Sylvain has lived her whole life in the Eckobar Carnival. She travels from world to world, growing things, ensuring crops and bringing life to dead soil. Her talent for bio-forming has saved thousands of lives, but when one world does not want to let her go, the Alliance has to call in assistance. Station 13 has offered up one of its own, Hardcore, to come to her rescue. With steel for bones, Hardcore is surprised to find his heart pounding at the sight of the slight leaf-winged pixie. Something flares to life between them and the people of Porvin want it to stop.
Hardcore took the front line and guarded the crew loading the dignitaries onto the shuttle. A stun bolt struck him head on and he shrugged it off, taking aim at the shooter with precision and rendering him unconscious.
More bolts and a few projectiles struck him as he continued as a living shield for the other crewmembers.
“Hardcore, we have them. Take off in fifteen,” Commander Rech called out as they finished loading the dignitaries.
Hardcore moved to block the shuttle door while returning fire. He held the attackers off until the shuttle lifted into the air and he pulled and locked the door for exiting the atmosphere exactly fifteen seconds from Rech’s warning.
The dignitaries were looking at him in horror and he looked down. “Damn. Please excuse me while I find a new uniform.” He nodded formally to those they had rescued and pulled a sealed pack with his uniform from storage.
The lav was occupied. So in typical fashion for a Kozue warrior, he stripped off in the middle of the shuttle and pulled on a fresh uniform. “Haunt is going to kill me.”
Commander Rech laughed. “Did you trash another uniform?”
Hardcore slid into position at the navigator station and plotted their course to the jump site that would lead them to the warship waiting for their passengers. “I didn’t trash it. I can’t help it if they were better shots than we had anticipated.”
“They need to put more armour in your suits.”
“They did. Can’t be helped if I get hit with acid and pulser strikes.” He shrugged and worked at the data streams entering the details of the rescue. “Where are we going next?”
“Well, I have to take these good people to a relay station. You are going on a solo mission. There is a carnival being held hostage on Porvin and we need someone to go in undercover to break the eco manipulator free.” Rech punched up the file. “Read up on it. We have you going in as the indestructible man.”
Garoz shook his head. “What is the big deal with the eco manipulator?”
“She runs a cycle in that system and every good harvest for the last five years has been her doing. Porvin has decided that they want to keep her and that is making the other planets suffer.”
Since his own sister had suffered for the decisions of others, Garoz’s protective impulses immediately surged to the fore. “What does she think?”
Rech shook his head. “No one knows. No one can get near her. Even the carnival is being kept apart from her and they won’t leave without her.”
“Loyalty is a wonderful thing.”
The commander of the strike team laughed. “Either loyalty or she has the keys to the shuttles. Either way, she is out of communication with her people and they are not happy about it.”
Garoz pulled up the file and started reading. “What species is she?”
“No one can figure it out and the carnival has never sent her for testing. They are her legal owners, but there are no records of her origin.” Rech punched the engines to full power and sent them spinning through the darkness. “Let’s get you to the drop point. You are joining a carnival, my friend.”