Is from the second Talia novel that is waiting to be edited and prepared to send off. I forgot to mention it hasn’t seen a bit of editing of any kind so it’s very rough.
The sun rose over the dome of the capital, temporarily blinding her before the processor cut down her visual acuity. Her breath formed a white cloud each time she exhaled as Talia walked down the historical mall. Around her the Smithsonian started to awaken as the staff poured into the prepare for another day’s visitors.
She lifted her arm and checked the watch on the bottom of her wrist. Not quite time yet.
Talia pulled the collar of her jacket up to protect her neck from the biting wind and continued to stroll along the yellow, river rock walkways. She’d read where nothing on the Mall had changed since the early twenty-first century when the museum to the Native American opened. The Alliance government pass a law requiring the museum to expand into the areas around the central corridor and leave it as it’d been for centuries. In their mind, it proved beneficial for mankind to never forget their history-and that was a living, breathing example.
A shiver started at the top of her head and ran down to the soles of her feet. Cold weather, the one thing she truly hated, made her miserable no matter where life took her. The battle’s she’d fought on various icy planets further hammered home that loathing, with Maxus being one of the last straws. If saving the galaxy came down to fighting on another ball of snow, then it just might die.
Ground car traffic was surprisingly light as she made her way across the one-way street running beside the mall. This was her first time seeing the mall, and she had to admit it was an interesting sight to see. Something similar had been built on Gahlzon thousands of years before the war, and she could see the Gahl influence in the construction of the open area.
Could out people have helped them create this?
She stopped and looked at the row of museum buildings in front of her. A gust of wind gathered itself by the Washington Monument and then raced down the open concourse, the rows of building’s creating a wind tunnel, before it slapped her in the face. Silver hair lifted up from where it overlapped the collar of the black jacket, and turned it into a miniature cape flowing behind her. While the Institute was interesting, she thought, it really was a waste of time when pirates were killing crews and selling passengers into slavery.
People stepped off the escalator and out of the subway station as another Metro train dropped off passengers. Each person pulled the collar of the jackets up and stuffed hands into pockets before hustling across the street towards the various buildings. She continued to gaze at the buildings, giving herself another “natural” chance to look for a tail for several seconds. This time her sixth sense didn’t go off, and Talia relaxed ever so slightly. Just because her instincts said there wasn’t anyone, she reminded herself, that didn’t mean there couldn’t be.
Always stay alert, Talia. No one is what he or she seems.
The security guards opened the doors and the crowd started to file in before she climbed the steps. She dropped a hand into one of her coat pockets and felt for the small triangular device inside. A sigh of relief. The mini scrambler would prevent the human’s security systems for detecting the Glock in her pocket as she passed through security.
She approached the doors and waited in line before reaching the security checkpoint. The guard motioned to the whole body scanner on her right and Talia stepped through it. A three dimensional image of her body, sans clothes, projected before the men and women as they looked it over. She resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow over the fact that the firearm was invisible in case the officers put two plus two together.
Besides, why should I make it easier on them?
One of the women stepped up with a portable scanner and ran it over her and she raised her arms up to allow the guard to run it down her body. The Institute, she’d read, prided itself on the fact that they’d never had a terrorist or any kind of violent attack while many others museums experienced it several times. Too bad, Talia thought, that they didn’t know she’d slipped a gun past them, but then, how many people would have access to Gahl technology anyway?
The guard motioned her past and Talia rejoined the crowds of people entering the ancient history museum. Many in the crowd, much to her surprise, had dyed their hair multiple colors, and it took all of her self-control to keep from laughing. Being that they’d designed her body to be identical to a twenty year old woman, she fit right in. No one would every suspect that she, silver hair and all, was the same person who spoke three years ago at the Capital.
And knowing humans like I do, they forgot about me anyway.
She stopped just past the entrance and looked at the sights around her. A person emerged from the entrance into a large room, with a ceiling four stories high, with each floor having a large balcony that wrapped around the square shaped room and had several doors that lead back into the exhibits. To her right, the gift shop stood, along with coffee shop, and a set of escalators was on the left.
A group of twenty people filed past her and headed for the escalator and Talia tagged along. She looked around, feigning curiosity, while searching again for a tail, all senses on high alert. Given the nature of her visit to the Institute, that one would pick her up would be a certainty. And there it was.
Three different men, each dressed to blend in with the visitors, subtly followed her and she could see the small com units on their wrist in her enhanced vision. Not bad. Sneaky as hell for a human but not enough to get the drop on her, and someone would be very disappointed when they discovered she’d made their surveillance. Oh well, Talia thought, the cat and mouse game was just part of the bigger picture that day would reveal.
The exhibit she came to see was on the third floor, so she road the escalator to the second floor. It took her less then ten seconds to pick out the two women on the second floor, and this time she did raise an eyebrow. How many people did they think she warranted? Personally, she thought, the entire thing was both silly and insulting. Whoever planned their op out didn’t seem to realize that she’d made all their people, and it wouldn’t take much effort to ditch them.
