Stroller moaned a denial.
The White Stag appeared on the edge of his passive sensor envelope. He’d been on station for two days, waiting for this moment, sleep troubled with recurring images of his cockpit canopy shattering, waking hours spent fearing Les Inconnus had discovered Stroller was compromised.
“That’s got it,” Ferrera said, the strained hum of his tractor beam generator underlining the statement.
Gates was growing tired of Nemo, or at least the tiny patch of it he and Seabrook had gone to ground in. The safe house was spartan, yes, but that was to be expected.
Gates waited in the underwater transit tube connecting Nemo Prime with the suburb Stroller called home. That house was too tough a nut to crack on short notice, so he and Seabrook had decided on taking Stroller here.
Gates slugged the live feed to the command terminal, then had a moment of vertigo as the view wobbled, Seabrook climbing out of the Caterpillar’s conning chair and moving for the hatch.
“Yes, quite clearly.”
“Gates, can you hear me?”
The words brought pain. Gates recoiled from them, retreating into a calm pool of nothing.
It had been, Gates reflected, a frustrating week. First, the 325 had developed an electrical problem in the damaged wing after the jump, then the sole civilian shipyard in orbit over Nemo III claimed all their repair bays were occupied.
Well now, isn’t this the perfect welcome to Taranis, garden spot of Human-controlled space?
A pair of obvious pirates were closing on a trader just at the edge of Gates’ sensor coverage. He’d been tracking developments for a while, watching as the captain of the long-hauler, trying to escape the two vessels behind it, blundered across the pirate lying doggo along his path. The third pirate went active with his sensors, closing the sack.
“So the same shooter killed both agents. Anything else linking the two?” Gates asked.
“Our analysts think their investigations point to the same criminal enterprise.”
Gates couldn’t keep the snark off his lips: “Such a difficult stretch for the analysts: smuggling dope and smuggling people are so very different, after all.”