USD: ~17 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, after meeting with Portmaster Whitely
Location: Ackman Station, Outside the Port Authority Office
As soon as Alex and Elis made it around the corner from the Port Authority, Alex stopped and let out a long breath. She looked at Elis who had stopped behind her and was scanning the small scatterings of people that were crisscrossing across the Station’s main concourse to whatever section was their destination. The other girl was alert and non-plussed by everything.
In contrast, Alex felt like she had been through the wringer already and couldn’t help but wonder if this was an extreme version of ‘Fake it till you make it’ or if she was just not used to all the people, sounds, and smells that were constantly in motion on the station’s public level.
The pause must have been longer than Alex realized because Elis stepped forward to stand beside her.
“Ma’am, do we need help finding directions?”
Alex looked at Elis, an even stronger feeling of strangeness at the address the other girl was giving her even though they were essentially alone. Well, as alone as being in a public space could be. The whole act of taking the role of Federation Captain had made her feel like a completely different person, and that role placed walls between her and others along with stipulations on her behavior.
“I would like to review the files on these weapon dealers Portmaster Whitely gave us and compare them to the public data just to be sure. Also get something to eat, but since our balance is negative, we can’t really afford to get anything, yet.”
Elis frowned before answering, “We could return to the ship and get a bite to eat, look at the data, and then pick from our options, Ma’am.”
Alex shook her head, “I said eat, not consume tasteless nutrients from a package.”
“We do only have the bad ones left.” Elis admitted with a grimace, before giving Alex a suspicious look, “Unless you stashed them somewhere.”
“I would never do such a thing! That would be downright evil. All’s fair in war and love does not apply to sharing food.”
“I’ve known some people who thought differently.” Elis admitted with a slight wistfulness in her voice.
Alex stopped herself from retorting, as a wave of sympathy passed through her. Those people were probably her friends and all dead now.
Redirecting her thoughts, Alex reached up to her fake earpiece to ‘call the ship’ without it looking strange, “Namele—Captain to Tears, can I get an analysis on this data, a best route through the station to a buyer, and quick inventory of what we prepared already for sale?”
[Notice: Processing and correlating merchant data with all known Ackman Station public records and databases, with addition of new material. Please review current ammunition and arms stocks while analysis is conducted.]
|Arms and Ammunition Stowage|
||16 pallets, autoloader, 22mm caseless||
||16 pallets, autoloader, 32mm caseless||
||8 pallets, autoloader, 1kg LRP||
||8 pallets, autoloader, 2kg LRP||
||1 pallet, 5 rounds (12%), autoloader, 1kg LRPSGSM||
|| 30x 1066.8mm – AMCN type light missiles ||
|| 2x 3200.4mm – AMCN heavy torpedoes ||
|| 8x EW Drones – Ad-hoc, Nameless converted, Federation standard, (Degraded) ||
|| 222x Chaff clusters ||
|| 222x Smart flares ||
||4 pallets, 32 count, standard issue Federation Pulse Rifle MK1-12C (128)||
||4 pallets, 64 count, standard issue Federation Pulse Pistol R1-28A(256)||
||1 pallet, 4 count, automated gauss security turret SENTI-21B, IFF/CAI, AHTA, ROC(4)||
||10 pallets, MK1-12C Magazines (energy cell) – 256,000 rounds total count||
||10 pallets, R1-28A Magazines (energy cell) – 153,600 rounds total count||
||1 pallet, SENTI-21B Magazine (1000 rounds) – 40,000 rounds total count||
“Where did all our chaff and flares go?”
[Informative: Disassembly of Chaff and Flares was required for production of Small Arms.]
“Alright, we’ll fix that later.”
[Recommendation: MilTech Arms Inc. / Owner Operator Wyles Hammok has a higher confidence rating by 8.2% based on all available data. Matching criteria listed--]
“Stop stop. We will go with that one, thank you Nam–,” Alex caught herself a second time, “–lieutenant.”
[Affirmative: Displaying station map with auto routing.]
Alex looked to Elis, “Let’s go.”
