Gingezel 4: Hacker © Gingezel 2013
Sample Chapters


Chapter 1


Joran Lantonnel came into the hotel sitting room still toweling his long black hair. Galaxy that had been some night! A satisfied smile spread across his black face. He, as Anton, was back as a galaxy level act. He yawned, stretched, and studied himself in a mirror. Not too many signs of aftermath. Presumably women liked his more haggard look since he’d had plenty of offers after the concert. Good thing he had lost those extra two kilos shaping up to go on tour, as he’d ended up almost naked onstage. Joran yawned again. He couldn’t remember when he’d had so much fun. Thanks to Johnny, bless him. There were going to have to be more Anton plus Johnny Sun concerts, a lot more. The galaxy’s top two male vocalists. Joran’s grin widened.

Tossing the towel on a chair, Joran gave the communications center a dirty look. It felt distinctly wrong to be checking his messages the morning after a concert. He never did it when he introduced new material. A galaxy tour was different, that was routine. He might check messages then if there was nothing better going on like a pickup Octagla game, a holodrama he’d been meaning to watch, a book he’d meant to look at, or a new restaurant to check out. He almost always found something better, but the option of checking messages existed.

But after a premier like last night Joran carefully avoided all messages for three or four days. It gave everyone, including himself, time to calm down. After those three or four days, depending on his mood he’d either delete the lot without so much as looking at or listening to one, or he might amuse himself selecting a couple at random. Usually though he got rid of the lot. He had never decided which was worse – an unwanted criticism or being gushed on.

This time he was due for both. He didn’t have the slightest idea how the galaxy would take M’s song, either of the times he’d sung it. The first time, for Mitra, well he’d never put his naked soul into a song like that before. The second time when he and Johnny sang it for Maillie they’d both ended up crying in public. That had been good for them, cathartic. They had both loved her, lost her when she died, and she had become a barrier between them. But what the public would think, who knew.

For sure he’d get a rough ride for the striptease Johnny put him up to in family prime time. Joran grinned again. His bet was that his fans were never going to allow him to ever perform fully dressed again. And the live recording of Twilight he and Johnny did with Bojo was unbelievable. Bojo, recording under his stage name Mrail, was headed for superstardom. It had felt so good to see Bojo where he should be, center stage, blond, strong, confident, not hiding in the back like he had since his face was disfigured. Amazing what love was doing for that man. Yes, it had been quite a night.

What felt right was to just go with the glow and worry about reality in a few days. That wasn’t possible though. For the first time in all the years since they’d been in university and roomed together, neither Dreen nor Juttar had been there to see his new material, and he really wanted to know what they thought. Also, given the reason why they couldn’t come, Joran felt he had to be accessible. Dreen was still stuck on that mining planet Drezvir sorting out the cause of the fatal reactor accident, and it was looking more and more like the accident would get pinned on him. Either him or Mitra. That meant Juttar and his law firm were working flat out on Dreen and Mitra’s legal defense. A death penalty was not something to take casually especially when Dreen and Mitra were both Outsiders to the Farrese. Juttar had apologized for skipping the concert, but said firmly that going to Gingezel was too long a trip.

Still, this change in a lifelong pattern bothered Joran and being completely sober, clean, and exhausted was no help. Without so much as turning the communications unit on, he walked over to the cater unit. About to go for comfort food, he remembered the big breakfast Sinda had fed him and settled for a glass of iced herbal tea. How the hell had he ended up in bed with her? Sure, they’d both been high on the show and actually getting some chemistry going on stage for once, but she was Johnny’s woman. Galaxy, why had he done that? First he steals Maillie from Johnny and marries her, then he sleeps with Sinda. At least she’d cleared out while he showered and gone to look for Johnny.

Glass in hand, Joran went to stare out at the city. It was hot and hazy, late summer at its best. The streets would be unbearable now with the sun overhead, but later when the worst of the sun was off he’d take a long walk in the lingering heat and mellow out. Then he would think about whether or not he’d just stay here for a couple days, or if he’d slip back to Crescent Bay.

Time to quit stalling. Before checking out messages from his friends, he’d better take a quick peek to see just how upset Johnny’s label was with him for publicly stealing Johnny to AntonCorp. It was their own fault. If that asshole hadn’t refused to have the live recording they did of Twilight go out on the AntonCorp label, they’d still have the top pop singer in the galaxy. They should know by now to not make Johnny mad.

