“You sent for me, sir?”
Kilmer sat behind a wide desk in front of a wall of awards and commendations. “Yes. Make certain you watch the Moorvat closely. If he gets even a little out of line, kill him.”
“Yes, sir,” Toliver said.
Toliver turned to go, then stopped and turned back to Kilmer. “Sir, what if the subcutaneous explosives don’t work on him?”
“They will,” Kilmer said sharply. Toliver nodded and left.
Kilmer drummed his fingers on his desk. He picked up the communicator and punched the button for his secretary. “Get me R&D,” he said.
Over the next few days Toliver began training the criminals to work as a team. He began with long marches around the cargo bay and trust falls. Gerard interrupted Toliver every chance she got and turned the long marches into competitions and war games. The others may have not been united in their love for Gerard, but they were definitely united by their hate for Toliver.
Masq took to doing impressions of Toliver whenever he wasn’t looking. Ox tried this too, but ended up showing only a caricature of himself. Pyrite burned up anything Toliver handed him and made random walls and metal objects in Toliver’s way red hot. Cy was glad to have someone else as the butt of everyone’s jokes and tried, unsuccessfully, to chime in on the ribald humor concerning their commander.
Only Fishmonger seemed to actually like Toliver, but this was mostly because Toliver had requisitioned a military prototype prosthesis to replace Fishmonger’s leg.
“We will infiltrate the derelict postal carrier and retrieve an item from it.” Toliver told them one morning in a mission briefing.
“Sounds tough,” Ox said.
Gerard almost did a spit-take. “You broke us out of prison for this?”
“I never said it would be easy,” Toliver said. “You’ll need to defeat one of the best security systems ever created.”
“On a postal carrier?” Pyrite asked.
Gerard turned to him. “Postal beacons are trusted throughout the galaxy. So far no one’s been able to successfully spoof one. If a postal beacon’s coming from a ship, you can trust that it’s legitimate. Part of that is the security of the cabinet it’s held in.”
“Part,” Fishmonger offered, “is that a beacon is integral to the ship that carries it. You can take the cabinet out of the ship, but that’ll inauthenticate the signal.”
“So why do we want to get into this cabinet?” Masq asked.
“At most postal stations, there’s a calibration system that re-calibrates the signal and performs other maintenance,” Toliver said.
“I thought we were hitting a carrier,” Ox said.
“There’s a portable version of the calibrator on every carrier,” Toliver said. “That’s your target. Get in, open the cabinet, and retrieve the calibrator.”
“Don’t those portables only attenuate the signal with a verified postal beacon at a station?” Fishmonger said.
“Sounds useless,” Pyrite said.
“‘Why’ is above your pay grade,” Toliver said.
“Which is ‘None,’” Masq muttered.
“You’re military, right?” Gerard asked. “Why are we hitting a Colonial Federation target?”
“You weren’t recruited to ask questions. Do what you’re told and you’ll get what you’re promised,” Toliver said.
To Be Continued…