2950-08-02 – Tales from the Inbox: A Turncoat’s Reward 

We’re getting some details about last week’s skirmish in the Håkøya outskirts. It seems to have been an aborted attempt to capture an Incarnation-controlled mining installation which Naval Intelligence thinks employs Confederated captives as forced labor. Incarnation cruisers met and repelled the force before it got there, resulting in the sharp action we reported last week. Fifth Fleet’s detachment fought well by all accounts and all its major ships returned to Maribel, but the failure of the mission to liberate our countrymen is still quite disappointing. 

Jen Daley, you are clear to begin atmospheric entry. Proceed to your landing coordinates along the provided descent course.”  

The bored Cyclone groundside controller’s voice startled Ramiro out of his agitated thoughts. He’d been worried about giving the local customs agency Mr. A’s false identity imprint, but apparently his worries had been overblown. Neither the passenger’s identity nor his intended landing site raised any concerns at the planet’s single spaceport. 

“Copy, control.” Ramiro transferred the course sent by the spaceport to the navigation system. “Beginning descent.” 

“Do remember to wish your passenger a good stay on Cyclone.” 

As the planet outside the cockpit viewpanels slowly rolled over from being nearly “above” Ramiro to being below him, he switched on the intercom. “We’re headed down. Liv, secure the lounge.” 

“On it.” 

Though the autopilot could handle most atmospheric entries on its own, Ramiro rested his hands lightly on the yoke and scanned the controls as the gravitic drive fought against orbital velocity and the ship dove belly-first into the planet’s atmosphere. Though Jen Daley reduced its velocity relative to the ground with its engines rather than via atmospheric braking, tongues of orange and yellow plasma still licked up on all sides, and the ship vibrated intensely. 

Within half a minute, a low booming rocked the ship and the plasma vanished, replaced by streaming vortexes of white mist. Between these, Ramiro could see mountainous ranges of clouds far below, and between them, a graceful sweep of small islands spanned a glittering emerald sea. 

On the horizon far to his left, a looming bastion of grey lit by fitful violet lightning flashes marked the edge of the Cyclone which gave its name to the world itself – a massive permanent super-storm at the south pole which regularly calved off smaller storms to rampage northward toward the equator. Mr. A. wanted to land more than two hundred kilometers from its outer rim, but for Ramiro, for whom bad-weather landings had become something of an ill omen, this was still far too close. 

As the ship swooped lower and passed the billowing top of one of the cloudbanks, Ramiro checked the ship’s sensors for any indication he was being pursued. This was something he’d never before thought necessary during a landing, and after he had left Cyclone and Mr. A. behind, he hoped to ensure that it would never be necessary again. 

When at last the ship circled low and passed over its landing site, a rocky outcrop on the coast of one of the islands, Ramiro breathed a sigh of relief. The island, barely four square kilometers of scrubby xenoflora and wave-crenellated rock, showed no sign of any other visitors. Mr. A. had assured Ramiro that he had made his own arrangements, and had left it at that.  

The whole business left Ramiro uneasy, least of all because he was doing very illegal things. Were it not for Livia, Ramiro would have been happy to drop the man off and burn for orbit at emergency speed. Only vague suggestions by Mr. A. that the local atmosphere might be good for Livia prevented it. Surely, that had to mean something – but he didn't know quite what. 

“Final landing approach.” Ramiro broadcast on the intercom “Kindly be seated.” 

In the end, the warning was hardly necessary; the stiff wind blowing over the outcrop caused Jen Daley to slide laterally a little as its landing skids touched down, but otherwise the landing proved smooth and uneventful. After a routine external air-quality test came up clean, Ramiro opened the air intakes and dropped the ramp. “Welcome to a very quiet corner of Cyclone. External temperature reads as thirteen Celsius, so do bundle up if you’re going out there.” 

With that, Ramiro secured the controls, idled the engines, and headed aft to lower the cargo elevator, Mr. A.’s two small crates of belongings standing forlornly in its center. 

Ramiro rode the cargo elevator down to the ground, which was technically a violation of its manual of operation. He knew not to take such things seriously. The manuals, after all, were written by people in comfortable offices back in the Core Worlds with a severe allergy to the sorts of dangers to human life which actual spacers blithely tempted every day. Compared to most of those, the risk of being jostled by the cargo elevator didn’t even register.  

