Quarentine writing ahoy! I recently moved, so I've been in self isolation, I've got another 10 days until I'm free. Or I'll have the 'rona either side I won't have to worry about rent, which is neat. Anyway, not much to say. Just had fun writing this, and I hope you have fun reading it. Please review if you think it's worth it and have a good day!
Also, let me know if any of you find the references in this one. One is obvious, and references a well known group, the other is much more subtle(some would question it being labeled a "reference" at all,) and the subject is not nearly as well known.
Commander Adris "Saytr" Uriel stood at in the Argo's Command Information Center, looking out over the Golden Hand's senior staff. Darius stood next to him, arms crossed over his data pad. Sumire, Yang, and Dekker, filled out the rest of the command positions, all of them looking over the Lance-Captains, senior mechtechs, and engineer team-leads that packed the CIC. Kamea was there, in the back, as far away from him as she could be and still be in the room. Saytr suppressed a grim chuckle. Behind the small crowd, the door to the CIC opened and Archangel entered and shook his head with a shug.
"Alright," Saytr sighed, drawing all eyes to him. "Looks like this is the best we can do. I've called you all here this morning to tell you all what direction the hand is taking." Saytr nodded to Darius, who tapped commands into the data pad. The glowing Holo-table in the center, used for command and control of the battlespace, flickered and displayed a planet. "Solaris VII." The Image zoomed out to show the greater solaris system, 12 points of light orbiting a larger glowing orb. "As you may know, we are playing host to a most esteemed guest after an attempt was made on her life." Saytr gestured to Kamea, in the back, She straightened slightly as all eyes turned to her. "But upon further investigation, thanks to Dekker and Witness," Dekker shifted his weight awkwardly. Since losing his leg, the Capellan noble had put much of his pride into his technical abilities, it stung to need help. "We tracked a signal from Lady Arano's attackers to Solaris VII." the seventh planet in the system glowed. "This," Saytr clarified, "is a trap."
A low murmur passed through those assembled. Saytr continued. "A trap for both Lady Arano, and myself." Kamea looked at him, from across the room, dark eyes unreadable and steady. "We believe the attack on Coromidir was orchestrated to force Lady Arano and myself together, in order to attack us both at once." another murmur, coloured with worry, rippled through the CIC. "We are currently en route to the Solaris system to investigate." Saytr gave the room a breath. "And more importantly, we are at war again," Saytr said flatly, he continued, not giving them time to dwell on the thought. "We're at war with a powerful and capable enemy of unknown origin and ability. I will not lie to you, this is as dangerous as any battle we faced in the Restoration." Saytr didn't realise he'd put his hand over his ribs until he jerked it away. The scars of that war ran deep in more than one way. "I will not ask for any to fight this war who do not wish to be involved in the ghosts of my own past." The Holotank in the center of the CIC zoomed out to show the vastness of the periphery, over fifty specks of light denoting the many systems near them, with a glowing line marking out their intended path through nearly a dozen systems. "During each of these system jumps, I will allow any who wish to disembark and make their own way." Saytr looked out over the attentive faces, none of them looked uncertain, or frightened. Saytr couldn't help but smile at that, a small proud thing. "My past is my own, I will not command anyone into its dangers who is not willing." Saytr looked over the assembled crowd. A weighty silence blanketing the CIC. then a hand shot up, shortly followed by a thick brogue.
"With respect, Sir, we ain't lett'n anyone fuck with yas." a chuckle went around the room, a bubble popping, tension dissipating.
Saytr let his smile grow to a gaudy, toothful thing. "Damn fine of you all" He barked. "Who are we?!"
"Luck's right hand!" the room snapped back.
"And who's like us?"Saytr boomed over the room. The response was immediate.
"None living!" the room roared back, and dissolved into cheers and laughter. Hands raised in clenched, victorious fists, or slapping the back of their neighbours cheerfully. Saytr's smile shrank down again when he saw Kamea cheering on with the Hand's motto just as loudly as anyone else. Her eyes found his and she smiled back, a small thing, just for him.
Olivai leaned back from her chair, suspended well over 30 meters above the Mechlab deck, as she inspected her work. She'd been resetting some wiring on the Atlas II that had been jostled loose during Behemoth's last deployment, it was one of the last things left to do before The Mech's ticket was finished. Her arms were suffused with a warm, gentle fatigue, a far cry from her earlier days. Finally getting used to doing real work. She told herself with a wry smile. She looked up at Mattias, who was hanging off the atlas in his own chair, working on the outside of the Atlas' iconic Death's Head.
"Hey, Hey! Mattais!" Olivai cupped her hands around her mouth. The perpetually sleepy mechtech looked down from his seat. "Come check this wiring before I weld the armour back in place.
Mattais didn't move from his spot at the Mech's head. "Finished?" He asked.
"I think so, I just want you to check it over and make sure." Olivai looked back at the mess, now no longer an actual mess, of wiring. Everything looked right, but if she missed something, it could spell the death of which ever mechwarrior used it next. It might be Behemoth.
"If you're done, you're done. If not, keep working." Mattais said, going back to his own work.
"That's why I'm asking you to check. I'm not sure!" Olivai retorted.
"You're good." Mattais didn't look away from what he was doing. "I am not your babysitter."
Olivai frowned, looking through the hole she'd cut in the Atlas' armour to get at the wiring. She'd replaced, and spliced all of the broken and burned out wires, reset the brackets holding the wiring in place along the interior of the mech's endo-structure. Everything looked safe, secure, and ready to drop.
Right? A worm of uncertainty worked its way through Olivai's gut. She stared through the hole, trying to pick out or think of anything, anything at all she might have missed. Did I rush any of it? Could I have done better? She reached in and tugged on a wire bracket. It didn't budge.
"Hey! Oli! Quit'n time! Vhann shouted up from the Mechlab deck. The lighthearted, buffalo of a man waved at her with a wide smile. His brown, shaggy hair pulled out of the tie that normally kept it out of the work. Now it hung over his eyes, with the elastic around his wrist. She waved back in acknowledgement Vhann turned and left with the rest of shift seven, the only other one was Mattais who was calmly finishing his own work. Olivai looked at her leaving teammates and then back to the wiring panel. Was it done? She wasn't sure. I mean, not 100% and if she was going to put Behemoth's life in danger, she had to be 100%.
Olivai glared at the exposed wiring now. Furiously trying to find her mistakes. She was the newest Mechtech, she had to have made mistakes.
Mattais' chair zipped down and bounced to a stop next to her. He glanced at the panel. "S'fine," he grunted, and then continued downward.
