Dev stood quietly observing, a towel around her neck as Kevin and Adrian were explaining their plan. They were in a small irregularity shaped space in the cavern system in the rear escarpment, and they had all just finished working with the exercise equipment nearby.
It was cold in the space. As they breathed they could see that making fog in the air, but after the recent session Dev felt that it almost was a little bit refreshing, not too different really than what the fighters were enjoying as they plunged into the nearby Bay.
Well. She reflected. Really different in truth, but she could understand at least a little bit.
Sort of. She returned her attention back to Adrian.
“So, we think that a flexible drain assembly brought in through this hole in the wall would be useful to allow fresh water to enter.” Adrian climbed up onto a ledge in the space, his head brushing the ceiling of it. He pointed at a dark gap near the roof, stained and marked with water ingress.
There was a work light in Kevin’s hand and he lifted it, shining the beam of it up at the hole. It was about the size of a hand in diameter and as Dev drew in a breath she could smell the outside air coming in from it. “Yes.” She agreed. “We could bring a pipe in there, and down the wall. We could put a shield on the outside to prevent the rain from entering as it has in the past.
The floor had water stains and so did the wall, but it would be chance rain dribbling in and not a flood and there was no smell except musty stone. Yes, Dev thought, it would be optimal.
Adrian nodded. “Yet allow the fresh air. This area here could take water.” He hopped down off the ledge and then stepped into a lower void, as Kevin followed him with the light. “It is not very deep, but we could seal the stone.”
Dev followed him and dropped into the pit, which was wide enough and long enough to hold possibly a dozen people. She walked around the edges of it, examining the structure of the stone. “It is not porous.” She noted.
“It is not.” Adrian agreed. “It would not take that much effort to seal the surface.”
Dev nodded thoughtfully. “We need to run power in here, and there will need to be a drain.”
“Yes.” Kevin said. “We could tap off the main line they are putting in for the other section of housing.” He turned and walked over to the other side of the small space and tapped the wall with his hand. “This is the outer edge of the escarpment, there is a downhill slope outside.”
“We could put a drain with a valve.” Adrian remarked. “The slope curves around the side of the cliff and down to the catchment."
Dev studied the inside of the space again, remaining where she was in the irregular pit. With light and work, yes, it would be pleasant, and she nodded her head again in agreement, aware that Adrian was watching her alertly “Yes, that is all sensible. This will be good. I will obtain agreement to move forward with it.”
Kevin came back over with the light. “I think we could complete this by the time of the celebration.” He said. “As I know we will be busy then.”
“That seems to be true.” Dev said. “I will see if we have watertight housings to place around a warming plate. There were some in the weapons area we were in earlier. I saw them when we were leaving.” She turned and regarded the wall. “We can insert them there under that shelf area to warm the water.”
Kevin sat down on the edge of the pit and shone the light into it. “This will be excellent to finish our work in the gym with.” He said. “How is the floor in your space proceeding?”
“I have to go check.” Dev wrapped her hands around the ends of the towel. “It was proceeding well earlier. But there was a lot of excitement after the meeting so I do not know if the workers returned there to continue.”
Kevin nodded. “What is the procedure we are going to use, do you know, Dev?”
“Not yet. We are still collecting data.”
“We will fly.”
Dev smiled. “Yes, we will fly. The fighters will accompany us. But specifically how we are going to do this remains to be seen. We will have meetings in the next days to talk about it. Doctor Dan has blue prints for us to review.”
Both bio alts nodded.
“We would like to participate.” Adrian spoke up. “In some way, if it is possible. We enjoyed participating in the obtaining of the clay.” He regarded her solemnly. “It was very interesting work.”
Dev considered the request with due attention. “I do not yet know what work will be required for this other than it might require battle activity. However, I will look for an opportunity to present your offer to whatever is required for the event.”
Adrian nodded. “Thank you.”
Would they need AyeBees and BeeAyes? Dev was internally doubtful, but one never knew, and the plan might require resources she could not yet foresee. It was possible, that was all. That was all Adrian expected and they both understood each other about it.
She climbed up out of the pit and dusted her hands off, looking around in satisfaction. “This will be an excellent area.”
“I think so too.” Kevin led the way back out through the slender break in the stone they’d entered through, just wide enough for them to slide through sideways. “We will need to open this up, and add a door.”
“I think the fighters might like to come in there.” Adrian remarked. “But I don’t think we have that much room for a lot of them at once.”
“Not that much room for a lot of us at once.” Kevin said. “We will take turns.”
“Like in the gym.”
Dev let their discussion waft past her as they walked through the recently widened hallways of the section, the smell of newly chiseled stone sharp in her nose. Halfway down the passage the first of the permanent lights were already set and on, and against the wall were long flexible pipes and the cables that would run in them to extend the power.
At the next cross tunnel was their gym, it’s entrance now hammered out and wide enough to comfortably admit Doug’s tall frame, and fitted with a metal door someone had scrounged from somewhere that had the label ‘Private’ on it.
Dev found it funny. She wondered if whoever scrounged it had thought it was too, and had done it on purpose or if it was just a handy door in the storage area.
The door was propped open and from inside was the sound of many sets using the exercise machines, with intent concentration and only a little discussion. Adrian and Kevin turned in and waved a goodbye to her, and Dev continued on her way towards the exit to the dome.
Once she emerged into the area, she felt the distinct change of cold as she moved from the shelter of the ridge into the open space under it’s metal cover, now lit in it’s entirety by a constellation of halons scattered over the curved roof with long strings of cable.
Though there was no sharp wind since the large outer doors to the road were closed, the metal overhead surface transmitted the cold of the outside weather and she wrapped her damp towel around her neck in reflex as she felt her skin prickle in response.
Yes, she thought, the warm pool they were planning would be nice. But they still had to find and construct a space to change in, to avoid this long, possibly damp walk across the dome to the hall and then eventually they would have some comfort.
It would just take a little time. Progress was being made and the best part of that was the fact they were shaping the progress themselves. Very optimal.
Dev exchanged casual waves with some of the fighters, lightly clad and unaffected by the chill, who were practicing some sort of game nearby, using a rugger ball and throwing it back and forth at each other with some considerable speed and force.
There were marks, she noted, on their creamy pale skin, likely from contact with the ball as one of the fighters was hit as he didn’t quite dodge in time and let out a yell.
All of them laughed, even the one who had gotten hit. Dev paused to watch and catching her interest in the game, the fighters sidled in her direction.
“Sup, Rocket?” One asked.
“What is this activity called?” Dev asked promptly.
“Dodge ball.” The fighter answered just as promptly. “Cause ya dodge the ball, yo?” He had the rugger ball in his hand and he lifted it up, holding the ball and waving it.
“I see.” Dev regarded him. “Yes, I can understand the name.”
“Wanna play?” The youngster asked, invitingly. He waggled his eyebrows at her and waved the ball again.
Dev considered. “Not right now thank you.” She said. “I have just finished some exercise and I have a task to attend to. But I appreciate the invitation.”
They went back to their play, not without some reluctance and looks at her over their shoulder, and Dev stood watching them for a minute, as the rugger ball flew back and forth, with flickering speed as the fighters ducked and spun, avoiding it’s sting but catching it to throw back.
The activity started drawing some attention from the fighters who were exiting the big cavern on the other side and Dev remained where she was, seeing Jess emerging with them. The game widened as more fighters joined it, seemingly unable to resist the additional exercise.
Jess circled the game, and joined her. “Hey Devvie.” She looked in a good mood, her sleeveless shirt damp with sweat. “Wanna mix it up?” She cocked her eyebrows in question.
Dev eyed her. “Are you asking me if I want to play this game?” She indicated the activity. “Not really. I predict a reasonable chance I will get hit with that object and it will be less than optimal for me.”
Jess grinned. “Yeah, it’s good for reflexes.” She observed the game. “Gotta know when to dodge, y’know?”
“I might introduce the thought to the sets, however.”
Her partner stretched her long arms out, and relaxed. “Shower?”
They turned and walked across the rocky surface, moving from a roughly uneven patch to where the leveling had already been complete, and the edges of the rock smoothed down for a comfortable path to walk on.
The dome was noisy, despite the late hour. There were mech teams busy on various projects, and house operations had a team out with Brian at their head, pointing and taking measurements, with him writing down things on a plas clipboard.
Plenty of room for everything that was going on, and, as Dev looked over her shoulder, plenty of room for the fighters to practice their activity as well, the weathertight cover now over the area providing both light and shelter.
That had been very good work. Dev was really glad she’d been a part of it.
“Place is getting to getting.” Jess commented, also looking around in some satisfaction. “Shoulda done this a long time ago.”
“We did not have salvage from Interforce previously.” Dev said, in a practical tone. “That would have been difficult to fabricate.” She pointed at the huge dome covering the space.
“We coulda figured something out.” Jess said, but grinned. “But yeah, that was a hella shortcut. That much metal’s hard to scrounge in the wild.”
“Is there an option to obtain more?” Dev asked.
Jess considered. “There’s foundries, yeah.But they’re crazy expensive, and they hook up with the miners.”
“As at Cooper’s Rock?”
“Yeah, Dee’s got a good source of iron ore. S’where she makes most of her cred.” Jess agreed. “She’s got a foundry up the range from Cooper’s but you need the skills to work it.”
They passed the projects and reached the loading ramp up into the hall, which, Dev noted, had now been lined and covered in steel plates. “Are those from the weapons cavern?” She indicated the plates.
Jess’s boots thumped on the surface as they walked up it. “Yeah, they didn’t want to mess with it before. Rain’d rust the hell out of them and it’s a mess.” She regarded the ramp. “Easier now to haul stuff. They got those baby tanks going as loaders.”
