SUNSWEPT CH11B

The team's second scenario began that same afternoon as they were once more flown out to the BubbleBait. This time it was Bee, Kip, and Sophia against H'Aki and Drake as defenders. The Objective was for the team of three to infiltrate and upload a file known as 'the package' onto a console that had been installed in the reactor control room. The story for the operation was that the reactor control backup could only be accessed by the chief engineer actually in the control room or by a capsuleer if there had been one in control of the ship. This meant that if they could take reactor control, they could upload a file that couldn't be accessed by the bridge. That was the story behind the scenario anyway.

They started in the same way again though this time Drake and H'Aki had been issued weapons whereas the other three had not. Drake and H'Aki were also given sufficient time to embark and get to the reactor control room before the other three were allowed to enter through the same hatch. Waiting in the Astero wasn't exactly exciting, but by the time the three of them were finally allowed to enter they had a decent idea as to their first steps. Bee, Sophia, and Kip immediately accessed the thermal imaging system, discovered that Drake had done the same, and started working on a more detailed plan. They quickly ruled out a frontal assault against the pair due to their weapons. Ostensibly, Sophia was in command of their little infiltration squad but she quickly opened the matter for suggestion. Bee, who had been given specific charge over the package, quickly reviewed the situation. "We're going to need to find a way to get at least one of us into that room, and that might mean trying to lure them out."

Kip offered a thought. "What if we try to leave a decoy data-pad with someone out here? If they get to the package can't they just erase the data, I mean, wouldn't that be the easiest for them?

It was true, Bee had already reviewed the package's contents, covertly of course, and discovered it to be simply an image of an explosion. Still, if they erased the explosion image there would be nothing to upload. Xe quickly encrypted the data. "I've just encrypted the data, it's hackable, but it will take them a few minutes to do so, just in case they do get ahold of it during a fight. But no, I don't think they will fall for that."

To his credit, kip didn't take the rebuff poorly. "Well, how do we get them out of there?"

Bee was just about to explain a thought xe had when xe recognized Drake trying to hack into the deactivated camera systems to reboot them. "We're out of time, Drake's about to be in the camera system. We should split up to confuse them. Take this and meet me in Cargo Bay Three."

Bee turned to run off down the hall as soon as xe handed over the package. Sophia was still confused. "Where are you going?"

Drake was already in the camera system, which included auditory sensors, so xe couldn't risk cluing xer teammates in. "Just go, trust me!" They did and Bee focused on xer current destination; the sensor control router.


Sophia and Kip didn't take long to reach Cargo Bay Three but then they weren't exactly in a hurry. Sophia gave the order for them to sure up all of the entrances and exits just in case, but she had no expectation that Drake and H'Aki would leave their comfy reactor control and no idea what Bee was doing. So there they sat in full view of Drake's cameras.

"Well, we can't talk about the mission, so what should we do?" Sophia leaned against one of the many stasis pods that were piled up in the cargo bay.

"Our previous attempt to get Bee?" Kip jokingly suggested the topic but Sophie saw no harm in it, besides Drake was the only other person listening and he had already vowed not to get involved in her machinations with the agreement that she would never target them on him again.

Sophia's grin turned slightly frustrated as she recalled their previous practical joking endeavor. "Well, our change to her tunes sure as Hek didn't work. How was I supposed to know that they'd become xer new favorite genre of music?!" Bee had even taken to blasting the remixed techno-opera during refreshers.

Kip just rolled his eyes. "Right?" He also took up leaning against one of the pods and as he thought he started slowly flipping the data-pad in his hands. "Got any more ideas?"

Sophia watched him flip the pad and as she waited a new and horribly devious idea came to mind. "Hey, toss me that package would ya?"

Kip seemed hesitant but her evil grin must have convinced him because he tossed over the datapad. She accessed the interface, noted Bee's encryption and memorized it, then hacked right past it to access the file to be uploaded. Hey, they had time to kill anyway right?


Bee reached the sensor relay and began xer work. In short order xe had the camera system shut down again and this time she encoded the lockout locally. Nobody was getting access to the cameras again except through the very junction unit xe was perched over. Drake and H'Aki sure weren't going to risk coming all the way out here for it. Xer second task was to implant a program to loop the playback feed directly into the thermal imaging software which also routed primarily from this junction. Xe set the program to trigger remotely from xer implant. Xe wasn't allowed to talk about the implant with the others; they never said anything about not using it. Besides, xe could always fake the trigger from one of the consoles in the cargo bay for cover.

Xer tasks complete, xe quickly extracted xerself from the system of conduits and made xer way back to Cargo Bay Three. Xe arrived to find the other two hiding grins and resting against a few stasis pods that were stacked with others against the far bulkhead of the bay.