"You didn't even really look at it!" Olivai pleaded. "I just want you to-"
Mattais hopped off his mechtech chair and shrugged. "If you think you're done, you're done," he said simply, then he scooped up his coffee mug, took a long sip and headed out towards the mess.
Olivai looked from her retreating team-lead to the remnants of her work. She was done. There was nothing else to do… probably.
"No, I'm done, I know this, I've worked here well over two months. I can do basic wiring work." she told herself. She wasn't overly convincing. She reached under her chair for the welding torch and flipped her mask down before sparking it alight. The panel was deftly maneuvered back into place, and with a steady hand, She applied the torch to the crease between the panel and the rest of the Atlas' armour, and eased the filler into the space. She worked her way down, putting bead after bead of weld down, carefully, calmly. Then across, up, and back over. Once she was done she retracted the torch, and moved to the other side to pull out the grinder attachment, the welds needed to be blended off in order to keep stress concentrations from building on the outer layer of armour. Olivai flipped up her mask, but left on the goggles below, and manipulated the controls on her chair to bring her the grinder. A belt grinder built onto a frame that could create a temporary vacuum seal to sucker the grinder onto the workpiece, and let her keep her work flush with the rest of the area. The braced grinder made quick work of blending the welds, and inside 15 minutes, Olivai was hopping off the chair and swinging her mask in one hand in a jolly gait, trying very, very, hard not to think about the bundle of wiring she'd finished working on. Because she was done, and that was that.
The mess was filled with the crew coming off the day shift grind. A low babble of many voices packed the space with a comfortable fullness, just this side of being crowded. Olivai sat at the edge of the table Shift seven had claimed, quietly chewing her food. A slice of simulated beef and with small potatoes and assorted vegetables from the hydroponics lab. In most places it would be a standard, or perhaps even a rather spartan meal. But here, on a ship in deep space, it was a grand luxury. Made possible only by the Argo's advanced hydroponics and the mysterious Lostech that helped make this ship the legend it was.
Brigette plopped down on the other side of the table, next to Shuun, then dropped her head to the table with a clonk. Shuun's dark, tilted eyes warmed at the sight of the worn and wearied engineer.
"UGHHhhhh…" Brigette groaned into the table.
"Rough day? Shuun asked, rubbing slim hands on Brigette's back supportively.
"There was something wrong with the Hab pod's rotation system," Brigette told the table. "Chief Murad had me in the ducts all day, trying to find which hardpoint needed fixing." Shuun's thumb pressed into Brigette's back. The overworked engineer groaned appreciatively. "You have 4 hours to stop doing that," she warned. Shuun chuckled and turned to straddle the bench in order to more easily use both hands. Shuun's hands kneaded the tightened muscles in Brigette's back. The engineer moaned loudly, and turned around herself, scooting back to give Shuun better access to the twisted muscles. Olivai noticed a number of faces turn towards their table, smirks and knowing grins painted on them.
Olivai's own face flushed with heat. "Would you two do that somewhere else?
Shuun chuckled and reluctantly lifted her hands, only to have Brigette protest wordlessly. She reached up blindly to grab at Shuun's wrists and replace them on her back. Shuun looked at Olivai.
"Sorry, Oli," Shuun grinned, resuming her work on Brigette's back. "my hands are tied." She shrugged, "Y'know, so to speak."
Olivai grimaced as Brigette's moans filled the mess, paired with quiet laughter and snickering from the other tables. Olivai began shoveling her food into her mouth as fast as possible. If you can't beat them, avoid them entirely and hope the problem goes away on it's own. She thought grimly, sounds like a great plan. Oliavia jumped to her feet, her mouth still full of simbeef, and primely took her tray to the drop off. A fresh round of laughter passed around the mess, pushing another tide of heat into Olivai's face as calls for her to 'stay and watch the show.' chased her from the mess. A great and noble mercenary company they may be, the Golden Hand was full of...deviants. Oliavi marched out of the mess and headed towards the Simulation room for her daily training with Behemoth.
The older woman had been strangely distant lately, Olivai has assumed she was preoccupied with recovering from her sparring accident. The cast on her broken arm had come off yesterday, so Olivai hoped they would go back to normal. She missed her friend.
The simulation room was largely empty, there was one pod in the far corner alight, but closed off, they wouldn't see, or likely even notice, Olivai enter a pod. There was no one else. Behemoth would normally be waiting for her. She's probably still feeling off from her injuries, Olivai reasoned. She could still practise, at least. Olivai slipped into a pod, in the back corner, away from everything else, and sealed herself in. After a moment of darkness The UI booted, filled the pod with a pale, sallow light. Olivai chose the Locust-1M and the pod Hummed around her as the simulation began. Her seat vibrated slightly, and fans blew air into her face. Which would even become hotter as the simulated mech overheated, though it would never get as hot as an actual mech might get. A verdant forest appeared through the Locust's cockpit windows, and orders to scout the enemy position appeared on her HUD. Olivai carefully set the mech into a trot, and readied her weapons.
The best mechwarrior ever. She told herself. The best.
Behemoth groaned into her pillow. Her rooms were dark, and cold, suddenly very, very loud. A shrill, insistent beeping ripped Behemoth back through the comforting doors of sleep. She tried to lift her head to locate the offending communicator, and was rewarded by a wave of nausea and a fresh tide of pain pounding on the inside of her skull. She dropped her head back into the welcoming softness of her bed and groaned. Her tongue felt like it was made of sandpaper, while the rest of her mouth was full of cotton, she blindly swung her fist towards the sound of the ringing communicator, hoping to crush the damned thing. But missed. Her hand hit something cool and hard, which toppled with the deep clink of an empty bottle, which was joined by its twin in a moment.
The shrill beeping stopped. "Uhhg" behemoth grunted into her pillow. Thank the gods. Blessed silence returned to join the darkness. It was a good thing she had next to nothing to do during their long transit to Solaris, only a handful of sims to run with her lance, and a general expectation to stay in shape and train.
Behemoth sighed and snuggled deeper into the softness of her bed. She was going to just lie there and try to not die until her hangover was gone-
Behemoth's door snapped open, a cool, synthetic voice announcing "command override accepted." Light poured in and slammed through Behemoth's eyelids, the battered mechwarrior groaned and tried to burrow deeper into the bed.
"Hi Behemoth!" A loud, cheery, stupid, annoying voice said. The sound of Adris barging into her rooms stabbed into Behemoth's ears, was he intentionally kicking everything in his way? "And yes, I'm intentionally kicking things!" Behemoth's irritating Commander stated happily.
Behemoth blind fired a pillow in Adris' general direction.
