Sunday, 19 June 2011


He wasn't the person he was pretending to be. Not that it mattered. His imitation was so close that any imperfections could have been passed off as a mood. Even the expression of understanding, complacent boredom with the routine security check was in place and bombproof.

“Morning, Pilot Hakatain. I'm afraid Pilot Roth isn't here right now sir.”

“That's okay, I just wanted to drop something off and say hi to the twins.”

“We'll need to inspect everything you're carrying, sir.”

“Yep.” and he spread his arms. The briefcase he was carrying was taken away, run through a scanner then visually inspected, then returned without comment. The assortment of stuff in his pockets – a small field medical kit which was confiscated, a steel cigar case full of finest New Caldari tobacco which he was forbidden from smoking, a personal fluid comms unit and NEOCOM, a lighter, a pack of cards, five dice, and a monogrammed leather wallet full of Republic Dollars and hard copy pictures.

He felt the discreet but extremely thorough multispectral scan of his body as a tingle in his thigh where the complicated lattice of metamaterial pockets disguising the other thing he was carrying carefully deflected and redirected the scan so as to appear that there was nothing unexpected there.

“Got a security name for me, sir?”

“Suma Kidachi” he replied, and clamped down on his nerves as this appeared to pass muster. “Verin, you really are too easy...” he thought

“Lucky number?”


“Any vices I should know about, sir?”

“Just the cigars” he said with a bit of a smirk, tapping the pocket they were in.

The security tech nodded and stood aside. “Okay sir, you're clear to visit. We'll inform Pilot that you were here.”

“Thanks Junone. How's your elbow?”

“Much better, thank you sir. The exercise you suggested cleared it right up.”

“Thought it would. Let me know if it flares up again.”

“Will do, pilot.”

He nodded and left the security desk behind to fill in the log book, obviously none the wiser.

It was a simple little “building” really. Set inside a standard cargo container, wrapped in a bubble of simulated environment and the front door opened with a hush to admit him to a place that was at once beautifully and stylishly decorated, and simultaneously a bit of a disaster area, the clear hallmarks of occupation by a child visible everywhere.

The calm, broad-shouldered walk evaporated the instant the door was closed behind him. Suddenly, the body language was ... sharper, more alert, more predatory. His speed doubled, but the weight of his footsteps halved. He trotted across the room, past homework left half-done on the floor, swept a pile of reports and data slates away from a desk terminal, and from the compartment in his thigh produced the first of the two contraband items he'd brought it.

The Universal Data Port on the front of the terminal made the usual solid click as he pushed the data stick in, and both lights came one. He couldn't see it happening, but there was a program on that stick that immediately rocketed into the heart of Ciarente Roth's personal data network and began to hunt down one simple search term with ruthless elegance.

Roth, Jorion.

The voice came from behind him, flat and hard. It was female, and punctuated by the “CLICK!-whiiiine” of a pistol's capacitor arming. He hadn't heard footsteps or the door opening. “Pull that fucking thing out right now, Tarn.”

He didn't move except to pinch out the other contraband from his shielded skin pocket.


“Hands where I can see them. NOW!”

“Nanite bomb.”

He turned and slowly raised his hands. The object in his right hand, his thumb depressing the dead man's switch on top, wasn't big. It was about as large as a half-used pencil. But it didn't need to be big. Its contents certainly didn't.

He gave her a moment's silence to think about just what the tiny can full of seeker-shredder nanites would do to this apartment and anybody who entered it for the next week. Her expression never shifted from coolly neutral professional hostility.
“Terms. I walk, right now, no funny business, and I take the drive with me.” he told her, pitching his voice quietly, but firm.

She was smart. Or at least knew her job well enough to do the smart thing. After a moment's apparent consideration she stepped aside to one wall, lowered the gun. Kept her foot pointed right at him though. Very smart. Skilled too, coming up on him all silent like that.

Or maybe just well trained. Same thing in this circumstance.

He heard a baby start crying upstairs and grinned at the sound. It was a paradoxically genuine, happy smile, not some sadist's rictus or the grim lip-tightening of somebody without a sense of humour. The blonde with the gun didn’t smile back, her unblinking gaze fixed on him with cold calculation.

He retreated to the terminal, was pleased to see the light on the data stick had turned blue, and tugged it out. Then it was the slow, turning walk past the Roth girl's bodyguard, then out onto the “lawn” where more weapons were being very specifically not pointed at him.

He wished that he'd thought to include some means to upload the vital data via his NEOCOM, for insurance. Irrelevant now. He made it to the public service transport unit, slipped inside, mentally keyed his NEOCOM to start broadcasting the jamming signal that would prevent StationSec from overriding it. As an afterthought, jammed the data stick into the UDP on the side of the NEOCOM for good measure and rushed an upload that probably wasn't totally secure but that was somebody else's problem now.

He waited a few long, tense moments but there was no subtle jolt of the transport getting overriden, and when it opened on the hangar deck and his Eris was still there with no sign of an ambush waiting for him, he finally allowed himself a sigh of release and put the nanite bomb back in safety mode.

Three minutes later his interdictor screamed out of the undock corridor in a way that left the docking manager swearing at him. Just before he went to warp, he flushed the bomb, the data disk and the clone out of the garbage airlock. Twelve seconds after his ship had vanished in a blizzard of radiation, another much larger ship slammed to a relative halt on station approach.

In his pod, Byre Tarn, formerly Byre Hakatain, smiled that same happy smile as he saw the Navy-Issue Scorpion “Arcurio Scar”, briefly register on his directional scanner. The smile broadened just a little as millions of kilometres put that brief glimpse of his older brother behind him. The flare and tugging, falling feeling of a stargate jump multiplied that number a billionfold in an interval that had no describable duration.

Now he just had to figure out if and how to use the Roth girl's data to leverage his colleagues in the FIO.

Edited by Ciarente.