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“In what way do you think that it's not over?”
I had just picked up the coffee cup and had not even had my first sip when the question answered my sceptical remark. Charity sat at the opposite side of a two person table in non-descriptive eatery. She had at least had a sip from the wine glass before her, so I followed suit and took a slug from the newly dressed cup before me.
“Think about it. You're missing something in the big picture.” A little cryptic perhaps but you didn't need to be a detective to work this one out, or so I thought.
“Nope. You lost me.” A small shake of the head followed by another sip of the deep burgundy before her.
“Tell me what the Silver Boys will do when the merc goes to collect his reward?” I was going to give her all the time she needed to work this out for herself.
“Well, they'll listen to his report, check the scope-cam film, then check the local mo...oh.” The penny dropped. “There will be no body in the morgue.”
“Yup. Then they put another contract out on you and we start from square one.” I paused as a plate of appetisers where delivered to the table. “Eat up, once we are ready to leave I have an idea what we could try.”
Charity gave me a quizzical look, I nodded towards the food, reached for an onion ring and started to eat.
Once we had finished eating and had another drink, we walked out into a wide corridor. The sights and sounds of Crouch Orbital were similar to other stations I had been on but like the others it had it's own unique feel. Even though CD-61 6651 was a Federation system it had a more lively feel than most others. I put that down to the amount of independent factions that lived within the station. I'd looked up our destination before we left the eatery and even though it was near the back of the station, we walked to it.
It didn't take long to reach the proper doorway, even with a few stops. On the way I explained to Charity what we were away to attempt. That prompted one of our stops at a cafe with tables outside the main cafe room. Charity spend 10 to 15 minutes a computer that she took out of her bag. Happy that she had taken care of everything we set out again. From there it did not take us long to reach the morgue.
Walking through the door I looked around a room that looked like a doctors waiting area, although I didn't think any amount of treatment would help those who were taken here. Sitting behind a sign on a desk was a man in his early thirties. The sign proclaimed him as Dr. Lawson, next to that was a picture frame, a cup and the always present computer terminal. He didn't even look up from it as the door closed behind us.
“Hello Dr. Lawson I have a hypothetical question I would like to ask you.” I kept my voice level hoping not to show any nervousness.
“Oh, hello. Sorry I was busy and didn't hear you come in. Sure, ask away Mr?” I chose to ignore his question but ask mine.
“How would one go about inserting a made up death into the system and if it's possible who would I see about getting it done? Hypothetically of course.” With that I gave as friendly a smile as I could. He looked at me and seemed to think it over for a second or two.
“Sure it's possible and you would have to see me. There would also be a cost, hypothetically speaking, of course.” the answer was deadpan with no hint of sarcasm, just another day at the office.
“Ok, how much?” Stuff the hypothetically bull, lets get this done.
“Mill and a half.” Still deadpan. “You got that kind of money old man?” I heard Charity stifle a laugh or perhaps a gasp of shock. Either way I continued on.
“750 and you still will be ripping me off.” I replied not letting any irritation at his jibe detectable in my voice. As I did so Charity tapped my shoulder.
“He's going to do it, why are you haggling with him?” She whispered so only I could hear.
“Cos he expects it and he is trying to take me for a mug. I know what I'm doing, ok.” With a nod she back away.
“Mill, 250 and I won't go any lower than that.” He replied to me in an amiable voice. I made a slight show by wrinkling my brow and then gave a shrug.
“Mill even or I wait and send your next shifts kids through college.” I turned to Charity, gave a wink and pointed at the door.
“Ok, mill even it is. I am going to need your name now so we can get this started.” I gave Charity another wink and turned back to Dr. Lawson.
“Nope, you still don't need my name as it's not me you're erasing from the universe. I will need a padd with your details so I can transfer the money. 750 now and 250 once I'm happy you've done the job properly.” I took the offered padd as I propelled Charity to the chair at the other side of the desk from Lawson.
“I might have guessed you knew what you were doing. Just another petty criminal.” I heard him say as I walked away from the desk.
It didn't take long to set up the transfer and leave the 250,000cr in an account I kept for such emergencies. As I waited for them to finish I looked out the one way window at the people walking past. There wasn't that many, not this far back in the station. A young couple arm in arm were walking past when Lawson cleared his throat. I turned, took the few steps to his desk and handed the padd over to him.
“Alright Doc, I'm going back to my ship. There I'll check local records and if everything looks good I'll release the last 250, ok.” Again I gave the friendly smile and with Charity beside me, we left.
“You made sure the autopsy report had the correct entry point right?” I asked her as we walked along.
“Yeah, it looked good and thanks. I guess this means I'm officially dead.” She replied as she glanced at me.