"Shut it, Ads," she grumbled. "...Too early for this…"
"Its three hours into the night cycle." Adris rebutted with a chuckle. "Hey, wanna know why I'm here?"
Behemoth managed to crack a single eye to see her commander standing over her bed, wearing a simple work shirt with his sleeves cuffed up to his elbows, sturdy pants and well worn boots. He was smiling. Shit, that was never a good sign.
"What did I miss?" Behemoth asked finally.
"Senior staff meeting. Archangel subbed in for your lance."
Behemoth closed her eye. "Cool, Archie's got it covered," she sighed, and waved her hand blindly. "He's my spaniel", she said into the pillow. A soft beep from Adris heralded her communicator going off again, only it seemed louder and more annoying.
"Oh hey, cool, I can make it louder from this end," Adris told her proudly. "Neat huh?"
"Fine." Behemoth grunted. "I'm getting up." Her arms and legs felt like they were made out of lead and… pain. She managed to roll out of bed and onto the deck. The cold floor chilled her exposed skin.
"Here." Adris said, and a wad of clothing wapped! Into her face. "Get dressed. You have 3 minutes. The door to her bedroom opened and closed behind him.
Five minutes later, Behemoth struggled out of her bedroom into the sitting area. Her holoscreen projector was cracked and her liquor cabinet bore several new stains she didn't remember making. No less than four empty bottles, two wine, and two of the hard stuff. Stood on the small table in front of her couch, which was littered with strewn clothing and, oddly enough the shattered glass of a broken picture. Her picture of her last company, before the Hand. Adris stood in the center, arms crossed, glaring at the mess. His ire shifted to her as she entered. "I said three minutes," he stated flatly.
"Sure did, boss." Behemoth confirmed as she tottered over to her coffee maker. She stared at the many buttons and dials, screens and options for a moment.
"Figured you'd need this." Adris set a tall polymer travel mug, wisps of steam rising from the top off its inky black contents.
"Gods bless you." She gingerly picked up the mug with both hands and made her way over to brush the glass off the couch before sitting. Behemoth sifted the picture out of the mess and held it carefully. Why had I-? She couldn't even remember that, or the stains, what had she thrown? Or spilled? No, spilled. There was no broken glass on the floor, or significant damage to the cabinet.
Adris glared at her. "I know, I know…" Behemoth muttered into the mug, taking a careful sip. She blanched. "Bleah! Who made this? Tastes like burnt motor oil."
Adris smirked. "Yang's boy. The quiet one."
Behemoth took another sip without commenting. She had always enjoyed drinking, sometimes, in deep space, it was the only real thing to do besides… Behemoth's thumb stroked the picture of her last company fondly, herself standing behind a young woman with dark skin, enveloping her in a powerful embrace. They were both smiling then. How long had it been?
Adris picked up one of the bottles, turning it over in his hands, inspecting it. His eyes flicking around the room at the others.
"Yeah, yeah, I know,." Behemoth sighed in exasperation. "I shouldn't." She sat back into the couch, cradling the coffee mug like a precious child. "I didn't mean to, ok? It just sort of… happened." Adris nodded mutely, and placed the bottle back on the table. He meandered around the room. Tipping the gash can to peer inside. Behemoth knew what was in there, but the symphony of clattering glass announced it to the room. He looked back at her, his eyes remarking silently.
"So?" Behemoth defended herself through gritted teeth. "I can make a mistake more than once, that's why it's a mistake."
Adriss nodded again. He strode back to the couch and carefully sat after brushing away the broken glass. Behemoth took another sip, making sure he couldn't see the red on her face. Heat poured down into the center of her, warming her, holding her. Adris fingered the broken picture frame and glanced at the picture held between her fingers.
Behemoth's finger flipped the picture over, then turned it back over again. That smiling face stared up at her, an accusation "I, uh… I don't remember." Behemoth murmured. She could hear the insufferable man's eyebrows raise a fraction. "Yes, I know how that sounds."
Adris sighed, sat back, and put a hand on her shoulder. It was solid, warm. They sat there together for a long, quiet moment. He had things to do, places to be, but he was here. And he'd stay until he wasn't needed. Behemoth buried her face in her cup. He was a good commander. "Thanks, boss." she said, after a moment. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Adris smile, not smirk, but a pleased, genuine smile.
Behemoth knew what had to happen, but knowing didn't make it easier. She knew what Adris expected of her, but it still made her want to hit him. A quick glance at her commander showed a soft expression, but hard, uncompromising eyes. No, that would be the entirely wrong decision, today.
A long, pained sigh hissed through her teeth.
"Alright, fine." she snapped softly. "I'm sorry, I know I fucked up. I won't do it again." Adris arched a single eyebrow. "I'll try not to do it again," she amended. Adris squeezed her shoulder and stood. Adris got to her door and turned, a soft, genuine smile on his face.
"Good talk, Miranda." he said, and left.
"Mh." Behemoth wordless raised her cup in thanks and the door closed behind him. Sealing her in.
And while it was a blessing to be free of the man, a tiny voice inside her mind wondered if she wouldn't rather have him around. A distraction from the dark thoughts brewing. Behemoth scowled at the picture, at the tall, brash woman hugging Rose like nothing else in the world mattered.
With a flick of her wrist, Behemoth sent the picture sailing across the room. Her head hurt enough for today. Her heart could wait for a bit.
Olivai pushed the locust 1-M into a light trot, the tiny mech eating kilometers even at it's relatively sedate pace. If there's one thing a locust is good at, it's moving. Behemoth had told her when she complained at her choice in mech. Only faster thing on two feet is a flea, and I don't want you that close to the fight until you've got more experience. The locust moved along a narrow band of green, caught between a rushing river to her right, rolling hills to her left. The simulation was an assassination contract against a retreating Steiner Mechwarrior. Her Lance was comprised of all medium weight battlemechs apart from hers: a Centurion, a Blackjack, and an Enforcer. Each of the mechs were modeled after existing modified mechs in the Hand's stables. The Centurion was made for medium short range, sporting medium lasers, SRM 6's and an AC/5, the Blackjack was kitted for directline fire support, with hugely expensive UAC/5s, and the Enforcer was the Lance's brawler, with an AC/10, and an array of medium lasers replacing the stock large laser.
The rough location of their target was nearing, ahead of her a smaller river joined the larger, coming in from the hills.
Olivai eased her mech to bear left and trudged up the hill to get a better view. At the crest, she looked down over a wide river valley widing inland. The Locust's advanced sensor suite did it's work and a large, intimidating form appeared on her HUD. still several kilometers distant, the computer spat out a likely chassis prediction from the mech's silhouette. An Orion, a true beast among heavy mechs. A brawler through and through, though they sometimes mounted LRMs to handle more distant threats.