The concourse thinned out as they moved further along it, and Alex did her best to not be distracted by all the little stores with items on display. Many had warm inviting lighting or people lingering chatting with the owners or keepers, and a healthy amount of commerce seemed to be carried out. Several patrols of station security passed by them in groups of two, paying no real attention to them.
Alex saw the path lead them to a turn off the main concourse and into a different annex. Right before the turn there was a very attractive smell from a restaurant with an open layout and seating that reached all the way into the concourse’s walk area. It wasn’t that busy and Alex turned to Elis.
“Let’s check out the prices before we get to the Dealer.”
Elis nodded and followed.
As soon as she turned toward the shop, she noticed that all the patrons turned to look at her. Alex wasn’t prepared for the sudden attention, and she felt her back straighten as she tried to project her disguise’s cool confidence. Why were they all looking at her, had she caused some cultural faux pas?
There was a short line of two three people having their order’s taken, but since she was not planning to order she stayed out of it while getting close enough to read the signage over the ordering counter. That’s when she realized there was a major problem. It was in a script she couldn’t read.
“Hey, Elis, can you read that?”
“Sure, it’s in Tarjab, a pretty common dialect in the SW quadrant space. Uhm… you can’t?”
“No, apparently not.”
Elis stepped up beside her and looked at the list, “There’s a wide variety, but a kebab plate is 50 SE.”
While Elis was reading, Alex realized everyone had stopped what they were doing to look at the two of them. A dark skinned, middle-aged man who she assumed was likely the cook or even owner poked his head around the corner to look at her. He promptly stopped what he was doing and came out from behind the counter.
“My Lady, ahh… fair Captain! It is a pleasure to welcome you. Please, choose anything from our menu, and I will prepare it for you personally.” His voice tickled her ears with its pleasant tone in a weird way, but most importantly he was clearly understandable.
“My apologies, sir. My fr— Master-Sergeant and I were hungry and merely appraising your menu and prices.”
“Captain, please pick anything from the menu, any selection, for you and your companion at no cost!”
Alex opened her mouth to politely refuse again when the words clicked in her head. At no cost.
She looked up at the menu again, and the warm inviting smell of fresh meat and spices destroyed what little resistance she had remaining. She didn’t know why, or how this had happened, but the man was offering her free food!
“We’ll take two medium kebab plates, with a soda.”
If her choice had been odd or out of place he showed no sign, instead a brilliant smile erupted from ear to ear. “Captain, please have a seat wherever you wish, and I will return shortly to serve you personally.”
“Thank you very much.” He quickly hurried back to behind the counter, for what Alex assumed was some cooking. She suddenly had a slight regret for not asking him to let her watch him. That would have probably been too out of character, though. ‘Maybe next time.’
She looked at Elis who just gave her a shrug.
Selecting a seat in the corner which met with Elis’s approval, Alex looked around at the other patrons. They had all returned to their meals, but she noticed that several of them kept taking little peeks at her.
Alex almost started to slouch and rest her chin on a hand, “I don’t understand,” she said.
She soon found herself straightening up, listening to Elis’s sudden revelations.
“This is a quick food joint, and you’re literally a ship’s Captain who I’m sure has been blasted all across the station’s newsfeeds already. Plus, you are attractive and very young for the position, heck you look like a princess. The Portmaster obviously thought that was exactly what was going on. It could possibly be that some high-ranking families still have access to Federation Technology… and what’s more common than a noble girl running away from home story? What Jaco is after is obvious. Someone who is looking for something to eat, who wouldn’t stop to look?”
Had she put all that together just from observation? Alex was surprised, and the information was possibly very useful to improving their ‘cover’ story, but nothing could remove the sly grin that slid into place.
“You think I’m attractive and look like a princess?”
The way Elis somehow straightened herself more made Alex giggle. Sadly, it hadn’t been nearly enough to break Elis’s composure.
Alex rolled her eyes and let out a sigh, “I didn’t realize it would cause such a big scene… Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Alex pulled out her datapad to do some quick study on their main destination, but it didn’t take long before the cook returned with two plates and drinks for them.
