SUNSWEPT CH10

"Moving Too Fast"

The next morning came entirely too early for Meyan. She tried to work her way out of bed without ramming her toes on the dresser as she was so prone to lately. One thought to her implant's chronometer told her all she needed to of exactly how long it had really been since she'd gotten to bed, well, at least since she'd gotten into her own bed. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, toes still intact, and she took the extra few minutes to rub her face and attempt to regain at least a more passing level of consciousness.

Last night had been an adventure true to expectations. Ellie had taken her to at least 5 different lookout spots and taught her all about Space Angels, ship classes, and docking traffic. How a six year old knew so much about the exact moment at which a ship was handed off to docking control, or why a six year old would even care, was still beyond her. Capsuleer and naval mothers aside, that girl was just way too grown up. Meyan chuckled but began to think of just how little adversity she'd faced as a kid growing up on an affluent Gallente core world. Compared to Ellie, or indeed just about any other kid who had likely emigrated into Origin, who was she to even contemplate what 'grown up' was? She rubbed her face again and got on with the day.

The next unhappy discovery was that she'd neglected to purchase more coffee packs for the beverage machine. She rolled her eyes and opened the cold stasis box. Meyan sat there for a few moments holding the door as she tried to decide if she really wanted a can of Quafe this early in the morning. Was it weird? No. No, it wasn't weird and yes, she did need it. She grabbed the can, picked up the art project that Ellie had given her at the end of their walk, and headed into work.


No hooks; well that was a problem. Meyan tried to puzzle her way through how exactly to hang the 3d rendering of a Buzzard class scout frigate from nothing at all over her workspace. Petrian must have seen her struggling because a few moments later he returned with a strange sort of little emitter. "Here, stick this to the top of the divider and just aim the little aperture." He indicated a small nozzle on the lumpy looking device and the divider between their stations.

"But won't that put the model half on your side?" She honestly didn't want to intrude on their shared space but there really wasn't any structure other than the holo projector onto which she could fasten anything and get the ship up and over her work area where it would be safe and not impact her work. "You don't mind?"

"Naw," He smiled and handed over the emitter. "I mean, I think a Cheetah would look much cooler, but other than that..." Any sort of teasing coming from Petrian was such a foreign concept that it took her a moment just to realize he was teasing.

"Thank you." She finished attaching the emitter then set the ship to spin gently in the miniature anti-grav field that was now projecting just up and to the left of her workspace.

"Yeah, we use those for group engineering sessions when we all need to get at a physical model of something. But as we are so often working in the 'nano' 'round here, we never really use em for anything other than this anyway." He gestured to the workspaces of a few of their colleagues and Meyan noticed that sure enough, she wasn't the only one to be using office equipment is this way.

"Solu doesn't care?"

He shrugged and turned back to his work. "She'd never said anything, and in a couple days the utilized emitter is replaced in the cabinet with a new one, so I guess not."

Meyan looked back at the model Buzzard. It was made from the same material as Ellie's cards had been and in form and shape it looked identical to the ship that her mother flew. However this one was completely green with little purple hearts all over it. Ellie had even gone so far as to program in little festival firework launcher turrets into the weapon emplacements. 'They won't be able to actually shoot fireworks, so you'll just have to pretend like I do.' Meyan smiled to herself as she considered the precious gift and quietly imagined little multi-colored fireworks going off all around the little ship.

"You ready to go?" Petrian had already closed down his station and was looking at her expectantly.

"Am I..." She froze. In all of the excitement of shopping and childcare somehow the massively important procedure they were conducting this morning had been pushed to the back of her mind. "Um, yeah, let me just grab my things." At least she'd spent the past week at work preparing. She was ready. She hadn't actually activated her station yet so there was no need to turn anything off, instead she gathered her wits and nodded for Petrian to lead the way.

They walked back out of the lab and headed for the nearest lift. It was a relatively short journey from the docking sector to where they were going, which was the middle of nowhere as far as Meyan could tell. When they did finally arrive it was to a very non-descript door with only an access pad and number as identification. Petrian palmed the pad and the door opened to reveal a small room with a central table and chairs of intermediate size. The only other door in the room was open and she could hear Solu's voice from within. They headed in that direction.

"Yes, everything is prepared and my technicians should be arriving momentarily. You can send them down any time." Solu was just finishing a conversation with someone as they entered but Meyan couldn't see who it was. There was a slightly gaunt man of middling height and peppered black hair waiting patiently at the far end of the lab that Meyan didn't recognize and the room itself had been arranged as a fully sterile operating theatre complete with two articulating beds, numerous instrument trays, and a massive force field that sat just five feet in front of them.

