Sarah had them in hyperspace on the thirty-six hour journey to the Vorthon system before she ventured to say anything. “Starry?”
Gideon smiled. “Back when Seabrook knew me I was a pretty terrible navigator. They got to calling me ‘Lodestar’ as a joke. They said I could’t find a star in a solar system.”
“Used to be terrible?”
“Let’s just say, there’s a reason I let you drive my ship.”
Sarah smiled. They fell into silence for a few minutes before another question boiled up in Sarah’s mind.
“I’ve never heard of Order 716 sub-paragraph C,” she said.
“Nor has the Federal Senate,” he replied. “Hopefully Seabrook still thinks I’m just a savvy freighter mechanic or our trip will end rather abruptly.”
“You think Seabrook was framed?” Sarah asked.
“No, he’s a scoundrel all right, but that many counts of anything almost never gets through the bureaucracy. Too much evidence to gather too many people to sign, any experienced postal inspector would have smelled a Joogla beast, but a ‘shiny coat’ wouldn’t think twice. He’d follow orders.”
“Wait, you think there’s a mole in the inspectors?”
“Do you know Gerard Himson?” Gideon asked.
“Postal Commander Himson?”
“When I went undercover as a freighter mechanic, he was my captain, my handler. He went by the name of Samuel Hughes.”
“Why would Postal Commander Himson want to hollow out a moon and build a fleet of ships? He’s like tenth in line for Grand Premiership.”
“Tenth isn’t first. And he wasn’t there when he started.”
“But that’s crazy! He can’t expect to win.”
“Maybe he’s not worried about winning,” Gideon said. “Maybe he just wants to take out one particular cruiser or envoy.”
“After the Ftharan incident a few years back the Grand Premiere takes a fleet with her wherever she goes-”
“Like on her publicity stunt of a visit to the outer edge?”
“Vorthon’s a two hour jump from Rygoth.”
“I’ll take first watch. Get some sleep, you’re gonna need it.” Gideon said.
“You got a plan yet?”
“Of course, but you won’t like it.”
“Gideon, get back up here,” Sarah said into the comm. “Fifteen minutes to Vorthon.”
Gideon had gone to the cargo bay to “prepare” when Sarah returned from her rest.
“You suited up?” Gideon asked through his comm.
“Yes,” Sarah said. “I wish I knew what you were planning.”
“If I explained it to you, you’d say no.”
“That sounds like one of your plans.”
Gideon finished his preparations in the cargo bay and headed back to the control room. One way or another he decided this was his last mission. If he lived he’d find a quiet place on a central planet and settle down. For the first time in his life this looked appealing. He’d faced death and terrible odds many times before, but somehow this was different. Somehow this would be final. His finale. As he dropped into his seat Sarah brought the ship out of hyperspace. “Vorthon prime,” Sarah said, “It’s dead ahead.”
“Hopefully not for us…” Gideon said.
“I’m picking up…” She paused, double checking the holotable and scanners. “Nothing,” she said. “No ships, no postal carriers, nothing.”
Gideon looked at the scanners himself. No ships, federal, fake or otherwise. If the Grand Premiere had come there would have been twenty or more support ships. He double-checked their coördinates. They were at Vorthon alright. “Where the devil…” He said.
Sarah snapped her fingers “I worked a grand première detail once. Thing was with a recent revolt in the Gurgan system and a lot of controversy over some legislation they were really careful about who they told her location. As standard military they wouldn’t trust us with the grand première’s actual location, so we ended up guarding a decoy for a few hours before they switched and we guarded the premiere.”
“Himson knows I’m a straight arrow, he’d never give us the real location. So where’s the grand première?”
“He couldn’t give us a location that was too far off or we’d spot a fake, but we must be at least out of sensor range.”
Gideon punched some keys.
Sarah waited, trying to think of what to do next.
Gideon let out a whoop. “Set course for Vingola.”
“Why?” Sarah asked.
“Because that’s where the battle is.”
Sarah frowned at him.
“Seabrook’s more involved than he let on,” Gideon said. “If I know him, he’s right in the thick of this.”
“You remember when I went to check the anti-grav bikes back on Proteous? Well, I’d spotted Seabrook in the bar so I found his ship’s hangar and looked up the serviceman who handles refueling. I greased his palm a few years ago to keep track of certain ships for me. With the proper additional encouragement he handed over Seabrook’s transmission logs. Nothing he said, just when and where the antennae was turned on. He pulled ‘em every time Seabrook came by. According to the data he seems to have gone out of his way seventeen times to visit Vingola in the last two terrestrial years.”
“Maybe he’s got a lover.”
“Seabrook’s not the type. Plus it’s the only lead we’ve got and it isn’t far.”
“Just out of sensor range…”