“Yes, I saw them.” Dev pointed at the line of treaded vehicles lined up neatly on either side of the ramp, against what was once the outside wall of the Bay. There were six of them, parts of their armored surface removed to allow load carrying and makeshift toolkits bolted on. “Clint made good progress.”
“He’s kicking ass.”
“He was pleased to be part of the activity the other day and receive a benefit.” Dev said, as they reached the massive open door into the main section of the Bay. It was propped open, now kept that way as the guarded boundary had been moved out to the huge portal she had placed blocking the pass.
Which had been more really good work to be a part of. She reflected.
“Bet he was.” Jess grinned. “So much old crap here for him to wrench on and make work. Glad he came with us.”
Inside the hall, as they walked through the working areas of the Bay there were load shifters parked near house operations, with large plas crates on them. Jess opened one up as they paused near the last of them, peeking inside. “Ah.”
Dev leaned over and looked inside. But the tangle of cables did not look like anything especially insightful.
“Gonna light the place up.” Jess put the cover down, with a satisfied expression. “I remember that from when I was a kid, before I went.” She explained. “Extra lights hung around.”
Dev nodded. “Yes, it was the same on station, but much smaller than those. We did not have a lot of spare power.”
“Yeah I remember those whacked arrays.” Jess said. “Creepy old space.”
They walked across the main hall and Jess put her hand on the entry pad for their housing, watching the stone surfaced hatch slide aside silently to expose the stairs and allow them up, the soft golden halons coming on to light the way.
It slid shut as they reached the upper platform, and this time it was Dev who put her hand on the access pad for the inner door, which obediently moved aside for them. They walked past it into the housing and both paused, observing.
Dev slid her comms into her ear and listened to the checkpoints the housing systems gave her, and Jess merely stood breathing and listening. “All good.” She said, moving on into the large and oddly furnished living space as the housing reacted to their presence and the warming plate turned on. “Aw… it knows you’re here, Devvie.”
Dev smiled, as she silently concluded her checks which corresponded to Jess’s pronouncement. “It has less to overcome now because of your addition.” She joined Jess as they walked through the large room and into the hallways beyond it, moving deeper into the housing.
The lack of a brisk wind through the space was notable. Dev removed the now almost dry towel from around her neck as she walked through the food preparation area, pausing to eye the tray resting on the work shelf, a hot beverage with it’s steam gently rising, and a covered dish.
She queried the comp, and observed the service entry. “We have been left a hot drink.” She called out to Jess, who had kept going to the sanitary unit.
“Later.” Jess called back. “I got sand I need to wash outta me.”
Dev continued on and paused at the outer cabinets of the space, hearing Jess starting up the shower within. She put her towel in the receptacle for used items, and divested herself of the worn, plain jumpsuit made of slightly stretchy fabric she used for her exercise.
It wasn’t ideal, but it also was a reasonable compromise between allowing free movement and fighting the pervasive chill of the Bay. She removed her underthings and then proceeded into the shower area, which was already filling with steamy warmth, a softly mineral tang she could taste on the back of her tongue.
Comfortable enough for her to stand without clothing, and she placed two fresh towels on the shelf next to the shower enclosure before she opened the door to it and joined Jess inside.
The shower was more than large enough to accommodate the two of them, along with a half dozen others if they should decide to invite them. The entire overhead section produced water so the effect was you were standing in torrential rain storm, except the water was warm.
Delightful, really. One of her very favorite things in the housing. Dev stood for a moment and let the warmth drench her, and remove the chill from her skin, watching Jess retrieving a handful of soap and a piece of sea sponge from the corner alcove.
She walked over, across the slightly rough stone floor of the shower and retrieved a second piece of sponge and her own handful of soap.
It was the common soap of the Bay, a substance made from the seawater and used to clean literally everything so when she scrubbed herself with it, it was with the common scent of everyone and everything around her.
There was an added nuance to it that made it different than soaps she’d used elsewhere. “What is the smell of this, Jess?” She held up the sponge, now lathered with the soap.
“This?” Jess pointed at the crock in the alcove.
Jess stared at her sponge, nonplussed. “It smells like soap?” She finally said, in a doubtful tone. “You mean, what’s in it? Beats me. Ask House ops. They make it down in the docking cavern. Probably has crushed seal eyeballs or something.”
“Just kidding.” Jess reached over and dabbed her nose with the soapy sponge. “It just smells like the Bay to me.” She applied the sponge to her shoulders, the warm water rinsing it down along with the marks of the fighting, smears of stone dust and sand.
She had some scrapes, but they were already fading, and some red marks from some impact, also fading and the rinsing made the burn marks on her arms stand out against her creamy pale skin.
Dev was unmarked, as the sets exercise did not involve violent activity. The machines they’d built stressed the frame, and the body in ways to strengthen it, but did not require her to interact with others and so her own skin, a darker shade with a golden tint to it was unmarred save on her arm where she bore the burns from her time with Interforce.
Two different paths of exercise to good effect, she thought. “I will ask Brian tomorrow about it.” She concluded, as she added the soap to her hair and scrubbed her recently cut locks. “I am just curious about it.”
“You’re curious about everything.”
“That is true.” Dev finished rinsing her hair. “I seem to always have questions. Does that bother you?”
“Only when I don’t have answers.” Jess stretched in the shower’s downpour. “Don’t ask me stuff I don’t know.”
Dev chuckled. “No one has all the answers, Jess. That’s why we investigate. Even Doctor Dan doesn’t know everything.” She reached over and scrubbed Jess’s back with her sponge. “You missed an area.”
Jess stood still, enjoying the attention. “I hit the wall.” She agreed. “Probably a big ass bruise back there.”
“No.” Dev studied the area seriously. “You mean here?” She touched the area she’d recently scrubbed, which had smears of some dark substance on it. “It’s fine.” She glanced up. “And of interest, that scar you have here is really fading.”
Unable to see her own back, Jess just improvised by looking all around her. “Is it?”
Dev touched it, feeling the disruption under her fingertips and the faint twitch of Jess’s back muscles under them. “Yes.” She said. “You have a very attractive back.” She added, in a thoughtful tone.
Jess mock sighed. “And it’s totally wasted on me.” She turned around and faced Dev. “So glad you at least enjoy it.”
“I do.” Dev looked up at her. “I enjoy your attractiveness very much.”
Jess had been about to say something, now she paused and her mouth closed on the tip of her tongue and her eyes widened a little.
Dev chuckled, and after a second, Jess did as well. “Yeah, I talk a good game.” She admitted. “But I never know what to answer to stuff like that.” She put her arms around Dev and pulled her close. “I think you’re pretty hot too.”
“Pleasantly warm, thank you.” Dev returned the hug, Jess’s body temperature warmer than the shower itself as they stood there for a moment, surrounded by the scent of water, and stone and the Bay.
An excellent way to end even the most activity filled day. Dev responded to the kiss, as their bodies pressed together.
She felt Jess take a breath and release it, and could also feel it when the lips touching hers moved into a smile.
“Lets dry off and get in bed.” Jess bumped foreheads with her gently. “Too many hard corners in this damn shower.”
“Yes.” Dev responded instantly. “Excellent idea.”
Jess slapped the water controls and bumped the door to the shower open, going outside to grab the waiting towels and wrapping Dev in hers before she assumed her own.
The mirrored surface on the wall was clouded with steam and the smell of the soap filled the air. Dev retrieved a second, smaller towel to ruffle her hair dry. Warmed by the shower, the chill of the housing wasn’t very bothersome, and she changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top as Jess did the same.
“You really okay in that?” Jess eyed her.
Dev looked up from brushing out her hair in surprise. “Yes.” She said. “Are you?”
“Just checking.” Jess ran her fingers through her own hair, glancing in the fogged up mirror. “Don’t want you turning blue on me.”
“Not a problem.” Dev handed her the brush. “It is nowhere near freezing now in this housing, and there is little danger of being affected by hypothermia, Jess. That would be suboptimal in all cases even if this clothing was more comfortable.”
Jess started laughing silently. “Don’t let me forget to get a haircut tomorrow.” She changed the subject, as she brushed her hair forward, and thick sections of it covered her eyes. “I wanna make sure I can see to shoot.”
Dev patted her on the hip. “I will ask Celia to come to this housing in the morning to assist.” She assured Jess. “Let me send a note.” She slipped out of the sanitary unit and went down the hallway to her workspace, pausing at the entrance and looking inside.
Despite her demurral it seemed the fighters had returned and completed their work, because the entire floor was completed, tiles covering it from door to wall, and front to back. The dun color looked as attractive against the dark rock walls as she had thought it might and she felt a sense of delight as she gazed at it.
“Hey you don’t have t..” Jess paused in the doorway and blinked. “Whoa, it’s done.” She said after a brief pause. “Scrubs did a good job, looks like.”
The floor had been carefully swept, and there was not even a bit of debris as Dev walked slowly over it in her bare feet. “This is excellent work.” She said. “Really good.” She turned and extended her arms to embrace the activity. “Isn’t it nice Jess? It looks so pretty.”
Jess put her hands on her hips and turned in a circle. “Yeah.” She then extended one hand out. “It’s gorgeous. You can show me how you’re gonna light it up tomorrow.” She jerked her head a little. “C’mon.”
Dev walked over and took her hand in her own, lifting it up and gently kissing it. “This place is so amazing, Jess. I’m so glad we came here.”
A tiny, charmed smile appeared on her partner’s face. “Yeah it turned out pretty cool, huh?” She said, in a reflective tone. “I’m glad we did too. Even if this all turns out to be a crash and burn, it’s a good ride.”
