The walk down the hall wasn't difficult, but it was hell. Izain didn't purposely look away but he tried not to look directly into anyone's face, crew or not. Some people gave him a nod, maybe noting a familiar face without putting any name to it. Pencaris crew and Singleton workers didn't mingle very much.
He hadn't been away for so long that the station's gravity felt odd to him, either. If anything, he felt better than he had in a long while. He felt like he was home.
He didn't regret that he wouldn't be staying long.
Uncle Lichad left an office a few yards ahead of him. He was, as usual, shouting in anger. "I don't give a damn! Get that shipment moved!"
He stomped past Izaid without even looking at him. That was lucky for Lichad because Izaid had his permaglass blade in a sheath on his right arm and if Lichad had so much an frowned at him, it would have gone straight into the bastard's heart, consequences be damned.
Izaid hadn't realized the depth of his rage until then. He kept moving by force of will while his heart pounded too hard and a buzzing filled his ears that, if he had at all been superstitious, might have sounded like the shouts of too many of the dead Lichad had left behind.
He almost went past his door and had to make a sudden stop. No one had seen unless someone happened to be monitoring the security cam on this level, and that was unlikely. He used a card to get through the door and hurried inside, holding his breath while the lights came on and the door slid closed.
While he fought for control, his mind still noted important facts: the room had been used recently and was no longer just storage, though there were crates of things along the back wall where they'd been shoved away from computer controls. This was both good and bad . . . and bad. First, he had to get to the wall and that meant moving things, so he went straight to work on that while his mind worked on the other trouble. Good was that the computer would already be keyed into the system, so that saved him some time. Bad was that anyone might walk in at any moment.
Well, at least this wouldn't take long.
Izain had never liked grunt work but he'd made certain he was always in shape to do it. He didn't want to get caught in some situation where he couldn't get out simply because he was too weak. So now he muscled crates out of the way, wondering what was in them but not taking the time to do a scan. No time.
Sweating and angry that he'd ever come up with this plan, he finally reached the wall and dropped to his knees, wiping his hands against his shirt before he went to work.
He couldn't find the conduit at first and irrationally feared that it had either been moved or he had lost the touch he had been so good at years before. Two deep breaths and then he tried again, and this time felt the minute whisper of power behind the solid wall.
He flicked the permablade into his hand, though the blade itself was not strong enough to cut through the wall. Instead, he twisted the handle and pulled it out, then shook out the small stiginite covering and pulled it off the still attached stiginite blade. Though small, it would do the job; stiginite could cut through anything but more stiginite. The little blade was illegal as hell and damned expensive, but he'd known he would have a use for it.
It cut through the metal wall without even much sound, and he had to be careful not to cut through the power conduit as well. He pulled a probe from his left sleeve and expertly inserted it along the conduit shell and turned the probe slightly to the right. Out of habit, he put the blade quickly back together and pushed it away before he pulled out the thin pocketcomp and tracked the probe's connection.
The connection had read as nothing more than a minute glitch. No one would bother with it. Not yet. He was only in the power cable and not anywhere near the computers. He wanted one computer in particular, which would have been difficult if he hadn't already known the way and the pattern to look for in the swirl of data that crossed the pocketcomp's screen. He'd been prepared to do this work when he left and had decided not to take the chance at getting caught. So why now?
Honest consideration stopped his work for a moment. He knew why, though he'd been hiding from the truth. It came in two parts. First, he felt as though he had betrayed Grandfather, even though he was years dead. But second, he didn't like how he had put the Mayfire in danger simply by being on the ship. He liked the crew and the captain. Yes, he had twice saved the ship from falling into pirate traps, but the act of saving them had targeted the ship by now. He's saved and endangered them at the same time.
Concentrate. He didn't have much time.
The connection to the computer took very careful nudges so that anyone who monitored that particular position -- and he knew Lichad kept a link open to it -- wouldn't see his careful intrusion. Everyone thought that you couldn't actually link to a computer from the power conduit, and most times they would be right. Izain knew tricks though. Carefully trained tricks. He got the link and began working his way carefully into the system. Captain Lawrence would be to the Station Master by now. No time to waste.
The door to the room opened.
(Continued next week)