"Argo-1, move up and engage at distance," She ordered into the simulator. Advance AI driving the Centurion moved it up into the basin of the river valley. "Argo-2, keep out of sight until you have a shot, you can't stand toe to toe with that thing." The enforcer ambled up behind the Centurion. "Argo-3, keep the high ground, and hit'em with everything you got." The Blackjack turned and shot up into the air with the dull roar of jump jets. It landed on the opposite side of the river valley as Olivai.
The river wound inland through the valley and terminated at a bowl canyon with sheer, rocky cliffs on three sides, the Orion sat square in the center of it. It would be a perfect kill box for their target.
The Simulation pod bounced gently side to side as Olivai throttled up into a jog, cruising along the top of the valley towards the end of the canyon. She would keep her distance and harass the big mech from afar, she was equipped for just that, and getting too close to guns that big could be a death sentence. One lucky AC10 round could core her little locust.
Below, the centurion moved into visual range of the orion, it moved first rumbling to a stop in a thicket of dense forest. Bra-da-dack! A deep, gatling boom echoed through the canyon. A burst of AC5 fire. A burst of sparks erupt from the Orion's left shoulder. Distant rumblings paired with a hail of AC2 fire raining down on the heavy Mech. More than it seemed should fit on a simple Blackjack. The flurry of rounds slammed into the the thick armor, ripping off chunks of steel and punching holes the size of Olivai's arm into it.
The Orion didn't seem to mind. It took a handful of steps backward into a thicket and settled its weight into a defensive stance. Ready to take punishment. The enforcer kicked up dust as it rumbled into position, keeping out of sight and tucking itself behind a sheersided cliff. The orion could reach it, but to do so would put it in an unfavourable position against the centurion and the Blackjack.
Olivai sped around the lip of the canyon, the Locust's long legs easily eating ground under her. She flicked on her targeting computer and selected her twin batteries of LRM5's. Olivai pulled on the leg control and the locust slid to a halt, grinding up a meter of topsoil under its steel feet. She gritted her teeth, and took aim at the vulnerable rear armour of the heavy mech below. She had to aim with one hand, while trying to keep her mech steady with her other hand. It was not unlike trying to pick a lock while simultaneously building a castle of playing cards.
A dull roar rushed through her chassis as ten missiles flashed away into the sky, momentarily blinding her until they became a cluster of bright specks coiling in on the back of their target. A toccata of explosions splashed into the canyon, the Orion could barely react before another volley of AC2 rounds pelted it from the front. The centurion moved as far as it could and still have time to fire, moving closer into the river, before opening up with every single weapon on the heavily armed mech. Individual weapon's retorts all blended into a single, violent, roar as SRMs, AC5 rounds, and lasers seared across the battlefield and crashed into the orion. An impressive display, but the readied orion shrugged it off with relative ease the cracks and craters in it's armour only showing more underneath. It would be a long, drawn out fight, but they could do it. The Orion straightened, and spun it's torso to face the centurion, and a maelstrom of fire erupted. An alphastrike, in response to the Centurion's. The medium mech ducked under lasers and shouldered through short range missiles. But when a single, massive AC10 round slammed into it's center, it took a half step back. Olivai frowned worriedly, that was an unlucky hit.
The enforcer took advantage of the Orion's focus it's lancemate, and moved out of cover, to unleash its own alphastrike. 4 medium lasers, and an AC10 lit the canyon with eyeblink flashes before striking true on the Orion, Olivai grinned. Luck! Almost by chance, both the AC10 and 2 of the lasers struck the center of their target, causing massive damage. Armour was stripped off wholesale, and electric arcs could be seen even from Olivai's vantage. They definitely had this, it was as good as in the bag!
"Enemy reinforcements detected." a cool, feminine voice said into Olivai's cockpit. A tactical map if the area showed a new blip in the AO, an unknown mech, on a ridge flanking Olivai's position.
The blip slowly moved up, and approached the hill beside her. Olivai's eyes widened.
Death's head crested over the hill.
Olivai pulled as hard as she could on the stick. Her limbs shook with the effort, and droplets of sweat popped out of her skin.
Olivai managed to get her Locust turned around and moving away from the Atlas Mech, for it was the Behemoth itself that was now standing atop the hill, watching her run at a dead sprint.
Below, in the canyon, the Orion turned, stoutly weathering the storm of weapon fire that lit the canyon with violent flashes. The heavy mech turned it's cockpit directly at Olivai, sprinting along the lip of the canyon.
Olivai managed to hear that emotionless, synthetic voice say, "Sensor lock detected," before an ear shattering explosion ripped through the cockpit, through her viewscreens, fire enveloped the world.
Olivai opened one eye, only realizing now that she had clenched them both shut, in preparation of the simulated explosion of her center torso ripping through the simulation pod. She sat back in the pod's chair, releasing a similar tension in her jaw. Her teeth ached now. Great.
Olivai popped the sim pod door and swung her legs out to stand on surprisingly shaky knees. She leaned on the side of the pod and took a moment to breath. Say what you will about training outside of a real mech, these pods were… immersive. Sweat poured from her, and her heart pounded on the inside of her ribcage. For a moment, she had forgotten she wasn't actually in the simulation. Once she'd caught her breath, Olivai checked the simulation parameters that she'd set before starting the simulation. She frowned, there was nothing about reinforcements in her set up, so why had-?
"Something I had Farah add in to the programs." a smile-laden voice said. Olivia turned to see Commander Uriel, Sir Saytr, leaning in the open door leading to the hall.
"I'm sorry? Sir, I mean, I'm sorry sir…?" Olivai trailed off on a questioning note, unsure if she was, correcting herself or apologising for disrespect. A red heat creeped up her neck.
Commander Uriel brushed past her and tapped on the simulation's controls. "When Farah installed these, I made sure to add a possibility for events not put into the initial parameters to happen." The Commander flicked through the simulation history, replaying the last moments of Olivai's rather disastrous mission. "This was an ambushing scout lance. Sent to support the target."
Olivai frowned. "That's not fair! I'm just learning. I couldn't be expected to survive that." She glared at Commander Uriel until she realized who she was talking to, then lowered her eyes, abashed. "Oh, I-I'm sorry, Sir." This time, she was apologising, and the heat had flushed across her cheeks.
Commander Uriel chuckled, a deep rich sound in his chest. That sound along made her smile. It sounded to her like chocolate tasted. "No, you couldn't have won that." He agreed. "Which is why I made sure it could happen." The warmth on his face faded. "You just died." His voice was flat and hard. "It wasn't fair, and you never really had a chance, but it happened anyway." Olivai frowned. If that had been real… Despite the sweat still running down her face, Olivai shivered.