This label was definitely not in the select group that got through his intensive message screening. Joran searched for their identifiers in the junk section. A couple years ago he’d considered making them automatic trash and delete, then chickened out. There were only eight messages so far, a couple from last night, six today, so they weren’t all that upset. They obviously figured Johnny would come to his senses. Joran left the messages unopened. He’d focus when they started coming from the lawyers, not the flunkies, and he’d start answering when they started coming from the Studio Head. He hit the delete button for the lot and went to check the priority messages in his filtered mail.

The first item on the list brought a smile to Joran’s face. Darwin had gone to the trouble of sending a message. That should be really interesting. He’d never had an alien review him before. Not that he would understand the review. The Pikkant had been discovered on his land on Gingezel early on, and while they seemed to more or less understand him, he still couldn’t make out a thing they were saying.

He really hoped the little rodent stayed awake long enough to get back to Gingezel from Drezvir in a non-hibernating state. It had been way too long since they’d rubbed noses. Seeing Darwin awake wasn’t likely though. Trevarr, official ambassador to the Pikkant and a great guy, said some of the colony was napping off. It was interesting that they didn’t wait until winter to hibernate. They seemed to harvest mid to late summer, stuff themselves silly, and nap off for the stormy autumn season. Then they woke up later for winter sports. Joran’s smile broadened at Trevarr’s description of their belly sledding. Well, he wasn’t going to miss their winter sports for another year. He’d stayed off Gingezel too long and missed too much.

Next was Juttar’s message, labeled ‘Superb’, then one he hadn’t expected from Chett Linderson titled ‘Enjoy yourself?’. Joran grinned. That obviously referred to the strip routine. Hell, he hadn’t even thought of Chett in connection with the concert. He should have at least offered Chett tickets and faster transport than Nemizcan Computing’s Exec, Dreen’s space yacht. Chett would have declined since he was tied down on Tranus having replaced Dreen as head of Nemizcan Computing until the Drezvir mess was over. But he should have offered. Then there was Dreen’s, titled ‘Way to go!!!’, then Johnny’s titled ‘Hornets’ nest!’. Joran looked at the timestamp. Five minutes ago. The messages from Johnny’s studio would probably start being from lawyers soon then. Good. The sooner Johnny extricated himself from that crowd, the sooner he and Bojo and Johnny could start seriously planning an album.

The remaining item was simply alphabet soup with a few numbers thrown in. It looked like it was from a random character generator, which it was. Even the cheapest spam filter should filter that out, and his weren’t cheap. That meant it was from the handful of identifiers he gave high enough priority to that anything in any format from them would get through. Only one person on that list would send alphabet soup. Ghen Kulgalu. Joran scowled. What the hell did he want?

Joran supposed Ghen might just be checking to see if he’d stayed clean after the concert. There had been a major fight with Bojo about Ghen and the concert. Joran had wanted to invite him, and Bojo had said no way because of the drug side. Joran had said if anything would keep him off, not on, drugs it would be Ghen’s threats of what he would personally do if Joran messed up again. Bojo had said fine, but no one else would see it that way, since as far as the galaxy was concerned, Kulgalu was the drug lord and they both knew damned well that was true, no matter how many legitimate pharmaceutical companies he hid behind. Bojo had flatly refused to deal with that rumor mill. Since it was all true, there was no counter argument.

Joran knew Bojo had also made Ghen promise to not contact him before the concert, and had put a few overrides on his communications just in case Ghen broke his word. As a result Bojo thought he was receiving everything from Ghen. He and his Vice President, Bojo, were going to have a little talk about that kind of stunt one of these days. He had his head back together, and he didn’t need that level of handling now. Joran was grateful to Bojo for holding AntonCorp together for those bad years, but they were over. At least, Joran amended realistically, he hoped they were over. Anyways, it hadn’t been worth a fight before the concert, especially over a useless move. Bojo didn’t know about all of Ghen’s little tricks, including a few identifiers Bojo would have no idea belonged to Ghen.

Not many people knew. These contact routes existed because there could be times when it might be necessary for Ghen to reach someone high up on Gingezel about a lapse by Gingezel Security without the security staff that had lapsed knowing. Joran acknowledged that Ghen and Ralin, the Gingezel Head of Security, had a rather iffy relationship. So Joran had made himself the designated contact. That was best. After all, it had been his idea to make Ghen a security consultant to the Gingezel consortium. How better to keep their precious planet crime and drug free? Ghen knew every trick in the book and had no doubt invented a book’s worth on his own. Besides, it was better to have Ghen on their side. Otherwise owning and running a pleasure planet would be a nightmare.

