Condor Rising 19

Dillon ducked into an abandoned subway entrance in Yorkton’s impoverished East Side district. The monitors on the street were all disabled, and permanently so. If the CCPF bothered repairing one, it was taken out again with the hour. The Resistance made sure of that.

In fact, Dillon felt very safe walking around East Side without a visor or other means of biomarker obfuscation. StarCen no doubt knew he was in the general area, but he doubted she could pinpoint his location with any accuracy.

“So close,” he muttered to himself as walked down the wide empty stairwell. “So close, and yet so far. I coulda been more famous than Lion. I coulda been a contender!”

Lion was the code name for a famous leader of the Resistance who came up with a plan to remove Vice Admiral Kennedy. That it worked was a testament to the plan’s brilliant simplicity. All it had cost was considerable torture and, of course, Lion’s own life.

Someday, if they were successful, schools, parks and streets would be named after Lion. Whatever his real name was. Dillon had no idea.

“Wonder if I’ll live long enough to ever find out?”

He palmed an artfully disguised pad to the right of the barricade blocking the entrance into the subway. The hidden doorway opened, leading to a separate tunnel angling down.

Dillon decided to stop talking to himself as he headed down the passageway. StarCen may have little to no presence down here, but other people would be monitoring his progress and listening in on anything he had to say. He approached a guard, disguised a bum lying in a pile of trash. The man nodded at him in recognition and let him pass.

Dillon had a long way to go, at least half a kilometer through twisting tunnels, down subterranean flights of stairs, jumping across old maglev lines. It felt longer, with all the twists and turns. Dillon had never measured it, but the confined nature of the trip made it feel longer than half a kilometer.

At last he stood before a non-descript doorway in a service tunnel off the abandoned subway line. The door was old-fashioned. It had hinges and actually swung inward. He knocked three times and he heard the deadbolt slide back.

Opening the door, he entered the small room and faced the ELO Tribunal: two men and a woman all seated at a table and facing him. He did not know their real names. He was fairly certain they did not know his, either.

“Hello, Shark.”

This came from the woman, an older lady who looked like she could be someone’s grandmother. She was of North European stock. She was known as Owl. The two men to either side of her nodded at him, too. One was black, and old like the woman. He was called Elephant. The other man was the youngest. He looked to be of Hispanic ancestry and in his mid-30s. This was Lynx. Together these three formed the ELO Tribunal: Elephant, Lynx, Owl.

“Nice job,” Lynx said.

Dillon shrugged. His disappointment came through in his tone of voice.

He said, “One second. If I had fired one second earlier I would have taken out Cooper.”

Owl, the old woman, smiled. She said, “You scared him. That’s good. Even more important, you dealt another blow against SSI. I doubt Admiral Cooper will allow them to continue their guard detail on his chalet. We think he’s beginning to consider them somewhat . . . incompetent. You’ve helped to further damage their reputation with him.”

“And,” the elderly man, Elephant, said, “you took out five SSI agents, secured four more blasters and destroyed one of their gunships. Good job, Shark.”

The other two nodded in agreement, offering silent praise.

Dillon crossed his arms and looked down at his feet. He said, “I just wish I could have gotten Cooper. I mean, I want to be . . .”

He stopped himself. He was about to say the word famous, but that would not have been an appropriate sentiment to express to the ELO Tribunal, the three people in charge of the Resistance on Juventas.

“ . . . I just want to be effective. Angel took out Tetrarch Lopez. Lion took out Admiral Kennedy andSSI Director Fleming. I had a shot at Admiral Cooper and missed.”

“Well, if you’re worried about making a name for yourself,” Lynx said, “you’ve already done it. Don’t let ambition set you up for a fall. You’ve been trained well, and we admire what you’ve done. You didn’t get greedy after you took down that gunship. A lesser man might have tried to scavenge something off that wreck . . . and been shot down when help arrived moments later. Instead, you grabbed the guns you could and left, adding precious weapons to our arsenal and saving yourself in the process.

“Honestly, it would have been great to have taken out Admiral Cooper, but your one man operation went about as good as it possibly could, all things considered.”

The other two nodded, agreeing with their youngest member.

“Speaking of Angel,” Owl said, “We have received word that she will resurface soon.”

Dillon glanced up, his self-flagellation momentarily forgotten. He had several questions he wanted to ask. Where did she go? How do they know? What would she do now?

Instead he said, “How does that pertain to me?”

Owl said, “We think she’s going to need your help.”

She made a motion in the air above the table and a hologram of a beautiful young woman appeared, with evidence of Asian ancestry.

“This is Natasha Krizinksi. That’s not her real name, of course, but it’s the one she uses most often while in League-controlled systems. Our sources with the Republic tell us she is scheduled to arrive today at the spaceport on a private ship called the Osprey. She is carrying a pocket computer with vital intelligence League spies have uncovered about a new ship the Republic has developed.”

Elephant cleared his throat and leaned forward in his seat. He said, “Your next assignment is to assist Angel in recovering the pocket computer SSI Agent Krizinksi is carrying. You should get over to the spaceport right away and keep an eye out. Krizinski will be arriving today in the embarkation zone reserved for private vessels.”

Ordinarily, Dillon would be inclined to deflate with news of the assignment. It seemed pedestrian and mundane, especially in light of his recent near miss against the Admiral. But, Angel’s potential reappearance cast the assignment in a different light.

He said, “So, this is important.”

All three members of the ELO Tribunal nodded. Owl said, “Very important. Take all due considerations in showing up at the spaceport in time. Keep an eye out for this SSI agent. And remember, Natasha is extremely dangerous.”

“One of their best,” Elephant said, nodding somberly.

Lynx jumped in. He said, “She’s a highly skilled assassin. Trained in practically everything SSI has to offer. She’s one of their top field agents, unfortunately.”

“Okay,” Dillon said, looking back at the three. “I’ll head to the spaceport right now.”

Outside the doorway, muffled shouts filtered through.

“Stop!”

Thoop! Thoopah!

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