Everyone aboard the ship knew certain things about Izain. They knew he was a damned good tech and had once saved them from pirates. He was polite but didn't get very chummy with anyone. And they knew Captain didn't entirely trust him.
She didn't get rid of him either.
Izain knew there would be more trouble over his past, though.
Hanlet Station had put out a call for tech help. When Captain Lawrence walked up to the tech station, Izain could see her in the reflection. He gave one quick nod without turning.
"The station problem appears legit," he said.
She sighed. "You could at least wait for me to ask questions." She stood behind him for a long, silent minute. "Well?"
"I'm waiting for questions."
Anasha, in the spot beside him, almost laughed.
"Ana, please take full control of the boards while I deal with Izain," the captain ordered. A moment later she caught Izain's chair and spun him around. "Tell me what I need to know."
"Hanlet station is a transfer point for materials out of the Hanlet system -- iron rich area, but few settlements. The crew numbered about 200, all of them in family groups, so there are likely a number of children. I've looked over everything they sent out and I suspect they have a deep-seed virus, which makes this dangerous for a couple reasons."
"We don't want the virus and we don't want to meet the pirates set it there," Lawrence said with a nod. She winced. "Children?"
"Yes. Oddly, Hanlet Station is not mentioning children in need, though."
"If the pirates have set up the virus, why didn't they use a shark like they tried with us?"
"I suspect they want the station working," he replied and almost glanced over his shoulder at his station. "Hanlet also has a ship repair area, and that might be of interest to them."
"They might have ship trouble. Damned few places for them to get repairs" She stared past him to the screen, blinking twice. Izain knew what she would do. He was already preparing. "We're heading there. I will have comm look for sign of anyone else answering, but there aren't many ships in this sector."
She gave a single nod and left. He turned back to his work. Hanlet Station was only two slides away and no more than three days turnover depending on how long they held off and watched. He had a lot of preparation to do.
"Can you handle the station, please?" he asked with a glance to Ana. She gave a grim nod. "Thank you. I need to prepare some code. I'm cutting my station out of the system."
"I've got it."
Izain burrowed through the snapshot of the Hanlet computer system that came with the request. There were odd hacks here and there, but no more than he'd seen on other backwater stations, left with few tech resources. Too much work. He slept at the board for little snatches. He ate in the nearby cafeteria and used the restrooms there, and thought longingly about his cabin and bed.
If he believed in fate and karma, Izain would have believed this was payment for having lived on the wrong side of the equation for a while. He'd left the pirates years ago. He'd told no one on the ship about his past. Captain Lawrence had guessed the truth and still didn't fully trust him.
He would not let her down.
They reached Hanlet in record time. He'd finished all he could at his station, saved off the files he would need and leaned back, watching the approach. On a whim, he pulled up the comm line and listened to the docking instructions --
And was out of his seat and crossing the long room to the Captain's station so fast that he startled people. With one jab, he shut down her comm link.
"Abort the docking. Quietly and carefully," he said. He caught her arm when she started to speak. "Get ready to make a jump out of the system as quickly as we can."
"You heard someone," she said with understanding.
"Someone you don't want to meet -- not her and not her captain. Scan the station. I'm betting there aren't more than 20 people there."
"They said they had most of the people in the core for safety. We think we read them there. Damn. Alvarius, create a problem."
"What should --"
Izain crossed to the pilot station and keyed in a problem for him; something not unusual. The docking system glitched and the man yelped, glared -- but pulled them back out from the station even while a remembered voice on the station said to abort.
"We'll try another approach," Lawrence said in the comm at her location. "We'd hoped to use your repair station."
Izain worked with the pilot who glanced back at Lawrence and then just did whatever Izain said. They were on a wide curve away from the station when they locked onto a known star and hit the slide drive, leaping out of there.
Izain grabbed the back of the pilot chair, drained. He turned to the captain. "They'll realize we figured it out. I suspect they'll run, thinking we're really an IWC Scout, checking them out. We should drop back into the system but stay in the shadow of one of the worlds. See if they go. I am betting if they do, they're going to leave whatever prisoners they have behind. Maybe damage the station."
Captain Lawrence agreed.
So in the end, they saved the people anyway because he had been right. The crew didn't trust Izain any better, but the Captain knew he had saved them a second time.
How long, he wondered, until the pirates came after him?
Maybe it was time to act first. Time, in fact, to go have a long talk with Captain Lawrence and find out how much she really did trust him.
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