Saytr's dark eyes bored into hers like icy augers. "This is why I don't take rookie mechwarriors anymore," Saytr said, his gaze softened. "Too many dead kids."
Olivai watched Saytr, his eyes were pointed at her, but he wasn't really looking at her. He didn't seem to be looking at anything, in fact. Something far away, or perhaps too close.
Olivai leaned in. "Well…" she started. Commander Uriel's snapped back into focus. He blinked and gently shook his head, "tossing off cobwebs", her mother said. Olivai continued. "I'm not dead, yet, Commander Uriel." the Commander chuckled again, a measure of warmth returning to the older, solidly built, man.
His hand felt warm and strong against the top of her head. "No, kid, no you're not." A warm, fluttery feeling glowed inside her middle.
Something He said earlier made her frown. "Wait, you said a scout lance ambushed me. That was an atlas." she said incredulously.
"You were opposite House Steiner, weren't you?" he chuckled and brushed past her. Olivai leaned back as he left, keeping his hand on her head for as long as possible." Saytr didn't turn around or stop, but just waved back to her, the door shut with a sharp hiss behind him. Olivai let out a sigh she hadn't realized she was holding.
"Stupid, atlas, showing up, ruining my day…" Olivai muttered into the now empty room. Her failure in the sim stung, she couldn't run a simulation, properly, she couldn't fix a mech correctly, she was sure. She tiredly brushed her hair back, slicking her hair back with sweat. Olivia grimaced, she needed a shower. But if you're already dirty… she thought, then a yawn nearly cracked her jaws open. The mess probably had some coffee on by now for the night shift.
Behemoth wandered through the Argo. She wasn't doing anything in particular, just going where her feet took her. It was nice to get out of her rooms. I wonder where Olivai is now. She checked the time, then winced. Normally, they would be in the simulation pods together, training her for becoming a Mechwarrior. Olivai had progressed by leaps and bounds in the past months, surpassing even trained mechwarriors with her skills. At least the ones with bad training, Behemoth chuckled to herself. Olivai was still very much a beginner, but a promising one. She had to hone her basics, then find out what role she was suited to, and she could be a great Mechwarrior. If she doesn't get killed first… the dark thought swirled in her mind, just below the surface, like some deepwater predator, foul and misshapen. Theirs was a dangerous life, and even the best could fall when the job caught up to them. Suffice to say, the list of retired mechwarriors was very, very short. The only one she could think of that even came close to being retired was Adris, and that was only because he was too busy with the logistics of keeping the Hand moving and being the tactical advisor for deployed lance-captains. Though she supposed Dekker might count as well, though, he'd only stopped because of his injury. That thought put a shiver through her, if she couldn't serve anymore, what would she do? Teach? A wry grunt twisted her lip. The last time she'd been put in charge of trainee's had not gone well. She was not a good teacher, at least not usually. It was easier to teach when you really believe in your student. And when you're desperate to spend time with her. That deepwater voice whispered in her ear.
Behemoth peeked her head into the first lounge, a smattering of tables, chairs, couches, and a large holoscreen at one end. Fewer than half of the seats were occupied and a low, tired murmur filled the space. When Behemoth looked in, that murmur fell silent, and every eye turned to stare at her. Behemoth recognised that wary look, she'd spent much of her adult life cultivating a reputation to earn it, after all. But now those looks seeded a nervous energy in her gut. It took only a little effort to keep her face still and hard, as if she were on the hair's edge of anger, but not quite there. But it did take effort, which was unusual. The frown made her act more convincing, however, and before Behemoth ducked out of the lounge, more than one occupant looked away to avoid her gaze. Olivai wasn't here, not that she was looking for the younger woman, just wandering around to stretch her legs, to work her way through her hangover. The muscles in Behemoth's legs stretched and worked, giving her the hint of pleasing strain in her legs. She needed to hit the gym again, she hadn't been back since her spar with Dekker, and she was beginning to feel antsy. The second lounge was empty,save for a bare handful of junior Mechwarriors playing cards in the back. None of them were in her lance, and she'd only served with one, a genial, and smooth cheeked young man, little more than a boy, that never seemed to stop smiling. Irritating, but a good shot. Behemoth ignored the call from him to join the game and moved on. She couldn't quite bring his callsign to mind, Quick-something? Trick? Trick-line? It was stupid, whatever it was.
Behemoth checked the time again, normally, Olivai would still be training with her. The few times they had worked together since their… disagreement, in the medbay, they had gone well into the night cycle, she should be there still.
By chance, the sim pods they normally used was coming up. She could just check in, nothing improper about checking in while on a walk, right?
Behemoth stood at the door, worked her face into a light, easy going smile, and smacked the door control, the door snapped open with a hiss.
The room was dark. The grid of simulators empty, unused. Behemoth's smile fell. Hm. she thought. She wasn't sad to not see Olivai, because she wasn't actually looking for her, just going on a wandering walk with no goal. It would have been nice, right? It was hard to forget the way Olivai had glared at her, when Behemoth had made a fool of herself. How could you call her stupid while she was laying in a hospital bed? You're the stupid one! The deepwater voice snapped at her. Her gut twisted, and she stomped away. She probably still had a bottle of-
Behemoth squeezed her eyes shut. No, that wasn't the solution, however easy it was. She pinched the bridge of her nose and tried to think. She needed somewhere to think. The answer to that question was easy enough. There was only one place she could really settle her mind to think.
Behemoth's walk was no longer a directionless meander. Her long legs steadily eat through the meters to her destination.
Predictably, the mechlab was dark, and almost entirely quiet when Behemoth entered. Almost all of the mechtechs were on the day cycle shift, with only a few on staff for the night cycle. Those that were here were more interested in making sure nothing exploded while the larger workforce was asleep. That, and making sure nosy Mechwarriors didn't come in and futz with the work during the quiet hours.
Before Behemoth took two steps onto the mechdeck and a mousy little boy that didn't come up past her chin scurried over to her.
"Excuse me, ma'am, you can't-" Behemoth turned on her heel and stared down at him, putting every ounce of, Do. Not. Fuck. With. Me., she had into it.
