The Gemini Hustle: Chapter 19

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Five hours ago, give or take, Mollin found himself upside down, which he thought to be bad.

He was, however, held in place by the fiber-webbing seatbelt, which was good. 

Then another concussion blew the door, and the belt’s locking mechanism gave way, dropping him on the roof. Also bad.

Worse was the sound of voices, and a slithering of a body being pulled from the van, all followed by a genuinely disturbing laugh, but there was nothing one lone and battered Cherrii could do about it, so Mollin remained unmoving until the voices receded. As soon as he thought it safe, he scrambled along the roof to the rear of the van, from which he heard a soft muttering. 

“Slater,” he said, crawling over the deeply unconscious Jessyn to view the barely coherent Human. “How badly are you injured?” he asked, then let out a gasp when Ray’s hand shot up to clutch his shoulder.

“No time,” Ray hissed, yanking the Cherrii agent closer. “Spaceport… Authenticate Mr. John Steed… level twelve, berth sixteen-epsilon. Ship entry code, Long Goodbye.”

“Why are you telling me—”

“Jessyn,” Ray hissed, falling back as more bodies appeared in the gaping door of the van. “Get her out of here.”

Jessyn’s eyes opened to a place she didn’t know. 

With care she sat up, discovered the aches were bearable, though her probing fingers discovered a knot at the base of her skull, hidden by the tumble of curls that had come out of their pins. 

Healthy enough to function, she looked about to find she was sitting on a large, unmade bed in a room smaller than those the Sisterhood provided for Ankh’s hostesses at the Romeria Ócala Inn. 

To her right, a series of floor-to-ceiling panels hung at intervals between shorter light panels, all softly glowing, with a tall, arched door in the center. Forward sat a wardrobe with double doors, above which was a large vid screen. At her left, open accordion doors displayed a comfort area with shower, washbasin/mirror, and toilet.

She took a deep breath and identified the aroma of coffee. Tilting her head, she caught the sound of—tapping?

Closing her eyes, Jessyn opened herself to the tapper’s emotions but found only concern, curiosity, and a hint of frustration, all of which she shared. 

Convinced she had no reason to fear for herself, she slid from the bed and padded barefoot into a spacious living and kitchen area to find Mr. Finn’s associate, Mollin, sitting at a crescent-shaped desk and computer terminal along the living area’s left wall, his fingers dancing deftly over the keypad. 

Which explained the tapping sounds.

Mollin looked up, forcing a smile as she approached.

“Miss Jessyn, thank the Universe you’re awake. How are you feeling?”

“Not horrible,” she said. “A lot of aches. What happened?”

“We were attacked,” he said, rising from the chair and motioning for her to sit. 

“In your van,” she said, folding herself into the chair. “I remember being thrown?”

“Rammed,” Mollin confirmed. “An armored van t-boned us.”

That didn’t sound right. “They hit us with a steak?” 

“Ah, no, it’s—never mind,” he said. “You and Harry were out cold, but your friend, Ray, was coherent enough to give me the location and codes for this place. Just before our attackers took him, I, well, I pretty much dropped on you. I apologize for the rudeness,” he added, clouding her psyche with his embarrassment, though his skin remained a placid copper, “but I thought it better if they believed I was unconscious.”

“And did they?” 

“They thought I was dead,” he said with a rueful grin. “Being a Still can have advantages.”

Which explained why his pigment hadn’t changed. 

“Once they’d left, I scavenged what I could and got you out of the van and waved down a ride, a married couple on vacation, who gave us a ride here.”

“Here,” she echoed, giving the room a more careful glance and catching sight of the open door to the flight deck. “Inside a ship.” She turned back to Mollin. “Ray’s ship?” 

“So it appears.” 

“I see,” she said, biting her lip—an old habit even the Academy hadn’t been able to squash—before she came to a decision. “If you do not mind?” She pointed to the keypad.

“Be my guest—or Ray’s guest,” he said. 

She spun the chair and scanned the available tech until she spied the transcomm system. 

“Who are you calling?” he asked. 

“If we are to find Ray and Mr. Finn,” she said, using the linked keypad to bring the system online, “we will need help.” 

“Assuming there’s anything left to find.”

She looked up, blue eyes wide. “What do you mean?”

