BEEP… BEEP… BEEP…
I was awakened by a message alert. As I reached out to silence my datapad, I became aware of a deep ache in my shoulder. As soon as this discomfort registered, it was replaced by a sharper pain, an angrier pain, burning through my upper arm. I slowly opened my eyes, touching my hand to my arm. My fingers found something wet and sticky. Blood.
Looking down, I saw a puncture wound in my right deltoid. It was only two centimeters long but it felt deep and hurt all the way down to the bone.
I sat up on the edge of the bed and rinsed off the wound with a nearby bottle of water. The runoff pooled on the grimy floor, and for some reason this triggered a hazy recollection of the evening before. I recalled something about being on the ground, but the memory would not focus.
I needed Caf. I pulled on my boots and threw on my jacket. It wasn’t until I saw my reflection in the mirror near the door that the events of the previous night became clear to me.
My visit with the Junk Man had been somewhat fruitful. He knew about the Colorado VII and the possible involvement of The Sanctuary, but didn’t know what happened to Sky’s ship. Nobody knew what happened to Sky’s Anathema. It was as if that ship had vanished into thin air. The Junk Man promised to do some digging over the next day or two and to let me know what, if anything, turned up.
There was nothing to do now but wait. I knew I couldn’t just sit in my room doing nothing, so I decided to soak up a little local culture. I started walking toward the front of the market and ducked into the first drinking establishment I could find.
I ordered an ale, found a quiet table in the back, and turned on my new datapad. It took a few minutes to download the file to the blank device and as I waited, something Sky said seven months ago about the DBAU scientists kept playing in my head:
These guys have something that’s got them looking over their shoulders and jumping at their own shadows. It involves all of their disciplines combined, something at the intersection that is plain to see when pointed out to you but nearly invisible until then.
The file finished downloading and I opened it, reviewing the passenger manifest of the Colorado VII:
- Bailmer, Brairon – Lab Tech
- Benirajan, Adinga – Intern
- Blaneau, Yaly – Lab Tech
- Bravenot, Stayla – Social Sciences
- Chocques, Trerian – Ethicist
- Hallet, Emmementine – Intern
- Jammus, Brustine – Lab Tech
- Khandy, Bulazan – AI & Biomass
- Kugne, Kovas – Lab Tech
- McElwee, Fen – Communications
- Peddick, Dellum – Engineer & Cloak Tech
- Schweisheimer, Harald – Jove Historian, DBAU Team Lead
- Soura, Isavanna – Genetics
- Waque, Bryvin – Xenobiology
Reflecting on what happened with Brad, I saw how most of these disciplines might be related, but I didn’t have anything concrete. I hadn’t arrived at the intersection Sky had described, and I certainly didn’t understand why someone would do what they did to Harald and Fen.
I sat there thinking and drinking for the better part of two hours, trying to understand how these roles intertwined around the SOFA technology. Aside from the occasional inquisitive glance in my direction, I was left undisturbed. But it didn’t matter, because I hadn’t arrived at any answers.
My head was starting to ache and I was out of ideas, so I decided to call it a night. I gathered my things, settled my tab, and exited the bar.
As I was walking back to my room, I passed by several small groups of fresh-faced Capsuleers on their first shore leave and clusters of older folks who, by their appearance, had spent too much time here at the market. I have no issue with either – it’s up to them how they spend their time and their isk. It’s the overly eager unaffiliated pilots looking for work who annoy me. Unfortunately, I crossed paths with one of these boys before I could get back to my room.
I heard a voice behind me. “Hey! Hey. Come here. I wanna talk to you for a minute.”
I quickened my pace and tried to ignore him, but he caught up with me.
“Hey. Slow down. I saw you dock that Helios at the casino. Why you flyin’ a Helios? They’re so ugly.”
I kept on walking. “I like my Helios.”
“You fly anything else? I bet you do. What else you got in your hangar?” He was not going to give up any time soon. “You look like you’re into Amarrian incense and penance. I bet you have a Sacrilege, don’t you?”
“No. Get lost.” Now my head was really starting to ache.
“I can fly everything. Level IIs across the board for all races. Just tell me what you need.” I think his intent was to impress me, but his lack of focus and failure to complete annoyed me even more.
I stopped walking and turned to face him. “I’m sure you’re an excellent pilot,” I said, my tone dripping with sarcasm, “but I fly alone these days.”
“I can help you atone for your sins.” A wide grin spread across his face and he took a step closer toward me. “I can help you commit a few more in-station if you just give me a chance.”
“Not interested. Frak off.” I started to turn away from him, and he grabbed my arm. I slowly looked down at his hand, and then into his eyes. “Let go. Now.”
He didn’t let go. In fact, his grip tightened. I took hold of his wrist and began applying pressure. He yelped in pain and reached into his coat pocket with his other hand. I didn’t see what he retrieved, but he buried whatever it was in my upper arm seconds later. I felt it enter and then exit, but the surge of endorphins muted the sensation.
“Did you just STAB me, you sonofa -”
I was interrupted by his fist making contact with my face, and I dropped to my knees. When I looked up, he seemed more surprised than I was at what had just transpired. He spit out a quick apology and took off running down the street.
What the hell, I thought. If I was gonna get stabbed today, I thought it woulda been that Brutor, not some jackwagon looking for work and a good time.
I wiped at my nose, laughing aloud at my next thought: Lucas will never let me live this one down! I can hear the jokes already!
I picked myself up and continued walking toward my room. Frak, I really like this jacket. I wonder if there’s a leathersmith on staff at the casino…