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But Now I See
 

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But Now I See


  Table of Contents

  About But Now I See

  Praise for The Indigo Reports series

  Title Page

  But Now I See

  Did you enjoy this story? How to make a big difference!

  The next book in the Indigo Reports series.

  Sneak Peak: Kiss Across Seas

  Chapter One

  About the Author

  Other books by Tracy Cooper-Posey

  Copyright Information

  About But Now I See

  A lethal cat and mouse game.

  To pay off a long-standing debt, Tatiana Wang, captain of the freeship Hathaway, takes aboard a politically high-risk passenger. When the Hathaway is caught by the Karassian military’s flagship, led by the biocomp captain Yishmeray, “high risk” becomes “deadly.”

  The But Now I See novelette is part of the Indigo Reports space opera series by award-winning SF author Tracy Cooper-Posey.

  The Indigo Reports series:

  0.5 Flying Blind

  1.0 New Star Rising

  1.1 But Now I See

  2.0 Suns Eclipsed

  3.0 Worlds Beyond

  …and more to come.

  Praise for The Indigo Reports series

  Tracy makes the world come alive and by the time you get to the end of the story your sitting on the edge.

  An exciting glimpse of what's to come by this author in the SciFi genre.

  True SciFi is a magnificent world to enter and this is just the beginning of what I know will be a great series.

  Hits all the things that I love about Sci-fi.

  So much story!! So much promise!! This will keep my inner nerd happy.

  Keeping close tabs on this new Sci-fi series.

  I am a big fan of Tracy Cooper-Posey’s because I thoroughly enjoy the intrigue she generates with her fictional-but-believable worlds and unpredictable plots

  This little window into the world of SciFi did not disappoint me, in fact, I think I'm addicted!!

  But Now I See

  Freeship Hathaway. Cardenas Extended Spacezone.

  The second time Maximilian Cardenas Scordini de Deluca stepped onto Captain Tatiana Wang’s bridge, he left as deep an impression as the first, yet they were very different impressions.

  Someone has beaten experience into him lately, Tatiana thought. She held still as the Eriuman lieutenant came toward her, his stride across the steel plating of the bridge deck sure and even.

  Everyone on the bridge had grown still, warily watching Lieutenant Cardenas approach their captain. Ruh stood stiffly just in front and to one side of Tatiana, his arms crossed and his legs spread. He was in full protection mode, but he did not attempt to stop Cardenas when the taller man moved passed him. Cardenas didn’t even look at Ruh.

  Cardenas was not wearing his pretty purple uniform with the gold braid and ribbons. Instead, his jacket was simple and dark, the trousers even darker. The shirt beneath had no collar, was soiled, rumpled and looked as though he had been wearing it for days. His chin was dark with growth. Fatigue pulled at his black eyes and made his shoulders slump.

  His gaze was still direct, though. He remained the privileged son of Erium even though his life had clearly not been easy or pleasant lately.

  When the woman stepped out from behind Cardenas, Tatiana was only surprised it was a female accompanying Cardenas. The skiff Ruh had maneuvered into the cargo bay with the grappling beams had been small and scans had told them there were two people aboard.

  Tatiana spotted blood on the woman’s long skirt and silky shirt, beneath the oversized male jacket only just hanging on her shoulders. The woman had Eriuman-black hair and eyes and dark olive skin. Her skin glowed with care and good health. Tatiana also spotted the familial features—the similarity to Maximillian Cardenas in her dark, direct gaze and the determined chin. With a jolt, Tatiana realized who this must be—the sister the lieutenant had spoken of when they had first met four years ago. This was the woman whose influence had made Max let Tatiana and her family go, despite Eriuman policy.

  Tatiana’s gaze dropped to the blood stains again. They were stale, stiff, dark brown patches. There had been a lot of blood. The trouble that had forced Maximilian Cardenas to reach out to Tatiana involved his sister.

  “Captain Wang,” the lieutenant said, in accented Common. “I appreciate your timely arrival here.”