"We can talk now, I disabled the camera and auditory feeds."

Both Kip and Sophia stopped leaning on the pods and came to join xer at one of the bay's consoles. Sophia spoke first. "So what's this plan of yours?"

Bee grinned and began to make a show of accessing the console. "I'm going to trigger the thermal imagining to show all three of us out here while I sneak the package in."

Kip saw reminded xer of the flaw; "And why would they suddenly change their plan and come out here for the three of us anyway?"

"I'll make them think that I've found a way to access the reactor terminal remotely." Sophia looked down at the console that Bee was pretending to use. Bee could tell by Sophia's confused look that she'd also realized that this particular console, indeed just about every console within the bay was local access only. For reasons of preventing boarding action by any force hiding in recently looted goods, cargo bay operations were always managed remotely from Central Cargo Control. Bee also saw realization dawn on xer fellow implant user followed quickly by Sophia's sudden clamp down on her facial expressions which had been about to reveal to Kip that maybe there was something he was missing. Kip, for his part, continued to watch the console blissfully ignorant of the rules governing cargo bay construction.

The really devilish part of the plan was that Drake would quickly figure out what Bee or Sophia was up to and for the same reason that Bee and Sophia couldn't clue in Kip, Drake would have to convince H'Aki to come with him to take on all three of them purely on blind faith in his command.

Sophia grinned at Bee. "Are you sure you don't like practical jokes?"

Kip openly gawked at Sophia.


Drake, who was currently monitoring their opponent's heat signatures, sighed and looked back over at H'Aki who had taken a seat at the Chief Engineer's station. "Yeah, they're still in that cargo bay."

"Why?"

"Who knows, maybe they decided to take a na-" The activation indicator on the fake reactor control console lit up to indicate that someone was uploading a data feed to it.

"Shit, we gotta go."

H'Aki was confused. "I thought the whole point was that they could only upload the file directly from in this room."

Drake was already moving for the door. "I thought so too, but I guess Bee found a way. Come on, we gotta a get there, and fast."

H'Aki had her reservations but she went along with him. Several meters later it dawned on her. "How do you know they are still there? The thermal imaging interface was back on that console."

Drake just scowled and kept running several paces before replying. "You're just going to have to trust me on this one, they're still there." In his haste he failed to notice that the only other two 'moving' heat signature in the ship remained in reactor control.


Bee disconnected from the safety indicator light pre-check system and smiled. Sophia, who had correctly intuited Bee's wink smiled back. "Here they come. But how did you do it?"

Bee was already taking the package back from Sophia and chuckled. "Before launch there is a step in the boot-up process that checks each and every indicator light on the ship to ensure that it is working. I may not have had access to the data port on that fake console they installed for this, but they rigged the lights right into that safety check and well. I tested it." Bee gave them one more mischievous grin then turned quickly for the conduit that would take her down and under the corridor through which their opponents were now running. "You have to keep them here!" Bee slipped into the conduit and started moving as fast as xe could crawl for the first access hatch back up to the conduit. After only about fifteen meters xe could clearly hear the stiff crash of running feet overhead and paled. They were moving faster than xe anticipated. Xe started crawling faster.


The loud running of two bodies in full out sprint preceded Drake and H'Aki around the corner and into the cargo bay where they found exactly nobody upon arrival. "I don't get it, they should be right there!" Drake pointed frantically at the place around where one of the tertiary data access ports stood. To his credit, the image on the thermal scanners that he was still patched into via implant showed all three of them there. He had no way of knowing that Bee had triggered xer loop just as xe was taking the package from Sophia.

"It's a trick; we gotta get back, now!" H'Aki was already turning to leave when she came face to face with a swiftly closing bulkhead.

A voice came over the intercom and a figure appeared standing within cargo bay central command. It was Sophia who couldn't suppress her giggles. "That cargo bay is about to decompress. I recommend that you get into the two pods we left open for you, and fast."

H'Aki looked behind them and sure enough two old clone stasis pods sat open not more than eight meters away. "Drake! Hurry, that door is going to open any second!" H'Aki sprinted for the first pod without even stopping to wonder as to why there were fully functioning clone stasis pods on the ship in the first place. Drake, however, wasn't moving. He was grinning.

"You wouldn't!"

Sophia simply smiled and started walking away from the controls.

"Nice try Sophia! But I know you can still shut that thing off!" Drake was still grinning.

H'Aki wasn't having any of it. She had no idea how or why her teammate had suddenly gone space-mad but she wasn't about to lose him, really lose him to his own stupidity. She ran back over to him and clocked him clean upside the head.

