June 5, 2410
Saariskella Colony, Ottokar System
Colonel Price propped his feet up and enjoyed the warm fire as he sipped at his whisky. He stared at the old-fashioned paper book in his lap without really seeing it. Officially, Commander Bowder had requested leave after the Battle of Kapteyn’s Star. Unofficially, he’d mentioned he was thinking about retiring, too sick of death and war to take it much longer.
He’d slipped any potential observers and left a trail that would indicate that Commander Bowder might have taken his own life… should he fail to return.
Colonel Price had shaken off the false identity, donned a different one, and boarded a transport here. Saariskella was a cold, damp world, renowned for its skiing and for its secluded hunting lodges. The colonists eked out a living by catering to tourists and hunters. Since most people wore heavy coats with goggles and hoods, it was also a good world for doing business anonymously.
He looked up at a knock on the door. His hand settled to the Sako TR-7 in his lap, underneath his book, “Come in.” It wasn’t the only bit of protection he had. There was an entire security team, men he’d trained himself, along the perimeter, ready to take down any potential attackers.
The door opened and a man stomped inside, shaking snow off and throwing back his hood. “Colonel Price,” Admiral Collae said, his stony face harsh in the light from the fire. “I see you’re interested in my offer after all?”
“Well, I’m willing to listen to what you have to say,” Colonel Price replied. “After all, things happened mostly as you predicted back at Kapteyn’s Star. Though I will admit the bit with Princess Giovanni being killed was something of a surprise.”
Admiral Collae gave a narrow smile, “Yes. Some things are best as surprises. I have an associate coming soon who’ll put your mind at ease about some of our other plans, but in the meantime, I wanted to know if your facility, the antimatter production one… is it secure?”
“Very secure,” Colonel Price said. “It’s located in deep space, only the people there and myself know the coordinates.” He gave a wolfish grin, “The crews of supply ships I charter tend to be unhappy when they realize how I keep it that way.”
Admiral Collae nodded, “Excellent. My organization is in need of a secure base of operations with a massive power output. I think your organization could help us out.”
“I’ll assume you aren’t talking about the CRAN?” Colonel Price asked. Admiral Collae probably hadn’t lured him all the way out here just to murder him and try to take his resources… but that didn’t mean Colonel Price was going to drop his guard.
“No,” Admiral Collae snorted, “I’m not.”
There was a knock at the door, but Colonel Price didn’t jump. His security team had already alerted him to the second guest. “Come on in,” he said.
The second guest came in and then put back his hood and pulled off his goggles, “Cold out there,” he said with an easy, boyish smile. The horribly disfiguring scars marred that smile, somewhat, but Colonel Price wasn’t bothered by scars. “Couldn’t we meet somewhere nice, like a beach?”
Colonel Price recognized Reese Leone. He felt a real spurt of surprise as he saw him, though. “You’re supposed to be dead.”
“So are you, Colonel Price,” Reese smiled broadly. “And like you, I’ve found death to be remarkably… liberating.” He gestured at a chair, “May I sit?”
Colonel Price nodded slowly. He contemplated Reese’s presence, combined with Admiral Collae’s presence. Admiral Collae’s people didn’t just seize his transports, Colonel Price mused, he evacuated Reese, all of us none the wiser. That meant that the attempt to board the Enforcer Platform had been another ruse. He felt oddly relieved that the end goal hadn’t been the alien station.
“So,” Reese said, taking a seat in the chair and then leaning forward, elbows on his knees, his blue eyes flickering with odd reflections of the fire. “Colonel Price, tell me about this station of yours. I need to know exactly how much power you can produce.”