The roar of the Griffinscape’s engines rumbled through the forest. Kit felt it in deep within her bones like a wave of power awakening her from a deep sleep. The time for action neared and Jade’s usual pearls of wisdom ceased echoing in her thoughts. She stared at the reflections in tinted window of the control room.
Count Wudwerth leaned against the rear wall, his arms folded across his chest. The stoic glint in his eyes and the firm set of his jaw revealed the tension and concern pulsing beneath his calm exterior. Kit knew he doubted her story of betrayal in his ranks, but the possibility of truth tugged at the secret fears shared by almost all men of power. That he left Zeller to guard the entrance and not accompany him inside, told Kit she had played the right cards.
Tara stood directly behind her. Like Kit, she remained unclothed and whatever affect the state had on her, she kept it hidden. They had not had time to discuss the current situation in privacy. Matters were unlikely to go as smoothly as the RCG agent suggested. Kit felt certain Tara would do whatever she believed necessary if things spiralled out of control, but Tara lacked training. It could get her killed or both of them because Kit could not shrug off the responsibility she felt for Tara’s safety.
The Griffinscape’s engines cut off and the landing bay turned silent. The exit ramp lowered and Quinn stepped out followed closely by Rex. Kit noticed the pistol held in Rex’s hand, not directly pointed at Quinn, but close enough for danger if things turned nasty. Rex looked toward the control room and a flicker of surprise flashed in his eyes when their eyes met. Kit kept her lips flat, preferring to keep Rex guessing as long as she could.
Wudwerth straightened away from the wall and uncrossed his arms. He said, “The moment of truth has arrived.”
Kit turned her back toward the window and Rex. “The proof will be on the command deck.”
Wudwerth gestured toward the door leading into the main hangar. “Lead the way,” he said, “unless you’d like to admit your deception now.”
Kit met his gaze with confidence. The exchange lasted a mere fraction of a second, but it convinced Wudwerth to push aside his doubts. Kit opened the door and stepped out, ignoring the cold cement against her bare feet. Tara and Wudwerth followed her until they met Quinn and Rex only a few feet from the Griffinscape’s passenger ramp.
Rex let his eyes linger over examining the curves of Kit and Tara before fixing his gaze on Wudwerth. “I can’t say I expected you to meet me personally or to bring these two along.”
Wudwerth indicated Kit with a jut of his chin. “This one has made some accusations against you.”
Rex chuckled. “And you believed her?”
Wudwerth said, “She’s rather convincing.”
Rex cocked his head to the side and stared into Kit’s eyes. “I know,” he said, “I’ve played poker with her.”
“Good,” Wudwerth said. “Holster your pistol and let’s just take a quick trip up to the command deck.”
Rex shook his head. “Whatever game she’s got in mind, I’m not playing. Your cargo is in the hold,” he said. “You want it, get your boys in here to unload it. If not, I’m sure I can find another buyer.”
Wudwerth grabbed Tara by her hair and pulled her against his chest. He pointed his own pistol past her side, aimed at Rex. “I’m afraid I have to insist. If she’s lying, you can decide her punishment, but I’m going to need proof.”
The casual smile faded from Rex’s lips. He holstered his pistol and glared into Kit’s eyes. “You’re going to regret the day you met me, little girl.”
Kit stepped forward, holding his gaze and brushing her hand against Quinn’s arm in a gesture she hoped told her companion to trust in her plans. “I already do.”
On the command deck, Kit led the way to the communication console. Rex and Quinn followed on her heels with Tara and Wudwerth following a little farther back. In the communication’s room Kit reached out for the console. Wudwerth held Tara close, blocking the doorway.
Rex grabbed Kit’s hand before she could touch anything. “Hands off,” he said, “It’s my ship now.”
Kit pulled her hand back and looked past Rex at Wudwerth. “Do you really want to give him a chance to delete the data?”
Wudwerth waived his pistol from right to left. “Move away, Rex. If there’s nothing to find, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Rex stepped back from the console, but kept his eyes on Kit. “She’s playing you Count.”
Kit reached out to the console and directed the display to be projected on the wall for everyone to see. She punched the buttons for the consoles logs and it listed them on the display, grouping them by dates. Of course, the logs for the day of the Griffinscape’s last landing on Rasa failed to show any communication activity beyond the contacts between Kit and Rasa’s airspace control.
Rex gestured toward the display. “I trust you can see there is nothing sinister here.”
