The Gemini Hustle: Chapter 10

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The Gemini Hustle: Chapter

Chapter 10

Ray continued to hold Jessyn’s hand, their fingers twining with a familiarity that, were Ray not focused on Harry’s story, would have been spooky.

“The Lady has some of the background,” Harry was explaining, with a glance at Jessyn. “I’d as soon not rehash that particular episode.”

“Of course,” she murmured, even as Ray picked up a sense of unease underscored by smoke that had him looking around to see who’d lit up, only to shake it off as Harry continued.

“Okay, so—first off, yes, I used to be with a marshal,” Harry began. “And about two years after the war, a slicer going by the handle Gemini was starting to make a name for themself. It wasn’t my case,” he continued, spinning his glass around on its axis. “Not at first.”

“But it became your case,” Ray guessed.

“It did,” Harry agreed. “It became mine when one of the officers who I served with—who was in Kelmno with me—showed up in my office with a shiny new ISM badge and a case file.”

“Wait.” Ray held up a hand, leaning closer. “The Kelmno escape? That was you?”

“You heard about that?” Harry asked.

“Are you kidding? Everyone in uniform heard about that,” Ray said. “I remember the newsfeeds coming through, but I’ve forgotten the details.”

“I haven’t,” Harry said, before continuing his tale. “I first met Seth Aliombe when I recruited him from Bletchley Station. Things were looking bad on both fronts, you’d know about that,” he said to Ray, who nodded shortly, “and I had an idea how to, not even things out, necessarily, but to give our side some space to even things out.”

“How?” Jessyn asked.

“A fresh take on the prisoner’s dilemma,” Harry said, then added, “Human game theory, but applied to the Judon-HaQ alliance.”

“You wanted them to betray each other?” Ray asked.

“Not exactly,” Harry said. “We wanted both sides to believe the other had already betrayed them.”

“Whoa,” Ray said.

“That is very twisty,” Jessyn observed.

“That it was,” Harry said. “It was also close to impossible and would only work if we had a slicer with serious quantum cypher skills.”

“And Seth Aliombe had serious q-skills?” Ray guessed, then absently stole a sip of Jessyn’s tea, made a face at the wan, flowery taste, and put it back.

Harry’s lips twitched, but he didn’t quite manage a smile. “He did. Seth was . . . brilliant,” he added, sadness and something else, something darker, shadowing his eyes. “He signed on to the mission, swore in as a Fleet ensign, and in a few months, we managed to seed a lot of bad will between the Judon and HaQ commands.”

“And then what happened?” Jessyn asked as Harry paused.

“And then we were captured by the Judon, who took us to the Kelm,” Harry said, then glanced at Ray.

“So, Seth joined the Interstellar Marshals after the war?” he asked, moving the narrative past Kelmno, to Harry’s visible relief.

“He did, and that was a surprise,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t think he’d want to see me again after the Judon. But it was also a relief to see he’d recovered, and once we started working together, it was almost like old times. Certainly, we had almost as many people shooting at us,” he reminisced.

“Humans,” Jessyn murmured.

Harry smiled at that. “Anyway, we worked well together. And though it was the Gemini file that brought Seth to my desk, we were also assigned a lot of other cases and closed most of them during the two years we were partnered. But when it came to Gemini, we kept just missing him. We’d get close, but we could never quite touch him.”

“Sometimes it goes like that,” Ray offered.

“Sometimes, yes,” Harry agreed. “But not every time. Especially not every time when there’s a cy-tech like Seth working the streams.”

He looked up again, and Ray and Jessyn both let out a hiss of breath as they came to understand.

And then Harry told them how he’d come to suspect his partner, how he’d used the sting on Ceres to trap him and, briefly, how all that had worked out. “As your Lady now knows,” he added, glancing at Jessyn.

“And what happened after?” she asked.

“After?” Harry’s left hand again turned his glass in its place slowly, slowly. “Reports were filed, there were funerals for the members of the TacOps team who didn’t make it, and after that came the scramble to assign blame.

“As the op’s leader and partner of the big bad, I came out the winner on that score. Not that I noticed,” Harry added mildly. “I was busy undergoing various surgeries. But after that, less than a week after I got on my feet, someone in the intelligence loop tracked me down to tell me Seth hadn’t died on Ceres. Once I heard that, I did what I had to do to get back in the game, and I’ve been following Seth’s breadcrumbs until they led us—me and my new cy-tech—here.” Harry stopped turning the glass. “So, that’s my story, and why I’m here. Now,” he added, leaning back to study Ray, “I’ve shown you mine. What are the chances you’ll show me yours?”

“Mine’s less exciting,” Ray said, running a quick mental calculus on which agency would have come recruiting. Fleet Intel came out on top, because of Harry’s service in the war—and while Ray respected Fleet Intel, he wasn’t cleared to read them into his operations. Still, Harry had given, so Ray could give a little back. “I came to Romeria on the tail of two lowlifes,” he offered.

“Sims Al-Kar and Gavin Booth?” Harry guessed.

“The very same,” Ray agreed, almost raising Jessyn’s tea in a toast before she saved him from himself and took it back.

“They’re the reason I came to Ócala, myself,” Harry admitted. “All signs indicated they got Seth off of Ceres, which meant it was likely they still worked for him. And though Seth, or Gemini, wasn’t working for the Black Rose two years ago, from what I got downstairs, he is now.” At which point he looked at Jessyn.

“I know Sims and Gavin work for someone they call the Big Man. I have never met him,” Jessyn said before adding, “but Neishi has.” She glanced toward the mezzanine where Neishi had joined Gavin and Seth’s party, then back. “They are quite close.”

“Not Seth’s usual,” Harry said.

“Gemini’s tastes aside,” Ray said, rapping his knuckles on the table. “I have some possibly useful information.”

“From your friend at the bar?” Harry asked.

Ray nodded and relayed the rest of his conversation with the bartender.

“If this party is as big as Ziio thinks, your man might make an appearance,” Ray concluded. “Assuming we can get into the place.”

“I might be able to help with that,” Jessyn said thoughtfully. “If the Lady agrees.”

“Why would she?” Ray asked, but a flurry of motion had him turning to see Sims Al-Kar himself stalking up to their table.

Ray slid out of the booth, ready to play Harry’s jammer to the hilt.

But it wasn’t Harry that Sims had come to see.

“Find yourself another distraction, jammer,” Sims told Ray. “Jessyn is with me.”

“And that’s where she would be,” Ray said, “if she wanted to be there.”

“Jessyn,” Sims said, turning to the young woman, “please, come with me.”

“There may be a time for us to speak, later,” Jessyn said. “But, at present, I must do as the Lady wishes, and the Lady wishes me to accompany these gentlemen.”

Sims cursed, his face reddened, and he took a step forward.

“I think you’re done, here,” Ray said, easing to block the other man.

“You should go, Sims,” Harry added. “Live to fight another day and all that?”

With a growl, Sims turned back to Ray. “This isn’t over,” he said, then turned and stalked back to the stairs and up to the mezzanine, where Gavin and the other tough-looking types waited.

Neishi, however, had disappeared.

“I cry bullshit,” Ray said as he dropped back into the seat.

“That was off,” Harry agreed. “Not that I don’t believe Sims is the jealous type, but that felt . . . off.”

“That I can confirm,” Jessyn murmured, watching as Sims joined Gavin and a few other rough-looking parties spread along the mezzanine. “They are not going to wait for you to leave,” she said, turning to Harry.

“We need to move,” Ray decided. “Now.”

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