I hadn’t gone far when a security guard came towards me, “Hold it there, sir,” she said. “Can you tell me your business here, please?”
I hadn't asked for permission to stroll around and had no ID badge. I must have been spotted by one of the cameras, or perhaps there were motion sensors in the floor. The guard scanned me. “Are you from the ship on the pylon, Mr. Travise?” she asked.
“That’s right; I just wanted a change of scenery.” She gave me a funny look; I could see her thinking, ‘aren’t all spaceships the same?’ She was very polite, though. She turned away and I could hear her as she muttered something into her comms set. The words were indistinct, the reply made her turn her head back to me. She was smiling and nodding. She looked at me again, turned back and said a few more words.
“Well, we can’t have you wandering around without permission, sir. We spotted you on the cameras, and we didn’t know who you were. We can’t scan the corridors, the field would interfere with the other things we do. The Duty Officer sent me to find out who was wandering around. Now she knows who you are she wants to see you; she was going to invite you over anyway.”
“Is that the woman I heard on the radio?”
“That’s right, sir; she wanted to ask you about your manoeuvre. Now you’re here I can take you to the control room, we can get you a badge.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sorry for the inconvenience; is she mad at me?”
“She was a bit upset, but I told her that you’re cute. Once she’s seen you she’ll be Okay.”
I thought that was a funny thing to say.
She led the way through another airlock to a lift, which was the old continuous type, slow moving platforms without doors that you hopped on and off. We rode up for several decks. Down a corridor and through a door and we were in the control room, a large open space, crammed with tech and people. So this was where everyone was.
The guard took me over to the central desk, which was manned by a very attractive woman, her shaved head and make-up emphasising her features and blue eyes. Dressed in a skimpy vest and very small shorts, she was talking into a headset, and typing with one hand on a virtual keyboard that was hovering in mid-air over the console. She had nice legs.
“Here he is,” the security guard announced.
She looked me over, and I realised that she was sizing me up. She had the sort of expression a cat has when it sees a mouse. The name badge hanging on one strap of her vest announced that she was ‘Liesh’, but whether that was her first or last name wasn’t obvious.
“So you’re the pain-in-the-ass guy setting off all the alarms?” she said. “Didn’t you pick up a badge before you started wandering around? There should have been a box of them by the ramp.”
“Sorry.” It sounded inadequate. I hadn’t seen them but then I hadn’t really looked either. In the Navy, we just went where we wanted and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need permission. She scanned me quickly and efficiently with a small handheld reader.
“So, Dave Travise, you’re the pilot of the Orca?” I nodded. “I wanted to see you anyway, that was a pretty impressive docking,” she said. “And quick. No messing about with you is there; straight in! You’ve done that before.”
The way she said it and her wide-eyed expression made me blush; there was too much innuendo here for my liking. “Beginner’s luck,” I said, trying to sound casual. I didn’t mention Nancy; for some reason I wanted to impress her.
She licked her lips and I suddenly realised that it had gone quiet; everyone in earshot was hanging on her words. Call me slow but I got the impression that the cat thing was about right. She was still talking.
“Well, the last one who tried to do it that quickly wrapped himself around our solar array when he bounced off for the second time, and HE said he was an expert. Didn’t get anywhere with me after that. Where did you learn to fly?”
“Navy,” I said and immediately wished that I hadn’t.
“That explains the wandering around then,” she said, with the familiar quote from the Blessed days, “Navy goes where they want! What ship?” she added.
And I was stuck, should I say Moth and risk more questions, or maybe they wouldn’t know.
She solved my problem. “Have you heard the latest? One of the Rim fleet has gone missing, they think it’s lost.”
I tried to look shocked but was conscious of the fact that I didn’t know what my chip might say about my past. I hadn’t read up much on Dave’s history so I had to be careful, “Really? Any idea what happened?”
“The last report said they were sent from Michael’s Hollow to investigate some dispute out in the sticks,” she pulled a face. “It’s sad for all the crew but there will be no love lost for the skipper. He was a nasty piece of work, you might have heard of him; Herman Dror?”
“Oh everyone’s heard of him,” I said. “He’s not the best recruiting tool, but very good at his job.”
“You would defend him I suppose,” was her slightly resigned response. “I guess you all stick together.”
“That’s a bit harsh,” I said “Anyway, I’m not navy now. Tell you what, buy me a drink when you finish up here and I’ll tell you my life story.” I don’t know why I said it, I thought that I would get knocked back, but instead, her eyes narrowed as she thought about it.
“I thought you’d never ask,” she said. “Thought that I was going to have to suggest it. There are no interesting men left on here and it’ll be a change from all the ugly, sweaty miners hitting on me. Come back here at 22 ship time.” Her look changed. “And by the way, if I like your story you won’t be leaving before tomorrow morning.” She turned back to her task. I couldn’t help noticing that I was attracting envious looks from everyone who had heard her.
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