With panther like agility a man snuck through the shadows, he had a small gun in his right hand, only three darts in the clip, and just enough power for three short laser bursts. More wasn’t packed into the small device.

Darius watched with great enthusiasm. “Bond. James Bond.” The man had said some time ago, Darius didn’t know how often he had watched the short movie. It was written, made and released on Destiny.

Some sort of a fan production, but then again, very professional. After receiving all the ill news from Horizon about the Harpies, some dinosaur descendants who began attacking the ship soon after it had left the solar system, the entertainment gained from this movie was everything he needed.

Rumor had it that more movies, and even series, were in production aboard the Destiny. Darius didn’t care in the least for most of it. But the new Bond, now working for the Destiny Intelligence Division, instead of MI6, gave him the strength and reassurance he needed.

His glasses called for his attention.

 

Staring at his computer screen, Darius sat in the command centre at the communication console. Admiral Pryia Kanjeet had just talked with the commander of the Ark2, some Saudi prince, who had avoided communication for most of the last two years. The Kismet, as the Ark2 was called now, was in close proximity to the Destiny, they had torn out the antimatter engine and reactor, and replaced it with a fusion reactor, reactorand the same mode of propulsion as Destony, reducing them to a travel speed similar to the Destiny.

Their conversation had dealt with sending a delegation to the Destiny for trade talks. Unlike Destiny and her sisterships, the Saudis still held on to money, but soon had learned that the Destiny had no use for it. Or large quantities of gold.

But goods.

And all the Destiny had to offer was goods in return.

 

Due to intense radiation bursts from the approaching neutron star it hadn’t mattered if the Destiny fired it’s main propulsion or waited to leave the solar system. They took off with haste.

All the while the Kismet was by their side matching their speed, doging asteroids and other debris stirred up by the gravitational eddies from the neutron star.

With unease Darius chased away the memory of those early days. Soon after leaving earth’s orbit communication with earth broke down, even with time dilation compensation there was no further contact, except sporadic chatter on low bands.

But communication with the other ships held up, although it had been made clear not to make direct contact with Horizon, else the Harpys attention might be brought to them. Admiral Kanjeet and the governors were cautious not to get involved in that conflict unless it couldn’t be avoided any longer.

“Mr. Konrads, please inform the governors that a delegation from the Kismet will be arriving next week to start trade negotiations.”

“Aye ma’am.” Darius replied. I’ll be damned if that’s all they want. Sending out a written notice to the governors of alpha and gamma rings after being unable to call them, Darius longed to watch the short movie again.

“Thank you.” The Admiral sat down in her chair, looking over the sent messages. “Well,” she put away her tablet, “that’s that, time for the night shift to take over.” Smiling she welcomed the night shift crew, within a few minutes Darius had told his colleague what had been going on, and then left.

 

The mess hall where Darius ate was half deserted as usual, living and dining in one of the outter decks had its advantages. Some technicians sat around, joking and talking loudly. Even though the administration of Destiny sought to stay out of the Harpy conflict, they refitted the outter most deck for eventual confrontations. Reinforced hull, freely maneuverable canons, emergency separations of the pods. The crews of engineers worked around the clock.

Except when they were eating. “Konrads!” One of them yelled and waved as Darius had gathered his dinner.

“MacPhearson.” Darius returned the greeting, taking his seat at the table where the caller sat with his colleagues. “How do you think this thing is going to end?” MacPhearson displayed a broad smile. “What thing exactly?”

“The talks, I highly doubt that the dinosaurs are going to discover us.” How did they hear of the talks? Darius took a sip of water. “Well, as such things usually go, concessions to rather undesirable conditions for both sides, we give them something, and get something else in return. Or the talks fail completely.”

Laughter arose from a neighboring table, a man with dark skin, black oily hair and dark eyes turned around. “I hear they want the access codes for the relay stations on Ericsson, in return we get some of their produce.”

Putting down his fork MacPhearson stared at the other man. “Hussein, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard all day. None of our leaders would agree to give them the access codes!”

“Not even for antimatter technology?” Hussein Ibn Alahad replied, still displaying his smug smile. This time it was Darius’ time to chuckle. “Use of Antimatter is banned on the three sisterships, because we lack the knowledge to control it.”