Solu smiled to them, "Ahh, great; you're here. Not too hard to find us?" Meyan hadn't participated in the navigation but Petrian just shook his head. "Good, Dr. Aszet is having some trouble finding us; he'll be the one performing the actual surgery of course, but I expect him here any moment. If you two could use the sterilizers at the far end of that little antechamber there you can come on in."

Meyan and Petrian both nodded and turned to find the needed sterilization equipment at the end of the part of the room which wasn't within the force field. Petrian began first leaving Meyan to consider the task ahead of them. It was the culmination of their entire project in a way. Before leaving for the shopping trip yesterday she'd brushed up on every scrap of the project she could, just to be extra sure because today, today was the scariest test she'd ever taken. The door opened again and a gently rotund gentleman with heavy set eyes stepped in and initially started walking over to the sanitizing station. He walked right past her and addressed Petrian first. "Your pardon please but I am running late." His tone was that of someone who was used to having others go out of their way to accommodate him and luckily Petrian had just finished. He looked back at the man who was addressing him with a sort of confused look but stepped aside to admit the man who must be Dr. Aszet.

Meyan didn't much care for such an attitude but then it wasn't her place to care one way or the other. She waited her turn. Each of the chairs in the room had clearly different tools and machines arrayed around it. The first was the more tactile of the pair and clearly meant to support the actual surgery which would place the implant suite while the second, her domain, would be for after the true surgery, where she would interface with the implants and ensure that they were properly attuned to the user. This of course required the user to be awake and to participate in the attenuation process. Meyan gently touched her own head as she recalled the surreal memories that she had so recently obtained from being on the receiving end of that process herself.

Petrian was already walking through the field and towards a third area, set off from the two chairs. Built much like his workstation back in their normal lab, this area held a host of sensors and nanoscopic manipulation equipment all centered around three very neatly packaged boxes, each no larger than her own eye. All of their work, everything they had slaved over for the past several weeks was neatly tucked away in those tiny stasis chambers. She thought of the work, all of the quiet wrestling they had done to achieve something that should have been near impossible and she had to smile. Such was the fruit of her labor that effort so monumental would result in something so very, very small. But there were three. The reality of what that meant settled on her and brought with it a more sobering mood.

She hadn't noticed Dr. Aszet finish his own preparation and move into the operating theater and as Petrian's body interrupted her view of the three implant suites she shook herself back out of thought and quickly stepped up to the sanitizing station to begin preparing. As she finished she heard voices from the room behind her; very young voices. She couldn't make out what they were saying, but one of them was clearly in very high spirits. It was one of the girls, and her voice reminded Meyan so much of Ellie that for just a split second Meyan actually had to listen hard for the difference. Remembering herself, she turned off the sanitizer and quickly resumed her process into the field and towards her own station. Solu stepped over to her as she began arranging the implements. "Are you ok?"

Meyan nodded solemnly. "I am, I just..." The three kids made their way into the antechamber and without comment started for the sanitizing station. In the lead was Bee3 and Meyan's attention was captured by her... xer. There was no timidity, no fear. It was in the way xe walked and in the way xe strode so confidently over to the station and dutifully went to work making sure that not a scrap of contamination would enter the sterile environment with xer. Was xe even smiling?

"Xe accepted the risks." It sounded like the kind of thing Solu must have also been telling herself. "Apparently xe even begged for it when it was offered to xer."

"But why?" Solu and Xeph wouldn't have even gone along with it if they felt Bee3 incapable of making a rational, adult decision. So clearly it went beyond just wanting fancy tech for this child. Even as xe turned to be the first to approach the sterility field Meyan could see the raw determination set in those eyes. They were even more powerful than in the holo she had seen and in the brief moments before she lost sight of them behind a piece of equipment, Meyan couldn't help but wonder at the depth they held. There was a kind of wisdom in them; as with someone who'd seen far more in this universe than any child should. Like Ellie.

Solu gently touched her shoulder in a moment of shared support. "You'll have to ask xer I guess." With that she smiled gently and turned to go greet the patients and introduce them to the team. Solu's voice did not in any way match the warmth of her smile and as she turned away Meyan could see her director clenching and unclenching her other fist. Perhaps she wasn't as keen on Bee3's decision. Meyan thought about that as she also turned to her own station and completed her preparations while she waited to be introduced.