  Tatiana had forgotten the accent, although she had remembered every word he had said the first time he had boarded her ship. “We are in Eriuman space,” she said. “Right over Cardenas itself. The satellites are thick, here. We won’t go undetected for long, so I suggest you get to business.”

  “You won’t be seen,” Cardenas said. “I have a…friend, who is making sure of that as we speak.”

  Tatiana let out a breath. She trusted him in this matter, especially as his sister was with him. She knew he was trying to protect her right now, although the shape of the threat was still unknown to Tatiana.

  “Do you have it?” Cardenas asked.

  “Have what?”

  “The button.”

  Tatiana couldn’t help but smile. Then he had deliberately dropped it. She moved around the navigation table and over to the high bench that was her desk and control dashboard, terminal and command post. She opened the left-hand drawer and pulled out the tiny box from the back of it and opened it.

  The purple fragment of cloth still clung to the back of the gilt button. Tatiana picked up the button and moved back to where the two Eriumans stood in the middle of the open area of the bridge, surrounded by Tatiana’s crew.

  Tatiana held out the button. “You are about to ask me to repay this, aren’t you, Lieutenant?”

  He took the button. “Max, for now,” he said shortly. He rested his hand on the shoulder of the woman standing next to him. She was not much shorter than him and Max Cardenas was a tall man. “This is my sister, Bellona.”

  Bellona considered Tatiana for a moment, then gave her a very small nod.

  “Welcome aboard my ship, Bellona,” Tatiana told her. She looked at Max and waited.

  “I want you to take Bellona to Cerce,” Max said.

  Not, “Can you take her?” There was no question in there anywhere.

  Tatiana hid her sigh, looking at the button she had just given back to him, held between his fingers. “If we are found with one of the Scordinii aboard, by any navy, it will not go well.”

  “About as well as it went for me, when I had to explain why I let a freeship go, four years ago.” His tone was even. There was no threat there. He was simply explaining the facts.

  Tatiana nodded. “Very well, then. This will clear the debt between us?”

  “It will.”

  Ruh’s arms dropped. “Tia, no! This is…madness.”

  Max barely glanced at him. He had already assessed Ruh as no threat.

  Tatiana scowled. “I apologize. My brother has forgotten who is captain.”

  Max Cardenas and his sister merely nodded.

  Tatiana experienced a sudden urge to see either of them smile. The sadness dripped from them, making her heart beat hard. “Once I have brought your sister to Cerce, then what? A daughter of the Eriuman will be noticed.”

  Max did not look at his sister, or confer with her in any way. “If you would print her some clothes from your files, Bellona will take care of the rest.”

  “The rest of what?” Tatiana asked curiously.

  Max cleared his throat. “I don’t know. I do not want to know. My part in this is at an end. I have taken her off Cardenas and away from…and away.”

  Bellona curled her hand around his arm. Tatiana could see her fingers whiten as she squeezed. Her throat worked.

  Max gave a soft sound and
turned to take her in his arms in a tight, hard hold. Bellona clung just as tightly and while the entire bridge watched, they held each other without shame or embarrassment.

  Ruh scowled at the pair. As a male and the head of his own nuclear family which included three grown daughters, he did not approve of such a public demonstration, for he had been raised to the same standards as Tatiana. She, though, understood why the pair cared nothing for who watched them. Whatever the trouble that had brought them here, it was grave enough for them to believe this would be the last time they saw each other. It would force just about anyone to put aside propriety, even her own stiff-necked, proper family.

  When Max let his sister go, he blinked hard and cleared his throat again. He picked up her hand. “In a while…I don’t know how long…when I think it’s safe, I’ll have Sang come and find you.” He was speaking in Eriuman, although Tatiana had no trouble following it. She had made herself fluent in both Eriuman and the two most popular dialects the Karassians used, in the last few years.

  Bellona shook her head. “You can’t risk it. They’ll be watching you, waiting for you to do exactly that.” She had a pleasant voice, nicely modulated and well-trained, each word spoken beautifully. “You have to go back and erase any trail, then pretend to be as shocked as anyone else.”

