Kalian enters an access code and is thankful when the light glows green and the heavy door slides open for her.
Private rooms at Outpost Zaxxius do not come cheap, but thankfully this one was paid for in advance, long before she was swindled out of her remaining bank balance by that damn fly jock. It was a rookie mistake, and she should’ve known better. Mistakes like that could cost her more than what is on her asset chip, and she can’t be that careless again.
The door behind her closes. A quick scan of the room confirms that it is free of any surveillance devices. She is alone and finally comfortable enough to remove her helmet and cloak. Blue hair falls past her shoulders as it is freed from the confines of the armored headgear she wears for protection, both of the physical kind and also the protection of her identity.
Sitting down at a desk in the room, Kalian retrieves a communication device from her pack and initializes a secure connection back to her ship. The connection is made and the face of the commanding officer aboard the AEXOR3 ship where she is stationed flashes onto the screen.
“Kalie, I didn’t expect to hear back from you so soon. Is everything alright?”
“I’ve run into a small problem,” Kalian replies before explaining to her commander about the interaction she just had with the T.U.5.C.C. Pilot.
“Are you worried he recognized you?” the commanding officer asks.
Kalian shakes her head.
“No, I had my helmet and cloak on the entire time. I think I am safe in that regard, but I do need some more funding transferred to my asset chip. At the very least I need enough for the transport back to Thyrimos.”
“The funds will be there by the time this call is done,” comes the reply.
“So unfortunately I have not found out much else,” Kalian reports. “No one has heard of any reports from the Qorgonox. That’s why I engaged with the Pilot. I was hoping to get some inside intel since there had been nothing on the standard feeds. I figured a Red Jet may have had access to some details that had not been made public yet.”
“That is ok, Kalie,” the commander says, cutting her off. “We have just heard back from the company and there seems to have been a distress call from the Qorgonox shortly before we lost contact with the ship.”
“Why are we just hearing about this now?”
“Apparently the call came in on a rarely used backend channel. The Comm Team thinks that alone shows that normal operations on the ship were impeded in some way. Otherwise they would have used the main comm-band to report any need for assistance.”
“Do we have information on where they were last confirmed to be?” Kalian asks.
“Yes, but it is not very specific. I am sending it to you now.”
Kalian sees that a transmission file has appeared on her datascreen and she taps it to access the information. A map of Thyrimos, the fourth ring of Cosmerrium, hovers in the air before her.
“The Qorgonox was working deep into the Fourth,” the commander says.
“I can see that,” Kalian replies. “They are almost in the Fifth at that point. Why would they be so deep?”
“That is a big area. Lots of reclamation opportunities once you get close to the Fifth Ring.”
“Yes, but it is also dangerous,” Kalian jumps in, the security professional in her immediately wary of the challenges of Exxos. “The Fifth is far from the reach of the Phaerrox, and any who travel in those sectors do so at a great risk to the safety of their ship and their crew.”
“I am surprised you did not make your way to Exxos,” the commander comments. “Being that, as you said, it is far from the reach of the Phaerrox.”
Kalian is silent for a few second before responding.
“There has never been a call for my return to Z’tratos,” she says. “I was dismissed from the Column with no further prejudice or penalty.”
“And yet you continue to run and to hide your identity for fear of being discovered?” the commander asks.
Kalian Shunn thinks back to her time with the Ipperian Column. On her right arm she still wears a piece of antique armor from that time, a reminder of where she came from, and why she left.
“I am not trying to upset you,” Kalian’s commanding officer says as she sees her friend struggle with the memories of her past. As far as she knows, she is the only one with whom Kalie has shared her history. The only one who knows why she left the ranks of the Phaerrox Dynasty’s elite bodyguards and instead threw her lot in with a salvage crew mining for junk on the edges of Cosmerrium’s outer rings.
“There is more on the Qorgonox,” the commander says, changing the subject. “AEXOR’s Comm Team said they got a hit on one of the inventory markers, of all things. They mapped it to an area not too far from where we tagged their distress transmission originating from. It is not a heavily explored sector, but there are a number of small moons in that general vicinity.”
“So are we thinking they crashed?” Kalian asks, the return to business and the situation at hand immediately changing her demeanor back to the no-nonsense soldier that the commander is used to.
“That is our best guess.”
“And so I assume we are headed out there to investigate further?”
“Those are not our instructions,” the commander answers. “AEXOR3 has said they will send recovery units to the area. We are supposed to pack up and head towards the Third Ring to handle a big job that just came in.”
“Something is off with this whole situation. I can feel it,” Kalian says.
“I’ve learned not to doubt your feelings, especially when they recognize danger,” the commanding officer replies. “But this problem isn’t ours to solve. We are better off doing what we are assigned to do. You are better off doing that. Just another salvage crew working the rings, right?”
Kalian nods. Her gut tells her that there is indeed something wrong, and the solider in her hates that she is preparing to run from it rather than towards it, but this is her life now.
“Your asset chip will have enough to get you back here,” the commander says. “When can we expect you?”
“I will leave immediately,” Kalian answers, standing up from her seat. “I will see you soon.”
The transmission ends and Kalian picks up her helmet. She has her orders, and like a good solider she will follow them. Her focus now is on her own ship and crewmates. She makes sure that they are safe and that any balances owed to them are paid up in full when they deliver their salvaged cargo. That is her role.
Kalian tucks her hair back under the helmet and returns her comm device to her pack. Her heavy cloak is secured and she pulls the large hood up over her helmet. It is time for her to leave. Transports run from Zaxxius continually, so she should have no problem finding a way out of the Outpost soon.
The door opens in front of Kalian and she steps into the hallway of the Outpost. She looks to her left, and then to her right. It is just in time to brace herself as an individual steps around the corner and bumps into her.
“Watch it!” she snaps, then quickly realizes she is looking at someone wearing a suit of T.U.5.C.C. armor. Immediately she wonders if she was actually recognized from her interaction with the pilot, but the individual quickly shuffles away, paying no attention to Kalian. He is clearly in a rush as he races down the hallway and disappears behind another corner.
Kalian shakes her head and makes her way towards the ticketing core of Outpost Zaxxius. The sooner she is away from this place with its crowds and cameras, the better she will feel. The company will send a team to locate the Qorgonox. Meanwhile, she will be far away doing what she does best - keeping herself, and those she cares about, safe.
Published on 03.10.23