Just Another JobMature

Irene sat patiently in her client’s office on Stanton II as she waited for him to complete a call with his wife.  The client was a man of middle years, of an almost pure Asian genetic strain (a rarity, to say the least), with dark eyes and the slender, delicate hands of an artist.  He wasn’t muscular or threatening in any way, serving as a contrast to the large Scandinavian woman on the other side of the communications link. 

Irene was on her best behavior.  Her scars were covered up with temporary skin-composites that looked almost the same as natural flesh, and her prosthetic eye was covered with a simple blue leather patch that almost looked stylish.  She was dressed in a dark gray business suit and skirt that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an office lady on twentieth-century Earth, and there were no weapons on her, a state that made her feel more than a little uncomfortable, though she considered it as part of the price for doing business with the man before her.  The only sign of just how unusual she was was the pair of tight leather gloves covering her hands, concealing the fact that she had numerous (almost illegal) implants that allowed her to link directly with the tools of her trade.

She also had a pleasant smile on her face, carefully refraining from showing her teeth (there was little she could do about the distinctly metallic appearance of half of her mouth).  The desire to leave was strong, but this particular client had proven himself to be honest, when it came to fulfilling his part of their contracts. So it was that she found herself indulging his whim by meeting him in person, rather than simply receiving a contract over the planetary network, as was normally the case in her line of work.

After a few minutes, the client – his name was Kido Tojirou – made his excuses and ended the call with his wife.  He turned to Irene, looking apologetic, “I’m sorry Ms. Tanistal.  My daughter apparently got into some trouble at school that my wife could not handle without my intervention.”

Irene shook her head, “That is all right.  I am not in a hurry today.”  Irene made a habit of giving this particular client extra time whenever they met, after a disastrous first meeting in which she’d almost been obligated to leave before their conversation was over due to some emergency on his end.

He smiled knowingly.  She was aware that he deliberately manufactured crises at times, to test her patience.  Considering what he hired her to do, it was a bit humorous that he dared to toy with her so.

“Now, down to business…”  He reached into his desk and pulled out a packet of credit chips and a single memory stick, handing them to Irene.

Irene quickly scanned the credit chips using her wrist pad (a smaller and less powerful version of the one built into her combat armor and stealth suit), confirming that the appropriate amount could be found within.  She nodded in satisfaction before looking up, “That’s last week’s payment, down to the last credit… it is good doing business with someone who adheres to proper contractual standards.”

He smiled, “It is always a pleasure working with someone as competent and reliable as yourself, Ms. Tanistal.”

She slipped the packet of credit chips inside her suit’s right inner vest pocket before hooking the memory stick up to her wrist pad.  Data played across her prosthetic eye’s vision behind the patch, and she frowned at the contents.

“This isn’t the kind of work you usually hire me for, Mr. Kido.   I find it strange that you’d want to contract me for this kind of ‘side-job’.”  She remarked. 

The contents of the contract would most likely have disgusted the average law-abiding citizen, but she was accustomed to the necessities of her work.  When she was on-planet, she usually found herself working almost exclusively for the man before her… but the work was mostly routine data-theft, work she could almost do in her sleep without any worries of failure.  It was lucrative but lacking in the tension she was accustomed to dealing with on other planets.

An apologetic smile creased his face, “I am sorry, Ms. Tanistal… but the necessities of life and good business practice apply to everyone.”

Irene sighed deeply and began making plans to assassinate his wife.

It wasn’t that Irene objected to it in principal… his wife had been embezzling the company’s money for years, using her position as the CFO’s secretary (not Kido himself, but Kido’s boss) to gain access to his business accounts and funnel money into her personal ones.  However, Irene disliked it that that same CFO had ordered his secretary’s husband to have her killed.  It was typical of the kind of messes she ran across dealing with powerful corporations in the UEE, but it left a bad taste in the mouth, nonetheless.

