Early morning, the third day after the raid on Rija.
Throughout Romeria, locals commuted to or from work, and the tourists, gamblers, and nightsiders who kept the city in platinum stumbled back to whichever hotel they called home.
Inside the Gypsy Moth, Ray and Jessyn slept in a tangle, her head on his shoulder, his leg over her hip, sheets twined around both like a deep blue vine.
Given the way they’d spent most of the previous night, it was likely they’d have stayed that way for hours to come, had not the scent of coffee, bacon, syrup, and cinnamon come sneaking into the bedroom, tickling senses and luring both from dreams as intertwined as their bodies.
“Wha—” Ray started, leaving behind a winter day in Montana where a tiny Jessyn fed carrots to her favorite horse.
“Mmmm,” Jessyn hummed her way to waking from the game of three-card monte a slightly less young Ray and another youth had engaged in on New Mars. “Smells good.”
“Smells like trouble,” Ray said, reaching for his gun which rested on the bedside table.
“Not trouble,” Jessyn told him, sitting up, brow furrowing.
He paused, watched her gaze unfocus. “Well, not exactly trouble,” she amended.
“You’re gonna have to be more specific, babe.”
She blinked and looked at Ray with sparkling blue eyes. “It is—”
“Are you guys gonna sleep all day?” Harry’s voice called from beyond the door.
“My father,” she finished unnecessarily.
“This is not happening,” Ray muttered, then yelled back, “How did you get in here?”
“You gave Mollin the codes! Now get your hands off my daughter and get out here.”
“We’ll be right there,” Jessyn called with a laugh.
“We will?” Ray asked.
“I brought grub!” Harry added.
Ray sighed and rolled out of bed. “What the hell,” he said, “I could eat.”
* * *
Barely three minutes later, Ray, in a pair of black sweats and T-shirt, entered the Gypsy’s small galley with Jessyn, who’d tossed on the dress shirt Ray had worn the night before at Fayla’s.
On entering, they found Harry putting the last fork down on the table.
Ray saw the older man look up and take in their presence, and though Harry’s expression remained easy, there was a flicker of something darker in his eyes.
A squeeze of his arm from Jessyn, along with their newfound bond, told him the something wasn’t antagonism, per se.
What he sensed from Jessyn was more along the lines of regret, and it didn’t take long to grok the reason Harry might be disconcerted watching the daughter he’d just met walk into the room with her lover.
Ray was on the verge of making some excuse to step out of the galley and give the father and daughter some privacy, but even as he thought it, Harry’s eyes cleared and he gestured to the table.
“I didn’t know what either of you liked,” the older man said, adjusting a plate by a centimeter, “so I brought a little of everything.”
“You brought all of this?” Jessyn’s eyes skimmed over the takeout trays cramming the table—a veritable buffet of breakfast offerings—from omelettes to pancakes to spiced kwarel fruit. “Alone?”
“Mollin helped,” Harry explained, though as he looked over the repast, it was clear he too was a little overwhelmed by the array.
Ray, meanwhile, paused in the act of pulling out a chair for Jessyn. “Mollin’s here, too?”
“He’s outside, supervising the supply load in.” Harry handed his daughter a plate. “Better tuck in, eggs get cold fast.”
“Supply?” Ray repeated, plopping into a seat himself. “Load in?”
“Here.” Harry poured him a mug of coffee. “It’ll help you wake up.”
Ray took the mug Harry held out, but he didn’t drink yet. “Why is Mollin loading supplies on my ship?”
“Because,” Harry said, pouring his own mug and sitting down to Jessyn’s left, “we’re going on a road trip.”
“Road trip?” Ray gawked. “We?”
“You really should have some coffee,” Harry told him. “And yes. We are taking a trip. Together.” He smiled. “We’re going to be bunkies on the Millennium Falcon.”
Ray, who’d finally taken a drink, almost choked. “No,” he said, brushing coffee from his shirt. “No, we are not going to be bunkies.” Then he looked around. “And this isn’t the Millennium Falcon.”
Harry waved that off with the mug, almost sloshing himself. “Sure she is—look at her. Forward cockpit, central common area, the only thing you’re missing is the holo-game table. Doyle must really like you.”
“I wouldn’t say—”
“He gave you the Millennium Falcon.”
“It is not—”
“Do you know what Doyle gave me?” Harry asked while Jessyn put together a plate for Ray.
Ray gave up. “What?”
“I heard that!” Mollin called from the cargo bay.
Harry looked back over his shoulder. “And you’re worth a dozen Falcons,” he called back, then looked at Jessyn. “No, he’s not,” he whispered.
“I heard that too!” Mollin shouted.
“Wait,” Ray said. “Can we go back to the trip and the—the bunkies?”
“Sure. But first . . .” Harry paused and looked at Jessyn. “Do you want to come with?”
Her eyes, so like his, widened. “Come with? You? But . . . Where? And the Lady—”
“Given the sudden presence of your unsanctioned human father and the equally unsanctioned relationship with Himself over here,” Harry nodded toward Ray, “Fayla thinks it’s best if you made yourself scarce for a while. So, do you want to come with us?”
“Come with us where?” Ray asked as he cut into the pancakes. He might be confused, but—pancakes.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
“Don’t make me hurt you, old man,” Ray muttered around a syrupy mouthful.
“Our services have been engaged by House Szado,” Harry explained.
“Services?” Jessyn echoed.
“Our?” Ray chimed in.
“Fayla thinks an ex-marshal turned free agent, his cy-tech, and a non-licensed jammer are the perfect team to exfiltrate a high-value asset from a privately owned prison satellite in the Shunto system.”
“Shunto,” Jessyn said. “That is a Rasalkan protectorate.”
“I know,” Harry said.
“Does the asset have a name?” Ray asked. He didn’t ask if Doyle was aware of this escapade. If the senior agent had a clue, he’d have been on the comms long before Harry busted in.
“Yes, she does,” Harry said, angling to face his daughter. “In fact, she’s known by a few names. In Rasalkan she’s Ilia Sameina.”
“The Blood Rose,” Jessyn translated, her brows furrowing. “I was told she’d been captured,” she said to Ray. “There are many stories about her. Some brand her a terrorist, others a myth, but in essence, she is a rebel.”
“Against the evil Empire?” Ray asked, unable to stop himself.
“Very much,” Jessyn replied seriously before looking at her father. “But you said Ilia Sameina has more than one name.”
“Yes,” he said, then took her hand before continuing. “She was also known, for a few years, as Sarah Brennan, then Sarah Finn.” At this point Ray took Jessyn’s other hand, which was already reaching for his. “But none of those were her real name,” Harry continued, his voice going a bit rough. “Her real name is Siane Breeshandra.”
Jessyn’s expression blanked, and her grip on Ray’s hand tightened to the point his fingers began to numb.
“How?” she asked.
“Good question,” Ray said. “I thought she died.”
“Reports of her death,” Harry began, then shook his own head and eased back in his chair. “It was something she and Fayla worked out. A way to keep her alive and you safe,” he told Jessyn. “And also to strike back at the Powers that Be. So,” Harry looked at his daughter, “the original question still stands. Do you want to join us in busting your mom out of the Death Star?”
The End of The Beginning
Want more Zodiac adventures?
Click HERE to start reading
The Libra Gambit