Okay, who remembers Alyssa Jordan?
Come on, people, think!
She was the unlucky woman who was Kaine’s subordinate, way back in the day, and she took over for him after he met his totally justified end. Over the next few years she did her job and did it honestly and well. Which put her in a good position when Mikki decided to do her little recon to Luna.
Okay, here’s where Adam gets me to blather on about things he finds important. Today he wants you to know about two things: the next volume of my story (my story, Adam, not yours!), and a contest to win an audiobook.
First the volume. Triumph’s Ashes releases in ebook on August 15, but if you don’t want to wait that long you can order the paperback right now. Just click the cover image next to this box and it’s all yours!
Second the contest. Adam’s running a Rafflecopter through the end of the month to win a copy of A Quiet Revolution (Volume 4). Just click HERE and you’ll be able to put in your entry!
Enough! Time for the chapter. If you’re tired of waiting for updates, click any image (or the button, or HERE) to order your copy today!
Capricorn Station, Low Earth Orbit
“I hate this,” Stone said, sotto voce. “Sneaking around and hiding.”
“We’re not hiding,” answered Tony. “We’re undercover. Though we won’t be for long if you don’t start playing the part.”
She took a pull at her beer and made a face. “Bleah. Worse than the horse piss you lot think passes for beer. You know, the best beer I ever had was in a pub in Zimbabwe when I was maybe seventeen.”
“What were you doing drinking beer in Zimbabwe when you were seventeen?”
“My da was on posting and there wasn’t anything to do, so I hung out down at the pub.”
“You could’ve gotten hurt.”
Stone grinned at that. “My da was part of the UNSEC and always out at the pointy end of the stick. My ma died when I was only two, so he had to bring me on his postings. But he taught me every dirty trick he knew before I was out of nappies. By the time he was sent to Zimbabwe I had three standing recruitment offers, put eight men in hospital for one thing or another, and had most of da’s soldiers drooling after me. I was safe as houses in that pub.”
She downed the rest of the beer. “But I’ll say this, you’d best do better than this crap if we’re going to be waiting here much longer.”
“We don’t have to be here; it’s just a fairly common place for transient passengers to wait for their ship.” He gestured around the relatively spacious lounge, which was about 2/3 full. “The Browne is the only ship departing soon, so I’ll wager that most of these people are going to be our shipmates.”
Stone didn’t have to try hard to resist turning around and looking; even though she was new to undercover work, she was an experienced operative in her own right and knew the value of looking natural. “D’ye see anyone you recognize?”
“One or two,” he acknowledged. “We’re not going in heavy like we did when we retrieved Davie.”
“I understood that we’d have six including us?”
He nodded. “Yes. Three more passengers and one who’s signed on as crew for this run.”
Stone frowned at that. “Just for the run? Is that usual?”
“It’s not unusual enough to cause notice, though not exactly common. She’s done it a couple times before; her cover is a college student who works a few runs when she wants a break.”
“And that works?” Stone asked incredulously.
“So far.” Tony spun around on his stool, looking at the ebb and flow of the people around them before returning to his drink.
“You look like you’re twenty when you do that,” said Stone.
“Thank you,” he answered cheekily, spinning again only to be stopped mid-spin by a hand on the back of the seat.
“Hey!” he protested.
“Knock it off.” Stone’s tone was low and urgent. “Is that one of yours?”
He followed her gaze across the lounge to a short, slim blonde, sitting alone and staring back at them.
“No,” he said, turning away. “I don’t recognize her.”
“I do. Six years ago.”
“What happened six years ago?”
“Deep black op inside one of the Harriman companies, HLC. She was the assistant to a real nasty actor we had to take out, and I don’t know if she followed in his footsteps.” She turned back to her empty beer. “Keep an eye on her; I have to call this in.”
Tony leaned back, the very image of relaxation. “On it.”
Stone tapped her ‘plant. Diana, I need information.
Of course, Master Chief. How can I help?
I’ve got a person who shouldn’t be here, she thought.
The fastest way for me to identify them is for you to look at them, Diana’s ‘voice’ said.
Can do. Stone allowed her gaze to rest briefly on the blonde before looking at one of the monitors on the far wall. Does that work?
Processing. Alyssa Jordan, Deputy Director for Security, HLC. On sabbatical since 20 October through the end of the year. Diana’s response was nearly instantaneous, which was unsurprising. She was connected to most of the major networks on- and off-planet.
Why is she here?
I cannot speculate to her motives, but she is booked on the Browne for a full System tour, departing tomorrow. There was a brief pause. You have a good memory for faces, Master Chief, but nothing that I have found suggests any nefarious purpose.
Sorry to bother you.
No bother, Master Chief. Good luck.
Stone sighed and returned to the bar, trying to catch the eye of the bartender. “Coincidence, apparently,” she said to Tony.
He frowned. “I don’t believe in coincidences in this business.”
“Neither do I,” Stone agreed. The bartender finally make his way to her spot. “Do you have any Belgian beer?”
“No, but I have a Scottish barley wine you might like.”
That caught Tony’s ear. “Barley wine?”
“I’ll take it,” Stone said to the barman, then addressed Tony. “It means it’s not weaker than a Loonie on Earth, is all.”
“So what about the blonde?”
