The Devil You Know

“And that ladies and gentlemen is the reason for the moral decline of our youth.”


I looked around the room I was sitting in just to be sure I was not dreaming Since I didn't appear to be I posed Gabe the obvious question .


“You don't believe the bull manure this guy is spouting do you?” The tone of my voice was one of disbelief.


“This guy” was the host of “IMHO with Gunther Strutter” airing on the GalVision Holo Network.


“Me? Heck no, but you'll find quite a few who share his view's.” Gabe replied shaking his head. It made his jowls wobble and I bit my tongue so as not to laugh. “This is one of the most popular shows in the Federation I'll have you know.”


He stood there wagging his finger at me as if I was a schoolboy who had been caught skipping class. This time I let out the laugh.


“But it's complete rubbish. Good grief it sounds like a propaganda piece more than a real program.” I replied once I had regained some of my composure.


“I get it but some of our citizens never leave the system they are born in. It's mostly those that eat this stuff up.” Gabe did not sound or look happy about it either.


“If you believe this guy then I am the model Federation citizen. I don't drink and I don't do drugs.”


“Well, you COULD be if you didn't deliver those substances to places they are not welcome in.” The older human was now struggling to keep a smile from his face. “You sir are the root of all evil in this Federation of Harmony.”


“Root of evil, hardly I'm just the delivery guy. And the only harmony here is made by the fat cats singing as they count the cash they've stolen from their citizens.”


“I'm not saying you're wrong but I'm not saying you're right either.” He paused to shoot me a wink. “And I know it wasn't what you came out here to do but you've done alright being a delivery pilot.”


“As you and Dad did back in the day too.” I retorted.


“Yes well, we all do what me must to make ends meet. Let me top up your coffee.” He picked up the cup and headed toward the kitchen area. “Oh and switch that rubbish off would ya.”


I didn't have too, at the sound of old man's voice the GalVision program blinked out.


I'd been in Atagat for a week and the friendly faces in this friendly place were doing me good. We had talked over my foul mood about the events in Epsilon Indi and Gabe had put me straight. He was blunt and to the point and that's what I needed to hear. He reminded me that those types of smuggling jobs were not my usual M.O. If they were I would be doing Robigo runs with half of the pilots in the bubble. That maybe just because I hadn't been caught in a while that I got a little cocky and let my ego write checks that I was unable to cash. Also it was possible that I wasn't the ace pilot I seemed to think I was or at least acted like I was. And another thing if you hadn't heard easy credits you wouldn't have gone, in fact the line easy credits should have been enough to get you heading in the opposite direction.


You know what? He was right and everything had been my own stupid fault. Even with all that in mind, I had still come out ahead. Well in credits anyway. The only thing to suffer was my pride and as Gabe had remained me, again. The pirates were professionals, not like some of the System Authority pilots, who were mainly kids and washed out military jockeys.


That had been the first day, once it was all out in the open and out of my system, I started to have a blast. We just hung out around the station taking in the sights and sounds. I offered him the chance to take out the DBX I had arrived in but he politely refused. Apparently his flying days were done. I did show him around it as he had never seen one close up. He was impressed but said he would still have preferred his Cobra. He was even more impressed when I reminded him that I had Dads Cobra back at Shinrarta and then I had to promise to take it the next time I visited.


Tiny would pop round when he wasn't working just to check on Grandpa and the crazy little guy. He was a good kid and loved to listen to the old man's stories of yesteryear.


So as not to put Gabe out too much I usually slept aboard the Cooper. Sure it was a little cramped but it wouldn't have been the first time I had no other choice. I hadn't taken a DBX far out into the black as when they were first released I was the proud owner of an Asp Explorer. I had used one for ratting as I found the way they ran cool a wonderful feature. Then I found the cash for a class 6 scoop for the Asp, it never had any heat issues but with a size 6 scoop you didn't even have to pause at a star. It just hammered the size 4 the DBX used. Not to worry, I had found other uses for the DBX and still enjoyed flying it.


So that's where I was heading, humming a along to a song coming from a nearby bar, when the old lady in front of me stumbled and dropped her bag. Being that I'm a smuggler and not a pirate I bent down and scooped it up for her. As I handed it back she gave a kindly smile.


“Why thank you young man. Let me do a kindness for you in return.” She patted me on the cheek a few times. “If you'd just cooperate with the nice gentleman behind you everything will work out fine.”


I was just about to ask what gentleman when I felt a gun being press into the small of my back.


