Huntress: Alone by Jaye Patrick

Huntress: Alone by Jaye Patrick
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Published Date:31-07-2017
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Huntress: Alone by Jaye Patrick Copyright © 2011 Jaye Patrick All rights reserved First Electronic Publishing September 2011 Not for profit under any circumstances, but free for distribution Huntress: Alone Chapter One He held the hunting knife in a steady hand, eyes gleaming with sick anticipation. Horror and helplessness filled her as she stared up at him. Then he lowered his gaze and the icy hot blade slowly parted the skin over her sternum. And he smiled as the blood flowed. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, with the drug in her system, but she felt every damn thing he did to her, cried out her pain and anguish in her mind. He was merciless and ruthless as he guided the tip of the knife deeper into her pliable flesh. He spoke to her in a soothing tone, with wonder and fascination as he worked; marvelled at finally having the perfect victim under his absolute control. Then the rape started. His words turned urgent, told her how much she enjoyed the sex with him; that she loved what he did to her. She turned her mind inward, to escape the agony, the grief, the rage. Soft hands touched her, but she resisted, struggled for air, tried to fight her way free of the drug he’d used to paralyse her. The hands turned hard, held her down and a new voice made demands of her, that she wake up, that she stop fighting him. But she’d always... Another blade – hers - sank deep into muscled flesh and hot blood flowed over her hand. Not her blood this time, but his. Grey eyes wide with disbelief and betrayal, as if impossible she kill him for his crimes against her and others. Satisfaction and relief coursed through her veins as the scent of blood flared her nostrils. He couldn’t hurt her any more, or slaughter innocents on whim. Excalibur Jones was dead. Dead. DEAD And she killed him 3 Huntress: Alone Cambria Petersen slowly shook off the nightmare, the memories. The paralysis eased and she relaxed with a sigh. “Are you okay now?” The soft, accented voice of her worried lover was music to her ears and she opened her eyes. He’d turned the lighting to low. Nathan Caparossi: The man who saved her on Tudor, who waited for her as she hunted Jones; who knew what the serial killer had done to her. His dark chocolate eyes stared down at her, and gentle fingers brushed the damp tendrils of black hair off her brow. She saw the concern, the fear for her, and nodded. “Yeah.” She said hoarsely and reached up to cup his firm, bristled jaw, studied his expression. “I must be a burden to you sometimes.” Caparossi eased out a breath and gave her a brief smile. “A burden I seem unable to resist, even when you pop me in the face in the middle of the night.” Her glance slid away as regret pierced her. She dropped her hand. Two years, two God damned years and she still succumbed to Jones, suffered through his torture and killed him, repeatedly. And although those nightmares came less frequently, it still screwed her up and grieved Caparossi; her because she lived through it, him because he needed to kill Jones for her, to protect her as he’d always done, even as he knew she didn’t need it. Jones had zeroed in on the most important aspect of her nature: that he could brutalise, even kill her and she’d recover. At least, physically. Mentally... that would take time, if ever. She didn’t know what she’d become since that day on Nomad, since she’d blown up a shipload of aliens. The so-called ‘Dark-a-day’ who experimented on other alien species - the women, the children and men, of all ages – and they’d started on the population of the illegal human enclave until she and First Officer Karesh came along. 4 Huntress: Alone “Why me and not her?” She murmured as she recalled the gratitude in the Nomadian’s eyes just before Cambria pressed the button that set off the hydrogen bunker busters. “Because you are special.” Caparossi whispered and she turned a sharp glance at him as he shifted his legs from confining to relaxing. “Before Nomad, I was an ordinary Hunter...” He tapped her nose. “...wanted for the murder of a World Council Senator.” “Which I did not do.” “Which you did not do.” “After Nomad, I’m turned into some miraculous being who can resurrect. But not Karesh. She is dead. Ashes on the wind.” “It gives me no end of comfort that you returned to me, Cam.” He tilted his head as his gaze