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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

Of Nanites and Spies 2

L-T stood. “Something going on?”

“Wantis,” Carnifor grumbled, as if that explained everything.

Bill answered Lannetay. “Won’t be long. I’m getting a final readout of their atmo mix.”

Olthan switched off his weights and moved to the airlock. “They’s always trouble.”

“They’re not shooting,” L-T said, “so it’s not bad trouble.”

Lannetay’s frown eased a little more. “Anything they do is trouble, or leads to it.”

All six crew clustered near the airlock and waited while the two ships agreed upon the right adjustments to make interaction safe.

“Their gravity is a little lower.” Bill let their field drop a fraction. “Medi-nanites are programmed to attack their pathogens. Our atmospheric units are poised to take on anything else we detect.

A few moments later the locks opened to admit the boarding party from the Jenbur Sho.

A thin man with a round, jolly face strode in, hand already extended in greeting. “You must be Lanny and Carny. Your ship sent identification. Happy to meet you.”

Lannetay, somewhat taken aback by a genuine greeting, blinked as Carnifor covered for her lapse.

The two men shook hands as Carnifor said, “Glad to meet you.”

Captain Vensi, Bill provided.

With barely a break to absorb the information, Carnifor continued. “Captain Vensi, this is Captain Lanny.”

“A pleasure.” Vensi introduced two men who entered behind him. “This is my first officer, Lieutenant Huerla, and my chief of security, Ensign Qi.”

Lannetay received a message from Bill. After these three there’s only fifty others aboard. Not much in the way of departments for them to be the head of.

Qi eyed Lannetay’s outfit with disgust, which gave Lannetay a secret thrill. Huerla took in her attire with a single glance, then ignored it.

“Captain Vensi, welcome aboard.” Lannetay gave a sloppy salute, which made Carnifor growl. Don’t want them to think we’re Navy, she sent, smiling.

Not a chance in that outfit, Carnifor shot back.

Vensi didn’t return the salute, but instead looked around the common room and rubbed his hands together. “Would you mind if we inspected your ship? I see your medical panel, you have macrites to grow simple equipment, and someone here likes watching Galactic Expansion.”

Marc and L-T both gave a sheepish grin.

Lannetay nodded. “What would you like to see first?”

Vensi’s eyebrow raised a millimeter. “How about your bridge? We could work from stem to stern, as the saying goes.”

“Our control cabin doesn’t exactly qualify as a ‘bridge,’ but you’re welcome to look it over. Carny, why don’t you take Captain Vensi forward?”

“Are you preoccupied with something?” Vensi gave Lannetay a sharp look. “Why wouldn’t you come along?”

Lannetay paused, affecting surprise. “I was about to offer Lieutenant Huerla and Ensign Qi some refreshments. If you’d like something, don’t hesitate to ask.”

Vensi nodded. “We’ll stay together, if you don’t mind. And there’s no need for refreshments.”

Suspicious much? Lannetay thought. “No problem.” She led the way to the ship’s control area and pressed a contact to open the pressure hatch. “It will be a tight fit, but not too bad.”

Carnifor stopped outside. “I’ll wait here to give you more room.”

Qi is trying to get past my safeguards, Bill told Lannetay.

You don’t need me to tell you what to do . . . .

Stop him, the two sent in unison. Lannetay chuckled.

Vensi paused at the hatch. “Something funny, Lanny?”

“Not really, Captain. Carny said he’d wait outside to give us more room, but he doesn’t take up that much room.”

“I see.” Vensi paused in thought, then looked over the spartan bridge. “Four places to sit.”

“Room for five, if we grow another seat here.” Lannetay pointed to the floor. “A sixth if we’re all friendly.”

Vensi, standing in the middle of the diminutive room, looked past the front two chairs to the unadorned panel beyond. “And actual panels for physical controls. Odd.”

Lannetay smiled, shrugging. “One never knows. I’d like to maximize any price I get when I retire and sell out. Someone might be willing to pay a premium for that option.”

“I dare sayuh, you’re rightuh,” Huerla said.

Carnifor broke in from the hatchway. “That’s an interesting accent, Lieutenant Huerla. Which colony are you from?”

Huerla sniffed. “I’m from the planet B'Lottneluh. My family owns a rahther large share of the business interest thereuh.”

“Does everyone on B’Lottnel have that accent?” Lannetay asked. The man was such a condescending jerk she had to take a little jab.

Huerla looked like he’d just eaten a sour lemon, but Vensi cut off whatever his first officer was about to say. “Does William Placard have a Core, or is it an AI?”

Core, Bill suggested. AIs are illegal.

I know that, Lannetay said. I was there, you know.

Lannetay and Carnifor answered in unison. “It’s a Core.” Lannetay continued after giving Carnifor a sharp look. “We’ve made some interesting improvements, though.”

“What kind of improvements?” Vensi lowered himself into the pilot’s seat.

Lannetay’s eyes narrowed. Someone was sitting in her seat.

He’s trying to annoy you, Bill sent. Angry people let things slip easier. He must think we’re hiding something.

Lannetay sat next to Vensi in Carnifor’s chair and forced a smile. “Our Core expert is Rogul,” she said, referring to Goofball’s alias. “He’s in the common room if you want to ask him about our modifications.”

If you're wondering more about these characters, their origins are detailed in Ebony Sea: Origins. If you appreciate this story, please share on social media, and consider supporting the author's ability to continue writing by purchasing the Origins story and leaving a review at the link above.

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