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“How can you turn your face to me

When you know these walls are screaming

How can you hide your guilt from me

When you know these walls are bleeding” –Grendel: Interrogation Leash

 

 

//Kinara Interspace, PT Year 3150- Friday

"Hands where I can see them. Slowly."

Levi muttered a curse, narrowed slate eyes flicking from one side of the enclosure to another. He should have known better than to chance the checkpoint, yet his ship had been in dire need of a new seal. The Nikula 880 treated him well, but even the modified craft had its limits. Two and a half galaxies was nothing to scoff at, and Levi had made the trip in three days.

Vent's too high, one exit. Damn.

Reluctantly, Levi turned to face his pursuer. With the amount of distance between them he couldn't hope to lift the gun from the man's grip, not without sustaining potentially fatal wounds. He pulled in one large breath, then two, and raised his arms into the air. Once the adrenaline rush started ebbing, logic kicked in. He had no reason to fear for his life. Not only that, the bracket of theft he'd been tagged with would garner a measly fine. After it was paid he'd be chucked back out of the Garrison station and they wouldn't bother giving him a second glance. What was he doing? It was better just to play along.

"On your knees!" The speaker stood a good foot taller than him. Instead of focusing on the man’s face, the first thing that stood out was his sideburns. Eurgh. Thinning mahogany brown hair, tense shoulders, fatigues that suggested he'd spent time on Morath's coastal patrol. Everything about this guy registered as creep. Levi worked to keep his face impassive and did what ugly ordered. It was extreme for misdemeanor theft; the guy had a flair for the dramatic.

That didn't stop Levi from scoffing in disbelief when the brunet approached, holstering the gun for a set of interceptor cuffs. Keep it together; you won’t see this shit-waffle past the outpost. The hunter fumbled for a moment. A series of clicks and pin slides later, they were locked into place.The seamless panel on his left wrist buzzed once in warning before both cuffs snapped together. For lack of a better place to move them, Levi allowed his arms to fall slowly until his hands were resting in front of him. A scowl blossomed across his features.

"You should know better than to run, kid." The voice was coming from behind him. Levi felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end in warning and strained to look at the source. A loud crack rose above the sound of flesh impacting flesh, and he rolled on instinct away from the source of the pain that followed. His breath came out in a hiss; hands trapped beneath one leg, hair obstructing his vision. It hurt to inhale. What’s this asshole’s problem?!

“Let one go, turn a blind eye, and next thing I know there’s rats like you making a mockery of law-abiding space.” Levi grunted as he was roughly maneuvered into a sitting position, communicating as much venom in one glance as was possible. The idiot’s hands were shaking. It was a stray thought, however enough to cause Levi to reassess his predicament. He looked up into pupils blown wide and a minute shiver worked its way down his spine.

“Tch, just book me or whatever you’re going to d-“ SKRACK.

. . .

Bells started clanging somewhere. No, that was his head. That was him. Levi didn’t open his eyes immediately, and did his best to remain as still as possible. Pain radiated from more than one location on his body.

How long have I been out? Where am I.

Disorientation soon gave way to anxiety. He was still wearing the interceptor cuffs. This was probably still the personnel corridor of the station in Kinara. Something felt wet; he wasn’t sure if it was drool or blood or god-knows-what. It was warm, and it was gross.

Levi weighed the chances of playing unconscious for a while longer. The decision was made for him when another kick was delivered to his midsection. He retched violently, tasting copper amongst the bile that came up.

“Welcome back.”

That voice made his stomach curl with disgust. One eye cracked open, receiving nothing more than a flood of color for his effort. The image eventually cleared. He couldn’t see the hunter’s face, or really any identifying feature aside from the boot in front of him, tapping out a slow rhythm.

