Wilcox’s leg shook as she nervously bounced her knee up and down.

She sat on a park bench, along with Meyers and Peng and someone she did not know, a gentleman dressed in an expensive blue business suit. He refused to give his real name. Or at least, she presumed “Smithers” was not his real name. At least he did not use “Smith.” That was really old. And lame.

Mr. Smithers was Republican Naval Intelligence. Wilcox decided not to crack the old joke about Naval Intelligence being an oxymoron. That was also kind of lame, especially these days. And certainly not true. Besides, Smithers looked like he did not have a sense of humor.

He stood six foot one, or about 185 centimeters, with thick light brown hair cut in a flattop. He had no nonsense, bright blue eyes and a sharp, angular face. The man looked like he could bite into metal and spit out nails.

So Wilcox left him alone, saying as little as possible. She did not even spy on his neural implant like she did with Meyers and Peng. Naval Intelligence probably had special safeguards on theirs, she thought.

All told, Wilcox felt wholly out of place in the company of these men. She did not even know Meyers very well, and he was her squadron’s Lieutenant. Being with him and Peng for so long felt uncomfortable enough, but then they brought in Smithers and her unease cranked up several more notches.

Smithers was a spook, no doubt about it. He probably had a rank. He was probably an officer. It was probably classified, same as his real name. She could probably figure out his real name by snooping around in electronics somewhere . . .

But, she thought, Mama didn’t raise no fool. Naval Intelligence was best left alone. Avoided, if at all possible. They were worse than Naval Police, the Republic’s version of the League’s NCIS.

They had not told her what this was all about. Meyers said Colonel Peng wanted to talk with her. Peng ported down that morning and indicated Naval Intelligence wished to set up a meeting with Angel. Since Wilcox was the only person in the Navy who knew how to contact her directly, he requested she set up a time and place.

Wilcox reached out to her friend, and Angel suggested a public meeting in a city park. So, here they were.

No one spoke as the four of them sat uncomfortably on a long bench in one of Yorkton’s municipal parks. They looked in different directions, too. Wilcox watched a young mother pushing her little boy in a swing several meters away.

Finally, after several minutes of silence, Smithers spoke.

“Are we sure she’s coming?”

The two officers glanced at the Sergeant.

Wilcox lifted her eyebrows.

“She said she’d be here.”

Privately, Wilcox scanned the surroundings once more, looking for Angel’s telltale trace from her camo unit. She knew what to look for, and could easily tell whether the Resistance operative was in the area or not.

At last, she breathed a sigh of relief when she spotted the unit’s signature.

“She’s headed this way. About a hundred meters out, past the swing set.”

All three men stared in that general direction, but they could not see anything. Smithers gave the Sergeant a speculative look.

When Julia came within 20 meters, Wilcox stood. After a slight pause, the three men stood also.

Julia stepped out of camouflage and seemed to materialize in front of them.

Wilcox noted Smith’s eye’s narrowing slightly. She thought, he’s probably trying to figure out how to steal the technology.

Then she smothered the thought. It was not nice to think ill of someone on your own side. Even if it was probably true.

Smithers stepped forward with his hand out.

“Agent Angel? My name is Smithers, RNI. I’m very glad to meet you.”

Julia looked down at his hand, then met his eye.

“I’m sure you’ll appreciate why I don’t want to make physical contact, Mr. Smithers.”

Smithers grinned at the comment. He said, “This is not the holos, ma’am. I don’t have a tracing dye to smear on your hands or anything.”

“Nonetheless, I’m taking a risk just meeting you. I’d prefer to minimize the possibility for things to go wrong, if at all possible.”

Smithers withdrew his hand and pocketed it, keeping the grin on his angular face.

“Understood. Look, we’re all on the same side, and I wanted to thank you personally for your efforts in capturing Vicki Fenner.”

Julia nodded. She and Wilcox had joined forces in taking out the former Juventas SSI Director. One of the last active enemy operatives on this planet, Fenner had gone deep into hiding and actively set about murdering Marines who wandered from their groups. She got away with it far too long, too.

Angel and Wilcox teamed up to take her out, the Sergeant acting as bait and Julia serving as her backup. When Fenner attacked, they worked together to overpower her. Currently, the former director remained in sedation locked up in a brig somewhere in orbit.

“It was your Sergeant here who deserves most of the credit for that, Mr. Smithers.”

Julia nodded toward Wilcox.

“Regardless, your help was invaluable.”

He paused, smile frozen. Julia looked him over and reached a conclusion.

“So, because we work well as a team, that’s why you asked for a meeting? You want something. RNI does not just meet with people to thank them. You’d like me to help you with something.”

Smithers shrugged. If her guess perturbed him, he did not show it.

He said, “Again, we’re all on the same side, Angel. You have done a most excellent job preparing Juventas in its flip to our side. If you are willing, we would like to send you to the next League world we plan on taking.”

Julia raised a speculative eyebrow at this comment.

Wilcox’s face dropped. That was unexpected, she thought. Huh. Send a Resistance agent into another League planet to see if she could recreate her success there. How about that?

Smithers’s angular grin broke out again, creasing his face.

“And since you and the Sergeant here make such a good team, we’d like to send you both in.”

Wilcox’s jaw dropped.



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