Shrugging his shoulders Hussein turned back to the men at his table.

 

For hours the words of the engineering technician rung in his head. Not even the short adventure on his display could bring his mind at ease.

Darius turmed off the display and laid down.

 

“Seal off the deck.” Darius stated to a security guard. He saluted and left. In the room behind Darius the delegates had sat down for the negotiations, on the otter rim of the alpha ring, where no one lived. Work crews constantly improving the armament and armor of the ship, had been reassigned to other rings for the duration of the talks.

Feeling privileged over his acquaintances from his favorite mess hall, for being able to be present near the negotiations Darius sighed.

Some men from the Kismet also were left standing in the hallway. Some of those were security, some were not.

“Communication?” A bearded man in his thirties approached Darius. “Yes. You too?” Studying the mans white garments Darius started to wonder if he was cold aboard the Destiny, apparently the average temperature aboard the Kismet was higher.

“Affirmative. I wanted to ask,” he reached for his beard, “do you think there’s a way to increase the dataflow rate between your ship and ours?” Nervously he looked around, Darius couldn’t say if it was to ensure no other Destiny crew members were listening, or others from Kismet. “Our databanks didn’t get the full load of western movies and TV shows, yet I know a few people who would love to see them.” He spoke in a hushed voice, obviously he was hiding from the other Kismet members.

Laying his forehead in wrinkles Darius also looked around. He realised that the two of them were rather isolated. The next person stood at least five to six meters away. A Destiny security guard.

“Let me guess, this isn’t part of the negotiations?” A nod was his reply. “In that case,” Darius smirked, “we can work out something.”

 

Night had just begun as Darius wandered through the deserted hallway. In the dimmed light of simulated night the generously dimensioned hallway seemed to tighten.

There had been no breakthrough in the trade negotiations with the Kismet crew yet. After a day of long talks they had retreated to their quarters, the negotiators from Destiny had done the same. Abdul ben Mustafa, the media interested man who had approached Darius, went with his superiors, but had spent the time before that with him. From him he had learned that the series and movies he was interested in weren’t forbidden, not even undesired, but hadn’t seemed necessary at the time.

Upgrading the computer storage space aboard the Kismet was the least concern of the Emirates when they had to rebuild the ship to be used for generations, instead of Antimatter fuelled, relatively short time use.

“Good evening!” A woman greeted him. She wore the garments of someone who went to jog. Variety in clothing was limited. Her black straight hair was held together in a strict ponytail by a nearly invisible black hairband. “Good evening?”

“You almost look like the new Bond, sulking in the shadows of a nightly hallway.” She giggled, looking at him fromnhead to toe.

“Hardly,” he smiled, “I am too short, too unfit. But thank you for the compliment. Did you like the new film?”

“Yes.” A strand of hair had broken free of its restraints and fell in her face. “But I think you look like him, your movements and posture are like his.”

Darius felt sudden heat on his cheeks. “I loved it, the movie I mean. Maybe I watched it too often, started to walk like him.” Sighing he hoped he could land a date with the unknown woman with the pale skin.

“Maybe.” She again looked him up and down. “If you want to talk more about movies, contact me. My name is Irina Brekic.” Winking she stretched, obviously starting her jog. “Good night, Mr. Bond.” She jogged off.

 

Strained from a night spent sprawled in front of his screen, after falling asleep watching movies, Darius stood with heavy bones, aching joints and back, at the reception again.

But not for a festive occasion.

Negotiations were cancelled for the time being.

Instead the security teams from both Destiny and Kismet stood around, armed, and grim looking. “There had been a murder.” Admiral Kanjeet had announced to them. All personnel that had access to the diplomatic quarters had been rounded up. Kismet and Destiny personnel alike. He saw Abdul in the other row across the room. He seemed equally tired. Probably had spent his night watching the western media too.

“A murder in the diplomatic envoy! Since not that many people have access to the diplomatic quarters on the outter rim, you will all be interrogated.” Not all of the Kismet crew spoke English, so Abdul had to translate for them.

Most of the Kismet crew felt uncomfortable accepting orders from a woman, especially an infidel.

