That’s what Ryder loved about the aircraft. They hadn’t made many Dalien D-270s, but that was just because the world wasn’t ready for something with that much maneuverability and cargo capacity (whilst sipping fuel) that could take off and land on a shaved dime.

“Get the tower on the horn,” Ryder said softly. “Tell them we just need to buy fuel for a mail run. Nobody knows which aircraft that took off from the Capital Aerodrome they’re looking for, and nobody knows where we came from. Let’s keep it that way.”

Orlov nodded as Ryder idled the twin engines and taxied the Dalien over toward the fuel trucks. He could see Revolutionary Guards stationed all over the compound, many of them wearing pieces of government uniforms they’d captured in their most recent lightning advance. There didn’t seem to be any antiaircraft guns or fighters–the royal air force hadn’t been an organized force for months before the capital fell.

“Attention unidentified aircraft,” the tower squawked through the radio. “Please state your origin, cargo, destination, and purpose for landing.”

“Returning empty after a milk run, headed for Southport,” Orlov said. “Just need to buy a little fuel.”

“Come on, come on,” Ryder whispered under his breath.

“Why didn’t you request permission to land?” It sounded like a kid on the other end, probably an ideologically reliable rebel rather than whoever had run it before.

“Have you seen what’s going on out there?” Orlov said. “We haven’t requested permission to land in months. And we’re willing to pay for fuel in gold.”

A pause. “Someone will be out to meet you with a fuel truck. Don’t try to take off before you pay, or the Guards will blast you out of the sky.”

Ryder patted Orlov on the back. “Good going,” he said.

And to the member of the royal family shivering in the cargo hold–the contents of the “package” they had been hired to deliver to Southport right before the capital city had fallen…Ryder put a hand to his lips.

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