The young man squeeked and promptly vanished back behind a bank of monitors and computers. Behemoth kept walking towards the first row of mech cradles. Where the heaviest, and most powerful mechs were kept. Right there, on the far left, was her target, her Atlas II. the lights were low, to save energy, most of the machine was swathed in blackness. Only the Death's head was illuminated. A grim visage glaring at all the worlds, daring them to try their luck. The lift took her up to the highest scaffolds with a jolt. The walk across them to the Atlas was tinged with excitement, her heart fluttered in her chest, filling with energy. Usually, this walk was done just before a deployment, her body was getting ready to fight, it was getting ready to die. Behemoth took a deep, steadying breath, it was… comforting. She was a woman of action, she always thought better when she was in the thick of it. All of the extras in life, the pointless thoughts, useless ideas, they all fell away in the moment, it gave her a clarity she envied when she was back aboard. Then, the thoughts came back, complicated, messy. Desires, opinions, questions, all of the things that made life harder, in her opinion. Why couldn't every day be life or death? It'd be so much easier. She chuckled, well aware of how strange the thought was, but she couldn't disagree. Fighting, she was good at, she knew it. It was simple, put the other guy down before they put you down. She lived and breathed violence. Peace… peace was much harder. She leaned on the guard rail of the scaffold, obsteibly looking at the altas, but anyone could see that faraway look in her eyes.
"Stupid!?" Olivai snapped, her eyes flashing hotly. "Well excuse me for worrying about you!"
"What? N-No." She wasn't actually calling Olivai stupid, it was just that Adris would never leave- "I just mean that-"
"You were thinking I'm a silly little girl and I shouldn't worry my stupid head about my missing friend!" Olivai ended in a shout, Behemoth could see pearls glistening under her eyes, and an angry red flush rose across her cheeks. She had to make this right.
"Well," She tried to play it off smoothly, yeah, that would work. What did Dekker call it? Deescalation? That sounded right. "I was just-"
"I'm tired." Olivai said flatly. If Behemoth had known better, she might have thought it sounded like an order. "I want to get some sleep." The young woman, little more than a girl really, turned over, her back to Behemoth, and drew the blankets over her shoulder, the thin fabric as effective a wall as bricks.
It couldn't have been an order, because Behemoth didn't take orders from anybody except Adris, Yang, and, sometimes reluctantly, Darius. But Behemoth pushed her chair back and stood. She looked at Olivai's back, she wanted to pick the woman up and shake sense in to her. She hadn't meant to offend Olivai. She needed to tell her that, to make her intentions clear, she opened her mouth to speak.
"I'll, uh, see you later," she said, lamely.
The door closing behind her had an air of finality to it, as soon as Behemoth was sure that nobody inside could see her, she let out a puff of air and deflated against the wall.
"Stupid…" she muttered, "Yeah, yeah I am." She scowled. That wasn't fair. She didn't mean to- she just had to explain-. Angerous, frustrated energy swirled inside her, like a swarm of angry hornets. She started walking towards the gym, towards the sparring ring. She had some energy to burn.
Behemoth looked down at her arm, newly freed from it's cast. A large splotch of yellow, barely visible, ran the length of her forearm. Nothing that would scar. But this was a good reminder, at least for now. A peace-time idiot. That's what you are. The deepwater voice cackled. The irony is that the answer was simple, but not necessarily easy. Confrontation, but as with any attack, there was risk. Of counterattack, or there was no opening to exploit, if she opened up for an attack, and there was no gap in the walls, nothing to hold onto, she could break against those walls. If they didn't let her in.
Behind her arm, a bright speck flashed below her, some 20 meters down. Followed by a dull hiss, like someone cracking open a beer that never stopped fizzing. Behemoth looked down at a single shape, lit harshly from the side, sitting in a Mechtech hoist, working on the side of the Atlas. That was odd. The logs said work on it had finished during the day cycle. Behemoth wasn't sure what they were doing, Mechtechs needed to know. She only needed to hit people. Curiosity kept her still and quiet. She hadn't noticed them coming in, they'd hadn't really made any noise, and the darkness below was good enough for any night-op. She watched for a moment, simply interested in the puzzle of their presence.
The silence in the mechbay weighed on Behemoth's mind. It was like a physical thing, a heavy blanket covering the world. It was such an encompassing thing that the sound of efficient work coming from the lone mechtech only served to punctuate it. Each mechanical whine, or chemical crack from the torch only filling the space momentarily, with the echo of kenopsia close on its heels. That strange emptiness of a place, normally so bustling with energy, fallen silent.
The door out of the mechlab, and someone entered. From her vantage, she couldn't see their face, but they were holding a mug in one hand, so Behemoth mentally put ten Cbills on it being Mathais. The newcomer walked with purpose towards her mystery worker. They didn't even look at the young boy, still hiding behind the mechlab monitors, where Yang normally held court of his kingdom. Maybe-Mathais marched to the foot of her Atlas and easily called down a hoist. It descended from the ceiling, zipping past her with a steel-wire whine. In a few moments, Mathais was sitting next to the worker. Someone from Olivai's shift, he was her lead, right? Behemoth quietly sat, her legs dangling through the bars of the guard rail. Curiously looking down. The cutting torch fell silent, and a clamp lifted up a section of Battlemech armour. A small lamp clicked on, a dim, pale thing compared to the light of the torch, and the mystery worker leaned in to inspect the insides.
Quiet voices drifted up, muted by distance.
"Shift's over." It was Mathais. Behemoth chuckled internally and an imaginary C-bill swapped hands.
"I know." Behemoth blinked. That was Olivai. What was she doing here at this hour? She would normally be finished her training and heading to her bunk by now. Invigorated but tired. She almost never missed training. The few times she did she had been sour-tempered all night and day until she'd gotten back into the simulator again.
"You're still here." It wasn't phrased as a question, but it was one.
"I just had to double check." Olivai said absently. No, trying to sound absent. There was a tightness to her words.
"If you're finished, you're finished."
"I'm finished when the work is done." Olivai retorted flatly. Leaning out and picking something out of her hoist, then going back in.
Everyone was quiet for a long moment, only the sounds of Olivai's effort occasion reaching her.
"You've never stayed late before." Mathais noted.
"Never had to double check my own work," Olivai replied acidly, her comment very much pointed sharply at Mathais.
"You stopped making mistakes." Mathais' voice shrugged.
"But I still can." Olivai said. Her voice carried a note of pain. "I'm not an expert like you, or Shuun, or Yang. Did you see how fast Vhann finished his wiring?" Olivai sounded… angry. Behemoth couldn't see what was angering the young woman. Was she still angry at her? "I'm the newest, the worst. I can't-" Behemoth frowned.
"You think I'm stupid?" Mathais asked, cutting through Olivai's tirade. He somehow managed to sound both tired, and offended at the same time.