It was unlikely this one had anything to do with Gingezel though. He suspected Ghen had just tried normal messaging routes to congratulate him, bounced, sworn at Bojo for not reconnecting him, and used this identifier. After all, it was after the concert Joran told himself. All the same, he’d better read the message. It might be more than congratulations. Ghen had a real bad habit of going off on his own and doing creative things.

Joran called up the message.

“Nice ass. Call to discuss the D issue.”

Joran smiled at the first part. It appeared he was going to hear about the bare ass stunt from everyone. But what the hell was ‘the D issue’? Over the years he’d seen Ghen work through an incredible number of oblique references to drugs, but usually you could work it out if you tried. D ... D issue. Nothing on the streets had a name starting with D right now that he knew of. And Ghen wouldn’t refer to drugs as drugs. The D issue. He thought about it from the drug angle for a bit longer and got nowhere, unless Ghen thought he was stoned on stage despite his public denial.

What else was D? Dirt? It was always possible Ghen had heard some useful dirt that would make breaking Johnny’s contract easier. Ghen always knew the worst about everyone. It would cost of course. It always did. Well, he’d better find out. Rattled, Joran placed the call to Ghen’s usual identifier from habit. He was reasonably sure of getting through. He was on Ghen’s A Priority list for calls.

Then Joran had a thought that almost made him break the call. The D issue. Something had gone wrong with the Dellmaice Power Systems takeover! Ghen was going to back Ari Dellmaice. The thought was horrifying. Joran figured Chett and Dreen and Bojo were crazy to be trying a takeover right now. He could understand that Dreen and Chett were furious with Ari for not telling them about the Drezvir reactor accident immediately since they were among the top five contenders to have caused it, and with the reverse jurisprudence in the Farr Sector the delay really cost. And now that he knew Chett, he realized Chett was the get even type. But right now they should be all be focussing on collaborating to get out of the mess, not scrapping, to say nothing of generating one hell of a lot of negative publicity. But they were doing it, and success counted on Bojo having convinced Ghen, one of the largest shareholders in Dellmaice Power Systems, to sit it out.

He was too slow to disconnect. Ghen was already there, sitting in his favorite high backed chair, sallow skinned, long messy hair down on his shoulders, peering at him. Ghen always looked like he was peering at you. It was the deep set dark eyes, the beak of a nose, and what Joran suspected was a deliberate trick of holding his head just so. It was unnerving anyways.

“You clean?” Ghen asked bluntly.

“Yes I’m clean. I just scared of the shit out of myself.”

“Oh?”

“Speculating on what the hell you might mean by the D issue.”

Ghen was immediately curious. “What did you think?”

“No way Ghen. I’m not giving you ideas. So what am I calling about?”

“First, is this call likely to be monitored since it’s from you to one of my known identifiers?” Why had Joran chosen a publicly known identifier to call, not one of his others like the one he’d sent the message on? Dumb move.

“I have no idea. I would assume Ralin respects the liberties of law-abiding citizens and doesn’t even look at their outgoing calls. I could be wrong though. There may be a few identifiers like yours that are just plain bad news and he screens them one hundred percent. Why don’t you just assume it’s monitored.”

“Then I’ll be oblique.”

“Please don’t!” Joran was totally sincere. “I’d never follow you and I’ll just get something wrong. Besides,” he added realistically, “if you’re up to trouble I’ll just go squeal when you disconnect anyways.”

Ghen took that in stride. “It’s your business that will get recorded, not mine. But first, since you got through the post concert madness does that mean you’ll stay clean this time?”

“I hope so.”

“Good. You know if you keep it up sooner or later you’ll permanently scramble that creative brain of yours, then what will you do?” He continued, “And prescription?”

“I said I’m clean, Ghen! Get off my back!”

“Yeah. Well, the way you were mixing the various prescriptions you took, you were running quite a risk there too. So take the warning.”

Joran had no idea how Ghen knew. He was quite sure though that he didn’t want to know how Ghen knew. Anyways it was time to change topics.

“This ‘D issue’. It couldn’t be Johnny Sun’s contract?”

“Is he moving over to AntonCorp then?” This was news to Ghen, but it pleased him.

Joran nodded. They’d decided that about 3:00 a.m. Or maybe it had been closer to 4:00 a.m.

