Tara rode the elevator up to the control center fuming over the evidence of betrayal she found in the cargo hold. The doors opened and she stormed forward passing the ship’s library on her right until she stood in the doorway of the helm and navigation center. Kit sat with her back to the door, studying the controls and making course corrections as they approached the docking bay of a large orange station. The navigation chair sat empty and no one else could be seen or heard.
Waiting until the delicate maneuvers needed for docking were complete, Tara stood clenching and unclenching her fists. When Kit’s hands left the control and the ship sat docked in the bay, she asked, “So how much are they paying you?”
Kit spun fast in her chair to face Tara.
“What?” Kit asked, startled and confused by Tara’s presence and accusatory tone.
Tara planted her hands on her hips and shook her head, like a scolding mother. “I just want to know, how much was my life worth?”
Kit blinked. She had planned on telling Tara everything, but she hadn’t counted on Quinn telling her first. The timing could not have been worse. Kit said, “It wasn’t like that.”
“No?” Tara said. She stepped forward and glared down into Kit’s eyes. “What was it like then? Don’t tell me you and your merry band of petty criminals really thought you were doing me a favor?”
Kit looked up into the angry face looming over her. “I’m just trying to make things right.”
“For who?” Tara asked. Her hands twitched at her sides with a growing urge to wrap her fingers around Kit’s neck and squeeze. “For LX? For you and your shipmates? Cause you sure as hell aren’t doing anything good for me.”
“What else can I do?” Kit asked. “I never intended for you or anyone else to get caught up in my mess, but I can’t change what’s happened.”
Tara shook her head. “So you are the thief.”
Kit lowered her gaze. “I am, but it’s not that simple.”
Tara rolled her eyes and laughed. “It’s not that complicated, little girl. You either thought you needed the money or thought you needed the high. Either way, you didn’t stop and think about the consequences of your actions.”
Kit blinked. Tara’s words weren’t adding up to the reality Kit understood. “I’m not a druggie,” Kit said.
“User, dealer, or smuggler,” Tara said, “you’re all part of the same fucked up soup to me.”
Kit stared up into Tara’s eyes. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t play stupid,” Tara said. “I looked in the cargo hold and I know you’re running narcotics for LX.”
Kit’s eyes opened wide. She glanced around behind her, looking out the window to the docking bay beyond. “I’m going to kill him.”
Tara read the truth of shock in Kit’s eyes. “You didn’t know did you?”
Kit shook her head. “I would never do business with LX. They killed my sister.”
Tara blinked as her mind raced to retrace their conversation with new understanding. “What the hell did you steal from them?”
Kit said, “The drug money you were convicted of stealing.”
Tara shook her head. “I wasn’t convicted of stealing drug money. I was convicted for stealing pharmaceuticals. They would never bring anything to do with their narcotics trade to the authorities.”
“But you didn’t steal them?” Kit asked.
“Of course not,” Tara said. “I found out about the narcotics they were slipping into hospital pharmaceuticals and they framed me for theft to discredit my claims with the authorities trying to investigate them.”
Kit nodded. That was exactly how Jade had got caught up in the mess that killed her. There was never enough proof for the authorities to do anything and now it was clear why no one would step forward. Those that even though about it, would end up like Tara did. Kit said, “I’m guessing their tactic worked?”
Tara nodded. “I don’t know for certain, but it’s a good bet the authorities I was working with will find their case falling to pieces without me to back things up.”
“Maybe we can do something about that,” Kit said, “but first we’ve got a more immediate problem.”
“What?” Tara asked.
Kit stood up and signalled for Tara to follow her as she headed toward the elevator at the back of the ship. “We just docked with a customs station and if the inspectors look inside our cargo and see what you saw, we’ll be spending the next twenty years digging ore on some miserable asteroid.”
Tara said, “You’re really not very good at this, you know?”
Kit glanced at Tara as they stepped inside the elevator. “At what?”
“Smuggling,” Tara said. “First of all, you should never go anywhere without knowing what you’re carrying in your hold and second, if you’re carrying illegal goods, it’s a good idea to avoid customs or at least have a plan for getting past them.”
The elevator descended through the ship toward the first level. Kit shook her head at Tara. “You’re starting to remind me of my sister. She always had a load of good advice too. And she had a penchant for offering it up right after the shit hit the fan too.”