His suit registered the hit, assessed that it would have knocked him out, and proceeded to fully constrict his entire body. His coms even went out but H'Aki could hear his protestations just fine as she began dragging him towards the pods. "H'Aki, she can remote stop the sequence the same way I remote accessed the thermal controls!"

H'Aki wasn't listening. The alert was already in the final fifteen seconds and she needed to get to her own pod. She was running full on adrenaline and Drake couldn't resist as she tumbled his fully stiffened body into the first pod and initialized the seal. Thank Bob he'd been standing straight when she hit him or he'd not have fit. She was just climbing into her own pod when the countdown hit one... and stopped. She just barely caught herself before initializing her own seal.

What the hole had happened?


In the reactor control center Bee finished uploading the package and grinned as xe watched the entire farce play out in the cargo bay. Finally there was one of Sophia's jokes that xe could appreciate.

Later, as the after-action briefing began, Bee lost all appreciation xe ever may have had for Sophia's jokes when Anki looked xer right in the eyes and opened the briefing with; "Bee, perhaps you could explain to us why you felt that the appropriate dummy file for this exercise was this?" A looping 3d image of Leth began dancing about the commons provocatively while wearing both a cloth fedo costume and what could only be the Space Pope's hat.

Kip and Sophia could no longer contain their laughter.

*******


"Not to sound cliché, but... we there yet?"

Meyan's question was spoken to a completely empty room but she still looked up at the ceiling as though her intended conversation partner were located somehow in an overhead speaker. Now that she noticed, there didn't appear to be any discernable speakers in the cabin. She'd been surprised to have made it entirely through the written specifications for the new surgical suite on what was supposed to have been a rather quick trip. She hadn't felt the odd vibrations of entering and leaving warp but then her reading material had been so fascinating that a howitzer round could have gone off in the cabin next door and barely gotten her attention. She was eager to jump into the specifications for the adjoining main lab next but not if they were soon to arrive and she'd just have to stop a few sentences in.

The voice that responded clearly came from some sort of speaker as it filled the room as though all around her. "Haven't left yet. Too busy setting the self destruct."

Meyan grinned. Typical Tez dark humor. "Well, when you are done bowing us up, what's the hold up? I thought you were due to be cloaked up and watching something or other about ten minutes ago."

There was just a moment of pause but the disembodied voice responded with just a hint of amusement. "One more bit of cargo to load, friend called in a big favor that I just couldn't refuse. We should be spaceside pretty soon. You're not late yet right?"

"Oh, no, I got a bit yet. I was more worried about you." Meyan shrugged and went back to the datapad to begin scanning the lab information.

About halfway through a checklist of data ports, power inputs, and ventilation volumes which were far less fascinating than the surgical equipment manifest had been Tez finally spoke up. "Ok, all set. Here we go."

"Got what ye needed?"

Rather than a response from the capsuleer it was Delyyn who answered her as he swooped into the cabin grinning like he'd just pulled off the heist of the millennium. "I got you didn't I?"

The ship slid into warp with only the slightest vibration and Meyan could only sit gaping at her lover. When she finally did get a word out it wasn't directed at Delyyn. "This is your cargo?"

"Couldn't resist! We're coming up on the station in just a sec so no need to get too comfortable before I ram us into it."

Meyan pulled the datapads to her chest in a fashion that once would have been second nature but now felt as awkward as it must have looked pre-implant. She rolled her eyes at Tez but smiled patiently at Delyyn who was still beaming ear to ear. "You knew the whole time; about the trip?"

"No, but I figured that with the boss so busy he wouldn't mind if I stepped in to show Trinity Cybernetics' rep around. I may not have mentioned it was you instead of Solu." His grin didn't fade for even a moment.

His boyish enthusiasm was infectious and she couldn't help but smile just a bit at his sudden maneuvering. His surprise had done much to smooth away any residual frustration over his earlier attitude but as she started trying to anticipate how his presence might impact her schedule she also realized that she had been preparing to bargain and impress upon the District Planner. What Trinity Cybernetics was asking for; what she and Trinity Cybernetics were asking for in the specifications held to her chest was no little thing and it was likely to target some of VaskTech's prime real estate; real estate that Ninavask may very well have planned for something else. She wasn't just going to be arguing with some middleman who might be more easily persuaded. No, now she might have to contend with Delyyn as well. And with all that charm packaged in behind that infectious smile she was playing in a totally different league now. Her grin diminished just a bit.

They were making their way back to the loading hatch as Tez informed them the docking had begun. They walked in silence but Meyan's mind was still trying to anticipate the sudden change to a plan she'd had all worked out. Delyyn's presence may, of course, go the complete opposite direction. What if instead of countering her requests he backed them simply out of loyalty to her? What if he did it to try to impress her? Given his flair for chivalric displays she really couldn't put it past him to try. It would get her desired result; but somehow that just sort of felt like cheating. Would she be ok with that?

