“Incoming message from Henry Wills.”
Conrad Stodt frowned. Wills was head of security for Generosity Station. A veteran of the American CIA before Unification, Wills had never seemed comfortable serving under the leadership of a former BND officer. Still, he had adapted to the changing face of security, unlike so many others, rising quickly to his own position of authority.
Conrad shook away the thoughts. “Yes, Susan, put him through.”
The large screen on the wall came to life, showing the sallow features of Henry Wills.
“Chief,” he said simply.
“Hello, Henry. You look a bit pale today. Is everything alright?”
“Pale?” For a moment, Wills seemed puzzled by the remark. “Sorry, Chief, but I haven’t been in the mood to go outside lately. You know how it is.”
Conrad smiled. “As you live on a space station,” he said, “not going outside would probably be the wiser choice. Now, what can I do for you today?”
“Got a puzzler here, Chief. Possible security risk, but every inquiry I make comes back negative.”
“What do you have?”
“Just a name and a vague description, I’m afraid. Female, average height, auburn hair. Described as attractive. A couple of descriptive comments about various body parts, but nothing there I can use.”
“Probably an alias, Chief. The name’s not listed in any system I’ve been able to access.”
“What name, Henry?”
Conrad nodded, happier than he’d ever been of his talent for what Americans called a ‘poker face.’ “And what is your interest in this Mary Worth, Henry?”
“As I said, possible security risk. I’ve been getting reports that this woman has been snooping around, asking about sensitive information. May even have tried to bribe one of my security people, but I haven’t been able to verify that.”
“Do you have this Mary Worth in custody, Henry?”
“Negative. It should be impossible to hide on a station this size, but she seems to have vanished. I know she’s still here, though. No ships have left since she got here, and I have the whole station locked up tight. I’ll find her, never fear.”
“I have no doubts as to your abilities, Henry. What can I do from this end?”
“You have access to certain information sources I can’t get into,” Wills replied. “I’d appreciate it if you could check them and see if you can find some kind of information on this woman. The more I know about her, the better the chance I can find and arrest her.”
“I shall see what I can find. Contact me again tomorrow at this time, and I shall tell you what I have learned.”
“Thanks, Chief.” The screen blanked. Conrad leaned back, only to hear his intercom buzzing again.
“Incoming, Chief. Encrypted.”
“Listed only as MH.”
“Patch it through. And Susan, I would appreciate it if you would step out of the office for a few minutes.”
“Of course, Chief.” Conrad could almost hear the smile in her voice. “What I don’t know and all that. Back in fifteen.”
Conrad hastily punched a code into his computer to unlock the encryption. This was one message he had to take.
“I was expected. Someone planted a stun beam in my sonic shower, then delivered me to Stillman.”
“I take it you are no longer in his custody?”
“Of course not. They used standard cuffs on me.”
Conrad grinned. “An easy escape, then.” He turned serious. “Mary, I just had a message from my head of security there. He’s asking about you, says you’re a possible security risk. He tells me you’ve been digging into sensitive information.”
Mary frowned. “Conrad,” she said, “I have spoken to all of three people since I got here. The clerk who cleared my papers, the guy who grabbed me, and Stillman.”
“So how did Security know to check on you?”
“Stillman. He bragged about his contact in EarthGov. Tried to get information on me, but, of course, he came up empty. He even tried DNA.”
Conrad returned the frown. “Obviously,” he said, “someone in my department there is connected with Stillman. As far as I know, only government agencies use DNA for identification.”
“Exactly. So whoever is funneling reports on me to your guy here, that’s probably the mole.”
“Secure. For now. No way to tell how long that will last, though. Especially with no papers. Stillman took mine.”
Conrad nodded, suddenly seeming distracted. “Henry Wills, my security chief there, seemed very puzzled by your ability to vanish.”
Mary gazed at the face on her screen. “Conrad,” she said, “something’s bothering you. What is it?”