Dev lifted their clasped hands and pressed them against her chest. “I predict that whatever occurs to us here will be excellent, Jess.” She then eased around the taller woman and started walking backwards, gently tugging her along. “Whatever that is.”
Jess followed along, just smiling.
Dev was lying flat on the new tile floor, her head inside the metal wall box hammered into the stone at the far end of her set of worktops.
She had a folded towel on the edge of the box, and her head was resting on it, as she worked inside the panel. The inside was illuminated in golden clarity from the lamp fastened around her forehead and a selection of tools were sitting on her stomach being used in turn.
It was midmorning. She had some time left in her schedule to finish her work on the floor, then a planning assembly to attend in the damp and chilly room Jess had found to spread out her blueprints in on one side of the armory cavern.
She reviewed her work and sniffed reflectively, studying the old fashioned circuitry buried in the wall. On the box side across from it was a new power circuit, looking small and compact in relation and she reached over to make an adjustment, turning her head slightly to review the results on her scanner squeezed into the tight space her right.
She made another adjustment, then grunted softly, and nodded, at the improvement. The phase was touchy, and since she was lying on the potentially energized surface she wanted to be sure it was correct.
Getting electrocuted was unpleasant at best, and lethal at worst, though the amount of power she was planning on feeding into the floor’s grid was less than deadly she had no intention of testing which end of the scale that fell on.
A soft clearing of a throat surprised her, and made her pull her head out of the panel and look at the door. “Doctor Dan!” She greeted him as he leaned into the room. “Hello!”
“Hello Dev.” Doctor Dan moved into the room and looked at the floor, turning around to inspect it. “My goodness they did a fine job!” He said at once, going over to the corner to inspect the join. “Very nice!”
Dev smiled. “Yes.” She agreed. “They finished it last night before we returned from night meal and the activities. I thought it was very well done.” She propped herself up on one elbow. “They took great care in trimming the tile material so that it fit really well.”
He dropped to one knee and touched the tiles. “I thought they might have finished to your satisfaction.” He eyed her with a twinkle. “As a few of the youngsters showed up in my lab with a measure this morning.” He told her. “But to be sure, before I let them loose I thought I’d better come up here and see how this turned out.”
Dev pulled herself out of the panel fully and sat up. “I’m almost ready to test the inductance heat.” She told him. “I want to run more tests however. I would not like to over amp the grid and cause damage.”
“To the tiles or to us.” Doctor Dan said, dryly. “Now what was it you used for the underlay? Was it aluminum grid?”
Dev got up and came over then knelt next to him and removed one of the tiles with an extractor tool, exposing the grid. She was very pleased to be able to show the work to her mentor. “Yes, but it’s got a sealed plating surface. Jess said the fishing workers did not like it because of that.”
Doctor Dan’s expression became interested, and he touched the underlying grid of the floor. “Yes, I see. It’s suspended off the stone floor by those spacers.” He ran his fingertips along the bracing. “It’s an acid coating, I think.” He said. “I suspect it was obtained from a manufacturing facility a long time ago.”
“There is more of it in the storage section behind the inside docks.” Dev told him. “I mentioned that to the people who were doing this work.”
“Hence them showing up with a measure.” Doctor Dan chuckled. “Well, I think we can let them proceed, but I’ll hold off turning things on until you can work out the circuitry.” He leaned an elbow on his knee. “That’ll be a great comfort for everyone working down there.”
Dev nodded. “Yes, here as well, but it’s much better really since Jess put her plas curtain in place. It’s excellent.” She got up. “May I show you?”
“Absolutely.” Doctor Dan got up and dusted his hands off. “By all means.”
They walked out of the workspace and down the hallway, through the depths of the housing to the rear corridors nearest to the wall of the mountain. Around one last bend and then the curved plas construct was visible, blocking the large, irregular opening in the cliff wall that allowed access to the shelf of rock two levels above the sea.
“Oh ho.” Doctor Dan inspected the sturdy plas sheets, pushing gently against them with his fingertips. “Now look at this?” He seemed intrigued. “A really accurate bend.”
Dev stood back and waited, her hands clasped behind her back, knowing there was no need for her to explain anything to Doctor Dan.
He ran his hand over the seal of the plas overlapping the sides of the opening, then lifted one piece of the surface, allowing it to open and feeling the chill air come in. He put it back in place and then he turned to regard Dev. “Really nice piece of engineering.”
Dev nodded at once. “That was my evaluation as well.” She agreed. “The work was excellent.”
He folded his arms over his chest. “Did you do diagramming and workflow for any of this?”
“Not at all.” Dev said. “I left for the activity to obtain the clay, and when I returned, this was complete.” Her eyes twinkled. “I did ask Dustin about the project, he said they all just did what Jess told them to do. But Jess insists it’s just something she threw together at the last moment.”
Doctor Dan’s pale eyebrows lifted up. “Well well.” He finally said. “And when I asked Jess, just in passing how she came up with the idea, she just gave me one of those looks.” He examined the curtain again. “Very interesting.”
“It follows the line of the wall at the correct angle, and the overlap of the material prevents allowing the wind inside.” Dev touched the plas. “This material is of the correct weight and rigidity to perform the task and still allow easy passage. Just really good.”
Kurok tilted his head slightly. “Do you think it was just all a coincidence?” He asked mildly.
Dev remained silent, and in thought for a very long period of time and Doctor Dan merely stood waiting with his usual patience. “Not a coincidence, no.” She finally said, in a slightly surprised tone. “Jess has a very logical mind. I think that things fit together so quickly she doesn’t consider how it’s done?”
“Hm.” He looked thoughtful. “That’s almost like programming, isn’t it?”
His developmental new model superstar shook her head definitively. “No. It’s different. When I know a thing I know when its from programming.” Dev said, with utter confidence. “I feel the construct, and where the overlays are.” She smiled a little at his surprised look. “Then there are some things that I know or I do, and I don’t know how I knew to do that thing, I just do it. It’s like that.”
“That’s very interesting.” Doctor Dan murmured. “Definitely something we should talk about again, when we have a moment.”
He peered out the curtain, where the weather had modified, no longer dropping frozen precipitation, but producing a sharp, bitter cold. “Well, let me head down to operations and see what’s going on there today.” He closed the plas again. “I expect I’ll see you at the planning session?”
Dev nodded. “Yes.” She said. “I think I should have this power transformer set up by then.”
“Well, that’s wonderful. Where did you say those grid panels were?”
“There is a storage cavern at the rear of the docking section.” Dev said. “Behind the temporary housing space that last suboptimal activity occurred in.” She said briskly. “Would you like me to show you?”
Doctor Dan patted her on the shoulder. “Oh, I can find it. Selfishly, I’d much rather you get that heating sorted.” He winked at her. “Positions in my lab are going to be as much in demand as slots in the kitchen I think.”
Dev grinned. “I went to find the fighters who did this work at day meal and thank them.” She said. “They pretended it wasn’t a big deal.”
Doctor Dan nodded. “Yes, that’s common here.”
“Jess also says things like that.” Dev said placidly. “But I know she really enjoys being told she is amazing. Which she is.”
Kurok laughed. “And the lads and lasses also enjoy it. Pleasing you is very important to them, especially after Jess did what she did the other day. Did that bother you?”
Dev folded her arms over her chest and pondered that question. “I don’t think it did, because I had no idea what it meant, and actually I still am not entirely sure about it.” She answered honestly. “I think… Jess believes people listen to her because she is the head of her family.”
Doctor Dan nodded. “Yes, that’s what being the Drake means here.”
Dev shook her head slightly. “I think people listen to her because they want to listen to her. I don’t think it would make a difference if she was the head of her family or not.” She said. “So it’s gratifying that she believes telling everyone to listen to me makes them do that, but I think they will either listen to me or not and that is up to them.”
“Interesting.” Doctor Dan said, thoughtfully. “I am not entirely sure it’s valid though. Tradition is very important here, and that position Jess has is rooted in that tradition.” He mused. “Extending that to you, well, you could be right, but it also gives everyone permission to do what they wanted to do anyway and not feel awkward about it. Because it’s also true that feeling a certain way about biological alternatives is also traditional here.”
“Hm.” Dev frowned.
“Its complicated.” Doctor Dan said, in a commiserating tone. “But if I told you the Bay would be ready to do what you tell them because you flew a Bantam class carrier into the fishing dock it really would make much less sense, wouldn’t it?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Doctor Dan said. “Just keep doing the things you feel are right and it’ll probably all work out just fine.” He gave her a little wave, and headed off down the side corridor, to the service door.
Which is, Dev realized how he had arrived. Which, in fact, was why she had not gotten an alert on her scanner when the front door opened, because it hadn’t.
Interesting. She went back to her workspace and returned to her spot on the floor, piling the tools back onto her stomach as she went back to work.
“I like it.” April looked around the recon room with an air of deep satisfaction. It was a large, square cut space with stone work surfaces set against all four walls, and a large granite topped table in the center that had been literally covered with junk.
Just piled with it, burying the surface and the floor and making it difficult to even enter the door, blocking any use of the space except for the storage of the junk itself.
Outside the door were two of the military loaders, each with a flatbed hauler chained to the rear, and a third had just pulled up empty save the four yonks riding shotgun and Dustin driving it.
“S’it, cuz.” Dustin said as he came in the room. “Storage’s pissed.” He added. “Filled up.”
“Too bad.” Jess was walking around the table. “Anyway, we cleaned him out before. We can do it again. Some of that crap I’m sure could be used for something.”
