Google+ The Bluestocking Firefly: October 2011
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Distractions

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


“What do you mean, you’re going to be the distraction?” asked Grayson later that night, after dinner. The three were closeted in Cam’s suite of rooms, not because they were the most appropriate for the purpose (although Amy was relieved to see that whoever Cam had been with when they’d first arrived had since departed) but because Cam had them regularly swept for bugs.

“If you want to have a chance of getting over the quarantine line and getting to Elderia, you need someone to distract the ships in that area,” Amy said. “I’m not going with you. I have business elsewhere.”

“Back on the
Waratah?”

Amy glanced at Cam. “No. I intend to track down the man I believe took the sample of Warner’s Disease from the ship in the first place.”

Grayson leaned back in his chair. “How the hell would you know who that is?”

She smiled. “I wouldn’t ask that if I were you, Grayson. Call it a hunch, if you like.”

“So what’s this cunning plan of yours, then?” Grayson asked. “I take it you’ve already told your brother.”

“Oh, yes,” Cam said. “I think it’s fabulous. Much more in the spirit of me, you see.” He grinned. “I must be rubbing off on her.”

Amy took a drink and then swirled the remaining liquid around in her glass. “The Sophia will dock at Peleteth. It’s the closest spaceport to Elderia and it’s a straight shot from there to where I need to go, so it’ll serve both of our purposes equally well. As a good citizen of the Commission, Captain Grayson will have been escorting Captain Irene Ellis to the spaceport for an unexpected assessment from Unit 11. The
Sophia will remain in dock long enough to allay any suspicion and then will move off towards the quarantine line. At some point she will activate the signal deflector, and several hours before the ship means to cross the line Kate needs to contact me to let me know the coordinates you’ll be going across at and when exactly you intend to do so.”

“Oh, do tell him how you plan to distract the Commission,” Cam begged.

“Once I get Kate’s message, I’ll change out of the Captain Ellis get-up, back to myself, and steal a ship.” She smiled at Grayson’s expression. “I’ll buzz the ships closest to the point you intend to go across — they’ll have got the call about the stolen ship by then and they should give chase. Just make sure you go across near smaller ships, because the bigger ships aren’t going to run after a little ship.”

“The Commission will
destroy you,” Grayson said.

“No, they won’t,” Amy replied, taking another drink. “They can’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“This is the thing about being us,” Cam said. Amy glared at him and he bit his lip. After a moment he said, “It doesn’t really matter what we do. The name gets us out of it.”

“You still haven’t told me what that name is,” Grayson said.

“No, we haven’t,” Amy said, “and it’s going to stay that way. See, I like you, Grayson, and I would actually like to help you, but there’s a very strong possibility that as soon as you find out who we really are you’d refuse to let us help you. And that would be a really stupid thing to do, because then you’d never get Molly away from Elderia and safe.”

“So what’s Cam going to be doing while we’re out there?”

“Consider me your Wizard,” Cam said, throwing out his arms. Amy and Grayson just looked at him. His arms fell to his sides. “Wizard? Manipulating from behind the scenes? …no? Okay, well, look, I’ll provide the money and a safe haven. I can’t do much unless you keep me in the loop, but if you run into trouble let me know sooner rather than later and I might be able to get you out of it. I’m no hero, though — ”

“He really isn’t,” Amy muttered. Cam pushed her off her chair and she slid to the floor with an indignant squeak.

“ — but I will do my best.” He bowed grandly, or as grandly as was possible from a sitting position, and Amy giggled from the floor.

Cam looked down at her indulgently. “Oh, big sister, have you had too much to drink?”

“Don’t be daft,” Amy said, pulling herself to her feet. “Don’t listen to a thing my little brother says, Grayson.” She patted Cam on the head. “He’s got fluff for brains.”

“But it’s very pretty fluff,” Cam said, smiling at Grayson. “Everyone says so. Don’t you think so, Morgan?”

Grayson coughed. “If that’s all settled, maybe we should go to bed.”

“Oh, there’s loads of room in here.” Cam grinned and pointed at his bed.

Grayson shot to his feet. “Where’s my room, please?”

“You’re no fun.” Sulking, Cam got to his feet and flung open the door. “Maddie,” he said to the young woman waiting outside, “kindly take Mr Grayson to his room, please. And no special treatment for him, either!” he shouted as Maddie led Grayson down the hall. “Where were we?” he asked, closing the door and returning his attention to Amy, who had slid back down to the floor and fallen asleep.

