Fortunately, the commodes had stalls with doors and she was able to put in the contacts. The stim patch would have to be applied later, after she and Dray shared their recreational time. He’d notice if she wore it and it might affect him too if any of the chemical rubbed off. She put it where she could find it easily and waited until the others were asleep before applying it to her inner thigh.
It was nearly three in the morning when she heard the door to the barracks snick open. They were locked in at night. Sargent Stevens was supposed to have the only key, but he wasn’t in the group who moved with unnatural silence around their barracks. The four men set a canister of what looked like sleep gas among the huddled forms on the other end of the room. They didn’t even glance at Lill as they surrounded two of the Wercha natives, injecting them with a sedative. Saying nothing, they communicated with hand signals. They lifted their two victims carefully, carrying them out of the barracks. Two others came in, got their possessions and left just as silently, taking the spent sleep bomb with them.
Lill felt very vulnerable and defenseless. What if they decided to come after her, or the others? Could she lie there and let them be spirited away in the night? Like hell she could! They were a team now, friends. Not having had many of those over the years, the ones she did have meant a lot to her. Removing the stim patch from her thigh, she rolled over and fell into a light sleep.
The next morning, Lill was tired, but determined. She reported to Stevens directly after chow. He took her for a long walk, ostensibly to discuss the day’s activities. Instead, their stroll took them far from the normal walkways of the camp. When they were far enough away to suit, concealed by a tall, thick stand of trees, Stevens faced her. Before he said a word, he kissed her slowly, deeply, making her toes tingle. Startled, Lill looked up at him, her knees weak.
“Tell me what you saw last night.”
Lill described in vivid detail everything she had seen.
“They never even came down to your end?”
“They were nowhere near us.”
He nodded, frowning.
“What are you going to do about it?”
“I don’t know yet. There’s not much to do, unfortunately. Once criminals are convicted, they become property of the State until they are released. These were all lifers.”
“Does that mean they could take Ché?”
“And what about me?”
He said nothing, refusing to look her in the eyes.
“Can you do something? They’re my friends. I care about them.”
“Do you think you can do another night of this?”
“I want them followed.”
“What? Are you crazy?”
“I can’t do it, Lill. I need this from you.”
“Fine. But I need more than filters and a stim patch. I need a weapon.”
“I’ll do what I can.”
“You’ll get that weapon, or you can forget about me following anyone.”
Stevens stared into the distance, a faraway look in his eyes. Decision flickered across his stony face. “Okay.” He paused, staring unashamedly at her. “Dammit, Lillian. They could kill me for the thoughts I’m having.”
“Can’t kill a man on his thoughts, Tab.”
“This is Wercha. They can kill me for farting in public.”
It might have been intended as a joke, but he wasn’t laughing.