“Armored plates.” April sniffed “Gears and pipe and who the hell knows what else was in here. Still smells like old grease and dust.”
Jess was in her sleeveless training shirt and a pair of work pants, and the yonks were as closely matching that as they could manage, the fabric they were wearing almost black with the grunge of the junk they’d removed.
April was in a dark jumpsuit, and entering from the other entrance with a large box in his hands was Doug wearing a toolkit and a dun colored worksuit with a light lamp strapped to his head.
“All this space used for junk.” Jess observed, taking up a stance near the end of the room and putting her hands on her hips.
“Who the hell knew or cared what was in here?” April asked, in a reasonable tone. “No one could get in here without your damn paws and before that who knows the last time it was opened?”
“True.” Jess admitted. “Why not store crap in it?” She looked around the space in satisfaction. “But it’ll be good for what we want it for.”
The walls were all flat and evenly chiseled, and there were metal clamp bars running the length of them along the top that flex plas could be hung on for review.
It was ops planning. Jess nodded to herself. Field ops planning, a place where a crap load of people could get together and plan an op. Plan a mix up. Her lips twitched into a brief grin. The doors were huge and metal and could be closed and locked and sealed, and the walls were thick and soundproof.
They had maybe done that here, way back in the day. Now they would be doing it again, and she’d be lying to herself if the idea of planning an op against Canyon City didn’t make her grin. Cause it did.
Brent was on his knees in one corner, a large scanning console strapped across his brawny chest, and a probe in one hand, which he was using to scan the wall in front of him.
“Yeah, I like it.” April concluded. “That penetration a through to Bay ops?” She indicated the panel Brent was scanning.
“Looks like it.” Brent nodded. “S’got a big ass fiber tie line.” He had a large coil of cabling wrapped around his neck and now he connected one end to his handheld and the other two a surface mount in the box.
“We’re gonna need crates or something to sit on.” Doug was unpacking the box on the other side of the room. It was full of casements and electronic parts. “We can tack up those prints you got from the doc, Jess.”
“That’s what those are for.” Jess had hopped up onto the wall mounted worktop and was examining one of the bars. “Yeah we can put em all up on this wall.” She jumped up and down on the surface, and stomped on it. “That’ll hold pretty damn near anything.”
“Get Big Mike to sit on it.” April chuckled.
Jess stepped off the countertop and landed on the ground with a light bounce. She stepped back and folded her arms, the dark burns on them showing vividly in the ochre lights from the halons in the ceiling. “We need some big ass screens for in motion stats.”
“Centops had em.” April’s ears visibly perked up. “We can take that transport and go grab a haul. Those scroungers don’t need em.”
“Hm..” Jess looked intrigued.
“Yo.” Dustin suddenly spoke up.
Jess turned to face him, everyone else already working on something merely looked over their shoulders at him. “Sup?” Jess said, after a moment’s awkward silence.
His nostrils flared a little, and he shifted from boot to boot. “Stuff we just hauled.” He said, gesturing over his shoulder with a thumb. “Them square plates and pipes. We can make seats outta them. Like you showed us?” He looked from Jess to the others who were staring at him thoughtfully. “Yo?”
April rocked her head from side to side. “Better’n crates I guess.” She regarded the counters. “Too damn low to stand.”
Dev’s voice broke the lengthening silence. “Hello.” She had just entered the planning space, in her jumpsuit and work vest, her scanner slung over her shoulder. “Are you speaking of creating furniture to sit on to work in this space?”
Dustin had spun on hearing her voice. “Yo, Rocket!” He bounced on the balls of his feet. “Sup?”
“Hello.” Dev repeated amiably. “If that is what your idea was, I think it would be very useful, especially if you added casters to the legs.” She came over to the central table. “This flooring is smooth enough for them to be effective and if they are made entirely of metal they will be heavy to move around otherwise.”
Dustin looked doubtfully at her. “Yo?”
“Yo.” Evan, who was behind him stuck his head out past Dustin’s shoulder. “Like wheels, yo?” He hiked his eyebrows at Dev in question, lifting his hand and whirling his forefinger in a circle.
“Yes.” Dev agreed solemnly.
“Yo.” Evan gave her a two thumbs up. “S’go.” He told Dustin and the rest of the yonks. “We make em we can test em in here gotta slope down to the Bay.” He did a little standing dance, the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth. “Games on!”
“Sweet.” The yonks hustled out and a moment later the sound of the loader engine roared, and then receded in the distance.
“Nice.” Jess said. “Dev’s learning Bay.” She grinned at Dev.
“Nah. Bay’s learning Dev.” April drawled. “Which is even better but sucks to be her since she’s already gotta translate half the half of what the hell the rest of us say anyway.” She winked at Dev and went over to where Doug was still unpacking his box.
Dev smiled, but didn’t contradict the comment, which was, as she well knew, quite true.
Jess sidled over to where Dev was standing. “Good idea, Devvie.” She said. “How’s it going up stairs?” She perched on the edge of the center table, bringing their eyes almost level.
Dev thought Jess was in quite a good mood. She looked up at her and smiled. “Excellently. I have completed the power circuitry, and the grid is currently producing heat.” She pronounced with evident satisfaction. “I’ve delivered the diagramming to Doctor Dan for his lab.”
Dev nodded. “Yes, I am very pleased with the work.” She concluded. “This space is going to work well for your activities?”
“Yeah.” Jess agreed. “We’re going to put the prints up and set up a met station over in that corner.” She pointed. “Brent found a tie line to ops.”
Dev unslung her scanner and nodded. “Then I will assist.” She declared, pausing to regard the long, wide open space on the opposite side of the wall the held the chart clamps.
“Needs screens, huh?” Jess said after a moment of watching her.
Slowly, Dev nodded. “That would be useful.” She concluded. “It would be like the command center at Base.”
“Wanna go help me steal some?” Jess folded her arms across her chest. “April remembered those wall mounted rigs up in ops at 10.”
Dev looked at her, then at the wall, then back at her, her pale eyebrows lifting and her focus shifting off briefly to a middle distance.
“I was just concluding that four of them would fit.” Dev said. “Brent, how many pathways are available?” She turned her head and called out to the other pilot.
“Dozen.” Brent said promptly, without looking back at her, focused on the termination block he was crouched over. “Gonna need six for the tie line.”
“It is possible that they have already salvaged those pieces of hardware.” Dev said. “Brent, when you did the last reconnaissance patrol over the base, what did you conclude about the activity?”
Brent paused in his work and turned, turning off the headlamp so it did not shine in their eyes. He got up and frowned, considering the question. “Nothing coming from there.” He said, in a cautious tone. “Not like they’re using nothing for systems. All still just hand comms and power. They got the gens running.”
“But you weren’t looking for ops systems.” Jess asked.
“Not special, but didn’t see em neither.” Brent said. “We’d gotten scanned, that’d stick out.” He eyed Dev. “We gonna go do a little hunting?” He looked interested. “Could use some boards and crap.”
Jess got up off the table. “Guess we got our afternoon planned.” She concluded. “Somebody start a shopping list.”
“Nice.” April nodded in satisfaction. “Lets take the big bus. Maybe we’ll bring back some stuff the doc can use.”
“Maybe he wants to come with.”
Like the best of their adventures, this one was coming together as though it were just random objects falling from the sky. It had gone from a notion to a full fledged mission in a matter of an hour and she’d just finished updating the met into the system so they could leave.
Dev finished fastening up the catches on her flight suit, standing in the middle of her workspace in the back of their housing, the ops chatter playing softly over the just installed speaker on the desk.
The floor was just pleasantly warm underfoot, and she could feel the gentle heat through her socks, as she adjusted her collar and prepared to don her boots which were sitting on the top of the nearest workspace.
Nearby, she could hear Jess adding things to her scavenging sack, and making a low, quite pleasant humming sound under her breath.
The flight suit, as that of the other pilots, was the smallest available of the work coveralls that almost everyone wore at the Bay, a tough but flexible fabric that had the sleeves cut off and trimmed to the length of her arms, and the legs the same.
The knees had a double layer of protection, and the elbows, and she had developed internal wiring for it that would allow her to connect to the carrier’s flight systems and receive intel and her mobile comms were hanging around her neck waiting for use.
Not that different really from the version she’d worn at Interforce, except the fabric heavier and was the typical mottled sea colors rather than green and there was a layer of internal softer cloth that added warmth.
She liked it. There was a small patch on the left breast that said, in block letters, her name and in lieu of the collar insignia she had her ear decoration fastened to her right ear.
Outside the plas window she could see that frozen precipitation was once again lightly falling, and nearby over a hook pounded into the rock wall her jacket was hanging in preparation for their impending egress into the weather.
“Okay Devvie.” Jess appeared in the opening to the space. “You ready to get this party started?”
Dev perched on her workspace and picked up a boot. “Almost.” She put the boot on and fastened it. “The vehicles are prepared.”
Jess had on her hoodie and her work pants, and a pair of heavy Bay boots and she had her scrounging sack slung over her shoulder. “You like my haircut?”
“Very much.” Dev put on her other boot before she looked up at her partner. “I think it’s very attractive, especially the sides.”
Jess riffled the dark, newly trimmed strands, which no longer came down into her eyes. Her hair had been trimmed back off her face and shaped, but she’d kept the length in the back and had it tied in a tail. “Yeah, turned out okay.”
Dev stood up and went over to retrieve her coat, along with the scanner hanging next to it that she settled across her body first. “Kelson is very excited to be flying Bay B.” She observed, as she walked over to where Jess was standing. “I think he will enjoy it.”
“You’d rather be in our bus.” Jess said.