“Oh, sis,” Cam said, looking down at her. “You’ve got to stop taking care of everyone but yourself.” Bending over, he caught her wrists and pulled her upright. “Let’s get you to bed.”


Previous: Money and power 
Next: Parents, children, and really good muffins

Friday, October 28, 2011

Money and power

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Amy took a deep breath. “You know about the quarantine on the outliers, right?”

“Oh, has someone taken ill?” Wilting under Amy’s glare, he added, “I don’t exactly spend a lot of my time perusing the newsfeeds, Anni!”

“You’re an idiot.”

“So are you.”

Amy stuck her tongue out and then composed herself. “Outliers are under quarantine. Grayson’s daughter Molly trapped is on Elderia — she’s the only family he’s got left.”

“I don’t like where this is going.”

“You’ll like it even less if you let me finish,” she replied cheerfully. “So I told you I was a consultant for Grayson and his crew. We found an Empire-era ship, Apollo-class. The
Waratah.”

Cam sat up straight. “You said that disappeared.”

Amy’s eyebrows shot up. “I’m surprised you remembered.”

“You used to tell great stories about the Empire.” He tossed the pillow into the air and caught it as it came back down. “Okay. So you’ve got an Empire-era ship and your captain’s daughter caught in an outlier quarantine. I’m failing to see how these are connected.”

“Disease is called Warner’s Disease and hasn’t been seen in hundreds of years. There was a sample of it on the
Waratah — it’s how the crew died.”

“How did it get — ”

Amy met his eyes. “How do
you think?”

Cam shut up. “Carry on.”

“Grayson’s crew is only six if you include me, and he doesn’t have the people or the resources to do a proper salvage of a ship the size of the
Waratah once the biohazard is taken into account, especially not now that his personal life is interfering with business.”

“You do so hate it when personal life interferes with business,” Cam murmured. “Let me guess. You want me to fund a ‘proper’ salvage of your ship while your captain goes running off to save his kid.”

Amy smiled. “Oh, that isn’t the half of it, darling. Molly will need somewhere to go. She’s only seven; Grayson can’t keep her on the ship.”

Cam stood up and strode to the window. “No way in hell,” he said. “I have — well, I have a certain reputation to maintain, thank you! Small children have no part in my
very carefully constructed image, sis.”

“I thought you might say that,” Amy said. “In which case you can expect to find that details of your latest indiscretions might find their way to Dad after all.”

He swung around. “Seriously? You’re threatening me with
Dad?”

She shrugged. “Is it working?”

“Dammit, Anni.”

“Oh, good. Once Grayson has Molly, she’ll be brought here. I’m sure you’ll barely need to see her; Teddy would probably quite happily take care of her.”

Cam looked surprised. “What, the gatekeeper? Why would he?”

“He looked after us when we were children, Cam. I think he misses it.” Amy ran a hand through her hair. “Besides, I figured if anything went wrong and someone came looking for her, you could make sure she got to a safe place.”

He met her eyes. “I guess I could do that. I know some people.”

“Yeah. I thought you might.” After a moment, Amy coughed and said, “So. If you provide the funds, I’ll put together the team for the
Waratah salvage mission — keep it quiet, if you please, as no one knows about it as yet and the last thing we need is for the Commission to find out that the disease on the outliers came from that ship, even if we’re not the ones who transferred it. Now, as for Grayson — ”

“If you want to marry him, sis, it’s Dad you’ll have to talk to.” Cam perched on the windowsill and crossed his arms. “Legally I can’t do a thing until Dad’s dead.”

“What? No. Don’t be an idiot, Cam.” Amy shook her head. “Why the hell would I want to marry Grayson? I need you to help him get to Elderia, stupid. He can’t get past that quarantine without help. I was thinking an advanced signal deflector, something that will tell the Commission that they're space junk and not worth the time of day.”

Cam scratched his head. “Huh. How big’s the ship?”

“Standard cargo vessel.
SV.”

“Right. An advanced signal deflector will do the trick once she’s over the line, but the Commission’s bound to have high-strength sensors along the edge, specifically to catch anyone trying to get through. Even a ship with the best signal deflector available is still going to cause a blip when she goes over.” He ran his thumb over his bottom lip. “You’ll need a distraction.”

“Yeah, I know,” Amy said. “That’s where I come in.”


Previous: Siblings 
Next: Distractions

Siblings

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Cam shut the parlour door and threw himself down onto a pile of cushions, his expression reminiscent of a sulky child’s. “You want to explain what right you have crashing back into my life so damn soon after the last time? Demanding favours?”

