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Utmost Confidence

Dismissed by the captain, York passed through the crew's quarters en route to the ship's hospital, in search of Dr. Benbow. She saw Les Osborn sitting alone at one of the mess tables, immersed in a game. She paused to look at the big deckhand as a plan formed in her mind. Osborn was tough, rugged, the very kind of a man she might need if she remained on the ship. As if sensing her eyes on him, Osborn glanced up and abruptly sat straighter.

“Are you winning?” she asked.

“Just waiting to go on watch, Miss York.” Osborn switched off his device and looked at her warily. The other men in the mess eyed him enviously, but she ignored them.

“May I sit down?” She smiled and sat opposite him when he nodded.

The blue eyes searched York's face candidly. “Miss, what are you? Why did they, you know….”

“Try to kill me?”

“Well, yeah.”

“I imagine there are a few rumors flying around.”

“A few,” he admitted cautiously.

“Such as?”

“Lieutenant was saying you are a scientist with the Bureau of Colonial Planets,” replied Osborn. He sounded dubious.

“But you don't think so,” she observed. “Anything else?”

“Some was saying you're a Master at Arms.”

“What's that?”

“It's what's called the military cops in the other services.”

“Oh, I see.” She smiled and shook her head. “I'm not in the Navy.”

Osborn added reluctantly, “There's also talk that you're with the AID.”

“That happens to be correct, Osborn. I am with the Directorate. The captain knows. But it's not something that I'd like you to confirm for anyone.”

“The Directorate?” Osborn asked wonderingly. “So, you're like a spy?”

“Counterintelligence would be a more accurate description. A spy hunter.”

“A spy hunter? That's cool. Um, why are you telling me this?”

“Because I might need your help. And after what happened outside my cabin, I know you're the kind of man I need.”

Osborn rocked back from the table, his eyes full of surprise and awe. “Does the captain know?”

“He knows. Want him to vouch for me?”

“I can just see me asking!” Osborn snorted. “I guess you're all right. When you first came aboard you were under guard, but now we're guarding you.”

“I appreciate that. I find it's much easier to do my job when I'm alive.”

“The thing is, that attack, the gas bomb thing, it would have to be someone in the crew. That's hard to believe.”

“I'm sure it is.”

He looked troubled. “What do you want me to do?”

“Help me catch whoever did it.”

“But you don't know who he is!” exclaimed Osborn. “And I wouldn't know how to go about something like that.”

“It's not that hard.” She smiled. “He'll try again. And when he does, we'll be ready.”

“You think he's going to try again?” asked Osborn incredulously. “Even though you're expecting it?”

“I hope so,” she said seriously. “The bigger danger would be if he went after the ship. But we can prevent it. I have an idea that our would-be killer's not that smart. He exposed himself sooner than he needed to.”

“All right.” Osborn's expression hardened. “How are we going to get ready?”

“It's nothing you have to do, it's something you have to be. When the crisis comes, you'll have to act fast and you may be on your own. My life, and possibly the fate of the ship will be at stake, and there won't be any time to ask questions or wait for clarification. Think you can manage that?”

“How will I know it's the time to act?”

“How did you know something was wrong when you caught me outside my cabin?”

“Yeah, all right.” He actually blushed at the recollection. “I get it. I can do it. If something outside the normal routine takes place, that's probably the sign I'm waiting for, right?”

“That's just it,” she confirmed. “Being an operative is all about patience, then striking without hesitation. And you're an operative now.”

“Me, an agent?” he said disbelievingly.

“For the duration of this trip, I'm afraid.”

“I-I'll do my best, Miss York,” Osborn stammered.

“I know you will,” she told him. “I have the utmost confidence in you.”

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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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