He expected another diatribe about justice and his flagrant disregard for the law. When it didn't come, he frowned at the boots before him. Levi tried once more to get a look at his attacker and gathered as much focus as was possible over the lethargic feeling that accompanied the pain he was in. Chances were he had a concussion, amongst other injuries that he was both incapable and unwilling to accurately gauge. Nothing, surely, that would hinder his capability of moving if absolutely necessary.

Something was hideously wrong with this. The man was far from sober. Levi thought back to when he'd left the trader's outpost. He couldn't remember anything remarkable that could have given him away, nor could he come up with a memory of seeing his assailant prior. Was he even the bounty hunter he claimed? There was no way of knowing without asking [unlikely to receive an honest response, Levi figured], or searching his belongings.

In other words, neither were possible. No weapon, no means of fighting back, and the corridor sounded as silent as when they'd entered it.

The corridor was silent.

Oh shit.

Levi's arms flew up to guard his face against the next blow. It hit the center of the Interceptor cuffs and slammed into his face. A cascade of blood gushed from Levi's nose and he desperately blinked away the dots swimming across his vision. Anger surged through him then. If this wasted fuck thought he was going to have his way with Levi and use him as a personal punching bag, he had another thing coming. To hell with the Garrison charge, he wasn't going to die now.

He kept the pretense of moving only to protect himself. One kick, then two. Ugly reached down and gripped the collar of his shirt and yanked him up. Outwardly he winced. Inwardly, the drumming of adrenaline and anticipation overrode his other emotions, leaving him utterly calm.

"Let's go," the man hissed into his face, flecks of spittle landing on Levi's cheek. His collar had ripped, and the brunet shoved roughly. Levi stumbled, causing the other man to stoop suddenly. An idea occurred to him at the same time he realized that the hand was still holding fast to his shirt. He swung both legs in an attempt to drop the larger man. Instead of the expected outcome, his foot weakly glanced his assailant's shin.

The response was instantaneous. Levi's attacker slammed him into the corridor wall by the shoulders, his head smacking against the wall behind him. It caused him to look down sharply, and spotted his opportunity. The piece that his assailant had aimed at him prior was sitting in a slide holster at the front of his fatigues. Its safety strap hadn't been reset, and it was only inches out of reach. The clammy hands left his shoulders in favor for his neck. He gasped. With the inability to fully raise his arms to shoulder level, he hadn't had the chance to block the advance. Quickly, his subconscious urged. A stuttering inhale was all that he was able to get before his airway was being pressed. It felt like being crushed. With all his remaining strength, Levi hauled his hands up and lunged, his vision becoming distorted as the grip on his throat tightened. He didn't hear the sound of heavy footfalls, nor did he care. The last things he was aware of were the flinch of his assailant and the sound of the gun discharging.

. . .

How could anyone possibly sleep with that incessant racket? Levi groaned, turning his head away from the sound. He had half a mind to tell whoever it was to kindly shove the noisemaker up their ass. Something about it felt off. Everything was floating in a haze, a dull pain resonating beneath it. Had he run into the command chair in the middle of the night? Levi couldn’t remember drinking before bed.

He remained there for an indeterminate amount of time, his half aware state only disturbed by the now irregular beeping sound.

“What was that?”

“I don’t know. Do you think he’s awake?”

“…I’ll go get the doctor.”

What a mediocre dream, if that’s what this was. Levi made an effort to lift his hand to bat at the disturbance near his nose and found his action thwarted. He gripped, released, and tried again. Still no luck. The beeping increased in speed. Did dreams have smells? This didn’t smell like the ship. Maybe he was somewhere else.

Suddenly there was the unpleasant sensation of someone pressing fingers against his skin. It disappeared as soon as it came, and Levi’s confusion increased. He frowned.

“Sir? Levi, if you can hear me, try to open your eyes.”

What the hell kind of question is that, of course I can hear you. You may as well be shouting in my face.

The scrape of a chair accented his thoughts. Levi took in a sharp inhale of unmistakably manufactured air, trying and failing to keep the pounding of his heart in check.