Amy perched on the arm of a chair by the window. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said, glancing up at the ceiling. “For starters, let’s try the fact that this is actually my house. Or had you forgotten that? I think I have a right to come home when I like.” She stretched out her legs and crossed them at the ankle. “And then there’s the small matter of bailing your ass out of trouble since the time you were fifteen.” Smiling pleasantly at her brother, she added, “I’d think you’d be more appreciative of your big sister.”

“Anni, darling, it’s not that I don’t appreciate you,” Cam said, sprawling backwards and absently swinging one leg back and forth. “You
know I do.”

“Mmph.”

He turned his head towards her, half of his face hidden in a pillow. “No, really. That business with Katerina could have been…awkward.”

Amy pushed herself to her feet and gazed down at her brother. “Could have been? Oh, Cam. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to smooth over relations with a minor without bringing Dad into it?” She plunked herself down on the cushions beside him and brushed a strand of hair off his forehead. “No, of course you don’t.”

“Thanks, by the way, for keeping Dad out of it,” Cam said, looking up at her. “You know how he gets.”

“Hah.” Amy stroked her brother’s hair for a moment and then said, “You know, Cam, life would be a hell of a lot easier if you’d just think a bit before leaping. There’d be less mess for me to get you out of.”

“But where’s the fun in that?” he exclaimed, his eyes wide. “Besides, girls like me. It’s not my fault if I’m not an expert with falsified ID tags.”

“Liar,” Amy said fondly. “You’ve been using them since you were fifteen.”

“Yeah, and you didn’t tell Dad about that either.”

She was silent for a moment. “Yeah, well, you never told Dad I was the one in the closet that day.”

Cam rolled onto his back, a frown on his face. “Is that why you’re always cleaning up after me? Because you thought I’d tell Dad?”

Amy shrugged. “You’ve always been closer to Dad than me. I don’t know.”

“Where’d you get that idea?” Cam sat up abruptly and turned to face his sister. “I’ve never been close to Dad. You were always his favourite.”

Amy realised her mouth was open and closed it. “Don’t be stupid.”

“Yeah, thanks, I get enough about my mental capacity from the servants. Seriously, Anni, Dad’s always favoured you. Why do you think you were the one he was teaching to fly?”

“You hate space. And besides, this is entirely beside the point,” she said shortly. “We didn’t come in here to reminisce, we came in here to talk about favours.”

“You’re avoiding the subject, like you always avoid the subject, but never mind.” Cam picked up a cushion and turned it over in his hands. “So why are you suddenly calling in favours? I thought you were just doing big sister things for me.” He smiled brilliantly at her.

“Cam, travelling across half of Commissioner space three times this year alone getting your ass out of trouble with, let’s see, the Idyllan Home Guard, Reliable Skimmers (Outliers),
and the Commission, all while keeping Dad in the dark, kind of goes above and beyond sisterly duty, don’t you think.”

Cam sighed. “I did sort of wonder this last time.”

“Fifteen, Cam? Really?”

“She looked older! Much, much older!” He saw the look on Amy’s face and sighed again. “Do I even want to know how much we had to pay the family?”

“Don’t ask.”

“So what is it you need from me?”


Previous: Family matters 
Next: Money and power

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Family matters

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Amy shifted her bag to her other shoulder. “My experience with absent fathers tells me that they make a hell of a lot of excuses and buy a lot of presents to make up for never being around. Molly smart enough to realise that?”

“She’s a bright kid,” Grayson replied. “She’s interested in rocks. Tells me all about them every time I visit. I try to bring her samples from the different worlds I visit.” He frowned at Amy. “That doesn’t mean I’m compensating.”

She shrugged. “Whatever your reasons, you’re still an absent father, Grayson. You weren’t around when she was born, took her first step, said her first word. You weren’t around when she had to explain to her friends why her mother was dead or how she died.” Her voice shook. “You weren’t there when she had to lie.”

Grayson gave her a strange look. “Are we still talking about me and Molly?”

Amy didn’t answer, just shook her head and stepped out of the trees into a clearing. A tall fence stood before them. On the other side of the fence stretched a large park, a long expanse of grass sloping upwards to a mansion set at the top of the hill. A gleaming skimmer hummed up the path to the left and stopped at the gates; after a moment the gates swung open and the skimmer headed up the hill towards the mansion.

“Oh good, Cam’s home,” Amy said, starting across the clearing.

“Do you mean that
that is where we’re going?” Grayson demanded. “We’re asking favours from some wealthy prick living in a mansion?”

