It’s amazing how people’s lives intertwine.
Back in the day, all we knew about Alyssa Jordan was she was Glenn Kaine’s deputy. We didn’t know if she was bent, straight, totally corrupt, and so we left her in place when Glenn was, ah, removed.
Turned out she was a straight shooter, and she was good at her job. So good that she inherited Glenn’s job and held it the next five years. So you can just imagine the surprise Mikki felt when she saw Jordan on the shuttle to Luna!
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SS Michael Browne
“Mikki, you ready?”
“I’ve been ready since we boarded. Why in the seven hells does this tub take so long to get from Earth to the moon?”
“You know why, we’ve been over this before.”
“Humor me. I’m grumpy.”
Tony sighed. “First, the Browne takes the long, slow route to allow for the passengers to adjust to Luna’s gravity. That’s the point of the mandatory reduced-g sessions each day, teaching people how to walk and function in gravity that’s a sixth of what all their instincts expect.”
“I could do that on Njord if I wanted to and sleep in my own bed.”
“Not everyone has your advantages, Mikki. And second, have you checked out the fares this line charges?”
“Naah. I know they’re hefty, but I’m not paying the freight.”
“The Lunar excursion, at the most basic class, costs as much as most people make in six months. So, they get six weeks in space; two traveling to Luna, two exploring, and two more heading home.”
“It’s still stupid. We could have gotten here in an hour, no sweat, in a Wolf.”
“And been blasted out of space by an Artemis cruiser or frigate when you crossed into their territory. Smart.”
“I told you before, I’m not used to all this stealthy shit.”
“Because the SEALs always walk up and punch people in the face, right?”
“Well, no, but we don’t deal with transportation.”
“Right. So shut it about things you don’t have knowledge about and deal.”
Stone looked up from her seat with a hint of amused admiration in her eyes. “Did you ever serve, Tony? You remind me a little bit of, well, me.”
“No. My mom did.”
“It rubbed off. Okay, so when do we hit the surface?”
“Our landing boat is due to depart in an hour, but people are already starting to queue. If you want a good seat, we should join them now.”
“And baggage?” She gestured to her packed belongings as she stood.
“You tagged them like I said?”
“Yes. And I have my vital items with me.”
“Your surface baggage will be taken care of, just put it by the hatch. You’ll get it back at the hotel in Artemis City. The rest will be held on station for transfer to our ship home.”
“The Graham, right?”
“Yes, the SS Alec Graham.”
“Then let’s get this show on the road.”
At the airlock, Mikki was mildly surprised to find Jordan among the people gathered to board. She hadn’t seen her much since the night before embarkation and had largely put her out of her mind.
“Mikki! Where have you been?” Jordan was obviously excited to see her and rushed over. “I’ve been looking for you!”
“Here and there,” answered Mikki, avoiding the hug and turning it into a forearm clasp. “And you’ve found me. Why?”
“I wanted to thank you, of course! I was so hungover the next day I nearly missed embarkation! I’d probably still be back on Capricorn Station if you hadn’t helped me to my hotel room.”
“Ah, well, anyone would’ve done it.”
“Not true! My last girlfriend, she was such a complete jerk, one night we got in really late, like three in the morning, and we both had to work the next day, so we each promised to wake the other one up. Guess who didn’t wake me up?”
“I can’t imagine.”
“My ex! And the guy I was dating before that? He wouldn’t even hold the door for me if he went through first.”
“Isn’t it? Can’t people be such losers? Anyways, I really appreciate what you did for me down on Capricorn, and I’d like to do something nice for you.”
“Oh, no, really, you don’t have to!” Stone protested, but Jordan was not deterred.
“But I want to! Look, there’s lots to do in Artemis City, so why don’t we hang out for a day and see what happens?”
Stone thought she saw an escape. “Ah, well, I’m with a tour group. Lunar Travel Agency, you know them?”
Jordan shook her head. “I went through Inter-System Tours.”
“Well, I’m sure it’s the same for you: everything planned out down to the minute, don’t wander off, and let’s all do things together because it’s fun, right?”
“Oh, IST just arranges things; my time is my own at each stop. You mean you don’t have any free time?”
Tony had wandered over sometime during the conversation, and now spoke up.
“Hello, Miss, my name’s Tony. I’m the guide for LTA. What was the question?”
“Hi Tony, I’m Alyssa, I’m a friend of Mikki’s and I wanted to have a day with her in Artemis City, but she doesn’t think she’ll have any time. That can’t be true, can it?” She pouted ever so slightly.
“No, no, Alyssa. At LTA, we like to pride ourselves in being accommodating to our guest’s needs. While it’s true that there’s a schedule for each day, participation in all of the events is purely optional. Here,” he continued, handing Jordan a padd. “Why don’t you two look over the plans and see if there’s a day which you two could steal away?”
Jordan took the padd and started scrolling through, oblivious to the suppressed fury on Stone’s face.
“Tony,” she hissed. “What the bloody fuck are you trying to do?”
“Didn’t you say you wanted to keep an eye on her?” he whispered back. “Can you think of a better way? And she even suggested it! Besides, it’ll look suspicious if you turn her down flat after you got along so well back in Capricorn.”
“Oh, bugger me,” she replied. “Frankly, Tony, I think this sheila’s a bit of a drongo. If she’s plotting anything, I’m a wombat’s mum.”
“Then think of it as a chance to do a little solo recon work, with her as your cover.”
“Now, that’s a fair dinkum idea,” she admitted, then glanced over at Jordan.
“Hey, Tony,” she said more loudly. “Could Alyssa sort of tag along with us if there’s something that she wants to see? And then maybe we peel off from there.”
“Well,” he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “The company doesn’t really approve of it. Legal stuff, you know. But I suppose if she signed a waiver it’d be okay.”
“Let’s have a look at this together,” Stone said, steering Jordan to the just-moving queue. “We can sit together on the drop to the surface and look it over, okay?”
“Great! Is there something you want to see? Because I’m really just psyched to be spending time with you!”
“What about the Government Center?”
“Government? Eww, boring!” Jordan said. “What about the Observatory? I’d love to look at the stars!”
“If I may?” intruded Tony.
“You have a suggestion?” prompted Stone.
“We avoid the Richardson Observatory, because it’s not at all what you think it would be. The telescopes are all kept in vacuum, and their time is carefully slotted out months, sorry, lunars in advance. All you can see is whatever they happen to be looking at at the time. The Government Center, though, is much more interesting than it sounds. All the official history of the Colony is there, all the artifacts. We always spend a good chunk of time there on our tours.”
“That’s interesting to me,” said Stone. “Alyssa? You game? And then we can maybe check out something you want afterwards.”
“Ooh, yes, that would be great! Whoops, our turn to board! I’ll save your seat!” Jordan ducked into the airlock, leaving Mikki and Tony behind.
“Smoothly rescued yourself, Tony.”
He shrugged. “I just saw an opportunity. Now go catch up to your new best friend.”