4.5

Sam was drinking some tea, nursing a headache, when Vortran returned. Mark was still moping in his own room, so Sam was sitting at the table alone.

“Sam?” Vortran peered around the corner and gestured for someone out of view to approach before climbing into a chair on the other side of the table, “We’ve found some help.”

Sam looked up at the door expectantly, and frowned as two Mr’kana appeared. Yik was standing behind the other one, who bore a striking resemblance other than being female.

“You were supposed to be finding a location, not more trouble.” Sam stood up despite his growling response, and gave Saha a curt bow, gesturing to an empty chair. She sat down gracefully and Yik took up a crouching position in the corner, “Apologies, I’m not able to be a gracious host at the moment.”

“It’s quite all right, Mr. Mitchell, I’ve been appraised of the mess my brother started.” Yik shrunk a little and sat down, chewing on his tail.

“She knows the brother we’re looking for, and thinks she can get us matched up to him.”

“You know the guy?”

“He’s a loudmouth and a fool, but the man knows how to network. It’s a shame he wastes what talent he has on the fights, but if we can draw him in he should tell you what you need to know.” She frowned at Yik and he stopped chewing on his tail.

“Just give me five minutes alone with him I’d get the information we need.” Sam offered her some tea and Saha shook her head.

“I don’t think that will be necessary… I will need to know as much as possible about your daughter, if we’re going to get the right information. If she hasn’t been delivered yet you may even be able to buy her still.” She noted the look on Sam’s face and smiled calmly, “Just to ensure they don’t move her until you get there.”

“How are we supposed to do this? I can’t show my face here apparently.”

“My brother and your pascal friend will pose as buyers. I’ll coach them on how to attract the younger Sutro boy and get him talking.”

“Then why aren’t you doing this already?” Sam poured himself more tea, his eyelids slowly crawling down his eyes, stopping halfway.

“Because neither of them even knows what she turns into. If she turns into a fish and I send them looking for a bird, we won’t get the information we need.”

“It’s a purple cat… lavender, really. Not a regular cat like a housecat, but close enough you’d call her that. Now will you go find where I need to go?”

Saha pursed her lips slightly, then exhaled, narrowing her eyes at him, “The younger Sutro will be here in two days. In that time I need to train those two,” She gestured to Vortran and Yik, “To look like convincing buyers. I’d appreciate if you’d spare me the time for a proper conversation.”

Sam looked ready to lash out, but instead he shut his eyes fully and took another sip of tea. “Vortran, will you take trouble number one and check on Mark? He hasn’t been out of his room all day and I don’t want a corpse on my new ship.”

“Yeah, sure…” Vortran grabbed Yik by the shoulder and dragged him out of the room, despite his hissing. Once the door slid shut behind them Sam looked at Saha properly for the first time.

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” Saha said, looking bemused.

“Should I?” Sam leaned back in his chair, letting it rest on just two legs for a moment.

“Do you at least recognize Yikikik?”

“He seems to recognize me.. but no, I can’t say I do.” Sam sat back upright.

“I suppose it was a long time ago. We were just children… but I find it hard to believe you forgot about the dessert incident.” Saha leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table.

“Dessert…” He gave a her a surprised look as the memory resurfaced, “He’s the one who started that revolt at the academy? The brilliant little tactician they called my unit in to take care of?”

“They fast-tracked him based on what you said about him. If not for his foolish revenge plot he’d be an officer back home.”

“Why’s he trying to kill me? And what happened to him?” The tea had gone fully cold now, but Sam didn’t even notice as he took a sip.

“He’s always been a bit… quirky… but some of the taunting over him getting fast-tracked has… he kept trying to hide his talent away and it’s driven him a bit mad. I cut him off from the family funds, hoping he’d see sense and come home… When he’s determined, well, you get the dessert incident.”

“Well to be honest this doesn’t make me any happier about him being on my ship… I only let him come because he said he knows this other guy.”

Saha frowned a little, “Oh he does, he used to spend a lot of time here with me, and the younger Sutro was always around, jumping through hoops to impress his father.”

“Then how is he going to fool this guy if he already knows Yik?”

“My brother isn’t the problem. My family is well-off enough he can pass for money. Vortran is going to be the tricky one… he…” Saha searched Sam’s face for a moment before moving on, “Is going to have to pass for a business partner. You said she turns into a little cat-like thing?”

“Yeah. Could pass for a normal domestic housepet if not for the color and the eyes.”

“The eyes?”

“Yeah, they’re a little too human-like… shows the whites so you can still see a lot of emotion.”

“Then they’ll probably be marketing her as a pet… Do we know anything about the vagrant that was with them?”

“Unchipped, apparently could recognize her after she shifted somehow.”

“Odd… and you can’t tell she’s a shifter otherwise?”

Sam frowned, “No, I didn’t even know until she started changing when she was little. She looked like a normal little girl, just a bit small.”

“Well what species is she?”

“I…. I don’t know.” Saha looked a bit surprised at this and he sighed heavily, “She’s a foundling… I found her on a wrecked ship floating in space and just decided to keep her.”

“Well that… complicates things a little. Asking for a specific species would have narrowed things down a lot.” She smiled and put a supportive hand on Sam shoulder as his face fell, “I’ve worked with worse info and gotten great results before… I will repay my family’s debt to you.”

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