Irene disliked it when her clients went out of the way to emphasize the ‘why’, when it came to hiring her.  Quite frankly, she didn’t care one way or the other about their reasons.  However, she especially disliked it when they insisted on showing off their dirty laundry, when all they needed to do was give her a contract to sign and a target to hunt. 

As she prepared, using her sources on the planetary network to obtain information about her target, her wrist pad suddenly came up with a second contract.  This time, her sigh was so heavy it felt like it should have been dripping liquid lead.  Endless complications…

She added another name to her search agent’s list as she headed south, toward her safe house.


Irene’s safe house, based in what had once been a molecular circuit manufactory, was one of several she owned on the planet.  It was the most run-down of the group, and the only one that was a complete drain on her funds, rather than adding to her bank account in rents from the current tenants. 

During a series of plague riots six years before, the manufactory had been hit by looters, who had killed the owner and several of the workers.  The resulting liability claims had bankrupted the small company (owned through several proxy corporations by Hurston) that had owned it, resulting in the building being abandoned and put up on the market to pay off some of the company’s debts.  Irene had bought it, thinking to refurbish it and give it over to some hopeful entrepreneur who might transform it back into something useful in exchange for a share of the profits… but she’d underestimated just how bad the area had gotten after the riots.  Nobody had been willing to take the risk inherent in starting a business in an area that was functionally lawless.

So, she’d instead transformed the basement into a virtual fortress, designing the network security herself and hiring a professional to take care of the physical end of things.  She kept a set of weapons and other tools, as well as enough credit chips to make a rapid and discreet escape from the planet in the event of a disastrous job in the room, along with a bed and enough preserved food and water for two months, in the resulting bunker-like set of rooms.

As she approached, she ran through the set of remote commands that would allow her to access the safe house’s security functions.  More than nine hundred layers of encrypted passwords lay between her and access to the systems in the room below, but she went through the sequence in less than a minute, at the speed of thought through the access granted by the implant connected to her prosthetic eye. 

She was happy to see that no one had disturbed her precautions while she had left, though the charred corpse of some poor vagrant lay in a corner of the factory.   Apparently, he had been new enough to the area not to know better than to enter the old manufactory without her permission, and as a result he’d ended up on the receiving end of the automated defenses.

I’ll have to have some of the local children clean that up…  It was her habit to hire street children to clean up the manufactory on a monthly basis when she was present.  When she wasn’t, she designated a proxy to do it in her place.  It provided a steady income for children who otherwise wouldn’t have had anything significant to eat, and it earned her the loyalty of those children in a way merely giving alms would have failed to.

Not that she did it out of the goodness of her heart.  She knew very well how to earn the loyalty of youths left to grow wild, having been one herself on a planet far worse than that one.  In the pragmatic sense, she knew those children would willingly die out of loyalty to a benefactor that treated them with respect.  As such, she could trust them to protect what secrets of hers were there to be found, as long as they weren’t subjected to torture.

As she approached, a section of the seemingly solid floor slid back, revealing stairs illuminated by a single light set into the ceiling.  At the bottom of the stairs, a heavy, seven-inch thick metal door slid back with the hiss of released pressure, revealing the inside of the first room of her safe house.

Above, the false floor slid closed once again, and the light shut off.  Inside the first room were racks holding various firearms ranging from battle rifles using old-style propellant-driven projectiles to a SSM (Surface to Space Missile) launchers.  The majority was made up on variations on the theme of the ‘quiet’ weapon.  This included propellant handguns utilizing old-style suppressors, laser pistols, and even a monofilament shorts sword contained in magnetized sheaths. 