Humans think they’re sneaky, and I wish they’d learn that they’re not.
She turned to her left and walked around the bank of moving stairs, keeping one eye out on the constantly following tails, and the crowds around her. The one she could see didn’t worry her, but people mingling with the crowds that wished to do her harm, now that did. Multi person ops meant someone had Command and Control over their people’s actions. However, the lone wolf or three to four operatives tended to work alone with minimal structure, thus making their actions hard to predict.
Both women kept a respectable distance as they followed Talia onto the escalator. She placed a hand on the railing and pursed her lips to keep from crying. The bastards, she thought, were so confident their security measures would foolproof. Too bad, she thought, they were about to get a lesson on how wrong they were.
An exhibit on classing rock n roll caught her eye and she angled into it. Maybe the trip wouldn’t be bad because it had an entire exhibit on her favorite earth band, AC/DC, and frankly, she didn’t mind sitting back and enjoying it. Given the nasty job ahead, it would be a nice diversion to allow for stress relief.
A wax model of Angus Young, the lead guitarist of the band, replete in his famous schoolboy outfit with white socks and black shoes, stood holding a guitar in his hands. One hand was pointing upwards while the other was frozen in the act of finger boarding the instrument in one of his classic, high-energy performances. She’d always liked their sound, hard driving, straight up music that they played with a workmanlike style that appealed to her sense of aesthetic for some reason.
A holovid played beside the model, as the band performed one of her favorite songs. She crossed both arms and tapped a foot in rhythm as a man approached. His brown hair stood up in short spikes and then ran past his shoulders. Talia noted that his black coat, white shirt, and blue jeans could pass for a rock star of the era.
He looked intently at the exhibit. “Thank you for coming.”
“You’re the one who called me.”
“We needed to talk and you’re a very hard person to find.”
“I was checking out other planets and seeing the sights.”
He shrugged slightly. “We need your help.”
She threw him a sideways glance. “How about telling your people to back off before they get themselves hurt. You might want to train them better because I picked them up within two minutes of being in the building.”
The man tapped a button on his wrist computer, before raising it up to his mouth in a perfect imitation of covering a yawn. “All units step down.” He looked at her. “Satisfied?”
Director of Alliance Security Marshall Wayne looked at her and raised an eyebrow. “Those were my best people.”
That’s supposed to impress me why??
She shrugged. “If you say so.”
“I-we-need you help, Talia.” Wayne said. “And the government says you can help.”
“Do they? I wish they’d stop. Putting words in a person’s mouth isn’t polite.”
“I’m sorry.” He said. “Will you hear me out?”
“What is it you want to talk to me about?”
“We’ve having problems with pirates all throughout our space since the governments have started work on merging.”
“I already know that.” Talia sighed. “What I don’t like is where they’re hitting. Selkirk…I thought that place was stabilized after I took down the government. And Arkan section, that’s so far removed from Selkirk is a couple week trip. Why are they hitting those places?”
“Selkirk is slowly getting its act together without the government and crooked law enforcement. However, the smugglers are looking for a new planet to use. I believe they’re moving into the Falmouth sector.”
Talia shook her head. “Sooner or later this has to become your job to ferret out. I can’t always be here, not with an entire galaxy that can go up like a powder keg. There’s always someone mad at another race all the time.”
“We understand that, but this is an intolerable situation.”
“Oh you’re right about that.” She agreed. “The question is what do you want me to do about it?”
“Can you patrol for pirates?”
“Where are they hitting the liners and merchantman the most?”
“Arkan believe it or not.” Wayne said. “The cruise industry is taking a beating.”
“They won’t stay there.” Talia said. “Not if you can’t stop them.”
“That’s why we need your help.”
She touched her chin in a theatrical display of thinking. “I tell you what. Let me do this my way, and I can guarantee it’ll be over by the time it’s done.”
“I can help you.”
“I don’t want or need it. Just keep Fleet out of the way and I’ll end the problem, understand?”
“How are you going to deal with it?”
“I’m not saying-just that you need to trust me.”
“I think it’s time I leave. You’re security team looks like they want to feel up some of the women in here.”
“I want reports from Claudio.”
“I’ll try, but I can’t guarantee we’ll in human space, or in a position to send them.”
Talia turned and started to walk away. She activated her neural link and connected to the Valiant. Ok, Methos, we’re on. The ship leaves tonight and I’ve got security off our back.
I’m not sure I like this idea, Talia.
Neither do I, but can you predict where the next strike will be? Even if we dimensional jump into the system, they could be gone.
Didn’t say that I disagreed with the assessment, I just don’t like the idea of being in slavers’ hands. You do know I’m not like you.
You volunteered to come.
I’ll be back aboard in a bit.
Everything’s ready anyway for us to play tourist.