They both stood in the docking bay, watching the ship, each of them lost in their own thoughts. It was a comfortable 0.4g and currently the bay was pressurized. The ship’s hull was an obsidian black with several patches of a lighter grey that had the ability to absorb or disperse certain spectra of light. It had just come out of maintenance and steam was hissing from a couple of vents. There was a comfortable humm in the thin air.
Finally, she turned to him: “Did you find anything in the Collinder 70 sector?”
It had been three days since comms had intercepted an obscure distress call from the otherwise permit-locked sector, along with a ship signature and callsign that had been even more worrying. At that point the Children had assembled a search and rescue team and Andrew had been part of it right from the start. They had been looking for a Cobra of some older design; or the remains of it and their pilot, who seemed to be quite famous or infamous in certain circles, depending who you asked.
“I found no Cobra,” Andrew answered. “But I found some other things just along the border of the permit zone: Wreckage, a downed Nav Beacon and most importantly a crashed ship with no decals or ID carrying a databank that still was intact. I managed to extract some of the data packages and they seem to be linked to the Federation somehow. The decrypt team have them right now trying to figure out what the packages hold.” He hesitated for a moment: “But like I said, no Cobra and not a sign from your ‘associate’.”
“Just a fool’s hope, “ she mused quietly and maybe more to herself than to Andrew. She brushed away a strain of her blonde hair as was her custom when she thought about something important. “The Collinder sector is so vast, even with a brute force team you wouldn’t be able to sweep it in time.”
“Yes.” Again that uncomfortable pause. Sometimes Andrew would have liked to know what was on her mind; and sometimes he wouldn’t. So much was clear after he had joined the Children of Raxxla: They had uncovered many things that otherwise would have gone unnoticed, the public left unaware in the dark and the powers getting away with it unhampered and reaping the benefits. And the powers had become aware of the Children and some of its ‘associates’ (that word again!) and were trying to demonize them whenever and wherever they could. The upside was that the Children had accumulated vast amounts of otherwise inaccessible data about a great many things and from places far and wide. It was an astronomer’s and archaeohistorian’s (and theorycrafter’s) playground.
The downside: The Children of Raxxla were constantly engaged in a race against time and more often than not they did not even know how much time they had.
“How is the support for the Wreaken protests going?”
“Good, as far as I know. Eyes have turned towards them and media spin is beginning to question their motives and the legitimacy of their access to the Collinder 70 sector. Rumors even include the Federation Health Service taking notice, which is never a good thing, I guess. With so much attention our little S&R may have gone unnoticed.”
“Assume it didn’t go unnoticed.” She nodded towards the ship. “I want you to take her. I have certain things to attend to in the next few weeks and won’t be there. I don’t want to see her idling around in some docking bay.”
The offer took him by surprise. The woman had always been very reserved, even after Andrew had joined the Children. It was her reputation as a top ‘Outsorce Contractor’ and even senior members found it hard at times to deal with her. Sometimes she was a complete no one and sometimes she was a complete stranger. She just wasn’t known for sharing things with others. Andrew knew her Diamondback Explorer was heavily modified and he could only guess what was driving her to relinquish it.
“The Nanshe? You can’t be serious. She’s your girl all right, everybody knows that. What could possibly…”
She cut him short: “Really not your concern. Nor would you like to know. I mean it.” A pause again. “And you will need her capabilities. Give your Asp to that Altairian swindler of yours.”
Andrew looked at the woman for a very long moment. They were still standing in the docking bay. He had suspected some sort of goodbye when she had called him. Or some new assignment. Finally she added: “You know of her name I assume?”
Andrew scratched his neck. “Well, yes. She was the ancient Sumerian goddess of prophecies and also the patron deity of social justice. Some references say she was the daughter of Ishtar, others say she was daughter to Enki, the god of the Earth. She is also credited with bringing the art of dream divination to earth. With this her followers were supposed to help shape the future.”
She nodded again. “You did a bit of research after we met prior to the HR 6421 war.”
“Yes.” He took a step towards the ship. His gloved hand stroked the hull very carefully. Thrusters and power plant were running on standby. There was a slight vibration running through the hull. The ship felt strangely alive.
He crooked his head a bit. “Callsign MIR?”
“Yes,” she said bluntly. “They call me that: Mir. We have come a long way, you and I, so why shouldn’t you know?” She reached out her hand towards him and after a second or two Andrew accepted the handshake with a smirk. “Pleasure, Mir.”
“You will find some handwritten documentation on most of the modifications. The rest you will find out. Destroy the handwritings after.” That was her matter-of-factly buisnee tone again. Right now, Andrew liked it the most. “There is also a list of contacts and their whereabouts. You know Martuuk already, others are on that list. They can help you out.”
“Out of what?”
She chose to ignore the question. “Do not go back to Founders. Instead, tell Delarue what you need and leave asap. Stay below the radar and close to the rim. We will get in touch. Until then, do what you must …and remember.”
He meant to give an answer but somehow just didn’t find the right words; which was rare.
Finally, she handed him something else: The next surprise. It was a ‘Magpie’, a magnetic pistol, an elegant design with a smooth grip and a long barrel. It came with a power clip in front of the trigger mechanism and was capable of accelerating a mid-caliber projectile to insane speeds.
Andrew narrowed his eyebrows into the sharpest V he could muster and had a long look into Mir’s eyes. He had always hated guns.
She nodded silently and then let himself get acquainted with his new ship and his new pistol.