Every Facility and All Aid
Hull glanced at Borstad, the watch officer. “Now that we're safely in transit, I need to speak to Miss York in my cabin. Miss York, if you will follow me, please?”
“Of course, Captain.”
“Aye aye, sir,” replied Borstad as he saluted.
When they reached his cabin and the door was safely closed, Hull was straight and to the point. “Just before we entered hypertransit, I received a reply to my query on your credentials. I am instructed to extend you every facility and all aid short of actually endangering Draco's safety.”
“Admiral Borenhall?” York asked.
“No.” A slightly baffled look came into Hull's eyes. “The High Admiral of the Galactic Seas. It seems Borenhall passed my query up the line.”
“I can't say I'm surprised.”
“I've also received a similar message from Director Karsh, your boss. However, it was in the form of a request.” He raised his eyes to hers, as if weighing her. “You understand the AID has no authority over active naval units.”
“Of course not,” she agreed.
“It appears both the admiral and Director Karsh see the situation your way, as an attempt to acquire the Shiva technology. Personally, I still have trouble accepting that,” Hull stated, “but I am ordered to act on the premise.”
“Did either of them suggest who they believe to be at the bottom of it?” York asked.
Hull nodded reluctantly. “House Dai Zhan, as you said. But that doesn't mean any of my own Dai Zhani crew members are disloyal,” he quickly added.
“It is only a possibility, at this point,” York suggested tactfully. “Even so, we must take all necessary precautions.”
“Why? What has what happened on Rigel to do with my ship?” Hull demanded. “I know these men. Some of them have served under me for years!”
“I don't follow you.”
“Let's posit there are some Dai Zhani agents stranded in uninhabited space,” mused York. “Without a ship, how could they possibly return the technology except through the Draco?”
“There is no way they're going to smuggle a sunbuster on board! I've been on a Shiva-class ship before. Those devices are huge!”
“You've seen one?” she asked sharply.
“Well, not the device itself, of course,” he blinked, taken aback by her sudden intensity. “But based on the size of the compartment, ten men couldn't carry it.”
She leaned back in her chair and shook her head. “Of course they're not going to steal the device itself, Captain. Not if they don't have a second ship. And even if they did, the device's size would render its extrication difficult, if not improbable. No, my guess is that they've dismantled it, and copied off all of the necessary circuitries and programs.”
Hull looked startled. “So, you think they might pass that information on through members of my crew?”
“That, or taking over the Draco. Passing it on would be infinitely wiser. If I were in their shoes, I'd assume that any survivors would be held in protective custody indefinitely, perhaps even for life.”
“That would require extraordinary dedication,” Hull objected.
“No more than that required of you and your crew. You risk your skins every time you take to space in this metal can. Is the thought of sitting in a Directorate cell for a few decades actually any worse?”
Hull eyed her steadily, then slumped back in his seat. “I have three or four Dai Zhani at most,” he said quietly, “none of them officers. Even if we grant they could be disloyal, how could such a small number take over a ship like this?”
“That's precisely what I intend to find out, Captain.”
“It's impossible, York.”
“How many Dai Zhani would you say were aboard the Rigel, Captain? A dozen, twenty?”
“Probably not that many,” Hull admitted.
“On a sun-busting cruiser? Never.”
“And yet both the Admiralty and the Directorate believe it was hijacked,” York pointed out.
“We don't know that, yet.”
“You told me the High Admiral believes it.”
“I'll have to act on the assumption,” Hull sighed heavily. “I hope, well, I don't know what I hope. I just wonder what things have come to when you find yourself hoping that the ship carrying five hundred men merely met with an serious accident.”
She reached out and patted his hand sympathetically. “I don't question your loyalties, Captain. And it's to your credit that you find it difficult to believe evil of your fellow servicemen.”
Hull didn't withdraw his hand, but his voice was full of reluctance. “You're right, Miss York. This is too important to take any chances or worry about hurting anyone's feelings. I'll give the order to have the Dai Zhani crew members watched carefully.”
“I wouldn't do that,” York cut in quickly.
“Why not? I thought that was what you wanted me to do!”
“It would be better not to warn them of our suspicions prior to reaching the Rigel.”
“The safety of my ship is my first consideration, Agent.”
“Warn them and you'll make my job harder.” She shook her head. “We have to bait the trap. Scare them, and they'll be more careful. But they'll act. They have no choice. Keep in mind that the Rigel's sabotage might be difficult to prove, so we'll want to catch them in the act.”
“When they're trying to relay the information?” Hull asked.
“I hope to God you know what you're doing, Miss York.”
“This is what I do, Captain.”
“Then I hope you're good at it.” Hull raised a finger. “But let's be clear on this. I don't want any actions being taken that I'm not aware of, York. This is my ship, and I expect to know what is going on at all times.”
“Certainly.” York looked at him. “The doctor recognized that I'm with the Directorate. Have you given any thought to my cover story? It would be better if the Dai Zhani weren't wary of me.”
“Benbow is a bit sharper than the average crewman. These things have a way of getting around.”
“I know they do, but at least we can try to keep the knowledge within a restricted circle.”
“We'll come up with something,” Hull replied briefly.