“No funny stuff and I won't have to put a ventilation hole through your gut. Stay straight and follow the nice lady.” As he spoke the “nice” lady took the gun out of my shoulder holster and dropped it in her bag. She turned and started walking down the walk way. We walked past four doors before she stopped at another nondescript one. She swiped a card through the locking system and gave it a firm but gentle push.


“Now, you be a good boy and do as the nice gentleman asks. Thanks for the help sonny.”


Then she continued walking down the aisle. Me, I was firmly and not so gently propelled through the door into a large empty room. Well it would have been empty if it wasn't for the chair that sat before a large screen attached to one wall. I was pushed down into the chair facing the said screen.


I was just about to ask what the hell was going on when the screen lit up.


“Hello Aitken, so good to see you again.” A middle aged man in a well tailored dark suit smiled at me. Mr. Smith. I wasn't sure what he knew and wasn't sure what I should say so I said nothing.


“Excellent. You still know how to keep your mouth shut. That my dear sir will come in handy.”


I nodded and remained silent.


“Before we get down to business we must apologise for the unnecessary death of Miss Nascimento. We did try to stop the Silver Boys from putting out the contract but they would not hear of it. Vengeance had to be seen to be working and they wanted to send a warning to others who might think about betraying them.”


“Alright, I understand that and thanks for the condolences, but what do you want with me?” He regretted not being able to use Charity again was what I was getting from his over syrupy sympathy.


“She was a good gal and we know that you helped her escape as do the Silver Boys. I don't think the Silver Boys know just how much you did help her. All that time in Fehu and then jumping around to haunts only low lives would frequent. If they did they might be just a little bit more upset at you than they are. So we would like you to do a small job for us.” The cold grey eyes seemed to burst alight for a split second as he finished.


“Alright. You keep saying we and us. Would that be you and your Orrereian Tape Worm, or do you have friends I don't know about?” I was pushing my luck but I didn't like being coerced, coerced my eye this was outright blackmail.


“Ah Aitken, I do like how you keep your sense of humour. Even when you have no clue who you are up against.” The coolness had returned to the grey eyes and I knew to say something would more than likely be beyond my luck limit. I pushed any way.


“Well please do enlighten me my wise Mr. Smith.”


“I think not. On to business. We need you to jump into one of your little spaceships and scan the Swoilz LM-C D sector.” Ok a little trip out into the black no worries.


“Which one or ones would you like me to scan?” I asked.


“All of them.” A simple and to the point answer.


Sorry but I don't seem to have access to a star chart at the moment. Just how many systems are we talking about?” I really have to learn to keep my smart-alec mouth shut sometimes.


“80. We just need you to drop into each system, scan it, the main star of the system and bring the finished scan data to us.” He replied.


“ADS of the system and DSS of the stars, ok. Should take me about a week.” No point in lying as I was sure he had others who would give an estimate on time needed for such a mission.


“That concurs with the time I was given. Couple of other rules to follow, no landing on any of the planets in any of the systems you scan. Also when you are finished you will be returning to the Llyr system. Last but by no means least, if you do not return before the end of the seventh day their will be others looking for you. Do I make myself clear.” I could detect the menace he was trying to project.


“Yes guv, as clear as crystal guv.” I bit back any other comment I was about to make and quit while I was ahead.


“Quite Aitken.” A slight smug smile of satisfaction crossed his lips. “We'll see you in Llyr within the next seven days.” The screen went dark. The light from the open door lit the empty room, the other gentleman must have left while I was talking to Smithy. I stood up and walked back out into the still busy shopping aisle. Took a deep breath, gave a shrug and headed for the hangar area.


Once aboard the Cooper I left Gabe a message saying an emergency delivery had come up. I next checked to see how far out the Swoilz LM-C D systems were. Ok all between 840 to 900lys out. I then plotted a course for Shinrarta and left the station. The Anaconda December sat there ready to go, it had a larger range than the Cooper, not by much but enough to make a difference to me. I don't think I could have put up with the cramped conditions of the DBX for 24 hours a day for the next seven days. The more refined Conda with it's ample room would work out well.


I arrived at Shinrarta and caught some sleep on the Conda, well I had been heading to bed when I had been diverted. When I woke up and I was sitting on the bridge with coffee I contacted Emma.


“Ok this has to be important or you would not be contacting me out here.” She had a concerned look on her young face.