When he stepped off, he found Mr. A. standing by the forward landing skid, and Livia hugging herself to keep warm halfway up the boarding ramp, her dark hair blown into a comet’s tail by the wind. She was wearing only her usual snug, thin shipboard fatigues, which though flattering to her figure, provided little protection against the elements. 

“I told you to bundle up!” Ramiro hopped off the elevator and picked his way over the wave-dimpled stone on which he’d landed his ship. 

“Thirteen C sounded quite nice until I got out here.” Livia shook her head. “Just keeping an eye on him.” 

Ramiro held out a hand to help Livia down off the end of the ramp. “Help me move his crates, then go back in and get a jacket.” 

Their passenger stood staring over the sea while Ramiro and Livia wrestled his two parcels off the cargo elevator and set them a safe distance from the landing skids. As Livia retreated into the ship to find something warm to wear, Ramiro walked up to stand next to Mr. A. The view, he had to admit, was quite stunning – between the greenish sea flecked with creamy white foam whipped up by the wind and the fantastic shapes of the faintly rosy clouds piled high on the horizon, and the dark gray rocks far below catching the waves and throwing them into the air in glittering spray, the place seemed less than real, a master’s painting come to life. 

“I have read old Earth stories of men who fell in love with the sea.” Now that he stood on solid ground, amid such desolation, Mr. A. seemed refreshed, less small, shriveled, or exhausted than he had even a few hours before. “Until now, I thought it merely poetic license. Are Earth’s oceans like this?” 

“A bit.” Ramiro glanced sidelong at his passenger. “I’ve only been there once, myself. We need to-” 

“The greatest heartbreak of beauty like this place,” Mr. A. turned to face Ramiro at last, a sly look glinting in his dark eyes. “Is that to possess it, a man must go the better part of the way to destroying it. He must put in a quay there,” He pointed down to a spit of land a few hundred meters along the shore. “A lighter hangar, perhaps, there.” Again, he pointed. “And into this rock he must drive the piers on which to build his home. When he is done, how much of the beauty he first found would remain?” 

Ramiro hesitated. Somehow, he knew Mr. A. wasn’t just talking about the scenery. “Construction wouldn’t remove the sea, the waves, or that storm on the horizon. Speaking of that-” 

“I wonder whether he would miss what the island was, before he touched it.” Mr. A. turned inland and gestured. “Come with me.” 

Ramiro glanced up at the empty boarding ramp, then followed. Mr. A. picked a path down the sloping lee side of the outcrop, into the scrubby plant-growths that clung to the rest of the little island. Though they’d looked low and tough from the air, Ramiro found most of their branches arched far over his head. 

Eventually, Ramiro’s limited patience won out over his waning curiosity. “Where are we going?” 

“Evidently, you have arrived.” 

This voice, high and reedy, came from behind Ramiro. He spun on his heel and reached for his gun, but the chubby little man standing on the path behind him held up his hands and smiled. 

“My friend, I did not expect you to come in person!” Mr. A. smiled. “You need not have troubled-” 

“Nonsense.” The chubby man made an expansive gesture. “They couldn’t possibly keep me away. Though I must ask, why, er...” He nodded toward Ramiro. 

Mr. A. opened his mouth, but grimaced and closed it again. “Let him tell you. I will retrieve what I have brought.” With a prompting gesture, the Incarnation turncoat hurried back up toward Jen Daley. 

The rotund man turned a quizzical look on Ramiro. “Yes, indeed, tell. You are not touched by our war.” 

At the words “our war”, Ramiro shivered and took a step back. This, he knew now, was another Incarnation Immortal – another who had freed himself from their grasp, apparently. Squaring his shoulders, he stood his ground. “How freely can I speak?” 

“Ah, you know about the override coding. You needn’t fear.” The little man tapped a sausage-like finger to his temple. “I have been quite reprogrammed.” 

Somehow, this didn’t reassure Ramiro. Still, he pressed on. “My partner... The Incarnation got ahold of her. Corrupted her mind, like yours was corrupted. Can you undo what they did?” 

The little man winced, though in sympathy or at the use of the word “corrupted”, Ramiro could not decide. “What the cyberneticists do cannot be undone. To disconnect or remove the implants would be fatal, but with care they can be... reprogrammed.” 

“Reprogrammed? Free her from one master just to put her under another?” Ramiro shook his head. “That seems hardly better.” 

