…and she snapped back into the real world, the fighter’s computer beeping in alert.
With a groan, Kate reached over and flipped a switch on the controls. Even though it was a flashback, every part of her felt dirty and in need of a bath. Honestly, she had lost count of how many times Ferini had partaken himself upon her body, which left the flashback even more disturbing.
However, what was being shown on the cockpit head’s up display was more troubling. A single ship, a weakly disguised mercenary ship, was following them in h-space. At the speeds they were flying at, the two ships would be in weapons range in a half hour.
So, Kate thought, sighing, our cover wasn’t as good as I would have wanted it to be then.
“What is that noise?” Loving groaned.
“Proximity alarm,” Kate said, her lips pressed into a line.
No one tried to have a fight in h-space, it was just considered plain suicide to do so. However, the mercs in the ship behind them must not have gotten the memo because they were slowly closing in. A quick scan by her fighter showed their weapons hot and Kate shook her head sadly.
It’s amazing how money will make people do stupid things, she thought.
“What are we going to do?”
The security officer’s question was on Kate’s mind at that moment. There had been no recorded successful battle while in h-space. Everything it had happened, both parties had been lost and never seen before. Armed with that knowledge, it meant she was going to have to take the fight to n-space.
“We’re going to have to fight it out in n-space,” Kate said.
“Aren’t we a bit outgunned here?” Loving said, the sound of her fidgeting filling the cockpit.
“Calm yourself, Jennifer,” Kate muttered while she activated the weapons systems. “We have more firepower then you think.”
A slight shudder went through the fighter and Loving gasped from the back seat. She hadn’t expected Kate’s fighter to be armed to the teeth! Jesus, there were enough missiles on the craft to destroy a battle cruiser if necessary! Why hadn’t she told her?
“Kate!” Loving said. “Why didn’t you tell me we were armed!”
“Calm yourself, Jennifer,” Kate said. “Some things I don’t leave to chance.”
“My God you have changed,”
Changed? Was that the best word that Jennifer could use to describe what life, and Intelligence, had done to Kate? The two of them, working hand in hand, had labored to create a perfect killer, a killing machine without renown inside her body, and they had succeeded. No matter how much she hated herself for it, Kate knew, deep down inside, that the voices were right: she was a murderer.
A silence cast its pall over the cockpit while Kate worked. There had to be a suitable planetary system nearby for what she had in mind. If the bounty hunters were to be eliminated, then there couldn’t be the possibility for their escape.
That’ll work nicely, Kate thought, Epsilon Irindi.
A lifeless system, Epsilon Irindi fit the bill for what Kate needed. Populated with nothing but gas giants and asteroid belts, the system would give them plenty of hiding places. With each of the gas giants ringed, that made things even better because the merc ship would be hard pressed to be able to enter the rings, or the asteroid belts, at the speed Kate could with her fighter.
“What did they do to you?” Loving pressed. “You still haven’t answered that question, Kate.”
“I don’t have time to talk about this now,” Kate said, gritting her teeth. Couldn’t Jennifer see this wasn’t the time? “I’m trying to keep us alive.”
With that, Loving fell silent and Kate could feel the tension in the cockpit. The security officer was right, and both of them knew it. While the mercenary ship was a concern, it wasn’t close enough to keep Kate from speaking about what happened; it was plain and simple because she didn’t want to. Couldn’t Jennifer understand that facing the memories wasn’t something that she looked forwards to doing?
The course to Epsilon Irindi only took moments to program into the navicomp. At their present speed, it would take twenty minutes before they would jump back to n-space. There wasn’t much of an excuse to keep from talking about what happened.
Damn you, Jennifer, Kate thought, I don’t want to talk about it, but you aren’t going to let me avoid it, so here goes!
“Okay,” Kate spat. “You win.”
“The last I saw of you,” Loving said. “You had been blasted by the pulse grenade on Necko.”
Kate flinched involuntarily at the mention of the blast that had changed her life. In reaction, she clenched her eyes shut and wished for the memories to disappear. God, the agony! Never in her entire life, had anything hurt like that did, and hopefully nothing ever would again!
“After the doctor on the Avalon drugged me,” Kate said. “I don’t remember anything until I awoke on Intelligence’s Space Station Beowulf.”
“You’ve been on Beowulf?” Loving said, shock filling her voice. “Conspiracy theorists have claimed it existed but no one has been there to prove it.”
“Trust me,” Kate muttered. “It’s real. Where it’s at, I couldn’t tell you, but I know it’s real.”
“What happened when you woke up?”
“I awoke in their medical bay,” Kate sighed. “And my body was gone-replaced with a cybernetic one. The only parts of me they kept were my heart, lungs, and brain.”
“They sure made your new body look like your old one,” Loving commented. “However, that’s horrible!’
“When I awoke,” Kate said. “Reyes told me that since he had footed the bill for my body, I was his.”
“Sounds like Ferini,” Loving reflected with a groan. Necko had been hell for both of them and it certainly was a different world now that they had escaped.
“So,” Kate sighed. “They trained me to be a Special Ops agent and that’s what I’ve done for a year now.”
“Were you really the one who killed that tech on Earth?”
“Unfortunately,” Kate said. “Yes. That wasn’t part of the plan, but the police forced Intelligence’s, and my own, hand.”
“You know that people in Fleet have been talking about that since it happened,” Loving said. “They’ve wondered who the Agent was who completed the mission. The only information the police released was that the killer was a woman.”
“That’s good,” Kate sighed. “Because I had a piece of equipment that helped me out.”
“The suit that you have?”
“It was a gutsy move,” Loving said. “I should have known you did it.”
“It was foolhardy and stupid,” Kate said. “Borne of desperation.”
Now, it was time and the trip down memory lane would have to stop. A tight smile of relief crossed Kate’s face when she turned her attention back to the problem at hand. Hopefully, if things went as she planned, they would be able to take care of their bounty hunter problem quickly. Then they could proceed onto Rodeo and find out who the hell put the hit out on her.
“Jennifer,” Kate said. “Get ready to jump back to n-space.”
“Do you see a red button on the bottom right corner of your screen?”
“I want you to press that,” Kate said. “It sends the targeting computer’s information to my head’s up display and allows you to see what I see.”
“Okay,” Loving said. “I just pressed it.”
The heads up display before Kate added a tactical component and she nodded slightly. Normally there would be an electronics warfare specialist in the back seat who targeted the weapons for her, but this time she’d have to do it all herself. That wasn’t a problem, provided Loving didn’t do something stupid to distract her at the worst possible time.
“Do me a favor, Jennifer,” Kate said. “This is different from Necko. I don’t want you to distract me during the fight, because there isn’t anything you can do to watch my back, okay?”
“If you say so,” came the sullen reply.
“I do say so,” Kate said, sharply. “Just sit back and ride. Either way, we will either live or die.”
Loving didn’t respond to the comment.
“Here we go…”
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