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Suspicion, Bordering on Paranoia

Corden Hull's weathered face was full of rage. He had arrived in Benbow's suite along with Lieutenant Tregaski a few hectaseconds after the doctor called him. His pale blue eyes glinted angrily. “We never had anything like this happen before you came aboard, Miss York!”

“Did you ever have a cruiser stolen before?”

“I'm talking about Draco!” Hull shot back.

“The Draco, the Rigel,” she shrugged, “It's all part of the same story, Captain.”

“Why weren't you with Osborn?”

“I'm sorry, Captain, I just got careless. I was speaking with the doctor and I figured I could make it back to my cabin from here without incident.”

“It's at times like these I wish we could bring back the lash,” Hull declared without making it clear if he was speaking of her, Osborn, or Doctor Benbow. He looked over at Tregaski, who had taken his customary position by the door. “I want every inch of this ship searched immediately, Lieutenant. I won't countenance any illegal weapons.”

“Aye aye, sir,” Tregaski said.

“I'd prefer you didn't,” she interrupted.

“You'd prefer what?” Hull looked as if he was about to strike her. “I don't recall asking you for permission, Miss York.”

York stared him down and shook her head slowly. “You know the stakes, Captain. I know you're angry. I know you have every right to be. And I was careless. But you can't react like this. The risks are too high.”

“How?” Hull demanded coldly. He was still in a rage, but the fire had rapidly turned to ice.

“I am increasingly convinced that the key to the current emergency lies aboard this ship,” she answered calmly. “Be logical, Captain. If you search the ship, you'll undoubtedly find weapons, but you probably won't discover who intended to use them, or when. They may be amateurs, but they're not idiots. The weapons won't be able to tell you who the killers are in your crew, or how they intend to link up with their allies.”

“So how do you expect to find them?” demanded Hull.

“By waiting until they are ready to act.”

“By waiting!” Hull slapped the desk. “Why not shut them down before they can put their plan into effect? Why take that risk, York? How many more risks can you afford to take?”

“Right now you could never prove a thing,” York pointed out. “Not even the two runs they've made at me. Anything less than absolute proof is failure, because they only need one operative to evade your dragnet in order to succeed.”

“So I'm supposed to risk my ship?”

“I'm willing to risk my life.”

Hull folded his arms. “What would your superiors say if I reported one of their employees was killed because I didn't take adequate precautions?”

“You think my employer would even acknowledge my existence?” York shook her head and glanced at Tregaski and Benbow, both of whom were clearly wondering what the exact nature of the emergency was. It seemed the captain still hadn't seen fit to brief his officers concerning the Rigel's fate yet. She saw a flicker of uncertainty cross Hull's face and pressed her advantage. “Believe me, Captain, everything is proceeding satisfactorily. But you can't take the ship apart now. It isn't the time. Not yet.”

Hull shook his head in frustration. “I certainly wish I had your confidence, York. But I understand you ran away from the scene. Why?”

“To see where some of your crewmen were.” She explained what she had found and who was present at the Krabacci game. “But that doesn't necessarily exempt the onlookers or even the players.”

“With six witnesses?” Benbow was incredulous.

“One of the players could have directed the operation,” York pointed out. “Or the game could have been set up to provide an alibi.”

“You have a suspicious mind, Miss York. Bordering on paranoid.”

“It's kept me alive so far.” Barely.

“Enough of this nonsense,” Hull cut in icily. “We have a problem, but I don't like these wild accusations. There is no point in speculation if you're going to insist that we continue sitting on our butts and doing nothing.”

“They're observations, not accusations,” she corrected. “There's a difference. The fact remains, Captain, you don't know who the unknown operatives on this ship are.”

“That may be.” Hull raised his jaw. “In any event, I don't intend to let you get killed, Miss York. Not on my ship. Henceforth your movements will be restricted to your quarters, the officer's mess, and the bridge.”

“You can't do that!” she protested.

“I think you'll find I can,” Hull said. He didn't smile.

Suspicion, Bordering on Paranoia panel 3
A Mind Programmed series cover
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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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