Part 3: Talon - Chapter 6

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'Nice place,' said Dorac. 'You don't get many visitors, I suppose?'

Agnes Lawson's office was a shambles. On first glancing in, Dorac would have been uncertain exactly what it was she did for a living if he hadn't known already. The desk was an eclectic mix of AI terminals, coffee cups, actual paper with writing on it—Dorac hadn't seen that in ages—and photographs, including one of Agnes and a man her own age with his arms around her. Her husband Peter, he assumed. The desk was faced on two sides by chairs, hers being the more comfortable and less decrepit-looking one. The walls were mostly bare, but the floor was littered with all manner of objects: a box of tools, cartons both sealed and spilling contents, a holovision with an empty pizza tray on top and, in one corner, a cabinet that housed an impressive display of replica hand guns.

'Don't get cocky,' she said. 'It's my place, not yours.'

She opened a drawer of the desk and extracted a bottle. Dorac glanced around and located a glass on top of a shelf. He brought it over to the desk. Agnes filled it with liquor, and poured another measure into a coffee cup. She took that one, and handed him the glass.

He looked at her carefully as he sat down. It had been a year since they'd last been in each other's presence, and then he'd been dying with three bullets in his back. Of course, they'd known each other before then—he'd been a passenger on the Euryalus, back when they had both been in the Elite Navy. She'd ferried him to the Slowboat Endeavour around Barnard's Star after which he'd fallen in with a group of terrorists. It was odd to be sitting with someone who'd once been his superior officer; just a year ago he would have had to stand to attention and do whatever was ordered of him. But here she was in civvies, still large-framed, still with that substantial bosom that had been the source of many ribald but discrete comments among the male crew of the Euryalus. Her dark hair was longer, and she wore nail polish and, out of uniform, appeared far more feminine than he remembered.

'How have you been?' she asked. A touch of a contact on her desk and the window disappeared as shutters closed over it, blocking off the view of Brooklyn. The room seemed smaller, closer, more personal.

Dorac took a swig of the liquor and let it burn in the back of his throat for a moment. It was good stuff, he judged, although flavoured more than the raw Sirian liquor he was used to. He took another healthy swallow.

'You know,' he said. 'Surviving.'

'It's good to see you.' Dorac knew a lie when he heard one. 'What are you doing these days?'

'I was more interested in what you're doing.' He glanced around the room once more. 'I thought you were in security. But this looks more like a discount warehouse.'

She lowered her empty glass. 'If you came eight light years to make jokes you can go back again. You foned me. I admit to being curious. The one thing I'm absolutely certain of, it's not for old time's sake.'

He smiled and accepted a refill. This one he took more slowly, leaning back in his chair to cross his legs. He wanted to light a cigarette, but old Navy discipline held him from doing that at least.

'Eight and a half lights years from Sirius to Earth,' he said. 'A long way. I spent a few days on a merchant ship, then another passenger service to Earth, and finally here. I was looking for you. You weren't easy to find.'

'Yes. I don't exactly advertise my whereabouts, although old Navy friends want to catch up sometimes. I had coffee with Jackie Szymanski last month, in fact. You remember her?'

'Sure. Short and dangerous.'

'She's a Petty Officer now. But Jackie's the only one of the old crew I've seen.' She took a sip of her drink and set the glass down on top of the AI. 'I'm surprised you've escaped detection this long.'

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