Jeter released Raquel again, the third time this day. They were now two days out from Clarion and had fallen into a routine. He released her, gave her food and water, let her stretch her legs a little, then he put her back in the trap.

He did not make any more moves on her. He did not speak much, either. He did bring her a good selection of food cribbed from the mess, even offering desert at lunch and supper.

Raquel noted the changes, but remained silent. If he was not going to talk, she would not either. So, she stubbornly stayed quiet.

Jeter, she realized, was waiting to ask her something. In her years as an indent, an attractive one at that, she had picked up a thing or two about men and how they worked. She thought she understood the male psyche, to a certain extent.

Jeter was still attracted to her, of that she had no doubt. She would often catch him looking at her while she ate the food he brought. He rarely looked her in the eyes.

And yet . . . Jeter did not plead or bargain or even try and force his way on her again. Not that he could with her abilities, but still . . . She expected him to continue trying. He was a man, and it was a long and lonely voyage after all.

But Jeter controlled himself, and that told her he wanted her to do something else. And the only other thing she figured he thought she was good at was killing. So, she bided her time and waited for him to present his wishes. Or demands. She was curious which tactic he would attempt to use on her, the carrot or the stick. She was more interested in that than who the target would be.

Tonight he offered her several slices of prime rib, a loaded baked potato with butter, sour cream and bacon bits, and a slice of angel food cake for desert.

She quirked an eyebrow at him when she fully materialized and saw all the food spread out on the table for her in the bunkroom.

He shrugged and said, “It’s the Captain’s birthday so they had an extra nice meal for everybody.”

Ah, that made sense, she thought. She nodded, and dug in. The prime rib was especially good. Raquel could not remember the last time she had beef of any kind.

When she put the last bite of cake in her mouth, Jeter finally presented his request.

He started by saying, “StarCen, SSI manual override. Agent Deter, Avery. Nine, six, alpha, bravo, seven.”

StarCen’s high pitch voice responded. She said, “Received. Further conversations in this room will not be recorded nor monitored for 30 minutes.”

Jeter smiled at Raquel.

He said, “I know you are an asset for SSI.”

She swallowed the cake. Her eyes grew slightly wider, but other than that she maintained expressionless features. This was not what she expected, and she could not yet decide if it would be a carrot or stick. So, she decided to say nothing. But she maintained eye contact.

He continued. “So am I. One of my assignments is to bring you in. But I have one other task that I need your help with.”

So, this was what he needed her for, she thought. No wonder he was being so nice to her and making sure she remained well fed the last few days. That part, at least, she had guessed correctly. The part about him being SSI was surprising, though.

In response, she lifted a questioning eyebrow in an indication he should continue.

He said, “My other task is to eliminate a traitor to the League who is onboard this ship. I cannot fulfill my objective at the moment. Not without your help.”

He paused and seemed to be waiting for something. She decided he must want a verbal response this time.

“Go on,” she said.

“My orders are to eliminate Jillian Thrall. That’s a direct order from my superior at SSI-Clarion, and it extends to any other agent in the field.”

He leaned forward in the seat, drawing closer to her.

“On top of that, I am ordering you as my bond servant to fulfill this objective. I realize that I must have tripped the consent safeguard by my earlier actions. And I understand that as an indent, you do not have to do anything you don’t want to, within reason. However . . .”

He straightened in the seat again, pausing for effect. Seeing that he maintained her full attention, he continued.

“This is something you are made to do, you have done, and you will do again. Therefore, I am certain I am not violating your collar’s consent safeguard. So, you have orders from me as your bondholder and you have orders from our superior at SSI.”

She said, “Okay. I have my orders. When do I help you take her out?”

“Right now. We are two days out. She is in the Admiral’s quarters. It is on this deck but one corridor down.”

Raquel glanced up at the lights and nodded, thoughtfully.

Jeter leered down at her when her chin tilted up, but he returned to her eyes immediately. She had no doubt he would resume trying to harass her as soon as the mission objective was met.

She said, “Okay. But, shouldn’t I wait until we get closer to Clarion? If I take her out now, the Navy won’t stop tearing this ship apart until they root me out. Kind of like what the pirates did on Aquamarine, except the Navy will probably do a better job of it.”

His eyebrows shot up. Evidently he did not think this through very well, she thought.

“Right, right,” he said. “But you should take her out before she disembarks. If she goes back down to Clarion, it will be much more difficult to get her.”

She snorted. “It’s never too difficult for someone like me.”

“No, I read the mission briefing. Thrall’s compound, all his residences and offices and anywhere else he spends time at, have electronic safeguards. These are kind of like what the Korean twins rigged up for their skyscraper on Lute. They knew the moment you entered the building’s wiring. The difference is, the Navy’s defenses will keep you out of the Thrall homes altogether. Nope, you need to get her now while she’s vulnerable on this ship.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll do it on this ship. But I’m going to wait until the end of the voyage so that I have a decent chance to get away. There’s no telling what sort of defensive measures StarCen will have in store for me once the deed is done.”

He grimaced and she figured he might be experiencing a touch of frustration. That was easy enough to take care of, she thought. She moved her hand out and lightly touched his forearm. He looked up at her.

She said, “I’ll do it. Let me get up into the wiring and take a look around. StarCen won’t mind if I’m there. Her coding has been altered to tolerate me. I’ll get a feel for the layout of the ship, and pick out the perfect location and time.”

He still looked doubtful, so she squeezed his arm slightly. He locked eyes with her again.

“Don’t worry, Agent Jeter. Maybe we can get to know each other better after it’s over.”

She gave him a reassuring smile and said, “Jillian Thrall is not getting off this ship alive.”


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