Liishi watched the verbal play between Tariq and his crew, noted the glances cast towardHobbsas he sat in silent frustration. A frustration she all too well understood in her dealings with government red tape. You want to get something done, and some faceless bureaucrat tells you it cannot. She shook her head, unable to fathom what problem Tariq could have with the Pantera navy.
Then the knoz captain cleared his throat and said, “This is Captain Tariq of—”
“Captain Tariq. We meet again.” The pantera commander’s reply neatly sliced Tariq’s declaration. Rude, definitely. Uncalled for, certainly.
And the sudden wave of hatred and heat emanating from Tariq forced Liishi back a step. A simple shifting of stance and clenching one fist spoke his thoughts, and that alone told Liishi the captain was one knoz she did not want to cross. “Prime Sergeant Harcon,” Tariq managed to squeeze past lips locked into a smile more grimace than genuine. “I haven’t thought about you since—just how long ago was it you abandoned me and my men?”
Liishi’s wave caught Moe’s attention. “Who’s this guy?” she asked as she slid next to the ursa.
He shrugged, one eye on his captain, the other on the boards showing the “enemy” pantera ship slowly closing the gap between them. “Bit of a prick the boss has had problems with since TalonVII,” he whispered in return.
“The title is now commander,” Harcon replied to Tariq’s jab. “And my team did not abandon you and yours. We achieved our ordered goals and left the theatre as stated in my after action report oh-so-long ago.” There was slight pause. “Perhaps you did not take the time to read the report just as you failed to read the most up-to-date intelligence reports before you led your team into an ambush.”
Liishi glanced at Tariq who seemed completely oblivious to the pantera captain’s harassment. A look at Hobbstold her the bov had one hand over the weapons consoles and a strong desire to fire off every one. She caught his attention and shook her head unsure why Tariq was just staring at the Majestic floating in the view screen.
“As much as I’d like to continue our reminiscence of times past, that is, I am afraid, not my reason for being here,” Harcon continued. “The bov ship over which you hover sent out a distress signal. It is obvious you have been here for awhile, and as it is my duty to protect all shipping vessels in this sector of space, I must ask you to power down your weapons and lower you shields. You will need to submit your ship for inspection.”
At that moment, Tariq blinked, shook his head as though drifting from a dream. He made a slashing sign across his throat, and Moe silenced the hiss of the coms.
“What now?” asked the bov and ursa simultaneously.
Tariq glanced at Liishi who lifted one shoulder. “I get this guy’s a jerk. The name Harcon sounds familiar though. Somehow related to a major political dustup a few years ago, shortly after the war. Seems a Harcon was caught receiving kickbacks for dumping enemy ordnance recovered from minefields,” she said. “The stuff was to be destroyed but wound up—somehow—back on the streets.” Rubbing her nose, she added, “My father was the one who figured things out and blew the whistle on them.”
Moe spun his chair around, eyes narrowing. “Hey, wasn’t the guy who did that a prince or something? I remember a news item about the royalty seldom getting involved in daily politics. This was something different from the usual.”
“Or something,” Liishi admitted.
“Doesn’t surprise me his family would be connected to that sort of thing,” Tariq grunted. “Moe, you have any signature on whatever may have hit the Majestic?”
A quick look at the boards, and Moe nodded. “Weak, but there is a trail leading galactic northwest of here. Harcon’s ship would detect it, too.”
Tariq shook his head. “He’s interested in chasing pirates only so long as it boosts his career. We’re a convenient pirate.” He turned his good eye to Liishi. “Don’t want him tracking us to your rendezvous, so we play cat and mouse with him. That OK with you?”
“I’ve never had any interest in being a mouse,” Liishi sniffed. “But my orders are no outside involvement in my meet. That does include pantera navy.”
“Good. Moe, letBilbaoknow to dump everything into the engines on my mark.” Tariq moved around to his seat and dropped into it. “Hobbs, drop power on the weapons and shields when I say.”
“Captain, that guy’s gonna—“
“I know. And, Hobbs, we’ll find whoever hit your cousin’s ship. But first, we need its assistance.” Tariq cleared his throat and relaxed in his seat. “Hail Commander Harcon again.”