The Libra Gambit: Chapter 20

Prep is finalized, monkeys prepped, and Team Gypsy Moth is ready to rock.
To catch up on previous chapters, click HERE.

Chapter 20

Harry and Mo didn’t actually run through the docking concourse. 

As professionals, albeit from different sides of the legal coin, both understood that people running tended to draw unwelcome attention. 

That said, they did approach the Moth’s docking bay at brisk, distance-eating stride.

Since their pace matched the multitude of Very Important People on Urgent Business moving to and from the numerous vessels docked around the station, Harry wasn’t overly worried about being tagged. 

He also figured their VIPoUB facade was enhanced by the fact that both he and Mo were on separate comms, holding conversations that overlapped as they walked, their clipped syllables jostled the air between them even as the bodies of travelers to and from the station jostled their way through the curved passage.

“—just reminding you,” Harry said, angling to edge past a cadre of suitcase-rolling Pan-Galactic space attendants headed in the opposite direction, “we’re talking a game store. The kind that’s crammed with kids.” 

“ —deck nineteen, that’s right,” he heard Mo tell her contact as she skipped around a vacuum bot. 

/So you said/ León’s reply burred in Harry’s ear. /But you want protection for these two niños, you have to take what you can get./

“I just don’t want any of your friends to scare a toddler, is all I’m saying.”

/No one I associate with messes with kids/ León’s affront was as sharp as his Latin accent. /We are not the Draconis, or those shubos the Talons./

“Right. Sorry.” Harry said while Mo told whoever she was talking to tell someone named Prax to grow a pair of ovaries. “It’s just, the people we’re dealing with don’t have your scruples. Or any scruples, so far as I can tell.” 

/If it makes you feel better, I will ask my associate to keep his crew outside of this shop. If any of your GIES cabrónes appear, they will have to walk through a wall of angry Suradis to reach their destination./

“Thanks,” Harry said. “Seriously.” He paused, thought. “Now I guess I owe you a favor.”

A snort of a laugh came back. /We keep doing each other favors like this, people are going to talk./

Harry grinned as he thought of their last round of favors, back on Ócala. “How’s your leg doing?” 

/Completely healed/ Léon replied. /How is your side?/

“Almost there,” Harry replied, absently running a hand over the spot where the bullet had struck. 

/Try to stay alive/ Léon said.

“I didn’t know you cared.”

/I don’t. But I do care that you now owe me. Again./ And with that, Léon closed the comm. 

“Good talk,” Harry said to the empty air just as he and Mo turned into the Gypsy Moth’s docking ring. 

“Thanks, Sean,” Mo was saying. “And be sure to give my regards to Siobhan. Yeah, you bet. I will. Yup. B—uh-huh. Okay. Bye!” She rolled her eyes at Harry as she cut the comm with a tap to her wrist unit. 

“I guess your call was successful?” Harry guessed, leading the way through the Moth’s docking port. 

“My slicer’s second cousin twice removed runs a bar down on the thirteenth floor,” Mo said, her voice muffled slightly by the port’s insulation. “She’ll have her bouncers, her girlfriend, her boyfriend, and a few eager clientele who don’t like GIES—or pretty much any authority figures— rotating through Gorgon’s Lair and the promenade.” 

“Second cousin twice removed… bar… issue with authority,” Harry murmured as they entered the Moth’s cargo bay, their footsteps ringing hollow on the metal deck, “Siobhan runs an Irish pub?” 

“Got it in one.” Mo turned for the stairs, with Harry close behind. “The Bohog’s Bollocks, where I’m told the craic’s first class but the whiskey will eat your liver.” 

“As a true bohog would,” Harry replied, referring to the six-legged carnivores native to the planet Chernon. 

“And how did your call go?” Mo asked, clipping up the stairs.

“Better than I hoped.” Harry followed her up the narrow stairwell. “The fellow I tagged has an associate in the interstellar transport business.” 

“Sounds like code for smuggling,” Mo observed over her shoulder.

“Probably,” Harry agreed. “But this associates arrived on station yesterday, and my guy swears his associate’s crew will make their presence known in the vicinity of Gorgon’s Lair.” 

“Beyond that, it wouldn’t hurt to have an extraction plan in place for JP and company—just in case.” 

