Tetrarch’s Dilemma 28

For Biffender Jones, this voyage was the fastest he had ever travelled through space. If Einstein was correct in that time was relative for individuals experiencing it, Biff thought time was certainly flying by for him right now.

Julia clued in to Biff’s issues, and stayed with him most of the trip in their private quarters. Biff did not know if that made things better or worse. As far as he knew, these could be the last moments they would get to spend with one another for a long time. Maybe ever.

“I really wish you didn’t have to do this.”

She nodded and squeezed him. They had been holding each other all morning after breakfast. They had been holding each other a lot as the days ticked down on the trip to Sporades.

She tried to say something comforting. But there really was not much more she could say. They talked about her mission almost exclusively the first few days of the voyage.

“I’ve done it before. Everything worked out okay.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know you were doing it the other time. It was a lot easier back then.”

“Don’t you want to know where I’m going? What I’m doing?”

“Yeah. I do. But, you know, ignorance is bliss I guess.”

They held each other for a moment longer, in silence.

Finally, Julia said, “You know those nights you were out on patrol, and something happened? Like that mugging you saw, and the guy had a knife. Or how about that time terrorists set off a bomb near the Administration Building? You were . . . what? A couple hundred meters from the blast?

“All those times you were out there, I knew you were in danger every time you went on patrol. Because that’s a cop’s life. A cop puts their life on the line every day.”

Biff nodded. He said, “It’s part of the job.”

“Right. It’s part of the job. Well, this is my job. I know, it’s not official like police work. But, this is what I do. I work to . . . take down the League. To undermine my own father, because . . . because half the galaxy’s population lives under tyranny. And I want to do something about it. Because I cando something about it. This. So, it’s what I do.”

She shrugged, looking up at him and smiling.

She said, “Now, you get to be the one who stays behind and prays for me. Turnabout is fair game, Officer Jones.”

He smiled at her, then bent to kiss her.

He said, “I guess so. I don’t have to like it, though.”

-+-

Granny and Gina Wilcox walked arm in arm in a long circuit around the flight deck. The open area was ideal for crewmembers who liked to jog without using a treadmill. Or walk.

Granny could not stop smiling, her cigar clenched tight between her front teeth.

“I am so proud of you, girl!”

The Sergeant made a dismissive motion with her free hand.

“It’s nothing, Mama. More of a nuisance than anything.”

“For real? Nah, this is great. My baby is an Intangible!”

“Not really, Mama. I can’t do things like the Intangibles can. I can’t teleport like Mrs. Dvorak.”

“Skylar? Well, that’s true. That’s true. But, she can’t read electronic devices like you can, can she?”

“No. I asked. She explained it to me. A little. She and her brother were experimented on, when SSI ran a lab on Raton Five. It seems the . . . exposure to certain energies . . . affects everybody differently. They were always aiming for creating people who could teleport on demand, without using an AI or a Wu Drive or anything. So, over time they perfected the procedure.

“The blast that got me was . . . uncontrolled. And, it came from earlier experiments. So, no. I can’t teleport myself. I can see what you’ve been watching on your personal holo list, though.”

She smiled down at her mother.

“I have nothing to hide,” Granny said, a serious expression on her face. “Those were all documentaries.”

Gina snorted, but let it drop.

She said, “I’m really not cut out to be a snoop. I just get curious sometimes. But, Mama . . . I’m worried about this assignment.”

“What’s to worry, Baby? Go in, do the job, help the Tetrarch’s daughter, and get out.”

“It’s not that easy, Mama. I’m a Marine Sergeant. I’m not a spy! I’m not a . . . a secret agent. I don’t know how to do any of this!”

“Phhhhhsssh! You’ve got all the qualities you need, girl. You’ll do fine. Just follow the princess. Follow her lead, keep her out of trouble, and everything will be okay. Who knows? You might find you like skulking about in enemy territory more than leading a bunch of teenagers into combat.”

“I doubt that, Mama. I’ve got no training for this! I know nothing about being a spook or . . . or whatever this is we’re doing.”

“It’s called war, girl. You think I had any training in becoming a pirate? I’m the quartermaster on a private warship, for Pete’s sake. There ain’t no classes for that!”

“Your degree is in accounting, Mama.”

“Okay, bad example. But you do have combat experience, and that’s something Little Miss Muffet does not have, for all her spycraft. So, I think you can compliment her skillset and the two of you will make a great team. Obviously RNI thought the same thing.”

“RNI was desperate. That’s why they asked us . . .”

The Sergeant broke off as they rounded a bend and saw two sets of legs sticking out from under a drone up ahead.

Gina said, “Is that . . . Who is that?”

Granny cracked a grin. She said, “Speaking of Intangibles, that’s the Dvoraks. They don’t have a private room so they’re sneaking out here for privacy. Come on, let’s go back the way we came.”

“Isn’t that against the rules or something?” Gina said, looking one last time over her shoulder as they turned around.

Granny cackled. She said, “Yup. I’ll use it against them sometime in the future.”

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