Chapter 2.5 Lyr Andraste
Lyr turned the data over in her head. The message. The encrypted information. A list of orbitals, salvage yards, mining installations, and a dozen other small assets. Hardly any had strategic value, but there were a handful of promising leads.
She sighed. Tikexik would certainly take the information, he took every lead that came his way. Hopefully, it would get Clarke out, but she doubted it.
Holding the decrypted chip in her hand, she headed back towards his too opulent cabin. “It’s a sign of my control, of my fame, my position,” he’d insisted. She’d hated it ever since.
She slid the chip and the reader over to him. He read quickly, his beak opening then closing. Finally, he looked up at her. “This is accurate?”
Lyr shrugged. She didn’t know. There was no way to verify any of the information until they were in system, and she hadn’t been able to check the net without running the risk of Tikexik discovering what she was up to.
“Orbitals, some shipping routes, not much of use here.” He slid the datapad back to her. “He gave you this?”
“It was that or die.”
“Do you think it’s true?”
“He knows the consequences for lying.”
“And he believes them?”
“He doesn’t think he has any leverage?”
She paused at that question reviewing her time in captivity. “No,” she answered, “he doesn’t.”
He folded his tentacle arms. “Where should we go?”
Lyr sat across from him, it was a position she hadn’t occupied since she’d been back. She’d felt the sting of exclusion, but she’d borne it easily enough, so long as it had been temporary. She looked down at the list for the hundredth time. All the sites were good; the information was very nearly invaluable.
“The closest,” she pointed to a mining station just a few systems away.
Tikexik looked up at her. “You’re sure?”
She nodded. “Have I ever been wrong?”
“The Vantage.” His words came fast hitting her like a slap across her face.
“We don’t know what happened there,” her reply was sharp.
They regarded each other for a long time. They hadn’t been alone since she’d been back. He’d kept her busy with duties and debriefs, in part to keep meetings like this form happening. But now, here she was, and he had to decide whether or not to trust her again. And not just her, but the information she was bringing him.
“I used to have a brother,” he finally said. “When we started, I flew and he found the contacts. We scraped by. Two new kids in town without a penny to our name and a ship that barely held together. I learned how to fix the ship on my own, we couldn’t hire a mechanic.
“It was rough, and we went hungry, but it was better than getting a job in the sectors. We had our own ship, and most days that was enough. But then the fuel began to add up, and so did a couple unexpected repairs. So, my brother took a job with a contact we didn’t know.
“We were desperate. We didn’t know what we were getting involved in. It was a scam. It was the first time I was supposed to get boarded. We didn’t get paid, and it cost us everything we had—including our ship to cover the difference.
“We thought we were even, but we weren’t. The Carchari crimelord Lixikek had contacted found us on the outskirts of Alatrea. We were scraping for work. We’d agreed to cart a herd of rews,” his voice managed the crack of a laugh, “we were so desperate.”
“But he caught up with us. It’s not difficult to incapacitate a Itrxix. It’s why we spend most of our times at the controls of a ship and not the controls of a gun. But you know that. The Carchari didn’t kill Lixikek quickly.
“He lingered for days, dying slowly, one tentacle at a time. The Carchari didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t need any information, didn’t want any information. We didn’t have any money for him to take. It was a message, plain and simple. But a poor one since no one knew who we were.
“He made me watch. And when Lixikek finally died, the Carchari took my arm. He’d said it was, ‘my payment.’ I don’t remember what made me weep harder the pain from losing my brother or the pain from losing my arm knowing I’d never be the pilot I once was.
“I blacked out after that. When I came to everything was gone. My brother’s body, my arm, everything. Except you. Somehow you were there. You remind me of everything I was and everything I lost. More than my missing tentacle, you remind me that day.”
Lyr was silent. She’d never heard this story from Tikexik, no one had. Her earliest memories were being a deckhand on the ship. Some of the galley staff had put her to work cleaning pots and pans. She’d worked hard, cajoling the crew in bits and pieces to train her, slowly making her way through the ranks.
She still remembered convincing T’rigan to teach her how to snipe. She’d still been just a kid, but she’d just been awarded her first rifle, and she was ready for more. She still thought sniping was just a matter of hiding, waiting, and being patient. Turned out, it required a lot more: math, wind speed and direction, distance, and half a hundred other things. T’rigan assured her those things rarely came into play, except on a planet. She’d struggled to learn, but she’d never been truly patient enough to wait for just the right shot. T’rigan’s exasperation had been enough to convince her of that.
Still, he’d never held it against her when she received promotion after promotion. “I’m just wasting time here anyway,” he’d always say with his eyes firmly fixed on field stripping his rifle.
“You pulled me out of nothing. I’d be dead on Carchar now, or I’d be a real Carchari criminal, which is just as bad. You gave me a chance. You got me off this overheated shit hole the Sef call a world and I call home. You gave me a family, you gave me a purpose. I may remind you of everything you’ve lost, but you remind me of everything I’ve got,” she said.
This time he was quiet.
“Give orders to check out the nearest set of coordinates. I’ll coordinate the landing party with Brecon,” he said dismissing her.
She stood. “I’m sorry about your brother.”