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predators are in control?"
Badger didn't have anything to say to that.
I didn't say anything, either. I was in a deep, despairing funk.
The bastard on Smithbright's World had ruptured my kidney, and I would have
died if Fedara Contei hadn't pulled strings to get the two of us through
customs and back to the
Reward
. The medichamber returned me to perfect physical health, but I was
uncomfortably aware of my own mortality when I
rejoined the world of the living. Uncomfortably aware that I had made a
machine the sole link between me and death, and that I had let myself get too
far from the machine. I didn't want to die, and now, if
Fedara Contei was correct, I had people who were better than I was stronger,
faster, maybe even smarter and they were violent and they were hunters and
they wanted me dead.
And I didn't know why. Perhaps I was close to finding out the answer to that,
but I didn't have it yet. I
had another name Cal Basqueian but there was a good chance his name wouldn't
give me anything more useful than I'd gotten from any of the other names. It
was probably just another name.
I had a lot of questions, but I wasn't having much luck making sense of them,
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and I certainly wasn't finding any answers, no matter how close to the answers
I might have been.
My biggest question, the one that wouldn't let go, was
Why was the man who followed us so much better than me
? Why was he so much better than Badger?
Restored to health, I was no longer whole. Every step I'd made since I was
seventeen, I'd made based upon what I believed was the unassailable fact that
I was capable of taking care of myself. I had done everything humanly possible
to ensure that my self-confidence wasn't misplaced. All the training, all the
fighting, all the heavy-gravity speed drills, all the meditation and education
and focus on making myself ready for anything; what had it been for? Nothing.
The pale man in the black coat dealt with me just as he would have if I'd been
careless and sloppy and slow.
No
, the voice in my head argued, if you had been careless and sloppy and slow,
he would have killed you right there. As it is, you're still alive
.
file:///K|/eMule/Incoming/Lisle,%20Holly%20-%20Hunting%20The%20Corrigan's%20Bl
ood%20(v1.0).html (108 of 231)8-12-2006 23:45:40
Lisle, Holly - Hunting the Corrigan's Blood
I was in no mood for inner rationality. I'd lost, and Badger, who trained as
hard and long as I did, had lost, and we had been rescued by the enemy who was
hired to kill us.
We were shamed and shamed again.
How? That was what I wanted to know. How?
Badger finally said, "I came in to tell you that we have some useful
information. Cal Basqueian used his real name."
I switched off the holo and swiveled around to stare at him. "You're joking."
"His real name," Badger repeated. He handed me an infochip. I popped it into
my compac and discovered that not only had Cal Basqueian used his real name,
but that he'd made a mistake in doing so.
He wasn't unknown, a model citizen, someone with no recorded past. Badgers
query on him had yielded a list of sins that stretched from Tassamarkis to Old
Earth.
Basqueian had been convicted of armed robbery, assault, and forgery; he'd been
charged with both manslaughter and murder; he'd escaped from two prisons; and
he had a list of known associates that read like a criminals' Who's Who. His
whereabouts were listed as unknown. No surprise. We knew where he was, sort
of. He wasn't a member of any known criminal organization. Most criminals
aren't, so discovering that he wasn't shattered no hopes and gave no great
disappointment.
He was, however, a member in good standing of the Universal Society of
Antiquarian Gothicans, which
I'd never heard of. According to the first report back from a query Badger
ran, the membership was comprised entirely of people who liked to dress up in
funny clothes and pretend they lived in early nineteenth-century London.
London, according to the report, had been a dark, polluted city on Old
Earth, known at that time for its foreboding atmosphere and for the
suspenseful fictional stories set there.
That bit of information on Basqueian felt like finding out that in his spare
time Attila the Hun grew pansies.
I reread the highlights of the report, then handed the chip back to Badger. I
laughed, for lack of a more appropriate response. "The Universal Society of
Antiquarian Gothicans, for God's sake."
"That was my response, too. I'd never heard of them, but maybe they can help
us. I'm running a query to locate other USAG members. Maybe, since he's still
listed as a member in good standing, we can find out something about him from
another member."
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"I doubt that his criminal activities are going to have been a major topic of
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