Okay, back on the book I’m supposed to be writing… Sigh…
Unedited, as always. Comments appreciated!
Nicole came in to hear Ophelia breathlessly saying, “Apparently they killed two of those offworld security guys last night. My uncle says the two of them killed six of the people that attacked them.” She stuffed her bag in her assigned cubby, walked toward the vidscreen, picking up the scheduled menu offerings on the way. She stood looking at the reservations for the night as she heard Ophelia continue, “Apparently they landed a shuttle right in the middle of the main intersection blocking traffic for hours!” I need to talk to Ethan. If those were our folks that got hit… I’m not sure how much good I’m actually doing here. Lots of loose talk, but nothing really odd, or that I could actually point at as… rebellious. Maybe it’s time for me to come in out of the cold and help.
Nicole notice there were two private parties scheduled, one labeled Perez and one labeled 3G. As she was puzzling that out, Raymondo swished into the work area, clapped his hands, and said effeminately, “Girls, girls! We’re going to be so busy tonight! We have two privates and three quarters of the other tables are full. Mr. DuMaurier wants to make sure everybody is on their best behavior tonight, capiche?”
A mumbled round of “Okay, yes,” and groans followed Raymondo’s announcement, as he swished over to Nicole. She glanced down at the menu, noting a number of Italianish dishes, and smiled.
Raymondo stepped up and whispered, “You’re not to work the Perez party, only his estate wines will be served, so there is no reason, according to him, for a sommelier. Apparently Mr. Perez doesn’t like you for some reason, but I need you to work the third generation party and the main room.”
Nicole smiled up at him, “Oh, I know why. And the further I can stay from him, the better I like it. Do you want me to at least to make sure the room is prepped correctly?”
“Please. Go do what you do so well!” He said with a smile.
Nicole laughed softly, “I will.” Oh will I ever. She strolled back to her cubby, dug in her bag and pulled out her sommelier pin from her clutch, while palming two more Ferrets. The previous ones had been placed in various locations in the main dining room, and she wasn’t sure if they’d actually done any good, but at least they were passing data, she hoped. She’d already programmed these for passive record and burst transmit after the restaurant closed, and only needed to do the final activation step, which consisted of pressing the gray side of the cube. She snagged a clean towel off the stack and held it casually as she said, “Going to check the private rooms and swing through the main.”
Raymondo nodded distractedly as he was deep in conversation with Otto, the head chef. Nicole remembered her earlier conversation with Raymondo, or Ray, his actual name. Ray’s sharp as a tack. He plays the high queen role well, and it makes people underestimate him. He’s a big part of the success of this place, and Mr. DuMaurier knows it. Ray reads people like a book, which kinda scared me, that he would see through my act, but I guess I’ve carried it off so far.
Nicole checked the first private room, reserved for Perez, and noted it was set for twelve. Five on a side, and one at each end centered in the room. Looking around, she decided to place the Ferret on the ornate frame of the photo mosaic screen that served as a vidscreen if desired. Pulling a chair over, she quickly depressed the gray side, and the Ferret unfolded into its tactical bug like shape as she stepped up in the chair. She found a particularly busy section of the frame and gently pressed the Ferret to it. It automatically attached, changed colors to match the background, and she looked closely as the very small lens swiveled up. Bet that is going to scare the hell out of whoever looks at the initial images!
She replaced the chair, wiping it down to make sure no footprint was visible and repeated the steps in the second private room. It was set up with four tables, so she placed the Ferret on the top of the curtains at the end of the room. Probably lose any low voiced conversations at the far tables, but what the hell. Something is better than nothing. A pass back through the main dining room, and she headed back to the kitchen. She found Otto giving low voiced instructions to the sous and pastry chefs, once he was finished, she asked, “How many of the Italian dishes are light and how many are heavy?”
Otto waggled his hand, “Even split. The red sauce ones are all heavy, the white or no sauce ones are light. And I have the local version of cheese for a variation on Caprese for the salad.”
“So I better go check on the Abruzzis we have in the cellar and make sure we have enough bottles left. I hope somebody puts an order in for more of their wines.”
Otto raised his hands, “Not my job! I only do food, you have to deal with Raymondo for those sins,” he said with a laugh.
Fargo flopped down in the chair angrily, as Jiri looked at him, “Didn’t go well?”
“No, not at all. Apparently the GalPat Intel folks have a higher priority than seeing if they can do anything with the video to enhance it so they could actually catch that son of a bitch. The colonel assured me it will get worked on soonest, whenever the hell that is.”
Jiri cocked his head, “Odd thought, what about pushing the video and other stuff up to the ship? Maybe Liz could do something with it? I know she’s EW, but a lot of those folks are…”
Fargo slapped the desk, “Dammit, why didn’t I think of that? Deity… how stupid can I be?”
“Well, you haven’t had any sleep in over twenty-four divs, and you haven’t taken any stims.”