roamed over her face. “I think I would be destroyed if I ever lost you.” His words sent a thrill through her and, if she were an ordinary woman, she would love to hear such a declaration. But she wasn’t ordinary and he would die on her one day. He had the comfort of knowing he’d never feel the anguish of her dying, while her own love for him, the pain of his passing would endure. But it was too late for escape. She loved him, loved the security he represented, the partnership they’d forged. For as long as he lived, she’d stay with him, enjoy his company. “And I will be shattered.” She said with tears in her eyes. Caparossi brushed his lips over her mouth. “I know.” He whispered and she blinked. He gave her a small smile, genuine humour gleaming. “Will you weep and wail? Throw yourself upon my grave and swear to have no other?” She snorted and choked on a laugh. “Will you wear black forever more, have a shrine dedicated to only me and forsake all others?” 5 Huntress: Alone “I’ll toss the dirt onto your cardboard coffin, brush my hands and walk away with the young attendant.” She replied. He narrowed his gaze. “Guido or Luigi?” “Guido, of course, Luigi suffers from halitosis.” “Oh, good. I like Guido. He reminds me of my father.” Cambria relaxed into a smile and brushed her fingers across his mouth. “But he’s not as... creative as you.” The harsh sound of the alarm broke the impending mood and Caparossi leaned over to the side table to shut it off. “Seems our work day is about to begin.” Cambria stared up at the pale blue ceiling of their shared quarters. “Where are you off to today, Colonel?” He rose and sat on the side of the bed. Cambria sat up and ran a hand down his muscular back. He glanced at her. “I think I am briefing other teams today. Ordering in more supplies – including the knives you seem to keep losing.” “I do try to be careful, you know.” He heaved a sigh. “I think you are personally financing Mr Allan’s retirement. But... he makes the best and we need finely crafted weapons for our Hunters.” She rested her chin on his shoulder. “Having recruitment problems?” He nodded. “Always. But we have the time and patience to weed out any unacceptable candidates. We’re looking at those whose leadership meant the difference between survival and death on some of those colonist planets.” He shook his head. “We don’t have enough of them; never enough.” “The Gardishans spent decades building Earth’s illegal corridors. How is it we – the Hunters – never knew about it until they needed rescuing? Someone should have seen the decline in our population.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and wallowed in the warmth of his flesh. Caparossi snorted. “Yes, they should have, but we don’t have the staff numbers to do a true investigation into who is responsible and why it was kept from us.” 6 Huntress: Alone She let him go, lightly slapped his shoulder. “Well, you and Lord Montague must know it’s someone on the World Council. Only they would have the ability to mask the numbers from the census.” Caparossi rose and stretched. Cambria admired the play of muscle under his tanned skin. “Stop leering at me. We have work to do.” “How do you know I’m leering?” She pouted and he sent her a knowing smile. “You always leer at me, even when I’m not looking. It is innate Italian knowledge. And as you know, all Italians are handsome or gorgeous.” He winked. “Humph.” She climbed off the opposite side of the bed, reached for a silk robe. “I might just take up with an Englishman.” “Too pale. All that rain and fog makes them stoic.” “A Spaniard, then. They’re hot” “Too temperamental. All that sun and heat makes them unpredictable.” He sniffed. “Yeah, a Spaniard. I like spicy and hot and passionate.” He slid his hands around her waist and whispered in her ear. “You want spicy, hot and passionate? I can show you how... dangerously spicy, hot and passionate an Italian can be.” His hands rose to cup her breasts. She sighed with pleasure. “We’re gonna be late, aren’t we.” She said and reached for him. “Oh... yes, Bella, we are.” Cambria tucked her cotton shirt into her blue denim jeans, her skin buzzing from Caparossi’s hands and the hot shower where he used those hands. And still she wanted him. 7 Huntress: Alone “Jeez, you mess with my head.” She muttered and he grinned at her as he buttoned his jacket. She studied him. Tall and darkly handsome in his drab green uniform with its many decorations for service, for bravery. His eyes sparkled with humour and arrogance. Cambria