Bee3 had indeed elected to go first. Xer time on Dr. Aszet's table had been amazingly short, a blessing which only echoed his introduction as the best implant surgeon in the system. Bee3 had been grav-lifted over to Meyan's table with a glowing smile that was so infectious even Meyan couldn't help but partake. "Ok, I'll just need a moment to align a few of the instruments but we'll get you up and on your way as quickly as we can. Is 'Bee3' ok?"

Her patient giggled and smiled back with barely restrained excitement. "'Bee' is ok. It's easier too."

"Then 'Bee' it is." Meyan finished moving a few highly specific sensors into place then initiated the activation sequence on her own workstation. A new set of windows sprang to life alongside a full real-time image of Bee's cortical activity.

"Could you project it over me? I'd like to see it too if that's ok." Meyan saw no reason not to and so she simply modified the holo emitters and the entire pile of windows including the real-time cortical map, the protein array, several sensor meters, and a host of smaller windows splayed out in a rainbow of display above the half-prone child. "Seems funny to be laying down for this anyway."

Meyan had to think about that. "Well, I don't know why, it's always just been done this way I guess.

Bee seemed like xe was about to nod before thinking better of it. "Do you want to know why?"

"Um, sure." Meyan continued to cycle through the pre-activation checklist just to the upper left of Bee's vision while she talked.

"I looked it up before the procedure. Most beings unconsciously equate lying down to being docile, dormant, and relaxed. So I guess it's meant to keep the patient calm."

Meyan completed the first set of physical checks; the surgical insertion had been immaculate with no undue abrasions or impact on surrounding tissue. Her esteem for the doctor went up despite his initial attitude. "Must be it then. Do you feel calm?"

"No"

She'd just begun the scan on each of the nanites but Bee's answer seemed to take hold. "No? What's wrong?"

Bee giggled. "Oh, nothing's wrong, I'm just really excited."

Meyan let the scan continue and for a moment she looked down at her patient. The girl; child laying on her chair looked no older than seven or eight and despite knowing very well the biological age of xer body to be at least eleven Meyan couldn't help but see Ellie there in front of her. She had to shake her head for a moment just to clear the sudden intruding image but the shock of it stayed with her. Bee noticed and xer face soured. "Who did you remember? It was sad."

Meyan's mind was already coming back from the moment of confusion as it tried to grapple with exactly how this child seemed to know what she was thinking. "I... no one, a friend."

"I'm sorry to cause you pain." Bee continued to face forward, completely motionless but xer eyes were fixed on Meyan in concern. "Your eyes moved down and to the right and your breathing increased."

Meyan tried to regain focus on the protein review which had just completed. "You didn't Bee. I just... remembered someone who you reminded me of." She moved onto the final pre-activation check.

"Was she nice?"

"Yes, she was; is very nice. Thank you for asking." Meyan was waiting for the final check to conclude but there was just something more she needed to know before she could in good conscience activate the implants. "Bee?" She struggled to format her question the way she wanted.

"Yes?"

"Why do you want implants?" Best it was going to get she guessed.

Bee seemed to think for just a moment before responding. "Have you ever woken up in a very dark room with no light, and maybe it was a room that you'd never spent much time in or any time at all?"

The question caught her off guard and she thought for a moment. "I think so, yeah." She did have a vague memory of the first time she'd awoken in her friend's room during a sleepover as a child. She'd always had a night-light and so waking up to a pitch black room had been enough of a fright to keep the memory with her long enough.

"You know that I am a digital sapient right?"

"Of course."

Bee once more circled her eyes up to look at Meyan. "Dr. Meyan, I'm still in that room."

"Oh..." Bees reasoning was at a level that was giving even her mind an exercise but as the analogy started to crystalize for her several things began to happen at once. For one, she no longer had any concerns about the child's mental fitness. Xe'd just used reasoning skills that fell well above the adolescent range. Secondly, Meyan realized that rather than calming Bee, Xe had been using calming tactics and specifically ascribed actions to reassure Meyan this entire time. And finally, as Meyan thought back to that moment of fear as a child she began to piece together the puzzle that she'd been missing the pieces from for some time. Bee was a digital sapient. Xe lived in a virtual world with almost no physical limits and yet here xe was, trapped in a human body and in a human mind with only human hands, eyes, ears, mouth, and nose for input. And xe had only gained this body within the past several months as well? This implant suite wasn't a risk, not to xer. The little fleet of nanites, their proteins, and housing were freedom. Bee would finally regain the awareness and reach that xe had been born to and in that moment Meyan realized just what it must have felt like to be born into one state of being then suddenly bound into another. "Oh."

