Part 4: Shiva - Chapter 6

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Monk's voice was muffled through the door cabin.

'There's been some kind of disturbance on Shiva.'

Rix finished dressing. His hair was still damp after his shower and hung down rather than follow its usual reach for the ceiling. The wet locks were still cold on his neck.

The knock came again, more urgent this time.

'Did you hear what I said?'

With a sigh, Rix opened the door. 'What kind of trouble?'

Monk hadn't been sleeping well, Rix knew, and he could see it plainly now. Red eyes, tousled hair, and a lugubrious expression. 'You look ill,' he said. 'Even for a Helot.'

'You were right about someone finding out about us.' The man even sounded tired.

'Three people arrived at Tower Two. Strangers. They're being brought here.'

As much as he'd been raised among Helots, Rix sometimes thought they were all quite stupid. Three people; three bullets. The equation was simple enough. 'Who gave that order?'

Monk stepped into the room and let the door slide closed behind him. 'Please keep your voice down. I did.'

'Why?'

'We don't know who they are. Syndicate agents, maybe.'

Rix didn't give a shit about the Syndicate. He left the room and headed for the bridge. Monk trailed behind. 'How's the work coming along?'

'They're about ninety percent complete. The power plant's installed. We were just waiting for the tower engines to come up to capacity, bring the Void on line and then get Zeus to do the math.'

At the door of the bridge Pansy scuttled aside as the two men entered. A glance at the control desk confirmed the news: the screen displayed all three dinghies heading back to the Shepherd Moon.

'There's a ship on Shiva itself,' said Monk. 'It must have arrived here before we did. I don't know how they knew about us.'

They should have scanned for any presence on the asteroid, especially after the news about someone accessing data through a ghost. Rix bit back a retort about Monk's running of the ship. It had been his responsibility, his fault.

'Get someone to check it out.'

'I already have. I can alter orbit and we can do a flyover if you like.'

'No time. We start things immediately the engines are installed.'

The dinghies would arrive in a couple of minutes. Rix opened a comlink channel.

'This is Rix. I want the prisoners brought to the lounge immediately on arrival. Three of you will remain as security—the others will return to complete the installation. We can't waste time. Do you understand?'

There was no reply. 'Do you understand?'

'Yes,' came the voice of Sniper.

Monk moved to exit the bridge, but Rix barred his way with his arm.

'What?' he asked.

There were so many things to say. Things were becoming sloppy—Sniper took too long to acknowledge an order; the strangers on the asteroid; the need for haste and precision; the desperate need for the next orders from Zeus. But Rix said nothing, just slowly removed his arm and let him proceed, turning to watch the Helot as he moved.

'Just get them working as fast as possible.'

Distant thuds told that the dinghies had docked. There was a pause, during which Frank emerged from the engineering deck below and was told what was happening. She growled something in Helot, but Rix didn't catch the words.

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