“Kaire?” Athellus handed the paper over. “This mean anything to you?”

She looked at it without taking it. “No idea.”

“And you say this phone just appeared during the squall?” Athellus wanted to know.

Dax didn’t like the way the other man was looking at him, a frown with clear overtones of suspicion. “Yes,” he said. “Why?”

“It seems weird that the paradigm flux would throw up something like that. Junk, yeah, but a working phone is a bit more –“

“You think I’m hiding something?”

“What would you be hiding? You’re a stranger here. Yes?”

Dax folded his arms. “Are you accusing me of something? Because I’ve got no control over when that thing starts ringing.”

Athellus watched him for a while, then shook his head. “No, Dax. Just that it seems strange -”

“Yeah, well, a lot of stuff around here seem strange to me,” Dax snapped. That noise as the phone had cut off had gone straight through his head, making it hurt again. “I wouldn’t think this would even make it into the top twenty.”

Off to one side, Kaire was standing with her arms tucked around her, watching this conversation with an uninterested air. Through his anger, Dax supposed that, Gating expert or not, she wouldn’t have much interest in anything concerning ‘gadgets’ she couldn’t use.

Then Athellus laughed, disarmingly. “Well, if it works, I guess you should use it for now. If you answer it fast enough, I don’t see the harm. I don’t think the owner’s going to come looking for it.”

The tension broke – Dax found himself cracking a smile, partly from relief. “Yeah, right. It’d be just my luck to get Zog the Overlord’s phone bill.” He stuffed the phone back into his pocket. “We’d better get moving.”

Athellus picked up the torch and re-holstered his gun, and they continued down the tunnel, leaving the scratched writing behind them.

Picking his way through the water, Dax thought of how Athellus’ expression had changed all at once. It had been deliberate, he was sure, intended to end the argument then and there and get them moving. That thought led him back to the quiet conversation in the Chapel, a conversation he hadn’t been meant to hear.

I like these people. I trust them. It’s just that I get the feeling they’re very devoted to their mission. So devoted that they’d go through anything to complete it, even if it’s a person. Even if it’s someone they like.

 

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