“Yeah, it could be. I need all the information you have on Mr. Smith?” I had a little time to waste and having a little more background on the gentleman in question might not hurt.


“I really don't know any more than you do.” She looked a little perplexed and so I explained to her what had just happened. I did not tell her any details about Mr. Smiths request but everything else I could and did tell her.


“Oh no he was never a part of the Silver Boys. I was his liaison, pretty much the same as I was to you.”


“He was an independent operator too?” I was finding that hard to believe.


“No, I never knew who he represented, I don't think it was any of the powers even though he had close ties to the Federation. I just don't know and I was never told.”


“So all that Lead Controller stuff was just a cover?” I asked a little bewildered. Emma gave a small nod. “Ok, well now are things out there for you?”


“I'm doing ok. If things keep going the way they have been I should be able to buy as Asp with upgrades soon. I might just wait and get something a little bigger. I'm not sure yet.”


We talked for a while about ships and what she hoped to do. Now that Smith was on the go she did not seem in a hurry to get back to the bubble, I must admit if I hadn't been given a deadline I might not have come back either. I told her if she needed a little help getting the Asp to give me a call but to her credit she seemed determined to do it on her own.


“Alright Missy you stay in touch and be careful who you talk to ok.”


With a “Sure Dad.” the screen darkened.


As I said the December was ready to go and as soon as I got clearance we left. Getting out of the bubble did not take long doing the 28 to 30 jumps out to the Swoilz was going to take a little longer.


No worries, it gave me time to think. I wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. He and who ever he represented were looking for something. That much was obvious, but what? A planet type? A star type? Something on or around either one? I simply did not have enough information and so I just kept jumping, honking, scanning and jumping again.


I turned my thoughts to the how I was going to accomplish the goal of scanning 80 systems. I decided to do them in numerical order, not the most fuel efficient way of doing it but fuel didn't cost me anything with a fuel scoop fitted. Also probably not he most time efficient but it would stop me getting confused and scanning a system twice. Or I hoped so anyway.


I dropped into Swoilz LM-C D1, scanned the system and jumped to the next. Once I got to Swoilz LM-C D10 I stopped. I made sure there was plenty of empty space around me. Dropped out of supercruise and powered down most of the systems. Day two came to a close and I had little doubt I would finish the job in enough time to beat the deadline.


It didn't take long and about half way through day 5 I finished scanning Swoilz LM-C D80. Once again I flew out 100ly away from the main star and made sure I had clear space around me and dropped out of supercruise. I saw no point in rushing back, especially since I had two days before Mr. Smiths timer wound down to zero.


I run on Galactic Time and according to the ships timer I was up early. Once all the ship systems were back on line, I had floated to the galley to make and get coffee, I sat and plotted the route to Llyr. Baraniecki Vision in Llyr to be exact. And that's where I was by the late afternoon of the same day.


I was already keying in the details of the connection I had been given as the December was being pushed back into is hangar space.


“Ah Aitken you're back. Good.” I had expected a flunky but Smith himself popped up in the feed. “If you'll transfer the scan files over to this comm. connection.” The proper address system popped up on the bottom of the screen and I touched it to activate the transfer.


“Wonderful. That should take a little while and once we have analysed it all we'll be in touch.”


“What's this all about and why do you need me to do it?” I was starting to get a little ticked off being at Smiths beck and call.


“You don't need to know and why you. Easy you're available and we wish to keep our eye on you.” Again the smug smile came into view. “This may take a day or two so don't leave the bubble, there's a good chap.” The connection broke and I was staring at a black screen.


Ok, I won't leave the bubble, he didn't say anything about leaving this system though. Mind you it would not be difficult to guess where I had gone. Fuelum was one jump away, so that's where I headed.


I could see Nadzieja eyeing the new armour on the December before it came to rest in the hangar bay in Wollheim.


“Looks like Imperial work.” She remarked as I made my way over to her as I disembarked from the ship.


“Good eye and yeah I had some problems down in Fehu that necessitated the work.” I replied. “And a hello to you.”


“Sorry Aitken. Hello, I get a little possessive over the ships I look after.” She looked and sounded a little abashed.


“No apology need Nadzie. If I could have made it back here I would have preferred you to look it over too. I just didn't have that option.”


“That where the scar comes from?” Turning my head to get a look at the left side of my head, I nodded and was happy to find it didn't hurt. “Well if you don't mind I'm going to look her over.”


“Be my guest. I'll be a round some where.” I answered as I headed for the exit.