The question hung in her mind as the boarding hatch opened and they stepped out into the boarding tunnel which had linked up to the ship. In all the suddenness of trying to compensate for Delyyn's arrival, she'd not gotten a chance to call up an external view as they approached the station. Now, as she looked out of the force field which made up the bulk of the loading tunnel she was quietly amazed at the size of the operations bustling about the small Planetary Customs Office (or POCO as the pilots called it). Instead of the solitary flat looking customs office she had passed through just after completing her schooling at Foundation University, all about the station was a massive bulk and what must have been hundreds of scurrying shuttles and drones. The massive structure looked like it had been torn straight out of the inside of some other massive station and indeed there appeared to be many corridors which extended from the structure out into open space. The sight of the massive tentacle-looking behemoth as it perched just above her and the POCO caused her to pause for just a moment mid-tunnel. Delyyn, who had been only a step behind her, offered some explanation. "It's one of the old capital docking berths from what used to be Indigo City Station; the old one I mean." He also paused to look out at it. "Amazing isn't it, and that's just one of the berths."

"What are they doing with it?" They continued to just stare in amazement.

Delyyn smiled, ever happy to fulfill both his duty as guide as well as his favorite role of imparting knowledge. He pointed to one section of the bulk that seemed to be a constant buzz of coming and going shuttles. "All of the planning for the new Indigo City is being done there with the rest of the space being used for various offices and temporary living quarters." She could tell by the way he moved closer while guiding her eyes to 'construction central' that he was loving this trip already.

"You two gonna' picnic in there too!?" Tez's mildly amused voice came in over their coms.

Meyan blushed. "Sorry, my fault."

"We'll clear the tube." Delyyn's reply followed just a split second behind Meyan's as they both started moving again with only a little haste to their steps.

"But, if all this has been moved out of Old Indigo City's protective force field, won't it get hit by Sleepers or other pirate corporations?" Meyan held the image of the previous Renaissance Tower in her mind as they crossed into the actual Customs Office docking wing. Indigo City Station had been the space borne home and operations hub for Alexylva Paradox since its inception several years back. The spherical and glistening bubble which was Renaissance Tower's force field held not only the massive capital sized docks but also a myriad of other storage, ship maintenance arrays, and even several external dormitories. While technically it had been the largest of the structures, the capital docking facilities, which actually carried the name of Indigo City, the name was in truth applied to the entire scattered metropolis which lay within Renaissance Tower's safety. The image also evoked fond memories for Meyan as it was at that vary station that her transport had stopped to take in additional passengers when she had first made her way to Serendipity Tower for her internship.

Delyyn was already shaking his head. "It's possible I suppose, but with only lower ranking military folks and civilians inside along with the fact that nothing of any real value lies inside to make it worth the trouble, I guess they figure it's about as safe as this POCO we're in. Besides, it's only for about a week anyway."

She glanced up at him to see if he had even noticed his slip and found him grinning. He had just let her know the actual completion date of the new station on purpose! He was showing off big time. On the net and in the news Indigo City wasn't scheduled to be erected until well into the next month due to funding and resources. Everyone knew that this was just a phony date meant to make it harder for a spy to sneak this information out to some pirate corporation. According to the Upwell corporation, who designed the initial plans for what would become the new home and operations hub for Origin, there would be a required fifteen minute window from the moment that the station came online until all of the weapons and defensive systems could fully transition over from the stalwart backups which protected it during its materialization. During that window the new station would be utterly defenseless with only the local fleet to protect it. It was for this reason that most corporations chose to guard the timeframes of their newest construction almost more than they guarded the actual structure.

That would be a sight to see; an entire station bigger than most mega-cities just appearing bit by bit into space. She couldn't even fathom the technical marvel.

"We'll need to catch a shuttle over but Ninavask has one already scheduled for us, it should be just over here." Delyyn pointed her further to the left and they adjusted course.

"How does the materialization work then?" She might as well ask him, he'd likely know.

In fact he did. "Well, it's like a nano replicator but on a macro scale. Essentially you place a little box in space and anchor it relative to the nearest celestial object. Several massive emitters in the box project the very design out into space as a holo-projection while hundreds of self-replicating nanites spew forth to build out the structure."

"But surely you can't fit all of the materials into that box right?"

He smiled. "I should think not. As I understand it, the raw material is actually transported in molecular form directly to the box and then out to the individual nanites either from the nearest structure or transport ship. Most of it is compressed and the whole process happens so fast that when you see it, it almost looks as though a sort of ghost of the new station is hovering in place as it's built."