“She cannot be told of the option herself, as you likely know. You must decide if we should take her with us.” The little man shrugged. “I could similarly not tell this to my friend, but I am no rogue. Those who reprogrammed me have a degree of official sanction of your government.” 

Ramiro nodded and turned away. “Will she be able to live with herself after she’s been... reprogrammed?” 

“That is up to her. I promise she will be no worse off, and there is hope for much improvement. Certainly, the override coding will trouble her much less.” 

Ramiro balled his fists. He didn’t want to trust Livia to these rogue Immortals, whether or not they had switched sides and enjoyed Confederated Worlds backing. He remembered, however, the helpless look in her eyes when she’d run up against something she simply could not say.  

Ramiro turned back to the little man. “If I find out she came to harm, no amount of official protection will save you.” 

“I will take that as you intend it.” The little man smiled widely. Though he carried no obvious weapons, Ramiro became immediately certain that this was the deadliest individual he’d ever permitted within arm’s reach of himself. “As a demand that I treat your friend well, as toothless as your threat is in truth.” 

Ramiro nodded. “Then I’ll go get her.” 

2950-08-02 – Tales from the Inbox: A Turncoat’s Parley 

There was a skirmish in the Håkøya system outskirts this week, pitting a group of Fifth Fleet cruisers against an outrunner squadron of Tyrants. I’ll admit I haven’t the faintest idea why those cruisers were there, but it seems to have been a draw – all of our cruisers made it home, but some of them were pretty smashed up, and they report the total destruction of one of their opponents and possibly damage to two others. No word on whether our ships’ objective was completed, whatever it was. 

This being the first large-scale engagement since the change in command at Fifth Fleet headquarters, I will reach out to those involved to find out if there have been any changes to tactical doctrine, and whether those changes, if any, contributed to the result of the action. 

Ramiro got up, his thoughts whirling indiscriminately, and covered his agitation by heading toward the wall-mounted locker holding his clean shipboard uniforms. As the top drawer slid open, he became conscious that he was still holding his gun. Slowly, he set it on top of the neatly folded tunics. Knowing what was sleeping in the next compartment, he hated to part with it, but if the little man was what Livia had said, a handgun wouldn’t be nearly enough to take him down, and a confrontation would be counterproductive in any case. 

“Ramie, don’t-” 

“Don’t what?” Ramiro squared his shoulders and gripped the edges of the drawer until its sharp metal edges dug into his palms. “I’m going to talk to our passenger.” 

“Listen.” The bunk creaked as Livia stood up. “The thin line he is walking... You don’t understand. If you say the wrong thing, you’ll wind up dead before either of you know what’s happening.” 

“All the more reason for you to stay here, Liv.” Ramiro shook out a fresh tunic and ran his fingers over the Jen Daley shoulder patch. “The ship’s systems will let you make a distress call.” 

Though Ramiro expected her to protest, to try to stop him, Livia said nothing as he shrugged the tunic over his shoulders and pulled on the matching pants and boots. When he turned to the door, he found her leaning against the bulkhead next to it, still wearing only her sheer night-dress, one long leg crossed over the other. 

“What do you hope he’ll tell you?” Livia was looking down at the deck, and Ramiro thought it odd that she wouldn’t look him in the eyes. 

“I don’t know.” Ramiro shrugged, looking away from her to avoid the distraction she was openly presenting. “I won’t be long.” 

Livia nodded slowly, but made no further response. 

Ramiro, tugging his tunic into place, stepped up to the door and keyed it open. Though the corridor lighting outside was set to the same brightness as the shared crew cabin, the air beyond seemed shadowy and sinister, polluted by the presence of an Incarnation assassin. 

“Ramie...” Livia grabbed Ramiro’s wrist as he stepped through. “I’m sorry I got you into this.” 

Ramiro turned back to her. Glancing at the distress written on her face, he decided to assume that she was being genuine, or at least, that she was trying to be. “It probably had to be me.” He grimaced, disliking how true this was. If she really couldn’t say what had been done to her, then she probably didn’t know anyone else who could have puzzled out the truth. How long had she planned to arrange a situation to tip him off? Had it been her goal way back at Philadelphia, when she’d called him and offered to repair Jen Daley in exchange for helping with her latest scheme? 

Livia released his hand and stepped back. “Be careful.” 

As the door slid shut between them, Ramiro turned to look at her one more time. This time, he let his eyes wander a little bit, taking in a snapshot of her figure barely disguised by her deliberately chosen, provocative sleepwear. There was something in her stance and eyes in that instant that he hadn’t seen before – a wild, unashamed sorrow and worry which he was almost certain couldn’t be faked. It was a look that made him want to return quickly, just to put her at ease. 

