“Your accent is passable, Jerin’s may be problematic.” Jakob exhaled. “I suggest you let us do the talking.”
“You do remember that he’s security and I’m espionage, right?” Jerin grinned at Jakob. “I know how to avoid military attention.”
“Your accent should not raise many red flags among the military, no…” Jakob shrugged. “However, it may entice Xinar to start questioning you about your travels and extracting yourself from conversation may draw unwanted attention.”
“Be boring.” Anson elbowed Jerin lightly. “Like me.”
They moved in. He kept to Jakob’s right. Given Jakob’s accent and bearing, no one would really question the idea of him having a bodyguard. Jerin’s stance was more that of a manservant, the kind of individual that could go nearly unnoticed. That was the plan, anyway. As much as he didn’t like the idea of putting the doctor in danger, Jakob’s part was to keep eyes focused on him.
“You alright, Doc?” He glanced at the other man while they waited for a transport.
“I am concerned for the captain.” Jakob sighed.
“Yeah, me too.” He patted Jakob’s arm, then frowned. Before Jakob could pull his arm away, Anson slid his sleeve up a little. The still forming bruises were clearly a handprint. He started to raise an eyebrow, and Jakob gave a small shake of his head. Anson noted the transport approaching and nodded. He released Jakob’s wrist and returned to his position. Jerin caught his eye and nodded, his eyes narrow. He’d also noticed the mark. As soon as they got back, the issue was going to be addressed. Thoroughly.
He let one of the technicians show off the new diagnostic unit, deliberately misunderstanding features in order to keep the young woman talking. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jerin working at one of the other stations. Anson kept a lookout, blending casually into the background in a way that made Julian a little envious.
As soon as Jerin moved away from the workstation, Julian made a show of checking the time. He had to accept the woman’s communication information with a smile before they could make their escape. “Doc…” Jerin rolled his eyes. “For shame.” He glanced over his shoulder as they left. “Next time I get to distract the pretty girl.”
“We are trying not to get arrested and shot.” Julian sighed.
“That hurts.” Jerin gave him a wounded look. “I’m hurt.” As soon as they were completely out of earshot, he stopped. “Good news is they are being kept fairly close, and we are already inside most of their security.”
“You want to make a run at it?” Anson blinked.
“I mean, I’d feel a lot better about that idea if I thought Doc knew which end of a gun the rounds came out of, but yeah…” Jerin shook his head. “Captain’s first signal came from one of the capital ships, which would put us in an impossible situation…” He grinned. “But the one he sent just a few minutes ago came from about half a kilometer that way.” He jerked his head over his shoulder.
“I…” Julian took a deep breath. His father and his brother were both on this planet, possibly even in this city.
“Doc, you don’t…” Anson started shaking his head.
“It’s the captain.” Julian raised his head. If nothing else, his getting caught could cause enough distraction for Anson and Jerin to rescue Captain Mateo. “And they may be injured.”
“Communications are being monitored, so we can’t call for backup.” Anson looked around.
“But they might be injured.” Jerin started smiling. “And this is a Xinar station.”
Leon sighed. Neither captain was giving them any information. He hadn’t really expected otherwise. Seeing Captain Thorne had been a bit of a blow. He’d liked and respected the other man. Under any other circumstances, they’d have been friends. He couldn’t help but feel a little resentful that he’d been ordered to turn the man over instead of keeping him in military lockup. “You’re unhappy.”
He turned toward his father, then shrugged. “I’m contemplating whether this war would be over already if command could just pick a direction and fly in it.” He leaned on the wall. “Palindor’s forces aren’t as strong as ours, yet they are holding their own against us because they are all working together instead of changing their objectives every time a senator gets a new bug up their ass.”
“Captain Thorne, he uh…” Leon rubbed the back of his neck. “He was helping me look for Julian, back before the war started.”
Admiral Vendral’s face aged ten years at the sound of his youngest son’s name. “The council tries to use Julian as a martyr whenever I raise objections to their orders.” He exhaled. “It has been tempting, from time to time, to call in an orbital bombardment when I hear his name on their lips.”
“I hear him, sometimes.” Leon sighed. “Arguing with me about how stupid this war is, how…” He looked away. “Siding with the resistance, if he didn’t outright join it.”
“I…” Admiral Vendral slowly nodded. “At the very least, getting himself arrested at a protest.” He smiled, though his eyes remained sad. “And then arguing at the dinner table over whose actions were actually a disgrace to the family name, never once backing down or conceding an inch.” He swallowed. “Your brother may have hated violence, but he was as much a warrior as any of us.”
“I miss him.” Leon nodded.
“As do I.”
Watching Jakob do his angry noble act never really stopped being funny. The Alliance was its own worst enemy. Peacekeepers bragged about being the best security in the galaxy, and they all stepped out of the way of a glaring young man’s vague threat to call his high-ranking father. Some small part of Anson’s mind wondered just how valid a threat that might be. Jerin shook his head in amusement as soon as they were through. “I should be recording this for training purposes.”
“Infiltration 101.” Jakob smiled. “An official looking datapad and an attitude problem.” He squared his shoulders. “It will not be as effective on our way out, once they are already alerted to our presence.”