In addition to the weapons, there were five suits.  One was a ‘stealth suit’ designed for space operations, which had thrusters that could switch between propellant thrust and expelling bursts of compressed air.  The second was a bulky set of the powered armor used by UEE Marines during planetary invasions, with a built in missile launcher in the shoulder and a slug-firing shotgun in the left arm.  The third was a set of armor identical to that used by the planetary police forces, with the exception that the stun baton attached to the hip was actually a one-shot rocket launcher.  The fourth was  a classic armored skinsuit, used for traditional boarding actions.  A clip on the back allowed its user to carry a heavy firearm such as a battle rifle on the back, and another on each hip was for the carrying of sidearms or tools.  The fifth was a simple anti-ballistic suit that could fit under normal clothing and became transparent when in contact with the skin of its registered user.  It had minor reflex and strength enhancing capabilities, and it was capable of self-repairing, within limits. 

Except for the Marine power armor, there was one of each (the police one differing for each planet) in all of her safe houses and caches on every planet she operated from.  The power armor was too expensive and difficult to obtain for her to have many of them, so she generally kept it in whichever safe house she considered to be her primary on a given planet or on board her own ship. 

She made her way through the armory, a thick armored door on the opposite wall sliding aside to reveal a corridor just wide enough for a single large man or two small women to pass through.  She turned right upon entering the corridor and headed for her workroom, which was carefully armored and shielded against deep scans that might have revealed its contents (the armory was shielded in a similar manner).  Upon entering it, she stripped off her suit and eye patch, tossing them on a nearby chair, revealing her body.

There was very little left about Irene’s body that was womanly in any significant way.  Dermal mesh replaced most of the skin of her torso, and both breasts had been obliterated by the grenade blast which had ended with the replacement of her heart and right lung.  The dermal mesh was quite obviously synthetic in nature, as she hadn’t bothered concealing it with false skin.  It was a dark gray, perfectly smooth and slightly chilled to the touch.  It extended from just above her belly to just short of her neck, and her ribs had been entirely replaced with cybernetics.  A massive scar played across her belly and down to just above her right knee where someone had cut her open with a serrated bayonet.  Two small knots on her muscular upper right arm showed the entry and exit points for a boarding crossbow bolt which had punched straight through. 

Irene pulled a set of workman’s overalls and sweats from their place in a closet by the entrance and put them on, along with a set of tight-fitting darkened safety goggles and a mask.  She withdrew a small bar of solid explosive from a shielded box by the work bench and cut a finger-sized chunk off, setting it on the right side of the work bench before she withdrew a thumbnail-sized detonator plug, setting it to one side as well.  Last of all, she took out a small oval-shaped case made out of the same metal as the hull of a Javelin destroyer.  She took the detonation plug and wrapped it in the putty-like explosive, making certain the explosive covered it solidly before she set it in the center of the case and filled the case with a quick-drying, sticky substance, using a penknife to scrape off the excess.  She then took out a scrap of impermeable composite and covered the sticky substance with it, sealing the casing from the outside air carefully. 

She’d already decided how she would deal with the wife… Irene was something of a traditionalist, when it came to this kind of killing.

The other… was going to require a bit of... ingenuity.


Irene watched quietly from her ship in orbit as Serena Kido (once Serena Hurston) got into her personal shuttle, alone.  Sixteen days of watching the woman do so had made her patient.  She knew Serena would at some point use the shuttle to travel outside the atmosphere, and she was waiting for that moment.

Killing Serena at home had, as she had anticipated, proven to be a difficult proposition.   While her cyber-security wasn’t impenetrable, it wasn’t something even Irene could break through quickly or without being noticed without direct access.  Her guards were, though not numerous, were nonetheless eminently competent.  Making it worse was that her client had made them aware of a potential attempt on her life… a fact that the client had told her in good faith a day after she had signed the contract.

However, Irene was used to getting around such difficulties, and Serena’s personal shuttle was not as well-protected as her home in cyber-space.  That had allowed Irene to complete preparations for the carrying out of her contractual obligations.