“You haven’t met Cam yet,” Amy said calmly. “Kindly reserve judgements until you’ve met him.
Then you’re perfectly welcome to call him a prick.”

They reached the gates and Amy rang the bell. A moment later an elderly man in blue and grey livery stepped out of the gatehouse and peered through the fence. As soon as he spotted Amy a smile brightened his face and he opened the gates.

“Miss Anneika!” he exclaimed as Amy and Grayson stepped through onto the wide drive. “Why, we weren’t expecting you back to the Manor nearly so soon. Master Camryn will be so pleased to see you.”

Amy smiled. “I’m certain he will, Teddy. Teddy, this is Morgan Grayson, a colleague of mine. He’ll be staying at the Manor for a few days, so I would very much appreciate it if you could make sure to let him come and go as he pleases.”

“Of course, Miss Anneika,” Teddy said. “And will your father be coming home to visit any time soon?”

Her smile faded. “I’m afraid not. He is so busy, you know.”

“Of course.” Teddy bowed to Amy and Grayson. “So good to see you again, Miss Anneika. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Grayson.”

Impulsively, Amy leaned forward and gave Teddy a hug. “It’s really lovely to see you as well, Teddy.”

Teddy patted her gently on the back, his eyes sad. “I know, Miss Anneika. Now go on. Shall I call ahead and let Master Camryn know you’re coming?”

“Yes, do,” Amy said. She nodded to him and then started up the path, Grayson trailing behind.

“You realise that you’ve changed the way you talk?” Grayson asked after several minutes.

Amy glanced sideways at him. “How do you mean?”

“Your accent’s gotten stronger and your language’s gotten more formal.”

A small smile twisted the corner of Amy’s mouth. “Old habits die hard,” she said, looking up at the house looming ahead of them.

“So this manor,” Grayson said. “It’s your childhood home, isn’t it?”

Amy bit her lip. “Yeah.”

“That’s a hell of a lot of money.”

“Again, Grayson, I don’t want to talk about it.”

They reached the top of the hill and the big double doors at the front of the manor flew open. A barefoot young man in an open dressing gown and loose drawstring trousers bounded down the steps and stopped, his arms flung out.

“Anni!” he exclaimed. “I had no idea you were coming back so soon!”

“Hello, Cam,” Amy said dryly. “We’re not disturbing anything, are we?”

He flapped a hand. “No. She can wait.”

Amy made a face. “I really hope you checked her ID this time, Cam.”

He ignored her and circled around Grayson. “And who is this?” he demanded. “Not for me, I imagine.”

“Not in that way, Cam, so stop ogling.” Amy bit her lip in amusement at Grayson’s obvious discomfort. “Cam, this is Morgan Grayson. I’ve been serving on his ship since I left Idylla in the capacity of a consultant, and we need some help.” She met his eyes. “I’m calling in some favours.”

Cam laughed and turned his blazing smile on Grayson. “You’ll have to excuse my big sister,” he said. “She has a terrible sense of humour.”

“Not joking, Cam,” Amy said. “Gear up.”

Cam’s lips thinned. “Will you excuse us,” he said to Grayson, and then he gripped his sister by the arm and dragged her into the manor.



Previous: Leapfrog
Next: Siblings

Leapfrog

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


“What did you tell him?” Grayson asked, starting after her.

“Seriously, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You obviously knew something they didn’t. What made them change their minds?”

“What part of ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ don’t you understand, Grayson?”

“I’m just trying to work out what it is about you that managed to turn the primary law of a planet entirely on its head.”

Amy stopped short and folded her arms. “Okay, look. I told them my name, all right?”

Grayson frowned. “What’s so special about that?”

She hesitated, her eyes narrowing, and then said carefully, “I told them my real name. Which on this planet, as in many other Commission-controlled places, wields a certain amount of force because of who my family is.” With that she turned and started back up the hill. “And that is all I have to say on the subject.” She threw an arm out, one finger up to forestall Grayson’s next words. “Before you say anything else, I really,
really don’t want to talk about it.”

He was silent for a moment, and then said, “So who is this contact of yours, anyway?”

“Oh, let’s not talk about that either.”

“You seem to be rapidly eliminating all of the interesting topics of conversation.”

“Only if you find me interesting.”

“You might be the most fascinating woman I’ve ever met.”

Amy laughed. “Only because you don’t know me, Grayson. Only because you don’t know me. I assure you if you knew very much about me at all, you’d run as fast as possible in the opposite direction.” A pause. “And I’m a slob.”

“Taz is the neatest person I’ve ever met.”

“Well, that’s apropos of nothing.” She glanced sideways at him. “Where’d that come from?”