stepped over to him, gently tugged his jacket down and straightened his tie. “I do love a man in uniform... or out of one in your case.” “You are too good to me.” He kissed her cheek. She pulled on her denim jacket. “I know. Come on, let’s go to work.” He picked up her hand and they walked out together, walked the residential hallway of the underground Hunter complex to the elevator and down to the briefing room. He kissed her cheek again and dropped her hand, went to the podium to assign missions. Her mission seemed relatively simple: travel to Lazarus, arrest a man called Lincoln Dwight Grant and bring him back for trial on thirteen counts of murder, twelve counts of conspiracy to commit murder, robbery and illegal arms trading. Bring him back? Why not just swear out an execution warrant? Cambria shook her head. Grant’s picture showed him as a giant of man, with shoulder length unkempt shaggy dark hair. Massive shoulders and chest stretched the material of his white shirt. Worn, pale patches showed on the denim of his jeans that encased thick, tree-trunk thighs. He stood tall in tan, hand-tooled cowboy boots. His sun-darkened skin was the shade of a man who worked out doors. Pale blue eyes reflected an unguarded, angry expression. He looked like a very pissed off bear. She hoped he wouldn’t fight her. The warrant was for arrest, not execution. Someone must have a good reason to want him alive. Tranquilising him wouldn’t work – he was too big and too heavy for her to carry back to the Spatial Vortex Transport, or ‘corridor’ as the Hunter organisation called them. 8 Huntress: Alone Cambria had tranq’d Lady Corona Cottington-Blake on Ragnarok. The Council convicted the former Minister of conspiring to murder hundreds and treason against an allied planet, but she was a slight woman, easily put into the back of a vehicle. Grant imitated a man mountain and she’d need a counter-gravity unit to lift him. That or local help. She chewed her lip and read the rest of the report. Grant was a very bad boy. Born in county Texas of the American province, he’d grown up on a vast provincial- owned cattle farm; no, it was a ranch, wasn’t it? Or a cattle station? His parents, Adam and Martha, worked themselves into an early grave, as their grandparents had. Grant then spent most of his childhood at the ranch crèche. Life on a farm was obviously hard work, but the workers and the provincial government reaped the rewards of their endeavours, with highly prized prime beef sold to the best restaurants around the world. Frustrated, ill educated – which was irresponsible in these global times of compulsory school – he’d spent a lot of time hiding from truancy officers, judging from one of the appendices attached to the report. He’d started small, stealing from the supply depot on the ranch, graduating to drunken fights with other workers, harassing the women of the ranch – and Cambria felt the slow burn of vengeful anger. Grant finally lost it and went on a rampage, killing a dozen workers and running off the cattle. The remaining men banded together to defend themselves, but Grant still managed to injure some of them. Then he’d escaped and fell in with a group who trafficked arms to the Mexican province. Mexico farmed pharmaceutical plants, but some workers, who’d escaped, formed groups to make illegal drugs. The provincial government continued to hunt for them, but failed to find the cookhouses or the gang leaders. It was a never-ending process for law enforcement. Grant’s colleagues exported psychotropic drugs to anyone who could afford them. Dancer, the current preferred addictive narcotic, caused hallucinogenic effects 9 Huntress: Alone of euphoria, then mellowness and finally, a sporadic muscle twitch akin to spasmodic dancing. Eventually, the uncontrollable muscle spasms increased to such an extent that bones broke and tendons or cartilage ripped off joints. The trauma was so extensive sufferers died from heart failure, brain aneurisms or killed themselves messily. Maybe someone should charge him with the manslaughter of those addicted souls, she thought grimly. Grant’s pals needed weaponry to protect their turf, to guarantee a supply route for their product to overseas customers and to ward off interfering and annoying narcotics agents. He’d need some serious military hardware to go up against the Special Narcotics Forces Unit of the defence force. Cambria thought that some centuries back a civil war had erupted on the border between America and Mexico over illegal substances; but