“Where were you last night, between 2200 and 0100?” Watched over by a bearded guy, who seemed to have shoulders as broad as he was tall, and a blond counterpart in Destiny’s uniform, a man with leathery skin sat opposite of Darius at a small table. “In my quarters, watching movies and sleeping. Although I only came home at about half past ten.” He fidget with his fingers, he already had excused himself for that, but he was really nervous in front of authority figures. The man pressed a few buttons on his tabket computer, nodded witha satisfied expression. “Computer log of your implant trace confirms that.”

Although he knew that he hadn’t done anything, Darius still felt relief. “Were you in contact with anyone from the Kismet?”

In a few words, all the while working hard to hide his nervousness showing in his words, he told of Abdul, and his inquiries. “Who else have you talked to yesterday?”

Exhaling audibly Darius leaned back, a sudden wave of relaxation overcame him. “My colleagues, the people in the diplomatic entourage at the reception, Abdul and a Miss Brekic.” His interrogator looked up from his tablet.

“Irina Brekic?”

Darius nodded, wanted to reply, but only then did he realise that he hadn’t been spoken to. Instead the door opened, dressed in the uniform of the Destiny armed forces security detail, Irina entered. Her hair tied to a knot.

“Sir?”

“You know this man?” The interogator pointed at Darius.

“Yes sir, although not by name, sir. We met yesterday as I went for a jog.”

Nodding the interogator looked back down at his computer, dismissed Irina with a wave of his hand.

 

Feeling drained even more of strength and will, Darius stumbled out of the interrogation room. Four hours of questioning, seemingly nonsensical questions at times, what movies Abdul was interested in for example, had left him dazed.

“You didn’t have to get interrogated to see me again, Mr. Bond.” Irina came around the corner near his cabin. “I honestly would’ve called, instead of that interrogation!”

Smiling Irina took up walking beside him. “Well, since I was hoping for us to meet this evening, I am all free tonight.”

All exhaustion fell off of Darius immediately.

 

From the last night only flashes, like vague glimpses into another realm of existence, remained in Darius’ mind. Irina had spent the night, but he could’ve pieced that together from waking up beside her. They spent most of the time talking about varius movies, mostly the spy and thriller movies, watching a few of them.

Over the course of time one thing had led to another.

 

“Kismet demands to be let in on the investigation.” He read the message he had just received. Since the murder of the diplomatic attaché, he, and the others on the diplomatic rim, had not been allowed back to their usual duties, but still he relayed communiques.

“Let them hear static, they should be talking with their team here. After all we’re including them from the go.” Admiral Kanjeet replied.

In a corner she sat on a table, feet perched up on the chair. In her hand the tablet computer with witness reports, her glasses sat beside her, still displaying something, but Darius didn’t care what exactly.

Immediately his mind wandered off again, to the security officer he had found lying beside him that morning. After breakfast they had returned to their respective duties.

“Admiral?” Darius’ interrogator entered the room, he eyed Darius carefully, then handed the Admiral a tablet computer.

“Altered computer logs?” The Admiral gazed at him. “On all the doors in the outter most rim.” He confirmed, again looking around. For Darius it felt as if he was looking for him in particular, but he scanned the room for any reactions from the present people.

Within a heartbeat the Admiral had copied the particular report to her own tablet, handing back the other one to the security officer. “Who has the knowledge to do such a thing?” She asked.

“The knowledge? Many people, the skills and security clearance to actually do it? Only a few.” Ponderous the man strode across the room. “Mr. Konrads, would you mind following me?”

Insecure Darius got up. “I was watching movies, logs confirm that.”

“Logs can be altered, and they have been. So, please, come with me.” Unwilling Darius followed the man outside.

 

“Last time I had neglected to introduce myself. My name is Nusrat Savic. I was given to understand you’re still meeting with Miss Brekic?” Again they had taken seat at the table in the small room. With one word Darius confirmed.

“Are you aware that she has both the clearance and skills necessary to alter computer logs?” Remaining silent Darius felt as if something, or someone was trying to tie a knot around his neck. “I doubt she is helping you, if you are responsible for the actions you’re here to be questioned about.” A little relief came over Darius’ mind. “However,” concerned Darius noticed that there were no guards at the door this time, “if you should be using her, or if you are just hurting her, know that blood is thicker than water, and for my niece I’ll cross boundaries.” Gulping Darius sat up straight. Although the feeling of closing knots around his neck had vanished, he still felt somewhat trapped.

