Chapter 41

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2007 

Dara paced while I thought.

“We’ve gotta get him out of there now,” she hissed.

“I know. But we won’t do him a bit of good if we’re caught trying you know,” I replied as I studied the blueprints of Sutta.  Paxx had provided a security code to let me get into the main computer system. I didn’t ask whose it was. I seriously doubted it was Chola’s. His would have been blocked long before.

“So show me again where Hodran puts his torturees?” I asked squinting at the plans.

Dara let out a sob, which upset me more than anything else had in years. Okay, I had an even better reason to get him out of here, then. She was really in love with the guy. Okay, he was probably hot in looks. Women liked that type. Strong, dark, dangerous as hell. I figured if Chola got out of here alive I’d put money down on Hodran not being long for the world.


I went back to studying the blueprints and let Paxx point me to where Hodran kept cells.


“You been there?” I asked Paxx.

“Yeah,” he replied. “It ain’t pleasant.”

“But you got out of here alive.”

“True,” Paxx admitted. “But then he wasn’t accusing me of betraying him, I was just being a stubborn trader who wouldn’t  do what he wanted me to do.”

I understood. Then I grilled him on everything he could remember about the place. What the doors were made of, what the locks were like. The lighting. Did it dim for simulated nighttime on Sutta? Were there physical guards on the doors or did the monitors inevidence throughout keep the brass happy. And just who were the brass, what with Chola having jumped ship. Might he have some allies we could count on to help when push came to shove? Or were they all like loyal to Hodran and ready to get rid of him permanently to make room for themselves.

It all factored in, and it all had to be considered. I didn’t, for instance, wanna shoot guys who might be counted on to forget they saw us, or purposefully miss a shot.  Still, who knew? Hodran, and the syndicate in general, ran their show based mostly on coercion and fear. They were powerful motivators and when you saw those who betrayed the Syndicate pay, well, it just reinforced the willingness not to dare to take a stand against them.

Finally several hours later, after pacing and thinking I nodded, and studied the plans one last time.  “Okay, I think I got a plan.”



We had to wait for Dermot. Card games, especially high stakes card games, take time. We slept. Well, okay, Dara and Paxx slept. Well, okay, I’m not sure she actually slept either although I was sure Paxx did. He had that spacer talent down pat.  You know, the one where you drop into a chair, no matter how uncomfortable, and you grab a nap for the 10 minutes or 10 hours you could.

Me I couldn’t sleep mainly because I was wondering where Amath was, and worrying about her. And Paxx wasn’t telling because I’d asked him earlier. I figured she and he had some Guild Trader contacts here and it was something to do with that. Even so, I felt miffed he didn’t trust me enough to tell me what was going on.

It was a few hours before dawn when I saw Paxx awake, check the time, and then slip out of the room. I didn’t much like it. I though seriously of following him. But then I’d seen him in action and I seriously doubted I could have stayed on his tail.  He knew Sutta intimately and I got lost after only several unconnected stairwells.  I was still pondering all of this when Sutta’s simulated dawn began.

 A few hours later and I was getting kind of panicky again, wondering just where Dermot was.  Dara didn’t look much less worried than I.

Finally the miscreant sauntered in.  Well, he looked a bit grey faced, and he more staggered than sauntered, but at least he was there and in one piece.

“Don’t tell me,” I groaned. “One of the bounty hunters spotted you.”

He nodded. “I had to lose him in the mobs in the main casino. I think we’d better stick to the service hallways from now on.”

“Christ, Dermot, was it really worth it to take that sort of risk? For a bloody card game?”

He looked at me with his serious I’m being honest with you look, which was quite often his I’m lying to you through my teeth but you can’t prove it look

“I played with a Baron. One who hates Bahnderad. He’s promised us a distraction Apparently he owes Paxx, or better Amath I’m thinking, a favor or two.”

He owed Amath a favor or two?  I frowned and didn’t like what I was suddenly feeling. We didn’t like have a relationship, Amath and me, but even so…  I tended to get a bit cavemanish from time to time. It was a failing, but at least I knew it.

“Well, we’ll just have to factor all that in,” I replied and sat him down and explained the plan as I’d drawn it up the night before, showing Paxx and Dara how it would work. Dermot was grinning by the end of my explanation. He slapped me on the back enthusiastically and went to get ready.

I paced.  My only worry was that I hadn’t briefed Amath. I wasn’t sure how good she was at improvisation.

Still, I really hated waiting and that was about over. Now we’d find out if I had half a brain and either get Chola out without getting us caught or we wouldn’t. I’d done my best, tried to anticipate problems, done the best I could to allow room for impromptu changes (with Dermot and Paxx that was always the best plan cuz neither of them EVER stuck with the script), and used our rather unconventional resources that, hopefully, not even Hodran or the Syndicate would think of in time to block us from using them.

We were as ready as we were ever gonna be in the time we had to use. So I just strapped on my flak jacket, checked my weapons and got my head into the right groove.

It was show time.