she couldn’t recall when. Somehow, Grant managed to get off planet - and she suspected another illegal corridor - to arrange for more effective, advanced weaponry. That’s why he was on Lazarus, the report concluded. She tsked and shook her head. Grant was a career criminal in need of an attitude adjustment. “Problems?” Caparossi sat next to her, leaned back in the soft leather padded chair and draped his arm behind her. “Grant is some kind of nasty. I’m trying to work out how to bring him in. This is a job for a team, not a single Hunter.” He leaned over to look at the picture. “Big brute.” “Lazarus is a known trading post, isn’t it? Off world imports and exports?” “Indeed it is. If you have the money, they’d have the know-how to acquire the weaponry you need for any military project. What’s Grant up to?” He asked. “Since he’s fallen in with the provincial Mexican bandits, I suspect he wants some advanced technology to ensure the future of his business.” 10 Huntress: Alone “Then you’ll just have to disabuse him of his ambitions.” Caparossi said. “I think he’s going to fight my attempts to extradite him back to Earth.” “I think you’re right. He doesn’t look the sort to give in or give up just because you ask nicely.” She shut down the information unit, tucked it into the top pocket of her jacket. “Well, I’ll ask, of course, but I expect he’ll politely decline my invitation.” She sighed. “They don’t allow weapons, either. Can I have a team?” He poked her in the back with a finger. “We don’t have the staff, Cam, everyone’s busy. I’m sure you’ll be able to bring him in - conscious or not. Use the local constabulary if necessary.” Cambria stood. “Time to go get the felon.” She looked down at him; put her hands on the back of the chair on either side of his body. “I’ll be seeing you later.” And she leaned down to kiss him. “Mmm. I think I’ll be waiting.” He grinned when she lifted her mouth from his. 11 Huntress: Alone Chapter Two Lazarus was one of the first planets humans arrived on – legitimately. For nearly two hundred years, humans built a society with the most advanced technology of the time, and continued to advance as technology advanced. Like most human planets, the Gardishans manipulated the Government into installing second-hand corridors. Lazarus, an ardent ally of Earth, had the benefit of the Nexian technicians fixing those corridors first. Cambria walked around the arrival concourse, the vague feeling of coming home settling around her. Humans were the predominant species, with a smattering of aliens. All the typical franchises dotted the embarkation area, fashion, food and tax-free products, bars, restaurants, newsagents. She listened to alien conversations. The weirdness in her head translated the languages with barely a pause. And to think, when I first went to Tudor, I couldn’t believe I was on another planet. How many humans on Earth still think interstellar travel is impossible? And that there’s no such thing as aliens? The Dark-a-day, Watchers, ‘Guardians of this dimension’, the Nexians called them, now made up a part of her DNA, absorbed on the day she blew up the aliens on Nomad. Somehow, the universal translator installed by the Nomadians became organic and supplied her with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge whenever she accessed it. She suspected the Watchers used her to garner more knowledge about the species they had lost when she and Karesh destroyed their ship: humans. All she knew of the mysterious creatures was that no one could properly describe them. Witnesses told only of a darkness surrounded by mist. She knew they monitored her and gave her updated information every time someone killed her. Then they sent her back to life. She couldn’t decide if her existence depended on them, or they were genuinely keen on discovering what would kill her, so they could claim the same option. Was 12 Huntress: Alone she a guinea pig for a superior, highly intelligent, highly advanced species or an interesting freak of nature? She shook off her thoughts. Grant would provide enough of a challenge; philosophising on her state of being could wait until she could ask the appropriate species – and that wouldn’t happen until someone killed her again; something she was disinclined to encourage. Cambria went to the Transit Authority office and showed her Hunter identification to the security officer. “Yes, ma’am, how may I assist?” The twenty-something man asked with a blandness that belied the excitement in his hazel eyes. “I’m