“That’s good. You need to diversify.” Ghen thought a minute, then shook his head. “Offhand I don’t know anything useful. Is it going to get nasty?”

“It could.” Joran was guarded. “These things do sometimes.”

“Do you want me to snoop around? As a favor.”

“Not if you haven’t already.” Joran gave a wry smile. “Your favors are too damned expensive sometimes, Ghen.”

Ghen was hurt. “Joran, this is between friends.”

“It always is, but you always seem to think of something your friends can do to say thanks.”

Since he couldn’t argue with the truth, Ghen shifted ground. “What I wanted to talk about was Drezvir.” Ghen thought of the report he’d read a few hours ago, but he wasn’t sure how Joran fit in the picture and he needed to know. Then he needed to think some more.

“Drezvir?” That was totally unexpected. Joran stared blankly. “What’s Drezvir to you?”

“I like Dreen Pendi,” Ghen said simply.

*****


Chapter 2


Shit! How the hell had Ghen even met Dreen? Absolutely the last thing Dreen needed right now was Ghen deciding he was Dreen’s friend. If the Farr Sector Judiciary got wind of that kind of connection Dreen was finished. The Judiciary there used reverse jurisprudence where you had to prove innocence. The reactor accident had resulted in two fatalities when power went in the mines, and left the rest of the mine crew seriously injured and trapped under a wall of rock until emergency power was restored. If that wasn’t bad enough, the mining colony had been left with only emergency power in a red blizzard, and still was without full power. This case was definitely going to court.

Analysis was rapidly ruling out any equipment failure causes for the overpower. So it was looking like a design fault, either in Dreen’s computer system handling the operator interface for the reactor trips or in Mitra’s design of the hybrid reactor itself. So far preliminary charges had been placed against Mitra. But if Dreen ended up in court too, it would be very prejudicial to be friends with a drug lord. He was in a bad enough position with his previous prison record.

Galaxy, what a mess. It had been only weeks since Dreen and Mitra were holidaying with him on Gingezel, with nothing on their minds but a holiday romance. Mitra had looked so happy then, a tiny little thing, all energy and huge blue eyes in a pale face framed by brunette hair. Now there was nothing to her and she looked worried sick like she hadn’t slept since the accident. She probably hadn’t. Dreen said she knew the entire mine crew who were injured because they were the ones that worked for her installing the geothermal base units down in the mines. And Blayne, one of the miners who died, had been married to her best friend on Drezvir. That kind of personal guilt would mess anyone up.

Dreen wasn’t looking any better than Mitra. First there had been the panic when Mitra just took off without telling anyone where she was going, and they had been searching the galaxy for her. Then there had been that damned hacker who was proving that the Gingezel UltraSecure Hyperweb beta wasn’t secure at all. And of course because bad things come in runs, Dreen’s Vice President of Marketing had needed emergency surgery. That run had not exactly left Dreen high on cope when Chett got back from Drezvir with good news, bad news. The good news had been that they now knew where Mitra was. The bad news had been the accident. Joran thought about their conversation before the concert. With his prematurely graying hair and rugged face, the stress and exhaustion had Dreen looking closer to sixty than nearing forty.

“How do you know Dreen?” Joran asked accusingly.

“We were all on Gingezel together,” Ghen reminded him.

“Yes, and I made damn sure the two of you never met. What did you do? Walk up in the hotel and introduce yourself?”

“Yes.”

Joran sighed. There was absolutely no sense getting mad at Ghen. He’d just shed it. “I could ask why.”

“I don’t honestly know.” Ghen shrugged. “I didn’t know the guy was your friend Dreen. I just liked the looks of him and the way he treated the hotel staff. So when I heard him talking to Tomao about a soccer game I went over and joined in.

“Then I said, ‘I don’t believe we’ve met’. And he said he was Dreen Pendi from Nemizcan Computing. And I said I had always admired him. I mean, I couldn’t run my business without his software.”

“Well, that should have really had him thrilled.” Joran was beginning to see why Dreen had never mentioned the meeting. “Or didn’t you tell him who you were?”

“Of course I told him.” Ghen’s chin came up dangerously. “Do you think I’m ashamed of my name and who I am?”

“Some people would consider that option. Anyways, that makes Dreen your buddy?”

“Of course not. I thought you wanted the full story. When he knew who I was, he gave me shit on your account. As if I’m personally responsible for your stupidity.” Those years had been hell, after Maillie died. Joran had been out to destroy himself. Ghen’s voice totally changed tone. “You have a good friend there, Joran. I hope you appreciate that.”

