Vince found a sling chair which looked more comfortable (and less dirty) than the rest, put it closer to the edge of the roof, sat back and tried to relax. He turned off screening on the dome to see the stars, but night was cloudy and all he got were a couple of Usurpers hanging above their entry points.
He decided to call Bart.
“Hey kid!” The man was laid-back as always. “Whom did you send me today?”
It took Vince a moment to understand what he was talking about.
“You mean that woman.” He paused for a second. “I met her on a train. She seemed to be in trouble… I thought you could help.”
“Help who? Me or her?” Bart chuckled. “I know you think I’m just scratching my synthetic balls here, but I don’t need you taking pity on me, kid. What, you’re some kind of fucking therapist now?”
He wasn’t aggressive, and Troy knew Keats good enough to understand where this was going, so he just kept silent.
“Well, good job.” Vince heard how he pulled on a cigarette. “Now I’m in this mess, thanks to you.”
“Are you going to help her?”
“I’m already helping her. Take a look.” Bart turned video on, and Troy saw familiar bowels of a Stormrider.
“I know a Boar who owes me a favor from back in the day, and he’s in Nova Corps now,” explained Bart. “So we’re Outside, kid. She came on last train, and there’s no way anyone from her group can make it out there until dawn. To be honest, I think they’re all dead already. ”
“I hope she doesn’t hear it. She didn’t seem very stable to begin with.”
“She’s sleeping. But yeah, that’s the thing…” Keats rarely made pauses, and when he did, it was to say something he struggled to put into words. “She seems… Off, somehow.”
“Of course she is. She left her squad Outside to die. Anyone with a shred of conscience…”
Vince bit his tongue, but Bart didn’t seem to notice.
“That’s not it, kid.” He snorted grudgingly. “Forget I said anything. I’ll tell you more once we get back. How’s your thing going? Found those girls yet?”
“I just got here, Bart. But from what I gathered, it’s not going to be easy. I spoke with Aria’s informant, and he insists on some crazy conspiracy theory.”
“Don’t call it ‘crazy’, kid.” Bart turned video off. “Don’t dismiss it. Who sent you there? Aria Nova herself. It’s a big deal; I bet Mirian reporters would jump out of their pants if they knew.” He snickered. “Let me rephrase it: they will when they know.”
Troy sighed again.
“That man, Germa – he knew Aiden, by the way – gave me MO’s channel…”
“How generous of him,” added Bart. “Must be Aiden’s good influence.”
“Yes. Anyway, I looked through logs on my way to the hotel, and they did a good job. But they still couldn’t find anything in three days – anything useful at all. They know this city and have virtually unlimited resources, so how am I supposed to come to anything, especially when even with that shiny badge Aria gave me I only get access to official logs under the table?”
“What about Jacob?”
“Jacob is the last person I want to talk to about that,” refused Vince.
“Too bad. I think he’d help.” Someone called Bart over cargo bay speakers. “Alright, kid, we’re over Easter Plains. I need to wake up the girl and get ready.” Vince heard how he stood up and stretched. “Don’t worry about the case. Aria has a good eye, so have a little faith in yourself. Besides, that’s not the first time you need to find your way around in the dark.”
He paused for a moment and added:
“Although I wish I didn’t know that.”