The Eridani held the credit chip up to his com screen, which beeped. Weyland tucked the vial into the bag as carefully as he could, folding the fabric around the glass so it wouldn’t get jostled. He turned to leave, but the Eridani reached out and put one massive hand on his shoulder.
Weyland froze, his heart hammering. The gesture wasn’t an attack, but it was a restraint, those massive green fingers pressing down. Even an untrained adult Eridani had enough muscle to crush a human arm; they were built for explosive power in water as well as on land.
“Are you sure this is a real credit chip?” the Eridani asked.
“Positive,” said Weyland. The hand holding him squeezed, not enough to hurt, just enough to remind him of how much it could hurt. “Is there a problem?”
“It’s not working. Try it with your com screen.”
Weyland turned back around to face him, and the Eridani let go of him. He put the bag down on the table, then reached into his pocket and retrieved his own com screen, each movement slow and deliberate. His heart was still pounding, his whole body tensed in preparation for action.
The Eridani waved the chip over his com screen. It beeped and flashed an error message. “See, it isn’t registering.”
“Is there a problem with the connection down here?” Weyland’s com screen was usually synced with the Benevolence’s central computer system, but he hadn’t had any problems connecting it with the station’s system.
“No, I’ve never had any issues with the connection here.” Weyland watched, unsure of what to do now, as the Eridani fiddled with both of their com screens. He didn’t want to walk away now, when he was so close to getting what he’d been looking for. The Benevolence rarely stopped in one place for more than a few days; it certainly didn’t stay in any port long enough for him to ferret out another connection to this sort of grey-market genetic material seller. Maybe Sera would know where to look, but he didn’t want to tell the rest of the crew about this particular project just yet.
Both of their com screens vibrated simultaneously, rattling the metal beneath them. A message flashed on each screen, white text on dark red. It wasn’t an error message Weyland had ever seen before, and it took him a moment to puzzle out what it said upside-down. Security Lockdown.
He was sure he’d loaded the credit chip the right way. He was almost completely sure that his bank account was unremarkable enough to avoid notice, attached to an identity Sera had set up for him when she sold him an almost-like-new ID chip. But his heart was still pounding, and he tasted metal on his tongue, that familiar mix of fear and something darker.
The Eridani shrugged. “Huh. Guess it really is the connection.”
“I can give it back,” Weyland said, although he didn’t want to.
“No, take it. I’ll run this chip as soon as the system’s working again. Some idiot probably just ran the wrong program.” There was something about the way the Eridani was talking that made Weyland suspect he was lying. He didn’t really believe it was an honest mistake.
Weyland picked up the bag again and tucked it away carefully. He left the way he came. When he shut the door, he heard a locks clicking into place behind him.
His com screen was still completely locked. No matter where he pressed, he couldn’t call the rest of the crew or even minimize the red warning on the screen. He couldn’t even access the map he’d used to find his way through the service corridors. The system had been designed with residents in mind, not visitors; there were no maps on the walls, no signs at the intersections where one path crossed another. Weyland picked a direction and started walking. He passed several screens set in the walls, but they all had the same red warning.
He had been walking for ten minutes, trying to get a sense of the place in mind, when he heard people approaching from a side corridor. They were walking fast, boots slamming on the metal floor, and there were enough of them that Weyland couldn’t count each individual by the sound of their footfalls. He found a spot out of the way, behind a loud machine, and watched them pass. They looked like station security, all in similar dark uniforms, although each was a different species so there was no real uniformity among them. One was a Centaurian, one had the flawlessly perfect features of a Falacerian, and one was a species he didn’t recognize with a hairy face and long triple-jointed arms.
The two with opposable thumbs were carrying stun batons and riot shields, but both had pistols on their hips. As they passed, the Falacerian touched the butt of her gun, a nervous gesture. Weyland stayed perfectly still until the sound their steps had faded. Then he walked in the same direction, moving quickly but not so fast that he was at risk of catching up with them.
Weyland had been flying with the crew of the Benevolence for long enough to know that if there was some kind of security problem, they would almost certainly be at the center of it.