Dec. 26th, 2011

I turned _Glom_'s exterior viewers upward and frowned. "Lopez," I said, "is it just an optical illusion, or is the warp interface shrinking?"

Lopez tapped at his keyboard. "Well," he said, "I have good news and bad news."

"I could use some good news," I said.

"There's nothing wrong with your eyes," Lopez reported. "Guess what the bad news is?"

I rubbed my temples. "Please, in these last few moments, let's not resort to strangling each other," I begged.

"Yeah, it's shrinking," said Lopez. "_Golden_Empire_'s warp engines are offline. We're slowly coasting to a halt. When the bubble collapses, we're going to turn into a very interesting contrail spread out over several light-years of empty space."

"Okay, get the engines back online," I said impatiently.

"Can't," Lopez said. "External override. Some sneaky McMillan-shaped bastard has me locked out."

"That's ridiculous," I said. "The only thing maintaining the warp bubble is _Golden_Empire_. If she goes down, McMillan goes down with us. Where's he operating from, anyway?"

Lopez's quick hands flew over the keyboard. "I'm guessing from there," he said, bringing a view up on the big screen.

It was a shot of _Golden_Empire_'s underside, near the fore. The big liner's top was the dome that covered Lido Deck; the bottom was largely flat. A door was opening, and some kind of smaller craft was being dropped down on a boom. It was dwarfed by _Golden_Empire_, of course, but it measured a large enough fraction of the liner's beam that it must still be quite large, capable of carrying hundreds of passengers.

"Lifeboat?" I asked.

"No," said Lopez. "According to the registry, that's a luxury yacht. The Crown Prince owns it."

"Betcha a Crown Prince can afford a warp generator on his private toy spaceship," I said.

"No bets," said Lopez.

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