“Her name is Alyssa Jordan, and she’s apparently on vacation. I don’t particularly believe that, but there’s nothing to say otherwise. Thanks,” she said as the barman brought her beer, a dark amber glass with a creamy head. She took a long, appreciative pull before returning to her conversation with Tony.
“I don’t know what we can do to keep track of her,” she said. “You’re stretched, and we’re not on a Federation ship. That means we don’t have the AI help we would otherwise. Harpo can hack the systems –”
I already have, the AI commed to both. Diana brought me up to speed. Anything Ms. Jordan does on the Browne, I’ll know.
“Thanks,” said Stone. “But that’s passive surveillance.”
“Then that’s what we have,” Tony replied. “It’s not ideal, but it’s better than I’ve had before.” He stood and stretched. “I’m going to mingle with our other passengers. Some of them are going to be part of the LTA group, so I may as well put on my tour guide hat.”
“Cheers,” she said. “I’ll wander about as well, turn over a few rocks.”
“That’s not –” Tony’s warning was too late; Stone was already up and making a beeline for Jordan, beer glass in her hand.
Diana, Harpo, listen in on this, Stone commed, getting wordless acknowledgements from both AI’s.
“Hi,” she said, dropping into the seat across from Jordan. “I’m Mikki.”
“Hi Mikki,” said the confused woman. “I’m Alyssa.” Her voice had a trace of a drawl, but nothing pronounced.
“Nice to meet you.” She set her beer down after taking a drink. “Why are you here? I’m going to Luna for a vacation.”
“So am I! Well, I’m going for more than that,” she said. Stone examined her. She was young, very young considering her position, with an open, cheerful face, brown eyes, and a slim body. Her hands especially drew Stone’s gaze, fine-boned and long-fingered. “I’m taking the Grand Tour. Luna’s just my first stop.”
“I’ve heard of that, but never had the time. Or the money,” admitted Stone in a rueful tone.
“Oh, I know! I’ve skipped my vacations the past three years to have enough time to do this!” Jordan’s voice was, it seemed to Stone, genuinely enthusiastic.
“What do you do? Must be a pretty decent place if they’re letting you take all this time off.”
“I’m the Security Director for the Heavy Lift Corporation.”
“You’re the ones who launch stuff into orbit, like supplies?”
“Right!” Jordan’s face split into a broad smile. “Not many people know about us; we’re not flashy like the passenger companies.”
“I’m a space geek,” Stone asserted. “I can’t get enough of it. I tried to sign up for this new Federation thing, but I haven’t heard back yet.”
“Oh, we work with them all the time. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Admiral Cassidy is one of the owners of HLC!” Jordan’s face fell as a thought crossed her mind. “Isn’t it awful?”
“Isn’t what awful?” asked Stone, thinking, Following her is almost as bad as talking with McAllister!
“The news about the Admiral. All of those lies, about her being a –” Jordan dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “An Enhanced Human.”
“Oh. That. I don’t know; what do you think?”
“It’s complete crap!” exclaimed Jordan with surprising vehemence. “I’ve met her a few times, and her wife. She’s so totally, you know, real! I can’t imagine that she’s not human.”
“You’ve met her?”
“Yeah, really just a couple times. She doesn’t spend much time at HLC, but I actually got to know her wife, Aiyana, pretty well. She used to run the company before she joined her wife in the Federation.” Jordan got a wistful look in her eyes. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure,” agreed Stone equably, surprised at how open the other woman was being.
Before Jordan said anything, a server stopped by the table. “Do you need another, Miss?” He gestured to the glass which, Stone noted, was nearly empty.
“Yes! And one for my new friend!”
“The Scottish barleywine. Your barman will know what you’re about.” Satisfied, the server headed off.
“What was I saying?”
“You were going to tell me some kind of secret.”
“Oh, yeah! Well,” and her voice dropped again. “This whole vacation thing? I want to see how I deal with space. If I do good, then I’m going to apply to the Federation. I think they could use me, and they certainly can check on my record easy enough!”
The conversation continued, through an additional round of drinks, with Jordan seeming to become more and more effusive with each drink; Stone, having learned to outdrink the rest of her SEAL team, didn’t even get so much as buzzed.
“Come on,” she said after Jordan had tried, and failed, to put her now-empty glass upright on the table for the third time. Stone put an arm around Jordan’s back and lifted the unresisting woman from her seat. “Let’s get you back to your cabin.”
“It’s early!” protested Jordan.
“And so’s boarding,” answered Stone, guiding her through the crowd. “Do you remember where you’re staying?”
“Course I do,” Jordan slurred. “I’m inna hotel.”
Stone sighed. This wasn’t going to be as easy as she hoped.
“Which one, Alyssa?”
“The big fancy one.”
“Bloody hell, that’s all of them!” Capricorn Station’s main tourist area catered almost exclusively to the wealthy, as even the cheapest trip to Luna was decidedly pricey. As such, all of the hotels tended to ostentation, aided by the reduced gravity. “Do you have your key?”
“No key,” answered Jordan. “Bio – biome – biometrics! I just have to give it my finger and it lets me in!” She demonstrated with her middle finger before collapsing, giggling.
Diana? A little help?
Alyssa Jordan is registered at the Hotel Europa, the AI provided almost immediately. Level five. She’s in room 10A.
Thanks. Shouldering her load again, Stone made her way out of the lounge and started the long trip upstation.
The Measure of Humanity – Book 2 – Chapter 13