This isn’t a dream. This isn’t some leftover buzz. He was awake.

One eye cracked open and he immediately regretted it.

A half hour passed in the manner that hospital visits in any system do. Too many tests, too many strangers, and enough discomfort to last a decade or so. By the time the doctor backed off, he was relieved. Somewhere in the back of his mind Levi knew the man was trying to help. This did nothing to make him feel any more at ease. In fact the longer he was awake, a lead weight settled itself in his stomach.

He’d remembered. More than that, Levi was certain of the outcome. There was a reason he was being held in restraints, and it was going to end with a one way ticket to the Garrison. Shooting a bounty hunter, even a sleazy one was considered attacking an interspace officer. Couple that with his prior conviction and he’d be lucky to ever see the stars again.

The two Garrison constables present hadn’t addressed him. They were likely on watch to ensure that Levi didn’t attempt escape. Fat chance of that. The thought barely registered. Levi gave in to the exhaustion that was settling over him. Natural or medication induced, he couldn’t tell. It was welcome.

Any reason to forget was welcome.

. . .

 

//12.6 million miles away, the same day

 

“This hub has entered lockdown. Personnel are required to check in at their designated posts. This hub has entered lockdown…” Erwin could barely hear the intercom over the pounding of his heart. That’s quite ridiculous, on second thought. The intercom was a cacophony even over the gunfire rattling farther on down the corridor. He did not even attempt to calm his breath, coming in ragged gasps. One sector passed, and then another- continuing on for what felt like ages. By the time the blond slowed to a jog, he’d left behind the control center. For a civilian manned facility, it was giving quite a different impression during a state of emergency.

Finally Erwin slowed to a stop on the raised viewing platform in front of him. There was nowhere else to go, not unless he wanted to retrace his steps. Unwise. A startling vista greeted him. It may have stolen more of his attention on another day. Panting, stiff fingers loosened on a narrow weighted remote. A bead of sweat trickled down his palm, away from the crescent shaped indents his fingers had left.

“Nowhere to run, Smith.”

“Ikuro.” The short haired lab tech’s reflection gave him away. Erwin was anything but surprised to see him, yet he was just slightly disappointed. A new model Triflecta plasma rifle flashed briefly at Ikuro’s side. After a beat, Erwin turned to face him directly.

“Drop whatever you’re holding and keep your hands up. This doesn’t have to be difficult.” Ikuro’s eyes were abnormally large in proportion to his face, amber in hue and narrowed in wariness. He gestured curtly with the rifle. “It’s not too late to reconsider Smith.”

“You and I both know that’s not true,” Erwin’s voice was barely above a murmur. Both arms lifted into the air, the sleeves of his atmosphere control suit sliding up to expose his forearms.

“I said drop it! You’re out of options.”

Erwin’s lips curled into a mirthless grin.

“Not quite.”

. . .

 

//Kinara Secure Medical Facility, Two Days Later.

 

“This has put us in a difficult situation Levi. I hope you’ll understand when I say we can’t simply let you go.”

That was putting the whole thing very fucking mildly.

Levi had now seen the CCTV footage three times over. The first time had been more than enough, in his express opinion. Everything now stood in vivid glaring detail. There was no room for interpretation, no dubious verbal origin clause to be waved in his face. Regardless, here was sergeant justice in his impeccable MP uniform looking down on Levi in a mixture of disdain and pity. It made him sick.

“I know my rights. You can’t just stuff me away without a hearing. I’ll fight this you piece of-“

“Calm down Levi, I’m not going to put you in the stockade. At the least, not if you agree to our terms.” His nametag read Sgt. Meldreth Lain. Levi shifted on the hospital cot. They’d removed the restraints just that morning. In lieu of snapping at the coat not to call him by name, he settled for a mental tally.

