Dawn breathed a sigh of relief when she entered the committee chamber and found she was the first one there. Her role as casual guardian of the members of the committee would soon be over, as the regular guardian had recovered from her wounds after the last assassination attempt.
She ran her hands over the sleek secretarial electronics station in a farewell caress. "I'm going to miss you," she muttered. Strange how she'd grown to like the machine and the work.
Stranger still that a barbarian colonist from a primeval world like hers would find herself here on the UCP planetoid, seeing to the comfort and safety of the elite. Even if she did have to wear the strangest clothes to be in fashion.
Dawn checked her skirt and body paint, afraid she might have smudged the artistry. Who'd have thought she could look like a mermaid? Well, that was the talent of the body-paint artists of the wealthy. The combs in her blonde curls were made with real pearls and worth a year's income even without the special modifications that made them weapons.
Well, that was the point. She looked like some oligarch's fluff-and-feathers secretary, and that was why she ran the station here. Her baby face and outfit made many think she didn't have the brains necessary to find her ass with both hands, despite the intense training necessary to run any secretarial electronics.
Dawn smiled wickedly and checked the rest of the weapons hidden on her person or in the desk's panels. Several assassins had found out the hard way not to ignore her. She was sure all would recover eventually, enough to stand trial.
The doors to the chamber snapped open, and Dawn's jaw almost fell open. She moved to sit on the booth chair and pretended to be busy running a service check while she studied the newcomer.
A male wearing a Spartan military service singlesuit, with dark, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes that matched the pale blue of his uniform perfectly, strode in. In fact, everything about him was perfect, down to the creases in his uniform.
But that was what Spartans were known for -- near perfection. Cool, unemotional intellect that made every female human long to shred the facade and get to the barbaric male beneath.
Dawn kept her grin purely internal. She'd had a few Spartan clients and knew from personal experience there was indeed a primal male beneath the icy Spartan exterior. Their convention that it was improper to show emotions in public meant they were lovely beasts in private.
The man under her scrutiny marched three steps full of feline grace and chose one of the chairs around the massive round table. He pulled a pencil file from his breast pocket and inserted it into the table for the usual security check before display. Then he sat back and stared off into the cosmos.
While her secretarial system warmed up and opened the necessary files for this session, Dawn continued to keep an eye on the Spartan. The security recognitions at the door had passed him, and her query as to his identity returned with a Need to Know flag. Probably Intelligence Corps. Well, there was hope for Ice Man yet if he was I-Corps. Maybe he'd be willing to indulge...
The low, masculine comment caused Dawn to jump like she'd taken a maser shot. Her cheeks flooded with embarrassment. "Forgive me, Citizen. I cannot find identification authorizing you to attend this meeting. Will you state your ID and business for the record?" She toggled the record button and waited.
His pale blue gaze bore into her. "Voiceprint identification, please. Name given is Chance Hesperus. Stated purpose is to report on missing persons on Elysium."
The secretarial board lit with a green Confirmed. Dawn nodded her satisfaction and turned off the recording. "Thank you, Citizen."
The security committee members shuffled in from either of the two entrances as they chose, greeting Chance like an old friend.
Dawn stifled her wish to invite Chance to a rousing game on the holodeck after the meeting. If he was I-Corps, her best bet was to make her invitation through the UCP computer system anyway, to preserve the identity he was using this mission. With a purely internal sigh, she toggled the recording back on as soon as the members were seated and prepared for a long session guaranteed to cure insomnia.
She was dead wrong. Chance's recording of the killing of his tech assistant at the hands of unknown assailants on Elysium, coupled with the overwhelming documentation, proved at least one thousand hapless tourists had gone missing and the evidence they'd ever been on Elysium had been erased with maximum efficiency.
Chance presented a good case. Something would have to be done, but when he requested authorization to return to the planet alone for further investigation, the committee chairman held up a hand.
The old man shook his head regretfully. "I know what you're going to ask for, Chance. You're going to want a license to kill. You can have that under the usual limited circumstances, but you can't go in alone." His watery gaze slid around until it fell on Dawn. He cleared his throat. "You're too valuable for that. I insist on a guardian."
The war of emotions on Chance's face was subtle, but easy to read for a sex engineer of Dawn's training. Ice Man he wasn't, after all. "My last partner died."
His reminder to the committee ground out between clenched teeth, but didn't faze the chairman. He waved his hand dismissively. "Yes, you made that abundantly clear. You also made it clear that the majority of the missing persons were females of any age from birth to their fifth decade. Males who turned up missing were always in the company of at least one female in that age bracket." He steepled his hands and thought for a moment. "I'm going to hazard a guess and say if you want to find out anything, you're going to need a female guardian to act as bait."