looking for Lincoln Grant.” She said and pulled out her information unit, turned the device around to show the officer. “Linc?” His eyebrows rose. “Well, I’ll be damned. What’s he done?” “Haven’t you read the off-world warrant sheets?” He looked affronted. “Of course, it’s mandatory, but Linc Grant isn’t on them.” He turned away to a desk, picked up a handful of sheets and laid them in front of Cambria. “Here, these are the warrants for the last month, check for yourself.” Cambria accepted the pages, read them. He was right: Grant’s name wasn’t on it. She frowned. She supposed it was possible they hadn’t had an update. But she had her warrant and that’s all she needed. “How long has Grant been on planet?” She checked his nametag. “Officer Brent.” He pulled out his own information unit and brought up the details. “He arrived ten days ago. He’s a frequent visitor to Lazarus, coming in about once a month and records business as the primary reason for being here.” “Does he list a business?” “Yes, ma’am, he’s in the import/export industry. Advanced farm equipment routed through Lazarus from the Marsurius Protectorate.” He smiled at her. “They 13 Huntress: Alone have the most efficient agricultural techniques going. They can grow crops on a rock, those guys.” When Cambria didn’t return his smile, he cleared his throat and continued reading. “Ah, he imports the equipment and exports the produce, corn, barley, beef and some lamb. I believe the Protectorate find our goods to be delicacies, and charge their people accordingly.” I’ll bet they do. She thought. Especially since there are no privately held farms in the American Province, which makes everything he sells illegal. Something this jackass should know. Farm machinery would make a good cover for the illegal arms. And the produce provided a conduit to ship illegal drugs off world. The amount of money Grant could earn had the potential to be staggering, unless she stopped him. “Where can I get a hold of the shipping manifests?” “The spaceport. He ships in bulk.” “Customs inspection reports?” “Same place.” He leaned forward. “Do you suspect him of importing illegal items or something?” “I’m not at liberty to say, officer, but I’m sure you’ll receive a full download of the proceedings.” And maybe a warrant for your own arrest on aiding and abetting. She could add more charges to Grant’s warrant once she had a copy of the manifests. She thanked him and left. Outside the transit facility, the air blew fresh and autumnal. The lighter gravity lifted her spirits, as if the very atmosphere took away her worries. In the sky, she saw the pale curves of two moons, one close, the other half its size and more distant. She hailed a taxi – a Terran vehicle – got in, and asked for the spaceport. The driver nodded and drove off while she looked around. The city of Rising was a modern, model city with low buildings instead of towers to block the view of the surrounding mountain ranges. Built in the middle of 14 Huntress: Alone an old giant meteor impact zone, the humans had constructed their first city with care and a focus on minimal impact on the environment. Trees, Terran and native, grew tall above the broad boulevards, leaves turning brown and fluttering onto the grassed, open spaces. “New in town?” The driver asked and she met his gaze in the rear view mirror. “Yes. You have a beautiful city here.” She said. “Indeed we do. We arrived with the intention of not repeating Earth’s environmental mistakes. I think we’ve managed that.” His expression turned grim. “We also have the expectation that tourists and visitors to our fair planet will maintain the status quo and not do anything to harm the environment.” Cambria felt her eyebrows rise. “Harsh penalties for littering?” “Very. People who abuse Mother Nature rarely arrive at the police station unharmed.” He gave her a grin. “The citizens of Rising are serious about keeping a clean environment and ferocious in punishing wrong-doers.” She nodded slowly. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He pulled up in front of the spaceport gates. “You’ll need to catch another taxi from here, ma’am.” She handed over her Hunter ID and he swiped it through the credit machine, handed the card back without looking at it. The ID, with a DNA implant, drew directly on the financial resources of the Hunter Unit. “Thanks.” She said and got out. An enormous silver craft with alien language on the side slowly lifted off in eerie silence. The language shifted in front of her eyes. Orthra Murgra. Star Witch. With a shake of her head, she approached the guard who eyed her with suspicion. “May I help you?” He asked. She pointed to the rising ship. “Passenger liner?” 