For a moment, Conrad hesitated. “It’s William,” he finally said. “He’s missing.”
“You went to see him? I was under the impression that he did not like to be bothered while I was on assignment for you. That was part of the agreement when I signed on.”
“I know that, Mary. But this could well be the most important job you will ever undertake for me. I decided that close communication could be vital, and I felt that William could help in that regard. He is, after all, the only one able to contact you between jobs. It was my hope to set up a secondary communications option, in case anything went wrong.”
“William is fine, Conrad,” Mary said softly. “If he’s not home, that means he doesn’t want to be found. So stop looking. You’ll see him again when he’s ready to be seen.”
“And what if his leaving was not by his choice? What if it is connected to the group you are investigating?”
“In other words, what if he was kidnapped?” Mary shook her head. “Conrad, relax. William is fine, take my word for that. And focus on what we need to do next.”
Conrad shook his head. “I never realized,” he said slowly, “that you could be so cold.”
“Cold has nothing to do with it,” Mary replied. “If anything happened to William, I would die. I just know for a fact that he’s safe. Now, what do you suggest for my next move, since the opposition already knows about me?”
“Make your way to hydroponics. Look for Jake Shuman. He can supply you with new papers. Once you have them, lay low.”
“Not long. I think it’s past time I paid an inspection visit to Generosity Station. Once I’m aboard, I’ve no doubt of your ability to contact me without anyone else knowing.”
“Understood. See you then.” Mary killed the contact, then returned the small communicator to the secret compartment of her suitcase. This done, she began the laborious process of extracting herself from the hull supports that had been her hiding place. Swinging from the final brace, she dropped herself onto an inspection catwalk below, only to freeze at the sight of a security officer, gun in hand.
“Hello, Miss Worth,” the officer said. “You’re under arrest. If you resist, I do have authorization to take you down.”
“I have no intention of resisting,” Mary replied, raising her hands.
“Oh well,” the officer replied. “I had hoped.” And with that, he pulled the trigger.
“What brings you to Generosity Station, Chief?”
“Business, unfortunately,” Conrad replied, accepting the drink Henry Wills offered him. “Preliminary inquiries on your mystery woman have revealed nothing, so I decided to come to the source.” He glanced around. “Besides, this is my first visit here. It makes for a perfect excuse to evaluate your section on this station.”
Wills frowned. “Do you feel there’s something about my section that requires evaluation?”
Conrad shook his head. “Standard practice, Henry, you know that. Every section is to be evaluated periodically. This is the perfect opportunity to accomplish two goals with one visit.”
“You should have stayed on Earth,” Wills said coldly. “But you Germans never did now when to butt out.”
“What do you mean?” Suddenly, Conrad began feeling extremely light headed. Wills had drugged his drink, he realized. He struggled to rise, but his body failed him, letting him slip to the floor. His final sight before blackness overtook him was Wills’ cold smile.
“Conrad? Are you ok?”
“Mary?” Conrad pried his eyes open with an effort. He was, he found, standing in a space between two support beams, his arms raised over his head and somehow fastened in place. Across from him, Mary stood with her back to the opposite beam. Her arms, also, were raised, her wrists cuffed. Chains from each wrist were secured to rings welded onto the frame. She was also quite naked, a state Conrad was happy he didn’t share.
“How did you get here?”
Mary shrugged. “A security guard caught up to me right after we talked,” she said. “I thought he was going to arrest me, but he stunned me instead. I woke up here.”
“That would have been nearly two days ago.”
Mary nodded. “They stunned me again a short while ago. When I woke up, you were here with me. How did they get you?”
“Henry Wills,” Conrad replied. “Obviously, he’s in league with the anti-Malorians. He drugged my drink.”
As he spoke, Conrad couldn’t help admiring the view his fellow prisoner presented. Her body, totally exposed to view, was full and firm, beautifully proportioned. She is definitely a beauty, he thought, before realizing where his thoughts were taking him. Shaking his head, he dispelled such thoughts.
