CHAPTER ONE Nexus II Rafael Dunbarger landed at Nexus Center Port as Genson Ratanvi, a staid, slightly paunchy middle-aged businessman in food service with a Cascadian identity. His tidy gray beard and gray-streaked hair, his padded cheeks and aged skin, his sober business suit with a few lines of Cascadian green through its subtle gray plaid all fit this image. Customs and Immigration passed him through, as his bioassays all matched his identity--as well they should, Rafe thought. Short-acting DNA subs programmed with his alter's bioassays might give him a temporary headache, but that was a price he could pay. He had obtained this first false ID at Cascadia more than a decade before, and he'd used it here several times, on visits his family hadn't known about. The trip from Cascadia had been no worse than usual; he had spent the twenty-nine days chatting with other business travelers, exercising in the business-class gym, reading in the business-class lounge, avoiding the gawking tourists and the family groups as his persona required, and carefully not thinking about Ky or Stella Vatta. Ky was beyond his reach, probably dead; he could not tease Stella now, not until she reached some equilibrium with her new identity. Instead, he toyed with ISC's problems. How had so many ansibles gone bad all at once? Surely not chance . . . who had done it? Why was repair so slow? If he himself could restore function in a few hours, why weren't ISC's repair teams making more headway? How deeply had the pirates infiltrated ISC? Landing on Nexus II--he carefully did not let himself call it home--Rafe pushed that puzzle aside. Genson Ratanvi needed to find a way to contact Rafe's family, discreetly. First he headed for the Ambisor, a commercial hotel frequented by business travelers where he had stayed before; his minimal luggage trailed him on a rented hoverpad. Once installed in his room, he first dealt with the hotel's surveillance system and then installed his own unique gear. The hotel's system would now inform the hotel that Genson Ratanvi came in, bathed, slept, and went out, on a reasonable but not too rigid schedule; it would believe anything he sent it, including remotely from his implant. Pseudo-calls would be noted; pseudo-messages would be sent. Then Rafe called up the business directory on the room display, marking the sorts of businesses he should, in this persona, mark, then tapping the key to collapse the rest of the directory. What he really wanted to know, he had noted in passing: ISC headquarters still had the same public access number. Not that Genson Ratanvi had any reason to call there. After a mediocre meal at the hotel's cafe, Rafe headed out into the city. It was autumn in this location, just after midday, local time. He drew a deep breath, anticipating and then enjoying the familiar fragrance, childhood-deep in his memory. His favorite time of year, with apples ripe on the trees and the autumn mushrooms mingling their scent with that of fallen leaves, even here in the city's commercial district. Probably every world had its characteristic scents, but he spent nearly all his time on ships and stations. He felt a strange mix of nostalgia and fear: this was home, and home could be deadly. The Number 161 tram still ran from the spaceport hotel district out to the northern suburbs; Rafe rode it to the last stop, seeing little change from the last time he'd been here except that the long-delayed northern extension of the freight monorail was finally in place. He got off in the bustling little market, now full of schoolchildren buying treats after school, and women--mostly employees, he knew--buying fresh produce and meat for dinner. He headed for Luce's, sat down at an outside table, and ordered a slice of honeycake and tea with lime. The lime came partly pared, a curl of peel holding it to the rim of the glass. He stared at it a moment. Where was Ky by nMoon, Elizabeth is the author of 'Command Decision ', published 2007 under ISBN 9780345491596 and ISBN 0345491599.