Temper, Temper

Characters: Peter Carlacci

As Ryath disappeared into the dark, Peter Carlacci took a deep breath, trying to calm the wave of anger that threatened to boil out of him. How dare she, he thought. After threatening him and questioning his competence, how dare she —

Stop it, Carlacci, he told himself. Now’s not the time. Closing his eyes, he struggled to still his mind, using every bit of meditation training he’d ever got from the Rangers.

As his mind emptied, one insight remained, one that helped calm him also. She’s a child. She’s a grown woman, a technomage, but she still thinks and acts like a child. He pictured the cryotube back in Ryath’s ship. “You taught her plenty about magic, pal,” he said softly, “but I think you came up a bit short in the ‘plays well with others’ department.”

Putting his companion out of his mind, Peter focused on the task immediately — and literally — in front of him. He stood now at one of the back entrances to the Centauri Ministry of Information building. Most if not all of the computers inside should be networked. If he could break into the system at any one point, he should be able to find whatever he needed anywhere else in the system — probably anywhere else on the planet.

He looked at the string of badge-keys he’d taken from the guard, and then at the door. A few minutes of thought and judicious fiddling, and he was standing on the inside of the door, watching it close behind him.

He moved quickly through the corridors, not trying to hide but rather to appear as just one more overworked, underpaid minor functionary, trying to get his job done.

Two floors up, he found an unlocked door. He slipped inside. The room was dark. Locking the door behind him, he took a few steps further in, looking around as his eyes adjusted to the dim.

Bingo. Data processing center. He moved between two rows of tall computing banks, until he came to the access terminal. He sat down, pulling several of his own data crystals from a pocket.

He placed one into the reader port and woke the terminal. At once, the program on the crystal loaded itself and went to work opening the system. After several minutes, the terminal blinked and the crystal glowed under his hand.

He removed it, replacing it with the high capacity crystal Ryath had given him, and settled in to search through the police and customs records for Mira Trassano. It didn’t take as long as he expected. She had made planetfall a scant two weeks ago, and was reportedly staying with family members.

He caught his breath. She’d been arrested six days ago, caught breaking into a market and stealing food. He couldn’t help a smile. You’ve always been soft-hearted, haven’t you, Mira? There was no hearing date set yet, not surprisingly. She should still be at the same prison.

A few more searches revealed the prison’s location as well as a set of blueprints, which he also transferred to the crystal. There would be time to study those later.

He consulted his chrono. Barely an hour had passed. He bit his lip as he pulled Ryath’s crystal from the port and replaced it with one of his own.

He remembered her warning, to not spend time looking for other information. Perhaps defying her was being childish in his turn. But he also knew that she hadn’t had much time to do whatever it was she had come here for. He knew damn well she hadn’t come to Centauri Prime just for his benefit, no matter what she said.

Staying within the nets at the Justice Ministry, he pulled down a list of everyone arrested out of the Imperial Palace in the last year. Then he risked a look into the networks at the Ministry of Defence, to see what he could get on the state of the Centauri fleet. He remembered how strange the readings on the ships at the Quadrant 37 jumpgate had been.

He swapped out crystals as they filled with data, until the ones he had brought with him were full. Ryath’s crystal could hold a lot more, but better not to use that, he thought.

Finally, he shut the terminal down, and made his way out of the building, quick and quiet. He found a way out that was different from where he’d come in, and ditched the stolen badge-keys as soon as he was clear.

At the corner of a small park a block away from the Ministry building, Peter pulled the broken pocket watch from his jacket, scratching the back of his head with the other hand. The hair putty was starting to seriously itch.

He spoke quietly into the gadget.

“Ryath. I’m ready for you.”

Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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