Kyle felt the man next to him start to slide out of the bed and pulled him back. “Where do you think you’re going?” He smiled as he leaned in to kiss the back of Jakob’s neck. “Shift doesn’t start for a couple hours yet.”
“The captain will be in considerable danger today.” Jakob shook his head. “I wish to go over the notes for the mission again.”
“You’re a doctor.” Kyle’s smile faded. “Not a security officer.”
“I know some of the players involved in —”
“No.” Kyle sat up and grabbed Jakob’s arm to pull him around so they were facing each other. “You don’t.” He didn’t have full clearance for the details, but he knew enough to know at least two Vendral ships were out there. If Jakob let anything slip… He shook Jakob’s arm. “You don’t.” He sighed. “Jakob, I can’t protect you if —”
“It is the captain in danger, Kyle.” Jakob pulled back, forcing Kyle to tighten his grip to keep the other man in place. “Not myself.”
“Have you forgotten —” Kyle narrowed his eyes.
“No.” Jakob’s voice was sharp enough to make Kyle sit up straighter. The other man took a deep breath before shaking his head. “I assure you, Kyle, I have not forgotten anything.”
He sighed, then released Jakob’s arm before sliding to the edge of the bed and standing. “I’m just trying to keep you safe.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Okay. I’ll get dressed and head down with you.”
“I…” Jakob stood, and reached for his tunic. “You do not have appropriate clearance.”
“Look, if there is a rescue mission I’m probably going on it anyway…” Kyle smiled. “I don’t need particulars.”
“I appreciate what you are trying to do, Kyle, I truly do.” Jakob put the tunic over his shoulder as he took a step toward the bath unit. “I am just meeting Commander Anson to —”
The back of his hand stung. It took Kyle a moment to realize Jakob was on the ground, bleeding from a split lip. He took a few deep breaths, then sighed before shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Jakob.” He bent to help the other man back to his feet. “I’m just worried. The commander shouldn’t have taken you down to the planet or brought you in on this in the first place.” The commander had no business pulling Jakob into this at all. “You’re a doctor, not part of his security team.” He caught Jakob’s chin to examine the damage. “I’m trying to protect you.”
Several moments passed before Jakob nodded. “I know, Kyle.” He gave a small nod before meeting Kyle’s eyes. “Which is why I need to help keep Commander Mateo safe. A new captain would mean our backgrounds are investigated again.” He smiled a little, then reached up to touch Kyle’s cheek. “I am trying to keep you safe as well.”
“I…” He smiled before pulling Jakob to him and kissing his forehead. Then he gently pushed Jakob toward a chair. “Let me get you the med gel for that cut.”
Mateo couldn’t quite stop himself from smiling as he entered the briefing room. It was clear his command crew had already been there for some time. They were so engrossed in trying to come up with a plan to keep him safe they didn’t even notice he was there. He cleared his throat and watched them startled to attention. “Alright. How much trouble am I in?”
“You’re fucked.” Norah spoke up first.
“You’re walking into a trap.” Anson folded his arms and leaned backward in his chair.
“The only question whether the trap is merely for you, or also for the resistance leadership.” Jakob folded his own arms but leaned forward on the table.
Jerin shrugged. “Possible the trap is for the resistance leadership, but that won’t stop you and Thorne from getting caught in it.”
“My fellow officers are a bunch of pessimists…” Somar sighed. “Who just happen to be completely right in this instance.”
“Good news is…” Jerin held up a datapad.
“We may have a few ideas for how to get you out of it.” Anson straightened.
“Right.” Mateo took the empty seat at the head of the table. “What do we have?”
“To begin…” He was somewhat surprised to hear the doctor speak first. “I have programed some nanites in the event of sedatives or poison being used. They are short lived, however, Chief Engineer Somar…” He glanced at the other man.
“Doc had some ideas about an internal delivery system. Fortunately, you and Captain Thorne already have some implants, so we can stealth these. Got two bits for you.” Somar nodded. “First is an autonomous system. You get hit, it activates automatically. Second is manual control, for if you know an attack is coming.”
“So, one to restore me, one that should keep me from getting knocked down in the first place.” Mateo exhaled. “Not sure how thrilled I am to be the subject of a field test.”
“You’re not.” Jerin shook his head. “It’s not dissimilar from the delivery system used —”
“Doc, please tell me you didn’t get the idea from Jerin’s spy suicide rig.” Mateo closed his eyes for a moment.
“I did not get the idea from Jerin’s spy suicide rig.” Jakob nodded.
“I appreciate you lying to me.” Mateo smiled, then glanced at the other officers. “Alright, what else?”
“Standard hold out weapons, some defenses, and…” Jerin glanced at Anson.
“I think we may have an escape route, or possibly a way to stage a rescue depending on what exactly happens.” Anson flicked his eyes toward Norah.
Norah nodded. “I rigged up a short-wave transponder. It broadcasts on Xinar signals, but Doc managed to get Anson and Jerin up to speed enough that they can get in. It’s a small window but should be enough for you to send up a flare and us to home in on your location.”
“Plan A, of course…” Anson shrugged. “Is still for you not to get caught in the first place. We’ve made some changes to the meeting parameters.”
Anson smacked the back of his head lightly into the bulkhead and sighed. He was about to start pacing again when someone held a cup in front of him. He took it and sniffed before looking up at Jakob. “Tea?”