Grayson shrugged. “He likes you.”

She laughed again. “What about Kate?”

“What about her?”

Amy turned off the main road and onto a wide pebbled side road. “I thought they — you know.”

“Taz and Kate? That’s a brother-sister thing, Jones.”

“Clearly my radar’s way off, then.”

“Apparently so.” He sidestepped a boulder and frowned. “So how far exactly is this place we’re going?”

“Not much farther,” Amy replied. “I probably should have made a call ahead to let Cam know we were coming — he could have sent transport.” She tipped back her head and inhaled deeply. “It’s just nice to be dirtside.”

“When was the last time you were dirtside?”

“Just before I joined up with you, actually,” she said. “I was here visiting Cam.”

Grayson eyed the back of her head as she walked up the path ahead of him. “So is Cam a part-time lover?”

She whirled around. “Oh god, no,” she exclaimed, looking horrified. “Absolutely not. No.”

“Just a question, since you won’t tell me who he is.”

“Let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about something else.” The path forked and Amy turned right. “Tell me about Molly.”

“Molly?”

“Yes, your daughter. The one we’re going to all this trouble for.”

Grayson’s expression softened. “What do you want to know?”


Previous: Loopholes 
Next: Family matters

Friday, October 21, 2011

Loopholes

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


“What?” Amy and Grayson both snapped, and Amy realised that at some point they’d stopped in the middle of the road partway up the hill. Two members of the security force, their weapons slung across their backs, stood downhill. They were both young and looked uncomfortable at having intruded on what they clearly thought was a lovers’ spat.

“Lieutenant Taylor, ma’am,” said the taller one, “and this is Lieutenant Perez. I’m very sorry, ma’am, but it appears you’re carrying an illegal weapon. Is this correct?”

Amy ran her tongue across her teeth. “Hah. Yes. Well spotted.”

“Not hard to spot a pistol when a girl’s wearing a sundress,” muttered Lieutenant Perez. “Not a lot of places to hide it.”

Grayson snickered. Amy shot him a look before returning her attention to the two men, a bland smile on her face.

“You are aware of Idylla’s laws?” Taylor said.

“Mmm. Yes.”

“Then you’re aware that carrying a weapon without a licence is illegal,” he said. “You don’t have a licence for your weapon, do you, ma’am?”

“Not on me, no.”

“Then I’ll need to take your weapon, ma’am, and I’m afraid that we’ll have to arrest you. Do you understand what that means?”

Grayson glanced sideways at Amy, but to his surprise she didn’t seem at all concerned. Instead she looked almost amused, as though she was enjoying some private joke to which none of the men was privy.

“Oh yes,” she said. “I understand perfectly. I’m not sure you do, however.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Amy glanced behind her as Taylor removed the pistol from her waistband and carefully clasped her wrists together. “You really ought to ask for a person’s name before you try to arrest them,” she said genially. “Just so you know who it is that you’re arresting.”

“What good will that do?” Grayson asked. He sighed and looked at Taylor and Perez. “This is ridiculous. Surely there are some exceptions to the rule.”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Hah,” Amy said. “I think you’ll find you’re mistaken.”

“Oh, for god’s sake,” said Perez. “Who the hell are you, if you’re so keen for us to know?”

Amy smiled and beckoned him closer. When he’d stepped near enough, she leaned forward until her mouth was next to his ear and whispered, “Anneika Brenner.”

Perez took a step back. “Oh shit.”

Grayson looked from Amy to the guards and back. “I don’t understand.”

“There’s been a mistake,” Perez said to Taylor. “Let her go.”

“But she doesn’t have a licence — ”

“I do, actually,” Amy said. “I’ve had one since I was, oh, fourteen? But I don’t carry it. It’s in my desk drawer at home.” Her smile grew fixed. “I don’t think I should really need it, do you?”

“No,” Perez said quickly. “Of course not. We’re awfully sorry, ma’am. We’ll just — be going now.” He nudged Taylor. “Give her back the pistol.”

Taylor looked bewildered. “But — ”

“Just do it,” he hissed. “No one's going to use that name unless it belongs to them. Jesus, hasn’t anyone told you about this family?”

His face a picture of confusion, Taylor returned the pistol to Amy, who smiled graciously. With many backwards glances, the two guards headed back down the hill towards the tram station, Perez whispering urgently as they went.

When they’d gone, Grayson turned to look at Amy, who was busy tucking the pistol back into her belt. “You want to explain what the hell that was about?”

