Chapter Thirty Four

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Ayna had understood this to be the very top of Zan-Kiko's slice of the station, and the environment bore that out. Whatever purpose the narrow hallway had originally served it now seemed to mostly be a storage area, for random things people didn't know what to do with. Boxes were stacked up against the walls and various fabrics and cables hung from hooks in the ceiling.

After a little while of careful listening she ventured forth.

She passed an open door, beyond which was a room almost entirely filled with boxes. She passed a bathroom, and a room from which muffled music emanated. There were still a handful of people here. She'd expected as much, and any doubt was ruled out when she passed a staircase, up through which two voices echoed.

Ayna passed another room, and another, either one of which could have held a gangster that was simply being quiet. But then she found it.

There were letters on the wall, old and faded, presumably dating back to the station's earliest days. There were three different types of script, one of which she understood.

Security Station.

She'd asked a subtle question here and there during these last ten hours, and established that Golga 3's old command centre was indeed located within Zan-Kiko's personal playhouse.

She headed up the stairs next to the sign, mindful of creaks.

It was a small room. The control panels were about she had been expecting, if antiquated and much-repaired. At a glance they provided the ability to lock down any door within the station's old control centre, speak through an intercom, and observe video feeds from various locations.

Ayna thought of heist films, and the way the heroes inevitably had to bypass absurdly complex security measures to reach their prize. But this was a forgotten little station in the depths of the abyss, lorded over by petty gangsters.

All she had to do was hit Rewind and Play to find what she was looking for. There was a separate screen and memory for each camera, but she focused on the one with a view of the main entrance. And she found it; the moment that Blue Strike member entered the hideout. He was greeted by Grego and a woman in a nice jacket, with a less appealing cybernetic tube of some sorts in her neck.

Ayna took a pair of headphones off a hook and pressed one pad against her ear.

"I need to make this quick," the merc said. "We need to get the full team together, and it needs to happen fast."

"And what do you want from us?" the woman asked.

"I want you to send someone sober and reliable to Ixill, on a fast ship. A two man-team is there. The other two-man team is at Feddo. I'll go talk to them myself, with the same message. They are to meet us on Gveloh. On Unnak, specifically, like last time."

"And what-"

There was the sound of stomping feet down below, approaching the stairs up to the security station. A man's voice carried up, mumbling something with a modest slur, in a language she didn't speak. He stopped down by the stairs and shouted at someone. Then he put a foot on the bottom step.

Ayna shut down the recording and put the headphones back. Then she sprang to the only available cover: The gloom above the door.

She leapt up as the man ascended, and pressed her heels against the wall and her palms against the ceiling.

The man entered, mumbling to himself and paying no particular attention to anything. But he was big, and clearly had a weapon of some sort under his poncho. The moment he was a few steps inside Ayna let herself drop. She made no sound on the stairs, and hurried down as the man apparently opened a drawer.

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