Since the recently-remodeled main cabin was just across the corridor from their own, Ramiro was at the other door in seconds. He could have forced it open with a command override, but instead he tapped the door-chime panel. 

“Is there some emergency?” The thin, reedy voice of the mysterious Mr. A. responded almost instantly, as if he hadn’t been sleeping, or as if his various digital implants had purged his mind of all shreds of sleep at the sound. 

“Sorry to bother you at this hour. Care to join me in the lounge for a drink? I can’t sleep and I’ve something on my mind that might interest you.” 

The door slid open, and the almost frail-looking figure of the passenger loomed inside. He was already fully dressed, as if he’d expected the interruption. “Of course, Captain.” 

Though Ramiro was significantly taller and many kilos bulkier than Mr. A., he fought the urge to shrink back from the little man. After all, if he trusted Livia, the man was a disillusioned defector from the Incarnation’s zealotry, with no interest in shedding more blood on behalf of their supposedly glorious cause.  

Ramiro led the way forward to the lounge, where the dim night-period lighting brightened to standard illumination at his approach. Keying in the special code on his wrist computer, Ramiro caused the wall panels concealing the ship’s tiny liquor stash to open. With an entirely unnecessary flourish, he plucked a half-empty bottle from its cradle, tumbled it end over end between his hands, and lobbed it over his shoulder across the compartment toward his passenger. A satisfying smack told him that the little man had caught it. 

Plucking two of the break-proof glasses from the stash, Ramiro turned around and set both on one of the lounge’s tables. “Do you take your whiskey neat, or do you want me to mix something?” He gestured to the bottle Mr. A. was holding. “I remember a few recipes from my bartending days back on Madurai.” 

Mr. A. read the label on the bottle. “Real Earth whiskey? Surely out here this costs a small fortune. Neat will do.” Gingerly, he set it down next to the glasses and eased into one of the chairs.  

“It’s not too expensive if you know the right people.” Ramiro shrugged, picking up the bottle and pouring a generous amount into each. He’d acquired a half-dozen of them before departing Philadelphia months earlier, courtesy of a friend who dealt in exotic Earth goods. 

Mr. A. leaned down to pick up one of the glasses, swirling it gently. Ramiro noticed his unoccupied hand twitching faintly, as if ready to draw and use a concealed weapon. “What is it you wanted to talk about, Captain?” 

Ramiro put the bottle away, then picked up his own glass and took a seat, all too conscious that he’d left his gun behind. “My partner seems to have taken a great risk to meet your... transportation needs. We need not discuss why.” 

“Indeed not.” Mr. A. raised one eyebrow, his sharp eyes scrutinizing Ramiro’s face despite the deep bags that still shadowed them. “I am grateful beyond words for her assistance, and yours.” 

“We aim to please aboard this ship.” Ramiro sipped his whiskey gingerly, noticing that only after he’d done so that his passenger raised the glass to his own lips. “The freedom to travel the stars is something my partner and I take very seriously, both for ourselves and our customers.” 

Mr. A. nodded. “I can understand this outlook, and I don’t doubt you are quite protective of your freedom. And your partner’s. Miss Farran seems quite the free spirit.” 

Ramiro grunted his agreement. “She can be, when circumstances admit.” He took another sip, savoring the taste in case it was his last. “She’s been a bit quiet lately, and I think maybe it’s something you can help her with.” 

The little man tensed briefly, then relaxed, and downed his remaining whiskey in one great gulp. As he did, Ramiro breathed a sigh of relief. 

“Women problems are not my domain, Captain.” Mr. A. shrugged. “But perhaps if you remain on Allenden a day or two after we’ve landed, her spirits might improve. I hear it’s a very beautiful place.” 

2950-08-02 – Tales from the Inbox: A Turncoat’s Curse 

This week, we continue with the second account sent in by Ramiro W. relating to his brief career moving wealthy people from Maribel to safer locations. A number of you in the audience have sent in your claims to evidence that this story is a hoax – after all, Ramiro was always a pseudonym for someone who did not want to be publicly identified, and it would be easy to reproduce his correspondence style, or for him and his con-artist partner to fabricate a story for pure entertainment after we ran parts of the first one. 

