“Okay, try it again” The voice was muffled as he yelled out to the computer with his head deep in a panel access.
“Beedoop `. . . b]uzzzzz”
“Dammit.” His feet twisted to the left as he reached for a module deeper in the system and checked all the contacts, one by one. “Reboot, try again.”
. . . . “Beedoop `. . . b]uzzzzz”
The feet stiffened for a moment and then he sighed. “Okay, reset to previous, try it again.”
“Nice to know you don’t give up easily.” Dierdre smiled at the feet as they jumped and muffled clang was followed by an even better muffled curse.
“Do you delight in scaring everyone or am I something of a hobby for you?” The computer buzzed again as though rating his answer. “Computer, reset to setting default alpha and if you buzz me again I will tell Ev on you, then you’ll be in trouble!”
Dierdre delighted laugh filled the small cockpit and he waited for the reboot, still under the console. The rattle of tools and squirming indicated he was probably cleaning up. Dierdre looked down and said in a softer, more serious voice. “The election results came in.”
There was a pause. “Since I don’t hear the pop of champagne being opened I assume this is not a congratulatory visit.”
She was silent.
He sighed and the feet went limp for a moment as he rested his head against some inner surface. “Ah well. I got some messages out there and a few people heard me. Please tell me I got SOME votes.”
“Some, but not many.”
“How was the voter turnout?”
“Lowest ever. Newer pilots were the least represented and senior pilots voted en masse.”
Another sigh echoed inside the console. “Tell me the people I favored got the votes they needed. Song Li? Teadaze?”
His voice cheered up. “Well great! The election was a success if there is a good span of representation. My not winning . . . well I suppose I knew that was coming.”
“But you tried anyways.”
“Knowing something is so doesn’t always mean believing it. I could hope.” The voice went softer for a moment. “I did hope”
She bent down to lay a hand on his leg. “You do a lot of that, don’t you?”
“Comes from being an optimistic person in a kill or be killed world. I live on hope, dreams, and a well stocked drone bay.” The sounds of tidying slowed and then the computer chimed it satisfaction with the current settings. “Damn, gonna have to reprogram the settings by hand again. Comm channels, battle overview, the whole shebang.”
“Just time consuming and if I forget a setting it means an enemy will get a few free shots at me before I can even find and target him or her.”
“Things are not going your way right now, are they?” She asked as he stared to shimmy out of the access.
He finally was clear and looked up her from the floor, dust bunnies tangled in his dark hair and a smudge of fluidic conduit gel on one cheek. “They are going fine. What is broken, can be fixed. What I lost, I never had. You still come and scare me until I can feel my own heart beating and I look into your face and can feel . . . my own heart beating.” he blushed. “I mean . . . um”
“Amazing you lost the election, you smooth talker, you.” She smiled and he blushed even deeper. “You probably have a girl in every station you use these lines on.”
“No! I don’t go to that many stations . . .I mean . . .uh . . .”
“She was still laughing, tears coming out of her eyes when the comm chimed. “Mail back online. New message, labelled Most Urgent.”
Mike looked from her to the computer and spoke “Relay message, audio.”
[Mr Azariah, we thank you for the receipt of the last shipment of shuttles and regret to tell you that their pilot has been detained and unable to use the last six. We would appreciate assistance in the securing and transport of our lost pilot at you earliest convenience. If you are available please contact me at . . . ] The comm chimed indicating the message coordinates were now part of its files.
Dierdre looked at Mike and saw that he was pale as a ghost. “You worry about all customers of yours this way?”
Mike looked at her and paused. “This stays between us, right?”
She nodded, concern alight in her eyes.
“I have a contact who is targeting slavers. I sold her some shuttles that she used in, well, there is no nice term for it, assassinations. If she cannot fly the shuttles that means that someone has caught her. If they are coming to me for help it means one of two things and neither of them is good.”
“What do you mean?”
“Either they have broken her and I am being set up as part of her gang which means I will be flying into a trap.”
“So you don’t go.”
“Or they are afraid that their network has been compromised and that I may be removed enough to effect a rescue without being the traitor within their ranks. If I don’t go, she doesn’t get to die.”
Dierdre blinked at that.
“She has a clone. Dying would be release. No, they will break her body, mind, and soul but they will not let her go and will not let her die. It might be that I am going to be asked to go find where she is being kept and kill her. But there is only one way to know for sure.” He paused. “This is what I do. Usually for a corp, but this is what I am. A ship with guns and a mind behind it.”
She shook her head. “No, you are wrong. They are not offering to pay you, and I know you are not going to ask. What you are is a man who goes out and does what needs to be done. Even if it means killing a friend. You are the person they called because they most likely know what I know.”
“What is that?”
“That you will go.” She smiled and gently wiped the gel from his cheek. “Is she pretty?”
“Deadly and dead sexy. Doesn’t hold a candle to you.”
She kissed him on the cleaner cheek and smiled. “It is amazing you didn’t get elected with lines like that. Make the contact, be careful. I expect a full story when you get back.”
“In olden days a man would take a token of his ladies favor into battle.” Mike grinned.
“In those olden days said man would let a woman know he was considering her his lady, FIRST.” Dierdre sniffed at him then gave him another peck on the cheek and left him standing there, stunned.
“uh, yeah . . . .computer open channel to last caller . . . ”
“Beedoop `. . . b]uzzzzz”
Of all the parts of a computer to fail . . . the hard drive hurts the most. Mine just fried three very long days ago.
There is an oft ignored button in settings that lets you save overview. If I had used it I probably still would have lost it when the hard drive tanked. But I will use it once I get the settings done once more.
Better to have run and lost than not to have run at all is easier to say than to believe.
I do want to thank those who voted for me. Both of you were very nice.
grinning at himself