Behind? Catch up now!
“Are you totally sure it was them?” Sennett whispered, leaning close to Godfrey. “I mean, you didn’t really see them, did you?”
“Yes, Sennett,” Godfrey replied. They were sitting in a transport pod, on their way to the Scientific Discovery Lab. “I’m sure what I heard. Gene was threatening Howie with soldiers if he talked to kids about simulated food.”
“But you didn’t really see them, you just heard their voices,” Sennett said. “And we were in a studio. They could have been rehearsing, or it could have been a recording.”
Liam, sitting next to her, leaned over and spoke almost right into her hear. “Sen, your cop is showing.”
She shivered a little, telling herself that she just wasn’t used to having a man so close. “What are you talking about?” she snapped.
“I mean, you don’t gotta talk to them like they’re witnesses and you’re a detective.”
Sennett sat back in her seat. “I don’t know how to handle this any other way.”
“Who says we have to handle this at all?” Mason said. “We’re not home, Sennett. You don’t have jurisdiction here.”
“Yeah, but the people who should be doing something about this-,” Sennett began, but Liam put a hand on her shoulder.
“Come on. Let’s just do fun things today, okay? It ain’t like you can do anything about it anyhow.”
Sennett sighed and glanced at April. The child hadn’t noticed the conversation at all. She was kneeling in her seat, looking out of the window at the station around them.
She must have realized that the adults were finished talking among themselves. She sat down and started petting Baily on the head. “Where are we going now, Mommy?” she asked.
“To the Scientific Discovery Center,” Sennett said.
“Oh!” April cried. “Alfie Singleton went there last summer. He said they had cars that you could drive around and learn about all the stations. And the gift shop, he said they have glowing mice!”
“We are not buying glowing mice,” Sennett replied.
The pod came to a stop, and the group climbed out. They were standing in front of a bright blue building, with the letters SDP bouncing around in an elaborate dance along the roof. Loud music saturated the air around them, and there was a crowd of kids jumping on a bouncing pad in front.
“It’s so loud,” Godfrey winced.
“It won’t be so bad once we’re inside,” Sennett took April’s hand. She led the way to the long line of people waiting to get inside. The thought of Gene pressuring Howie was still heavy on her mind. But Liam and Mason were right. There was nothing she could do about it, except let Marshal Joy know. And even Marshal Joy, she realized, would have little say about the matter.
Once everyone was inside and the admission was paid for, they collected around a floor to ceiling map of the building.
“What do you think, guys?” Sennett asked. “Do we just want to try to do everything?” She was looking over the list of exhibits, which danced in place slightly. There was a nanite exploration room, a trip through the four humanoid bodies, an interactive show about pets on stations, and a hundred more.
“Can we see the ice cream science show?” Mason asked.
“Yes, yes that sounds awesome,” Sennett replied.
“What is an ice cream science show?” Godfrey asked. “There’s not a lot of science behind making ice cream. My dad and I used to do it every summer.”
“You are an ignorant Terra farmer,” Mason snapped. “There’s science behind everything. The chemical compounds, the reactions in the cream to freeze into a solid form.”
“So if you know everything about it already you don’t need to go, right?” Godfrey asked.
“No, don’t change the subject,” Sennett said. “Godfrey, if you know how to make ice cream, why don’t you ever make it at your stall?”
Godfrey scratched his head and glanced away. Under his breath, he muttered something that sounded like, “Damn frozen yogurt people.”
“There’s the cars through the space station ride April was talking about,” Liam said. He put a hand on her elbow and pointed to an exhibit on the other side of the floor. “We could start there, with it so close and all.”
“Good idea,” Mason nodded. “The line isn’t that bad, either.”
They made their way across the crowded area until they’d joined the line for the ride. An attendant at the front was counting groups as they reached the front, breaking them into three-person teams.
“I want to go with Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Liam,” April said. “Can I, Mommy?”