“Not really.” She settled her jacket over the pistol and picked up her bag from the road. “Shall we?”


Previous: Idylla 
Next: Leapfrog

Idylla

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Grayson sneezed as soon as he stepped out of the terminal into the Idyllan sunshine. Amy stopped ahead of him and let the crowds swarm past her on their way to the tram terminal. Hearing him sneeze again, she glanced back, a smile on her face.

“Allergies?”

He batted a low-hanging fern out of his way and strode forward. “I haven’t been dirtside in years.”

“Idylla is known for its flowers,” Amy said, scanning the timetable of tram departures on the wall. “People come from all over to see them.”

Grayson looked around dubiously. “What’s so special about them?”

Amy snapped a spiky-petalled blossom off a plant and tucked it behind her ear. “I don’t remember any more,” she replied. “We had to take botany for years, but I can’t say I remember any of it.”

A tram whirred to a stop along the platform and Amy motioned to Grayson to get aboard. The car was packed, the smell of warm bodies mingling with the scent of the flowers lining the platform. Amy flattened herself against one of the walls; Grayson pressed against her, gripping an overhead handle with one hand.

“Is it always like this?” Grayson asked, his breath hot against her ear.

“First tram out of the space-to-dirt terminal is always a crush,” Amy said. “Most people get off at Idylla City for transports to the coast or inland to the mountains, so it’ll thin out after the first stop.”

The tram shuddered as it shifted into motion. Grayson stepped on Amy’s foot.

“Sorry,” he said. “So what’s our stop?”

“Off at Half Moon River and switch to the Star Line for about three stops, and then we walk the rest of the way.” She glanced up at his face. “Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t pick the names.”

“You’re pretty familiar with the route. You live on Idylla?”

Amy smiled. “Getting personal, Grayson. Let’s not.”

As Amy had predicted, most of the bodies filtered off the tram at Idylla City, leaving enough empty seats for them to sit until they had to switch trams. It wasn’t until they were on the Star Line and almost to their stop that Amy happened to look up and notice the fall of Grayson’s jacket over his hip.

“Grayson, tell me you’re not carrying.” Her words, although urgent, were whispered so low that Grayson almost didn’t hear them.

He turned, shifting his grip on the handle above his head from his left to his right hand. “So?”

Her lips thinned. “Dammit, Grayson, the one thing I asked was that you not bring weapons.”

“What’s the big deal?” He raised his eyebrows. “Someone going to come along and toss me in prison?”

Amy ran a hand through her hair. “Uh, yeah. Grayson, the reason Idylla is such a popular pleasure planet is because there are
no weapons allowed dirtside unless you’re a member of the security force, and every member of the security force has their weapon personally coded so that they’re the only person who can use it. And there is an absolute zero tolerance policy for weapons offenders.” She met his eyes. “If you’re caught on Idylla with a weapon and you don’t have a licence, yeah, you’ll go to prison. And I’m not talking a short stay while you arrange bail and a ride back into space. Idyllan law states that anyone carrying without a licence goes away for life. No exceptions.”

Grayson stared at her. “You’re kidding me.”

“Nope.” She took a deep breath and glanced down the car at the other passengers. “So here’s what we’re going to do. When the tram comes to a stop, I need you to fall against me. When you do that, pass me the pistol.”

“Look, I don’t need you to get arrested just because — ”

She fixed him with an intent look. “Grayson. Trust that I know what I’m doing, and shut up and do it.”

He shrugged, and as they approached the Crescent Village stop he shifted his weight, falling against Amy as the tram came to a halt. She slipped the pistol from his hip, checked the safety, and swiftly tucked it into the belt of her sundress, beneath her jacket.

“This would have been much easier if you’d just listened to me,” she muttered as they stepped off the tram. She slung her bag over her shoulder and headed for the exit. “Why do you always assume you’re right?”

“Why do you always assume
you’re right?” Grayson demanded. “Ever since I met you you’ve acted like you know everything. As a personality trait I have to tell you that really wears on a person after awhile.”

Amy strode out of the station and headed up the hill. “You
hired me for my expertise, Grayson! On a subject upon which I am the undisputed expert! So I’m sorry, but yes, I do know everything because for god’s sake, that is why you hired me!”

“Excuse me, sir, ma’am, but if we could speak with you for a moment?”


Previous: Plans 
Next: Loopholes

Monday, October 17, 2011

Plans

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


There was silence on the bridge for a moment. Then Taz said,

“Do you have a plan, or were you planning on sailing through the quarantine line with a smile and a wave and no resistance?”

Grayson shrugged. “I’ll think of something.”

