Local Time 0835
BetaMountain Passenger bay
sirens started wailing. Bright red warning lights and yellow
flashing lights lit up, making a madhouse out of the arrival
lounge for VIPs.
cynically. So they still secretly scan the arriving diplomatic
vessels. He felt for the data transparencies in the flat bag
strapped under his shirt. I wonder what registered first
the transparencies' alarm sensor imprint or my DNA?
armed space marines surrounded the passenger shuttle. Now it
gets exciting. He leaned back and waited, bored, while the
security group's commanding officer outside exchanged fierce
words with the Kiwi captain. Then the men stormed the ship.
Amateurs. The first five would be dead without a doubt if I
fought. And I wouldn't make guarantees for the remaining fifteen,
him, the heavy LGs ready to shoot. He held his hands in plain
sight in front of him and slowly stood up. "No need to
shout, guys. I'll come along on my own."
levels below the VIP terminal in the GRS5s office, Niko looked up
from her report at the sound of the sirens and had a look at the
chrono. Next to her, Zachary pretended he hadn't heard her
murmured, "Welcome home, Shane."
marched through the familiar corridors heading for Walsh's
office. The soldiers didn't let Goose out of their sight. Poor
fools. Five of them followed their commanding officer with
the prisoner into the commander's office. Walsh looked up from
Goose came to
attention. "Ranger Gooseman reports back from his temporary
transfer to Kirwin. Ambassador Zeezo sends his regards,
The commander looked astounded, but regained his composure
quickly. With a wave, he chased the space marines out like hens.
"Wait outside with your men, Sergeant."
this prisoner is classified as dangerous"
outside. That's an order!"
sir." The door slid shut behind the soldiers. Walsh
activated the sealing field.
now to you, Gooseman. At ease. You're accused of
being a deserter. What's that nonsense about
Gooseman's eyes glowed under the raised brows. "Commander,
I've been working as an advisor on security matters for the
agricultural department of Kirwin for the last year. Sure, the
affair was classified of highest security by the Kiwis, but at
least you must have been informed."
snorted. "We'll have this checked out in no time.""
He entered a request on his terminal. After a fraction of a
second, a secure classified file appeared on the display: A
transfer form, filled in by... himself. Hartford! Walsh
snorted soundlessly. And EDP always insisted that BETA's
mainframe is safe. Ha!
have that checked. Sheela, a request for the ambassador of
Kirwin: In the last year, did a Series-5 Ranger serve as an
exchange officer on Kirwin? If yes, in what capacity? Classify
the request as priority one." Walsh leaned back, folded his
hands over his belly, and inspected the man in front of
Shane looked healthy again,
though more slender than before. His movements when he'd come in
were lithe, more agility than strength, the same slender elegance
that had been so typical in his mother's family. If Walsh had to
assess the ST he'd consider him more dangerous than he'd been
back at Wolf Den. The most noticable differences were the shoes
instead of heavy boots low shoes, to be precise, which
matched the blue-and-white uniform, which was slack though still
correct. His hair was a little bit longer. And he'd just set a
new personal record in arrogance: he'd entered the room between
the marines as if Sergeant Maxwell's security unit was his normal
escort to hold open doors for him.
minutes later, Walsh's adjutant handed him a printed hypercom
Headquarters Galaxy Rangers
Cmdr. Joseph Walsh, supreme commander
is to certify officially that Galaxy Ranger Shane Gooseman was
Ambassador Zeezo's esteemed guest at the ambassador's estate on
Kirwin during the last 13 standard months. Ranger Gooseman acted
as an advisor in his capacity as Galaxy Ranger in a high-security
project to increase protection of our cultivation areas on border
His knowledge in applied weapons technology was
of inestimable help to us.
signed: Zeezo, ambassador of
seems that some affairs got pretty mixed up, Gooseman."
Walsh lowered the HCC with an unreadable expression. "I'm
going to correct that. You'll get a pass chip for that time. Wait
in your unit's office till I'm done with this mess.
you, sir." Goose hesitated a moment. "Before it slips
my mind" He pulled a black file out of his shirt and
handed it to Walsh. "For you."
documents you wanted." The ST left the room as Sheela
entered with the daily mail.
got a picture postcard, Commander. Via interstellar
"This day gets
more and more crazy. Who, for heaven's sake, would send picture
cards to my office? Give it to me. And then I need a
connection to the BWL." Walsh opened the card with the
colorful image of the flying Mothmoose on it, glanced over the
short handwritten note, reread it again more slowly and began to
YOU REALLY BELIEVE
I'D FORGET TO COVER MY ASS, SIR?
Local Time 1911
BetaMountain Apartment 219
entered the access code and slid open the door. "Am I
welcome?" He stumbled back as a tiny grey furball shot up
into his arms. "Seems so." He grinned at the purring
"It doesn't only seem
so, Shane," Niko corrected softly. "You are
see what SecStaff did to my quarters." Gooseman dropped his
bundle right behind the door and jumped down the stairs.
note on your door again?" Niko smiled and embraced him,
careful not to squeeze Poss.
door? They must have used a missile to get in there." He
grinned. "I guess I'm going to be your house guest for quite
longer ill, Shane," she reminded him faintly. "We're
going to get in trouble. I don't think I can accuse SecStaff a
second time into going on the defensive."
can hardly still be an idiot straying through BETA who doesn't
believe us attached after our escapades." He pushed Poss up
his shoulder and hugged her closely, kissing her neck. "To
hell with their opinion. Leave these damned disciplinary
proceedings to me."
