Chapter 03: The Arrival

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The next two days passed in bits and pieces.

Drake learned that Gideon had a love of chess, and even carried a small, magnetized set with him. The pair spent several hours in the lounge, chins in their hands, eyes glued to the board. Tristan seemed to like to spend time out there as well, seated in a big reclining chair with her shoes off, feet tucked up beneath her as she read an infopad.

Trent tried hitting on her, but he found conversation with her difficult. He spent most of the first day bouncing back and forth between trying to extract information from Trevor and trying to see if Tristan would give him the time of day. His time with Marie had been really nice, but he'd only had a single night with her and he'd expected more.

He had blue balls.

But Tristan was being difficult. She muttered the occasional noncommittal grunt while he prattled on about bullshit. Finally, she got up and left, leaving him alone with the chess masters. Trent sighed, strolled over and collapsed in a chair beside them, watching them both.

"Strike out, huh?" Drake asked.

"Yeah, she's a tough nut to crack," Trent replied.

"And if she's not interested?" Gideon asked. He reached out and moved a piece. Drake cursed softly and delved deep into thought.

"Then whatever. I'm done. I'm not that dumb, I can take a hint," Trent said.

"Took you an hour," Drake muttered without looking over.

"I said I wasn't that dumb," Trent muttered.

"Does anyone ever give you shit for being gay?" Gideon asked suddenly.

Drake blinked, startled out of his thoughts, then gazed up at Gideon. "You asshole, you only asked that because it'd distract me. And no, not really. For the most part. Of course, running in a mercenary crowd, you always get ignorant morons who seem to still equate it with weakness. Not sure how it makes sense, but they're so damned persistent. I've broken a couple noses in my time when they didn't get the hint. Anyone give you shit for being black?"

"Not really, no. I am six eight and four hundred pounds of muscle. But, every now and then, when you get out into the really backwater colonies-"

Drake suddenly smiled, reached forward and moved a piece. "Check."

Gideon looked down, blinked in surprise. "You motherfucker."

* * *

Trent made it a point to get to know his squad. He already had a good grip of what Gideon was like: big, strong, good in a fight. Though there was a sharp intellect swimming just below the surface. Trent made a mental note not to insult the man's intelligence, not that he made a habit of insulting people in general.

Tristan obviously didn't want to talk to him, so he let her be. Sergio and Sharpe weren't going to say shit and Trevor was a lot more clever than he let on. He was nice enough, and obviously pretty smart, but he carefully guided the conversation away from their mission and any of the specifics. Trent found himself talking about past jobs, the specifics of maintaining your arsenal, the best booze, great pleasure spots.

Anything but the mission.

So that just left Stephen. He tracked the technician to his room and hit the buzzer. A moment later the door opened, bass-heavy techno music poured out. The bug-eyed tech was actually smiling. He invited Trent in.

"What is this?" Trent asked, taking a seat on the bed.

Stephen collapsed back into his chair. "It's called Hypno-Tech. I've got nine terabytes of the stuff. I can't get enough of it."

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