“Thanks, Wollheim isn't that big that you can hide.” I glanced round to see her and her crew moving inspection equipment into place.


The day or two stretched out into a full week. I really didn't mind as it gave me a chance to catch up on the happenings in Fuelum and the Verse in general. Nadzieja made a few adjustments but was overall happy with the way the December looked. I was enjoying myself chatting to new and old Rats. I was sitting in the lounge with a coffee when Derry stuck his head in.


“Aitken, someone is trying to raise you on comms.”


“Tell them I'll be aboard my ship in 5 minutes Derry and thanks.”


He waved his acknowledgement and vanished back into Ops. I picked up my cup and made my way back to the December. It had to be Smith. The only other people who would call me, apart from Emma, were already here in Fuelum.


So it was no surprise when he called a minute after I had returned to the Anaconda. “Ah Aitken, you are very predictable you know.”


“I'm not trying to hide Smith. No way was I waiting in Llyr till you decided it was time to call.”


“Well decide I did. We are sending you instructions for the next part of this operation. Once you have read through them, don't take your time. We are expecting you to need 21 days to cover all this at the most. The gives you 5 days for each phase and a day for travel. Apart from what we ask for, anything else you find you can keep. We'll hear from you in 3 weeks time in Llyr.” With that the screen went blank.


I pulled up the message and began to read. Almost at once I started to wish I hadn't. I had to travel to 4 of the 80 systems I had scanned, land on a specified planet and hunt for a downed probe. Namely I was looking for a needle in a haystack, or four needles to be exact. Of course I had lots of questions racing through my mind as I read the message. Where there 80 probes sent out and the other 76 made it back? Or where these four sent to 20 systems each? Or perhaps there were 8 and they had a 50% failure, or success, depending on your point of view. Once again I did not have enough information for my liking.


I laid in the course to the first of the four systems and pulled up the system map, of course it told me very little as I had only done an ADS and detail scanned the star. Well one thing was for sure, I would detail scan each body in each system to see what, if anything, I should watch out for.


Swoilz LM-C D6 was my first target and so I set off. The journey back there was about as exciting as it had been the first time, namely it wasn't and I dropped into D6 with no problems. I set about scanning all the planets in system which was probably a waste of time as I had been instructed to land on Planet 1. In total I had 4 High Metal Content planets, a terraformable Water World and the Class F Star. Planet 1 was a HMC and I headed toward it. As I approached I checked the gravity and found it to be 0.78g. Although I had landed on higher gravity planets in the past, it was still nice to see that this one should not prove any problems. To be sure everything would go smooth I reduced my power to 50% until I hit orbital cruise, once that was established I increased power to 75% and continued descending at a -25 degree angle. Orbital glide kicked in and I held it steady, a few seconds later as the glide finished I opened up the throttle and powered down to an altitude of 2km over the surface. Glancing between the altimeter and the scanner display with the power wide open the December ate up the kilometres as I watched for anything unusual. It didn't take long before the scanner started to show the something ahead was not supposed to be there, the blue colour bouncing back at me was the tell-tail sign. I cut the throttle, dropped the landing gear and angled the nose down toward the approximate area. Forward motion came to an end and I started easing the large Anaconda down using the vertical thrusters. With a solid “thunk” the gear hit planet and the engines automatically shut down. That was a safety feature I could have done without but every ship had it and I hadn't heard of anyway round it, c'est la vie. I flipped the auto-pilot switch on and headed down and forward toward the SRV hangar. Inside the hangar two Scarab SRVs sat waiting to be unleashed. I took two in case I wreaked one, always good to have a back up. Even though it was a low g world I could still walk to a fashion instead of floating as I usually did. I say to a fashion as I more bounced that walked as my strides were greatly exaggerated. Once strapped into the Scarab I hit the deploy button and held on as the hatch opened, the magnetic arms lowered me to about a meter or two above the surface as the wheels unfolded like a metal octopus and locked in place. A pause of a second or two and then a jarring drop and I was down.


Applying the brakes and increasing the wave scanner range were the first order of business. Once I had set the throttle to a setting I liked, I dismissed the December and waited. I could hear the hatch close and the thrusters powering up. A shadow lifted over me and twin tails of blue fire slapped into the surface 20 or so meters in front of me. The Conda would stay in orbit until I recalled it. With it gone the wave scanner would give me a clearer reading of what was a round me. The metallic mass that was an Anaconda registered as a huge wall on the wave scanner and could hide what I was looking for.