“Let’s try to avoid alerting them then.” Jerin nodded. “Or get Anson a weapon.”
“Or both.” Anson shrugged. “Both is good.” He looked around. “Honestly I think the only reason this is working is they all figured nobody would be stupid enough to try something like this.”
“Clearly they did not anticipate us.” Jakob rolled his eyes.
The cell was pleasant enough. If he didn’t know better, he could mistake it for a room at a decent hotel. Mateo sighed. Thorne was sitting at the table, idly scrolling through the offerings on the entertainment unit. The fact that they were both in the same room made it obvious that there were listening devices. It really put a damper on the conversation he wanted to have.
Captain Vendral, like many men, kept family photos on his desk. One had caught his eye, and it had taken him a few moments to realize what he was seeing. It had to be a chance resemblance. Thorne had confirmed that Vendral’s brother was dead. Mateo exhaled. He started to get up to pace again when there was a dull thud outside the door.
Thorne immediately looked up. Mateo nodded to him and they both assumed positions beside the door. It opened a few moments later. Mateo lowered his hands as Jerin glanced inside. “You two ready to leave the spa?”
“How did you get here so quickly?” Thorne raised an eyebrow. “We’ve only been here an hour.”
“We’re just that good.” Jerin grinned.
“They are going to know we are here…” Anson looked down at the unconscious guards at his feet. “Very soon.”
“Are either of you injured?” Jakob raised an eyebrow.
Mateo took a deep breath, biting back questions. “No, our wounds were already treated.”
“Then let’s get moving.” Anson nodded.
“I don’t like this.” Captain Thorne shook his head.
“They aren’t looking for us.” Jerin folded his arms. “They are looking for you two.”
“Please don’t make me stun you.” Anson rubbed his forehead. “I really don’t have time to be court-martialed right now.”
“Get on the transport.” Captain Mateo gestured at the medical bed as he finished putting on the orderly uniform that matched Anson’s. Jerin was dressed as a nurse, while Julian maintained his garb of a doctor. The breathing guard and hair cover disguised Mateo’s features well enough. Hopefully. He would really like to get through all this without anyone getting hurt.
They were stopped twice on their way out. Jerin caught the wrist of a man that reached up to try pulling the cover off of Captain Thorne’s head, and Julian immediately began berating the guard about what the ‘communicable disease’ warnings meant. He must have done well, because Captain Mateo visibly paled halfway through.
As soon as the guard stepped away, Julian turned to keep moving. Across the area, he saw familiars figure striding toward another building. His heart stopped for just a moment as he watched his father and brother greet the guards. He swallowed, then gestured for the others to follow him toward the exit. He kept his head down, looking away as they passed. If he was noticed, the men he was with would be captured. Anson’s claim of the fate that would befall Jerin rang through his mind.
He didn’t start breathing again until they were past. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one, because he heard Captain Mateo’s relieved sigh. “Alright, we are out of the prison.” Anson exhaled. “Time for phase three.”
“We…” Julian blinked. “We do not have a phase three.”
“Yeah, was sort of hoping one would come to us during phase two.” Anson turned toward them as Captain Thorne got off the medical transport. “Anything?”
“We are still in a high security fortress…” Jerin nodded. “Bunker down, let me see what I can get off their systems. If we can create a distraction, or signal the resistance…”
“I would really like some backup.” Captain Mateo sighed. “And weaponry.”
“Weaponry would be nice.” Captain Thorne nodded.
Julian ran the scan over them again, shifting parameters before repeating the actions. “As near as I can ascertain, neither of you have been implanted with tracking devices.”
“Wow, Doc…” Anson grinned. “You’re getting paranoid.” He reached up to lightly pinch Julian’s cheek. “I’m so proud.”
“We’ll make a spy out of you yet.” Jerin chuckled.
“This is a stunner.” Anson raised an eyebrow at Jakob.
“It is a weapon.” Jakob shrugged. He didn’t quite look Anson in the eye.
Anson glanced down at the item in his hand and nodded. He should have known what to expect when asking Jakob to hand him a weapon. “Unfortunately, it’s also short ranged.” He slung a rifle over his shoulder but kept the stunner. Considering how much he’d asked of Jakob on this mission already he could default to nonlethal force to spare his friend’s conscience.
“Signal sent.” Jerin nodded as he stepped away from the console. “I uploaded a virus to fry their security vids for the last couple hours and introduce some fragments from others. Should confuse anyone trying to recreate what happened. Our contact is going to scramble their comms.” He held up a data chit. “Also, I downloaded what looks like a big pile of burn before reading. Maybe we can decrypt it.”
“Worth a shot, anyway.” Anson nodded. “What’s the signal for go?”
“My contact said we’ll know it when we see…” Jerin trailed off as something on the other side of the compound.
“I have a sneaking suspicion that was the signal.” Mateo smiled.
“Right.” Anson took a deep breath. “Let’s try to be subtle.” He stepped out of their room only to hear shouts and see guards coming their way. He sighed before raising the stunner. “So much for subtle.”