The pre-activation checks had concluded long ago and a gentle clearing of the throat from somewhere behind Meyan reminded her that she had two more activations yet to do with only one chair and station in which to do them. "Would you like me to keep the display up for you Bee, or was that only ever for my sake?"

Bee smiled. "You can keep it there if you like, I'll have front row seats through my implants."

Meyan smiled, took a breath, and continued. "Then let's start this symphony." She activated the implant suite.


The universe came to life. A small portion of xer consciousness was listening to Dr. Meyan's instructions as she began cycling through the various startup checks and calibrations. The rest of Bee's mind was sailing on vast currents of information. Schematics, info streams, schedules, everything was once more within xer reach or just a quick hack away. Xe realized that Dr. Meyan was just now advising xer not to access more than just the initial startup features and Bee quickly curtailed xer voyage beyond the lab.

"As I can see that you've already completed steps one through fifteen, we'll move onto external contact recognition." Dr. Meyan's tone made it clear that she'd been entirely aware of Bee's little jaunt and as Bee focused on the cortical map displayed before xer, xe also saw the map internally in xer mind and realized that xe'd been putting on quite the lightshow for all to see. Oops. "Not so fun now that I can read your mind too?" Dr. Meyan was smiling as she reviewed the activations of Bee's guilt centers and there was enough good natured humor in the comment so that Bee took the hint without feeling overly chastised.

They continued through the next few steps of creating and saving various benign emergency contacts within the implant's catalog but as they finished programming in the emergency contact for Station Officials, a contact which would automatically broadcast additional information like current location, status, as well as any bodily harm that might exist directly to an authority, Bee noticed that the good doctor was once more starting to see her friend when she looked at xer. Bee knew that the idea that xe suddenly had wouldn't go unnoticed for long so xe moved quick. Stealing a page from Sophia's practical joking site, Bee quickly accessed the local directory and located Dr. Meyan Lui Kasil's personal contact. Once xe had that xe initiated a search for the image xe needed and once xe had that xe executed xer little joke. Dr. Meyan paused as suddenly the image of a Terminus Fireworm hanging by the last two of its twelve claws flashed in front of the doctor's vision. The caption on the image simply read; "Hang in there!"

Dr. Meyan just started laughing. "Ok, Ok, I'm that obvious. But could you please try to stick to the script for the rest of this and we'll be done soon." All indications of Dr. Meyan's sadness evaporated so Bee just nodded. "Clearly your new contact integration software works fine, so all that is left is to calibrate your spatio-kinetic suite."

The chair started shifting upward and lowering xer towards the ground so Bee sat up with it before stepping gingerly onto the decking. Xe also activated the monitoring software that xe knew was tucked into the overall package and watched along as xer progressive movement around the small portion of the operation theatre sent data racing first into xer implant and then out through a network connection to a destination xe didn't recognize. Dr. Meyan was observing the same thing as xe was as she checked first the input feed and then to output. "100% integrity."

"You don't know where it goes either do you?" Bee's question was more of a statement.

Meyan frowned for a moment then just shook her head. "No. All I know is that the feed has Coordinator level security access on it."

Bee just nodded. Xe could already see Drake being grav-lifted slowly across the theatre into the reclining chair xe'd just vacated and xe knew xer time with Dr. Meyan was at an end. "Thank you."

Meyan smiled as she considered her young patient. "Thank you Bee, and for the image. I might have to put that one up in my workspace."

Bee smiled back. "And your skin looks amazing." Xe didn't wait to see the effect of xer very targeted complement but instead turned and walked happily back out into the same small room in which xe, H'Aki, Kip, Sophia, and Drake had begun their little journey together. Xe sat at the table and wondered. Everything changed today and while xe didn't know exactly how or why, xe did know that somehow everything had just gotten that much more real; and that much more dangerous.

*****


Kip's mind wandered. It shouldn't have, but it did. The others had left quite early in the morning for their health scans today leaving only H'Aki and Kip to make their own plans. He was determined to be part of the team and if they weren't going to be doing any more official combat training it meant that he better catch up or he'd fall behind. To that end he'd recruited H'Aki to give him some one on one time on the mats while the others were out. His biggest hurdle was now managing multiple opponents at once, in specific being able to deal with one attacker while preparing to catch another with a kick.