My usual method was to drive a 360 circle after releasing the brakes and seeing if anything showed up. I made round to about 120 when the scanner started to show returns in the upper bands, a sure sign of something man made was out there.


I headed in that direction over the undulating landscape, slowly rising and falling with the terrain and kicking up dust as I went. Sure enough a a bright red hollow rectangle showed up on the scanner and as I drew closer I retarded the speed a little. As I topped a rise my jaw nearly fell open as I saw the unmistakable shape of a probe with a trail of debris where it had hit the surface and finally come to rest. I slowed further yet as I waited for what I knew had to come. The red rectangle meant there was some sort of defensive measure ready to deploy. Just at the edge of that perimeter a Sentry skimmer sprung up and started to scan around the downed probe. The drone had no idea that I had been sent to retrieve the contents of the probe, all it knew was that if the correct code was not sent to destroy anything that entered it's warning area.


I backed up a little, targeted the drone and put four pips to weapons. I pulled the trigger and watched as the dual plasma repeater reduced the Sentry to scrap metal. With that threat gone I drove up to the probe and targeted it. Once close enough I activated the data link scanner, downloaded the data and was done. As I waited for the December to return after I recalled it, my thoughts were of being back in the bubble in days not weeks. I watched as the Tactical Ice Conda landed and then drove 450m to it. Back on board I made coffee and sat on the bridge musing over the days events. More than happy with the ease at the first days discovery. I turned in with hopes of continued good fortune.


I only had a few hours sleep and then was on to the second system, D25. Body 2A was the target, I say body as it was more of a moon round a HMC than a planet. In all it was just another system except for the fourth planet, it was an Ammonia World. I really wasn't into listening to gossip and hear say but I couldn't help remembering hearing tales of Thargoids. I had been a teenager during the Thargoid war but I remembered that it was speculated that they lived on Ammonia Worlds. Rumours had been swirling the past few months that strange ships had been seen around Maia. So of course the skinny was the Thargoids were going to make a return, I had no idea if it was that was going to happen but I felt a little uneasy, I must admit.


Swoilz LM-C D25 2A was very different from D6 1. It was a rocky body and it lived up to that name. Gray granite like rock welcomed me with large sweeping plains and towering pillars. After an hour of driving I suddenly picked up a contact and as I drew closer it became stronger and stronger until it was nearly solid on the wave scanner. Looking down from the edge of a crater I could see it was some type of automated base. As well as a tall, slender communication tower, it also had two defence turrets. I was also betting it had Drones too but they wouldn't show up till I got closer. Keeping a safe distance I circled it once hoping to see any indication of a power or faction that it belonged to, but picked up nothing.


I must have got too close as one of the turrets opened up, swinging round I opened up with the repeater and laid waste to the first turret. Two Sentry skimmers popped up and along with the second turret, opened fire. Moving position the Scarab hustled behind a slight rise giving me an excellent field of fire on the skimmers and cover from the turret. With some well placed rounds the two Sentry drones were soon piles of spare parts. Darting out from behind the rise firing as I travelled the second turret was soon reduced to a column of smoke rising toward space. Relieved that all opposition had been removed I moved in and used the data link scanner and download whatever information the communication tower held. I then moved about 1km away and recalled the Anaconda. I had to travel another 1km as there wasn't a decent landing site closer. Once docked I decided to move to the other side of the moon. Just in case anyone came looking to see why there tower had stopped transmitting. Day one on D25 2A didn't find me the probe but hadn't been a complete waste, you never know I might even get paid for the stolen information.


Day two found me back in the SRV and heading toward a likely signal source. With the rock being smooth in wide areas I was able to move at a respectable speed and was even enjoying myself. The terrain was flat and I could see that I was heading toward a downed ship. Again I reduced speed as all indications pointed to it being guarded. Right on cue two drones popped up and again each Sentry went down, exploding when hitting the surface. Cautiously I drove into what looked like the remains of a T6, straight away I could see two cannisters and two escape pods. After Smith told me to keep anything I found I had decided not to pick up anything. I could imagine that after I deliver the probe data that my ship would be searched for any ill gotten gains. Even though they were legal salvage I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me busted if I did pick up the wrong thing. Scanning the cannisters Narcotics and Personal Weapons struck me as the wrong things. I did how ever pick up the two escape pods, I just couldn't leave them to die once the oxygen ran out. I would try my best when I got back to the bubble to return them to their port or origin. I was just turning away from picking up the second pod when something caught my eye. Moving the scanners range out to maximum I was a little surprised to see another signal 500m away to the South West. To my delight it was a probe, sure there was a Sentry but once it was taken down I had half of my mission covered. I'd only needed three days to get this far and I still had dreams of being back in the bubble within the week.


