“So, what’s the plan?” said Flynn.
“Recon first.” Dax walked over to the conference table and pulled up a three-dimensional map of Moenia City spaceport. “We’re here, and Avalon is docked there.” The places flashed on the screen as Dax touched them. “We’ll fan out and observe for a while, see who’s coming on and off. Then we’ll make our move.”
“Why not just go in there and take them?” Shady said, holding his gun aloft.
“Because Hammer doesn’t want to draw any attention to our presence,” said Dax. “Being a part of his organization is a death sentence on this planet.” Dax reached up and pulled out his implant with a wet, sucking sound that made Jeth’s stomach roil. “And they mean it. All the cops here carry weapons designed to disrupt the implant technology.” Across from him, Sergei removed his implant, too, both stowing them in their pockets.
Looking even more likable minus the implant, Dax swept them all with a hard gaze. “So none of you better even look sideways at someone without a go ahead from me. Yeah?”
A mutinous expression crossed Shady’s face, and his skin darkened to red. Jeth held his breath, waiting for Shady to do something stupid. He had a real problem with adult authority figures.
But then Shady nodded once and glanced away, muttering under his breath.
“Okay.” Dax clapped his hands, grinning. “Let me figure out where I want each of you and then we’ll get going.”
They left the Citation at intervals, everyone heading in different directions, except for Lizzie and Jeth, whom Dax had said should stick together. Dax might’ve been convinced Lizzie could handle a gun, but thirteen was a little young to run around a roughneck spaceport alone.
Jeth headed out of the docking bay and into the east wing of the spaceport. He wove his way through the throng of people walking here and there, heading for the shops and restaurants in the atrium or to some other wing.
Moenia City spaceport was an open, airy place, the feel exaggerated by the large glass windows letting in late afternoon sunshine. It had been a long time since Jeth had been planetside, and it took him a few minutes to adjust to the slight but still noticeable difference in gravity. The artificial gravity used in space sometimes felt just like that—artificial; its hold on you not as certain as the pull of a planet’s gravity, like a collar you could slip and then float away if you tried hard enough.
Jeth wished he could go outside and breathe in the natural air, free from the constant recycling and chemical treatment of the air in space, but there wouldn’t be time for that. As a compromise, Jeth stopped in front of a nearby window for a few moments and watched Benfold Minor’s two suns slipping beneath the horizon, leaving behind pale swirls of pink, purple, and gold in their slow decent.
He wondered if he could bear working for Hammer for the rest of his life if it was somewhere like this, a place where beautiful things happened every day, if only for a short stretch of time. Or maybe he could be a tracker like Dax. He knew that Dax spent a lot of time away from Peltraz. If Jeth didn’t have to see Hammer very often, he could at least pretend he was free.
Sighing, Jeth turned away from the window. He scanned the crowd as he moved on, hoping to spot Sierra. He’d imagined a hundred horrible things he would do to exact his revenge when he saw her. If she hadn’t double-crossed him, he might’ve escaped such a bleak future.
Ahead of him, Lizzie had pulled off to one side near a sign for Docking Bay D. Avalon was moored somewhere down that corridor, at Dock 11. Unlike a Confederation-aligned spaceport, the public were allowed into the bays, even if they didn’t belong to one of the ships docked there. But Dax had ordered Lizzie and Jeth to stay outside of the bay and watch for their targets.
Lizzie sat down against a wall across from the entrance to the bay, folded her knees against her chest, and pretended to read. Jeth spotted an open bench not far from her and sat down. Dozens of people passed by, but none of them turned down the corridor to Docking Bay D. His impatience rose with each passing second.
When more than an hour went by with no sign of Vince or Sierra and no word from the others, Jeth finally gave into his restlessness. He glanced at Lizzie. She’d long given up the pretense of reading and was leaning against the wall, hands jammed into the front pockets of her pants. He stood and walked over to her.
“What do you think?” she said, turning to face him as he stepped up next to her, leaning one shoulder against the wall.
“I don’t know,” Jeth said. “Dax told us to wait for his signal.”
Lizzie snorted. “Since when do you—” She broke off, her gaze fixed on something behind him.
Jeth glanced over his shoulder. His heartbeat doubled as he caught a glimpse of Sierra on the opposite side of the wing, heading this way among the continous flow of travelers. He turned back to Lizzie, moving closer to her for extra cover, although he felt certain Sierra wouldn’t spot them in the crowd.
Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Sierra passing them. She walked side by side with an elderly man in fancy clothes, some kind of blue tunic trimmed in gold. They turned down the corridor to Docking Bay D. Four men followed close behind them, marching in even points around a large gray container they were pulling along on a cart. All four wore firearms strapped to their sides. Judging from their matching green and gold uniforms, Jeth guessed they were some kind of special security detail. But what were they doing?
He was about to follow after them when Lizzie grabbed his arm, squeezing hard.