It made sense that the others' health scans might be different, they'd always taken a little longer than his and H'Aki's had, but still. He and H'Aki had been sparring for some time now. He almost had the kick but somehow he'd always turn too late or miss something on the first opponent. As before he saw the dummy moving at him and he squared up to take the low kick that was coming his way. Could digital sapients need to have more of their brains scanned or something? He deflected the kick as usual and started pivoting to get his leg free for the kick. His foot had made it about knee-high when suddenly H'Aki advanced faster and closed the distance too quickly. Instead of finding its target on the padding protecting her head, his foot landed dead center of her chest while still fully coiled. He tried to adjust, to hop backwards even as his leg tried to finish it's extension but her momentum was too fast and she flattened him as his other foot failed to find stable purchase on the mat and they both went down.

Kip groaned and tried to roll over to get back up but H'Aki, who had landed with her knee well placed on his own chest, didn't budge. "Get your head in the game, I could have killed you."

"Where are they? Health scans don't take this long."

"Why does it matter?"

"It just does"

"No, it just doesn't. Look, you want to be on missions? You want to be more than just some punk who gets scared and hides? Then get your head in the game. You've got the ability, you just need to stop thinking so much and worrying so much."

He tried to get up again but she didn't move. "You got your head in the game this time?"

"Yeah" he looked ehr in the eye and focused his thoughts.

"Good, cause these are just simulated nano-dummies and pre-programmed moves. What happens when all of your opponents got skills like me?"

He grins, "I guess I'll be fedo'd."

She finally got up and offered him a hand. "You are fedo'd." Her responding grin and quip were actually teasing.

He took her offered hand and together they got him to his feet. It was the first time she'd smiled at him while training. "Look, clearly I'm missing something with this kick. Is it just me? I know I can do it but why not now?"

She considered him for a moment as they moved back to the middle of the floor. "I don't think it's the kick either. You need to just get around faster from the first opponent. Maybe you're thinking about him too much or I don't know..." Kip though on this as well. He had been focusing a lot on making sure to place his block or counter correctly. "When you counter the first one, know that your hit or block is right and let your muscles do the rest. That's why we spent so long on the repetition. Then you can start focusing on the next hit or block."

"But we've only been doing this a few weeks, my muscles are supposed to know this already?"

H'Aki seemed unsure. "I mean yeah, it took me a lot longer to get it too, but I was a little kid. Sophia and Drake got it."

"But they're..." He caught himself. H'Aki had been at the table too so she knew Bee's suspicions. If H'Aki already knew then he could talk about it with her right? "Well, they're different right?"

"Bee still isn't getting it either." He realized she was right.

H'Aki relented. "Look, maybe things are moving too fast for you and I, but I want to help too and you may not see it but I spend most of my time up in that rat nest you love so much trying to find your little blue toys. And yeah, I'm getting better, but this kinda thing," she indicated the whole gym, "this takes a lot more time I think." They both paused to take in the weight of those physical limitations that they were up against. "Let's just try something different ok?"

"Ok"

"If it's getting around to your second opponent fast enough, then let's change it up. How about instead of kicking me, you go for a flip. You know that one well enough from before." She smiled again, and he figured that she was remembering how she'd laid him out the first time and how hard he'd worked to be able to the same back to her. He nodded and smiled back. As she lined up and activated the dummies to reengage he had the stray thought that maybe, just maybe she didn't hate him anymore.

*****


They don't even realize I'm here do they? The fedoshit idiots. He sat in his little corner as Ghera and the Captain argued.

"Ma'am, he hasn't been seen since we tried to escort him out of the system. I can positively say that he is not on this ship." The Captain looked worried but he was doing an admirable job of hiding it from Ghera. "I'm very sorry, but your Advisor may have been lost to the Blood Raiders if he tried to leave the ship during the fight, as it looks like he very well may have done." The Captain certainly didn't have any love for her Adviser but perhaps it was the reprisal she might dole out that kept him in such a penitent attitude. "Ma'am, he may be dead."

Ghera's face seemed to brighten for only a moment before turning sour. "My luck is not that good Captain."

"Ma'am?" He doesn't get it. Jallif snickered quietly.

Ghera was already waving her hand. "Never mind Captain. He is not our concern, for now at least." Her eyes rolled to look askance at Jallif without even turning her head.

