To say Thomas Lowell was just a bit concerned would be an understatement. For three months the job had been easy. Hold up a few miners, make them sweat it a bit, then haul off the ore for a tidy sum. Grabbing the odd drone here and there had been easy. And the Obi pilots were all confined to guarding their planet, which they weren't even particularly good a doing. Not that Lowell's raids had ever given them an opportunity to engage. Until recently. Until that disaster of a trip to the drone facility.
"Should have just laid low" he muttered to no one in particular. Now his ship was in danger. His ship, not some government owned hauler.
The Bonney had wisely moved her location after the shuttle had returned with less that a fifth of the crew it had gone out with, and no fighters to speak of. Matt had contacted him from Obsidian. He'd managed to survive the wreck of his Thunderbolt and had hoofed it all the way into town. He had booked passage out of there, bound for Eden on a two jump trip just to keep Thomas and the rest safe. Good kid, that one.
Thomas sat lone watch on the bridge, having sent everyone else off for some sack time. The bonus was that no one would hear the conversation that he was about to start with his handler on Jet. He keyed the secure channel.
The man on the other side of the screen reminded Thomas of nothing less that a spider sitting in his web. The Jet official sat with comfort of someone who wasn't burden with an excess of scruples and that gave Thomas a slight pause.
"Mr. Lowell, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call."
"The situation has changed out here. The Obies called in a professional group. We got some of the equipment you wanted, but I lost a lot of the men you sent me."
"Are you not up to the task?"
"These guys are packing serious tech. They came at us with Zentreadi suits and a full combat network. And I'm not talking the old models, those were the new Rheas and Nightmares out there."
"Is that so? Hmmmm." Johnson sat back in his chair as if he were pondering something. Thomas doubted that his message came as any surprise to that man. Johnson tapped away at his desk terminal with one hand, seemingly distracted by the second screen. "We certainly can't have that. Did you send the package along?"
"What? No, not yet."
"A pity. It would have been useful."
"Just get a squadron out here to cover us and I'll get you your damned codes and... wait, would have been?"
"Yes. You see, you've crossed the line from useful to liability. Our sources on Obsidian say that the intelligence section of that PMC already is on to you. ODF Intel also recovered one of the flight recorders and has your ships identity. Which means it would be inconvenient if any Obsidian property, say, a ODF databank, were to be found in our possession. So I've revoked your privateer charter with Jet as of one week ago, which means any actions you took subsequently were of your own design."
The implications hit Thomas hard. "You made us pirates. We can't go anywhere, we'd be arrested and the ship seized."
"And executed, don't forget that. And I assure you, those miners will be more than willing to testify against you and your whole crew."
"Damn it!" Thomas smashed the comm button, cutting the transmission. He had to think of something. The scramble channel prevent him from turning over his conversation to anyone. Even the Bonney's computer would just have saved static. He grabbed his PDA and thumbed Rachel's pad.
"What's up, skipper?"
"Wake everyone up, get the fighters ready, call in the patrols. Jet just screwed us. I need you and whoever isn't flying a VF or patching up the ship to find something in that swag we lifted that we can use as a bargaining chip. We're hip dip in the shit and the tide's coming in."