49

The hall was full now; Wendel had watched most everyone take their seats. She continued sipping on Leiv’s cup. She sat back, thinking of old times with these friends.

Back then, she was driving citizen transport on the intergalactic routes. Gretz became a familiar face at the airship lots. He never seemed to run the same cargo twice. His ship was an old model, but from its sound she knew it ran in top condition. He’d sit with her for a cup and talk piloting, talk news.

The first time she saw Leiv, he was one of her passengers. Wearing fine business attire, so she thought him an executive. But she saw him again, on a different route, one in a pack of rough travelers. It wasn’t until the hostage crisis at the Iparia spacehub that they’d meet. Wendel’s full transport of a hundred was stuck waiting in orbit, and Leiv captained the ship that came to take her passengers planetside. After the shortest of conversations, Wendel gave the transport over to her copilot, and went with Leiv to fly another ship with his team.

Later, he explained to her about the existence of an autonomous network that observed events and trends, and were present to aid in times of trouble. With their combined skills, they saved asses and threw away receipts.

She’d basically already quit her job, anyway.

The mug in her hand was empty. Wasn’t the boy just going to get coffee? She picked his kerchief off the chair and laid it on the table. Also didn’t Leiv say he was coming right back?

Suddenly there was a hotel security guard standing at Toller’s stool. “Are you Wendel Harper, ma’am?”

She turned to face him. “Yes, why do you ask?”

“Your young friend was caught lifting merchandise from a sundries store. He asked us to come find you.”

“You mean Toller?” she asked, knitting her eyebrows.

“Yes, him. Come with me, please.” Blinking, she rose and followed him through the exit Leiv had taken. The guard led her quickly through crowded hallways to the nearest security passage, opening the door with a palm scanner. She followed him around a sharp corner, where she ran up against the guard, who stood there with his arms crossed. She looked up at a sound above her, and everything went dark.

49

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