"Hm?" Olivai seemed to suffer whiplash from the sudden subject change. "N-no! Of course not!" She said hotly. "I never said anything like that-"
"I say you're good enough." Mathais said flatly, well, more flat than normal. He took a deep breath. The lamp re-emerged from inside the battlemech. Matthias's voice was calm, steady, and anything but tired. "You are new, but you're, clever, talented, and an excellent worker. I stopped checking your work simply because you stopped making mistakes that needed correcting. I know this isn't what you want to be doing, but you're doing it well, and learning the lessons that you need to in order to take you into the life you want. Strength, work ethic, determination, dedication to a craft. These are all things that make you a good mechtech, and in time, will help you become an excellent Mechwarrior."
It was perhaps the longest Behemoth had ever heard Mathais speak in a single sitting. Perhaps more than she'd ever heard him speak before at all. And the strangest thing was it was exactly what she thought of Olivai.
"How do I know I'm done, though?" Olivai asked. Behemoth had to strain to hear her, she sounded so small… delicate. "If nobody checks to make sure I haven't made a mistake, how can I ever know?"
"You trust yourself."
Olivia snorted, "well, I've proven I can't afford to do that. I can't even survive a single simulation, or, or… anything." A sigh drifted up to Behemoth.
"Why are you so frightened of making a mistake?" Mathais asked.
"It's this mech…" Olivai said. "It's her's. If I mess something up on this mech, and She uses it…" another long stretch of silence. From this distance Behemoth could not tell what was happening below.
"I can't kill my… my best friend, Mathais. I can't." Behemoth couldn't stop a small smile from growing on her lips. Olivai didn't hate her. Behemoth felt a pang of irritation at how much that warmed her insides. She was supposed to be a strong mechwarrior, dammit. She shouldn't be feeling all warm and fuzzy inside because some cute mechtech girl said she likes her.
"You won't." Mathais said matter of factly. "They'll check tomorrow."
"They check. Diagnostics. Tomorrow."
"Are you serious!?" Olivai lamented
"Then why make me go through all this?! Why not tell me?" She demanded.
"You needed to learn to trust your judgement," Mathais said with another shrug.
"Jesus…" Olivai muttered, and hurried motion became obvious. The cabled holding the removed section of armour spooled down and Olivai's welding torch sparked alight. In short order the armour panel was replaced and Olivai, still grumbling loudly about, "stupid life lesson bullshit," dropped her hoist down to march back out of the mechlab. Mathais slowly followed her. Moving as if every action was a deliberate, thought out choice. The cables holding his mechchair slowly spooled down, bringing him down to the mechdeck inch by inch.
The cables swung slightly as Mathais stood clear of the chair, and Behemoth watched the dim shape slowly make his way towards the door he had come from. When he got about half way, he stopped. Behemoth watched curiously. Mathais turned around, and looked up, directly at her.
"Impolite to eavesdrop." He shouted up, then turned around and continued walking.
Behemoth was glad of the darkness that hid the red flush across her cheeks. Normally the embarrassment would tighten her jaw in anger, but it was difficult to be angry with that warm fuzzy butterfly feeling in her gut. She simply stood and waited for Mathais to exit before making her own way out, a slight skip in her step.
The next day, Olivai's shift had the day off, typical for the day after finishing a large project like the Atlas. Apparently, it was the day that they ran diagnostics, and any mistakes that were caught would be assigned to the individual mechtechs that made those mistakes.
Because they had finished a large refit, her shift, and all the others involved in refiting the Atlas, were given special meals for the day, lunch was simulated beef and fresh potatoes grown in the Argo's hydroponics.
"Oli!" a gruff voice boomed through the mess. Chief Virtanen stood in the entrance glaring, The room had fallen into utter stillness, every face was now firmly fixed on Olivai, her cheeks bulging with beef and potatoes. It took her several agonizing seconds to work her meal down, and when she finally swallowed and tried to speak, something caught in her throat and she spent another moment coughing. After what felt like hours, Olivai caught her breath and stood.
"A word," Chief grunted and turned heel, rapping his bulky metal prosthetic on the door control with a crack and marching out. Olivai hastily got to her feet and followed. Feeling the weight of every single pair of eyes on her, it felt like she was trying to carry a whole atlas on her back.
At a jog she caught up to Chief Virtanen in the halls. "You, uh, wanted to speak to me, Chief?" She inquired. A twisting in her gut told her what this was going to be about. The Chief mechtech didn't say anything, only jerked his head to guide her down the next corner with him. They were headed towards the mechlab. Her stomach fell out. This was it. She had made some critical error. "Chief, I know. I can fix it, whatever it was. I know I shouldn't have left it like that I just didn't see anything else I could do-" She clicked her teeth shut to stop herself from talking more, Chief Virtanen looked over at her and frowned . Idiot! She berated. Now you're just admitting to him you're incompetent!
The door to the mechlab stood open, and Chief led her to the bay that held the atlas. Two Mechtech chairs waited for them. Chief dropped onto one, and pointed harshly at the other. "In" Olivai meekly sat. "Up." with his other hand, he deftly manipulated the controls to send the chair up.
Olivai's gut sank even further, which she had not thought possible, when she saw where Chief had stopped. She had known, after all there was no reason to do all of this if it were not the case, but seeing it felt like a nail in her coffin. They both stopped just past thirty meters off the deck, right at the spot where Olivai had been working. The fresh grind was obvious. A neat square of armour plating with a bright burnished border. "So," Chief Virtanen looked at her work. "You want to be a mechwarrior?"
Olivai swallowed. "Uhh, yes, Chief."
Yang Virtanan's broad face swung to fix, dark almond shaped eyes fixed her with a hard stare. "You sure?"
Sweat popped out onto her forehead. Olivai swallowed. Her throat was so so dry. When was the last time she had a drink? "I- uhhhh... " Chief's face was unreadable. It looked carved from battlemech armour. It made Olivai feel very, very small. "Yeees? She drew the word out, wishing it didn't sound so much like a question in and of itself.
Chief looked back at her work. "Shame." He said with a sigh. Pain wrenched at Olivai's heart, this was where he told her to pack her things, that she wasn't worthy of being a mechwarrior or a mechtech. Where would she go? Her parents couldn't take her in, not after- she didn't have anyone else. How would she make a living-
"I always hate losing talented mechtechs." Chief sighed.
Olivai blinked. "You hate losing talented m-whats?" She asked.
"Everyone wants to be the big dashing mechwarrior." Virtanen muttered. "Nobody stops to think how long they'd last if people like us didn't keep their 'grand and noble weapons' in working order" he grimaced and shook his head, but when he looked at Olivia he smiled. "But every hot head in the hot seat that understands what goes on in the Mechlab is a win in my books." He slapped her workspace with his metal prosthetic, creating a sharp crack of metal on metal. "This is good work."