“Sure, okay,” Sennett replied. “Mason, you and I will get the next one.”
“Are you sure you don’t want your uncle to go?” Liam asked.
“No,” she said, grabbing his hand. “Come on!”
She pulled Liam onto the ride. Godfrey followed, laughing.
As the car puttered down the line, Sennett said. “Kind of glad to get a second away from them. Godfrey’s been clingy with me since Ki left. Liam too, for that matter.”
Mason gave her a sly look. “Maybe he’s falling for the brave detective who’s keeping him safe from the Core.”
“Don’t be dumb. He’s a criminal.”
“A hot criminal,” Mason replied. When Sennett raised an eyebrow at him, he laughed. “You know you’re allowed to date again, right? You don’t have to be alone for the rest of your life just because Lo died.”
“That’s not my problem,” Sennett said. “Liam’s-.”
A young man dressed in the SDP uniform, a red polo shirt, and khaki pants came up to the front of the line. “Excuse me, Ms. Montgomery? Can you come with me, please?”
“I’m sorry, is something wrong?” Sennett asked.
“We just had a question regarding your credit,” the young man said. “If you wouldn’t mind stepping out of line and coming with me?”
“Oh, shit,” Sennett muttered. “Okay, we’re coming.”
She and Mason followed the young man to an inconspicuous door that led to a beige-walled staircase. It was such a change from the colors and sounds outside that for a moment Sennett could just stand still, enjoying the lack of stimulation.
“Thanks for coming with me,” the young man said. As the door close, his face pixelated. Suddenly, she recognized him.
It was Whitehall.
Sennett once again reached for a phantom weapon. “Mason, run!” she cried.
“Wait!” Whitehall said. He raised his hands over his head. “I’m not going to hurt you! Please, this is important. You’re the only one who can help me. Well,” he shrugged. “Not the only one. But the only one inclined to help me who I can get hold of. Evelyn would help, she was helping in fact. But she stopped responding to my messages.”
“Evelyn who?” Sennett asked.
“Evelyn Greenwood. She’s an IHP agent. You were on a mission with her on Station 16?”
“Because Eve said you were. And she’s on Earth now, so maybe you want to drop the act? This isn’t the time for this whole secret agent bullshit.”
“Maybe it’s also not the time to trust someone who’s an accused terrorist and murderer,” Sennett said.
Whitehall’s lips curled. “I’m no murderer,” he snarled. “And I’m no terrorist. Unless trying to tell people the truth is terrorism now.”
Sennett’s eyes narrowed. “And what truth are you trying to tell people?”
He chuckled. “What do you think? The Hollow Suits. I know you know what they are. Councilwoman Akiko knows about them too, and she’s trying to keep the information from the people.”
“The councilwoman told us that she sent the information to the other stations,” Mason said.
“Shut up, Mason,” Sennett said.
“She’s lying,” Whitehall said. “She hasn’t told anyone about any of this. The only reason why I know is that I was asking questions about Earth going dark.”
“Why were you doing that, anyway?” Mason asked.
Whitehall shrugged. “I’m a journalist. You don’t think we noticed when everyone on Earth stopped talking to anybody? Why isn’t every news company in the universe sending someone to investigate? Why isn’t anyone talking about the IHP vanishing? Why isn’t anyone talking about Earth at all?”
“I’ll admit, that’s a question we’ve been asking,” Sennett said.
“It’s because of Akiko. She and her sycophantic son have been keeping it all a secret. Every time a journalist would file a story about Earth or the Hollow Suits, they’d take it offline. A few of my colleges have been bought off, some of them vanished. Some, like me, were falsely accused of crimes. Whatever she had to do, she’s done to keep people from knowing about the Hollows.”
“I’m sorry, but why would she bother?” Mason asked. “I know she told us she didn’t want people panicking, but why should we believe that she’s keeping the information from the other Stations?”
“I have no idea. Why does anyone ever do evil things?” Whitehall asked.
