Final Days | Chapter 15 of 39

Author: Gary Gibson | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1003 Views | Add a Review

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Hong Kong, 30 January 2235


Following his arraignment before a Taiwanese military judge, Saul spent the better part of forty-eight hours in a secure penal facility on the outskirts of Tainan, close to the island’s south coast. On his second morning there, a guard woke him by poking a baton into his ribs, before informing him in broken English that a diplomatic intervention had set him free.

His gaolers had taken his gear and contacts away and, Saul felt sure, were already working hard to extract from them whatever data they could. In exchange he was given a pair of powder-blue trousers that flapped around his ankles, and a short-sleeved maroon shirt with a dark stain on the collar, which he suspected was the original owner’s blood.

They led him out of the prison in handcuffs, and shoved him in the back of a police car. Saul spent the next hour watching the traffic slip by in either direction, before finally they arrived at an airport on the city outskirts, where he was placed directly on to a commercial hopper bound for Hong Kong.

On his arrival there, he was escorted through a restricted part of the main terminal building, still in handcuffs, to a room displaying the universal attributes of every interrogation room he had ever set foot in: a single table with a chipped plastic surface, unforgivably bright strip-lighting, ceiling-mounted scanning gear and a mirror that was almost certainly two-way.

Donohue was waiting for him there, seated on a plastic chair by the table, clutching a paper cup filled with black coffee in one hand. He watched as the two guards removed Saul’s cuffs before they departed.

‘You got here fast,’ said Saul, his voice cracking slightly.

‘You look fucking terrible,’ remarked Donohue, then wrinkled his nose. ‘And you smell worse. Didn’t they give you a shower?’

Saul rubbed his wrists carefully, squinting under the harsh light. ‘I just spent most of two days in a prison cell with twelve other men, and a trough in the floor for a toilet,’ he said. ‘They were out of toilet paper.’

‘There’s a pay-shower somewhere in the terminal,’ Donohue replied. ‘But I’m afraid there probably won’t be time for you to use it before you ve.’

‘Leave?’ Saul echoed.

‘You’re going home,’ Donohue explained. ‘You have a flight to catch in less than an hour. I’m sure you’re glad to hear that.’

Saul nodded, and lowered himself on to a second chair with infinite weariness. ‘Where’s Sanders?’

‘He couldn’t make it,’ Donohue replied, his expression suddenly sour. He sighed and got up, stepping over to a cabinet, where he poured the dregs from a cafetière into another paper cup before placing it in front of Saul. A faint wisp of steam rose up from its tarry black contents, as Saul curled one hand around the cup, feeling the heat work its way through his skin.

Donohue sat down again. ‘I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to find ways to extricate you before the Taiwanese decided you were trying to overthrow their government, and locked you up for the next hundred years. Care to tell me your side of things?’

Saul lifted the coffee to his lips and took a tentative sip. It tasted better than he’d expected.

‘Hanover’s your man,’ he said. ‘He was on to you from the start. Have you got him back yet?’

Donohue shook his head. ‘No, we haven’t, but that little excursion is costing us dearly. There are videos and photos of dead ASI troopers all over the nets.’

‘I found him destroying hard copies – evidence of some kind, I’m guessing. He didn’t even try to hide what he was up to, because he knew he was going to get caught, and made plans to save himself. He did, however, tell me he wanted me to deliver a message.’

‘Go on.’

‘He said that if you don’t guarantee his family safe passage to the colonies, he’ll tell the Sphere everything he knows.’ Saul shrugged. ‘I can’t make any sense of what he told me, but I assume you can.’

‘That’s all he said?’

‘He mentioned some other stuff that didn’t make any more sense to me either. Tau Ceti, and something called a Pacific growth?’ Saul shook his head in puzzlement. ‘I had no idea what he was talking about.’

‘You didn’t ask him to explain?’

Saul gulped more coffee, and winced as it burned its way down his throat. ‘He had a gun to my head, after nearly burning me to death. It didn’t feel like a priority under the circumstances.’

‘I’ll need a full and detailed report.’

Saul shruggeo;There’s not much more to tell, except that Hanover sacrificed his entire squad rather than give himself up to me. Whoever was using that compound must have cleared out just before we arrived, so they’d obviously received plenty of advance warning. It doesn’t take a major leap of intuition to guess that Hanover’s the one who tipped them off.’

He watched Donohue withdraw a narrow, rectangular slip of paper from inside his jacket, then lay it on the table between them. Donohue drew the tip of one finger across it, and, in response, the logo of a major airline appeared on the sheet of paper, as if by magic, along with lines of text rendered in a fine-serif font.

He scooted the live-sheet towards Saul, who stopped it with his fingertips.

‘Diplomatic clearance and your ticket home,’ explained Donohue. ‘All appearances to the contrary, you’ve done good, Saul.’

‘That’s funny, because I could have sworn it was a total fuck-up.’

‘It was,’ Donohue replied. ‘But we already had a pretty good idea that Hanover was our man. We couldn’t prove it, however, unless we found some way to draw him out and catch him in the act.’

‘So I was just bait,’ said Saul, glowering.

Donohue merely smiled, without humour.

‘He sabotaged my A/V uplink,’ Saul continued, leaning forward. ‘That means there’s no proof any of this actually happened. You must know that?’

‘Corporal Helena Bryant’s A/V systems were working just fine,’ Donohue replied. ‘You’ll remember she interrupted your conversation at a particularly crucial juncture. Her contacts had a heavily encrypted satellite uplink, so we’ve got more than enough solid evidence of what took place.’

‘The man is a piece of shit,’ Saul observed. ‘You’re not seriously going to give him what he wants, are you?’

‘That decision’s not up to anyone in this room,’ Donohue replied, standing.

‘You have to give me some idea what’s going on here.’ Saul stared up at him. ‘What the hell was all that stuff he mentioned about the colonies being on their own?’

Donohue gazed down at him with an expression halfway between scorn and pity. ‘I’ve no idea what you mean, Saul. Maybe you need to cut back on some of that loup-garou you love so much.’

‘What about the hijacked shipment? What’s in it that everyone wants so badly?’

Donohue shook his head without answering that, then stepped over to the door and pulled it open. The distant tones of an automated announcement echoed along the corridor. ‘You’ve got just over halfere&rsqur to catch your flight,’ he said.

‘Wait.’ Saul could hear the blood pounding in his head. ‘What did Hanover mean when he said the colonies were going to be all on their own? And what the hell about finding out who destroyed the Galileo wormhole?’ he yelled, anger welling up inside him. ‘Does Hanover know something about it, or was that just some bullshit you concocted?’

Donohue shook his head as if in pity. Saul watched as he stepped towards him, pulling a plastic inhaler out of a pocket and dropping it on the table.

Saul stared down at it. ‘What the hell’s that for?’ he asked.

‘A little pick-me-up,’ Donohue sneered. ‘Had the feeling you might need it.’

‘Fuck you,’ Saul snapped, sweeping the inhaler on to the floor with one hand.

‘You used to be a good agent, Saul,’ said Donohue, stepping back to the door. ‘Maybe you should take Hanover’s advice and have a vacation somewhere off-world. And, when you get there, I’d strongly advise you to stay there.’

Saul stared at the closed door, once Donohue had departed, a hundred more questions remaining stillborn in the back of his throat.

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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