Admiral Makarian was not happy.
Gillie didn’t need her telepathic senses to figure that out.
It was in the tension in his broad shoulders, in the way the tall
man moved like a jungle pantrelon, poised to kill.
He did remind her of a pantrelon,
with his dark hair and eyes, his black uniform accenting his sleekly
muscled body. Pure Khalar, and definitely attractive. His people
had changed little in three hundred and some odd years. Except to
become a little less warlike, a little more tolerant than she remembered
them. And a lot less careful.
Though Makarian might be the exception.
It’s your fault.
Simon’s teasing comment reached her
as she palmed open the ship’s main hatch. He found the temple,
and her attendant goddesshood, amusing. She didn’t.
It’s not my fault! She could
feel Makarian’s breath on her hair, the heat from his body
brushing hers as the hatch slid open. He didn’t trust her
more than five inches away from him.
The Holy Guidelines of the Goddess Kiasidira—
We’re all Tridivinians. There
is no Goddess Kiasidira and you damn well know it!
Stuff a sock in it, Simon. I don’t
have time for that right now.
The small bridge was appropriately disheveled.
She sent Simon a mental nod of appreciation. She’d been out
cold while he’d altered the ship into something suitable for
this situation, place, and time. And done a damned good job of it.
Gillie slid into the pilot’s chair,
dusted some debris from the console in front of her. It was her
first look at Simon’s rendition, but she’d helmed a
variety of starships most of her adult life. She let her fingers
play over the touchpads, knowing the pads wouldn’t respond
right away. They weren’t supposed to. Not until she and Simon
could figure out who they were supposed to be and provide the wary
admiral with information that would make him leave them alone. They
needed privacy to effect the repairs.
She let out what she hoped was a convincing sigh of frustration.
“Systems aren’t responding.”
Makarian leaned around her, repeated her
sequence on the console. Tried two more. The screens before them
flickered, then died.
“I’ll need some time to work
on her system synchs,” she told him.
He took the copilot’s seat next to
her. “Don’t try to play games with me, Captain. You
She swiveled to face him. “Sir?”
Had she let something slip? Did he suspect the truth?
“This ship’s on lockout. Yes,
that’s a safety measure to prevent hijackings. But there’s
not a smuggler I’ve boarded who didn’t have his ship
rigged to mimic a safety lockout, just to keep Fleet from accessing
his files. And I’ve opened every one.”
He leaned his elbows on his knees, his narrowed
eyes sending a clear warning. And a clear message that he thought
she was a smuggler. Not a goddess. She let out a slow sigh of relief
as he continued, “You have two choices. We can do this the
easy way, and you unlock those files now. Or we can do it the hard
way. And you’ll face not only smuggling charges, but obstruction
of an investigation and any other charge I can throw at you while
I’m unscrambling your codes. And unscramble them I will.”
She put on her most conciliatory expression.
“I assure you, Admiral, there’s no deliberate obstruction
on my part.” Well, not for the reasons he thought, anyway.
“My ship was damaged. Send someone below decks to verify that
while I try to realign my databanks, if you want. Only make sure
they’re willing to help and not just be decorative. I’ve
a lot of work just to get this ship operative again. The sooner
I do, the sooner my existence here will cease to be a problem for
both of us.”
“Anxious to get home?”
Home wasn’t a possibility. Home had
ceased to exist, three hundred and forty two years ago. The best
she could hope for was to get back to Raheiran space as quickly
as possible and leave the erroneous legend of the Lady Goddess Kiasidira
far behind her. However, Simon was in no condition to handle the
complexities, and stresses, of transiting the Rift right now. His
initial three-week estimate might have been overly optimistic. “I’m
anxious to be somewhere my every move’s not questioned.”
One dark eyebrow lifted slightly. “Open
“I can’t.” Simon hadn’t
finished constructing them. She sure as hell wasn’t going
to show him her real logs. The damned Khalar would probably deem
them sacred texts or some such nonsense. “I need time.”
He sighed. His disappointment filtered over
her. She pulled her telepathic field in more tightly. It was one
thing to prudently monitor the enemy. It was totally another to
let his emotions become a distraction.
“The hard way, then, is it?” Makarian shoved himself
to his feet.
“Admiral Makarian.” She rose
as well then let her arms rise and fall to her sides in a gesture
of exasperation. It wasn’t totally feigned. How much longer
do you need, Simon?
A few hours, at most. I’m still
not functioning at full capacity. And this station’s databanks
are singularly disorganized.
He wants to see something now.
Those new trick shots of yours at billiards
are quite impressive.
“Willing to cooperate, Captain Davré?”
Makarian’s deep voice was a low rumble.
Simon, give me something.
I snagged a block of shipping manifests.
They’re not perfect. By the time you take him belowdecks,
I might have them passable.
Lock him out of everything but that,
then. Gillie gestured toward the bridge hatchway. “My
databanks are yours, Admiral. I’ve nothing to hide.”
She prayed she had something believable to show him…