“First Sergeant. I assume you have a good reason to point that rifle at the Prince, but I would like it if you did not.” Carbon had that look about her, the one she gets just before she engages in violence. Her voice carried that as a promise, hard and low.
To his credit, the sergeant didn’t react. He stood his ground, not looking away from his sight on Alex. “Ma’am, step away from him. He has attempted to compromise this ship.”
“Fuck you I did.” Alex was emboldened to speak his mind by Carbon’s reaction, though he still refrained from making any sort of movement. He had no idea how he could have compromised the ship sitting around talking about heraldry.
Carbon swiveled her chair around to face the sergeant. “Stand down now or I will make you.”
That got his attention, eyes darting to Carbon and back to Alex even though his firearm never wavered. He seemed to be taking Carbon’s words into consideration, at least, even if he did look unsure of himself now. He swallowed, ears flattening as he gripped the rifle tighter.
“I’d do what she says, just as some friendly advice.” He tried to act nonchalant despite his voice rising as fear crept up his spine. He didn’t enjoy the idea of getting shot. Alex cleared his throat gently, placing his hands on the table before he continued, hoping to set the sergeant at ease. “Not big a deal anyway, I’m staying put till I find out what’s going on.”
It didn’t seem to help, at first. The First Sergeant was clearly conflicted but his body stayed tense, eyes intent on Alex. He lowered the barrel slowly, the weapon still pointed in Alex’s direction but no longer covering him.
“Thank you, Sergeant. Would you like to explain why you are here?” Carbon had dialed the venom back but her words were still sharp.
“Ma’am, communications alerted us to an unexpected transmission from this compartment’s intranet link.” He continued to eye Alex, still ready for action.
Alex kept his hands on the table, turning just his head to look at the Sergeant. “And how does that implicate me?”
“The transmission used the human solanet connection and was encrypted. All secured non-Tslao equipment has been checked to prevent espionage. You have the only unsecured human electronics on the ship.”
“Oh, that is pretty good.” Alex nodded in agreement. “But I sent no information. If I was going to, I would have used the connection in our quarters, it’d be way more convenient.”
“The prince speaks the truth. I have seen him and he has no interest in deceit.” She paused for a moment, “He does have a lazy streak in him, as well.”
He shook his head. “This is the only compartment with a link to the human public solanet. All others are limited to their milnet. Communications stated that the stream originated from an unnamed device, not the workstation that had been issued here.”
That gave Alex something to chew over. Admittedly, it sounded like it locked him in pretty tight, even if he knew he hadn’t done anything. He wouldn’t spy on anyone, didn’t like the way it made him feel... But he worked for people who would gladly do so. “Oh, fuck! Fucking fuckity fuck.”
“What? What is wrong?” Carbon jerked back around to him, startled by his sudden burst of profanity.
Alex looked up at the Sergeant. “Did they cut the transmission?”
His eyes had widened slightly, the rifle back up at Alex’s chest. “Yes, it was stopped automatically.”
“Good. Could you put that thing down?” He turned to Carbon and fished the little Tslao comm pad out of his jacket pocket. “I’m fine, for now. Could you call Eleya? I still haven’t figured out how to use the phone on this thing.”
Carbon had Eleya on the line in less than a minute. She sounded pleasant again, almost charming. “Yes, dearest niece?”
Even with the Sergeant’s rifled lowered again, each second waiting for Eleya had been an eternity for Alex. His suspicion about the transmission would make every moment stretch out as he waited to find out one way or the other. “Hey, it’s me. You remember that time I almost got killed?”
“Yes.” The charm had gone away, though she remained civil.
“I know you had some research done while I was out. Did you happen to do anything with my Amp?”
There were a few heart beats of silence on the call. “Are you in a secure location?”
Alex looked from Carbon to the Sergeant and over to Lyshen. “Of course.”
“All of your on-board technology was studied as thoroughly as possible while you were unconscious.” Eleya was clearly reluctant to say even that.
“Super. I need someone who’s gotten familiar with the tech to take a look at mine. There may be something wrong with it. Security and privacy problems, for you and me respectively. Big ones.”
Another hesitation. “Have Carbon take you to the aft research lab. I will meet you there and we will discuss these problems further.”