“Very few people do things they consider to be evil. Most people think they’re doing the right thing,” Sennett replied.
“That’s a refreshing point of view from a cop,” Whitehall said.
“So, how does killing your brother tie into this?” Sennett asked.
Whitehall’s face twisted. He set a hand over his mouth. “I did not kill my brother,” he whispered.
“Okay,” Sennett said, holding her hands up. She didn’t see any weapons on Whitehall, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have them. “Why don’t you tell us what happened the night he died, then.”
Whitehall sighed. “I was over at Gene’s place with them. We were hanging out, and suddenly Gene got a call. He stepped out of the room, and as soon as he did three soldiers burst through the front door. They-.”
He stopped, wiping tears away from his face. “They wanted this flash drive I have. I didn’t have it on me then, wouldn’t have given it to them even if I did. But they shot Sean, right through his fucking neck.”
“What was on the flash drive?” Sennett asked.
“Give him a minute, Sennett, shit,” Mason said. Whitehall was crying, tears running down his face.
“Sorry, guess my cop is showing again,” Sennett replied. “Whenever you’re ready, Mr. Whitehall.”
“I, I’ve been collecting information about Earth and the Hollow Suits as it comes in. At least, I had been. I can’t store it anywhere, Akiko will just wipe it. So I downloaded everything onto a flash drive.”
“I haven’t seen one of those since I was a kid. I’d love to see this one,” Sennett replied.
“Yeah,” Whitehall said. He seemed to be pulling himself together. “That’s why I need you. Look, I’m not getting off this station alive. Akiko will see to that. But this information has to get to the people. I don’t know what we can do about these Hollows, but the more people who know about them, the better chance we have of surviving them.”
Sennett crossed her arms, considering the man in front of her. “I don’t know what you want me to do,” she said finally.
“I know, maybe I’m not being clear. This isn’t a situation where I’m begging you to save me. I’m already lost, and I get that. But this information is crucial, and it’s got to get out. All I’m asking you to do is take the flash drive.”
Sennett glanced toward Mason. He shrugged. “I can run tests on it, make sure it’s nothing dangerous,” he said.
“Alright,” Sennett said. “I’ll take it.”
“Thank you,” Whitehall said. “I’ll get it to you as soon as I can. Take care of yourself, Sennett. You and your family.”
“Funny you should mention them. Because if you’re playing me, and you do something that threatens my family, Akiko will be the last person you need to worry about.”
Whitehall grinned. “That’s what I thought you’d say. But if we can’t find a way to beat these Hollow Suits, I’ll be the least of yours.”
Liam and Godfrey were standing together next to the ride when Sennett and Mason returned. They were having what looked like an animated conversation, that stopped as soon as they spotted Sennett.
“Hey,” Liam said as soon as they were close.
“Sorry for disappearing like that,” Sennett said.
“Did you see him?” Godfrey asked, looking around.
“Yeah. He pulled me and Mason into a stairwell. But we should talk about this later.”
Liam glanced around, then said, “Wait, the crazy fucker who tried to kill you pulled you into a stairwell?”
Sennett gave him a hard look. “I suddenly think we’re talking about different things. Whitehall was talking to us. Who did you see?”
“Like I said,” Liam replied, “the crazy fucker who tried to shoot you in the restaurant.”
For the second time in a very short period, Sennett wished that she had a weapon. “Where’s April?” she asked.
“Waiting in the security office. We sent her there right after we saw him. But what do you mean, you were talking to Whitehall?”
“Not here, and not now,” Sennett said. “Come on, we need to get back to the hotel.”
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole C. Luttrell
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
Station 86 is shocked when a Khloe assassin begins killing members of the all powerful council. Officer Sennett Montgomery and Councilman Godfrey Anders swear to find the assassin after Godfrey’s wife is falsely accused. But the killer, and the council itself, are not what they seem. Neither, as it turns out, is Sennett’s daughter.