“Already covered.” Mo tapped her wrist unit. “Sean’s second cousin—”

“Twice removed,” Harry said before he could stop himself.

“—has herself a hidey hole in the lower decks. Sean said she’s willing to move the Bisson family out if things go pear-shaped.” 

“Good,” Harry said, then turned his attention forward as he and Mo stepped into the lounge. There he noted that Jessyn and Mo were flanking Koz, who was seated at the comp station. 

All three were watching Koz work both the built in and his portable comp. 

“How’s Ray doing?” Harry asked Jessyn as they joined the trio.  

“He is no longer reacting to the nightmare,” she said, leaning into him when he draped an arm over her shoulder. “But I was not able to tell him about Rikert.” 

“Ouch,” Mo said.

“It would only take a moment to warn him,” Jessyn said, looking at Mollin.

“Too risky,” he shook his head and the lights gleamed from the green and copper pattern on his skull. “The GIES spectrum analyzers were able to lock onto our ghost signal too fast for us to try that again.”

“That sounds more Fleet Intel than law enforcement,” Harry observed.

“Funny you should say that,” Mollin said.

[As it happens] Dorothy inserted [the GIES system is a miniature of the design used on Libra.]

“And the Libra spectrum detection system is the same one used by Fleet Intel, Spec Ops, and Zodiac,” Mollin concluded. “And why, once all of you are aboard Libra, you will all be on a comms blackout.” 

“Right,” Harry said, then said. “Wait, did we know that, already?”

“I’m pretty sure we covered it,” Mollin said. “Or I just dreamed that we covered it. It’s been a long few days.” 

[You did, in fact, cover the Libra comms blackout] Dorothy assured Mollin. [If you like, I can play back the conversation, though I must warn you that there is a significant amount of cursing from Ray]

“No, that’s okay,” Mo said. “It’s starting to come back to me.” 

“Also, I think I’ve come up with a way to get around the blackout,” Koz said. “At least, for the four of you inside the prison.” 

As one, everyone turned to Koz, who was still furiously working his portable comp. 

“Waiting,” Mo said as the AD continued his task.

“What?” Koz froze, blinked, looked up. “Oh. Right. So, I’m pretty sure, with Dorothy’s help, I can create a frequency close to one of the internal frequencies used on Libra. You won’t be able to reach anyone outside the station, but you’ll be able to keep track of each other.” 

“That would be helpful,” Jessyn said.

“More than,” Harry agreed. “How likely is it you’ll be able to make it happen?”

“I’ll let you know as soon as I’m done uploading the code to the monkeys.” 

“That is not a phrase I ever expected to hear,” Mo said. 

“While Koz is wrapping his monkeys,” Harry said, “which is a phrase I never expected to say,” he said to Mo’s raised eyebrows, “we should get our collective asses in gear. Those shuttles aren’t going to wait.” He glanced at Mollin, “By the way, how are my IDs going?” 

“Almost everything is finished,” Mollin told him, straightening from where he’d been leaning on Koz’s chair. “The uniforms, pocket litter, and Bolger’s ident are all laid out on the bed in Mo’s—uh, your—the bedroom.” 

“Great. What about the second ident?” 

“I was holding off on that,” Mollin said. “I wanted to be sure you were going in with your own face.”

“You are?” Mo asked, visibly concerned. 

“It’s not my favorite idea,” Harry said, “but the changeover from Bolger has to be fast. I won’t have time to muck around with prosthetics.” 

“And you want Mother to recognize you when you find her,” Jessyn said. 

“Maybe a little of that,” he agreed. 

“Well.” Mollin rolled to the balls of his feet and back, “I’ll get on that second ident.” 

In the chair, Koz grunted, tapped on his keypad, and started to hum something that bore a distant resemblance to Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

“What about you and Jessyn?” Mollin asked Mo. “Will you need any fresh IDs?”

“Lucky for us, no,” Mo said, linking arms with Jessyn. “Turns out, the ‘guests’ at this nightmare are all deeply invested in maintaining their anonymity. We just have to show up, give the password we received from Jean-Pierre, along with our chosen aliases, and we’re in.” 

“And what are our chosen aliases?” Jessyn asked. 

“You’re Glinda,” Harry said. “Mo is Em.”

“M?” Jessyn asked. 

