2950-07-05 – Tales from the Inbox: A Personal Reservation
The passenger emerged from his cabin six hours after departure and wandered into Jen Daley’s lounge. Ramiro, reading on his slate while ignoring Livia’s glare across the compartment, looked up at the little man and gestured to one of the several empty chairs without saying a word. Normally, it was Livia’s job to see to the social management of passengers, but she seemed far more interested in divining what Ramiro was reading.
“Do sit down, Mr. A.” Ramiro gestured to one of the empty chairs secured against the far bulkhead. “Do you need anything?” He glanced at Livia, hoping to jog her memory as to her role as the passenger wrangler.
“Oh, th-thank you. I’m all right.” The thin man disengaged the stowage latches on one of the chairs and jumped at the sharp hiss as its foam-cell cushions inflated. Once the chair had finished making itself ready, Mr. A pushed it over to the wide viewpanel on the outboard side of the lounge and flopped down into it.
Ramiro’s eyes followed the passenger across the room over the top of his reader, and he made note of two different concealed weapons. If the man had not been so thin and drawn, or his clothes had been reconfigured to account for this condition, his weaponry would have been invisible.
After glancing over to make sure that Mr. A. was engrossed in the light-enhanced starfield beyond the viewpanel, Ramiro fixed Livia with a narrow-eyed glare. He didn’t mind passengers to carry weapons as a rule, but when passengers were as jumpy, flighty, and obviously stressed as this one, he knew he had to get Livia’s pet project disarmed, and fast.
Livia, of course, had no interest in helping. She blew a silent, sarcastic kiss in Ramiro’s direction, then spun her chair halfway around, perching one leg on its armrest. “We’ll be eating our next meal in about an hour, dear, but the food-fab here in the lounge is set to accept your commands.”
Mr. A. glanced from Livia to the new-ish nutrient dispenser unit in the corner. “Er, does it do coffee?”
Ramiro winced at the inane question, but Livia laughed, using the musical, flighty tone she used to put passengers and marks alike at ease. “Of course. Help yourself.”
As the man got up to fiddle with the food-fab machine, Ramiro realized for the first time that he was wearing neither wrist computer nor earpiece, and that no computer devices hung from his belt, not even a foldable reader. If he had any, he’d left them in his luggage. Ramiro knew of only one type of person who carried multiple weapons, but no digital devices – and he’d generally done his best to keep that type of person off his ship. He tried to glare at Livia again, but she avoided his gaze.
“I’m going to go check the controls.” Ramiro stood, blanked his slate, and left the lounge. He kept his hands far from the big Dragan pistol strapped to his hip, but he could feel the passenger’s eyes on the weapon until he turned the corner and headed up the inclined passage to Jen Daley’s bridge. Even if he was right about the man, Ramiro doubted there’d be any trouble before they reached the Allenden system; that meant he had at least a few days to figure out what to do about the enigmatic Mr. A.
Flopping down into the command chair and scanning the displays, Ramiro decided that he would be implementing any contingency plan alone. Livia had made this man’s journey, or more likely a sob-story fable that hit too close to home for her, a personal mission, and that would blind her to the reality of what she’d brought aboard.
A soft footfall in the corridor made Ramiro spin his chair around, and he only realized his hand was on the grip of his gun when he saw Livia standing there and staring wide-eyed at the weapon. With a sigh, Ramiro relaxed. “If you followed me up here just to watch me read-”
“No.” Livia glanced behind her, then slipped over the threshold and closed the cockpit door behind her. For a moment, she said nothing, just looking at Ramiro. Whatever she was looking for, she did not seem to find.
“If you’re so worried about whether I’ve read one of your files yet, just tell me which one, and I’ll have seen it by dinner.” Ramiro waved his slate reader. “I’ll find it eventually.”
Livia scowled and looked away. “You’ll see me differently after you do. Damnation, why did you have to-”
“Ask yourself that.” Ramiro spun his chair back to the controls. “None of this needed to happen.” Though she couldn’t see it, he grimaced, hoping that he wouldn’t have any reason to say that again before they were free of Mr. A.
Though the fleet is in the middle of a high-level command shakeup, a two-battleship detachment including their full cruising squadrons made a brief foray this past week. While it is not common knowledge where they went, and the force returned undamaged and apparently after having seen no action, there are only a small number of star systems within range for such a sortie in so short a time; many are suggesting Methodi, a nearby dwarf star system that was, until the fall of Håkøya spurred its evacuation, populated only by the inhabitants on several mining installations.
What might have required such a force in this generally inconsequential system, I cannot say.
[N.T.B. - My guess is that this was a reconnaissance in force to keep the crews fresh; while we are being prevented by Naval Intelligence from listing the ships dispatched, most of the battleships in Fifth Fleet have not seen any action since Håkøya.]