Relief. The tension in her chest snapped and the world blurred behind fat, watery tears. Olivai tried to blink them away but more always came. "Oh…" She didn't know what to say. Olivai sniffed, she must look an altogether mess. "Tha…" she squeezed her eyes shut. "Thank you, chief."
"Oh, uh, yeah. No problem." Chief said, obviously feeling uncomfortable. "I wasn't try'n to- uh…You ok?" Yang asked.
Olivai sniffed. "Yes, Chief, i'm just happy I didn't- I thought I had-" She sniffed in again. "I didn't want to let you down, sir." She flung her arms around Yang. It was a little like hugging a brick pillar, the man was so solid, and his prosthetic was cold and dug into her arm. Yang stiffened as the young woman flung herself around him. He froze, then carefully patted her head. "There... there?" Olivai chuckled, he was as good with people as Mathais pretended to be.
Olivai pulled herself away from Yang and wiped the tears from her eyes. He seemed to be looking at something behind and below her. "I'm sorry sir, It's just been a challenging few days."
"No-uh, it's fine." Chief Virtanen muttered. "Totally normal. Happens all the time." he laughed, a little too loudly, and began working the controls on his chair. "I'm just going to go, and uh, do mech… fix...ing."
Chief zipped down and bounded onto the mech deck and began walking towards a middle aged woman standing just inside the mechlab. She had a stern face, and silvery grey hair cut short just below her ears. She held herself straight and tall. If she were anywhere else Olivai might have thought she was a noble born lady Olivai frowned as she descended herself. The woman turned to Chief as he approached, seemingly trying to explain something. The silver haired woman stared at him for a moment, her expression unreadable, then threw her head back and laughed. Yang seemed confused, but happy, then suddenly very worried when the woman brushed past him and made for Olivai.
Oliavi had to crane her neck back only a little to keep eye contact with the approaching woman. She was tall, but not as tall as Behemoth, so she was used to it.
"I see you're close with Yang." She stated in a smooth english accent. .
It took Olivai a moment to remember Chief Virtanen's first name. "Yes, Ma'am?" She wasn't sure why this information was relevant. "He's a good Chief, I like working with him very much. Who are-?"
"Dr. Karin Chawkas," She said cooly and held out a hand, which Olivai took, "Currently... involved with your… Chief."
Olivai blinked once, then twice. Realization struck, she must have seen her hug him. "Oh! No! I'm not, I would never!" Olivai caught herself. "Not that he isn't very handsome, in a kind of… blocky sort of way. I just mean that- I'm not trying to-" Olivai cut off as Dr Chawkas' stern expression dissolved and she burst into laughter.
"I'm sorry, my dear. But I couldn't help myself." She said warmly. All sense of sternness was gone. Replaced by a warm, caring smile. Thought there was still a sense of… propriety about the woman, grace. "It is easy to see he is not exactly your… type," her eyes twinkled with a smile. "And he's not exactly one to sleep about, the man knows mechs like the back of his hand. But people are not his strongest suit."
"I just don't want to upset anyone." Olivai started.
"Oh, you didn't," Chawkas said lightly. "I just do not think he's quite used to pretty young women throwing themselves at him anymore," She chuckled. "You're Olivai, correct?"
The doctor gave her a considerate look, sharp, green eyes boring into her. "Interesting to see the woman behind all the fuss." she said with the shadow of a smile, but before Olivai could ask anything about it, the older woman drew her arm around Olivai's shoulder and began walking them both out of the mechlab. "Come now, you've just finished a large job, you should be celebrating." They met with Yang, who still looked distinctly uncomfortable, and the three of them exited the Mechlab. Chawkes gave her a gentle push in down the hall. "Go on, child. Make the most of it. You've earned it."
Olivai smiled, the doctor was right, she had earned some free time. She hadn't messed up, and she was a valued member of the mechtech staff. Life was good.
The bridge of the Leopard dropship always edged the line between cozy and cramped for Adris. Today it certainly leaned towards cramped. With himself, Darius, Dekker, Sumire, Yang, Farah, and Kamea standing around the holotank in the center. For a moment, it reminded Adris of the Restoration. Heads together, trying to plot the downfall of an entire nation.
"Alright, we're all here," Adris said, turning to Darius. "What's so important and secret that you had to get us all out of the Argo?"
Darius' fingers tapped a data pad and the holotank flickered to life. "I got a message from someone, she said she has information you'll want to hear, Adris." His XO frowned. "And considering who it's from…" Darius sighed and pushed a final button, resolving a lush, beautiful face in the holotank that looked at Adris with such an infuriating smugness he wished he knew how to email a slap in the face.
"Hadley." Adris said warmly. "How can the Golden Hand help The Fox of New Avalon?"
"Adris, darling, I-" Hadley started smoothly.
"Just kidding," Adris cut her off. "Get fucked."
Hadley pouted. Adris hated to admit it, but the woman was attractive. Everything she did seemed designed to pull attention. Which, Adris realized, it certainly was. Hard to notice who's picking your pocket when your eyes are lost in those vast… tracts of land.
"You're not still bent out of shape over our last encounter, are you?" She smiled. "I hope you're not too angry with me."
Adris pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes and taking a deep, calming breath which did not work.
"Just… tell me what you want," he sighed.
"Me? I don't want anything." A slow smile curved Hadley's lips. "I'm here to give you a gift."
"Oh, a knife in the back? How did you know?" Adris' voice dripped with an acidic sweetness.
Hadley's laugh could have sweetened sugar. "Information." She said simply. And a face appeared. A wanted poster of a young, well dressed noble woman. She was wanted alive, and for a princely sum that would have been at home on some of the most dangerous contracts. Sumire gasped
"I hear you've taken on a new apprentice mechtech." Haldey said from behind the picture. Looking very out of place in a richly made ball gown, Olivai stared out at the gathered men and women. "Maybe you don't know as much about her as you think you do." The image flickered and was replaced by Hadley's, sporting a rich smirk. "Meet me here, and we can talk. I know you're coming through this way." A light ding marked the arrival of a set of coordinates. Directly in their path to Solaris.
"Tootles." Hadley waved, little more than her fingers wriggling, and the line cut off.
Silence reigned in the leopard.
"Darius, Dekker." Adris spoke through gritted teeth. "Get me every scrap of information you can find on Olivai, and detail a few mechwarriors to keep an eye on her. Discreetly." He hesitated. "Keep Miranda out of the loop, yeah?" Darius nodded sadly and began work.
Adris marched out of the leopard and through the airlock. He was not a believer in fate, destiny, or chance. You can't beat luck, but the day you start relying on it, you end with a bullet in your back.