Irene felt a small smile of satisfaction cross her lips as the telemetry transmitted from Serena’s shuttle’s nav-computer told her she was headed for one of the pleasure stations in orbit around the planet.  With a swipe of her finger and a thought, she over-wrote the actual coordinates with the coordinates for a nearby field of space debris from a pirate attack the previous year.  At the same time, she used a second program to cut Serena’s access to the shuttle’s navigation and communications.  She used the shuttle’s own scanners to check Serena for long-range communicators and discovered two.  One was a simple location device implanted in her right hand, which was easily and noiselessly fried by a program sent through Serena’s own implants.  The second was her wrist computer, which Irene quietly transformed into a part of her own bot-net.  If Serena attempted to communicate using that computer, she would get false messages of reassurance from the ground in return. 

The shuttle quietly redirected itself to the debris field.  A few minutes after, Serena seemed to realize she’d lost control and began to panic.  Her beautiful face screwed up in terror, and she began trying the various consoles, desperately seeking some way to regain control of her shuttle.  Irene spared a moment of pity for her as the shuttle entered the debris field, reaching the point Irene had designated a few moments later.

Irene sent the signal to the bombs placed by her shuttle’s power plant and life support, and a moment later Irene lost all connection with the shuttle.  A drone Irene had hidden in the debris field came alive and showed her the shuttle.   As Irene had expected, the explosions had gutted it, tearing the small craft practically in half.  With life support lost and her personal computer unable to communicate with the ground, she would die out there in hours, even if she had survived the actual explosion in a space-suit. 

Irene sighed heavily and sent the recordings of what had occurred to her client in a heavily-encrypted communication before redirecting her thoughts to the more difficult of her two targets.


Irene was awakened from her sleep by a jolt from her prosthetic eye, which was set to warn her when her target arrived.  She stood up and looked over the edge of the apartment high-rise’s roof, zeroing in on the target.

Sure enough, Marcus Hurston stood in the square below, surrounded by guards and protected by an energy shield generator supplied with power from the power plant of the ship he’d landed there.  Eight days of preparing the field, seven waiting.  It is almost enough to make me regret taking the contract.

Irene quickly entered a command into the communications console she’d set up beside her, and she nodded in satisfaction as she took control of the satellite mass driver cannon overhead.  She only had fifteen seconds to aim it before the firing sequence began, but she was easily able to position it over the shielded area.  

A few seconds later, the mass driver cannon fired, and she threw herself behind and under the shielded canopy she’d installed on the roof.  The blast that occurred a second later shattered all the windows on the nearby buildings (thankfully evacuated for Marcus’ safety by his security team, one of whom was lying dead in the stairwell below the roof, the top of his head blown off by the auto-turret stationed there). 

Irene emerged and ran toward the edge of the roof, her armored suit cracking the already damaged thermacrete with each step before she launched herself out into the air with a sudden leap.  Below, she could see the dazed Marcus being dragged back to the smoking Constellation, whose shields had just been overloaded by the strike, by two of his black-armored bodyguards.  However, two quick bursts from the battle rifle clipped to her armor’s right forearm tore through the guard on the right, shredding his armor and sending blood splattering across his principal and his fellow guard.  

The other guard briefly released his grip on his principal and raised his sidearm, a machine pistol, firing rapidly at Irene as she approached.  Several bullets hit the surface of her armor, but they barely scratched the paint… not a surprising result, considering she was fully dressed out in UEE Marine battle armor. 

She hit the ground a moment later and sent three quick bursts into the second guard, tossing a fragmentation grenade into the midst of the ones still lying, dazed, on the ground.  The guard managed to get himself behind the Constellation’s landing gear, but his dazed fellows weren’t so lucky.  The grenade’s explosion sent dozens of ball bearings tearing through their prone bodies, reducing several of them to bloody shreds and wounding those that remained terribly.

Freed of the need to concern herself with the other guards, Irene switched from the battle rifle to the missile launcher, sending one straight into the cockpit.  The resulting explosion sent her skidding back several feet, despite her armor, and left a head-sized hole in the cockpit’s ‘window’.  Inside, the controls had caught fire, and she was quite certain no one was alive to put it out.

