Captain’s Log, Intergalactic Date 677063.23
The Gavite ambassador is dead, and my Ops Officer critically injured.
We’ve caught the assassin, who goes by Kree ‘bohn, though we doubt that’s his real name. He’s been genetically altered to look Kitack. He’s been part of the Kitack’s group for the past six months, when he transferred from a different corporation with high recommendations. Kree supposedly suffered from migraines and spent many hours in an isolation pod, so his companions were not aware he’d left their quarters. Ambassador Rossant seems genuinely shocked, and he and his aide cooperated with a DNA scan to prove their identities and have agreed to remain confined to quarters until we get to Belon. I feel confident they were not part of this.
We’re continuing to keep watch on all the ambassadors. Meanwhile, my security team is questioning the assassin.
Kree ‘bohn woke up with a start to find himself in the brig, a bare room with a slab for a bed and a hole for a toilet. Even the faucet was little more than a bump emerging from the wall. No pieces he could pull loose to forge into a weapon. He’d been stripped searched, too, his weapons confiscated and his clothes replaced by a simple, form-fitting orange-striped pants and slacks. Not a good look for anyone, much less a light-blue-skinned species he was mimicking. His prosthetic antenna was still broken, the communications implant gone, and his other antenna had been scanned, he was sure. The room itself was open to his jailers, with two force fields.
He had to give them credit: He’d seen cushier jail cells in penal colonies. Whoever had designed this brig was a paranoid mother-eggstreamer.
Speaking of… Sitting in a chair on the other side of a line that marked his maximum reach past the force field, Chief of Security LaFuentes sat, cleaning under his nails.
Kree sat up, ignoring the pounding in his skull, and watched the lieutenant laconically.
The security chief didn’t look up as he spoke: “We haven’t contacted your ship to let them know we have you, yet. We thought we’d ask you first if there’s anything you want us to say, the situation being so embarrassing and all.”
Such a clumsy attempt to confirm that he and the ship following were working together. Kree would have smirked, except that would have given the security chief what he wanted.
“I mean,” LaFuentes continued, still examining his nails, “If you’d stopped with Ambassador Gregar, that would have been more confusing for us. He hadn’t decided how he was going to vote, so we might have thought it was a personal vendetta or something. But then you went after a Doall. Stupid mistake one.”
He held up the dart he’d been using to scrape his nails—the poison dart Kree had shot at the Chatwayan. “Stupid mistake two: you didn’t take into account the outfit. We found this lodged in her wig. Sloppy, man. But instead of cutting your losses going to ground, you attacked up close. Stupid mistake three. Stupid mistake four: You didn’t bother to verify your target. Instead of Ambassador Doall, you stabbed her daughter, Lieutenant Ellie Doall.”
Only years of conditioning and practice at maintaining a ruse kept Kree from blinking in surprise. The daughter? Why was she in native dress?
“You’re lucky. Mistake number five: You failed to kill her.”
LaFuentes dropped the dart beside his chair, as if it were nothing more than a used napkin. Then he leaned forward, elbows on knees and chin resting in his hands, mimicking Kree’s posture. He had the same neutral, banal expression, too, except for the eyes. There was something predatory and restrained in those brown depths. Something that wanted an excuse to run loose.
“I told my captain you won’t talk. It’s not your code. But I’m going to ask one question, and you’d be better off answering. Are you new at this, incompetent, or that desperate to sow confusion before the conference? I hope you mean to attack a member of our crew.”
He stood and stepped so close to the force field, it crackled slightly. If he noticed—or cared—he didn’t show it. The sparking energies blended with the fire of hate in his eyes.
“Because if you did, you just made this personal.”
Kree blinked. Just once, but it was enough. In that moment, they both knew he was defeated. In that same moment, a device, buried deep in his brain, unknown to him and undetected by anyone, also registered his defeat and acted.
As lightning exploded in his brain, he heard LaFuentes scream, “No!”
At least he would die before revealing anything. A pyrrhic victory, but it was all he’d get. With his last breath, he laughed.
This was a nightmare, Todd thought. It has to be.
Ellie’s mother and father had retired to the couch. She’d swooned when she heard the news, but was now sitting up, her husband’s arms around her, sipping a drink Shavala had given her. He now stood at the couch beside her, wringing his hands and watching for the slightest signal that she needed anything. The captain sat on the coffee table in front of them, explaining in low, reassuring tones: We caught the assassin. We think he mistook Ellie for you, Natalie. Ellie is in surgery. Doc Sorcha is the best surgeon in the Fleet, living or photonic…
Todd remained at the table, watching and trying to convince himself to wake up.
Gel oozed up beside him. “You okay?”
“This is my fault,” he said. He reached into his pocket, where he had her ring. Once her parents had agreed, he’d planned on presenting it to her all over again with them watching. It was supposed to have been romantic. He squeezed his fist around it so tightly, the stones cut into his palm. “I convinced her to wear the dress, Gel. I thought we’d win her parents over, and instead…”
“First off, the only person at fault was the glooppolbup assassin,” Gel told him. “Second, Ellie is going to be okay. She’s too stubborn to die before she marries you, and the doc is too—”
His words were drowned out by the red alert sirens.
The captain stood, excused himself with a hasty entreaty not to worry, then left.
Gel patted Todd’s arm. “Go comfort your future mother-in-law,” he said, then left as well.
When the door shut behind him, Ellie’s mom burst into tears.
There was no way Enigo would have let a prisoner have a suicide pill in his tooth. I also had a wonderful scene where Leslie went revenge-berserker and was going to stab Kree with his own blade, but it just didn’t work. Too bad. She made a great crazy lady.