Chapter 7

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It's difficult to kill someone without creating fallout.

When someone fails to show up for meals, or work, or dates, or repayments, or to chair interplanetary peace initiatives - people notice. Then lots of stuff starts happening. Interested parties become even more interested. Parties such as family members, bosses, lovers, debt collectors or the combined security forces of a small planet.

The trick is to be several thousand lightyears away before somebody thinks to ask 'Hey, has anyone seen...' dad, Geoff from accounting, snookums, that cheap bastard or the Governor-general.

The trick is most definitely not to be holed up in a tiny, stinking, oxygen-starved crawlspace. In the same station where you have recently killed an unspecified number of people. In a very public manner.

I'd been hunted before. Especially in the days of my early contracts, before I had learned that style was much less important than efficiency. I'd had to lie low sometimes, or worse, rely on someone else to whisk me off-world or inter-station. I knew how to deal with people chasing me, lying to me, cheating me, smuggling me or, on one memorable occasion, dumping me into deep space while inside a cargo canister.

I wasn't sure how to deal with being ignored.

By the second day of tasteless rations and vapour cleansing, it had become clear to even the battered and emotionally-wrung out shadow of my former self that the bloodbath on the bearing was not going to make the news.

The closest I found was a short, scrolling tag at the bottom of the zero-g wrestling league that was broadcasting light-live from Zadok. It mentioned the closing of an embarkation station for maintenance.

I had no expectation of my theft at the dock coming into the spotlight. No second-rate security contractor was going to publicise their own failings. Not if they wanted to remain a security contractor. They would dispose of the body - or bodies, if they wanted to ensure absolute secrecy and weren't overly squeamish. They would replace the stolen equipment and supplies at their own cost and recruit new staff. They might consider conducting a discreet investigation, but there was no cost benefit to doing so. Not for a single incident.

The events at the bearing embarkation point were very different. Especially following less than twenty-four hours after the deaths in the loading bay. That news should have been screaming from every channel on station.

But it wasn't.

The obvious answer was a cover-up. The obvious culprit was Smooth-face. But that was not the only possibility. Trip-G was a canny security officer. Pushing an incident into deep-dark while she was throwing everything into its investigation would be a strategy that someone of her calibre would employ. It would cost her more favours than I could imagine, but if anyone who was not attached to endless funding, power and resources could pull it off, it would be her. The irony that Trip-G may be looking into me at the same time that I was looking into her was not lost on me.

So. I was either completely in the clear, completely shafted, or somewhere between. A conclusion I could have reached without any monitoring whatsoever. Which left me exactly nowhere.

Using my hidden terminal for research increased the likelihood of someone tracing it and shutting it down. But I didn't have a lot of options open to me. I'd also been careful to ensure that any trail would lead back to Deeb. Still, losing the hack would be a significant operational cost.

I had to take the chance. Except I had no idea what I was betting against or even what the game was. Searching for "massacre on bearing" would have been about as stupid an action imaginable, even with a fancy crawler or scription, neither of which were available to me from my current location. At the same time, trying to discover who had attacked me in the bearing was problematic if security had already identified them and was monitoring them. And I had still made no headway in identifying Trip-G's family, daughter or location.

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