“It’s more aerodynamic.” Dev agreed. “As well as having more function if it comes to any fighting activity."
They walked through the housing and headed for the main entrance. “Well, he’s got the doc with him in that transport, he’ll be fine.” Jess concluded. “And we got six yonks with projectile rifles who might even be able to shoot along for the ride too.”
“I am confident they will be fine.”
The spiral staircase was busy, and Dev could see several of the other pilots climbing up to the landing bays ahead of them. They would be taking six of the carriers and Bay B, and a load of scrubs who were scampering up the steps in their hoodies full of happy excitement, with their fighting sticks in hand.
“We’re gonna have to build a second set of steps.” Jess observed as they reached the bottom. “Maybe something up to just the landing areas. Hate to have to run a drill in the middle of mid shift.”
Dev nodded, as they made their way upward. “Yes, in an emergency this could be a bit crowded.”
“Ya think?” Jess looked up. “Too bad we can’t have one of those grav tubes.” She said mournfully. “Damn they were fun.”
Dev eyed her. “I will put that on my list of possible projects.”
Their carrier was in the topmost cavern and as they reached it and moved into the access way they could already see Doug and Chester ahead of them, talking to Clint.
So April and Mike would fly, but Big Mike would be staying behind to keep an eye on things. The sound of the carriers being prepared came clearly down the rock hallway to them and as they entered the bay Dev was aware of the attention they drew and the sense of excitement that spread around them.
The door to the landing bay rumbled into motion, swinging outward and helpfully pushed by two of the mechs to fold flat back against the wall and the landing bay filled with the sounds of the water below, and the fresh, damp smell of the frozen precipitation now drifting in with the chill wind.
Dev headed for Rockstar, sending a verbal command ahead of her to open the hatch. The carrier came live as the entry unsealed and opened and she could smell already the distinctive scent of electronics as she reached the extending ramp and started up it.
The carrier had been meticulously cleaned, and Dev drew a pleased breath in as she entered and moved forward into the nose of the craft, going into the pilots position and getting herself seated.
Behind her, she heard Jess’s boots on the ramp, and she started through her setup routine with automatic gestures, bringing systems online with quick touches as she picked up her flight helmet and pulled it on, trading the carrier comms for her ear piece.
Immediately, bay ops was audible again to her, the background chatter she usually kept running while she went about her daily tasks. Added to that now were the comms from the carrier itself, placid mechanical commentary on system status along with the sidebands that started coming up between Rockstar and the rest of the flight.
Like Interforce, and totally unlike. That same sense of understated competence but completely different language and interaction, a more casual vocal usage, the interspersed oddness of the patois of the Bay mixed with the more precise speech of the bio alts.
“Bay 1, this is Bay B.” Kelson’s voice sounded in her ear. “This landing facility is ready, we are prepared to fly.”
Dev smiled at the carefully controlled excitement in the tone. “Bay B, this is Bay 1, acknowledged.” She responded cordially, as Rockstar’s systems came into ready status. “Bay flight, stand by for departure.”
Behind her, the fighters were loading in, and she glanced in the reflector to see them sliding in the hatch and moving around the gunner station to settle into the hard, steel, basic seats that had been welded into place along the back and sides of the craft.
It at least gave them all a place to be, and heavy plas webbing had been welded into place to keep them there, without the danger of someone coming loose during any aerobatics and ending up slamming into the windshield.
Jess was standing at her station, getting her carry sack settled on the back of her seat, and she glanced up to meet Dev’s eyes in the reflector, a grin appearing on her face. “Whoever designed these things sure as hell didn’t have this in mind ya know?” She made a general gesture to the inside of the craft.
Dev had just been thinking the same thing, so she smiled back. “That’s true.” She agreed, as the last of the fighters, ten in total, got into the last seat in what had been the drop rig space on the right hand side of the fuselage. “However it’s quite functional.”
They had removed most of the storage cabinets and other overhead material including the back shelf in the rear that could be folded down into a bunk to make the space for the seats, and despite the fact they were now carrying ten more people inside than what the carrier was intended for it seemed surprisingly spacious.
The changes made sense of course, since they were not using the carriers for the long range, isolated missions Interforce had and it made better use for the space. Dev sealed the hatch, and checked the side bands. “Flight is ready, Jess.”
“So I should sit my ass down, huh?”
Dev turned around in her seat to look at her partner.
Jess laughed and sat down in her gunner’s chair, leaving the trigger mechanisms all in their stowed position as she brought her restraints over her head and buckled them. “Okay, ready to go.”
Dev turned back around and triggered the front windscreen, which slid open, and activated her navigation systems. “Bay flight, prepare to depart.” She told the side bands. “Bay ops, requesting outbound clearance.” She added, on the ops channel.
Outside she could hear the sound of her own engines, and that of Doug and Chester’s carrier’s spooling up, and ahead of her though the clear windscreen she could see the landing bay team clearing out of the flight path.
“Bay Flight, cleared to depart.” Bay operations spoke into her ear. “Have an excellent mission.”
Dev smiled. “Thank you, Bay flight departing.” She boosted up without further ceremony on the carrier’s landing jets and nudged the carrier out through the entryway, moving past the ledge and the two workers standing outside, backs braced against the doors.
They waved cheerfully at her and after a moment, she waved back.
The wind wasn’t extensive. The drift of the frozen precipitation had shown that, it was coming down in a placid waft, and Dev quickly took the carrier out over the Bay to clear space for the rest of the flight to exit and join her.
Two levels below, three other carriers were emerging, under the control of Kevin, Kurt and Keko, exiting one and a time and forming a triangle, then boosting up to their altitude.
There was, she decided quite a bit more decisiveness in their flight. The KayTees had been spending a lot of time practicing in the carriers, flying patrols on a continual basis.
The Bay itself was quiet at the moment. The shipping docks were full, but there were no large vessels heading across the surface, and only the small work boats were out doing their daily tasks. The Bay itself was calm for a change, the water with only faint ruffles and near the entry, she could see motion as some sea creature emerged and disappeared.
“Hah.” Jess had seen it. “You see that Devvie? Dolphins.”
“Yeah?” One of the fighters leaned over to look out the front plas. It was Kirin, the net hauler. “Dad always said they were lucky.”
Obligingly, Dev told the rest of the flight to hold position as they waited for Bay B to come to altitude, and she took the carrier over in that direction, tipping it’s nose forward so they could see the surface more clearly.
Near the entry, there were three creatures, seemingly just diving in and out of the water. They were jumping out of the sea and then plunging back into it, then one came up and went backwards, most of it’s body emerging into the air.
“S’Cool!!!” Kirin let out a surprised yelp. “Yo look at that!”
The fighters all let out sounds of delight. Dev brought the carrier down almost to water level and just sat there watching as the animals danced around. She opened up the external sensors and the cabin of the carrier was filled with the sound of the water ruffling and the odd, clicking, squeaking noises she’d heard the animals produce before.
“Wow!” Dustin unlocked his restraints and scooted up to the jumpseat, which he knelt on and peered out past Dev’s shoulder. “So cool!”
They were engaging. Dev enjoyed watching them.
“What is that target, Dev?” Keko asked.”That you are observing?”
“They are dolphins.” Dev responded promptly. “They are animals that live in the water but they cannot breathe it. They breathe air.”
“VERY interesting.” Keko said. “That seems unusual and possibly suboptimal?”
“Yes, I have not seen them here before. I saw them at sea and had the opportunity to offer some fish to them.” Dev said. “They make interesting sounds.”
“They don’t come into the Bay much.” Jess was standing at her station looking down and over Dev’s head at the water. “Must smell all the fish in those boat tanks.”
Dev recorded the animals, then as they disappeared, she issued instructions for the flight to lift and head towards the rear of the stakehold. “Please resume your seat, we are going to move.” She told Dustin. “I took images and will share them when we return.”
“So cool.” Dustin tore his eyes off the water and scrambled back to his seat, fastening the belts again as Rockstar tilted back to horizon and then boosted back up to altitude.
“Yeah, they’re weird.” Kirin braced her boots against the deck as the carrier lifted. “Got a hole in the top of their heads they blow air and snot out of.”
“Whales do too.” Jess settled back into her seat. “Swam with a whale once. Damn thing’s eyeball was bigger than my head.” She put her hands behind her head and leaned back, as everyone looked at her in interested silence. “No idea how smart they are but I was breathing water at the time and it was staring at me like, what the hell is this thing?”
“Why the hell can’t it breathe water like all the other fish?” Evan asked, from his seat next to Kirin, who shrugged. “Like what’s the point of a fish that lives in water and can’t breathe?”
“It isn’t a fish.” Dev responded knowledgeably. “I researched it after Jess told me that once we returned from that mission. It is a mammal.” She switched channels. “Bay flight, please form up, and prepare to change vector for our destination.”
“Mammal.” Evan mouthed thoughtfully. He looked at Kirin, and shrugged, and she shrugged back. “Looked like a fish.”
Jess smiled, memories of school surfacing. “Not many of them left.” She remarked. “Polar bears, seals, seal lions, and us, I guess, and whales and dolphins. No idea why they never learned to breath water.”
“Weird.” Kirin said “Maybe that’s why the old salties think they’re lucky cause they ain’t all drowned.”
Dev set course and ordered the flight forward, and then she settled back to review the results of her long range scans as they started the relatively short flight to Interforce Base 10, or what was left of it. She had charted a course along the coastline, out of habit and once they had cleared the protection of the Bay walls the waves were continuous as they rolled up and crashed against the rocky promontories.
Beaches only when the tides dropped, and then the scrubs from the Bay would climb down the cliffs with rapid agility and scour the revealed rocky and sandy surface of whatever they could find that the waves brought in.