15 Huntress: Alone “Cargo. We don’t have passenger liners on Lazarus. The passenger transit facility is downtown.” He reached inside the guardhouse. “I can call another taxi to take you.” “Please don’t, I was just making conversation. I’m not here to leave, I’m here to investigate.” She brought out her Hunter ID and guard took it, stepped inside the guardhouse. Cambria watched the silver craft, the sun shining off the hull like a starburst. Did it contain ‘farming equipment’ or something else? Where was its destination? “Everything is in order, Hunter.” The guard said and unlocked the gate. “A vehicle will arrive shortly to take you to the customs office.” “Thank you.” She said and walked through. “Good Hunting, ma’am.” He replied and closed the gate. She heard the metallic lock engage. Cambria turned her attention to the perimeter. The twelve-metre high, reinforced steel fence stretched out in either direction, with guard boxes spaced out every two hundred metres. Storage buildings were a hundred metres inside the fence with plenty of open space between the enormous hangars. Anyone attacking the facility would have to cross what ostensibly became a killing ground. Once, she’d never thought of how to defend territory; but that was before Tudor and the need to defend the village against the surrounding wildlife. She saw the black vehicle approach, its engine silent. A tiny woman dressed in the black uniform of a customs agent turned out of the golf-cart sized vehicle. “Hunter Petersen.” She tilted her head, auburn hair neatly tucked back in a bun. “I’m Customs Agent Jane Rhodes, your escort for the duration of your investigation. May I see your identification, please?” 16 Huntress: Alone Cambria handed her wallet over and the agent studied the information, held it up and turned it to the side. “It’s genuine, I assure you.” Cambria said with a slight smile. “But it pays to check anyway.” Rhodes handed the wallet back and indicated the vehicle. “Shall we?” Cambria climbed in the passenger side. The agent started the vehicle and drove in a curve to head to one of the hangars. The agent didn’t speak, nor did Cambria ask questions. Approaching the building, she saw armed guards pace the length of the wall, rifle barrels gleamed silver in the sunlight. Cambria flicked at glance at the agent, but the woman said nothing. Rhodes drove inside the building through a twenty-five-metre wide open door. On the left were offices, four stories high and in the open area, crates of all shapes, sizes and material were stacked, awaiting inspection. In between the crates, male and female customs agents roamed with info-boards and flat-ended bars with which to open the cargo. Rhodes parked halfway down the office row. “This way, please.” Cambria followed the agent up a short flight of wooden steps. She glanced down. Wood? As if reading her mind, Rhodes turned with a slight smile. “Recycled.” She said and opened a door. The cramped office hosted a desk, two chairs and six filing cabinets taking up almost all the available space. The agent squeezed between desk and cabinet, seated herself and pointed to the chair facing the desk. “Now then Hunter, how may the Customs Service assist you?” Cambria cleared her throat. “I’m interested in the shipping manifests of Lincoln Grant.” 17 Huntress: Alone Rhodes frowned, pulled out her info unit and ran her finger across the surface. Then she rose, and turned to one of the filing cabinets. “He imports/exports agricultural equipment, imports consumable produce from Earth for sale off world.” “Any... anomalies?” Rhodes turned to her, thin white plastic sheets in hand. “Smuggling?” She asked instead. “Maybe.” Cambria hedged and Rhodes resumed sitting, studied the documentation. “All the manifest documentation is in order.” She murmured and shifted the flimsies, studied the next sheet. “No compromise on the integrity of the customs seals on eighty percent of cargo from Earth and incoming worlds. All of that cargo has been certified as genuine.” She lifted her gaze from the documents. “And the other twenty percent?” Rhodes tossed her head towards the door. “If you look outside the pitifully small window, you’ll see the inspection area is full and this is one of a dozen inspection facilities on this base.” She laid the documents on the desk, crossed her arms on the surface. “While