“I have no intention of hurting her, sir.”

Giving him a glare that said everything that needed to be said, Nusrat returned to his computer. “Here,” he handed the tablet to Darius. “this is a system similar to the one, one would need to overcome to change computer logs. Data from your implant will reveal if you’re holding back.” Is this even legal? Or possible? Darius began typing, after a few moments an alarm rang from the small computer. “You failed.” With some degree of satisfaction Nusrat stared through the glasses at Darius. “And you honestly tried.”

Reluctantly Darius handed the device back. “Am I free to go now?”

Dismissed with a nod Darius hurried out of the room, headed back to the room in which most of his colleagues sat.

 

“Growing concerns arise in the admiralty as the case of a murder in the diplomatic entourage remains unsolved. Are the trade talks in jeopardy? Or worse? Stay with us, in our news talks at seven the whole case gets debated by our top journalists.” Darius turned around to the Admiral. Other headlines followed, including one about a new party drug like implant, before the programme returned to the daily routine of TV shows produced on the Destiny, and old ones from Earth.

“How did this get out?” Her voice close to shrieking Admiral Kanjeet had jumped off the table, marched through the room. “Unknown.” First officer commander John Lewis replied over the intercom line.

“It is out, now we need to contain it.” He resumed.

Pryia stopped dead in her tracks, shook her head and resumed pacing around the room. “Prepare a statement. We need to calm this situation.” She sighed, closing the transmission.

 

As his shift ended Darius strode down the hallway towards his quarters. “Hello friend.” From a corridor Abdul stepped into the main hallway. “Hello.”

“I haven’t quite had the time to thank you properly.” The tall man mumbled beneath his beard, he looked around nervously. “There is no need. As long as you hold up your end of the bargain. Any production from the Kismet for our stuff, your archives for ours.” mumbling too, Darius replied.

With a hastily whispered greeting, Abdul vanished into the next corridor.

Except for security personnel, the hallway was empty. Plants rose from pots on either side of the corridor, spending oxygen, and most would bear fruit sooner or later. Bioengineers had taken their cue from Explorer, and the votes of the people. Grasses grew in lanes at the sides of the hallway. No lawn though.

“Good evening.” Abruptly torn away from his thoughts of the uselessness of lawn, Darius looked at Irina leaning against the wall, her bare feet in the grass.

“The same to you. You could’ve told me that Mr. Savic was your uncle.” Glad he had not to deal with his interrogator, but the lovely niece, Darius remained calm.

“I had given it no thought, but how about we spend the evening in front of the screen?” Irina extended her hand to him. “Gladly. What are watching?”

A playfulness surrounded her smile as she replied with a quote. “Good evening, Mister Bond.”

 

Like small twigs spreading from a branch, dimly lit corridors split off of the main hallway. It was the dim corridors that the man stuck to. Outside a common room he found what he was searching for.

“Good evening friend.” The tall man outside the common room greeted another. “I believe I have gained the trust of someone here, sneaking in the Trojan over the communication line shouldn’t be a problem. The access codes for the Ericsson station should be in our hands soon, whether they trade for it, or not.”

Hidden in the shadow of a citrus tree the man smirked, the glasses he wore had done their job of automatic translation well.

“Good, but we must be cautious, they will monitor the communication line well. Besides, I’m worried that the murder of Hakeem was no coincidence.” The other person replied, nervously looking around, but glancing over the hidden man only meters from them.

Time to go.

The two men continued their conversation, but had switched to different matters. Staying with the back corridors, the man from the shadows waited in a safer distance for the two to split up.

After what seemed like ages the two finally departed, headed in different directions.

“Hello, friend.” Surprised the tall man looked into the darkness behind a small willow. It stood at the corner of a corridor leading to the main hallway. “Hello? Who are you?”

“Just a friend.” A moment later a tasing dart stuck in the tall man’s chest. “What exactly are your plans with the access codes?”