Kit glared at Rex. “He must have deleted the record.”
Rex’s smile returned. “Check the logs continuity.”
Kit looked to Wudwerth and after he nodded his permission, she pressed the necessary buttons to display the communication log’s continuity. As Rex clearly expected, it showed no signs of disruption. Nothing had been deleted.
Rex stepped closer to her. “Looks like you’ve been caught bluffing,” he said and chuckled, “and in the buff no less.”
Wudwerth released Tara and shoved her toward Kit. Looking in Rex’s direction, he said, “My apologies for the inconvenience, but as I promised, you can name any punishment you like.”
Rex shrugged. “I’ll have to think about it. In the meantime, let’s get this deal done and unload your cargo.”
Wudwerth nodded. He pressed a button on his wrist and spoke to Zeller. “Captain Rex and I have settled our business. You may bring the men inside and unload the cargo.”
Zeller’s voice crackled over the speaker on Wudwerth’s wrist communicator. “On our way.”
Wudwerth turned his gaze on Kit. “I had hoped you’d be smarter than to lie to me.”
A red light on Wudwerth’s wrist began flashing and a computerized voice emitted from speaker. “Surveillance device detected. Frequency identified: Rasa Central Government.”
Kit smiled at Wudwerth. “I told you.”
Rex’s mouth dropped open as he stared at Kit. His hand sped toward the pistol on his hip and whipped it out of its holster. He spun on his heels and grabbed Quinn with his free hand, throwing him in front of Wudwerth. “I don’t know how she did this, but I swear it’s her not me.”
Wudwerth drew his own pistol and pushed Quinn to the ground giving him a clear aim at Rex. His finger tightened on the trigger.
Rex charged at Wudwerth. The two men collided. Wudwerth’s pistol shot a wild bolt of energy into the wall across the room. They hit the ground and rolled out into the corridor. The pistols clattered on the floor, no longer controlled by either man. Wudwerth kicked Rex in the gut. Rex rolled away swinging his fist wildly and catching Wudwerth in the jaw.
Kit leapt over Quinn and snatched the nearest pistol off the floor. She took aim at Rex. He kicked the door panel and the door slid closed between them, taking away her opportunity to end things quickly. Kit moved closer to the door and punched at the panel on the wall trying to get it re-opened.
Tara helped Quinn back to his feet. “Are you alright?” she asked.
He nodded and looked to the door and Kit. “I see you’ve been busy.”
Kit glanced over her shoulder. “Help me get this door open. If Rex gets us in the air things are going to get real messy.”
Quinn moved to the door panel and pried the cover off with his finger. Two twists of wires and a spark later, the door slid open.
Wudwerth moaned on the floor. The glazed look in his eyes suggested he probably didn’t even know where he was or what had happened. Kit might have paused to enjoy the moment, but a bolt of energy sizzled against the door frame, forcing her to duck back inside the room.
She crouched against the wall holding the pistol pointed at the open doorway. “So Rex,” she asked, “is everything working out like you planned?”
He responded by shooting the doorway again.
She laughed. “I’ll take that as a no.”
Quinn said, “Is it safe to presume there are actual authorities on their way to assist us?”
Tara nodded. “Any minute now, I’m sure.”
The swish of the lift door at the other end of the deck confirmed her assertion. A dozen shots were exchanged beyond their view and then the deck fell silent. The guard who recruited their assistance stepped into view and asked, “Everyone alright in here?”
The guard held out his hand. “I’m afraid I can’t let you hold on to that.”
Kit released the pistol to him and pushed herself up onto her feet. She watched as uniformed authorities of the Central Government picked Wudwerth up off the deck and bound his wrists behind his back. Satisfaction crept into her smile. The authorities led Wudwerth away.
She said, “Now that you have what you wanted, when do we get our things back?”
The RCG agent looked at her. “Well technically, Count Wudwerth convicted both of you of theft and sentenced you to life without possessions in the service of the government.”
Tara stepped forward. “You promised to set us free.”
He said, “I promised to set you free of Wudwerth and I’ve done that. The rest is out of my hands.”
Quinn asked, “So what happens to them now?”
The RCG agent said, “I’ve asked to have their case reviewed by my superior. If he upholds their conviction, they’ll have to remain here and serve out their sentences. If not, the Griffinscape will likely be returned to Ms. Wilde’s possessions and they’ll be free to go wherever they please.”