There are seven extra people crammed on Saffron. The science vessel has not been this crowded since the incident on Chau Sara. Then, however, Imogen had the liberty of some time to adjust the environmental systems before a quick and stress-free hop to Mar Sara. This is completely different. “We just need to get somewhere else,” Imogen shouts to Lilly over all the hubbub as she tries to reach the sensor station. “They’ve got a lock on us!” she yells after Lilly gets them aloft. Missiles explode around them and unfortunately into them. Lilly can only evade so much of the barrage.
Saffron is rocked back and forth. Over the screams of its occupants, Imogen reports that all systems are still operational. The hull has taken some damage, but thrusters and comms are fine. The latter is particularly important to her, as she needs to boost a very important out-of-system call. “Does anyone here know anything about secure comms?” Imogen demands of the passengers. There is no way she and Lilly can get these people off this planet in Saffron. They need a local safehouse, and the person she needs to speak with to arrange that will not like receiving a call from Korhal on an open line.
“Why yes, I’ve studied computers,” Professor Von Heel Hauken tells her. “Electronic computation and the like.” Imogen grabs his sleeve and drags him over to the sensor station. “Oh, my!” he declares, looking down at her blood-caked hand. “That looks serious.”
“No time for that now,” Imogen replies. “Look, I need you to do what you can to help me get some encryption set up.” When the professor determines that they have none of the necessary software, Imogen makes her call anyway. She could reach out to Stetmann; she knows he is on Hyperion. But then she would have to deal with all those qualities he has that made him the perfect model for her recent preoccupied scientist role. She does not have the time or patience for that right now.
“This is Jimmy.”
“I know it’s not really good to talk this way,” Imogen says hurriedly, “but I need to know if there’s any place where things that shouldn’t be found can go. Because we had to already do the thing that you were going to have the other people do, but things go out of control and we have—”
“Imogen! Slow down, slow down. What’s going on?”
Imogen winces, both at the pain she is in and her inability to convey her message discreetly. Things have happened with things… that’s about as articulate as Lilly, she groans to herself. “This line isn’t secure, but I need to talk with you because we have the… people.”
Raynor suddenly grasps what her convoluted speech was referring to. “You didn’t have to—ah jeez.” He lets out a long breath. “Oh boy.” The line is silent for a moment as he quickly thinks through options. “Are you safe right now?” he asks.
“Are we out of range?” Imogen calls to Lilly. “Did you get high enough?”
“Yup,” Lilly replies. No more missiles from Ten Tines can reach them. Of course, with the highly valuable political prisoners onboard, that warden will likely call in air support.
“They could scramble things,” Imogen tells Jimmy, her words failing her again. “And we don’t have the life support to head into deep space.”
“Aw hell, they could be listening in. Anywhere I tell you now, they could get there before I can. Before you can, even.”
“Even just coordinates in the wilderness for us to camp at until someone can come get us would be fine,” Imogen tells him.
“If I give you coordinates, you’re as good as dead. Just lay low,” Jimmy tells her urgently. “Lay low until we can make secure contact.”
Maybe Lilly and Von Heel Hauken can figure out a way to do that when there is a bit more time and less immediate pressure. “Aye, aye. We’ll check in when we’ve found a safe place. And, uh, sorry. About the inconvenience.”
“I understand you were just trying to do right. Now stay safe.”
Imogen cuts the line. Her next idea is even worse, but it is all she can think to do.