“I do.”

“Good. Anyways, once he’d had his say, he was really decent. We’d run into each other in the hotel or at a restaurant and talk.”

“What in the galaxy about?”

“Computers and soccer. Boy, does that man know his soccer. And I wanted help on a really good computer system for my kid Ranga for his birthday. He’s getting serious about programming, not just user stuff.”

Joran felt sorry for Dreen. He was polite enough he would be socially incapable of handling Ghen’s unwanted overtures. All that worked with the man was to walk away, preferably firmly shutting a door in his face in the process.

Joran sighed. “I see. So where do you and Drezvir fit?”

“First. This Mitra you were singing to. Is she the engineer from Dellmaice Power Systems who designed and built the reactor, and is charged with manslaughter through criminal negligence in the Drezvir mess?”

Joran nodded.

Ghen’s dark eyes were sad and moist. His dearest friend certainly had bad luck with his women. “I’m truly sorry for you, my friend. I know you’re just getting over Maillie’s death, and now that you finally have a new woman, she’s in serious trouble. You don’t need it.”

“You’ve got it wrong, Ghen. She’s Dreen’s woman, not mine.”

Ghen stared. “Joran. I saw you. I heard you sing.”

Ghen had really wanted to attend the concert, but when he’d tried to buy tickets, he’d been put through to Bojo who had bluntly said they couldn’t risk the publicity downside, and don’t try to get someone else to buy them or use a scalper. If he so much as tried to visit Gingezel for three or four days on either side of the concert, he would be denied a visa. If he ignored that fine point, any spaceship he was on would not be allowed to land. Bojo was a good man, and Ghen had understood. Still, it had really hurt and he’d had to settle for watching it at home on Tamara.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t in love with her.” There was no sense lying to Ghen. He could smell them even over the hyperweb. “I said she was Dreen’s woman.”

Damn. Joran was screwed up again. That changed everything. Plan B time.

Ghen shook his head. “Joran. You go out of your way to give yourself grief, but it’s your life.” He shifted gears smoothly. “What I called you about was the fact the press is implying prosecution could start at any time. I’m concerned that Dreen’s corporate lawyers may not have, shall we say, the appropriate expertise? I don’t know how familiar you are with how the Judiciary is setup in the Farr Sector, but they are real pain in the ass with that need to prove innocence approach.”

Ghen shuddered at the thought. “Personally I would keep my business operations out of there if I could. But there are three prescription pharmaceuticals that are only available from firms of mine. It would be inhumane to not have them available in the Farr Sector.”

Joran refrained from commenting that quite a lot of the nonprescription stuff Ghen sold was inhumane, so why was he worried. He’d given it an honest try once, trying to talk about these two sides of Ghen’s personality with the man; the drug lord and the prescription pharmaceuticals magnate. It had been the most confusing couple hours in his life, and the memory still disturbed him.

Ghen was continuing quite sincerely, “That means some of my lawyers have to be specialists in the Farr sector. So while Dreen should have kept clear of the place, that’s water under the bridge. He’s there, and I assume we both want him out. So I was going to arrange for my lawyers to be available for consultation.” He added with some pride, “They’re the best.”

Now, how the hell do I handle this? Joran asked himself. He should have waited to call Ghen. His nervous system wasn’t up to this yet. He was still too tired from the concert. He truly believed Ghen’s heart was in the right place on this one, but what a potential for disaster! And how did Ghen always put you in the position where you either had to end up telling him things that were absolutely none of his business or bluntly tell him to fuck off. Joran suspected the man spent hours in advance plotting it out.

Sighing, Joran said, “It’s a kind offer Ghen, but I’ve already retained Juttar Kommur.”

“Have you?” Ghen’s report hadn’t said that, but Kommur’s firm were notoriously closed-mouthed about their business. “He’s a good man.” Ghen was approving. “You were at university together, weren’t you?”

Joran nodded. And how did Ghen know that? Well, he may as well tell him the rest of that story. “He shared an apartment with Dreen and me.”

“That’s all to the good, but this may not be a one-man job, even if the Nemizcan corporate law staff is good.”

You’re pushing, Ghen, Joran thought. I just said thanks but no thanks. “I didn’t mean just Juttar. I meant I retained the firm.”

Ghen’s eyes widened slightly. They were one of the most expensive firms in the galaxy.

“Who’s paying?”

