Part 4: Shiva - Chapter 3

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Agnes had a hard time being a passenger. Being in charge of the Euryalus had felt like being a passenger sometimes, with the AI guiding the ship to wherever she told it to go, and a navigation officer who did the real job of deciding when the ship had arrived at the correct place. Agnes had been the captain and therefore was basically along for the ride—but at least she'd been in charge and took responsibility for everything, including the things that went wrong.

But now she really was a passenger, and if something went wrong she'd be just another life for the crew to save, and any advice she might give would not be welcome. All she had to do was sit in a seat, drink coffee and maybe watch a movie along with a hundred other passengers as they took five hours to go to the Moon. She intended to do none of those things.

She sat now with her feet on another chair at the table in the main lounge of the shuttle. Other passengers lined up for food and drinks at the on-board canteen. Some watched the lazy way the stars wheeled around the windows as the ship spun to create the illusion of gravity. Some people found the sight literally sickening. At least cleaning up vomit was one thing Agnes didn't have to take responsibility for.

The chair opposite her creaked as Dorac sat down after parking the car in the hold of the shuttle. This was starting to be an expensive case. Another call would be necessary to the agency to try and convince them that the Dorac family really would cough up the necessary expenses. Maybe they would send them an invoice for costs to date. She opened her fone to make a note to remind herself about that later.

'Have you heard the news?' Dorac asked. He was munching on a candy bar he'd bought at the canteen. He hadn't bought her one.

'No. Something good?'

'Franco's dead.'

She looked up from her fone. 'When?'

He transferred a file to her fone. She regarded it for a moment: a news bulletin about a man's decapitated body found in Istanbul. DNA testing showed it to be Francisco Bail, a baker who was wanted by the police. The authorities were trying to trace anyone who had seen the man in the twenty-four hours prior to his death.

'Decapitated. I guess it wasn't suicide then.'

'An interesting method of killing,' mused Dorac. 'Not something a paranoid would do. Not something ordinary criminals would do either. That is, they might use it opportunistically, if the means arose. But they wouldn't leave the body where it could be found.'

'So you're saying whoever did this wanted the body found. Terrorists? They meant it as a message or warning?'

'Yes.'

Agnes glanced out of the window. The Moon had swung into view, already larger than it appeared from Earth, a huge beach ball floating on a black sea.

'I should contact the agency,' she said. 'They might have an agent on the Moon. We could meet, get some back-up. Maybe Nancy Jong is behind Franco's death. She found out Franco told us about him, disposed of Franco, left him to be found so we'd learn about it and back off.'

'We met Franco three days ago. She'd have to work fast.'

They sat in silence for a while, Dorac idly ripping some of the stitching out of his chair with his fingernails. He sat forward, put one hand on the table ready to stand up.

'I have a sudden compulsion to check on the car,' he said.

Agnes frowned. 'Left something there?'

'No. But it occurs to me that the Nuncio was blown up in a car. Franco probably told whoever killed him who we were—a Sirian and a Sape woman, physical descriptions and so forth. If he valued his life he'd do that, trying to save his own neck. We might be shadowed already. Three days would be enough time to notice two people like us kicking around in Istanbul, and the car we kicked around in. I'm just a little concerned that we might have an unwelcome device secured to your car even now.'

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