Fiddling with his gun in the shadows, resetting it to a higher dose for the tasing darts. “I don’t know what you are talking about!”

“I overheard you talking back there. There is no need denying it.” His glasses were wired into the environmental sensors of the hallway. He did not see the other man, but noticed his presence due to body heat and oxygen levels.

The tall man on the ground only saw two shadows hitting each other, heard a few curse words. His friend, whom he had talked to minutes earlier fell into view, twitching uncontrollably, emptying his bladder.

A taser dart stuck in his forehead.

“I haven’t had an answer from you yet.” The man in the shadows said, somewhat short on breath. Still feeling paralysed from his taser shot the tall man breathed heavily in his beard. “Secure fissionable compounds, we need to have all the weaponry we can get.”

“Do the sheiks know?”

“No. We’re operating covertly. The less people know, the better. If our leaders knew, they would negotiate for such compounds. But they have lost all connection to reality. And the threats your people have brought upon us.” The man in the shadows knew that his captive was talking about the Harpies. Although details had been kept secret, Horizon sent only encrypted messages, but news casts from the Destiny had not been encrypted.

In the vague light of the dim hallway the tall man on the ground only saw the gun pointing at him. “Please, I only do what is necessary!”

“So do I.” Another dart followed.

 

“Two men dead, and one vanished without a trace!” Prince Shamim yelled, spittle flew from his mouth. “And all that within four days of arriving on your vessel!”

The Admiral tried to calm him, since he already started to turn red. Helpless and tired Darius watched. He stood a few steps behind the Admiral.

“This is an outrage! Abdul ben Mustafa was part of my family’s entourage since before I was born! A dear friend of my uncle, and I demand you find out where he is, immediately!” Darius’ heart skipped a beat. His newly acquainted friend Abdul was the missing man.

“Please sir, calm down.” A personal assistant of the prince approached him. “These people are trying to get behind the mystery. If we keep them from doing so, it is our fault if they can’t find him, not theirs.” Calmed a little by the older man’s soothing words and voice the prince turned away from the Admiral.

For a brief moment Darius thought he could see the man’s distain for having to talk to a woman. It passed as quickly as it had come.

“We urge you to increase your efforts, and we would kindly request to be closer involved in the questioning of suspects.” The older man continued, addressing the Admiral. “Alright, it is the least we can do at this time.” She sighed. “Konrads, raise security chief Savic and inform him that our guests will add personnel to the investigation and questioning.”

Saluting Darius strode across the room, and called the uncle of Irina. After the call was not answered he tried again.

The third time he called security in general. “I can’t get through to Chief of security, Nusrat Savic, there is urgent information,” he stopped abruptly. Heat rose to his face, as an eerie cold grasped him tightly around the chest. “Repeat that Irina.” What felt like a breathed reply was louder than he anticipated.

“My uncle is dead.”

 

A doctor stood over the chief’s body. He had not started an autopsy. Neither had he done so with the other bodies in the make shift morgue. Originally intended as a refrigerated pantry for the adjacent kitchen and common room, it now was used as morgue. For religious reasons neither of the two murder victims from the Kismet had been touched, other than to bring them to the morgue. “There is no need to open him.” The man said in a calm voice. “According to his implant he died from somewhat natural causes.”

“Somewhat?” Pryia raised her eyebrows, wrinkling her forehead. “His heart and lungs stoped working.” pausing he glanced from his virtual viewscreen in his glasses to the Admiral and Irina who stood in front of Darius. “Because, the implant triggered a gland in his brain to spill so much of the hormone that paralyses your muscles while sleeping, that these were paralysed.” Sighing he pushed the glasses to the top of his head. “Meaning, he was murdered, but the cause can be found without opening him up.”

Clenching her fists Irina stared at her uncle. His features were peaceful, unlike the image that Darius had of him. With a nod Pryia told Darius to get Irina out of the morgue. “Thank you doctor.”

“He was the only one of my family left. He practically raised me!” Irina’s voice was clear, no trembles. But sharp pronunciations.

Tightly she clenched his hand. “I need to find my uncle’s murderer!” She hissed. Staring in his eyes.

