The movement draws at him, the music calls to him, and the light shows the way.
Dancers in the gazebo weave and spin and glide across the floor. Music pours forth, filling the world around him. Starlight reflects off the pond’s surface; lanterns shine, hanging from the bridges connecting the gazebo to the rest of the grounds. And the gazebo blazes like a beacon, light pouring out behind the dancers, turning them into half-shadows framed behind white latticework and columns.
Even at a distance, he feels a current leading to the gazebo’s center. The dance is a whirlpool, and he is caught in it.
Matthew Alexander Garrett leans against his car, one foot on the road, one resting on the door frame. He’s trying to decide what to do. More accurately, he’s already decided what to do, and he’s waiting for the rational part of his mind to give in to the idea.
August nights are hot and wet, and what little light spills out from the car interior shines off the fine layer of sweat covering Matthew’s face and neck. Dark eyes gaze out at the trees along the shoulder of the road; lean hands brush absently at damp, dark hair. The air is heavy with honeysuckle, humidity, and dew; the scent is rich if you like honeysuckle, cloying if you don’t. Matthew does.
It’s late, he’s tired, he wants to be home. The moon is hidden, the night is heavy and thick, the only light he sees comes from his headlights. The road stretches on, invisible, coming into view only at the edge of his high beams with a startling suddenness that makes him feel like he’s driving too fast, which is true.
WHEREIN Our Hero is Reminded that there is More than One Distraction
The Avadis system wasn’t, at first glance, a particularly interesting place. Its planets had little to mine that couldn’t be found elsewhere—making it an unattractive claim for Trade Barons—and the system sat far enough inside fringe world space that it held little strategic value for the Alliance of Free Worlds or the Radiant Throne. It did, however, have a gas giant that no interstellar power had claimed as its own, and a consortium of concerned interests that were determined to make sure it stayed that way.
Free fuel attracted a lot of interest.
The economy that sprang up around the free fuel depot mostly followed the pitch “as long as you’re here, you might as well buy something.” There was a brisk, thriving trade that focused on the kinds of things people who didn’t like paying for things would buy. Illegal things, in other words: the Avadis black market was so openly displayed it was nearly silver.
Velis Enge leaned back in her office chair, blearily rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she forced herself to finish reading the mission debrief. She thought back wistfully to her days as a field agent, complaining about having to write them. She smiled briefly—relishing the irony—then forced herself to pay attention to her work. When she finished, she placed the data tablet down on her desk with a sigh and reached for the lukewarm cup of coffee on her desk.