"Hold off on that, then. I'm going to want a word with him first."
"Suit yourself," Ellen said lightly, and strode towards the door. "I doubt he's got anything useful to say, though. He didn't even know Meg's name."
Alphon watched the larger woman exit the lab, and then gazed in wonderment at Phoebe. "You look just like her, like she did in this picture." He grabbed the frame and held it up for her to see.
"Give me that." She snatched it out of his hand, pinched the image back to normal size, and held it protectively. "What are you, some kind of perv? Why were you so interested in her eyes, anyway?"
He swallowed. "I was trying to forget the look on her face when that drone exploded. I can't decide whether she knew it would happen or not. She was standing there, holding it to her chest." He crossed his arms to show her. "I swear," he said, looking at her intently, "I swear she was smiling for some reason, happy about something, and then the blast--." He shuddered, and his arms fell limply to his sides. "It was terrible. Horrible."
"And for what?"
"For this." It was Ferd. He'd just come out of Meg's office, followed by a bearded man wearing a protective get-up just like Phoebe's, including the red stylized dragon emblem of Wyvern Sourcing, a notoriously bad place to work if you didn't have gear like that. Ferd held up a sheaf of paper and waved it at her. "She was killed for this: contraband. Intellectual property."
The man from Wyvern crossed the room and nudged Phoebe aside. "What do you want here?" he asked.
"Give him some space, Alex," she said, her voice tinged with resentment. "He was there when mom died."
Alphon did a take. Her sudden shift was whiplash inducing.
Alex nodded. "I know, I know. Mr. Wu-McCrory told me. He also said that he'd gone in halves on the cost of the contraband with your mother. If he makes anything off selling it, we get a split of the take."
"A split of the take?" she echoed in alarm. "He just said its contraband. He and mom broke the law getting it, and we'd be breaking the law if we sold it."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Alex said derisively. "So what? The quicker we get rid of it, the safer, and richer, we'd be. I'm just sayin."
Alphon took a step back from both of them, just in case he needed an exit. "Don't you freaking get it? They sent a telepresence drone after Maira, er Meg, to get it back -- after she was dead. That makes her a high-value target. They didn't know she'd been killed." He pointed at a hastily repaired section of the roof. "See that? The operator of that thing blew a hole in the dome just to get our attention. They're serious. And I don't think they're going to care who else gets killed, as long as they get their IP back."
"Yeah, right. So why'd it leave? For that matter, why are you two even still alive?"
"It left," Ferd said firmly, "because we threatened to bring down the entire rotten infrastructure of this blighted country."