empowering the word with all the respect one would use to pronounce an epithet aimed at a person guilty of having carnal relations with the woman who birthed him.

"Jackpot, I need _Glom_ burning in fifteen seconds, or we'll miss our window," added McMillan.

"Tick tock, I got it," I grumbled, firing the unusual craft's engines, jetting into the chaff cloud and taking up station behind _Golden_Empire_. "I'd like to help you through a window," I added under my breath, knowing perfectly well that he could hear me.

"And no more lip," McMillan added sharply. "You're my crew now, and there's only one way out of it."

"Yeah," I said, fingering the explosive collar fitted around my neck. "I know."

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