I still suspect it’s mostly genuine for two reasons. One, the real Ramiro and Livia have not reached out to correct it, and two, it does not seem like a hagiographic falsehood they would invent, as this story does not benefit them in any way. 

Ramiro stared hard at Livia, focusing on the weight of the gun in his hand and not on the thin, nearly transparent nightgown she was wearing. Nothing she did was ever accidental, and he knew that extended to her choice of sleepwear. “How do you know he’s a defector?” 

Livia frowned and put a finger to her lips. “Keep your voice down. We sound-proofed these walls, but the things they’ve done to him, he can hear-” 

“Answer the question.” Ramiro did lower his voice to a stage-whisper, but he knew a stalling tactic when he saw it.  

“Our passenger did not tell me he’s a defector. How could he? They-” Again, Livia’s neck muscles twitched, and she winced. "He’s not... leaving with authorization. He’s off their map.” 

“How do you-” Ramiro paused and took a step back. With sudden clarity, he saw something that he’d been missing. “Damnation, Liv, you wanted me to figure this out on my own.” 

Livia nodded cautiously. “I did.” 

Ramiro leveled a trembling finger at her. “This is the sort of thing you can just tell me. We’ve been through enough that I’ll believe-” 

“Would if I could, Ramie dear. It’s-” Again, when she paused, Ramiro spotted the twitch in her neck. “It’s not... that simple.” 

Ramiro nodded wearily and sat down on his bunk. “It never is, with you.” 

Livia reached over and palmed the control to bring the compartment lights back up to their daytime level. “I wish it was.”  

Ramiro blinked and looked down to the deck as his pupils adjusted. As he did, he saw Livia’s shadow pass over his bare feet and heard her sit down next to him. 

“You can’t ask... him.” Livia leaned over until her head was resting on Ramiro’s shoulder, and he glanced up enough to see that her loose night-shirt hung low and gave him a nearly uninterrupted view of the amply-curved body beneath it. “With that many computers in his head, he’s... Not himself. Treading very carefully.” 

Ramiro nodded. “You’re saying if we trigger something automatic, it doesn’t matter what he wants.” He’d heard spaceport-bar horror stories about the sorts of things that Incarnation science could do to the human body and mind, of course; everyone had. “Some program might take over.” 

Livia made a vague sound of agreement, one hand kneading the hem of the thin coverlet. 

Ramiro did his best to have a good look at her without letting his eyes wander anywhere untoward. Livia’s invasion of his personal space was no doubt as intentional as everything else she did, and the ability to make a bold move and seeming shy and bashful at the same time was part of what made her such a dangerous con artist. The only times before she’d ever play-acted affection for him were times when she wanted something.

“I wish you could trust me.” Livia’s voice dropped almost to a whisper. “There might be rewards for us both.” 

“I don’t want... rewards.” Ramiro shook his head. He wasn’t sure what she meant by that word, but he did know that it would be wise not to want whatever she was offering, even if he wasn’t yet sure. “And I’m not helping you betray anything to Nate, no matter what they have over you.” 

Livia looked up, a few strands of dark hair falling in front of her suddenly-intense eyes. “Sometimes, Ramie, you can be so dense.” 

Ramiro shrugged. “Spell it out for me.” 

“Wish I could.” Livia shifted closer and craned her face up, arching one eyebrow. “But that’s not in the program.” 

Ramiro blinked, then stood up, his hand tightening on the gun he still hadn’t put away. Livia, who had been leaning on him, fell back on his bunk with an amused expression, making no attempt to steady herself. 

“You have it too.” Ramiro tapped the butt of the gun to his temple. “Nate put a chip in your head to keep you in line.” 

Livia didn’t answer. She didn’t even nod. The brief flicker of relief on her face was enough to confirm his conclusion. 

2950-07-26 – Tales from the Inbox: A Turncoat’s Penance 

This week, we return to the interrupted description of events given by Ramiro W. Obviously, Naval Intelligence has been over this material, but their approval to publish it does not mean that it is factual. I am aware of no public information corroborating this story, and if there really was a leak of the severity described, or if a defector was really involved, I doubt they’d let me publish it so readily. 

[N.T.B. - I am not so sure. I can certainly think of reasons Intelligence would want a story like this to be told, true or not.] 

Ramiro stumbled on the file that had Livia so worked up just before shutting off his tablet for the night. No lights glowed on the other side of the thin privacy divider bisecting Jen Daley’s small secondary cabin, but he knew she was still awake all the same, listening. He did his best to give her nothing to go on. 

