Chapter Forty One

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"Finally," Hu Veo said as Gaylen presented the cylinder.

"Yes. Finally."

She received him in her office, right in the centre of the complex. The woman didn't get up from her high-backed, lacquered chair. An aide stepped over, took the cylinder out of Gaylen's hands, then joined her boss behind the desk and opened it.

A last hint of worry made itself felt deep within his gut as the port overseer peered at whatever this whole thing had been about. Maybe the painkillers Herdis had given him were why it wasn't more than a hint.

But the woman simply reattached the lid without any kind of reaction, and the aide placed the cylinder on the desk.

"So, you're satisfied?" he asked.

"With the delivery, if not the time it took," Hu Veo replied, rather imperiously.

"I'm still within the deadline," he replied calmly. He wasn't surprised at the attitude. Out here someone like her rarely interacted with anyone on their level. That, and the office itself was an ostentatious fever dream of precious metals and fancy fabrics.

"Quite, quite," she went on in that same tone. "And I understand you flew here on the entirety of your reward for this job."

"I did."

A single twitch of her eyebrow made sure how little she thought of a single ship. Then a glance at the aide caused the younger woman to produce a folded sheet.

"This arrived well ahead of you," Hu Veo said as the aide handed it over to him. "From our mutual acquaintance."

Gaylen unfolded the sheet. It was the blueprint of a Mark II Kirian model civilian freighter. The Addax. And added to it with a red pen were two small dots. These were the locations of the two tracking devices Lanson had agreed to let him know of.

He grinned.

"I understand this fully settles matters," the woman said, with an obvious desire to have this over with.

"It does, it does," he said. Presumably Lanson had sent this along with other messages or items he didn't mind being intercepted.

"Good. Then please be on your way. And I will thank you not to speak of that mess that took place beneath my feet."

"Makes no difference to me," Gaylen replied and stuck the sheet into a coat pocket. "Good day."

"Good day."

Jaquan waited for him outside the office, as did the two local employees who'd escorted them from the station's outer section. A single nod confirmed to his friend that everything was in order, and they walked back the way they'd come.

Herdis had treated his burns more properly on the Addax, closed up the various little cuts he'd received in the rubble, and given him an anti-swelling injection. His still felt his injuries, but more as a distant throb than anything else. He didn't care.

It was done, and the fact sank in more and more with every step he took, giving a lightness to his steps that he was almost certain had nothing to do with the drugs.

They'd done it.

Their escorts left them in the public part of the station, and soon enough they were out beneath the sky.

"So," Jaquan said. "We're independent now. Actually independent. As soon as we..."

Gaylen handed him the sheet.

"Oh."

"We really are," Gaylen told him. "As soon as you get these things out."

"What a considerate monster, old Lanson," his friend mused.

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