“Yup, I hope you didn't forget anything when you set up your dummy accounts, cos Charity Nascimento no longer exists and you can't get at anything in her name.”
“So do I but if I'm dead and don't exist any more I can go on a crime spree an' never be caught.” She gave a small chuckle.
“Correct kind of. Charity can't be caught be you can. Name or no name. Also where you going to hide all your ill gotten gains. Dummy accounts only work if you have a name to start them with.”
“Yeah, I didn't think it all the way through. Sorry it's my first time dying, I'll get it right next time.” Again she gave a chuckle. “So what's next in your plan?”
“Whoa there, plan? No, no, I'm making this up as I go along, but I do have an idea. Let's get back to the ship and we'll talk it over.”
We made one stop for coffee on the way back. Of course I paid and took the chance to tell Charity to start thinking about a new name.
Once back onboard the December I sent a personal message and then started plotting the route we would be taking. Charity dumped her bag in her cabin and then joined me on the bridge.
“So, where we heading?” She asked.
“Sol. Abraham Lincoln Station to be precise.”
“Are you going to tell me or is it going to be a surprise?” A small hint of irritation beginning to creep into her tone.
“I'm not sure it will work but.” I paused to let just how much I should tell her. Would raising her hopes up just to have them dashed if my idea failed, seemed a little cruel. “I know or knew I guess, someone who works in the Federation Census Bureau. If anyone could pull of creating you a new identity he's the man.”
“Uh, you double cross him or something?”
“No nothing like that, I just haven't seen him in a while. Oh he is also my ex-wife's brother, big brother at that.” Heck she might as well know it all.
“Oh.” She sounded deflated and I could not blame her.
“We got 3 hours to get to Sol, you think you can make that?” My vision was still giving me problems and whatever the outcome it was something I had to try.
“Yeah I can do that.” She gave me a smile and sat down at the controls.
“Course is laid in, ready to go when we have clearance.”
Clearance came quickly and the Anaconda lifted gracefully off of the pad and angled toward the slot and hopefully a new beginning for Charity.
“Shoot the stars Aitken, this had better be important. Way to give a guy heart failure with that message.”
As well as being the brother to my ex-wife, Kevin Fischer was my oldest friend. We had lived close to each other growing up as kids, went to the same school, sat in the same classes and the friendship occurred naturally.
I also understood his concern at the message. It had been short and to the point I thought but sure it could be looked at as being urgent.
“I'm 3 hours out and need to meet you. See you at the usual Galnet Hub. A.”
“Good to see you too Kev. Thanks for meeting me here.” I gave a smile as I was telling the truth, it was good to see him.
'Here' was a Galnet Hub. A meeting place with computers, Galnet feeds, snack machines and drink dispensers. In the busy hurley burley world that was the Sol system this was a place for people to meet, relax and talk over the news of the day.
“Sorry A, good to see you. You've picked up a you battle scar since we last met,” This time it was Kevin's turn to smile. “What can I do for you?”
I scanned the surrounding area with my eyes, we were tucked into a corner of the area. It wasn't busy and no one was near enough to over hear our conversation. So I told Kevin everything. All my exploits since I had left Sol just over two years ago. He listened, nodded occasionally, I even got a laugh or two out of him telling of some of the dumb stuff I had done and of course I told him about Charity. He gave a snort when I told him about the battle scar. Just as I finished my story I turned the terminal in front of me so Kev could see Charity's obituary.
“Well, that makes it a little easier. You want me to give her a whole new identity I take it?” My old friend asked as he looked over the screen.
“Yeah, I can pay Kev.” I didn't want him to think I was taking advantage of our friendship.
“This is a good job A.” He said as he looked over the death report. “The coroners seal and signature are close to impossible to duplicate. You know some great hackers or you managed to get the real thing to do this.”
I told him it was the latter.
“Good lookin' girl, you involved?” He asked looking up from the screen.
“No Kev. She is the same age as Maddie.” Kevin's oldest daughter. “I'm the closest thing she has to a friend. I couldn't just not help her.”
“That Fuel Rat stuff you do, making you a little soft, A?” He said it with a smile so I knew he understood, well as much as I did. “I don't need your money, IF I do this I do this for the same reasons you do. Cos it feels like the right thing to do.”
“Come on Kev, I know you are not looking for a hand out but at least let me put something in a fund for your grand kids.”
“My grand kids? What about your own? Once Robert's married you know Song is going to want kids.”
“Already taken care of, not that Robert knows. Let me do the same for Maddie and Stacey.” Stacey being Kevins youngest and other daughter.
“You want a coffee?” He asked as he stood up. I nodded and he walked over to the drink dispenser and returned with two cups. We both sat in silence as Kev ran my request through his mind. I was half way through the coffee when he spoke again.
