The Royal Scam
Book One of the Martian Alliance Chronicles

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“Princess Olivia! Are you sure this will work?” my lady-in-waiting gasped out as we hurried along the walkway by the docking bays. I was looking for a specific ship, one that could get into space fast and jump to hyperspace even faster.

I took her hand and pulled her along. “Positive. You have the wedding dowry from Prince Ignatius?”

She shoved the bag of galaxy-wide gemstones into my hand. “I double-checked. They’re all in there.”

The Captain of the Guard was on her other side. He held her other hand. “You’re still set on going alone, not taking us with you, my princess?”

“Positive, yes.” I looked around. We were definitely not alone and, even though I had a long cloak on and the hood up, covering most of my face, we hadn’t been speaking softly. I knew at least some of the space folk in this area had heard us.

“You’ve cut it close,” the Captain said. “The wedding is tomorrow.”

“Whatever.” I spotted what I was looking for—a small, sleek spaceship. It was more elegant than most of the other ships in the bays. It reminded me of a little silver bird. I recognized this class of ship—Strikers.

Strikers had been created during the Purge. They were still among the fastest and most nimble spaceships flying these days, difficult to trap, harder to catch. Best of all, the ship appeared ready to depart. A human male and what looked like a walking toad were fiddling around in the way all spacers seemed to right before liftoff.

I walked quickly to them; the others followed.

The man turned, and my throat tightened. He was tall, handsome, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He was in tight pants and shirt and was clearly all wiry muscle. He also had on a double laser belt and high boots, common to spacers from Mars. Just standing there he radiated masculinity. His eyes narrowed as we reached him.

“I need your help,” I said without preamble. “I need to get off-planet immediately. I’ll pay you well.”

He looked us up and down. “Where are you headed?”

“Old Earth.”

He snorted. “That’s a long way away…Princess. I know why you want to go there—no extradition to Galaxy Core planets. But it’ll cost you. A lot.”

“How do you know who I am?”

“Like the rest of the Andromeda Royal Family, Princess Olivia is tall, fair, and beautiful. And, like her three sisters before her, about to be married to a Prince from Diamante, where they grow them rich and ugly.”

“There are plenty of attractive women on Andromeda.”

“Yes, two of them are here before me.” He nodded at my lady-in-waiting. “They make sure the closest retainers resemble their assigned royal here, too. And who else would have the captain of the guard along? You’re incognito, somewhat, but he’s not.” This was true. The Captain was in his full uniform. “Price of flying with us is high, especially under the circumstances.”

I handed the bag to him. “This should cover it.”

He looked inside and raised an eyebrow. Then he handed the bag to the big, walking toad, who’d joined us. “Take a look.” He looked back to me. “I’m the captain, so if this checks out, fine, we’ll do business with you.”

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