Captain Kristoff ordered a little tea brewed, just in case he needed to drug someone among the three passengers on his ship. They've been trouble from the time they came aboard, and the trouble's not over. A constable is tailing the pirate freighter. And someone is sneaking out of quarters.
And now, on Space Pirates:
Kristoff took a step backward around the corner and flattened himself against the wall. Drawing the knife he kept at his belt, he angled the broad blade to catch a distorted reflection of the corridor. A form in a long white dress stepped from the room and hesitated. A blond head turned left and right, as if seeing if the coast was clear, then the form moved toward him.
He moved back two more steps and without a sound slipped into the supply closet to stand between shelves of linens on side and a small pantry of canned and dried foods on the other. Through the crack between the door and the jamb, he watched the woman—Rebeka Bat’Alon, according to the passenger manifest—pause at the corner, survey the guests’ common room and beyond it the empty guest galley, then step out far enough to look down the forward companionway to the cargo deck. She moved to the aft stair and descended.
Kristoff slid his knife back into its sheath and tapped the talk button on the radio three times in quick succession, standard alert signal for the Vega crew, then he quietly closed the closet door behind him and took the forward stairs.
Corrigan met him at the bottom.
“The airlock,” Kristoff murmured. “You go around that way”—he jerked his head in the direction of a stack of smuggled fine wine especially ordered by the governor of Port Henry—“and I’ll meet you there. Don’t do anything. Just watch what she does.”
Kristoff put a finger to his lips. Corrigan nodded.
The woman’s slight shoulders were hunched, her head bent, in her concentration on the hatch batten. The lock was on Corrigan’s list of repairs, but for now the door was sealed with a keyed padlock, and the woman was clearly unprepared to wrestle with it, her tools inadequate to the job.
From the other side of the cargo deck, Corrigan looked at Kristoff; Kristoff shook his head. Each man took a position behind freight—Kristoff was concealed by metal cases holding legitimate medical supplies—and waited until the woman, cursing under her breath, gave up on picking the lock and instead pulled a small torch from somewhere under all that lace and froth, and burned through the hasp. She caught the pieces before they hit the floor, gasping at the hot metal cradled in her hand. Setting the lock at her feet, she looked around once more.
Kristoff breathed slow, deep, silent.
She stepped into the airlock, looked up, closed the door, and through the port she could be seen reaching for something over her head.
Clumsy spying if he ever saw it. Why not conceal the device in her cabin?
Oh, yeah. All those spiders had been caught already.
Zoltana, Zoltana, Zoltana. You wanna catch us, you need to find a new way of tracking us.
Well, putting a flesh-and-blood spy on board was new. Two points for the extra effort.
A faint throat-clearing came from the far side of the deck. Kristoff lifted his head just enough to see Corrigan’s ugly mug grimacing and contorting as if the man were having a fit. No, just trying to waggle his eyebrows. Or maybe wink. He nodded toward the aft stairs. A pair of leather shoes, sturdy with thick soles, descended and then a pair of dark-clad legs attached to the shoes. A pause. A bandaged hand gripped the railing.
Ah. Either the lover or the idiot. Not that there was much difference between the two. A lover pretty much became an idiot sooner or later.
A few more steps, an awkward turn, and the lover came around the corner. He shuffled a little, favoring the side where a couple cracked ribs troubled him. His pale eyes shone from a multi-colored face, the bruises still purple and black, a small one on his forehead already turning a sickly yellow-green around the edges. He stopped, looked around, moved toward the airlock, all the while keeping to the wall and setting his feet slow and careful. The floor of the cargo deck was made of metal mesh or sheets with rings set into each side so they could be lifted and placed as needed over the hold below, and a firm footstep could set the floor rattling.
The seal around the hatch gave a little pop; the man flattened to the wall then winced, grabbing his ribs, but never made a sound.
Kristoff looked at Corrigan. Now.
c. 2008, Keanan Brand