Syndicate Files: The Sister - Part 14

At a gesture from Haakinen, Envelan was yanked forward to stand in front of the desk, beside Sia's chair. Everyone seemed to have forgotten me and Auvy, which was just fine as far as I was concerned.

"I have a package I need moved," Haakinen said. "A small package. And a sensitive one."

Sia nodded, looking a little pale. "You want me to take it?"

"Through null-sec?" Envelan protested. "Sia, no. I- I've got the implants too. I'll do it. I can fly a shuttle."

Saying that seemed to scare her a lot more than the idea of being tossed out an airlock had a few seconds before.

Haakinen glanced from Envelan to Sia, "I had understood that your implants were... non-functional, Ms Envelan. Regardless, it doesn't matter to me who does it as long as it gets done. But whoever it is better be able to do it."

"I can," Sia said. "I have a good fit. Fast."

"A shuttle's fast," Envelan countered. "It's my mess."

"A shuttle?" Sia said. "In null-sec? Through gate camps and bubbles? No, Ani. Be sensible. I'm the pilot. Would you let me lead a boarding party instead of you?"

Envelan shook her head, jaw set, face white. "That's different. I don't want you tangled -" She snapped her mouth shut, then said "I don't want you here."

"Maybe it's different," Sia said. "And maybe you don't want me here. But I am. And I think I have a better chance of getting through. Don't you?" She reached out and put her hand over Envelan's. "It won't take long. I'll be right back, and ... we can talk then."

Envelan closed her eyes for a second, and then her expression hardened and she yanked her hand out from under Sia's. "My answer's not going to be any different then."

"Of course," Haakinen said, "if something should happen and the package is lost, some other way to pay the debt will need to be found. I will see that your sister and associates are well taken care of until you return, Ms Ross."

The threat was really just a formality, we all knew what'd happen if Sia didn't do the job. But then, Haakinen seemed like a formal kinda guy.

Sia glanced at him, and then looked back at Envelan. "Nothing will happen. And if anything happens to my sister while I'm away, M'ser ..." She paused. "They tell me I am likely to live a very long time."

Haakinen inclined his head. "We understand each other," he said. "The package will be waiting for you at the Intaki Commerce Trading Post station in DP34-U. And it is delicate, Captain Ross. Do not take too long."

Sia stood up and glanced at Envelan, who shot a startled glance at Sia exactly as if the pilot had spoken.

She had, I realized. Guess Sia isn't the only one in the room with an internal neocom.

The two women looked at each other for a moment, and then Envelen shrugged a little and nodded.

A flicker of hurt showed in Sia's eyes as she turned and left, face pale but head held high.

They offered Auvy and me seats once the grown-ups were done discussing business. Envelan took out a pack of cigarettes, and without asking Haakinen if he minded, lit one with the same combustible fingersnap she'd used before. Sitting there, feeling like I was facing a school exam except this time it was one I had to let someone else take for me, I almost wished I smoked. It seemed to keep Envelan calm, except for the fine tremor in those metal fingers holding the cigarette.

Her unfocused gaze fixed on the floor, she muttered something. Thinking she was trying to avoid Haakinen overhearing something, I leaned over and hissed, "What?"

She blinked and frowned, then hissed back in a rush, "Wasn't talking to you."

Right. Most people learn pretty quick to keep their internal neocom conversations, well, internal.

Mind, most people generally weren't the casein-grey color Envelan had gone, and most people wouldn't have been sweating that much in a pleasantly temperature-controlled room.

She drew on her cigarette again, the tremor gone to a shake, and muttered, "Use the cloak. Hit warp, cloak right away.Good. You're doing good. I'm not going anywhere. Just - " She clenched her jaw and bent forward, almost suppressing a groan.

I wasn't the only one who could recognize withdrawal.

"Something to make your wait more comfortable?" Haakinen asked. The corners of his mouth twitched up again, "On the house."

Envelan glanced at him. "" Her chattering teeth nipped the words into little pieces, but her expression was crystal clear. She bowed her head, eyes closed, and murmured "Just be careful. I'm here. You'll be okay."

Auvy and I waited, me at least trying to eavesdrop, until Envelan's whispered Thank the Ancestors and a blink on the display on Haakinen's desk both signaled Sia's safe arrival back at the station.

Envelan opened her eyes and went to draw on the cigarette that had burned itself to the filter between her fingers. She grimaced and flicked it away, tapping out another with hands shaking so badly it took her three tries to get the cigarette in her mouth.

"She says you can have your package when we're all at the hangar," Envelan said.

They hustled us down there, and there were a couple of tense moments with Sia and her guards on one side with Haakinen's package on a cargo-loader, and us on the other. Lots of people with guns and hard stares. I took Auvy's hand to make her feel better, or maybe to make me feel better. Envelan stared at the floor, shivering.

"The package first, please," Haakinen said.

Sia shook her head. "At the same time, I think."

He nodded slightly. Sia gave a signal and the trolley edged forward. The three of us started forward as well, dodging the trolley as we passed it.

Sia's guards closed around us and I breathed a sigh of relief, and realized how strange my life had gotten: surrounded by a podder's armed guards inside her hangar wasn't what most people thought of as safe.

She reached out to Envelan. Envelan, pale and sweating, kept her distance.

Sia let her hand drop to her side.

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