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“Well if you will excuse me my children I will leave you to your discussion.”
The Divine Harley Maxwell pressed his hands together gave a slight bow and left the office. I stood there with plans, actions and logistics flowing through my mind.
“Well?” I could hear a slight tone of irritation beginning to creep into the voice of the sultry Lapin. I looked over the room at the redhead, gave a shrug and sat down on a couch that was a long the opposite wall from the couch she had been sitting on when I had entered. She raised an eyebrow, rolled her eyes and then sat down. We were now sitting looking over the six foot or so gap at each other. Time to ask a few questions of my own.
“If and I am going to emphasize the IF, I do this what can I do or haul out there? Next do you have a timetable when you expect me to leave? Also how long do you expect me take to get there?” I didn't usually ask too may questions about the jobs I was asked to take. I'm sure that ability had saved my life a time or two but after recent events I felt that having a little more information was a wise precaution.
“Well, Meta-alloys would be a good thing to start with.” Lapin paused and smoothed a non existent crease from her suit leg. “Food of course would help too. It would be appreciated if you left within the next seven days and we would expect you to take five or six days to reach Jaques Station.”
I nodded but remained silent. Again the logistics of the whole endeavour start to run through my mind like a computer program looking for a solution. I then shook my head.
“No. It's not going to work. I have only seen images of barnacles and even if I was to go to one, I have no desire to shoot it up.” Watching her I saw a flicker of a smile appear on her well shaped lips.
“You won't need to shoot anything Aitken.” Was that amusement I heard in her voice? “Meta-alloys can be bought at Darnielle's Progress in the Maia system. Anything else?”
“Sure. What's in it for me? This is a considerable time outlay, time that could be used for more profitable pursuits.”
“You can keep any and all profits that you make, the usual agreement. I don't expect it to pay as much as gunrunning or drug smuggling but there will be some eventually.” Amusement and destain seemed to ripple through her choice of words. “You must understand Aitken that this is for the good of mankind. Not like your usual work at all.”
I was getting the impression that she did not approve of my life choices. Maybe she was trying to improve my image with the “for the good of mankind” line. I neither knew nor to tell you the truth cared.
“So you would be the Independent's voice in this Consortium?”
“That would be one way of describing it, so yes. Myself and others could be considered that ” The scorn in her voice was there even as she tried to hide it with her facial and body language. “Can I have an answer as I have others to organise. This is a big undertaking for the future. A lot will be achieved by having an outpost that close to the core.”
Call me an old softie, heck I might even care a little for the future of mankind but as see kept insisting on an answer I gave her one.
“Sure, why the heck not.” I didn't even give a shrug, it was said as nonchalantly as possible.
The smile from Lapin seemed to light up the room, the perfect ivory teeth framed by the bright red lips beamed across the room at me.
“Excellent. Mr. Smith did say you were a reliable agent. I'll send details on how to contact me if you have any further questions but it is a fairly simple mission description. I am sure that you can handle it. If you will excuse me I have other places to be, as I said earlier.”
We both stood up, shook hands, then she turned to the door. Lapin stopped in the doorway and turned toward me.
“Oh Aitken, while you got the correct figures you had the five and six back to front. It is around 65,000Ly to Beagle Point.” A smile crossed her face and in what sounded a little mocking she continued. “An easy mistake to make.” The she was gone.
I started to wonder if her parents had been canine, but kept the thought to myself. As I headed back to Growler I started to ponder if 9,000Ly would be that big a deal after travelling 56,000. The furthest form the bubble I had been was roughly 36,000 so I didn't think I was the right person to ask. Hats off to the brave souls who have done it but at the moment something a little closer to home is my problem.
I climbed aboard Growler and began preping it for take off. I had quite a lot to do and I had little time to do it in. Well better get down to business.
First stop was Bunch Dock to switch into the Anaconda FRS December. I had thought about using Growler, with it's improved jump range it would have been easier but and isn't there always a but, it couldn't carry enough. I had done a little research on my way back to Bunch and discovered that you need an enormous amount of Meta-alloys to counteract the effects of a UA bombing. That's where the Conda has the Asp beaten. All I had to do was take out a few modules and replace them with cargo racks. Now that was going to take a little while and with the help of the mechanics at Bunch I hoped it went smoothly.
“That didn't take to long Aitken.” N'tone said as we sat in the hangar having a coffee after the refit. “I hope you don't mind that the boys and me added a little colour to the boring white you had it.”
“No problem with that, thanks for the quick refit.” I glanced at the panels that had been roughly painted a bright orange. “A splash of colour so you'll be spotted when on a rescue.” N'tone had said at the time. He wasn't wrong and it didn't add time on to the refit so I saw no harm with the idea.
Next stop was Farseer Inc. With the length of the journey ahead cutting down the number of jumps seemed to be a good idea. The trip out would be just scoop and honk, any exploration would have to wait till the return trip.
“I'm rather proud of this one Aitken” Felicity remarked as she walked into the workshop. I had procured the needed parts and headed for the Deciat system with expectations of being there for quite sometime. I had only been sitting in the workshop for 45 minutes when Felicity had made her pronouncement. “That should give you around 50% over spec.”