A heavy bag full, then the tides would chase them back up the cliffs to the roughly cut stone paths to the storage levels of the Bay to dump off their find and qualify for their slot, and shelter and food. Very difficult work.
It was no wonder, Dev thought soberly, that the scrubs eagerly welcomed the chance to do something else.
Today the flight was calm, the winds were light, only the drifting precipitation, getting heavier as they flew north, impeding view as they followed the curve of the coastline up to the large and now visible to her in the horizon, promontory that held the Base.
It projected out into the sea as a large triangle and she adjusted the scan as they flew, looking for anything interesting.
“Doesn’t seem much going on.” Doctor Dan’s voice sounded in her ear.
“There are no technical returns.” Dev agreed. “As it was the last time we were in this location and as per the last patrol.”
As they approached, Dev put out a carrier signal, which, if there were any scans in progress, should get some kind of return, but again, as in the recent past, there was no ripple of any response to it. She analyzed the response to her system probe and quickly reviewed the last one from Mike and Chesters last run.
No apparent change.
“Come in from the waterside.” Jess said. “Lets do a recon.”
“Yes.” Dev passed the plan along to the flight, and the five other carriers spread out in a line, with Bay B tucked in behind them. The big cargo space on that vehicle was empty, and a loader was strapped down near the rear hatch.
Everything looked quiet as they approached. Aside from the snow, there were desultory flights of seagulls near the cliff walls, and at the base of the mountain, where the waves were rolling up against the rocks they were diving into the sea in search of fish.
“Got nests.” Kirin noted.
“Yeah, sometimes if I was pissed off I’d go out the ledge and go get some eggs.” Jess mused. “Got so damn tired of those protein cakes for breakfast.”
Dev glanced in her reflector. “That egress you showed me?”
“Yeah.” Jess smiled.
“Stand by flight.” Dev told the rest, and then she took the carrier down to water level as they approached the Base, flying alongside the rock wall to the small ledge now becoming visible that she remembered spending some time with Jess on in those first few odd and unusual days. “There.”
The scrubs were all leaning forward to look. “Could fish offa that.” Kirin said, after a silent moment. “Not much view this side.”
Dev did a fly by of the ledge, seeing the portal behind it closed as she’d expected it to be, and then she angled back up and took the lead of the flight again as they came around the edge of the promontory and the landing bay became visible.
“Well, we wrecked that.” Jess said, in a bemused tone.
Without the roof of the cavern, and the front entry panels the entire cavern was exposed to the elements, and the elements had wreaked havoc on it, in fact, as they watched there was a slight waterfall coming down out of the front of what was the landing grid and washing the wall into the sea.
Inside, most of the structure had been removed leaving bare rock surface, and the cavern presented the appearance of what it must have once been like before it had been converted by Interforce for a base. Just a lot of rock.
“Transport gonna be able to land?” Jess asked. “Maybe they’d better put down at the shuttle pad.”
“Kevin and Keko, can you please review sector five, checking for ingress, and impediments for the transport.” Dev said into her comms. “We will continue to review the landing site here.”
“Yes.” And “In work.” And two of the carriers neatly peeled off from the group and headed inland, aiming for the rock bounded plateau at the rear of the cliff.
Dev regarded the opening. “I am getting no operational return at all.” She told Jess. “It seems any machinery in that area has been removed.”
“Scavenged.” Jess nodded. “Makes sense.” She flicked some inputs on her own board. “Gimme.”
Dev shunted power to the weapons and lit up Jess’s console, aware of the light pitch changing inside the carrier to operations and knowing the armed lights would be coming on just forward of the engine cowlings on the outside.
A moment later, in her peripheral vision, she saw the same lights come on the two carriers on either side of her, as Doug and Chester copied her motions and Mike and April prepped their arms.
“Lets get a closer look.” Jess pulled her triggers down and fit one hand into them.
“Bay two and three, please attend.” Dev said into comms. “We will do a close order inspect.”
“And maybe a little shootie shootie.” Doug responded. “Looks quiet though. They ripped out most of that grid.”
Dev took Rockstar in first, flying slowly, the nose of the carrier down just a little to improve Jess’s view as they drifted into the huge gaping hole in the side of the mountain that she had once lived, if briefly, in. The destruction of the facility was really quite complete, and she noted that the spaces the carriers had once landed for service in were now just blank sections of rock.
“Nice job of reclaim.” April commented, grudgingly impressed.
Dev slid the carrier sideways to clear room for the two others to enter behind her and moved around the perimeter of the cave, observing the water gushing out from the storage corridors behind the servicing bays, and feeding the waterfall that came through the uneven floor and then out the open front.
Frozen precipitation was coming down through where the roof had been, and was dusting all the surfaces. “I think we can safely land where the pads used to be, Jess.” Dev said. “This seems relatively wide access.”
“Bay Five to Bay 1.” Keko’s voice buzzed in her ear. “The shuttle ingress is clear, however, the landing grid and superstructure have been removed. It will be a short landing for the transport, but possible.”
“Bay Six to Bay 1.” Kevin’s voice added. “There has been a rockfall between the first and second ridges past the shuttle area, it appears deliberately done to block entrance from the west.”
“Interesting.” Doctor Dan commented from the transport. “Verrrry interesting. I don’t know if we’re going to find much to salvage here, Jesslyn.”
Jess half shrugged. “Well, we left it to em.” She said, in a philosophical tone. “Scrap’s scrap. April’s been saying for a while we shoulda come back and scrounged before now.”
“True that.” Doug agreed.
“The operations locations should still have some useful material, as those areas were left locked off.” Dev said. “But possibly that was overridden. Impossible to tell at this point.”
“Let’s find out.” Jess decided. “Set her down, Devvie.”
“Bay Five and Six please stay in the location you are in, Bay B is coming to join you and set down.” Dev instructed the two pilots. “Bay 1 through 3 will land in the cavern, Bay 4 please stay on watch and patrol a range around this location.”
Everyone acknowledged, and with that, Dev set aside her comms and sent Rockstar back to the barren rock area that had once had a sturdy landing grid on it, where the carrier had been serviced way back when.
She extended their landing skids and touched lightly down in the center of the area, noting that even the flexible umbilicals had been removed, and the metal plates with their rock bolts also were gone.
A good job of salvage indeed. She did one last scan, and then opened the hatch, as Jess and the fighters were already on the feet and unbelted, waiting for it to open.
“This is cool.” Evan commented.
“S’cool.” Dustin agreed, sliding his fighting stick into it’s holders along his leg. “See what we c’n find.”
Jess wasn’t really sure how cool it was, but she led the group out of the carrier and moved a little way away from the craft, as Doug and Chester came in to land in areas that were in a roughly triangular pattern from where they were.
She walked over to the center of the cavern to look down at the depression that held the runoff coming from inside, and knelt, her nostrils flaring as she sniffed at it.
The fighters immediately crouched at her side and joined her. “Smells clean.” Evan noted.
Dev emerged from the carrier with her trusty scanner and came over, running a scan on the water. “Mineral off gassing primarily, some silicates, some residual organics.” She concluded. “It appears filtered rain water, low saline.”
“Least they’re not pumping bilge out into the water.” Jess stood up as April arrived after circling the small stream, hopping over it at a narrow point. “We go up?” She suggested. “Leave the lower levels alone? I figure they’re camped in there.”
April nodded. “All the sec is off. No return from anything. Should be okay unless those damn physical hatches are dogged.”
Mike and Chester and his cadre of fighters arrived from the other side. “Man, they wiped this place clean!” He sounded impressed. “Like nothing was ever here!”
“Yep.” Jess turned around. “Ops corridor main it is. Not sure the halls are open but I figure we’ll figure out something and we’ve got wrenchers with us.”
“I even got a wrench.” Doug held up a large one, with a heavy serrated head. “In a pinch I can conk people with it.”
Even Dev chuckled at that, and they turned and started off, climbing up the uneven ledges and walking past what had been service trenches to the ramp that went deeper inside the base.
Billy quietly entered the huge kitchen space as the sounds of the day meal were starting to fade, the Bay returning to duties and emptying out the mess on the other side of the door he’d just entered, a neatly wrapped bundle tucked between his elbow and his side.
He was the night meal shift today, and he crossed immediately over to the prep area, which had been left clean and empty by the morning shift after they’d finished their work for the day meal.
Regulation, as per the chef. Billy could even smell the cleanser they used all around the area, and decided the morning crew had only recently left the space. He nodded slightly in approval, appreciating the thorough work and scanned the schedule on the scrubbed wall surface, checking for any notes or changes.
To his surprise, the schedule itself was missing, though the work tasks for the evening were in place. The chef, he reasoned, must be making some alterations and perhaps that meant a shift change was going to happen.
He didn’t mind either way, the moving from day to night didn’t bother him, each brought it’s own interesting work and the opportunity to work the night meal, as it was tonight, had given him the chance to attend the gym in the early hours when there were fewer others to share with.
Along the back wall of the kitchen where the huge, long ranges were there were as usual a group of giant pots on the back burners, and he could smell the stock bubbling on them, seaweed and fish carcass and the tang of spices.
One of his tasks would be to strain out the stock, and then, there would be pans of something in the cold storage to put in the pots to cook through just before mess was called. Some item from the sea, different every day, from the shoreside scrounging, or the small boats that plied the Bay.
It would be hot, and filling and he licked his lips thinking of the bowl that they would consume while the servers were out moving around the hall.
He was wearing the pale colored overalls of the kitchen, and now he went over to the small alcove that they stored their personal things in during work and located the bin on the lower shelf that had his name scrawled on it in dark gray.
