Title: Hostile Takeover
Author: K.S. Ferguson
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Sci-Fi
Rafe McTavish, security expert and new CEO at interplanetary mega-corp EcoMech, and his undercover ally Kama Bhatia, hacker and corporate spy, continue their pursuit of a ruthless blackmailer in the sequel to Calculated Risk.
When Rafe's arrival on EcoMech's frontier colony world ruins their adversary's plan for supremacy, events take a deadly turn. As tensions amongst the workers rise and unrest turns to violence, Rafe and Kama must race to unmask a killer before Rafe and his family fall victims to a murderous hostile takeover.
K S Ferguson has published three novels, Calculated Risk, Hostile Takeover, and Touching Madness, and one critically-acclaimed novella, Puncher's Chance (co-written with James Grayson,) which appeared in the June 2006 edition of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, America's longest-running science fiction magazine. She enjoys writing suspense and murder mysteries in futuristic and fantasy settings, and also writes fiction in the guise of technical manuals for unfinished software—otherwise known as help documentation.
"With four PhDs, I thought she'd be older." Aaron Goldman, EcoMech's founder and chairman frowned at his desk blotter.
Rafe nearly spewed his mouthful of wine. Four PhDs? What the hell had Kama put on her resume? Granted, she was a genius, but four seemed impossible at her age.
And what were she and Gabe talking about upstairs? He'd thought Gabe wouldn't remember her. The boy had seen her only once, and he'd been in shock then. He'd miscalculated. He hoped she could fix it. He needed her working undercover to help him find Leon's blackmailer.
"I assure you, she's the very best at what she does." He'd never encountered a better computer hacker and corporate spy—or even one who came close—during his nine years in the security business.
"She's dressed like a common contractor."
Rafe spread his hands. "We do specify what contract staff wear."
"Not household staff. Not in my household. I should get someone else."
He could only imagine Kama's response at being referred to as 'household staff.' More likely, the old man resented the complete lack of deference in her tone and body language. Kama bowed to no one.
"Gabe responded well to her. Maybe you should give her a chance before you decide?"
"There is that."
Rafe would have a private conversation with Kama about her attitude toward Aaron. It wasn't a discussion he looked forward to. Aaron represented everything Kama hated most about capitalism and corporations. Was she a good enough actress to be deferential? He couldn't picture it.
The lights went out. Kama started and checked her nanocom. Curfew. Of all the stupid— She fumbled in her bag for her work light. A quick flash around the room showed she was alone. With the lights out, she'd lost her network connection.
Enough was enough. Why sit in the dark and heat when she could be comfortably ensconced in her workroom at her school chasing the same leads she chased here? She had a hidden account on the EcoMech network now. She could monitor remotely for the hacker and continue her investigation from a safe place.
Besides, McTavish said he was leaving. Why should she stay if he didn't? Why hadn't there been a report of his resignation? Had she missed it? Maybe the board wanted to name a replacement first. She stashed her light, grabbed her duffel, and left.
Ahead, dim lights shone in the lobby, and quiet voices floated to her. She connected to the network, contacted the shuttleport, and booked a seat on the first flight out.
Kama passed the vacant front desk, ignoring the stares of the dozen men and woman grouped in a knot near the front door. She'd catch a few winks in her room, and then she'd start again looking for the hacker. She pushed through the stairwell door and climbed, cursing Harvest and her own foolishness for coming here with every labored step.
The second-floor stairwell light was out, as were the lights on the next several landings. Dim illumination from much higher lit the darkness enough for her to continue. When she reached the third floor, the ground-floor door scraped open and clunked closed behind her. Footsteps scuffed on the treads as someone jogged upward. No, more than one person.
Who the hell runs up stairs in this heat and gravity? Another cold shiver lanced through her. She peered down into the gloom, but whoever was coming stuck to the wall out of her sight. She shrugged her bag higher on her shoulder, gritted her teeth, and bolted up the stairs.