“Like the head of MI6? Old vid reference,” Koz explained, proving he knew his vids and was an excellent multi-tasker.  

“Like Auntie Em, from The Wizard of Oz,” Harry said to Jessyn.  

“I’ll explain while we change,” Mo told Jessyn as the two headed to Ray’s room to prepare.

“You’re just ticked because you wanted Tornado,” Harry said. 

“It has a ring,” Mo insisted.

“It sounds like a professional wrestler,” Harry countered, but by then the women had disappeared into the bedroom, so Harry gave up and headed to his own room to prep for the operation.

Since layering two covers required some creative dressing, it was a good twenty minutes before Harry returned to the lounge, tugging at the sleeves of his counterfeit Libra-issue coverall. 

At least, as aliases went, Bolger was pretty low maintenance. All it  required was little hair darkening, some muddy green contacts, and a thick, Liverpudlian dialect Harry was particularly fond of, but hardly ever got to use.

Crossing the lounge, he noticed the pile of supplies had gotten smaller, and looking into the galley, found out why. 

Jessyn and Mo were both in the galley, putting away supplies. 

Jessyn, who likely sensed his presence, looked up from the stacks of dehydrated noodles she was stowing to offer her father a bolstering smile.

Harry tried to smile back, but as Jessyn was wearing the dress Mo had purchased, he feared it came off as more of a grimace.  

He wasn’t trying to measure, exactly, but Harry thought the jewelry Jessyn had selected covered more real estate. 

Mo, by contrast, wore a fare more sedate ensemble made up of a pair of Jessyn’s slacks, one of Ray’s black dress shirts, a pair of low-heeled boots—and the same blazer Harry had draped over her during their escape from Phantasmik, back on Surresh Prime. 

He was about to ask Mo if she’d mind loaning Jessyn the blazer, when Mollin and Koz emerged from the cockpit. “Hey,” Harry said, angling in the ADs direction. “Everything ready to go?”

“First, here’s your second cover ident.” Mollin stopped in front of Harry to hand over an ident card. Harry glanced at the holo image then shoved it into an interior pocket, so he wouldn’t confuse it with the Bolger ident.

“Now for the good part,” Koz said and, as Mollin stepped aside, held out his right hand, palm up, allowing Harry to see the three micro-drives that presumably contained the three sections of Koz’s flying monkey code.

“They are so small,” Jessyn observed as she and Mo joined the party.

“Don’t lose them,” Koz cautioned.

“Gotcha covered.” Mo held out her wrist unit, tapped the screen in a specific pattern, and the entire works sprang open to reveal an inner containment space. She took one of the three drives and dropped it into the hide before snapping the unit closed. “It also blocks scans,” she said proudly.

Koz looked at Harry. 

Keeping his expression bland, Harry took one of the drives, held up his wrist unit and echoed Mo’s actions. 

“I bet you both shop at the same spy store,” Koz said, then turned to Jessyn. 

Her lips twitched as lifted her hand and slid the cabochon cut emerald on her wrist cuff to one side. Once the last drive was nestled in the hollow beneath the gem she gave a negligent shrug. “A gift from Fayla.” 

“Of course,” Harry said.

“And, last bit,” Koz said, holding yanking a palm comp out of his jeans pocket. “Everyone enter this channel into your comms. Dorothy has already updated your frequencies.” 

“I thought I felt a buzzing in my ear,” Mo said.

“What about Ray?” Jessyn asked, as she dutifully tapped the comm signature into her wrist unit. The unit, Harry noted, was designed to match the bracelet in which she’d hidden the data tab.

[I will provide both the frequency and channel to him while he is in transit from the GIES holding facility to the shuttle] Dorothy said [thus avoiding any entanglements with the either entity’s spectrum nets.]

“Thank you, Dorothy,” Jessyn said, with visible relief.

[My pleasure.]

Harry looked over the small group. “This is it, then,” he said. 

“What? No rousing speech?” Mo asked.

“Don’t fuck up?” Koz ventured. 

“Pithy, but to the point,” Mollin decided.

“Bring them home,” Jessyn said, meeting her father’s eyes.

“That’ll do,” he said, holding her gaze, knowing she was thinking not only of Siane, and Ray… but all the people GIES had decided weren’t people. “That’ll do very well.” 

Before Harry met Ray

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