She had offered to try and add more with tweaks but that was more than I had hoped for so thanked her departed.
“You could have done this over comms you know.” My fathers old friend told me as we sat in my favourite coffee shop. “No need to fly that great bulk of a ship here to see me.”
“I know but I'm not sure how long I'll be gone and thought I'd take this chance to drop in by to see you.”
Fasa topped up our coffees, asked if we needed anything else and departed when we said no thanks.
“Jaques station uh, 22,000ly out. You're planning on this trip alone I take it?” The old man asked.
“Sure, I've done most of my best work alone.”
“I dunno, this one feels different. That's a long way to go for a station that doesn't work.”
“I've been out further before.” I replied giving an unconscious shrug. “No big deal.”
“I'd still be happier if you company, just in case.” I could hear the concern in his voice.
“Are you volunteering?” I knew he wasn't but thought I'd ask anyway.
“Of course not. I couldn't help you fly that monster even if I wanted too.”
“Yeah, well I'll be good thanks. I much prefer working by myself.”
“I know but for some reason this one doesn't feel right.”
“You worry too much Gabe. It'll be a milk run, a 22,000ly run but a milk run non the less.”
“I hope you're right.” Fasa came by and topped up our cups once again. “Thank you young lady.”
“It'll be fine Gabe.”
We finished our coffee, paid and left Fasa a good tip.
“Be careful.” Gabe said as we parted. He for his home and me for Maia.
With the FSD modified getting to Darnielle's Progress did not take long. Approaching the moon around Maia A 2 A along with the drop toward the settlement seemed to take longer.
“Landing gear deployed.” Betty announced as I glided over the landing pad. With a thump and a brief flash from the shields the Conda settled into place. As the large ship and I were descending into the bowels of the settlement I pulled up the Commodities Market and bought the 12 units of Meta-alloys that were for sale. There was no way I was heading for Jaques with just 12 units so I sent in a call to the quartermaster.
“Sorry Commander, it's not as though we manufacturer the things. We, like you, have to wait for them to be brought to us.” He paused and looked at another screen. “I see we have a ship due to land in 10 minutes or so coming from the area that the Barnacles have been found. It could have some but no guarantee.”
Well, that was that then. Not the answer I had hoped to hear but it was what it was. I reopened the market after 10 minutes and bought the 12 units that had just been delivered. With no idea when or even if more where going to be available to purchase I left the December and went in search of something to eat.
I found a place after about 5 minutes of walking. As I entered smell of coffee mingled with the aroma of meat cooking and that made my mouth water. Back on ancient Earth I believe this place would have been called a 'greasy spoon'. A roadside cafe that thrived on the haulers that stopped to fill up on food.
Another thing that appealed to me was the view from the entire back wall. It was of the surface of Maia A 2 A. The table I choose to sit at was beside one of the giant panes of glass that made the back wall. The bacon, eggs and sausage where pretty good but watching the skimmers and SRVs going about their business were just as enthralling. I checked the market occasionally thanks to the tables computer link, buying any alloys that turned up.
I had just returned to the table with my second cup of coffee when a kid approached me. I say a kid but he was maybe 18, 19 tops.
“Commander Aitken isn't it?” A meek voice asked me. I finished taking my first sip from the cup before I answered.
“That all depends on who's asking.” Kid or not he could still be trouble or the front for someone I had upset.
“My name is Bay Kosmatka and I would like passage to Jaques Station.” I eyed him as he slipped into the seat opposite me, all thoughts of the outside activity forgotten.
“You would would you.” I put the cup down on the table never taking my eyes off of the young man before me. “Who says I am going anywhere near Jaques?”
“Mr. Smith.” He answered as he slipped a padd across the table.
It was a recording but the smug sense of superiority still oozed from it.
“Hello Aitken. Lapin may have failed to mention that you will be picking up a passenger at Darnielle's Progress. If she did this should be used to vouch for Bay Kosmatka. You need not know why he is going to Jaques Station in the Eol Prou RS-T D3-94 system. One more thing, do not tell anyone of his presence on your little spaceship or after you have dropped him off at Jaques. Have a good flight Aitken.”
I pushed the padd back over the table.
“You don't seem too happy about this Aitken.” The kid quipped after a long silence. He was right of course I wasn't over joyed at the situation for a few reasons. I didn't need one of Smiths spies aboard my ship. I didn't want to smuggle said spy into any station, which was kinda weird when you think about it. Plus of course I wasn't over the moon about the way this had been forced upon me.
“Is there anybody after you Kid?” I asked as I took another pull from my coffee.
“After me? No, no one is after me. Good grief what do you think I am?” He said in genuine surprise.
“A spy.” I once again put the cup on the table. “What do you think you are?”
He was about to answer then stopped. He gave it some thought before he eventually answered.
“I'm to pass on any useful information about the events happening out there. So I'm to be a conduit for information.”
“Uh hu. A fancy way of describing a spy but whatever makes you feel good about it.” I'd managed to buy 120 units of meta-alloys in the time I had been there, the rest of the hold I filled with food stuffs. “Come on Kid. Next stop Jaques.”
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