The bin was plas, and was scarred and dented from very long use as were they all. There was a bin for every kitchen worker and as he noted again that his bin was just the same as everyone else, he smiled.
Then he put down the bundle he was carrying and opened up his overall top fastenings, pulling the sweater he was wearing under it out and up over his head.
The kitchen didn’t require that. He folded the sweater neatly and placed it in the bin, then fastened his coveralls up and turned his attention to the bundle, unfolding it carefully.
Inside there was three sturdy knives, different sizes, the handles chipped and scarred plas but the blades many times sharpened bright steel. He set them down, and the sharpening stone with them and then shook out the fabric they had been wrapped in, looping the top part of his apron around his neck and then tying the lower part around his waist.
The strings came around him twice and he made a bow tie of them, and then picked up his knives and walked back into the kitchen, sliding the sharpening stone into the pocket on the apron’s front side.
It was quiet and empty yet in the kitchen, he was the first one in from his shift as he usually was. In the mess hall he could hear the cleaning crew sweeping and removing the empty bins, and soon that would also be quiet until it was ready to start service for the night meal.
He went over to the prep table and put his knives down, then walked around to the other side, looking at the battered surface of the board behind it on the wall that had the chef’s plans for the night meal and what would be needed for it to see what his first tasks should be.
“Hey you.” The chef appeared unexpectedly from his office, deep behind the kitchen, calling out across the open room. “Billy! Thought I heard you in here.”
“Hello, chef.” Billy turned his head. “How are you?”
Billy turned all the way around and faced him. “I am sorry to hear that, Chef. May I help? Is there something you need from the medical area?”
The chef paused and put his hands on his hips, regarding Billy. “How many of you are there?” He asked unexpectedly.
His prep cook came a step back towards the table and put his hands on it, regarding him with earnest seriousness. “Ever, anywhere?” Billy answered. “I think Doctor Dan would have to say that, I don’t know.” He paused. “Here in this place, there are forty two BeeAyes, and from my set, BeeAye 467 Instance 10260-R2, there are sixteen of us. We came from station.”
“The other BeeAyes here, they are BeeAye 467 instance 6990-R1, so they are older, and they came from Base.” Billy concluded. “They were all assigned facility maintenance there.”
The chef eyed him in speculation. “What’d you do up in space?”
Billy was pleased to have the conversation, any interest by chef was always interesting and generally a good sign and so he answered readily. “My set on station were assigned to the genetics laboratory and the creche.” He said. “We did many different tasks involving preparation of scientific material, and took care of the needs of Doctor Dan and his office, along with the AyeBees, and some of the CeeTees who also came with us here.”
Then he paused, and waited, his head tilted just a bit to one side, his hands folded in front of him.
The chef pursed up his lips and looked around the kitchen. “Got four of these idiots who ran off to go fight.” He said. “Think you got four of your buddies who wanna come work in here?” He asked. “Not just any of em, y’know? Good workers, like you.”
Billy blinked a few times in true surprise. He paused to consider his answer carefully. “I am absolutely positive that there are very many of us who would enjoy working here in this area.” He finally said. “This is a very excellent assignment.”
The chef nodded. “Okay, well, go make it happen.” He waved at him and then turned to leave. “I gotta have someone in there to chop this crap up and get it ready and you spacers aren’t gonna want to go punch people all day long.”
“Yes, chef. That is true.” Did the chef mean right that moment? Billy wasn’t sure what to do. “You wish this to happen now, chef?”
At the doorway back into the hall where his office was, the chef paused. “Tomorrow’s all right. We’ll get through today.” He disappeared. “Don’t yap all about it in here, got me?”
“Yes, chef.” Billy put his hands on the work table and stood there for a long minute, considering what to do. He could not decide who to obtain, someone would need to reassign them. This would be excellent for chef and for his set mates who were shifted, but his set mates were all doing some other tasks, and that would need arranging.
Possibly, that would be suboptimal for other areas. Billy drummed the fingers of one hand on the table. Well it was good that the chef was pleased with his work, and wanted to bring in more of his kind, but he had to alert someone who could make that happen and deal with the complications.
For a long moment he pondered.
Finally he turned and went over to the workstation on the far side of the kitchen, in a small crook in the stone wall on a slightly tilted work surface with it’s plas covered input pad where they would record needs and what supplies they had used for each shift.
He signed into the input and brought up the messaging system, then paused at the line where he would address the message.
Doctor Dan, the most logical person to inform, was with the flight on their mission. So was his second choice, Dev, who of course would know what to do. Should he tell Cathy, Doctor Dan’s assistant? His nose wrinkled a little in reflex. Abe?
Finally, he just put all of them into the message, and sent it off, feeling a sense of utter relief that he’d delivered this excellent opportunity into the hands of those who could make it happen the way the chef wanted it.
Then, this business taken care of, he went back to the prep board and resumed studying his expected tasks for the meal, which apparently would involve a new opportunity - to prepare octopus. With a soft grunt, he nodded, and headed for the cold storage.
Doctor Dan managed a brief smile as his gang marched across the shuttle pad and through the open back door of the base, where he and Dev had arrived what seemed like a lifetime ago. “Good work on opening that up, Kelson.”
Kelson looked up from the door panel he was kneeling in front of. “Thank you Doctor Dan!” He smiled. “There were no blocks. It was as you said.” He was bundled inside his pilots suit, with a thick sweater on over it, his hands covered with the half gloves Kurok had gifted them from the council market.
The snow was still coming down, thicker and heavier here, and they all had a dusting of it on their heads and shoulders as it came down along the wide gap in the rock that had once been the path to land a shuttle at Base 10.
To the west of the pad was a roadway that was the one land entry to the Base, and that, as Keko had reported, had been blocked by a rockfall that filled the entire gap and prevented any further entry.
Twenty fighters were with them, along with pilots Keko and Kevin who had landed their carriers behind the transport in the long, narrow and now blocked corridor, which at least provided protection for the vehicles while they explored this end of the base.
As the pilots had noted, the landing pad itself and all if it’s gantries and mechanicals had been taken apart and removed, leaving scarred rock behind, and an open but uneven surface that Kelson had gingerly set the transport down onto, with carefully navigated use of the landing jets to lower the ungainly flyer down into the space.
In the transport, he had brought Douglas and Emily, his now welcome shadows. He also had pilot Kelson, and the AyeBee Adrian who had a list of items given to him by House Ops to scrounge if possible and was delighted to have been brought along.
Everyone had either backpacks or carry sacks, and the fighters all had their knives and their pipes.
Quite a cadre. “Now, lets be careful, and take it easy. We don’t know what’s been going on here since we left.” Doctor Dan instructed, as they entered the Base, into the receiving area serviced by the shuttle. He loosened the hood of his insulated jacket and pushed it back from his head, pausing to look around. “Well then.”
It was mildly lit, and he walked into the cross corridor, just past the security station just inside the door. He shifted the light pack on his back and looked up and down the hall. “I think we should clear a path into the central operations area, hm? That’s where they’re going to have to bring those screens from.
Douglas was roaming head of him. “Sup?” He indicated the sloping ramp.
The fighters looked around with deep interest. The hallways were tall, and the walls dark, and it was mostly empty save the consoles of the security station. Unlike at the Bay, the surfaces were all finely surfaced and finished, and the floor had an applied rough surface for footing.
“Snice.” Emily scuffed her boot toe against it.
“Yes, they didn’t appreciate sliding around like seals.” Doctor Dan remarked, with a smile. “Lets see now, up this way, and hmm.. those passages are locked down I see… well, lets see if the visitor lift is working.” He turned and headed down another corridor where there was a large, square steel door set into the far end. “Maybe we can take a short cut.”
The fighters, in their mottled hoodies and dark work pants filled the smaller passage ahead of it, but they paused and let him take the lead when they reached the lift itself. “This is for people who came to the Base to visit, you know, for ceremonies.” Doctor Dan explained, as he examined the thick electrical panel set in the side of the wall.
Everyone had comms sets in their ears, and through the low volume of his, he could hear the commentary and mutters from the team who had landed in the cavern. “Jess, we’re seeing if we can bring up the back lift.” He spoke into comms.
“We’re up the top of the ramp into ops, past first ring.” Jess responded .”Dev’s hacking.”
Hearing that, Keko, Kelson and Kevin squirmed forward to join him at the door, producing hand scanners, and even Adrian edged over to one side to watch.
Doctor Dan found that quite charming. He studied the access panel and removed a tool from his pocket, attaching one end of the clamp to the panel and twisting it. There was a cold wind at their backs and he paused, then shook his head and kept working.
“Any of this stuff scrounge?” Douglas asked, looking back along the corridor. “Could grab them desks and stuff.”
“Anything you like, lads.” Doctor Dan focused on the panel. “The scavengers couldn’t get to this bit, so I suggest we maybe get into all the storage we can on this side, and get it loaded.”
The fighters immediately scattered, rambling down the hallways on either side.
“You’ll have to force the doors.” Doctor Dan called after them. “Take a bit of a prying I don’t wonder.”
“Yo!” A rough chorus responded and then the sound of pipes hitting stone.
Kelson produced a small pry bar and offered it. “Would this help? I found it in the vehicle.”
Doctor Dan took it, and got the edge of it under the edge of the panel, it’s end just wide enough to fit. “Excellent, Kelson. Give it a shove there.”
Willingly Kelson got his hands around the pry bar and shoved, and after a moment, Keko leaned past Doctor Dan and helped. The panel moved a little bit, and as they were about to reposition the pry, Emily wiggled in between them and threw her muscle into the end of the bar, and with a solid crack the stone around the panel shattered and the panel came loose.