“Still should have thought of it,” Fargo muttered as he quickly typed a message to Captain Jace and attached all the surveillance data and videos to it. He hit send and leaned back, “And more hurry up and wait.”
Grayson walked into the office juggling a bulb of coffee, “Hot, hot, hot! Dammit… I’ll relieve somebody.” He looked at Fargo and continued, “And that somebody is you, Captain. You look like hammered lizard shit.” He dropped the bulb on the edge of the desk and rummaged through his pack, came up with a little red pill and said, “Take this with a full bulb of enhanced water. It’ll give you six divs down.”
Fargo started to protest, and Grayson looked at him, “This, or I give you an injection for twelve divs. Your choice.”
Fargo grumbled, but he took the pill and got up slowly, “If anything, and I do mean anything comes it, get my ass up. Understood?”
“Yes, sir. Warrant, you need some down time too.”
Jiri nodded, “I caught a couple of hours. A few more wouldn’t hurt. As soon as the eighteen reports come in, I’ll go down.”
Onboard the Hyderabad, Jace processed the message traffic and was glad that both Wallace and Liz were down, and he didn’t have to put on an act for him, even as he wished he could strike something. Less than ten segs later, he’d enhanced the video to the point that when he started the worm searching the world’s database, it should give at least a 50% correlation. That would be good enough to at least start a physical search for the individual. Jace snarled to himself at the cluster of separate databases, lack of continuity, and just plain sloppiness he saw, including in the GalPat det’s on planet database.
In the process of scanning through the databases, he was surprised to learn that none of the first families were actually tracked in any way, only the second and third wave of migrants were tracked daily. Jace figuratively cocked his head, wrote and loosed more worms, and set up tracks on all of the citizens. Something else going on here. This isn’t just about some rebellious young people. What else is going on? Twenty-eight days until I can pick up the surveillance drone we dropped on the way out last trip. That will take eight divs, unless…
Jace processed the track of the drone, calculated its path around the dual suns, and looked at known ship tracks coming into the system. He figured if he powered the drone on low power and change the trajectory, he could shorten the delay to 23.3 days, and it would take the Hyderabad 10.4 divs to retrieve it on the way out. He sent a request for a move order to Orbit Control for 24 divs out to conduct maneuvering in local space for pilot training, citing upgrade training for the second pilot. Jace laughed as he did it, deciding to see if Wallace wanted to try to fly the ship a little bit on training orbits while Hyderabad did its on searching.
Nicole sat down next to Raymondo and grimaced as she kicked off one shoe, rubbing her foot. “What happened,” Raymondo asked.
Nicole wiggled her foot and sighed, “One of those oafs in the three G party stepped on my foot. I think on purpose. He made a grab for my boob and I might have accidently hit his arm with a wine bottle as I fell against the table.”
Raymondo dropped his effeminate act, “Which one? Describe him?” He hissed quietly.
“Blondish hair, rather long, swept back. Faux glasses or at least don’t look like there is any correction in the lenses. Blue eyes, about my height, probably weighs one ninety. Seemed pretty fit. And was acting like he was drunk when he stepped on me, then laughed about it when I was limping away.”
Raymondo shook his head, “Hayden Archer. He’s a shit. He likes to hurt people. Normally he only picks on the younger girls, don’t know why he went after you. His family are the founders of Archer City, and according to his daddy he can do no wrong.”
Nicole snickered, “Well, he won’t be doing any wrong with his right hand for a while. And I’ll guarantee he’s going to have a bruise. There was an interesting dynamic going on in that room too. Archer and five or six others seemed to be in charge, and everyone else there was… it was almost like they were trying to suck up. When I left, the six guys and one girl were at one table, and their dates or husbands or wives or whatever were at the furthest table away from them.”
“I’m not surprised. At least they hopefully don’t do too much damage tonight. Mr. DuMaurier made them pay up and banned them for three months after the last fight. They really don’t have jobs, or they are just jobs in name only. The only one of that generation that I can think of that actually does anything… well, two of them, are the Abruzzis, Dominick and Elena. They actually work, really work in the winery. Dominick is learning the grapes, and Elena is managing the sale and distribution.”
“So two out of how many?”
“About a hundred. There’ve been a lot of consolidations since the Firsties hit the planet. Some died, some went broke, some got broken…”
“And on that note, I’m going to take my sore foot back to the Women’s Lodge and see if I can trick the fresher into letting me soak tonight,” Nicole said as she slipped her shoe back on and stood.
Otto came into the break room carrying a small hot pack and a cold pack. He saw Nicole and handed them to her, “Some salad and my version of Arribbiata, you never stopped long enough to eat.”
She took them and nodded, “Thank you, Otto. Tonight was a little busy. Oh,” she turned to Raymondo, “We need to order more Abruzzi wines. We went through most of the stock tonight. Even some of the more expensive ones.”