That done, she sprayed the remaining guard’s hiding place with the battle rifle on automatic, keeping him under cover just long enough for her to use the thrusters on the back to ‘leap’ to his side and punch him in the side, shattering his body armor and sending him flying into a nearby pile of hot debris from one of the nearby apartment buildings.  She then followed that with a rapid-fire spray of rounds from her battle rifle, which emptied the magazine while puncturing his armor in a dozen places.  Her sensors told Irene that he would bleed out in seconds, meaning there was no need for her to follow up further.

She turned and strolled back over to Marcus, who was just then coming back to himself, staring in dazed horror at the carnage.  The apartment buildings were badly damaged, fissures running up the walls, windows shattered, and fires started in several places.  His guards were dead or dying, and his ship was completely disabled.  Most likely for the first time in his life, Marcus Hurston was helpless and vulnerable… and he obviously didn’t know what to do about it.

He turned his head to look at her, and she could see her armor’s smooth, nearly unblemished surface reflected in his fear-darkened eyes.  She reached down and pulled him upright by the neck, using a pre-arranged command to insert a needle of paralytic poison into his bloodstream.  A few moments later, his eyes dulled and fell closed.  Irene threw him over her shoulder and began running at the armor’s top speed (fifty kilometers an hour) toward where her escape shuttle awaited.


As expected, the attack made the news… though – also as expected – there was no word on who had carried out the murder of Marcus Hurston.  The client had more than fulfilled his part of the contract, having made certain that no sensors, visual or otherwise, were directed to the area where the attack occurred.  The Constellation’s computer core would have been obliterated by the second, delayed shot from the mass driver cannon, and the data-bomb virus Irene had planted in the cannon’s systems would make certain no one would be able to trace her from there.

The second shot, without the shield to protect the bodies, would have obliterated the corpses of the guards.  As planned, Marcus’s death was already considered a certainty by Hurston’s board of directors, and they were deep in an argument about who would be the next CFO. 

However, Marcus was alive and sitting strapped to a chair in Irene’s ship, a stealth-converted Redeemer with a small interrogation cell set up in the armory.  The client, Kido Tojirou, sat in another chair beside the cell, watching his enemy with flat, cold eyes.  It was a side of him Irene had always assumed he possessed but that he had taken care not to show.  No one could climb as high as he had in as insular a corporation as Hurston without the ruthlessness and cold ambition to match his intelligence and general capability. 

“Marcus, Marcus… I can understand that you needed Serena to die to cover up your poor accounting, but I do think that it was going a bit far to give me the order to arrange it.”  Tojirou said calmly as he drew the tip of the knife in his right hand down the side of Marcus’s face, digging a deep, bleeding furrow in the younger man’s cheek. 

Irene felt mild disgust and a grudging admiration for her client’s ruthless sadism.  The man had fulfilled his obligations to the letter and was now extracting his revenge for doing so.  Tojirou was not a man who wasted his time on decade-spanning revenge plots.  He had arranged for Marcus’s capture within hours of contracting Irene to murder his wife.  It wasn’t a scenario Irene had encountered before, but it did make sense, based on her reading of the man.

“My daughter is now without a mother because of you and I,” He said conversationally as he stabbed Marcus in the upper right thigh, missing the arteries with a perfect accuracy given him by the bio-scanner covering his right eye.  He withdrew the knife and took out a small metal bottle full of salt, which he poured into the wound.  Marcus screamed through the leather covering his mouth, cold sweat giving his skin a certain sheen in the bright light illuminating the armory. 

“I… well I will make it up to my daughter with the love a father owes his children.  If she ever discovers it was me, I will accept whatever she decides and give her the support she needs to continue.  However, you…”  A sudden flare of rage burned in his eyes as he dug a finger into the open wound, digging it deep into the flesh.