“My ladies. May Jaco present to you the finest medium kebab plates of Jaco’s Kebab Place. Nothing more would please me if they exceed your expectations.”
“Thank you.” Alex said, a bit surprised at the man’s enthusiasm.
As soon as he had excused himself and headed back to the kitchen, Alex examined her plate in detail, eyes drawn to the kebab with steamy meat and vegetables. A divine smell reaching her nose and her tastebuds tingled in anticipation. The flat bread and sauce served to the side were also completely new to her. She had to focus on her hand to keep it from shaking from the excitement, she had literally traveled billions of kilometers for this moment!
She took her first bite from the skewer and couldn’t hold back a small sound of pleasure. Elis was rolling her eyes at her, but it didn’t matter. Alex’s eyes sparkled with delight; it was the best thing she had ever tasted in her entire life!
USD: ~17 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, A few minutes after Alex and Elis left the Port Authority
Location: Ackman Station, Corporate Safehouse B-5
A knock came at Corporate Intelligence Officer Fallon’s door. He had been in a bad mood for days. As he sat up from in his berth he shouted at the interruption to his sleep, “What is it now?”
“Sir. We have something that you are going to want to see. Might be actionable.”
Pulling on his military jacket, he didn’t bother to button it. That was sloppy, but when posted on the ass end of nowhere, a bit of laxness would always manage to seep in, and they were not of a mind to keep up the charade for their superiors out here where they weren’t under constant surveillance. Even their latest political officer had come to reason after being set on Ackman Station for long enough.
That didn’t mean they wouldn’t accomplish their mission, they all had their reasons for loyalty, most of them familial, or the promise of a big enough bonus on retirement to tempt desperate men into service. You were a slave to the machine either way, and Fallon had chosen to at least be a useful cog in the Corporate Military Service. That he had the aptitude to be promoted to join the Intelligence Bureau had been lucky.
Running afoul of Corporate politics when he had offended a CEO’s pretentious asswipe of a son was not.
So, he found himself exiled to the farthest, most often forgotten post the Service had to offer.
He glared at the lieutenant as he came out of his room, more annoyed by the circumstances than the man.
“What is it now, our server wasn’t fried again was it? Losing three months of intel is already bad enough to get our posting here changed to indefinite.”
“No sir. We didn’t try to probe the FedTech ship again, but it is related.”
Fallon grunted, “What is it?”
“Sir, the Captain disembarked with a single escort. We spotted them heading to the Port Authority. They don’t seem to be heading back to the ship immediately.”
Fallon entered the cell’s comms room. The FedTech ship’s arrival was inopportune. It was a dangerous player in what they had been planning for months, even if it was an independent ship. He didn’t think so, though. He was more convinced the Solarians had pulled up one of their ships from their Commissar’s elite guard unit. They had been pushing more and more colonists for years onto Dedia, and it was about time they put the resources in to protect their ‘investment’ of manpower. A single, very capable ship was them showing their attention.
It was a bit worrying that the Solarians had possibly decided to ‘protect’ their fragile ruse of tossing colonists on the planet. Operation Rug Pull was nearing ready status, and if this was a threat to it, then removing it would certainly be a boost to his standing. Maybe even enough to get him back to the Core worlds in Corporate space.
He couldn’t be certain this was the Solarians though. The strange ship could have been something else, but this was a time sensitive opportunity. The Captain being poorly protected and with this being their first time on the station, it was a rare opportunity. He was sure they would be at least a little disoriented.
With the loss of their intel database for the last three months, he needed something to feed his superiors. That made his decision.
He looked at the surveillance feed—they had gotten them back working despite the damnable security measures that had suddenly snapped into place.
“One captain, one marine, it shouldn’t be too difficult to grab them. Then we’ll have our answers. Scramble the black ops team.”
A little bit of revenge for the catastrophe the Tears of Fire had brought him wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.
First thing he’d demand was that the Captain disable that blasted security program they installed, as well as a copy for Corporate to analyze for their own use.