Lain set down the stack of papers that he’d been holding with a pointed stare. Levi glared in return, absently noting that they were documents for discharge. There was no way he was in shape to move about without assistance. He wouldn’t allow himself the temptation of feeling relieved. Whatever the MP officer wanted, he’d had yet to hear it, and was nowhere near an agreeable mood. One hand tightened on the sheets in impatience.

“Come work for us,” Sergeant Lain stated. There was no grand opening [unlike the maddening amount of formality between him and the Garrison constables]. In fact, he offered no follow up explanation for some time.

“That’s your magic fix?” How full of it could he be?

“Don’t sell me short, Levi. I’ve given this an extensive amount of forethought. You will check in at regular intervals, comply with regulation, and go through the academy just like everyone else. Instead of virtual comm meetings, you are required to see me personally. This way, you’ll get your freedom, and we won’t be short manpower. You see?” The sergeant sat on the cot beside him. His eyes were a bright green, dampened by the sheaf of dry brown hair that framed his face. Levi shifted away, grimacing in pain at the sudden movement, skin crawling. A knee still made contact. Lain was taller than him by a good foot and a half. His presence on the cot took up a much larger share than it should have, and it did nothing to improve Levi’s attempts to out-think him. There had to be more of a catch than that.

An automatic process next to the vitals screen clicked into action.

Lain continues to speak in a genial tone, and it occurs to Levi that maybe Lain’s taken his silence for consideration. “We will, of course, be making a contract. Any bounty you reign in is yours to keep. In addition, any extra assignments sent to you by central command will be carried through to their entirety.”

“I’m supposed to thank you for this, is that it.” Click, click, click. Levi broke off his sarcastic reply to watch the morphine inch its way up the synthetic tubing attached to the IV on the back of his hand, which began to itch furiously. He’d thought he was allergic until the staff nurse had assured him it was a side effect in the same breath she told him he had rolling veins. It was meant as a means of apology for the IV’s location, and when she got no sugar-coated acknowledgement exited the room in silence.

“Thank me, don’t thank me. It won’t stave off slumber on my part I assure you. You need to look at the facts. The manner in which you were treated over third grade theft was unfortunate for sure. Either way, murder is not easily overlooked. And it certainly won’t escape Alan Vespir’s comrades.”

You say that like I won’t eventually have to deal with them anyway. “What about these so-called extra assignments?”

“Keep an eye on certain groups that will no doubt be within your reach, maintain tabs on missing person files. Nothing too drastic or illegal, you’ll find.”

Loathe as he was to acquiesce to anything offered to him by a branch of the same entity that landed him in the hospital to begin with, there was logic to Meldreth Lain’s stance. It would get him out of the Garrison, but it wasn’t freedom. In contrast, if Levi chose to go the route he’d threatened and try to fight the hearing’s decision with a case for brutality and moral depravation, the best he was looking at was a marginally shortened sentence.

“Fine.”

“What was that?” Lain’s question was laced with what sounded like mild amusement.

Levi raised his voice, eyes stubbornly searching for anywhere that wasn’t the MP’s face. Slate eyes landed, instead, on the discharge paperwork.

“I’ll join your stupid program.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

Chapter Text

A singular definition,

Of what it's supposed to be like.

An arrogant principle of validation.

You're pushing the masochism.

We're never to question the hive.

I'll be the nemesis of expectation.” -Blue Stahli: Anti You

 

//Kinara Secure Medical Facility, Same Day.

 

“Sign here, here, initial there.”

A none-too-subtle eye roll was given at this. Thirty five different sheets of condensed bullshit later and they were still discussing the details of Levi’s release. The attending nurse had kindly brought a small kit including painkillers and necessary medications. It was all he had to bring with him from the hospital, he’d discovered. In the process of his admittance they’d cut off and removed his clothes. The clothes weren’t something he was upset over, but who could be overjoyed about having to leave in a hospital gown?

The smaller of the two Garrison constables had turned on the single virtual screen in the room. While it had been on low volume for the greater part of the last hour, Lain halted in the middle of a boring tirade about Levi’s start date at the academy to bark, “Cullens, turn that up would you?”

