Brody didn’t really need the reminder that kept running through his head. He’d never forgotten that bit of advice. Even if the men and women of Pac-IC Search and Rescue had forgotten—or just never been taught, the civilian Search and Rescue training was a little different than the military training had been—Brody wasn’t about to decide that just because she was hurt and she looked harmless he didn’t need to keep an eye on her.
He was currently taking up part of the waiting lobby, within sight of the room they’d stuck Ms. Wade in to recover. None of her injuries were world ending; a bit of internal bleeding, a mild concussion, and a hairline fracture to the femur. They’d given her a nanite injection and put her to sleep for twelve hours so the little monsters could work. Modern medicine was outstripping him. Fifteen years ago, when he’d finished his training, that sort of fix would have taken a couple of days. Long enough to know something about what had happened before a possible witness/suspect was mobile again.
Twelve hours had barely given him time to go back to his rented quarters, shower, eat, and sleep for a bit. There were about two hours of the sedative left, and he was looming in medical, waiting for the crime scene techs to give him a report.
Well, not give him a report. His retirement had officially come through two and a half hours ago. He didn’t doubt he could trade on the ‘recently retired, decorated hero’ thing to see the report.
That twenty years of service requirement sounded long, at eighteen. At thirty-eight, looking at another century of life on full pension with no direction was long.
Pac-IC S and R definitely wanted to be a direction. Their commander—a personal friend of Commander Stevens—had arm-twisted Brody into coming in for an interview. When half the fram city had exploded Brody honestly entertained the idea it was intentional.
But that kind of thinking was why people who took the hard tracks got handed their retirement at twenty years. And the panic that’d rippled through the ranks when they all realized there were life-signs and no one around with dive clearance to go get them—without waiting probably an hour for the bomb sweep to finish—was genuine, even if him having those skills felt pretty unusually coincidental.
He’d experienced a lot of concussion responses in twenty years, some of them seriously disturbing, but he’d never had someone go full Jane Austen before. It was that novelty that was making him feel like there was more to this girl. Had to be. That, and the fact no one was really sure who she was or what she’d been doing in the docking bay.
James was double-missing. Every James they could find in the system was accounted for, triple checked for the three that had reason to be in that area, and vetted. The going assumption, among the people who were supposed to be investigation this sort of thing—Criminal Investigation Division and Emergency Management and Recovery—was that she’d mistaken the name. She had a concussion, it happened.
Brody shifted, and watched the nurses bustle back and forth between patient rooms, sidestepping the stick-legged droids that delivered water and non-essentials, and conversing in rapid med-speak with the automated robot doctors. Each ward had one human physician on at all times, mostly for patient comfort. Given bedside manner was often a thing of the past, Brody figured it wouldn’t be long until that was gone, too.
He'd bet nearly everything he owned, and his ridiculous lifetime pension, Ms. Wade had gotten the name right. Once she’d realized she wasn’t at a ball waiting for her dance with Mr. Darcy she’d clued back in pretty quick. And he might have been retired now, but he hadn’t been last evening when he pulled her out of a crumbling temporary airlock bubble. He didn’t leave a job half finished. Either she was in trouble, she was trouble, or both.
“I hoped I’d find you here,” Dagny Hussein said as she flopped into the chair next to him. Her charcoal pants and matching suit jacket were shiny in the hospital lights, and her perfectly placed black headscarf wasn’t even a little. She was neat as a pin, and the kind of investigator that wasn’t going to get anywhere in her career because she was perennially incapable of going along to get along.
She’d been waiting at the emergency dock last night, and he hadn’t needed her to introduce herself to know she was CID. The charcoal gray suit was kind of a give-away, but not as much as the general air that screamed “COP.” The EMR stuffed shirts had a tendency to scream “Fed,” or “feckless.”
“I’m pretty sure I gave you my contact,” Brody reminded.
She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back in her chair. “You did. But your file says you’re officially retired.”
Brody glanced at her, staring thoughtfully into the recovery room, and weighed the ways he could play this. He was retired. Which, glass half empty, meant she didn’t have to tell him anything, not if she didn’t want to. But, glass half full, it also meant the only person pulling on his strings now was him. He didn’t have to play things officially, keep his cards close to the vest and cover all his motives.
“I don’t leave a job half-finished,” Brody answered, before she’d found a question that made him change his mind about being honest. “And you’re back here already.”
Dagny nodded, brows drawn together. “EMR is really sure it was just an accident, and she was in the wrong place.”
He scoffed. “They said, last night. James was the concussion talking and there’s surely a logical reason we don’t have an arrival manifest for her.”
She stared at him for a minute. “James wasn’t the concussion talking?”
Brody rubbed his face. “You’ll see what I mean when you talk to her.” He glanced at her. “I assume you’re here so you’ll get first crack?”
Dagny shrugged. “Survival situations breed trust. I figured if you were here you could introduce us and then maybe I’ll get somewhere before EMR shows up and it all gets swept under the rug.”
Brody nodded, and decided it wasn’t his job to tell her how to manage her career. She was bright enough to know being intractable about this sort of thing wasn’t going to make her any friends. At least not the kind that helped with advancement.