Amy, who had been biting the tip of her thumb, lifted her eyes to Grayson’s face. “Where do you plan on taking Molly once you get her off Elderia? Are you planning on just turning a blind eye to the rest of the people who are dying? What if Molly is a carrier? Are you willing to risk infecting planets outside the quarantine?” In response to Grayson’s ugly look, she said, “Someone has to ask. I can help you, if you’ll let me. But you have to trust me and I know that’ll be hard because you’ve only known me a short time, but I
can help.”

Grayson studied Amy’s face. “What is it you suggest?” he asked at last.

She hesitated. “I have a contact on Idylla. He owes me some favours. It would be a safe place for Molly to stay once you get her off Elderia, assuming he agrees and assuming you can accomplish it, and he has the money to fund an expedition back out to the
Waratah that’s properly fitted out for biohazards. Discreetly,” she added. “I don’t think anyone wants to risk the Commission finding ground zero of the disease at the moment. He may also be able to help you get Molly back.”

Grayson crossed his arms. “No one just
has that kind of contact.”

Amy met his eyes. “I do. You can either trust me or you can leave it.”

The struggle was clear on Grayson’s face. He knew his chances of getting to Elderia were slim without help, but Amy’s plan required a far heavier dependence on outside sources than he was used to. Finally he said, “What do you want in return?”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Nothing,” she said. “Well, possibly I might ask you to give me a lift, but other than that I’m not really in the business of holding favours over people’s heads.” She shrugged. “If Cam wants something from you then that’s his business and you’ll have to sort it out with him, but since I’m the one asking he shouldn’t bother you.” She smiled suddenly. “With any luck he’ll be so pleased to see me that he’ll agree to help before he realises what he’s agreed to.”

Kate swivelled her chair. “Should I lay in a course for Idylla’s spaceport, then?”

Amy moved to the flight console and bent over Kate’s shoulder. “Put in at C22,” she said, and then with a barely imperceptible pause added, “It’s Cam’s personal docking port.”

“Won’t he mind us using it?” Kate’s brow crinkled. “I mean, what if he’s already got a ship in port?”

“Cam hates space, so it’s not likely,” Amy said, tapping a docking sequence into Kate’s console. “Send that ahead — it’ll get you permission to use the docking port. If there are any problems let me know.” She turned and frowned at Grayson. “Probably best if just you and I go down. You got anything more summery in your wardrobe?”

Grayson’s eyebrows shot up. “Come again?”

“You’ll look like a mercenary on Idylla,” Amy said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but security keeps an eye out for those kinds of people — "

“‘Those kinds of people’?”

“ — and I think it’s best if we can scoot by as undetected as possible.” She sighed. “But as long as you remember to leave all of your weapons behind everything will be fine.”


Previous: Grayson's past 
Next: Idylla

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grayson's past

Links to the rest of this story may be found here.


Amy sat back. “I didn’t know you had a daughter.”

“I’m calling Taz up here,” Kate said, her finger on the comm button.

“What can he do?” Amy asked. “Surely de Sara would be more help. He’s clearly distressed.”

“Taz has known him longer. Ramina…” Kate hesitated. “Taz will know what to do.”

It wasn’t long before Taz pulled himself up the ladder and onto the bridge, his face unreadable. “Hear we’ve got a bit of a situation,” he said. He crouched down beside Grayson. “Morgan. Where’s Molly?”

“She’s still on Elderia,” Grayson said dully. “You know that. Sophia sent her there five years ago.”

Taz was quiet, and Amy wished she knew what was going on inside his head. After several minutes of silence, she finally said,

“Who’s Sophia?”

Taz ran a hand through his hair. “Sophia was Grayson’s wife.” He looked down at Grayson and added, “She’s been dead for five years.”

Grayson took a deep breath. “If we’re going to have this conversation, Taz shouldn’t have to be the one doing the talking.”