Levi couldn’t help the dull interest that sparked when Lain changed demeanor so quickly. It was the first time Levi had seen the sergeant show any form of attachment, and he was quick to note everything he could. The sergeant’s eyes had widened, if fractionally, his shoulders tensing an almost imperceptible amount.

The pen still in his hand, Levi glanced between Lain and the virtual screen to see just what could have caused such a change in the man. A news reporter scrolled through their notes on screen briefly, resuming a grave cadence. “Smith, shown in the security footage above, is wanted by Intergalactic MP and the Interspace Alliance for treason, arson, assault, grand theft, and destruction of official property. Since his disappearance in 3145, this is the first sighting caught on video. Authorities have advised that if you come into contact with Smith to call the hotline below immediately. Do not engage, consider your safety first.” The video continued to show a tall man in a control suit turning in place. Was it Levi or was he really smiling at someone holding a gun to his face? He leaned forward in order to get a better look. Instead of receiving any sort of confirmation to his thoughts, the recording flashed brightly and then fell dark.

“And now to Yirek Ma’lugan for the weather.”

“Levi?” Lain asked for the second time.

“What?” Damn the doctors for upping his dose, he’d zoned out.

“You’re free to go. Check in is Wednesday at 8:00 am sharp, don’t be late.” The cot below them squealed when the sergeant lifted off from it. Levi followed the man’s steps from the cot. It was only when the constables started moving toward him did he react. “Fuck OFF already. I can move on my own.”

 

. . .

 

Moving on his own turned out to be a much more ambitious claim than Levi had originally thought. Not only was the Kinara Secure Medical Facility two shuttles away from the Interspace Port where he’d left the Nikula, neither the MP nor the Garrison constables made any effort to lessen that distance. Levi’s face, pale aside from the blush of frustration and embarrassment around his ears, maintained a mask of indifference as far as the shuttle. There was absolutely no way he was going to give Lain the satisfaction of seeing his thorough mortification.

Once he’d boarded Levi had been faced with a more practical issue than the blatant stares of the passengers. No amount of morphine pumping through his system could dim the fresh flow of exasperation and anger. The seats were filthy. Resolutely grabbing onto one of the handholds, he focused on the location readout that separated the main body of the shuttle car from the cockpit. He knew that Lain was still watching through the reinforced window, maybe even attaching a look of condescending shame to that worthless mug of his. When the shuttle lurched into motion, he gripped the handle with more force, bracing his weight with the other arm. Back, ribs, waist and shoulder made their protests.

Levi clenched his jaw and waited.

 

. . .

 

“Now arriving at IA Interspace Terminal 578-26: Kinara. Please check above and below for all personal belongings and exit the craft in an organized manner.”

The first shuttle had been a trial of determination. Other passengers milled around, leaving a wide berth around Levi. Nobody wanted to come near him after the square-shouldered smoldering looks he’d passed to anyone who approached. That had been over four hours ago.

It was a small act of mercy that the second shuttle was a thirty minute trip. Levi crossed his arms in conscious defiance of the visible shaking in his hands. When the shuttle doors opened into the Interspace port, it was as bright and active as it had been days prior. No sign of violence, no disturbance. Life had continued on for everyone else unobstructed. He counted each step; mentally cursing each sideways look that he was given. Lain’s monologue snuck its way into his thoughts. This way you’ll get your freedom… you see?

He wanted to be able to say that he couldn’t remember how he got from the shuttle platform to the entry bay of the Nikula. If it was ever mentioned in the future, he’d brush it off with a comment about just being ready to sleep. The reality was a stark difference.

“Fuck!” He snapped at nothing in particular. The entry sequence buzzed incorrect for the third time. He just barely resisted the urge to kick the paneling in front of him. The last thing he needed was to be stalled upon leaving the system for suspicious behavior.