It made sense for the most part but there was still a lot missing. "And I'm guessing the transportation is done by some sort of anti-grav channel?"

He shrugged. "That part is all proprietary to Upwell and they lock down those boxes of their so tight nobody's ever been able to open one to find out." He chuckled, "I hear the last person that tried had the darn box blow up in his face the moment he thought he had it."

"I guess we won't be doing that then" She smirked.

"I guess not"

They had arrived at the shuttle port and just as Delyyn had said there was a dedicated shuttle with VaskTech marking on its hull waiting for them. It was a small shuttle, nothing even really worthy of the classification but when they stepped inside Meyan had to stop and look around again.

"Surprise!" Delyyn's shit-eating grin was back. "I may have convinced the requisition officer that I'd be doing a little schmoozing on this trip, so..." His hand fanned out to indicate some of the lushest appointments Meyan had ever seen. There was wine chilling, the seats were made entirely of incredibly supple fabrics, and the small size of the shuttle meant that even the passenger compartments were pressed right up against the forward hull which used a staggering about of force field. The view was breathtaking.

"Delyyn..."

The shuttle decoupled from the POCO but rather than joining the steady stream in route to their destination it swung out and turned under the massive bulk which drifted up and away above them to reveal the most amazing view of the planet below. They were moving out over one of the vast oceans and even from here she could just barely make out the gleaming crystal towers central to New Hyjn as the shuttle sped westward and encountered the coast and the gulf.

"Our meeting?" She couldn't even tear her eyes away to look at him as she asked.

Delyyn simply stepped over to the chilling wine and began pouring them each a glass. "We've got time for one orbit, I checked and the District Planner is running behind today, as usual."

She just nodded and stepped closer to the view. As they quickly overtook the largest continent a strange sense of déjà vu hit her. She recalled the first time she'd seen this view, so many years ago. A headstrong young girl had followed her dreams, somewhat against her parents' wishes; she was finally able to admit that much to herself, out into the unknown. For what? Just so she could try some experiment where the results might not immediately have her called in front of a judicial board? The last time she'd taken in this view she'd had every intention of finishing out her degree and her experiment then just flying right back into Empire controlled space. But then there had been the trouble with securing the virus, and the various other components. And then the internship that she'd never expected to get despite her friend pushing her to apply. And then finally Icarus Station where she finally did get the virus she needed and well... now the woman who looked down at the approaching glowing ring of light that was Foundation City at night had fallen in love. Not with some guy, but with Origin. The people, the spirit, and the very worlds that spun so precariously about such a storied star; they had become her worlds, her system... her Origin.

She took the glass from Delyyn and sipped as they finally passed over the darkened central eye that was Foundation Park and her mind returned to the man now standing beside her and sharing her view. Delyyn was also taking a sip and looking out at the planet as it passed beneath them, however he was clearly more interested in her as he kept checking out of the corner of his eyes on her. "Last night was... well it was wonderful. Thank you."

"I was starting to think you hadn't liked it, hadn't liked it... with me." She looked over at him again and he was now looking fully at her. Meyan searched his eyes for any hint that he might actually have questioned her feelings towards him. What confused her only further is that she really didn't feel that he meant it. Had he always been such a puzzle and she just hadn't noticed before? She took another sip and looked back out over the dark planet as Foundation city passed beneath them, lending way to what seemed like an unending virgin forest.

She wasn't entirely sure as to the context of his question, or what other motive he might be having for asking it but she also couldn't not respond. "Oh, I did, but you know how I am with work."

"I do." He made it sound as though he were resigning to some fault of hers. Maybe she was just looking for trouble again.

"Well, yeah, I am... that way. But it's who I am, and I love my work." She turned to look at him again just as the first hints of the oncoming sunrise lightened the sleeping world below. "And, I love spending time with you too, I really do. But it's all, well..."

He had a gentle sort of smile; patient.

"Well, kinda just happening you know?" She took a breath and looked back to the force field, not wanting to miss the spectacular view of a planetary sunrise. "I'm just trying to keep up I guess."

As he also turned back to the view as the system's primary burst forth from behind the planet just right to give both Renaissance as well as the orbiting POCO a magnificent halo. She seemed to forget the conversation for a moment as she took in the view. But he was still glancing at her more than the planet so her respite from the conversation didn't last long once she noticed.

He saw that had she noticed and as the shuttle slipped out of orbit and started moving back towards the impromptu orbital offices he broke the momentary silence. "Spend the night here with me then, I've got the shuttle through tomorrow, we can come back and make several more trips around after our meeting. Just you, me, another bottle of this amazing wine, and all of the stars and planets you could dream at."

