Dark Tempest
conduit and the frontal panel replaced. The Archer was nowhere to be seen.
    Wolff sidled over to the seating and chanced a surreptitious glance behind it, lest she be hiding there with intent to ambush him, but no, the bridge was empty. Its viewports looked out into the closed shield, the docking pipes retracted into the body of the station like the tendrils of a sea anemone sitting out a tsunami.
    Wolff noticed again the door on the opposite side of the bridge, which presumably led to a lesser corridor—and probably the ship’s living quarters. Taking nimble sidesteps, he peered into the entrance. The tunnel was narrower and slightly better lit than the primary corridors to the airlock. It had a smell of regular use to it, and what appeared to be mandalas depicting stylised galaxies had been engraved into the five doors leading off from it.
    Wolff flared his nostrils, tasting the air. It had a higher humidity than the dry, cycled air in the bridge and primary corridor and the cold staleness of the armoury and cargo bays.
    The second door on the right hand side stood retracted into the wall. Wolff took a step forward, and Jed’s head and arm appeared around the doorframe. Her hair was wet and hung down almost to her shoulders in tousled clumps, and moisture glistened on the white skin of her forearm. Of course, she held the gun in her hand, and although she had removed the dark, glossy skullcap usually covering the top of her head, the metal band was still around her forehead, and he reasoned that her interface with the Shamrock was probably bolted to her skull.
    “Keep back.” Jed waved the gun from side to side.
    “The computer is back under your control?”
    “That it is, but not afore the ship became entombed within this docking shield. This is your doing.” The distrust in her face was quite apparent.
    “An ion storm approaches. This is not my doing.”
    “An ion storm. I see. This sun has an unusual cycle.”
    “We—the Shamrock —will remain?”
    Jed allowed herself a moment’s pause. “Until the ion storm abates.”
    This banter had become a cryptic mutual agreement. Wolff would endeavour to be on board the Shamrock when that time came, while he knew Jed would do her best to ensure it was not so.
    “You having a wash?” Wolff raised his eyebrows.
    Jed glared at him with dark, tempestuous eyes. “Yes. You would do well to follow my example.” She jerked back into the room, and the door slid shut behind her.
    Wolff stepped quietly over to the door, and ran his fingers over the condensation on its engraved surface. Under whimsical impulse, he placed his palms and his ear to the metal, and listened. No sounds gave any clue to what went on behind it. He supposed the Shamrock ’s senses encompassed its inner surfaces as well, and he wondered if Jed could see what he was doing. Perhaps the door had a one-way transparency, and she stood sneering five inches in front of him, wearing only a headband and a gun. Wolff allowed a thin smile to play at the corners of his mouth. Let her form her idle speculations upon his motives and meanings.
    He turned away. He fully intended to return to Carck-Westmathlon and find out what it was that had made this system the target of whatever Taggart’s intention was. What he needed right now was insurance. Perhaps a stolen ready-prepared chimaera would procure him a ride out to somewhere he could start afresh, but that was not Wolff’s desire. Already he had decided upon this ship as his ride out, and although Jed’s entire haul might well prove a point of negotiation with the Archer, he wouldn’t be able to carry it.
    He traversed the bridge once more, and retraced his steps into the primary corridor. The back of the arsenal, he remembered, led to the cargo holds and the unknown lower levels of the Shamrock .
    “Come now, Shamrock ,” Wolff whispered. He activated a small device attached to his belt. It gave out a radio signal which disrupted the ship’s most local

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