On the fourth try, the double seal released, pushing the hospital gown about as the doors slid open. Levi didn’t bother waiting for them to open all the way before he stalked inside and slammed a forearm into the command block next to the doors to close them again.

He should feel sad, his mind told him. Now was as perfect a time as any. The painkillers have long since worn off. He was finally alone. Accompanied by only the low hum of the on board electronics, Levi waited for something to tip that scale, for his emotions to ultimately catch up.

There was nothing.

His brow twitched. Why couldn’t he just let go? All the way through his time at the hospital, it’d been one wave of anxiety to the next. He’d nearly been on the verge of a breakdown in front of the officers, after the first time he’d seen the footage. At the thought of the CCTV coverage, he latched on to the thought, replaying the memory up until the point of the video’s beginning. No. Unaware of his decision to move, Levi paced the expanse of the single bunk ship. When sensation finally gripped him, it was hardly what he’d bet on.

CRASH! Levi stared after the track chair he’d picked up from the Nikula’s small kitchen area. Wheels spun in their casings, upright in the air. He wasn’t sure what the chair had hit. Whatever it was didn’t spark. Two panels were dislodged.

The anger was gone as soon as it arrived. His descent to the ground was a half sit, half slide down the wall behind him. Levi’s eyes screwed shut tightly. The sound of his shallow breathing combined with the boot sequence eventually created enough of a rhythm to lull him into a state of near-sleep.

Drip, drip, drip.

Did he hit the water line? It was doubtful he’d have enough money for the parts to repair that. He ignored it for the time being, unable to find the motivation to move even a few feet to go check.

When his eyes finally opened, it was to the pool of blood from his torn stitches.

 

. . .

 

//Andromeda Galaxy, Open Space, One and a half months later

 

Five different skips were currently assigned to Levi. Five. He’d only just graduated from the IA program last week, and already he was up to his neck in work. Granted, most of that was tracking them down to begin with. The rest of the jobs looked to be small fry. Two missed court dates, one corporate embezzlement claim, and two minor assault charges.

Their faces stared back at him from the virtual screen. Levi kicked back in the command chair sideways, leaning for the mug of tea he’d set on the edge of the control panel. Since leaving the academy, he managed to grab two low-bracket skips and garner enough credits to restock his food store and make a more thorough repair to the column he’d destroyed with the track chair about a month ago. He’d been furious at himself for all of a day when he inspected the matter. The repair was not a priority at first, until he’d realized that the ship’s atmosphere control was becoming faulty, leaving him in a cocoon of blankets most of the day.

Lain had given the impression that his ‘extra assignments’ would be few and far between, so he was far from surprised when no creepy vague orders were passed to him yet. Now over the shock of being absolutely manipulated into a job that would no doubt bite him in the ass later, he allowed himself just a small amount of contentment. It wasn’t a mining planet, it wasn’t the stockade, and he wasn’t dead.

“Who are you?” What in the-? Why was there someone on screen? Levi knew he hadn’t set the comm system to auto-answer.

“Yohoo! It’s so good to finally meet you Levi.” The stranger had thick, square glasses and fluffy brown hair haphazardly tied in a ponytail. They weren’t wearing an MP uniform, thankfully. Levi swallowed his tea wrong and spent the next couple of seconds clearing his throat. The mug was set down with more force than he intended.

“I don’t remember you.”

A rather mischievous smile lit their face; the brunet leaned forward closer to their craft’s camera mount. The frames to their glasses either had to be handmade or simply never changed. On the right side, the frame was a miniscule distance lower than the left.

“Well you shouldn’t, this is our first meeting. I’ve heard a lot about you!”

“And that means what? Who told you about me?”

“The IA of course.”

Okay that’s it. Levi leaned forward over the console to hit the call disconnect button.

It did nothing.

The stranger’s smile remained firmly in place. It was starting to piss him off.

“Don’t be such a spoil sport. Besides, we’ve got so much to talk about.”