"It is good wine..." She sampled another sip in support of her assessment but her mind was already looking for ways to turn him down gently. The suite was beyond luxurious for her standards, and he was great company. Added to that the view around the planet that she had called home for just under two years was certainly something that she shouldn't pass up another chance at. So why was she trying to find ways out of it? She'd been looking forward to the first reports from the kids' simulations tomorrow, but there was nothing saying she couldn't access those remotely. And she'd certainly earned enough vacation with all of the recent overtime on the project. Solu would be more than supportive of her working remotely for the day...

He was letting her work through her answer, patient as always but they were fast approaching the docking port near the central construction offices so they'd run out of time. "You don't have to answer now; I know it's a lot to think over." He did sound just a little rejected, this time at least.

She began shaking her head gently. "It's just that I had agreed to meet with someone early tomorrow, and I don't know if it would be a good idea to try to move that. Trust me, I want to stay here with you, I really do." Her eyes reflected the conflict she faced and even as the tantalizing hints of the past orbit worked to convince her to stay, there was still part of her that just couldn't let her do it. He'd given her the out she needed, at least for now, and so she took it. "I just need to focus on this meeting first. I need to really crush it, ok?" She looked at him for the reassurance that he understood. "Then I can figure out tonight."

He nodded acceptance though she could clearly see that he was also conflicted over it as well. Both of them returned to looking outward as the shuttle quickly decelerated into the port. View of the planet was replaced by that of twisting conduits which now went nowhere and busy support drones which buzzed about them and the hulk they were attached to. Meyan sighed, collected herself, and turned to follow Delyyn back towards the docking hatch and out into the temporary station.


"I just can't do it!" The District Planner, one Director Flinn, followed his definitive statement with a considerable sigh and he once more put his fingers to his temple as though he might massage Meyan and Delyyn out of his office as he was trying to massage a headache out of his head.

Meyan still wasn't having it. "Yes, you can, and what's more; you know you can. You just don't want to give it to me."

She was right and she saw it in his eyes as he tilted them back up to try to stare her down. He hadn't been anything like she'd imagined. Somehow the image of some sweaty and dirty construction-suit jockey or typical grease monkey which you always saw in the holos had made its way into her mind when she first thought of this meeting. Instead, the District Planner wore a pristine suit complete with glowing cufflinks. Who even wore those anymore? Delyyn had been blessedly silent for the entire meeting which had allowed her to follow her own method. Having done her research, she knew that the space in question was available, and she also knew that it was highly contended; though not by VaskTech as she'd expected. That, perhaps, had been why Delyyn had been so silent.

"That suite is currently being held, with collateral I might add, for another organization. I don't care how perfect it may be for your needs, they got there first!" He was still bent over the holo-table despite having raised his head at what must have been a rather uncomfortable angle to stare her down. She wasn't exactly a great reader of other people, and while her entire strategy had been based on researching all of the angles she could prior to the meeting, she was suddenly wishing she could read him just a little better.

The suite in question hadn't even been one of the top three she'd marked off prior to the tour, but as the District Planner had taken them on a holo tour of the many sections pre-reserved for the various VaskTech subsidiaries she'd discovered that all of her preparation had been for naught. Sure, there had been several options that meet all of the critical needs for Trinity Cybernetics' lab, offices, and operational theatre. But not one of those options had 'it'. She hadn't even known what 'it' was until a chance scrolling of the holo as they were pulling back to the initial view from about 2000 kilometers passed them directly out of the hull at a point overlooking the primary docking corridor. For that split second she could completely see Solu standing at that view and watching the ships come and go.

It was silly, kind of. She didn't even know her boss all that well, but there was just something about their most recent conversation, and she knew that this is where Trinity Cybernetics was meant to be. All of VaskTech's reservations had been deep within the station, or opened to the understructure of the continental Fortizar class citadel. She really hadn't meant to stray so far from those options, but they had felt so... stifled.

And now she was arguing for a premium suite she had only a slim right to based on technicality, with a man she couldn't read to save her life, accompanied by a boyfriend who apparently could neither help nor implead her, having done absolutely no research to support her bid. Meyan also let out a resounding sigh in reply and out of sheer exhaustion matched her counterpoint's posture on the holo table. For a few moments they just stared at each other.

She tried a new tactic. "Who has it reserved?"

The suddenly gentle tone of her voice must have taken Director Flinn off guard because it took several additional moments for him to respond. "Mr. ... A capsuleer." Neither of them had moved yet.

Things suddenly made a little more sense for Meyan. "And you can't reveal who they are any more than you can risk giving away their spot?" He was already nodding.