“None of your damned business!”

“You’d sooner I guessed?”

Joran threw up his hands. “Except for the band’s cut and expenses that was a benefit concert.”

“And the Dreen is accepting this?” There were limits to how much charity a man could take. Ghen pushed his mane back off his face.

“He thinks it’s all for Mitra.” Damn that Kulgalu. One step lead to the next and the next. He should break contact.

Ghen nodded, and filed that for future reference. “That’s decent of you, Joran, and I won’t tell Dreen the difference. I still think you need help though.”

There was nothing for it. “Ghen. If the Farr Sector government knew we’d talked to the firm you use, it would prejudice them forever. I’m sorry, but no.” He waited for the blow up, but Ghen was beaming.

“I was really worried you’d be too exhausted to think. What I was proposing was that we call your lawyers now that I know who they are, to get an opinion on a case my guys are handling for me. If over coffee a little general shoptalk occurs, who’s to question it?”

“Could we cross that bridge only if we have to?”

“I don’t like the feel of that. These legal boys are slow at best. How about I set things in motion? If Kommur doesn’t need help, he says sorry, I’m booked. If later he does, he calls back and says some free time came up.”

Joran was now sincerely worried about recorded calls. After a certain point, Ralin would feel obliged to pass things on to the Farr Sector Judiciary, and he suspected they’d crossed that point a couple sentences ago. Maybe he should have tried to stumble through vague hints. Galaxy knew what he’d have got wrong then!

“You’re right, Ghen. This shouldn’t have been a possibly recorded call, but since it could well be, let me go on record saying it is a singularly bad idea and I’m having no part of it.”

Actually it was a very good idea. He just hoped Ghen was following him. Joran shrugged his defeat. “But I assume you’ll suit yourself. You always do.”

Joran was doing better than he expected. Ghen shook his head gravely. “This is too important. You’re closer to the action and I’ll listen to you. I still do need a consultation, and I’ll try Kommur first. But I’m warned they probably aren’t free. So I’ll expect I’ll have to find alternatives.”

Joran nodded. “Is that it then? I have a long list of messages to work through.” After a long, long rest. He should have followed his first instinct and never looked at a single message. But then he would have never known Darwin wrote. Maybe he’d look at that one.

“Just one more thing.”

“Yes?” It was guarded.

“Why the raid on Dellmaice Power Systems right now? I mean, there must be money in it or Hoffner wouldn’t be fronting for you and Dreen.” That’s what Hoffner and Associates were, professional corporate raiders. “But I would have thought the timing was sub optimal – diluting Ari’s concentration and his legal resources. I’ve done like Bojo asked, and kept on the sidelines, but I really would like to know.”

Ghen hoped Joran would answer him, not tell him to shove off like Bojo would. He knew that the actual takeover attempt was being carried out by Hoffner, Bojo, and Chett Linderson. Joran and Dreen were staying in the background, funding it. He’d gathered from Bojo there was bad blood though, and he wanted Joran to personally spell it out. The answer might affect Plan B.

Bojo had asked Ghen to sit it out, had he? That was another little talk they would have to have. That was the kind of favor that would cost like hell. Also, Joran still had mixed feelings about the raid, and he wasn’t sure Ghen wasn’t right. Well, now was not the time to show anything but a united front.

Joran gave the answer he thought Ghen would understand. “The only legal defense, or any other effort Dellmaice is interested in is to save himself. If that is at Dreen’s or Mitra’s expense, tough. We told him to rethink or he was finished.” He shrugged. “He just didn’t jump high and fast enough.”

Ghen looked at Joran with increased respect and nodded as he tried to look impassive. “I see. Well, you’re a busy man and I won’t keep you.” He broke connection.

Joran was shaking his head, the beginnings of a smile on his lips. He’d have to try faking the tough line with Ghen another time. It seemed to have a beneficial effect. He’d started to think he was stuck playing question and answer forever.

***

Ghen sat staring into space. Pity Joran was messed up with Dreen’s woman, since he’d obviously recovered and then some. That hard edge hadn’t been there before, but sometimes it took a tragedy for a man to mature. Yes, Ghen would have preferred to deal with Joran, but if there was a woman involved you could never really trust people, especially Joran. Look at poor Johnny Sun. Time for Plan B.

*****

Science fiction by the Canadian husband and wife scientist author team Donald S. Hall, PhD., and Judi Suni Hall, PhD.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. The science fiction is set centuries in the future, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.