I didn't hang about, once the December had returned and I'd board, I headed to LM-C D46. The system took the rest of the day to scan, four stars and only two planets but they were spread out. I was happy not to see an Ammonia World. The designated planet was B1 and I intended to land so I could grab some sleep before I started my search. The gravity was just over 1g at 1.15 but I still took great care so as not to damage the ship.


I didn't know it when I set out next day but I was to spend the next four days being very frustrated. The wave scanner was busy but it was busy with the wrong stuff as far as I was concerned. Tea, coffee, cargo racks that once shot open revealed elements that I was not searching for, I also picked up another two escape pods. I hit pay dirt on the fifth day and took down another drone before getting to the probe. 3 down, 1 to go with 8 days gone. So much for being back in the bubble within a week.


Swoilz LM-C D75 contained a varied bunch of planets. 2 HMC, a Water World, another Ammonia World and an Earth Like World or ELW with a rocky moon in orbit around it. It was that moon I had been tasked to search. I still had 14 days to finish and felt very confident that I would succeed, right up until I got a good look at the terrain on 3A. Canyons cut deep into the surface making it look as if it was about to split into thousands of pieces. I set the December down on a plateau between two deep fissures, deployed in the Scarab and after dismissing the ship, I got to work.


Day one was wasted chasing signals that lead me down into one of the canyons. I found cannisters of gold. Normally I would be over the moon to discover such a thing but not today. Once I had managed to get out of that canyon I recalled the Conda and called it a day.


The next six days were very similar, oh did I mention every time I found gold Sentry and Stinger drones shot out of the sandy soil and started firing. I was averaging 12 drones a day and wasn't very happy. I wasted one whole day looking for elements so I could refuel, rearm and repair on the move. By the end of the week I wasn't very happy and for the first time doubt started to creep in. I was starting to think that pirates were using this moon as a gold storehouse, I must have discovered 30 to 40 tons and not picked up one cannister.


Day 8 started with the usual discovery, gold. Blasting the drones that appeared I drove on not happy about ignoring such a valuable find. I was skirting the edge of a canyon and approaching a crater near the end of it when the scanner pick something up. Lying slap bang in the middle of the crater was the last probe. The probe hadn't made the crater just blind dumb luck that it came to rest there. I took care of the usual Sentry that popped up and downloaded the data. It was late in the day by the time I returned to the December. I had the best nights sleep since I had started out on this mission. So with five days left I lifted off from D75 3A and headed for Llyr. I bid the ELW a fond farewell as it had provided a spectacular vision when on the horizon, the Ammonia World I chose to ignore.


“Excellent job Aitken.” He had that smug smile on again and no wonder he hadn't risked his life to get the probe data.


“I'm happy you're happy Mr. Smith.” I hope he heard the sarcasm dripping from my reply.


“I'm sure you are.” Yup, I think he got it. “Well, we'll be in touch Aitken.”


“Hold on I have a few questions if you don't mind.” After two and a half weeks rooting around on astrological bodies that more than likely no one would ever land on again, I thought I deserved some answers.


“Sure, go ahead.” Smith sounded a little to amiable.


“What were the probes doing out there?” It was worth shot.


“You don't need to know that.” He replied with an air of condescension.


“Alright. I recover data from four probes, how many were sent out?”


“You don't need to know that.” I could see a pattern developing.


“Two systems had Ammonia Worlds, any connection?”


“You don't need to know that.”


“Is there anything I can ask that you will answer without being a jerk?”


“You...” I seemed to have upset his flow. “Not really,we don't feel the need for disclosure at the moment.”


“Uh huh” So what I gave up, blood from a stone comes to mind.


“So in closing Aitken. We have returned all the data, minus the probe data, to your ships computer. You should make a little bit selling it to UC. We've thrown in a little bonus for the Communications Base data, that could come in handy. As I said we'll be in touch when we need your services again. Ciao.” With that the screen went dark.


First thing was to return the escape pods to their home systems, shouldn't take to long I hoped.


Then I wanted answers. I wasn't sure who would have them but starting with Gabe was always a good idea.


Categories: Rat Tales
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