“Nice.” Doctor Dan patted her on the shoulder. “Well done.”
Kelson and Keko wrestled the panel out of the wall and cradled it, turning it for his inspection. Kurok cracked his knuckles and put the clamp away, pulling out a set of needle nose pliers instead. “Now, let’s see how good a memory I have, shall we?”
There was a moments silence as he probed the leads behind the panel. Then there was a small chunking click sound, and behind them the mechanical whine and grinding sound behind the door to the lift.
“I would say that your memory is excellent, Doctor Dan.” Kevin said, in a mild tone. “If that was what your intention was.”
“Indeed it was.” Doctor Dan winked at him. “I was a very crafty little muppet when I was stationed here, and many shenanigans were had involving getting into places I shouldn’t have.” He twisted another lead and the door to the lift creaked open, revealing the bland interior of the visitor lift. “Lets see what this gets us.”
The bio alts followed him inside, as did Emily, and after a brief moment, Douglas joined them in a rumble of running boots, followed by a handful of the fighters.
Doctor Dan waited to see if anyone else was going to enter, then he went to the control panel inside and keyed the lift to rise. “Limited options.” He regarded the panel. “We can either go to the stores, or to the ceremony hall. Lets try the hall first, then we can head for the stores.”
Douglas gave him a thumbs up and the door closed.
“Give that a shove, would ya all?” Doug shoved the toolkit back into his belt pack and pointed. “Forgot the whole damn hydraulic system’s drained.”
“Yes.” Dev produced a brief grin. “That is why I was fairly sure the operations area would be untouched.” She regarded the door, a massive metal blockade from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, which her manipulation had released from it’s locks.
She stepped back and came to a halt as Jess’s hands dropped onto her shoulders, giving them a squeeze and then just resting there. After a moment, Dev turned her head and gave Jess’s thumb a kiss, grinning when she felt the squeeze repeated and the warmth as Jess’s body pressed against hers.
Four yonks had grabbed the edge of the main doors into the operations corridors and were pulling on it, with only a bit of success until six more got a handhold and the metal grudgingly gave way to ten Bay residents and inch by inch slid open wide enough to allow them to pass, still blocking half of the passageway.
Beyond it the smell was stone and dust and familiar to some. Jess felt a twitch of memory hit her as she inhaled, here in this place that had been her world and she had brief mental images of just the day to day surface in surprising succession.
Just ops meetings. Ops mess. The pit. Coming back from missions up this hallway. Things that had been her reality and now, remembering them, seemed somehow disassociated to her and lacking in color. “Remember this ramp, Devvie?”
Dev looked up from securing her kit. She looked around thoughtfully. “I do remember the first time we came back from our first mission here.” She said. “Everyone was making a lot of noise, and I had no idea what was going on.”
“Yeah.” Jess grinned briefly. “The start of the Rocket legend.”
They moved through the half open door and up the hallway, side passages branching off painted with the ingress to med, and security, and utterly silent. Jess straightened up to her full height and took a breath of the air, bringing it in past her tongue and sampling it.
It tasted sterile, there was no taint of decay on the air.
On the right hand side was the door to debrief. “Start here?” Jess paused, as the thirty fighters filed in behind them, looking around with bright interested eyes. “We can pile everything in the ops elevator at the end of this big hallway where it meets the wall up there and haul that up to stores level, move it down the lift they’re coming up on.”
April nodded. “S’good idea.” She agreed. “Want me to start in here, you go up to centops? The electronics storage was just around the corner from here.” She looked around in satisfaction. “Not gonna stop to sort crap. Just bring what we find.”
“Clint’ll find a use for whatever it is.” Doug said, and Chester nodded. “Hundred percent.”
“We’ll spread out towards security.” Mike said. “Everyone just start cracking doors open. Bring whatever you think’s interesting back here, we can use this as a staging.” He made a gesture at the crossways, which was wide and empty.
“Lets go.” Jess put her hand on Dev’s back. “Bay 1 gang, C’mon.” She pointed up the hall, through a now dark security ring. “Meet you all at the ops lift.”
They headed off deeper into the Base, heading through mostly empty hallways, with only a scattering of things left as they laid on the ground. Bags and last minute grabs of those who evacuated, scrambling to get to the transport.
One hallway was deeply stained in dark purple, and there was a pungent smell from it. “Sup?” Dustin pointed at it.
“Residential hall.” Jess said, eying it. “We used to live there, down the far end.” She jerked her jaw in that direction. “Last two cribs.” She added. “This is where Dev let loose the pneumatic fluid. Doors were sealed.”
It was too much for the fighters who immediately went in that direction and stuck their heads inside the half open door that was the entry to Jess’s housing. “Want stuff from in here, cuz?” Dustin turned and looked back at Jess.
“Nope.” Jess let them inspect. “Took everything I wanted when I left.” She put her arm casually across Dev’s shoulders. “Didn’t want anything else.”
They walked down the hall and looked past the roaming fighters, at the spare, dark housing with it’s overhead halons just outlining the workspace, and the bed, and the two cubicles on the second level.
Nothing personal, nothing on the walls, the inner door that led to Dev’s former room shoved wide open, showing the mirror image space beyond.
“S’allright.” Dustin said. “New one’s cooler.”
Jess chuckled. “Yeah, sure is.” She agreed readily. “Right Dev?”
“Well.” Dev took in the room reflectively. “Given that I arrived from station, where we had no assigned space, this seemed amazing to me. Our new housing is amazing, but really the best part of any space is having Jess in it.”
Jess felt her face heat up a little bit, but she bore the resulting grins and winks of the fighters with good grace. “Yeah, c’mon lets get this going. Don’t want to be here past dark.”
They went back out into the hall and trooped past the large center area where a dozen halls converged, then approached another dark security ring and the wide ramp leading to a sealed door and another ring labeled CENTOPS.
The ceremonial hall was lit only by the light coming in the top transparent roof, and as they stepped off the guest lift all the fighters paused to look up at the snow dusted surface in surprise. “Yo.” Douglas said. “Like the Bay.”
“A little.” Doctor Dan said. “So much of what was here, in the east, in Interforce Bases, did come from there, you know.” He looked around at the utterly empty space, that would never now see it’s next intaking. “Not much here to salvage, I’m afraid.”
The fighters were all walking around the big room, and now two of them paused near one wall heads tipped up, eyes flickering.
“Be a good place for a mixup.” Emily remarked, her arms folded over her chest. “If they put sand down.”
“Well, they would have celebrations here.” Doctor Dan said. “When they had new assignments or for get togethers, you know, that sort of thing. There wasn’t much use of it otherwise.”
“That’s dumbass.” Douglas said.
Doctor Dan chuckled softly. “Sometimes Interforce was very dumbass.” He said, dryly. “Now what have they found?”
They walked across the floor to the other side of the hall, where the fighters had gathered, to look at the same spot on the wall with an unusually intent interest.
“Ah.” Doctor Dan stopped and also looked up. “Yes.” He smiled briefly. “The Star of Valor list. Yes, that would be quite relevant to you lot, now wouldn’t it?” He regarded the large plaque mounted to the wall, with a list of engraved names, and above the list, the single metallic five pointed star.
The very last name, the newest, and sharpest edged, was Jesslyn Drake. But many of the earlier ones bore the same surname and these youngsters in their hoodies bearing the dragon head crest absorbed that with bright eyes.
“We should take that.” Douglas said, in a solemn tone. “That’s Drake.”
The fighters were all nodding. “S’true.”
“We could put that up.” Emily had come to stand next to Kurok. “Rugger cave’d look good with that.”
“What does that mean, Doctor Dan?” Kevin said quietly. Keko and Kelson came up behind him but waited in silence for the answer.
Doctor Dan folded his arms over his chest. “At Interforce, there’s a.. well, I don’t want to say it’s an award, because it’s not something you’re given.” He said. “But the Star of Valor was.. oh… noted I suppose on the records of Interforce agents who went above and beyond in the course of their duties and showed extraordinary bravery in service.”
After he finished saying that, it was silent for a very long moment.
Then as though a signal had been given, all the fighters started moving at once. “Lemme get a ladder.” “Got a wrench here.” “Give a hand, yo.”
“We’re taking that.” Douglas translated the activity. “That’s comin back to the Bay, doc.”
“We will help.” Kevin started forward. “If you would allow me to stand on your shoulders, I can reach that bottom bolt.”
“C’mon, K-boy.” Douglas put his arm around Kevin’s shoulder. “Hey! Let’s launch the spacers!”
Doctor Dan rocked up and down on his heels. “It’ll be a lovely surprise for Jess.” He remarked to Kelson, who had remained at his side. “And really, it does belong there.”
“It’s always excellent to acknowledge good work.” Kelson said, with a nod.
“You know, I ‘m not really sure that’s what it is.” Doctor Dan murmured. “It would be like me getting an award for having fingers.” He held up one hand. “You don’t really work at being that kind of brave, Kelson. You don’t decide to do something to be that. It’s just what you are. I know in reality, Jess didn’t care for it and having it mounted at the Bay will be very exasperating for her.”
Kelson looked at him in surprise and some alarm. “Should we not do this then, Doctor Dan?”
Kurok watched the work to remove the plaque. “No, we should.” He said, quietly. “Because it is Drake, and it does belong at the Bay.” He patted Kelson on the shoulder. “Lets go see if we can unlock the main lift, shall we?”
“Yes, Doctor Dan.” Kelson shifted his scanner obediently. “Perhaps they should get this thing into the transport and under the cargo cover first?”