Several hours before helping Ray into an elevator, Mollin had woken to find himself crumpled against the windshield of the van with an intimate view of the Taygete Bridge’s pavement.
Despite the fact his ears were still ringing from the crash, he caught the sound of voices and the slithering of a body being pulled from the van, all followed by a genuinely disturbing laugh.
Since there was nothing one unarmed and battered Cherrii could do about it, Mollin remained unmoving until the voices receded.
As soon as he thought it safe, he uncurled himself and scrambled along the van’s roof to the passenger area, from which he heard a soft muttering.
“Ray,” he hissed the name as he maneuvered around Jessyn, who was still deeply unconscious. “How badly are you injured?” he asked, then froze as Ray’s hand shot up to clutch his shoulder.
“No time,” Ray said, his voice barely a whisper, his eyes blurred. “Get to the 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 footsteps approached the gaping open door. “Get her out of here.”
* * *
Mollin did as Ray ordered and got Jessyn out of there.
It had been tight, but he’d managed to bundle the woozy Rasalkan into a passing auto cab just as the first emergency responders were wailing onto the bridge.
By the time they reached the spaceport, Jessyn was stable enough to walk to the berth Ray had indicated, but she’d immediately dropped off again when Mollin found the ship’s medical kit.
A scan showed she was in no immediate danger, so he left her in what had to be Ray’s bedroom and went on a tour of the Gypsy Moth, finally settling down at a comp-comm system located in the lounge.
He was still there, searching through the Romeria newsfeeds when a soft shuff of footsteps had him looking over his shoulder to see Jessyn had woken.
“Domina Jessyn.” He rose to greet her. “How are you feeling?”
“Not . . . horrible,” she said, touching her head gently. “What happened?”
“An armored van T-boned us.”
Her brow furrowed at that. “Someone hit us with a steak?”
“Ah, no, it’s—never mind.” He waved that off. “Harry and Ray were both taken away, but Ray was coherent enough to give me the location and codes for this place, just before our attackers snatched him.” He paused. “When they came for him, I pretty much dropped on top of you. I apologize for the rudeness, but I thought it better if they believed I was unconscious.”
“And did they?”
“They thought I was dead.” Mollin offered a rueful smile. “Being a Still can have advantages,” he added, pointing to his permanently copper-shaded skin. “Once they left, I scavenged as much as I could from the wreck, got you out of the van, and hailed an auto cab to bring us here.”
“Here,” she echoed, looking around. “Inside a ship.” She turned back to Mollin. “Ray’s ship?”
“So it appears.”
“I see,” she said, then looked up at Mollin. “Do you mind?” she asked, pointing at the comp/comm.
Mollin grinned. “Be Ray’s guest.” He watched as she studied the console before activating the transcomm system. “Who are you calling?”
“If we are to find Ray and Harry,” Jessyn 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 an hour 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 a link address to the comm, “Ray, at least, is alive.”
“How can you know that?”
“I’m not entirely certain,” she replied, adding her personal recognition code, “but I do.”
Seconds later, the holo screen shimmered into being, and with it the face of a young woman with red-gold hair and green eyes in a warm, ivory face. “Tahna,” Jessyn breathed the name. “Me scieszka . . .” she continued, dropping into what Mollin supposed was one of the Rasalkan languages. After a few moments, the red-haired woman disappeared and was replaced by another woman, this one lean, with short-cropped silver hair and a no-nonsense demeanor that reminded Mollin of his Control.
The woman on the other end listened to Jessyn, responded briskly, and cut the comm.
“Um,” Mollin began as Jessyn turned.
“Captain Marifanne wants us to meet the Lady at Ankhar as soon as possible,” she said, rising from the desk.
“Right,” Mollin said. “I’m pretty sure a local cabbie can get us to the club in fifteen minutes,” he said. “Meanwhile, 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, blue eyes suddenly focused in a way Mollin found oddly familiar. “A shirt,” she echoed. “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 replied, 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, from its state-of-the-art spatial flight and nav systems to its above-state-of-the-art computer and communications tech.
Which left little doubt in Mollin’s mind that Harry had been right about Slater also being involved with the intelligence community.
Now, he thought, heading for the galley to make the promised coffee, if they could just figure out how to find the two missing men before it was too late.
* * *
Inside the bedroom, Jessyn paused and replayed Mollin’s offer of coffee.
Or, rather, her acceptance of the offer.
She hated coffee, which 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, she crossed to the wardrobe and flung open the doors to reveal 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 one long coat.
Beneath the hanging rod sat four drawers.
She didn’t question but followed her intuition and 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 would help her find Ray.
Now, if they could only locate 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 found in his jacket and put in his pocket and—oh. Oh, my.” He dashed in 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’ve found a link to Ray.”
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