The last thing Zoya wanted was to be on a bounty hunt in one of the largest space ports on Auria Prime. Yet, there she was, right in the middle of Devil’s Den searching for an Imperial soldier gone awol.

Neon signs of every color and every size glared brightly, creating a harsh haze over the city. Floating Holoverts drifted down the sidewalks, advertising everything from voluptuous women to pan fried noodles. Fetid water puddled around trashed clogged sewer grates because most cleaning droids had become little more than garbage themselves. The entire place could use a facelift, but there was no way in hell the Imperial Throne would spend its precious coin on repairs for a hopeless city. So Zoya continued to stalk through the smog-filled night, past barricaded store fronts and trashed filled alleys, silently berating whichever one of her superiors responsible for this mission. The rest of her squad was nearby, hidden in plain sight among the chaos of speedy Astrojets and sector smog.

After years of hard work, Poseidon had finally been awarded the promotion of 4th rank apprenticeship. They’d been on similar jobs before as a test of skill and teamwork. Compared to the other times, the current mission was a last chance for them to prove their worth and to qualify for the Edelweiss Trials. This remained the best opportunity for gaining unparalleled respect in the Guard. Zoya prayed to any galactic deity that was listening, that nothing would go wrong. But Fate harbored other plans.

The watch on her wrist beeped once, alerting her of an incoming call.

“Zee, you there?”

“Go ahead, Surge.”

“I’ve got bad news. The Council ordered a shut in, and at least seven Hounds are in here with us. We’ve gotta make this quick or we’ll lose the lead.”

Zoya cursed under her breath. Bounty hunters, also known as Hounds among the Guard, weren’t the company they needed. Once they were on a hunt, they were tenacious, ruthless, and hard to get rid of. 

“Any good news?” Zoya asked.

“Yep. We’ve finally got a lock on the target.”

“Show me.”

“The blue dots are ours. The green one is our target.” offered Surge.

“And the red ones?” she asked.

“Definitely not ours. As you can see, we’ve already moved into position, and we’ve got the target surrounded, but if the Hounds split up…”

Zoya took a second to deliberate before giving orders. Then she shot off commands. “Tell Kaz to go with Rin and head them off. Diesel, Sen, and Rebel need to patrol the perimeter and make sure none of them are circling around behind us. Let everyone know I’ll be there ASAP. And Surge…”

“Yeah?”

“Tell Triton not to hold back if you guys get company.”

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