“Ok. Have her be at my office 8am tomorrow.” He slid a business card across the table. “This won't be as easy as what I did for you thirty years ago but it's possible. Will there be any come back from the gangsters she was involved with?”
“If they think she's dead, none that I can see. As you said the obituary was real. They only thing they can link to her is me and I have an idea how to take care of that.” I replied as I picked up the business card and placed it in one of my flight suits pockets.
“I'll let you set the funds up for the grand kids, you're still Crazy Uncle Aitken to my kids.” He looked into his empty cup and then stood up. “I'll probably not see you until Roberts wedding, Song and him seem to be in no hurry, so don't die before I see you next time.”
“I've no plans on that score.” He gave me thump on the shoulder and left.
I slowly wandered my way back to the December, I'd grown up on this station and I wanted to see the changes that had been made since then. Some of the stores had different names and a few of the kiosks had moved but it looked and felt pretty much the same. Mum and Dad had moved out to Titan City just after I graduated from college, even then I had stayed at the Abe. Getting employment from one of the top shuttle lines in the Sol system meant being based out of the Abe and I honestly though I would never leave. Life hardly ever goes to plan and I had only minor regrets, none about leaving the Abe though.
“Hi Dad.” I nearly jumped out of my skin, I had been so deep in thought I hadn't seen Robert waiting by the hangar entrance. I hoped he did not see my surprise and gave him a hug.
“Sorry I should have told you I was coming to Sol but it was a spur of the moment thing.”
“You don't have to explain anything to me Dad. Uncle Kev doing ok?” He asked as if in passing.
“Yeah your uncle is doing fine Robert.”
“Sorry to read about your friend being shot Dad but that should be a warning not to cross those type of people.” I wasn't sure how much he knew and did not plan on pushing the point.
“I'm still here Robert, so I must be doing something right.” I answered with a grin.
“Let's try and keep it that way.” He answered with the same grin. “Gotta go Dad. Good seeing you.”
“You to son.” And he was gone.
I gave the business card to Charity. She looked it over and smiled at me.
“Be there at 8am tomorrow and Kev will take care of you.”
“Thanks Aitken. It's late I'm turning in. See you tomorrow.” With that see left the bridge and went to her cabin.
I made myself a coffee and sat on the bridge, wondering just how much Robert knew. In the end I gave a shrug, Charity was alive and hopefully with Kevins help she would continue to live for a long time.
I fell asleep sitting in the command chair on the bridge, not the first time and probably not the last either. When I awoke Charity was already gone. So I started preparing the December to leave, checking the fuel level, plotting in the next course and so on.
Charity returned at around 2pm, or someone who looked like Charity.
“Emma Rosales, pleased to met you Aitken.” She said as she walked on to the bridge.
“Well that's going to take a little while to get used too.” I replied with a smile. “Well Emma, the course is laid in, so I hope you know how to handle an Anaconda.”
With a girlish giggle she sat down and requested clearance to the flight deck. A few moments later we were surging into the darkness that is space and lining up to our exit vector.
I sat in silence for most of the journey out to Shinrarta monitoring the systems and allowing Emma to concentrate on flying. I also knew what came next, as necessary as it was I was still not looking forward to it. Once docked at Jameson Memorial I turned to look at Emma.
“What do you think the Silver Boys will think and do when the reports of a woman answering the description of Charity Nascimento has been seen in my presence?” I asked.
“Think? I don't know. Do? Well, they'll send someone out to see who I am, put two and two together and put another contract out on me.” She didn't look any happier than I felt. I nodded knowing see knew that this arrangement was coming to a close.
“Pick out a Cobra Mk.III, I know you like that ship. Have it fitted to the way you want and then head out to Ceos. There you can do runs between Ceos and Sothis, legal and otherwise if you wish. I'll front you 250,000cr and the ship to get you started. You should be safe all the way out there, ok.”
She walked over and took me in to a warm, friendly embrace.
“Thanks. I've never had a friend before, what are you going to do?” Still holding me she asked.
“Well, the December is too well known, so it's staying here for a little while. I'll pick something else up once I'm ready to go. Not sure what I'll do yet. If I was you, I'd earn a couple of mill before I came back to the bubble, or more and get yourself an Asp or whatever you wish. Give enough time for the Boys to get interested in other things.”
“I'll repay you Aitken, every last credit.” She said as I felt the tears from her on my neck. I gently pushed her to arms length.
“No you won't and young lady I fully expect to see you again. This is a 'see you later' moment. Not a 'goodbye' one.” I told her with a smile, although I felt like tearing up also. She gave a nod and continued.
“Goodbye Charity, see you later Emma.”
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