The mixed-media file, protected by Livia’s master encryption key, was named only with a twelve-digit number, and buried in a sub-reference folder for one of her small, half-hearted early ideas for a con. Despite this, it bore clear marks of being regularly accessed, as often as twice per week, and it contained more data than any simple addendum would merit. It had last been accessed only hours before they left Maribel. 

Careful not to take an audible deep breath, Ramiro checked the autopilot status and security feeds, then opened the file. At first, he saw only a scrolling mass of text and numbers, occasionally interrupted by inset images. No pattern emerged; it was a mess of disconnected shipping records, industrial production estimates, technological specifications, personnel dossiers, and other data from a hundred sources. 

Though certain that this was the file Livia had been concerned about him reading, Ramiro could make no headway with the flood of information, save that all of it seemed to detail economic activity in the Galactic West. Whatever this was, it was something she regularly accessed, reviewed, and updated. Perhaps it was the big score she was working on, but this seemed unlikely. 

When the first set of ship schematics scrolled past his eyes, Ramiro froze and held his breath. Carefully, he dragged the file backwards until the schematic re-appeared. In the image of that sleek, elegant frigate, a vessel that was, according to the document, being fitted out at a Philadelphia orbital station for the Confederated Navy, he saw the real shape of what Livia had compiled. 

Realizing that he was looking at contraband information that could get him thrown into a BCI lockbox and forgotten, especially given the scrutiny around ships departing Maribel, Ramiro whisked the schematic away, only for his eyes to fall on high-fidelity images of titanic ship-frames being assembled in an orbital dock. The images were horrific proof that Livia Farran did not only use her wiles for her own profit. 

“I didn’t want to do it. God, Ramie, I didn’t.” 

At Livia’s words, Ramiro started and almost dropped his slate reader. He had no idea how she’d guessed that he’d found her file. 

“It seemed so harmless at first. Corporate production figures, that sort of thing.” Livia went on, her words coming out in a rush. “They paid so much for so little, and it seemed so harmless. Now they pay nothing, but...” 

“You’re in too deep.” Ramiro blanked his tablet screen and stood up, making his way to the end of the privacy screen more by feel than by sight in the darkness. “Who are they?” 

Livia sat up in bed, a bluish light from her wrist unit casting her face in ghoulish contrast and showing how sheer her loose sleepwear was. “Who else?” 

Ramiro stared blankly for a moment, then he realized what she was referring to, and his heart fell. “Nate.” Had he really been working with a traitor this whole time? Had their close-call swindling the Ladeonist insurgents on Bettendorf been arranged just to throw suspicion off a prized agent? 

Livia scowled. “Dammit, Ramie. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not a-” 

“You’re selling Confederated secrets to the enemy in wartime.” Ramiro shook his slate reader. “How else am I supposed to take it?” 

Livia’s shoulders dropped. “I handed it off before we left Maribel. It’s done. They’ll give me a month, maybe six weeks, before they make another demand.” 

“Is that why you were so interested in getting me to run this passenger circuit? Because you needed to contact your handler?” 

Livia shrugged. “Couldn’t send it. BCI monitors the hypercast network.” 

“What do they have over you, Liv?” Ramiro entered her side of the compartment and sat on the foot of the bed. “They’re not paying you anymore, so why keep working for them?” 

“I can’t...” The muscles in Livia’s neck twitched. “I wish I could tell you. It’s not... Damn. Can’t even...” , She shook her head helplessly. 

“Look, that can wait until we get rid of your passenger.” Ramiro hurried back to his bunk and drew his handgun. “He’s one of Nate’s own, isn’t he? One of those half-machine freaks?” 

Livia followed, shivering in the cool air without the benefit of her bunk’s blanket. “Yes. BCI was setting up to grab him. But even-” 

“Stay here. I’m going to see how well he spacewalks.” 

Livia threw herself between Ramiro and the door, shaking her head. “No, you don’t understand. And I can’t... He's not... Ramie, he’s my way to level the damned scales. Don’t you get it?” 

“No.” Ramiro lowered his gun slowly. “Liv, I don’t care if it’s bad for you later, I’m not putting an enemy agent down in the Allenden system.” 

Livia reached out and put a hand on Ramiro’s chest. “I wouldn’t ask you to. The poor bastard’s been trying to switch sides for nearly a month.”