Chapter Two: Zadden

I’d been a bit surprised when none of the crew decided to leave after the meeting in the park.

After the events of the past year, there had been some talk about leaving the Rogue Star, finding another ship.

While everyone had been prepared to fix some paperwork, do a little bit of a song and dance to get around customs, even deal with pirates if needed, this was different.

From the moment we jumped into the Terran station, working on the Rogue Star had become something different.

More dangerous.

But not a single member of the crew took the opportunity to leave.

I wasn’t too surprised.

We’d seen too much of what the Dominion was willing to do to maintain power.

We were all ready for a fight.

Which was great, but personally, a bit of a hassle.

I’d already come up with new duty rotations and a list of potential security issues in anticipation of losing nearly quarter of the crew.

Wasted time. Wasted effort.

Ah, well.

The meeting was long since over, but people were still milling around, making plans, speaking with the Captain and Chief, volunteering their services or asking for clarification of things.

The usual chaos.

As for myself, I went back to my duties.

I had been hired on three years ago as part of the security team.

I did my job, did it well.

But really, I’d been looking for something else.

Something with fewer ghosts.

The small crew roster on the Rogue Star allowed for cross training. Before the women came on board, it’d been almost mandatory. Too many jobs, never quite enough hands.

I’d worked my way around the ship, looking for something that clicked.

To my surprise, I’d finally ended up spending most of my time in the kitchen when I wasn’t on security detail.

Cooking was relaxing. An intricate dish required a level of planning, of focus, that could match the most complex of ops.

The reward was the pleased smiles of the crew. And if something didn’t turn out quite right, you could match it with another ingredient, savage the dish, start again.

Nobody died.

Relaxing.

I was in the process of prepping the night’s dinner with Sars when Dejar popped his golden head through the doorway.

“Zadden?”

I looked up from my station where I was preparing the fish. “What can I do for you, Captain? Special request for dinner tonight? We’re having braised nodon with a citrus broth.”

He gave me a brief nod of approval before responding. “That actually sounds very good. Where are you getting the nodon?”

“Right here in town,” I answered. “Apparently, nodon is a very prominent fish on this planet.”

“Did not know that,” he said. “But, to get back on topic, I was really looking for you. Can we talk? In private?”

I motioned Rassic to take over preparing the finicky fish for me. It couldn’t be left sitting for too long or it just wouldn’t cook right.

After giving Rassic some quick instructions and wiping my hands clean, I followed the Captain. He led me to a small room near the mess hall, holding the door open for me.

I was a bit apprehensive, but walked into the room and took a seat in one of the two chairs inside.

The room was sparsely decorated with the two chairs, a small desk, and a couple of pictures on the walls.

When we’d redecorated months ago, planning for more passengers, legitimate clients, this was meant to be a private dining area.

We hadn’t gotten the table in here before everything went sideways. The Haven had a lot of things, but not spare dining tables.

“I know you’re getting ready for dinner service,” Dejar started. “The timing isn’t the best, and I apologize for that.”

That was certainly odd. While Dejar had never been the most restrictive person around, he didn’t apologize often, unless it was truly warranted. Even after the women became part of the crew and Dejar connected with Kalyn, he still didn’t apologize, at least not where I could hear.

He was still talking. “I know you came here to try to slow your life down a bit,” he said as he sat in the other chair. “And, if I’m not exceedingly mistaken, you’ve been happy to be a part of the crew. Correct?”

“I have been, sir,” I answered. Then, with the slightest of shrugs, “The last year has certainly cancelled the slow monotony of things.”

He laughed. “True, very true. This past year has certainly been much different than any of us could have anticipated.” He cocked his head to the side. “But you decided to stay.”

I nodded. “There’s too much at stake, and if this rebellion does get off the ground, it’s going to turn into a war that’s going to suck everyone in anyway.” I leaned back slightly. “Figured that I might as well stay right here in the middle of things.”

He rubbed his hands together as he leaned back in his chair. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m assuming you heard everything at the meeting in the park, as well as earlier?”

I nodded.

“Good. Then I need a favor. The power core that we need for the shields that the Gaed have created, I want you to be the one to get it.”

I’d known this was a possibility.

All those ops.

All those moving parts.

They’d need everyone who had this sort of background.

And even as I protested about coming out of retirement, a small part of me sat up excitedly.

I’d been good at this. I couldn’t deny it.

Maybe it was time to stop relaxing.

Still, I had questions.

“Why me for this job?” I asked. “If you don’t mind my asking,” I quickly added.

“I know what you’re capable of,” he answered. “I ran an in-depth background check on you when you first came to me.” A half-smile twisted his lips. “I know about your past, at least enough of it to know that you’re more than capable of doing this and that I can trust you.”

I kept my face as impassive as I could.

I was never sure how far back into my history he had been able to dive. There were some things I had done that were not terribly nice, or even remotely ethical.

As a matter of fact, there were a couple of jobs I pulled when I was younger that very nearly had me on the ‘Wanted’ lists for at least nine sectors, maybe more.

But whatever he’d found, didn’t seem to give him concern.

I nodded, slowly. “How many people involved?”

“I’ll leave it up to you,” he answered. “But, I would say no more than six or seven.”

“Do we know where this power core is?”

“A small rocky moon near Karben.”

I spent a few brief moments thinking about it, weighing the options. “And I get to pick the team?”

He nodded.

“Okay,” I answered. “I’m in.”

“Thank you,” Dejar said. The heaviness in his voice pulled my eyes to him, studying him closely.

He looked older than he was. Older than he’d seemed even a few weeks ago.

This potential rebellion was weighing on him. He looked as though he hadn’t gotten much sleep for a long time.

This was not what he had wanted either, I was positive of that.

He had been much like me, looking for something to keep the boredom away but also not tied to a daily threat of death beyond the normal ones associated with space travel.

There was a difference between worrying about whether or not the ship was going to hold together through normal usage, and whether or not the next ship you saw was going to shoot you down.

“How long before I go?” I asked.

“That depends on how long it takes Emmery to make false identities for everyone. If you’re caught in Dominion Space, we need to make sure you’re not discovered as part of this crew.”

Emmery.

An entirely different part of me started paying attention.

Dejar got up and stretched, holding his lower back as he did.

“As soon as she’s done making identities that we’re confident in, we’ll get you a small ship and send you and your team out.”

I hadn’t known that about her. And now I wanted to know everything.

I kept my voice level. “Reasable plan. I’ll keep you posted on my choices.”

“Save me some of that nodon,” he called back as he reentered the mess hall, leaving me to my own thoughts.

I had given up the mercenary life.

I had given up the stress of private security.

This time, I would be working for something that was worthwhile.

But Emmery was involved.

Nothing relaxing about that.

Nothing at all.

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