Agent 957 of the Human Ascendancy’s Genetic Management Office, System 2411, Edge Sector
Two ships flew through space. One, a long cylinder bristling with laser turrets in addition to its main gun, led the way. The other, a wedge-shaped ship not even a tenth of its size, followed off to its side.
Knowledgeable observers would have recognized the larger ship as the Human Ascendancy Extinction class warship named Annihilation. The smaller ship would have been recognized as a Stinger class heavy fighter number 1123 of the Far Hunter Squadron. There were no knowledgeable observers or even sentient creatures in the system except for those on the ships themselves. The only other being that could have observed them was busy and while she would have recognized the technology and purpose of the ships, her interest in science was great and her interest in fighting only marginal unless it presented an interesting technical problem.
Human Ascendancy warships were conservative in design and offered no interesting technical problems. Therefore, her attention lay elsewhere.
Agent 957 flew the Stinger. It was moments like this one that he lived for. He’d taken his ship all the way back to K’Tepolu after he’d failed to capture the criminals and their Xiniti escort. K’Tepolu had been the sensible choice. It worked for whatever he wanted to do—investigate as his mission dictated or desert and try to escape the consequences of losing them. He might have tried if the Annihilation hadn’t been there.
Instead he’d given the pictures that the mole had passed along to a professional astrogator he’d hired, explaining his mission, the last heading of the criminals’ ship, and the fact that the Xiniti ship appeared to have access to jump and blink space despite its small size. The astrogator had access to a database showing the skies of hundreds of thousands of planets and ran a search on the mole’s pictures. With that started, he’d searched out anywhere the colonists or Xiniti could have gone on that strange collection of linked asteroids.
He’d learned that only one of the Xiniti was biologically a member of the Xiniti species. The rest were human. He couldn’t find out where they’d originated from, but members of other races who joined the Xiniti nation were no pushovers. He made sure to pass that information on to the warship. As the only allies he had, he’d have to bring them in on this no matter how little he wanted to.
Though he did find Kee Oataki’s shop and technology training facility, he found that no matter how much he threatened, no one would let him speak to her. “She’s presently unavailable,” a scruffy Zeeta crawler told him. Then, making a gesture that his implant identified as rude, the Zeeta had gone back to a discussion that involved equal parts jump drive theory and its favorite serialized vid.
The public, online records of a fight in the marketplace gave him a better picture of their fighting styles. Two of the human “Xiniti” had fought a few of the barbarian waroo there. The agent didn’t recognize their fighting styles, but it was clear they’d been well trained. It was also clear that “Tikki” could manipulate time, making her recapture a priority.
Though viewing the fight had been easy, getting the waroo to talk about it turned out to be impossible. Agent 957 didn’t at all expect to understand the creatures, but he was surprised that even though they were known mercenaries, they wouldn’t talk about the fight and wouldn’t draw up a contract to hunt down the people who’d nearly killed one of their own. They’d refused. “You have no understanding of our laws. We will handle this in our own way.” When the astrogator’s report came back with a positive identification of the planet and star system Hideaway, the waroo had been willing enough to take the information.
With any luck, they’d appear in time to destroy the Xiniti escort in their rage. If they didn’t show up, he had the firepower to do it himself.
That brought him back to the moment. Hideaway lay in the middle of a cluster of systems arranged such that their gravity wells made blink space practically useless. The Annihilation and his ship would spend a week in jump space before they reached the planet.
The mole had been surprised to find that Agent 957 had found Hideaway’s position on his own and unsuccessfully tried to hide fear. No matter. Agent 957 had made it clear that the mole’s service had been invaluable. Did the mole have anything left to report? The mole did. There were mines. Agent 957 had made a note of their positions and notified the warship.
It was time to make the jump. Agent 957 checked with the Annihilation to make sure it had the coordinates correct. Then the agent aimed his ship toward the cluster of stars ahead and turned on his jump drive.
* * *
The next day my implant woke me at eight in the morning—which was good. It meant that I’d be awake before any of the colony’s leadership came to complain. It was also bad in that I needed more sleep after waking up in the middle of the night to follow Jaclyn around and watch her dog poop.