we endeavour to search every piece of cargo coming into Lazarus, the task is an impossible one, as any customs agent will tell you. We pride ourselves on maintaining an average higher than any other Customs Service humans have ever had. But to settle your mind, sample cargo is unloaded and scanned through a state-of-the art inspection device. Anything that even hints of being illegal is removed and thoroughly inspected.” She leaned back in her chair. “That’s not to say clever people can’t get by us. If you would give me an idea of what you’re searching for, I’ll be able to tell you if it’s possible.” She invited. Cambria breathed deep. “Weapons and drugs.” She said. Rhodes snorted. “The usual, then. I’m not saying it’s impossible to smuggle either through our system, but it is extremely difficult. Illegal narcotics are the first and most important thing we search for, thus, we designed our systems to hunt 18 Huntress: Alone down even the smallest amount. Large quantities simply don’t come through because it’s too easy to find. Weapons...” She pursed her lips. “I admit we have some problems with weapons. Our equipment, currently, cannot detect weapons made of an alien material. Terran elements and material, yes - and we do find them. A single weapon here and there, usually for personal protection. But wholesale arms’ smuggling? Unless it’s something the customs agents have seen we don’t know what to look for. Information is coming down the line, from the World Council, from allied planets and systems, but it’s a slow process and we work on a rotation for training.” “So Grant could be smuggling advanced weapons’ systems.” Cambria said with satisfaction. Rhodes narrowed her gaze, green eyes sparking. “Could be, but I find it highly doubtful. We've never caught Mr Grant smuggling anything, his cargo is impeccable for the past ten years. I see no reason to suspect him of arms’ smuggling.” Cambria reached into her pocket for the treated paper version of the warrant, slid it across the desk. Rhodes picked it up and read it. Her expression drained of colour, then flushed red as she handed the warrant back. “I don’t believe it.” “Why not?” Cambria asked, curious. “As a businessman he buys and sells, but as an ordinary citizen, he has helped the farmers of Lazarus improve their crops and their farming practices – without charging one red cent for his expertise. As a person, he’s friendly, clever, professional, abides by the law and we’ve had no reason to look at him any closer than we have.” Cambria tilted her head. “You’re a fan.” Rhodes’ mouth tightened. “I have no reason to suspect him of wrong doing. Yes, I have met him but through my dealings with him, I have not seen any indication, not one iota of a clue, as to any malfeasance. I wouldn’t say that about most of the 19 Huntress: Alone people I deal with Hunter, but to sully a man’s reputation without proof is a despicable thing.” Cambria tightened her own expression. “The World Council issued this warrant, Agent Rhodes. They do not issue warrants because they don’t like someone’s success. Before the GSU swears out a warrant, they investigate the charges thoroughly. The proof, should you require it, will be at the World Council’s Global Security Unit.” Silence hung between them as they tried to stare each other down. Cambria was confident of Grant’s guilt – Rhodes absolute in his innocence. Could Grant have paid off customs staff as well as the transit officer? Cambria wasn’t prepared to make that accusation, particular since Rhodes hadn’t given any indication of automatic defence, just natural support for a successful businessman. Grant didn’t look charming in his picture, didn’t seem the kind of man to employ such methods, nor did Rhodes seem the kind of woman to succumb to seduction measures. Cambria slowly nodded. “Well enough, Agent Rhodes. I still have to take him in, for his own benefit in defending himself against the charges.” “And his reputation will still be ruined by innuendo and rumour.” Rhodes bit out. “I have spoken to Officer Brent of the Transit Authority and you of this matter. Any rumour won’t be coming from me.” She promised. “And you can personally contact the GSU for the proof, should you require it.” Rhodes took her word. “I’ll trust Hunter honour this time. Officer Brent will be hearing from me.” Cambria finally dropped her gaze; saw the gold wedding band on Rhodes’ finger. “Where is Grant?” She asked and returned her gaze to Rhodes. 20

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