The Queen’s Triumph: Chapter 13

Part of the serial story The Queen’s Triumph

The Queen's Triumph, Chapter 13. A space opera serial. A breakfast table with pastries, yogurt, and juice.

After Imogen left, I sat at the desk and tried to order my thoughts. Valentin waited for me upstairs, but I needed a moment to decompress. I hadn’t lied to Ari, I wasn’t going to go rogue and hit Adams tonight on my own, but the temptation certainly existed.

I let Valentin know that I was going to be in the office for a little while and then started going through the data Sawya had sent me. To say it was extensive would be an understatement. There were logs of when people left the building, including who, how many, and their destination. I shivered. Sawya would have just as much information on me, and they could’ve easily turned it over to Adams.

According to this, Adams had arrived a day after us, but he hadn’t wasted any time—he’d gone straight to Sawya. It made me feel a little better that he hadn’t been here for weeks.

He’d chosen his building well. There was no easy way to get a team in. We would have to draw him out or at least catch him when he was outside. Unfortunately, according to the logs, he let his lackeys handle everything. He rarely left the building.

I was going to have to play bait after all. I grimaced in distaste.

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The Queen’s Triumph: Chapter 12

Part of the serial story The Queen’s Triumph

The Queen's Triumph, Chapter 12. A space opera serial. A colorful city night scene with pedestrians and buildings.

We exited the tower without any difficulty. Sawya sent me an electronic information packet, as well as instructions to exit the block via the airlock into Block 4. It was the opposite direction of Block 48, but I figured they had a good reason and weren’t just trying to immediately double-cross me.

I told the rest of our team to withdraw and meet us there.

“Was it just me, or did that go better than expected?” Eddie asked once we were several streets away from Sawya’s building.

“Far better,” I agreed. “And we have Adams to thank for it. If he hadn’t infuriated them, then negotiations would’ve been much more painful.”

Murdering someone who I was probably already going to kill and trying to persuade the universe’s two superpowers to let CP57 negotiate the peace were small asks, all things considered. I’d been braced for so much worse.

“What did Adams do?”

“I don’t know, but I’m sure he was his usual charming self. He either threatened them or didn’t respect them.”

You threatened them,” Eddie pointed out.

“Barely. And only after being threatened myself. It’s a delicate dance, one that I’m sure Adams didn’t fully understand even if it was explained to him.”

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The Queen’s Triumph: Chapter 11

Part of the serial story The Queen’s Triumph

The Queen's Triumph, Chapter 11. A space opera serial. An illustrated brightly lit block teeming with people and glowing signs.

Sorry this is a little bit later than usual, but it’s because I voted early today! I put on real pants (and a mask!) and left the house and everything. Check with your local officials to see if early voting is an option in your area and beat the rush on election day!

Despite my fears that everything would change with a declaration in the open, Valentin did not try to prevent me from visiting Sawya. Instead, he sent me off with a solemn request to be careful and a lingering kiss.

Eddie and I swept through the intervening blocks with swift efficiency. I wore my cloak with the black side out so that we passed unnoticed. I would reverse it once we arrived in Block 1. Eddie wore unrelenting black from head to toe. His clothes were so dark they seemed to absorb all of the surrounding light and I wasn’t sure exactly what he had on, except that it fit close to his body.

The entrance Eddie had found was in Block 8, which was diagonally adjacent to Block 1. The two blocks barely touched, and even directly adjacent blocks were only supposed to be accessible through the airlocks, but thanks to a network of service hallways, ventilation shafts, and illegal modifications, a path had opened.

I had no doubt that it remained open because of Sawya’s influence.

Eddie slipped into a narrow opening between the back of a building and the wall of Block 8. He fiddled with a tall grate for a second, and then it silently swung open on well-oiled hinges. “After you,” he whispered. “Stop four steps in.”

I did as he asked and he followed me in, closing the grate behind us. The tunnel was dark, but thanks to my specialty contact lenses, I could see well enough, if only in shades of greenish gray.

Eddie passed me with a light touch on my arm. “Follow me and step where I step. Don’t touch anything.”

It took us nearly forty minutes to travel a couple of hundred meters. Eddie disabled the traps and alarms in front of us and then enabled them behind us. We could’ve left the path open—Sawya would’ve closed it soon enough—but it was all part of the entertainment.

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The Queen’s Triumph: Chapter 10

Part of the serial story The Queen’s Triumph

The Queen's Triumph, Chapter 10. A space opera serial. Two glasses of whisky on a wooden table.

By the end of the sixth day with no new information, I was done with every person in the house except Valentin. He remained safe only because he was smart enough to let the others ask, for the millionth time, if I had any updates.

No, no I did not.

But even Valentin had started wearing a worried expression when he thought I wasn’t looking.

In the past, I’d enjoyed the information gathering part of any mission, but I had been working alone without pressing deadlines. The dynamic changed when I had a team of people counting on me to deliver crucial information in a timely fashion. The continued failure pressed on me, sharpening my temper. After the latest report, Stella had taken one look at my face and ordered me to spend some time alone “for everyone’s sake.”

I’d taken her advice and buried myself in the downstairs office while Eddie cooked dinner. I was as far away from everyone as I could get without physically leaving the building—which remained an option.

One that was becoming more likely. I’d promised Valentin that I wouldn’t take any unnecessary risks, but all risks were becoming more necessary as time wore on.

I muttered a curse under my breath when the office door opened. “What now?” I demanded.

Valentin stuck his head in and held up a bottle of whisky and two glasses. “I come in peace.”

“I’m not good company today,” I warned.

His smile lit up the room. I desperately wanted him to stay, even if I was going to end up growling at him. “I won’t hold it against you,” he promised.

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The Queen’s Triumph: Chapter 9

Part of the serial story The Queen’s Triumph

The Queen's Triumph, a space opera serial. Chapter 10. A bookstore filled with piles of books.

Imogen didn’t have to worry about me creeping out because I crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow. Even the temptation of Valentin in my bed—still a delightful novelty—wasn’t enough to prop my eyes open.

I slept hard and woke refreshed. The dim light spilling around the edges of the curtains meant that it was still very early. The station never went truly dark, but the overhead lights were lowered at night.

Next to me, Valentin’s breathing was deep and even. Rather than moving and possibly waking him, I stayed where I was and checked the local news on the net, including the latest rumors and gossip. There were no splashy headlines announcing the arrival of the Rogue Queen or the Kos Emperor, so I figured we were still incognito.

For now.

Eventually, Valentin would be missed in Koan. When that happened, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out where he was.

I checked my messages, but none of my team had found anything new in the few hours since I’d last talked to them. It was so easy to expect instant results and forget the days and weeks and occasionally months of patience that had been required on my previous hunts.

Eventually Adams would fuck up, and I would be there to catch him when he did. I just had to remember to be patient.

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