  Max looked as though he wanted to protest. She gripped his hand even harder. “You must,” she insisted. “You’re all Mother has left, now.”

  Max considered her for a long moment. Then, reluctantly, he nodded and let her hand go. He squared his shoulders and faced Tatiana once more. “You have my gratitude, Captain,” he said, sliding back into Common.

  Tatiana nodded. “I understand how valuable Eriuman gratitude can be. Thank you. I will see your sister safely delivered.”

  His gaze dropped to the deck. She saw him take a deep breath. Then he straightened, spun on his heel and stalked off the Bridge, heading for the main passage that would take him back down to the cargo hold. Again, he did not so much as glance at Ruh as he passed him.

  Bellona watched the passage long after her brother could no longer be seen. Tatiana moved back around to her bench and started launch prep as the woman stood transfixed.

  The preparations forced Ruh back to his own desk next to Tatiana—he had graduated from the Comms terminal years ago.

  It was only after the ship shuddered under the impact of opening the cargo hold doors in a vacuum and the little skiff dropped out of the Hathaway’s belly and back down to the planet’s atmosphere that Max’s sister moved. “If I could have some warm water and access to an assembler, I would be grateful.” Her accent in Common was thick and laborious, although that was to be expected. Eriuman women were sheltered, insular creatures who rarely emerged from their homebases. In her eighty-plus years, Tatiana had seen a dozen or more Eriuman officers and fighters—all of them male. Bellona was the first Eriuman woman she had met.

  Tatiana might have supposed that Bellona’s formal words, the polite tone and the woman’s stiff posture indicated she was barely moved by her brother’s departure. As Ruh took over the launch sequence while Tatiana arranged for one of the passenger cabins to be opened up for her, Bellona didn’t move, not even to wipe the twin rivulets of tears marking her clear, high cheeks.

  * * * * *

  As soon as they were safely back in null-space, Ruh asked stiffly to speak to Tatiana in her office. As Tatiana had reason to speak to him in private, too, she acquiesced and made her way back to the cramped little room, with Ruh following. She moved stiffly. She had been on her feet for too long. Lately, her hips and knees protested if she didn’t rest properly and she was nearly always tired.

  As Ruh shut the door behind them, Tatiana spoke to the computer. “Yellow light, forty percent.”

  The dim lights came up, illuminating the tiny desk and the two chairs in front of it. The terminal screen was still hanging in the air, showing an image of her great granddaughter, Zita, on her fifth birthday, a sunshiny girl with her grandfather’s eyes. Tatiana rarely bothered to put the screen away. The flow of documents and details never ended. Whoever had claimed that being captain of their own freeship was romantic had never stopped to consider the role was essentially the same as the head of any large corporation. It ate up her life and her time.

  Not that she would ever consider giving it up. At least…not quite yet. Which was probably why Ruh was glaring at her from under his thick brows again. The question about his succession to captain had been delayed and put off for years and years. He was a patient man—or Tatiana would have never considered giving him the job—yet she knew his patience was wearing thin.

  As she sat with a soft sigh of relief, he spoke. “She’ll get us all killed.” In the low light, his thick black hair glinted with blue highlights. Like Tatiana, Ruh was not going to go gray until his most senior years. Except she had by-passed gray and turned white almost overnight. It was still sometimes a novelty to look in the mirror and see the stranger looking back at her. She had fifteen years more than Ruh, though. He still had time.

  “We’re in null space already,” Tatiana pointed out. “Straight to Cerce, no detours, then the deed is done and we’ll no longer be obligated to an Eriuman.”

  “You mean, I will not be obligated, right?” he asked softly.

  Tatiana punched at the desk controls, bringing up her in-box, while she tried to find something to say in response that had not already been said a dozen times already.

  “You know who she is, don’t you?” Ruh said.

  “Maximillian Cardenas’ sister?” Tatiana asked, with an innocent tone.

