So Alicia found herself caught up in the midst of something she would rather have read about. She sat forward, looking at Theseus who had his eyes closed, his face pale. When he opened his eyes and found her staring, she felt of wave of embarrassment.
"The people who run this place are freelance," he said, as though they'd been discussing something. He shifted, winced, and then set up straighter. "For all I know, they may have someone the IWC has been hunting squirreled away in the room across the hall. If such a person walked into this room, there would be nothing I could do about it, unless I wanted to throw away an important resource. What I am saying is that even though these people are not working for Inner Worlds Council Security, they can still be trusted."
"Why would you think I'd trust IWCS more?" she asked.
He gave a grunt of agreement. "Well, you're right there. Damn, I hate working on earth. I suspect Brown located all his assets here simply to make it harder for the IWCS to move."
"But you are moving,"she said. "So far, I only have your word on what he's done --"
"You have far more than my word: you have experience of working at the office. You know there's problems."
"I saw one aspect --" She stopped and shook her head. She couldn't lie to herself. "Yes, you're right. But I don't know that they actually abandoned the station. I only have your word on that one. And about killing others. For all I know, you're a charm --" She caught herself with a cough. "You're a psychopath with enough enemies who want to kill you that we need not even consider New Worlds for Humanity in the mix."
His eyes went large before he laughed. "Oh, you are right. I do have enemies enough. My psych reports say I'm no more of a psychopath than any other IWCS agent, but that's probably not saying much. And I can be charming."
She blushed despite herself. "What is going on?"
"Everything I've told you is true. At first we thought Brown had simply gotten in over his head and we might have to help him out -- but now. . . ."
"He can't have killed people," she said. "Someone would have noticed."
He had a point there.
"We won't be here for long. Whether we go on together from here is entirely up to you. I can still get you off on a nice vacation somewhere you won't be found for a while. I might have everything cleared up by then. I have the suspicion this matter is going to clear up fast."
"Even without my help?"
"Your help would expedite matters and lend credence to what we know and what we suspect."
"That he's abandoned the people out there."
"And, perhaps worse, that he sold them to Ross House. Or perhaps he's always worked for Ross House; at this point we're not certain."
"They used to be located on earth, but they were moved off to Caine's Hold. They mostly deal in illegal cloning and slavery these days."
She'd heard of Caine's Hold and knew about the Families in general, but had never expected to find herself --
Theseus took a few limping steps around the room. The sudden change worried her and she felt as though time had suddenly caught up with them. "I wish I had more time to explain to you. We --"
She heard an odd thump, as though something big had been dropped on the ceiling. Everything trembled for a moment and then stopped.
Theseus stood still for several breaths. Then he looked at her and shook his head, new worries slipping in around the old.
"That wasn't an earthquake. It was either a very close explosion, or a very distant, very strong one."
"What do we do?"
"Wait," he said and sat down. "It won't be long."
The cook showed up with tea a few minutes later. He shoved the door closed with his foot and went to take one of the chairs, looking worn and bothered.
"There are conflicting reports. Even I can't get the full answer," he said. "The most prevalent rumor so far is a terrorist attack and a rumor of a man and a woman involved."
"Not us," Alicia said, panic starting to spread through her so fast she almost couldn't hold her hands still. "They can't be blaming us --"
"What blew up?"
"Part of the New Worlds for Humanity complex," he said. "So yes, they could have plenty of vid resources of the two of you to put together whatever they want."
"What are we going to do?" she asked. This couldn't be real.
"I've got my people working on the vid records from here," Cook said. "People will remember the two of you, but the vid will show a couple with enough differences that I won't be under watch for long. We'll work on getting you out of the city. Any preferences?"
"Elderly grandmother and granddaughter," Theseus said. "That will help cover any limp. Greek, heading back to the isles after a funeral."
"I don't speak Greek," she said, still confused.
"I do," Theseus replied. Cook nodded. "And you'll be one of those modern girls, you know. Didn't bother to learn a dead language."
"I'll get you both in the system and work up the funeral," Cook said. "And come back and do the makeover myself."
"The IWCS pays well to keep you people safe," he said and stood. "Besides, I don't like the feel of this one at all."
Theseus nodded, grim faced as Cook left.
"Am I supposed to trust you people?" she finally asked. "This is insane! This morning I had a perfectly fine job --"
"They fired us. Within a couple hours, they'd set off an explosion which sent more than their own people against us. I have the feeling we were already set up, Alicia."
for more fantastic quick reads