“We’ve got nothing to talk about. This conversation is over.” Even if he had to rip out circuits to get the call to disconnect, that’s exactly what he was ready to do. It took all of ten seconds for the brunet to get beneath his skin.

“Top of your class, high marks on everything- even cleaning, that’s an odd note- and quite the penchant for enraging your classmates.”

Levi dutifully ignored the monologue. The circuit board for the control panel was close enough that he didn’t have to leave the chair. They could be from anywhere- IA, MP, one of Vespir’s friends. Just his luck, some creep hacking into his personnel file. It did pose a question of just how secure the IA’s database was. While he’d been assured time and time again by now that the IA held an impregnable hub, his doubt was spiking to an all-time high.

“-but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I thought it would serve us much better to chit-chat face to face! Be right over.”

Be right…

“WAIT JUST ONE FUCKING MINUTE.”

 

. . .

 

Definitely unhinged, Levi thought in clear ire. Shouting at the empty screen did nothing. Not to mention, they hadn’t even disconnected the call so his entire virtual screen reflected the shambolic interior of the stranger’s craft.

Where did they get off on thinking that Levi was going to let them on the ship? Besides, he was in the middle of nowhere. Quite literally.

The knock that came mere seconds after understandably left him speechless.

Levi reached to his side for the Errant handgun in his shoulder holster. He didn’t reach the Nikula’s entrance. The doors slid open of their own accord with a hiss, setting off the breach alarm.

“Greetings!”

“Get the hell off my craft, batshit glasses. I don’t care who you are, or where you came from. I’m not in the mood for company.”

“We need to work on your hospitality.”

“Work on this,” Levi warned, raising the Errant.  

“I’ll level with you. You are brilliant. I know talent when I see it. No don’t look at me like that I mean it, finding people like you is rare. But as quick as you have caught on, you’re still new to this. Space is pretty large, don’t you think? As much as you don’t trust others, they don’t trust you either. I want to help. I’ll admit, there will probably be a time I could use your help too.” The smile that Levi was nearly willing to believe was a permanent fixture looked quite different in person. There was a lot more going on behind those eyes. He watched them raise their arms passively, Levi waffling on the side of indifference for a bit.

“Give me one reason.” If this was pretext to murder, it was awfully tangential.

“Do you think you escaped the Military Police’s hold without them acquiring some insurance on you?”

“No, I just thought they spent the whole time I was doped up in the hospital tap dancing while taking a shit,” Levi rebuked, the end of his sentence trailing off into more of a grumble than anything else. When the newcomer only raised their eyebrows in reply he added, “I searched.”

“Not only can I show you where that tracker is stored- and by the way they really outdid themselves with you, I can’t stress enough- but I can give you enough technology to ensure nobody is any the wiser about your location. They won’t hear you or see you when you need them not to.”

“Say in another reality I believe you. That means they already know you’re here.” Levi bothered himself with the pretense of flicking the safety back on and holstering the Errant to mask his irritation. He’d figured that there was more than just a tracker on the Nikula, and the lack of knowledge was burning a hole through his patience. Similarly, Levi couldn’t place why he felt the brunet was telling the truth. It was a gut feeling, one that he couldn’t dismiss. It might have been against his better judgment. They were dangerous, but that had been a majority of the people he’d been in contact with for the last three months. That didn’t mean he had to be happy with someone else metaphorically crash landing into his life.

After a momentary internal argument, Levi appeared to have come to some sort of decision. What it was more or less amounted to the conditions in which he'd be shooting someone on his own ship. 

“Oh, didn’t I mention? I disabled it for you remotely. It’s not shut off; you can’t destroy it without tipping off HQ. You can however loop the footage. They’re currently seeing and hearing you thump around your ship grumpily.”

“I don’t thump around my ship grumpily.”

“Sure you do. I’m Hanji.”

“You’re a lunatic.” The insult had much less bite than it did exasperation.

“That’s one adjective I guess.”

. . .