Local Time 2338
BetaMountain Cmdr. Walsh's Office
GTP, Wheiner's blackmailing with the brain unit... it's all
there, Joseph." Negata scanned through the transparencies in
the black file on Walsh's desk.
could have blown up the whole story and put the senator's head on
the block." Walsh looked at the documents, lost in his
thoughts, "and also mine. I'm still wondering why he
hasn't done it."
expelled the electronic equivalent of a snicker. "Because
you still underestimate him, Joseph. Have a look at this..."
He referred to a data transparency at the end of the
Walsh pulled it out,
skimmed through it. "That's a gene comparison from a lab on
Kirwin. Nothing special."
the evaluation at the end."
of genetic code samples: 49.9%. Well, and?"
samples, Joseph?" Negata's electronic snickering got louder.
The brain unit seemed to bo very amused.
Shane and... that can't be true!"
Joseph," Negata finished his sentence for him. "He was
better than you ever took into consideration. And now turn
the sheet over and read the back."
E.W. will make a mistake that doesn't lead to Wolf Den, and then
may all gods ever invented by man have mercy on him. He's going
to need it.
Bury this with the other
Local Time 0829
BetaMountain GRS5 office
Doc." Zachary Fox was piling up the documents and materials
for today's work on his desk when he noticed a movement at the
computer console from the corner of his eye.
isn't here, Zach." Gooseman.
here? And even on time? What's happened?!"
Except that I'm trying to avoid any more disciplinary
you're searching for new quarters?"
legal, isn't it?"
wolfish grin wasn't really appropriate to comfort Fox:
"Absolutely. At least from my point of view.
GV, Interlink with BETA mainframe, department 'Library and
Archive,' subdepartment 'Jurisdiction,' section 'Tax laws,'
subsection 'Tax reports.' Question: Is it possible to write off
against taxes medical and psychological treatment for a private
person who isn't related by blood or marriage? Please answer in
detail." Gooseman and taxes? Fox couldn't help but
Gooseman. Only treatment costs of family members can be
Within the last let's say 20 years was it at some
time possible to write off such costs?"
The present tax laws date from the year 2042. Only the amount of
possible compensation payments for family members was adjusted 18
years ago. Do you want a table?=
Question: If someone successfully wrote off nonrefundable
treatment costs between 2084 and 2086, does that meet the
criteria for tax evasion?"
amount would that person owe now?"
general, the amount refunded in the past plus 50 percent of the
refunded amount per past year, plus debit interests.=
a criminal procedure possible?"
Zach didn't at all like the cold gleam in his youngest teammate's
eyes. "What do you intend to do?"
myself a signature. GV, I need certified printouts of the
following archive files..."
your case, the consent of a commanding officer is
are these files?"
only ten-year-old tax reports."
me, you don't want to know."
what, specifically, do you need a signature?"
for a special permission. You know this nice clause in my
contract of employment: As soon as it concerns anything but
need the consent of a BWL member, which you are never going to
"Exactly. But in
this case that's about to change if you grant these
"Okay, then. GV: Permission is granted for printout
of the requested files."
you, Captain Fox. Please enter the requested file
Gooseman typed them.
Seconds later three transparencies with certifications of
authenticity slid out of the console. Goose grabbed them, glanced
through them, and clenched his fist with a "Yes!! GV,
bug-proofed connection with..."
Local Time 1911
BetaMountain Apartment 219
surprise, Niko." He was waiting at the table when she
entered the room. He pushed an officially sealed document towards
her. "No need to hide any longer."
took it, read it, and had an additional close look at the seal.
"Is this authentic?"
permission for us to share quarters," she whispered in a
flat voice. "How did you get it?"
came by mail today."
Her eyes fell on the signature. "Wheiner?! What in
diabolically. "Looks like someone told the senator about
some inaccuracies in some of his older tax reports which would be
pretty expensive for him today should the revenue office... And
tax authorities accept anonymous tips."
didn't... did you?"
senators seems to be kind of a tradition in my family."
will get on the top of his hit list for this."
don't think so," he grinned. "The bureau for
investigation of tax offenses routinely checks all incoming
would take care that you don't get a chance to call."
grin deepened. "Maybe. But I don't believe he could get to
all the lawyers in and around Phoenix in time when my ID is
deleted from the active duty list... And even Whining Eric can't
walk off with the whole mountain without anyone noticing. In
fact, I think he will be very worried about my personal welfare
from now on."
out loud. "You're crazy."
at all. Only very, very alive..." He pulled her close to
him. "And I intend to stay that way!"
wriggled out of his arms, still snickering, and waved the
transparency. "First we frame this!"
started straight up in bed, back and neck very straight, his
breaths exactly controlled. Pain corroded his lungs. The lack of
oxygen reached for his perception...
hand lay on his arm, pressed it, finally shook him. "...only
a dream, Shane. It's only a dream."
looked at her while the panic in his eyes slowly died, and his
breathing calmed down as he felt his chest muscles doing their
job easily and effortlessly. He propped his arms on the quilt,
sat for a moment with legs drawn close.
you all right?"
He shuddered, expelled the horror out of his thoughts. "When
I nearly snuffed it I dreamed of running, flying, or simply of
holding you tight... And now that it's finally
started to deal with it. I think..." She began to smile
lasciviously, kissed him and shoved him backwards, "we
should make some new dreams for you."