  Ruh rolled his eyes. The epicanthic fold was deeper on his eyes than Tatiana had seen in anyone else in the family. In a way, he was a throwback to far older generations and sometimes his attitude was, too—his discomfort with Max and his sister’s emotional parting was a good example. Now, Ruh was back to impatience, because the world was not aligning the way he would prefer.

  “You’re not the only one who has been studying the Eriumans and the Karassians, Tia,” he said. “You insisted I learn all that crap and I did, because I thought it would please you. It means I know exactly who those two are. The Cardenas family is the senior family in the Scordinas clan. The Scordinii are one of the primary clans. Reynard Cardenas is the head of not just the Cardenas family, but all the clans. And we’re stealing his daughter away!”

  “You saw them both,” Tatiana said. “They’re afraid and they’re in trouble. You think if Reynard Cardenas knew about that trouble, he would just sit back and let them run away? He doesn’t know a thing, Ruh.”

  “Maybe he is the trouble,” Ruh said darkly. “Have you thought of that?”

  “If he was, then both of them would be sitting in the passenger cabins right now.” Tatiana shook her head. “She is the one covered in blood. Besides, we are settling a debt that is long overdue. If this is what he wants in return for saving my entire family and everyone I hold dear, then I will make sure it happens.”

  Ruh shifted his feet, spreading them into the at-ease posture that intimidated everyone on the bridge except Tia. He might be a head taller than her, yet she could bring him down if she had to. The day she couldn’t was the day she really did need to give up this desk. Unfortunately, that day was swiftly approaching.

  “Is that why you have hung on for so long?” Ruh asked. “You didn’t think I would honor the debt?”

  “Of course that is not the reason. You know the reasons. We’ve been over them and over them.” She waved her hand impatiently. “We can discuss this once we’re back on Cerce. Now is not the time.”

  His full lips twisted. “There’s always an excuse, isn’t there?”

  Tatiana clamped down on her own impatience. If she deplored the trait in Ruh, it was because she was as guilty as he of displaying it. She took a breath. Let it out. “I will settle on Cerce soon, Ruh. You’re old enough and smart enough to do this job. You have learned a lot, in the last few years. You just hav
e to give me a bit more time to complete the changes we are making.”

  “You’re going to ram them down my throat whether I want them or not, aren’t you?” He threw out his hand. “Taking everyone off the ship weakens the family. It divides us.”

  And now they were at the nub of it. “It protects us,” Tatiana replied as evenly and calmly as she could. “If everyone who is not needed to fly the ship is living dirtside, then what happened to us four years ago can never happen again.” She thought back to the moments when Maximilian Cardenas’ ship had been overhead, in the perfect position to blow her entire family—roots, branches, leaves and all—out of existence. Only Max’s empathy for family had stayed his hand.

  Tatiana’s utter helplessness that day had driven her to make changes that had caused more muttering and protests in the last four years than any other time before. Settling the majority of the family on Cerce had been the major change and the hardest one to put into practice. Everyone had been raised on board the Hathaway. Adapting to dirtside living had caused problems. Ruh was not the only one to speak negatively of the breaking of traditions and customs. Tatiana had been adamant, though. She never wanted to feel that sick-making weakness ever again.

  The ship was no longer a family freeship. It was a corporate-owned and run business now. Tatiana held controlling interest, which she would give to Ruh when she stepped down.

  “We’re nearly there,” Tatiana assured Ruh. “Settling everyone on Cerce was expensive. It drained our reserves. I don’t want to hand the ship over to you with no operating capital.”

  “I think you just don’t want to hand over the ship at all,” Ruh said flatly.

  “Not true.”

  “You want to live forever, on your precious bridge.”

  “Ruh!”

  He crossed his arms once more. “Why do you like that Eriuman so much more than me?”

  Tatiana sat back, her mouth dropping open. The soundless, formless confusion roiled in her mind. She sought to comprehend that her brother, a grown man and father, was jealous of a young foreigner she had known for a grand total of perhaps twenty minutes. “That is also not true,” she said at last. It was a weak protest.

 
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