"You wouldn't believe the Isk they put down to hold the spot too. I just can't release it to you." She still couldn't read people but the look he was giving her now looked almost pleading.

She picked through the problem for a bit. Solu had mentioned getting early access to choose a location on account of her status within VaskTech. What if it had been because unlike just about every other Origin subsidiary, Trinity Cybernetics was headed up by a Capsuleer. And if that logic held, then maybe it had been Ninavask's status within Origin and in relation to the system's honored defense corporation which had gotten his entire group early access. Her mind was racing but for once it was doing so in lockstep with her implant. Had she been blessed with higher grade implants, she knew that independent processes within their software would likely have already analyzed her thinking and extrapolated the likely documents she'd need. It would have gone out and run searches across the system's information relays for those documents and supplied them to her even before she thought she needed them. Instead her civilian grade implants had to wait for her to figure out what it was she needed, which finally she did. If her logic was sound, then somewhere out there had to be a list deciding at least some basic hierarchy as to who got to pick first. That was what she needed. Her implant began looking. "And if I could get them to relinquish the suite in favor of us?" She ignored the small voice in her head which was suddenly laughing at how self-important her offer must have sounded.

He shrugged. "That's a pretty big if."

"But if I could..."

He smiled a tired and amused smile. "Then it's all yours."

Her search came back with only an 'access denied' and she was running out of time with the not-so-patient District Planner. His 'office' was central to a room filled with other planners and she could already see the next representatives of some other company waiting for their turn. Maybe she could get the list another way. "How long until the next tier of representatives gets to choose?"

She could defiantly read his face now. Shock. "How did you... never mind." He recovered quickly. "five days."

Her hypothesis was confirmed. That meant that there was a tiered system and she only needed to figure out how that system had been tiered to have a guess at the list. It also gave her only about four days to discover who held those rooms and work with Solu to convince that person to give them up. She was not much of a gambler but the thought of returning to Solu with a suite out of the very utilitarian options set aside by Ninavask was enough to inspire her to start. "Then you will be hearing from that capsuleer within four days."

His shock shifted to mild disbelief. "And what selection shall I hold for you in case I don't?"

"None."

Now even Delyyn sat up. "Babe, maybe you sh-" Her glare ended his statement.

He would pick now of all times to give her an affectation? Now? She returned her gaze to Director Flinn and stood up full again. "You will get that message." She turned, and without even waiting for Delyyn she walked across the floor, past the waiting representatives, and back out into the corridor without so much as a glance behind her.

It took three full strides down the hall for her to adjust to the adrenaline rush and realize just how 'not her' she had just been. It was also at about that moment when Delyyn finally caught up.

"Babe... Meyan, wait." She very nearly rounded on him with what was left of her fury. "Wait! Please."

She stopped just long enough for him to come up beside her before she pressed back up to her original pace. She didn't really know where she was walking, but she needed to keep walking. She picked a direction generally toward where the shuttle was docks and continued.

"I don't doubt that you made your point in there, but how in Origin do you expect to convince a capsuleer to forfeit their prize suite?" His tone was somewhere between incredulous and teasing.

"I just will." She didn't even turn to look at him.

"Sure babe." Now he was teasing.

The new name for her felt like a railgun to the heart and no matter how hard she tried to remind herself that he meant well it only hurt more. She hadn't wanted him to do the work for her but damn it he could have help at least a little. And he was teasing her about it? She couldn't even respond to him.

They walked on in silence as she shot right past the turn towards their shuttle and made a loop of half the port sector. To his credit he didn't point out their missed exit but just kept walking beside her. Maybe he'd finally clued into her mood. By the second lap he finally spoke up.

"I'm sorry, I guess that meeting didn't go well."

"You think?" She'd taken at least some heat out of her voice but there was still sting there.

He took it in stride and even waited several paces before responding. "Look, lets just go back to the shuttle and try to relax. Maybe... maybe we can try to look up who the capsuleer is together or something." He was looking at her though she still hadn't done him the same courtesy. He was trying. She wanted to throw it in his face that she'd already started that process on her own but the adrenaline had started to flag during the previous lap and now she just felt tired.

"I just want to go home. Can we just go home?" She finally looked over at him.

He frowned before replying. "You know I have to stay for meeting with the other reps tomorrow."

"So, when it's your job you have to be all 'Perfect Pator Prince' but when it's my job 'beg off'?" The anger was suddenly back, but this time without the benefit of the adrenaline.

"No, It's not like that." His face was pleading with her to try to understand. "Meyan, I just wanted to spend the night with you. Working tomorrow was the compromise with the boss to do it. I have to."