Raymondo grimaced, “I’ll talk to Mr. DuMaurier, Mr. Perez is trying to get him to only carry the Perez wines.”
Nicole shook her head, “Big mistake. Perez stuff is average at best, and way overpriced. Abruzzi’s is good, and reasonably priced. He’ll lose customers if they don’t have an option.”
Otto looked at her, “Really? I mean I know sommeliers pair wines, but would they really leave if the right wines weren’t available?”
Nicole laughed, “There was a case a couple of years ago where a multi-planet corporation threatened the Star Lines with a boycott over a wines from an inner world they dropped. They said if the Lines didn’t pick the line back up, the company would take their millions of credits worth of travel elsewhere. Star Lines reordered that wine the next day, with apologies.”
Otto shook his head, “Glad I only cook.”
Fargo and Jiri sat in the little office looking at personnel files, putting people in different columns until Jiri finally said, “Ekavir, it just makes sense for me to go out there. I’ll take Dhiri from site three with me. You can put the GalPat tech, Mac in the watch section. That is the least impact.”
Fargo scrubbed his face, “I know. I think it might be better to go ahead and pull Nicole back in. Maybe she could sort this intel crap out and help us find out who killed Shanni and Lev. And with you leaving, it’s going to be me and Grayson standing watch and watch. Can’t put Boykin on the schedule, since she’s got to be available to fly. It’s going to mean some long days, but we’re down to only a few weeks left.” His data comp pinged, and he glanced at it curiously, then smiled viciously as he projected the picture on his screen, “Looks like this is the perp. Just got this from Captain Jace. If his folks can’t do it, this should at least get the locals started.”
“You going to see the colonel with that?”
“As soon as I get the morning status. I’ll tell him you’re going out to replace Shanni. I… think I’ll send the warrant up to Hyderabad with Shanni and Lev. Get the bodies taken care of, since we’re not leaving them here.” He quickly pinged the picture to the colonel with a cover note.
Jiri nodded, “They deserve to go home, and be buried there.”
“I’m not leaving anybody behind.”
Five segs later, Barun called in, and reported all normal. He was closely followed by Horse, Daman and Thak, who was standing in for Shanni. Only site four had any protesters, and it was only three or four. Fargo put out the plan of Jiri and Dhiri moving to site four, and then told everyone he was going to see the colonel and would be back up in a div with any further information.
As he headed for the colonel’s office, he passed the mess and saw Grayson and Boykin sitting at one of the tables, swinging in he said, “Senior, can you cover the radio till I get back, please? Jiri is going out to site four.” Grayson nodded, and he turned to Boykin, “WO, can you do a lift out to three, pick up Dhiri and drop the two of them at site four, then go up to Hyderabad and leave Shanni and Lev’s bodies with the ship?”
Boykin smiled sadly, “Taking them home, Captain?”
“Yes. I’m damn sure not leaving them here. I don’t…” He shrugged, “Sorry, every once in a while the Marine kicks in. We were taught not to leave anyone behind.”
“That’s the right way to do it, too bad GalPat has never learned that. I’ll be ready to lift in thirty.” She finished her bulb, dropped it in the recycle, and headed for the door. Grayson had already gone, so he continued to the colonel’s office.
He knocked on the colonel’s door and Zhu motioned him in, “Morning, Captain. I got the picture. How are your people holding up?”
That caught Fargo by surprise, and it took him a moment to think, “Uh, not well. They want to go after the perp or perps, they want to find them, question them, and go after whoever paid for this. It was a targeted attack, no question. And Shanni and Lev weren’t doing anything. They only wanted to get something to eat. They hadn’t harassed anybody, none of our people have. Colonel, have you ever been around the Ghorka for any length of time?”
Zhu leaned back in his chair, “Other than basic, not much. When I had a company, I had one as a CSM. We didn’t interact that much, I pretty much let him do what he needed to do.”
“Colonel, what they need to do is find the killer and take care of him. Right now they’re waiting to see what the local law enforcement and GalPat are going to do. But if they don’t see progress, they’re liable to start looking on their own. That’s why Jiri is going out to site four. He can sit on them for a while.”
The colonel snapped forward, “What are you saying?”
“Colonel, to put it bluntly, I’m sitting on a powder keg. I have almost fifty senior combat veterans, mostly E-eights, and E-nines. They know how things should be done. If they don’t see things getting done, they might start helping things get done. Remember, two small men, only armed with personal knives, took on at least eight men who attacked them. They killed six, and disabled at least one more. If they hadn’t been shot in the back, they would have survived.”
“I’ll get this out to the director and her head of security immediately. And I’ll make sure to impress her with the fact that this one shouldn’t be dropped.”
“Thank you, now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get folks moving. By your leave, Colonel.”
Zhu looked up at him curiously, “Will there be a service or memorial?”
Fargo shook his head, “No, sir. We will take them back home. The service and interment will be on Hunter.”
“Very well, dismissed.”