“A blend advertised as both soothing and relaxing.” Jakob nodded. “I fear it is the only sedative I can provide while you are on duty.”
“Appreciated.” He took a sip, savoring both the warmth and the flavor, and smiled as he saw Jakob provide a cup for Jerin as well. “This is the worst part. Waiting while other people are in danger.”
“I should have gone with him.” Jerin swirled his tea before taking a drink.
“The captain would be a political prisoner, above board and with POW protocols.” Anson shook his head at Jerin. “You’d end up at a black site having your brain drained.” He took another sip of his own tea. “I should have gone with him.”
“The captain gave you a direct order.” Jakob shrugged. “Something to the effect of if he was a prisoner, you were the one he wanted running the rescue operation.”
“I’m not saying it’s not a good point, I’d just prefer to prevent a rescue from being needed in the first place.” Anson sighed. He looked down at the cup, then gave Jakob a hopeful look. “Any chance of a second dose, Doc?”
Jakob nodded as he took the cup. “Of course.”
Insert really awesome but extremely uncooperative fight scene here
Leon glanced at the two men sitting in front of him. His men were carrying weapons set on stun, but there were some bruises on the prisoners that showed they’d put up a fight. Both men had fought to allow the resistance members a chance to escape. The one on the left had been shot, and the one on the right had surrendered to prevent the soldiers from going after those that had escaped. He flicked his eyes to the one on the left. “Captain Thorne.”
“Captain Vendral.” The man inclined his head.
“These aren’t exactly the circumstances I would have preferred us to meet in.” Leon glanced at the second man. “Captain Mateo.” He nodded. “Your reputation precedes you. I have to say, it’s a bit of an honor.”
“The feeling is mutual, Captain Vendral…” The darker man shrugged. “Though it is an honor I could have happily done without.”
He smiled. “Either of you want to make my life easy by contacting your ships and telling them to stand down, surrender, and prepare to be boarded?” They both rolled their eyes. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.” According to the briefing, this mission was supposed to be a walk in the park. He should have asked which park, because things had gone wrong almost from the beginning. Two thirds of the intelligence they’d been given was wrong. If it hadn’t been for their inside man in the resistance, they’d have ended up in the trap themselves.
Their inside man was dead now, which ended their chances of getting more information from him. Still, this one was a win, even if he was a little sorry Thorne had been caught up in it. He looked again at Mateo and noticed a strange expression on the man’s face. He was looking at Leon’s desk. “What now, Captain?” Thorne raised an eyebrow.
“You’ll probably end up traded back for some of our people.” Leon shrugged before nodding at Mateo. “You, on the other hand, get to deal with politicians.”
“Please…” Mateo exhaled. “Shoot me now.”
Julian took one look at Norah’s expression. “It went bad.”
“It went bad.” Norah nodded.
“Was anyone killed?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t have a full report yet.” She shook her head. “But from what I do have apparently they wanted the captains alive, so there is that.”
“I shall keep an eye on Xinar communications. If the Alliance is monitoring their wavelengths and blocks the captain’s signal, there may still be chatter.” He went to the communication station she indicated and began pulling up the feed.
After a few minutes, he felt a presence behind him. “They had an inside man in the resistance.” Anson put his hand on the back of Julian’s chair. “And unfortunately, the resistance wasn’t able to grab him.”
“So they shot him in the head.” Jerin sounded a little annoyed from where he was sitting at a station.
“Resistance lost a few people, but except for the captains, our people made it out.” Anson went quiet for a moment, then sighed. “Mateo surrendered to give them that chance, so uh…”
“Here.” Julian tapped the screen.
“What am I looking at, Doc?” Anson leaned forward.
“Alliance forces are ordering a cease on communications on all wavelengths.” Julian scrolled down. “So the captain’s signal wasn’t passed on. However…” He tapped another section of the screen. “It made for a juicy bit of gossip.”
“Right, but we can’t get at the signal unless we can get into a Xinar…” Anson trailed off, then put a hand on Julian’s shoulder.
“Get your fancy clothes on, Doc.” Anson patted his shoulder. “I need you to help Jerin and me infiltrate a Xinar station.”
He stood and immediately headed for his quarters. Shortly before he got there, his steps slowed a little. There had been a time when he’d railed against military interference and infiltration in Xinar doings. Xinar was a humanitarian organization, independent and at times at odds with the military. Julian touched the button to open his door and stepped inside to begin changing into civilian clothes. And yet, it hadn’t even occurred to him to object to Anson’s statement. He swallowed. “Because this is the captain.”
“Jakob?” A voice came from the sitting area, and Kyle stood and started walking toward him. “What are you doing?”
“It went bad.” Julian shook his head. “I need to help Anson get into the Xinar station to —”
Kyle’s hand closed around his wrist hard enough that Julian could feel the bones grinding together. “No, you’re not going on a military op.”
“It’s not a —”
“Those are Alliance forces down there, Jakob.” Kyle shook his head. “You —”
“It’s Captain Mateo.” Julian’s head came up as he jerked his hand out of Kyle’s grasp. Kyle’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped a little. “It’s Captain Mateo, and the only way we have of getting the information needed for a rescue is for me to get Anson and Jerin through the door of the Xinar station.” He grabbed the trousers. “They are waiting for me. Either help me get dressed or get out of the way.”
“Right.” Kyle glared, but picked up the jacket and held it for Julian to put it on. His voice hardened. “We’ll talk about this when you get back.”