He didn’t look that heavy, but Taiye had been doing this for long enough to know one of the secrets of the universe, which was that a man doubled in mass as dead weight. He was alive dead weight, though, because the posting had been clear: back in a body bag was only worth a tenth as much as returned still breathing. Drunk and angry, he sputtered and thrashed as Taiye tossed him into the cell, but he might as well have been lashing out with noodles for all the strength he could summon. Taiye tapped the code on the outside wall and the force field shimmered, locking his bounty in. As attempts at evading capture went, Dr. Conall’s had been one of the more frantic and ineffectual ones Taiye had ever witnessed. Of all the bruises and scrapes the man in the cell would be feeling tomorrow, most had been self-inflicted.
The ship began to hum as the engines fired up, a low murmur that had become so familiar to him, Taiye only really noticed it when it was gone. A few seconds later, Taiye felt his stomach sway as the ship switched over from the planet’s gravity to its own. He was glad for this a second later when Conall doubled over and threw up.
Taiye made a face. “Facilities behind the blue panel,” he said, pointing over toward the wall nearest Conall’s hand. Already the environmental nanites would be swarming toward the biowaste, so as long as Conall didn’t roll around in it, he’d be fine for the four days it’d take them to reach the nearest waystation. “Need anything, shout. It’s a small ship.”
Conall rolled on his back — away from the sick, so at least his luck was holding somewhat — and folded his hands across his stomach. “Water,” he said, his voice a rasp.
“Water behind the blue panel too.” Taiye pointed again, just in case Conall had missed it the first time. “No shower, though.”
The room’s one interior door hissed open and Kehinde walked in, twisting her hair away from her neck and stabbing it through with a screwdriver to keep it in place. “Seventh in line,” she said to Taiye; she could have told him that from the pilot’s chair, certainly, but the ship’s autopilot could just as easily handle waiting in the departure queue, and she liked to keep an eye on things as much as he did. One long curl had escaped her earlier efforts at taming, and he gave it a little tug, a silent congratulation on a job well done.
When she didn’t respond, though, Taiye let his gaze follow hers, all the way back to Conall. He was still sprawled on the floor and looked green enough that he might empty his stomach again at any moment, but his light brown eyes were wide circles, binary moons in the sick-pale sky of his face. “I know you,” he said, looking from one of them to the other and back again.
“Sure you do,” said Kehinde, though the bluster in her words didn’t match the worry behind her eyes. “So at least you can tell your friends in prison you got caught by the best.”
But Conall shook his head with an eerie, spooked slowness. “3093-α and 3093-β. It’s you, isn’t it?”
It was a testimony to everything about their shared professionalism, toughness, and uncrackable poker faces that neither Taiye nor Kehinde so much as flinched. It was a damningly long minute, however, before either of them managed to speak again. “That doesn’t mean anything to us,” Kehinde lied, turning on her heel. “Better luck next time.”