"Oh, right, him. Can we finally hand him over now?" You don't have to sound so happy about it. The derision dripping from the Captain's voice acted to boost his mood though. It wasn't often he got under someone's skin that much and while it certainly wasn't a healthy habit, he had to admit that it felt at least a little bit satisfying.

He didn't move to respond to the Captain's jab but instead remained patient while Ghera made a show of considering it. They were still docked in orbit of Renaissance but without 'The Businessman' to manage him and with Ghera already on board he was risking his bet that no random searches would be conducted just this moment. So in his spot he sat.

Ghera wouldn't make a decision now, not in front of the Captain. She didn't trust him and so she would give him no chance to factor into her decisions. Which means I ain't going nowhere you hoity-toity worm. He'd wait until they went back to her father's cabin to make his case.

"He stays, for now." The Captain clearly did not agree with this answer but he held his piece. Like a good Navy hound-puppy. "You'll be docked here for the foreseeable future Captain Adders, so I suggest you let him out for walks when you can. We don't exactly want him smelling up that hole of his too much." Hey, I'm right here you bitch. "Trust me, that hidden panel doesn't hide smell." He wasn't sure whether to be offended or grateful but in the end offended was a lot more natural so he went with that one.

The Captain, meanwhile, had already moved onto other matters. "And what is it that we are to be doing while we are here Ma'am?"

She smiled something approximating a mischievous smile yet it set off way too many predatory warnings for Jallif to be considered anything playful. "I've transferred a set of specifications to the ship's databanks. You will see to it that the adjustments outlined within are made before the week is out. And during any spare time you might have, please keep ship-leave to a minimum if possible; we may need to leave in a hurry and I'd hate for someone to get left behind." Without giving him time to react she turned smartly on her heel and started for the Ambassador's Suite. Jallif tried to act as natural as he could as he stood and also turned to follow her. At her brisk pace he didn't catch up to her until they were entering the Suite.

"You're getting rather bold now aren't you?" He didn't know to which of his actions she was referring and so said nothing. Once the door had closed she spun about, crossed her arms, and considered him with that same predatory smile. "Now, are you still his faithful mutt, or is there any possible way in which you might be of use to me."

He decided a little honesty may be in order. "Only reason I put up with him is 'cause he gave me a way out of this hole. You offer me the same thing and maybe I can help you too."

She seemed to consider it for a moment. "And why not just hand you over, I don't see how you could possibly be of use to me anyway."

He had to think fast. "But what about finding your Advisor when we get out?" That was what 'The Businessman' had said right?

"Ha!" She strolled over to a decanter and began pouring only one glass. "If you bought his crap about connections out there then you are even stupider than I thought."

"So you were using him?" Her responding stare past the crystal glass she held was the bored equivalent of 'well duuuuuuh'. He couldn't figure out exactly how but in time he'd get it out of her, he was sure of that. He needed another lifeline though. "You hand me over and I might tell them all about those kids you are rescuing." She paused in her drink but didn't lower the glass.

"I wouldn't need to hand you over alive." Fedoshit.

He scrambled. "Maybe I have an insurance policy hidden back in Icarus."

"Not Likely." She finished her sip and rested the glass in her other hand as she considered him like a hawk would a meal.

"You get me out of this hole? I'll tell Scope all about the horrors done to the children here. I'll tell them all about your heroics charge to free them!" She seemed to consider this just a bit longer.

"No, if The Scope reporters were so hard up for news as to listen to you then they'd have listened to me when I tried to tell them the same thing years ago." Now he was running out of ideas. He could feel the sweat starting to bead on his head and knew that he really was trapped. He could try to make a break for the lifepods; perhaps he could argue his case against the Colonial Security after all. Maybe they wouldn't kill him. Or he could turn evidence; point them at exactly where to find her. But he had no idea if she'd actually started taking the children yet. And ultimately she still had diplomatic immunity even by Colonial Law. (He'd checked on that some time ago and been very disappointed.)

While he squirmed she just stood across from him with her predator smile. She was positively enjoying it! "Hmm, maybe I do see why he kept you around after all..."

Jallif had no inkling of why 'The Businessman' hadn't just killed him already but he was certain it had nothing to do with what he saw in her eyes. He'd been many despicable things in his life but he'd never been somebody's... plaything.

He tried to bring himself under control, tried to meet her twisted stare as she finished off the last sip of her glass and absently set it down on the gilded counter beside her. He saw no better way out; certainly not one that landed him safely outside this fetid system.

He took a deep breath and did what he always did; he survived.

*****