Critically Acclaimed and Award Winning Author of Romantic Fiction in Multiple Genres
Gail R. Delaney
Levantin Space Station
On the Edge of Sorracchi Sovereign Empire Space
Earth Calendar Year ~ 2610
The air tasted like an Ancient Earth currency coin that had spent too long in a child's memory chest, tangy and stale, leaving a tickle at the corner of Tanner's jaw. Everything hummed with the steady, rhythmic murmur of the Levantin power reactor, making his skin twitch and setting his nerves on edge.
He itched for a lungful of fresh, unfiltered, and unsanitized air. He'd traveled from one end of the galaxy to the other and had never spent this long without seeing clear sky or breathing natural atmosphere. Space was beautiful, but he preferred the ground beneath him, and here in the bowels of Levantin he had neither.
It slowly drove him insane and stole whatever grain of focus he had left.
Tanner rubbed the pad of his thumb across his lower lip, staring at the monitor in front of him. He knew what he needed was here. Somewhere. It was just a matter of finding it without setting off any alarms or turning Commander Rand Kendo’s attention his way. The commander of the Levantin may have been exiled to the dying station for charges of insubordination because he refused to follow a direct order — an order to kill on the scale of genocide — but that didn't mean he'd think kindly of Tanner and his guise… or his plan. Kendo’s loyalty to the Sorracchi was questionable, yet Tanner had no plans to test it.
He growled deep in his throat, leaning back in his chair until the aging joints creaked at the unusual position. Frustration ate at him as he shoved his fingers through his hair. It would be so much easier just to link his personal interface into the Levantin prisoner database and run a deep analysis of all the statistics and data for the ten thousand inmates on this god-forsaken death trap. Extrapolating the data he needed would take his analytics program all of two minutes. If that. But that would be sure to bring Kendo down on his ass.
Three weeks… he had been stuck floating over a dead planet in a dying space station for three weeks… with no more information now than when he started. Every day that ended without accomplishing what he’d come here to do was another night he spent staring at the ceiling of his employee quarters with guilt and frustration eating away at his gut.
The entire station jerked, nearly knocking Tanner out of his chair, and the main lights blinked off, replaced by the red glow of emergency globes in the ceiling. "What the—" If he were on a planet, he'd swear a terraquake had just rattled his teeth in his head.
The prison command center door slid opened, and three uglier-than-hellbeast Urdo Khantan prison guards charged in with Warden Farrak
in the lead. "We're under attack—"
"The prison?" Tanner snapped.
"No, the whole damn station. Damn Revolutionist Freedom Fighters! Rhonin, you and—" He waved his hand at two of the human guards who rushed into the room, ignoring Tanner. "Whatever the futock your name is, grab weapons and head to the cell levels to keep an eye on the prisoners. Everyone is on duty as of right now. We need to keep these prisoners locked down until the attack is over."
Tanner stood, reaching for his Levantin-issued weapon holstered at his waist. It was neither sexy nor efficient, but nothing on Levantin was.
"Stryker, you stay here. We may need you to route communications."
Tanner nodded, acknowledging his false name, and sat again. After a few more barked orders, Farrak bolted again for the door with his guards following behind, now heavily armed. The shrill cacophony of sirens and alarms flooded the room when the doors opened, cutting off again to a dull and distant hum when they closed.
As soon as the room was empty, Tanner flipped open the personal interface attached to the inside of his wrist and slipped a tiny, transparent
dataquoit into a receptacle slot on the prison database computer. If the Freedom Fighters had the Levantin under attack – a well-timed coincidence he’s have to thank The Greater Power for once his job was done – stealth and secrecy were no longer warranted. He intended to get off the decaying hunk of orbiting metal before Freedom Fighter fire shook the Levantin and left them all dead in space.
The interface beeped, indicating it had found what he searched for. Tanner read the data and his stomach clenched. It had been bad enough when he believed Lady Octavion to be amongst the inmates in the levels below him. This was so much worse. No wonder he couldn't find her. She wasn't in the prison at all. If the information was right… she was in a particularly bad level of hell.