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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Consider the situation where two spaceships are moving side by side at uniform velocity. The crewmen on each ship can consider both themselves and the other ship to be at rest. Then consider when Spaceship X begins to move forward with reference to Spaceship Y.

—“DEEP SPACE AND ATMOSPHERIC BOARDING” NAVMC 3600.4, ATMC

DANIELA YORK was gazing at the blue-white suns of Ophiucus through Draco's star window when Lieutenant Tregaski came to the bridge. “The captain would like to speak with you in his stateroom, Miss York” he announced politely.

“Thank you.” York caught the modest deference in the lieutenant's voice and considered it a good omen. Tregaski was a certain barometer of the captain's moods. He escorted her to the captain's cabin, where she found Hull sitting at his desk under the familiar blue light. His square face was as stern and set as ever, but with something else in it which she couldn't quite read. Uncertainty? Perhaps. There might even be a touch of bitterness there, she decided.

“Myranda Flare is believed to be in the Geddes system,” said Hull bluntly. “We just received word.”

“Terentulus, is it?”

“Exactly. You don't seem surprised.”

“It makes sense,” she allowed. “She was bound to start doubling back at some point and it's on a more direct line than either Rhysalan or Feymanus. What is your admiral doing about it?”

“He's called off Cetus and dispatched her to the scene,” Hull said reluctantly. “A full blockade is being established for the duration of the planetary manhunt.”

It was difficult, but she kept a straight face. Her heart leaped. This was the news for which she'd been waiting!

“It sounds like the Director managed to convince the admiral to see things his way.”

“You seem to know more about these sorts of things than I do,” Hull answered bitterly.

“Only by deduction,” she countered. “There's a certain predictability that springs from almost any situation. The trick is to anticipate the politics.”

“You've been right on most counts.” Hull shook his head. “That's one danger all but down. Once the cyborg's operative is captured, that only leaves House Dai Zhan.”

“Only,” York observed wryly. “Of course, the key word is 'once'. They haven't got her yet.”

Hull frowned. “She can't transfer her mind from a planet, can she?”

“Definitely not between worlds,” York assured him.

“Could she transfer minds with someone on one of the blockading ships and hide away? If she could do that, she could prove hard to ferret out.”

“Only if the captains on the blockading ships were foolish enough to allow direct high-speed commlinks to the surface. I expect they have orders to that effect.”

“But if she can't get aboard a ship?”

“Then you have no worries. They'll find her eventually. It's only a matter of time.”

“It's a relief to know that,” admitted Hull. “Although I'm certain the admiral is aware of the fact.”

“I'm confident the Director would have told him.”

“And Director Karsh got it from you originally. Everything seems to come back to you.”

“That's all an agent is, Captain, a gatherer of information. Someone had to obtain it. I was merely the right woman in the right place at the right time.”

“You're too modest.”

“Well, we also make good targets.”

“We're trying to prevent that,” Hull answered stiffly. He looked away, oddly hesitant, before he looked back at her. When he did, his face was set and totally devoid of expression. “I should also tell you that I have received instructions from the admiral to give you a free hand in the investigation, once we board Rigel.”

She nodded, unsurprised. The Director's hand reached as far as he wanted it to go. “I'll be largely dependent upon you, of course, Captain.”

“Anything I can do, naturally.” Hull appeared relieved that she wasn't inclined to rub the insult to the Navy in his face. “If you have any suggestions?”

“I'd like to have the boarding party screened.” She smiled. “To be specific, no Dai Zhani.”

“I understand your concerns. I see no pressing need to include any of them.”

“I'd also like to have Doc Benbow along.”

“Certainly.”

“And Les Osborn.”

“Osborn?'

“I had a good chance to observe him while he was guarding me,” explained York. “He's young, but he's tough. He's the kind of a man who is often handy in a pinch. I was a little surprised to learn that he's just a deckhand.”

“I'll bear that in mind,” answered Hull. “So Osborn as well. Tregaski?”

“Yes, of course. I'd also like to suggest not letting the survivors know we suspect anything.”

“If there are survivors.”

“There will be,” she said. “Some of them may even be innocent.”

“I don't want guilty men roaming my ship,” Hull protested. “I thought the idea was to quarantine them, to prevent them from passing any information or messages to their collaborators–”

She smiled at him.

“Their potential collaborators on this ship!”

“I know what I'm doing, Captain. I expect it will only take a few hours to identify the guilty parties. A day or two at most.”

“You believe this is necessary?” Hull shook his head. “You're taking a tremendous risk with my ship!”

“Don't sugarcoat it, Captain. I'm taking a tremendous risk with our lives. And it is absolutely necessary, if we're to capture the parties responsible and ensure that all of them are taken. Even one escaped operative could be enough to upend the galactic status quo forever.”

“I suppose you're right. The stakes are a damn sight higher than one solitary warship.” Hull glanced away, his face thoughtful. “I don't pretend to understand all the ramifications of your work, but I have my orders. I'm certain the admiral must know many things that we don't.”

“In essence, we're both extensions of his thinking.”

“A captain always realizes that, Agent York.”

“So does an operative.” York grinned. “We're expensive tools, but expendable if necessary.”

“We'll try not to expend you,” Hull replied drily.

“Thank you, Captain,” she said. “I'm all in favor of that.”

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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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