Spies To Rent
Mira felt confident and calm as she glided through the halls of Babylon 5. She was headed to the Zocolo to see if some old family friends were still living here.
Her father had met Zahron Trillobun in his younger years when he was first beginning his medical practice. Zahron had suffered some serious wounds after a shuttle crash. He had just been beginning in his trade of choice, the import/export of luxuries.
Looking around the Zocolo, Mira wondered how he could be making ends meet. People don’t have much to spend on luxuries these days.
She finally found his shop and saw only a “Closed” sign. Peering through the bars, she saw nothing but bare shelves and empty hooks. The doctor sighed and smoothed her skirts as she turned away. Well, it was a shot in the dark, she thought. I couldn’t really expect them to still be here, with the way anti-Centauri feelings have been made plain lately.
She felt an out of place breeze and something told her that a hand was reaching for her from behind. She quickly reached behind her to grab the offending hand and twisted the wrist sharply. There was a gasp and a thud as the sudden pain forced the man to his knee. Mira checked herself before she punched him and said, “Zahron?”
“Yes,” his voice was strained. “Could you let go of my hand?”
Mira quickly switched her grip to massage the abused appendage as she apologized. “I’m so sorry, Zahron. I saw the sign on your shop and assumed that you had left the station. Why are you still here and why are lurking about in the shadows?”
Zahron smiled wanly. “My wife had a dream last night. She does that sometimes. Many of her female relatives have been chosen as the Emperor’s telepathic companions. She woke this morning and told me to come here and wait for a face from the past. That would be you, young Mira. Come, we will go to my home and my wife will be happy to see that you are well.”
“So, Vir has no idea that there are underground activists on Centauri Prime trying to undermine the current government. Well, that means that Plan A isn’t going to work.” Peter stretched out on the couch in the quarters that they were borrowing.
Ryath was sitting with them in the chair, while Mira was sitting on a small pile of pillows on the floor. She was most comfortable when she was able to indulge in the idiosyncrasies of her family. They had always preferred the floor to chairs and settees.
“No,” Mira agreed, “Plan A won’t work. But Zahron has a very good idea that might make a lovely Plan B. If the Ambassador doesn’t like it then there’s no harm done, because he’s too moral a man to betray me to the Centaurum. So, even if Vir wants no part of this venture, I intend to start a small group of spies myself. I will report to the Anla’shok of course, and if Vir has the wisdom to see the necessity of this, I will report to him as well.
“But I need a harmless way of meeting him. I need some way for us to be able to speak and also be able to deny any accusations of conspiring, should they arise. So I can’t go to his quarters or his office. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to kidnap him. What can I do?”
Peter sat up slightly. “I think I have an idea.”
Mira smoothed her skirt unconsciously as she waited for the signal. She was tucked behind a booth in the Zocolo waiting for Ambassador Vir. Peter was going to trip and knock something over when Vir was close enough for her to slip out and snag him. All she had to do was to get close enough to whisper in his ear.
After she had hooked him, she would take him to the bar where Ryath was waiting. Peter would join them later.
With Peter’s help, Mira had decided that having this discussion with the new Ambassador would be better in public. Yes, there was more chance of being spotted, but there was also a higher rate of plausible deniability. Ambassador Vir can call her anything from an irate ex-mistress to a would-be courtier. The Technomage had offered to use her abilities during the meeting to prevent eavesdroppers and more dangerous things. Mira could hardly refuse such a generous offer from so powerful a being, not that she wanted to refuse.
The doctor’s hands smoothed the skirt carefully. It was a beautiful dress. She still didn’t know how she possibly earned such a thing. But, then, she thought, perhaps matters of the heart use a different accounting system. He’s a good man, a good friend, and I’m afraid he might become more than that.
She perked her ears at the sound of a tinkle. No, Peter would be more definite than that. The image of an innocent-faced Peter tipping over a tall building sprang into her mind and made her smile. We are in too dangerous a business to fall in love. What am I thinking to do with him?
Mira closed her eyes and sighed. She decided to avoid thinking about Peter by reviewing her plan for this meeting. She was still wondering if Vir was going to agree with her when a sudden crash caught her attention. It was quickly followed by a shout and while everyone looked towards the booth that Peter had single-handedly dismantled, Mira slipped out of her hiding place.
She easily spotted Ambassador Vir and it didn’t take long to get beside him as he wasn’t moving. The Ambassador was watching Peter and the vendor slip and slide on the floor in what was once a fresh spoo display.
Vir tensed and reached for his pocket when Mira slipped her arm around his. Mira’s voice was calm and smooth in her native Centauri with none of its usual hesitation. “I wouldn’t do that, Ambassador. The Entil’zha tends to frown upon people who shoot Rangers. Actually, it’s generally a bad idea to try and damage Rangers.” Vir’s head whipped around and stared at her. “You should work on your response to surprise.” Mira grinned toothily at him as she steered him deeper into the Zocolo. “I just want to talk.”
Mira had that slightly tingly feeling that excitement brought as she walked back into the borrowed quarters. Ryath followed and settled on a chair in the lounge area. Peter looked up and saw Mira’s flushed face and sparkling eyes.
“It went well?”
“It went beautifully!” Mira practically bounced onto the couch beside him. “It did take a long time to convince him of the necessity of spies and that having a Ranger set it up for you to begin with would be a good way of starting on the left foot.”
“Right foot,” said Peter, smiling.
“Why can’t the left foot be the correct foot?” Mira waved her question away. “He is beginning to see the possibilities. I will leave for Homeworld tomorrow morning on the first shuttle. He gave me the money to buy a ticket at the gate. On the way back here, I stopped by Zahron’s and he gave me false identification.” Mira reached into her cleavage to unpin Peter’s Ranger pin that he had loaned her. When she handed it back to him he had a look on his face that she couldn’t identify.
“I will go to a safe house that Zahron has set up for me and contact him for funds to begin. I will burrow deeper into the underworld and find the right sort of people. Vir and I agree that I should take my time. There is need, but there is need for this to be done correctly. I do not think that I will be able to safely contact the Anla’shok more than three or four times a cycle. I expect to be there for a number of years before I feel confident enough in my work to be able to relinquish it to another.”
Mira studied Peter’s expression for a moment. “Do you think this will work?”
“Yes,” he said after a deep breath. “But … we need to talk, before you go.”
Copyright (c) 2003 Mona Hinds, Niki Hipwood, and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.