"Off the ship, he gated out a few minutes ago," Davis replies. "I thought it might be best to wait until he's gone to let you know, for everyone's safety."
Brinai gives Davis a sharp look. She frowns at him for a second, then somehow manages to continue frowning at him while giving him an approving look. "Probably for the best, I suppose. There are many dangerous places on Atea, and a Homeworlder like that man is likely to find himself in serious trouble, something that we wouldn't want." She sighs, sits straighter up in her chair and adjusts her shawl. "What is your people's plan, Garrett?"
"We talk to you and Barnes, and start gathering information. Simmons seems certain that he has powerful backers, we need to know what we're dealing with before we make a move," Davis says.
Brinai nods. "Prudent." She looks over the table. "You have all helped our cause immeasurably in the last year. We regard you all as fellow freedom fighters and as family. Whatever you need, we will provide, and if it comes to it, you all have berths waiting for you on Atea if need be."
"Great," Hugh says, "can you send me back in time? Like, a day ago? That would be really helpful."
He lets his sarcasm stand for a second before he continues. "I don't know what his plan is. If we go to Earth, he might have us arrested...if we stay here, he might be able to have the gateway sealed from us. It's bad if we go in blind, and it's bad if we give him the time to cut us off. Swims said he'd help, and I love the fuzzball, but he's just one...guy."
He looks around. "Okay, that concludes the doomsaying part of this evening's entertainment. Anybody not feeling like shit right now want to take a whack at this?"
Arketta speaks up. "Not that what you're saying isn't a problem, Captain, but with Swims-the-Black on the ground on the other side, we can know enough about what we're walking into back on Diego Garcia."
Ngawai nods. "And once we're there, Barnes can get us back to the mainland."
"I think that's the best we can do," Davis says. "I'm going to call up Barnes, and we'll get this ball rolling."
Samantha Barnes is eating lunch at her desk when her vox pings, the display on the charging stand announcing that Garrett Davis is calling. One of the precious vox repeaters from Boranai had just been installed in the McLean, Virginia offices of the Gateway Research and Homeworld Defense Initiative offices, finally replacing the hacked-together vox-to-satphone connection with a clear, reliable wireless signal from McLean to Diego Garcia to the rest of the galaxy. She brushed some crumbs off of her Hedion-made, Bashakran-smuggled formal tunic (in the stuffy Cold War-era office building the GRHDI still shares with a few other anonymous agencies, the form-fitting, climate-acclimating Imperial clothes are a godsend) and clips her vox over her ear. "Hello, Garrett. Congratulations on Hedion, we heard it was a big success."
"It seems not everyone thinks it was, Samantha," Davis replies in English. Barnes used to think he was just putting on that accent, but he's just sounded more and more comfortable with it as time has gone on. "Can you put me on holo? We've got something to talk about."
Barnes frowns at Davis' concerned tone of voice. "Okay..." She taps the control to activate the holographic camera in the base unit, and the projection reveals not just Davis and his wife, but all of Task Force 815 and Brinai sitting in the miniaturized version of their briefing room on Atea. "What's going on, Garrett?"
"Very bad things," Davis replies.
A few minutes later, after Barnes gets the story up to that point from everyone, she sits in her chair and fumes. She actually feels her tunic and pants loosen in response to her elevated body temperature. "That bastard's been nothing but trouble around here for the last week. He's got a stack of authorizations from the Pentagon, and he's been sticking his nose into everything, trying to find...something, I'm not sure." She sighs. "He's got some kind of backers in the Pentagon, and since we're still under the Department of Defense, there's nothing we can do about it but roll over."
Barnes looks around her office for a moment. "But I have been working on something that might help us with that. I don't want to talk about it here, or over vox. We need to meet in person. When do you think you'll be back in Washington?"
"We can be back in a couple of days," Davis says.
"We'll talk then. Good luck, Davis. If anyone hassles you at Diego Garcia, give me a call, I'll sort things out. I know enough people in the Pentagon that I can get you back to the mainland, at least." She looks over at Brinai. "Good to see you, Brinai," Barnes says in Imperial. "And I thank you for your support with this."
Brinai and Davis both nod to Barnes. "We'll see you in a few days, Samantha," Davis says, then ends the call.
Barnes sighs and takes the vox off her ear. I knew this day was coming, I just thought I'd have a bit more time to prepare, she thinks, then starts gathering files on her computer.
Davis ends the call, then turns back to the team. "Well, I think that settles it for now." Davis' switch back to Imperial when talking with the team would seem unusual to anyone unfamiliar with Task Force 815. "Anyone got any other bright ideas than going up against some of the big movers and shakers in the Department of Defense?"
Ngawai smiles. "It's been too long since I've been on a real op. Let's do it."