“It’s been over two hours since they were taken,” he explained, “in two separate vehicles and, if I heard right, in two separate directions. After this long, they might well be—”

“No,” she cut off the dire speculation while entering in the link address, “Ray at least is alive.” 

“How can you know that?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, adding her personal recognition code. “I just do.” 

Seconds later, the holo screen shimmered into being, and with it the face of a young woman with red-gold hair and serious green eyes in a warm, ivory face. “Tahna,” Jessyn breathed her friend’s name. “Me scieszka…

Mollin’s mouth dropped as the conversation, incomprehensible to him, went forwards. After a time, another female—a woman with a silver cap of hair, pale, refined features, and a chill demeanor—replaced the young redhead. 

He caught an occasional name—Finn, Eineen, Slater—once a violently hissed Lyselle—but mostly it was so much musical gibberish. 

After a few minutes of this, Jessyn nodded, kissed her fingers, and laid them over her throat, then cut the communication.

“Um,” Mollin began.

“We are to meet the Lady at Ankh as soon as possible,” she said, rising from the desk. 

“Oh,” Mollin said. “All right?” He looked around, then back to where Jessyn stood, looking suddenly uncertain. 

He felt a stirring of pity, despite the FI training that discouraged such emotions. 

“A local cabbie can get us to the club in fifteen minutes,” he said. “Meantime, maybe you’ll want to borrow one of Ray’s shirts?” Here he gestured vaguely to the tattered remains of the gown she still wore.

She looked up, the blue eyes suddenly focused in a way Mollin found oddly familiar. “A shirt. Yes. A shirt might do it. Excuse me,” she said, then turned for the bedroom. 

“There’s coffee as well, if you’d like,” Mollin called after her. 

“Coffee will be fine,” she said automatically, then disappeared into Ray’s bedroom. “Just give me a moment.” 

He could give her a few, he thought, retaking his seat at the computer, where he meant to make as much use of those moments as possible. 

Pulling up to the desk, he nudged Harry’s go-bag, carried faithfully from the wreckage, to one side and took a moment to pay silent homage to the amazing collection of technology before him. 

It was an astounding package for a ship of this vintage. 

Like a nugget of high-grade platinum encased in an ordinary chunk of free-floating space rock, from its state-of-the-art spatial flight and navigational systems to its notch-above-state-of-the-art computer and communications tech. 

Which left little doubt in Mollin’s mind that Slater was Force Intelligence. 

Which in turn meant Harry had been right to warn Mollin off running a search on Slater the previous day—a scan of his cover could raise red flags in every law-enforcement system, the kind of flags Gemini might have noticed. 

Once he’d set up a scan and moved off to prepare the promised coffee, he remembered a song he’d heard while visiting Disney Planet, and so moved about the cabin while softly singing that it was a small world, after all.

Inside the bedroom door, Jessyn paused and replayed Mollin’s offer of coffee. 

Or, rather, her acceptance of the offer. 

She hated coffee. 

She always had. 

In part, this was a denial of the Human heritage that marked her as an outcast, but mostly because it never tasted as good as it smelled. Yet, just now, she couldn’t imagine anything she’d enjoy more. 

Unless it was two fingers of Wallace Blue. 

Shaking off the sensation, and what it might mean, she crossed to the wardrobe and flung open the doors. 

Directly in front of her was a wide bar, on which hung an array of shirts of varying quality and style, and next to these a series of trousers of a similar variety and next to these a selection of blazers, jackets, and a single long coat. 

Beneath the hanging rod sat a simple dresser unit, four drawers the width of the wardrobe in which it sat, coming to just above her waist in height.

She didn’t question, but followed her intuition. Ignoring the hanging clothes for the moment, she opened the dresser’s second drawer to rummage through the soft cottons, denims, and camouflage folded there, until her fingers caught at something thin, cold, and metallic. The moment she touched the object, a violent shock shot through her system, dropping her to her knees.

For a time she huddled on the deck, rocking back and forth and clutching the pendant—the pendant she now knew with certainty that would help her find Ray.

Now, if they could only find Har—

“I know how to find Harry!” Mollin appeared in the doorway. “I’ll need the activation code for that bug your people put on him, the one he put in his pocket and—oh. Oh, my.” He dashed to kneel at her side. “Are you all right?” 

“I am now,” Jessyn said, holding up the pendant, upon which were engraved the words Sanctus Christopherus, Protegot Nos. “I think it worked.”

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