Calm Meyan may have seen the pleading in his eyes; she may have even accepted the truth in his explanation. But calm Meyan was back somewhere in that damned Director Flinn's office and instead pissed off Meyan wanted nothing more to do with high class shuttles or romantic evenings just now.

"Then stay. We'll take the shuttle back to the Customs Office, I'll get a ride with Tez from there." She adjusted their route so that it would cut directly back towards the hatch where the shuttle was docked.

He opened his mouth as though to try one more time to get her to stay but she shot him a look that shut it quickly. They would on in silence all the way into and through the docking hatch. The shuttle ride back to the POCO took only moments and the whole of it was spent beneath the ominous bulk of the once-upon-a-time docking port. Not once did she see the planet below peek around it.

As she moved to step out of the luxurious shuttle she paused. She took a moment to steady herself against the door frame and felt the ornately carved trim beneath her fingers. She looked at it then slowly spread her view around to take in the whole of the room. Finally her eyes landed on Delyyn who'd taken up a seat some distance from her at the back of the cabin for the trip. She hadn't even looked at him for the entire short hop between structures but now she finally did. He didn't look angry or upset and all at once her own anger seemed to ebb from her. He was slowly twisting an empty glass of wine between his fingers and staring deep into it as if to divine from it some answer that eluded him. She almost instantly regretted her words and the fight. Maybe she was overreacting a bit, maybe spending the night wouldn't be too much to ask. She looked again at the gorgeous suite and then back at him. He looked... miserable. She opened her mouth to apologize but something stopped her. Her exhausted mind groped about to find what it was that stopped her but the words wouldn't come. Why couldn't she stay, he'd forgive her; she knew that. And it would be just the night. And yet she couldn't.

She gently shook her head and when she finally did speak it was much softer. "Can we still do dinner when you get back? I'll..." He looked up and there was something hurt behind hit eyes. Hurt, but hopeful. "I'll make it up to you." She still couldn't bring herself to apologize directly.

"Yeah, I..." He seemed pretty tired as well. "Dinner would be nice."

She managed a smile, and encouraged it with a thought as to all of the effort he'd put into this trip. "And dessert."

He seemed to brighten considerably at that and even a hint of that mischievous smile of his seemed to break through.

She smiled again, squeezed the ornate doorframe, then turned and disembarked the shuttle.


Meyan checked the time as she boarded Tez's Buzzard. It was late, much later than she'd planned. She took some comfort in knowing that the S'up would still be open when she eventually got back to Icarus Station however it was getting late enough that she would be trading time under the sun for time asleep and that prospect didn't much strike her as favorable. She still wanted to see those simulation results first thing in the morning.

Tez had the grace not to ask about the night obviously cut short and besides, from the tone of her voice as Tez greeted her, Meyan was pretty sure Tez was already distracted with other things; likely to do with the patrol she'd just been on. She didn't want to bother her busy friend so instead Meyan simply walked into one of the forward observation cabins onboard the scout vessel and started out into space.

Tez's voice seemed to come from all around her at once. "Just decoupled and coming around for Icarus, we should be-" There was a sudden pause. "Check, Check! Proteus on scan!" That last part must have also been over coms as well. Even before she had time to process what that meant, she watched out of the force field as the dreaded 'Enemy' from Ellie's cards came to life before her. It just sort of melted right out of space and within seconds it spat forth some tiny tube which blossomed into a massive shimmering bubble that enveloped the POCO, the construction offices, and one tiny Buzzard which carried no offensive weapons at all. Tez was still on coms but only her end was also being sent to Meyan. "ShitFuck! Sabre too! Right on me; warp interdiction bubble up!"

There was a pause as the Buzzard suddenly changed vector heading away from the sun and instead towards some unidentifiable spot in space. "I know, I know. I'm cloaking." Meyan couldn't actually see their ship cloak but something about the way the force field in front of her shimmered must have indicated the process.

Even as their fragile little ship tried to disappear into space, Meyan watched as something massive and white flashed right past her view of space. "Proteus, Stratios, Stratios, Legion landing!" Tez's voice was gaining tension with each and every new ship. "Launching drones! Bob, they're coming right for us!"

"But we're cloaked..." The statement was rhetorical and Meyan had made it more to reassure herself but Tez answered her anyway.

"Sorry hun, those drones get within 2.5 klicks of us and we ain't cloaked no more. Hold on, gonna try something." Even before she said it Meyan watched the starscape flash by as the Buzzard did a full 180 almost on the spot. "Help is coming..." Tez's voice implied the other half of that statement. Meyan could almost feel the enemy drones swarming in on them like evil ghosts sent to strip them bare of all protection and her mind finished Tez's statement; 'Help was coming, but not in time.'