“Any idea what they plan to do with us?”
Mary shrugged. “Me,” she said, “they want information from. That’s a given. As to you, they may want information, or they may just want you out of the way until whatever they have planned has been accomplished. Either way, we may be here a while.”
Conrad nodded, then lapsed into silence. After several moments, Mary spoke again.
“Mind if I ask you a question?” At Conrad’s slow nod, she went on. “What’s up with you and William.” She smiled. “Other than me, of course.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you are asking.”
“William considers you his best friend,” Mary stated. “But what is he to you?”
“He is someone I respect and admire,” Conrad replied. “William was the fourth richest man in the United States, yet he fought as a common soldier during the Unification Wars. He is a man of honor and courage.”
Mary’s eyes bored into his own, and Conrad found himself looking away. “There’s more to it than that,” she said. “William didn’t even know you existed until after the war was over. That was less than two years ago. And you approached him. Since then, you’ve done everything you can for him. Why?”
“Because,” Conrad said slowly, “I owe it to him. During the war, I left my post with BND to command a special forces unit. We were posted to New York during that final battle. I did things there I’m not proud of, but one haunts me more than any other.” Conrad’s eyes lifted to meet Mary’s gaze. “It was my bullet,” he said, “that deprived William McDonald of his legs. For that, I can never repay him.”
Mary smiled. “You should talk to him,” she said. “He may surprise you. For now, though, how bout we get out of here?”
As Conrad watched, Mary stretched herself to grasp the chains above her wrists, lifting her feet from the floor. Slowly, she curled her body until she hung head down, her feet touching the beam. Carefully, she walked her feet down, keeping the chains taut to hold her in place. To Conrad’s eyes, it was as if she stood on the wall, face toward the floor.
“Now comes the fun part.” Slowly, inches at a time, she worked one hand down the chain, keeping it taut. At the same time, she slid one foot fractions of an inch down the wall. Her other hand and foot followed suit. Slowly, she worked her way down until her feet were nearly touching the welded plates holding the rings to which her chains were attached. Only her firm pull on the chains kept her feet firmly planted against the smooth metal; otherwise, she would already have fallen to the floor.
“And quit staring at my tits.”
Conrad was surprise to find himself blushing. Positioned as she was on the wall, face down, head toward him, the sight of her breasts, swinging freely with every motion, was undeniably appealing.
“My apologies,” he said.
“Just teasing,” Mary replied lightly. “Distracting myself from what’s about to happen.”
“And what is that?”
“New welds,” she said. “Hopefully not as strong as they might be.” So saying, she set herself and pulled strongly on the chains. As Conrad watched, the muscles on her arms and legs bunched, putting all of her considerable strength into her fight for freedom.
“I hope you succeed,” Conrad said earnestly.
“If you want to hope for something,” Mary shot back, “hope my feet don’t slip. If they do, I could easily dislocate both arms when I hit the ends of my chains. That could tend to hurt.”
Under Mary’s assault, the plates slowly began to buckle. A corner popped free, the whole plate beginning to peel away from the beam. It gave with a loud pinging noise, pulling chain with it as it flew into the air. Deprived of half of her support, Mary’s feet slipped. Moving quickly, she pushed away from the wall, twisting so that she swung down to face the wall.
“That was close,” she said, smiling.
“You have a hand free,” Conrad observed. “Yet I fail to see how that helps us.”
“I was afraid,” Mary said, her free hand reaching down between her naked thighs, “that one of them might decide to have some fun while I was helpless. That would have been a disaster.” As Conrad watched, she inserted two fingers within herself, withdrawing a slender object. “They might have found my pick.”
Impressed by her calm, Conrad watched as Mary freed herself, then him. Stepping away from the beam, he asked, “What now?”
“Now we get me some clothing,” Mary replied. “Then we need to have a talk with Mister Wills.”
You can also leave feedback & comments for this story on the Plaza Forum
story continues in William & Mary 3