“Calm down, please.” Pressing the words through his teeth, trying not to show how much her tight grip hurt, his words sounded like an angry hiss too.

“Help me, instead of being an ass. Take a que from the movies, and help me. Bond would.”

Something in Darius’ mind flickered. Images flashed before his eyes, sounds rang in his ears. “What did you say?” Both the unusual experience and the pain in his hand fought for supremacy.

“I said help me.” She jerked his hand, close to an angry fit of throwing them away. “Anid I said that Bond would help me! Be like Bond!”

More flickers.

“Yes, Moneypenny.” With a blank stare Irina’s grip loosened, gently Darius slipped his hand from hers. “It was you. And me. From the get go.” He opened and closed his hand, pumping blood into his fingers.

“It was, I think. How?”

More flickering memories haunted Darius as he worked his fingers. “Link?” He tapped her forehead, and then his.

“The implant? I didn’t,”

 

Darkness, sliced into pieces by lasers and other lights of the lightshow, basses trembled through the room, through the body. Darius sat at a table with Irina.

It has been mere hours since they met, both had come to the bar in search of something. Darius on his own, Irina as covert mission.

The party drug, or rather implant. Someone had taken the technological details from the Harpy implants sent by the Horizon, and had fashioned something similar. “Adjustment complete.” Both spoke as one, together with a woman who sat at the table with them. Unheared by either, but felt in their linked minds, a few dozen other people had said the same thing.

 

Sitting in the grass outside Darius’ quarters Irina rubbed her temples. He stood leaning against the wall a few steps away. “If I activated you, who activated me?”

Wishing for nothing more than a cigarette Darius fiddled with a leaf. “Who else but M?” His chuckle died in his throat. “No seriously, it was him.” He pointed in the direction they had come from. Pain striken Irina pinched her nose between her eyes. “Uncle, what have you done?”

A woman entered the section of the hallway they were in, immediately both turned silent. As Irina, she too wore the uniform of a security officer. “Good evening.” She stopped, looked around and then stepped closer. “Your implants have shut down, the strain of suppressing part of your memory and orders was too much.”

A non verbal question seemed to form on both their faces. “The new M you could say. Your uncle was murdered by agents of the Kismet.” With a slight hint of a smile she turned to Darius. “As was the first victim. He had accidentally uncovered their plans to nick the access codes and was about to inform the prince. The man you captured last night, Abdul ben Mustafa, was very talkative.”

Calming himself, mostly with the memories of his actions, Darius straightened his own uniform. “We need to inform the Admiral.”

“No need.” new M replied calmly. “Everything has been set in motion.”

 

Looking at Abdul with disdain the prince sat at the table, next to Admiral Kanjeet on one side, and his personal advisor on the other. “Your uncle gave the orders, he wanted to obtain the access codes to gain the vital materials. With this he could’ve overwhelmed your father, and succeeded him.”

Grinding his teeth in silence the prince gave a wave of his hand, immediately two guards swept towards Abdul, took him into their custody.

With the case of the murders resolved the prince took a deep breath. “Thank you, Admiral. This plot could have endangered both our ships’ security and safety.”

Determined to see someone pay for the treachery he rose. “Our negotiations will be postponed, I must return home.”

 

After having seen the diplomatic envoy off, the Admiral returned to the former diplomatic rim. In a holding cell she looked at Darius and Irina. “I expect a full debrief of your mission. I want all the names you can give me. I don’t like a secret agency aboard this ship, especially if I am unaware of it and its actions!” Leaning on the table she looked from one to the other and back. “Get writing, once you’re done report to the infirmary to have those things removed from your brains.”

 

Uncertain whether their feelings for one another are genuine or were produced by the implants to aid in their mission Irina and Darius entered the infirmary, holding hands nonetheless. “Come into my office.” Sporting strains of grey hair the woman in the doctors coat waved them towards herself.

Taking a seat at her desk the two exchanged an awkward look. “We’re here to have,”

“I know exactly why you’re here, the Admiral has informed me.” She waved to a person behind the two, immediately the door to the office shut. A woman in security guard uniform stood outside, clearly visible through the glass door.

“Well, Mister Bond, Miss Moneypenny, seems you need to remember who we are, and that you belong to us.”

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