“You’ve had a shock,” Taz said. “I don’t know all of it but I know enough I can tell them if you’d rather have Ramina — ”

“I don’t want Ramina poking at me!” Grayson’s jaw worked and he looked away. “Thirteen years ago,” he said carefully, “I met a woman named Sophia Davis. Blonde. Blue eyes. Most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. Real obsession with gardening. Grew up on one of the central planets. Ran for the Commissionate Elite Squad until she broke her ankle and ended up at the Central Commissionate Hospital, which was where I first met her. I was a second-year cadet at the time.” He glanced at Taz. “Taz and I had an accident and I got sent to the hospital.” He closed his eyes. “We were married two years later. She hated living on the ship — she was a botanist and always said there wasn’t enough dirt in space.” His laugh caught in his throat and his fingers lifted absently to the chain hanging around his neck. “Three years after we were married Soph got pregnant and had to go dirtside. Then sometime after Molly was born I was part of a division called dirtside to deal with a faction that had been causing trouble.” He swallowed. “Imagine my surprise when I discovered my wife among them. My loyalty was in question — surely I’d known about my wife’s activities? Everyone knew how close we were.” A shadow crossed his face, and then he said, “I’d had no idea. I’d had no idea she was troubled by the activities of the Commission. I was a soldier first and an engineer second — I followed orders and only thought about them occasionally, and in any case I was a computer specialist. I never dealt with the greater political workings of the Commission. Sophia had been watching them for a long time, since her days running for the University. And they knew it. And they wouldn’t believe me when I told them I didn’t know.”

Amy looked at him. His eyes were wet. She glanced at Taz, whose mouth was set in a grim line, and back at Grayson, a bad feeling about what he was going to say next.

“‘It has to be done, son,’” Grayson said, his tone mocking. “That’s what Commandant Marshall told me. ‘It has to be done. Convince me of your loyalty.’” His voice broke. “‘Convince me.’ He put a pistol in my hand and I shot my wife through the heart.”

Amy’s hand went to her mouth. Taz gently squeezed her shoulder. She found his fingers and gripped them. “How could you — ”

“She told me,” Grayson said dully. “She said it would be all right. And there was Molly. If I hadn’t — ” His body convulsed briefly and then stilled. “If I hadn’t they would have shot me too. And Molly would have had no one.”

“So why is Molly on Elderia?” Kate asked. “I mean, I understand you can’t have a child on a salvage ship, but if you left the Commission after — ” She stopped, biting her lip, and then continued, “Surely you could have done something dirtside so your daughter could have lived with you?”

A short, humourless laugh escaped from between Grayson’s lips. “I would have, but Sophia had been afraid for her safety and pre-empted me.”

“The Commandant sent me to escort Morgan to where Sophia had been living during the pregnancy,” Taz said. “It was known she’d had the child, but not what had happened to it. I was to observe Morgan’s behaviour and report back.” The corner of his mouth tipped up in a grim smile. “I was a poor choice of watchdog. I was devoted to the Commission, had been since Lieutenant Brenner — ”

Amy’s head jerked up and she stared at Taz as he continued speaking, unaware of her reaction.

“ — got me off Meridani, but watching my best friend forced to shoot his wife shook me. And Morgan and I’d been best friends since we were cadets. I wasn’t about to report back on his movements unless he’d proven to be as deeply sunk in the political opposition as Sophia had been.”

“Which I wasn’t,” Grayson said. “We went through Soph’s house, found nothing. And Molly wasn’t there. Took a long time to convince the neighbour that I wasn’t just trying to get information, that I was her father, but eventually she told me that Sophia’d been worried, that she’d sensed something was coming. She’d sent Molly to Elderia to live with her sister, Ellen. And that pretty much scuttled any chance I had of seeing my daughter.”

“I don’t understand,” Kate said. “Why not just go and get her? Didn’t you leave the Commission?”

“Leave the Commission directly after my wife was discovered a sympathiser with opposition forces and with my own loyalty in question? Leave directly after being required to shoot my wife in order to prove that loyalty?” Grayson laughed bitterly. “Leaving would have suggested to the Commission everything I had just desperately tried to prove otherwise. I couldn’t leave. They would have hunted me down and put a shot through my head.”

“How could you stay?” Kate demanded. “After what they
did?”

“Don’t ask me that,” Grayson said. He looked old. “I stayed on for two more years, completed my ten years of service, and then I resigned. But I let Molly stay on Elderia with her aunt. It’s just that outside of service with the Commission the best way to earn a living is salvage, and I can’t have a kid in space. There’s not much call for computer specialists or engineers dirtside, especially not on the outliers, and on the inner planets costs are so high that it would have been almost impossible.” A look of pain fleeted across his face. “I’ve always spent time with her. I take her things I find on salvage trips. It’s not as much time as I’d like, but you never think — ” He was silent for a moment, and then pushed himself to his feet. “I’m not leaving her on that planet to die. I may not be a great father, but Molly is my world. She is my daughter. She’s mine and Sophia’s, and I’ll be going to get her.” He looked at the three of them. “You’re welcome to leave if you’re not keen on breaking the Commission’s quarantine, but I’ll be damned if I let the Commission take the rest of my family from me.”


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