“You will not be given a chance for atonement.  Unfortunately, I cannot afford to leave you in a position where my daughter might one day attempt her revenge.  Your father’s position in the corporation makes certain that any attempt my daughter makes will only result in her destruction.  As a loving father, I can’t allow that to happen… and so we are here.”  His expression had returned to normal, save for the emotionlessness of his gaze, which reminded Irene of the sharks she had seen in an aquarium on Earth.

“Ms. Tanistal, if you would.”  He ordered without looking at her.

Irene responded by stepping forward and presenting Tojirou with a rod a half a meter in length, with a rubber handle and a fork-like end.  “I’ve been told that this was used to move cattle in the times before spaceflight.  It was difficult, but I obtained one, just for this occasion.”

With a simple press of a button, he caused electricity to start flowing through the rod, in preparation for what was to come.  Marcus’s eyes widened in terrified understanding as the rod approached…


Irene sighed for what seemed like the thousandth time as she watched the cleaning drone eliminate the blood that splattered the floors of the small cell.  Tojirou’s revenge had been as terrible to watch as she had thought it would be.  It brought back memories of her home planet… ones that she would have preferred remain forgotten. 

Tojirou was sleeping peacefully sitting up in a drop harness in the troop compartment, apparently untouched by the horror of what he had done.  Marcus’s body was still strapped to the chair, his eyes two empty holes streaked with blood, his teeth shattered, his tongue missing, and his finger and toenails torn off.  His heart had failed somewhere around the seventh hour, after the twentieth time she’d used a chemical injection to reawaken him.  Except for that initial outburst, Tojirou had displayed nothing even resembling human emotion through the entire process.  He had simply coldly and mechanically destroyed Marcus’s body in as painful a manner was possible.

In another two days, Irene would drop Tojirou off by his home for the funeral of his ‘missing’ wife.  Marcus’s corpse would be jettisoned into the atmosphere long before that, in order to dispose of the evidence. 

It is going to be weeks before I can get the stench of piss and blood out of the armory floors though…  She thought as she unstrapped Marcus’s corpse, dragging it over to his ‘coffin’, a simple box made of plastic composite that already contained his tongue and missing eyes.  She dropped him inside, pressing the small blue button on the box’s side to make it seal itself.  She’d let Tojirou have the ‘honor’ of jettisoning the body from the airlock when the time came.

She began removing Tojirou’s ‘tools’ from the nearby table and floor and replacing them in the large attaché-case they’d originally been held in.  They ranged from a board looking like an oversized pre-spaceflight mousetrap meant to rip fingernails and toenails off in a single, agonizing moment to the hot needles Tojirou had used to puncture and remove Marcus’s eyes, after using a set of small knives to remove his eyelids. 

She would be glad when she was shed of Tojirou’s presence.  Her homeworld had had its share of sadists, but she’d only met a few with the sheer artistry Tojirou had shown in his torture of Marcus. 

Until then… she really needed a drink.


Irene grimaced at the foul taste of the local beer as she slurped it down, staring at the screen which was displaying the funeral of Marcus Hurston.  Serena would not likely have a funeral at all, as the Hurston family tended to be unforgiving of those who went too far dipping their fingers into the pot. 

As she – and most likely Tojirou as well – had expected, Tojirou had been announced as the next CFO after officially changing his name to Tojirou Hurston and formally adopted by the current CEO.  The latter had been unexpected… but she really should have expected it, upon reflection.  For all that the Hurstons weren’t stupid enough to choose true incompetents to run their corporation; there was nonetheless a definite need to bind those capable managers to them. 

Irene looked down at the balance displayed on her pad and smiled slightly, Sixteen million credits… seven million a ‘bonus for psychological harm’.  Tojirou’s sense of humor is showing through again.

Despite her dislike of his tactics, Irene and Tojirou’s working relationship as contractor and employer was still good… though Irene knew very well that it was past time she departed the planet.  Eventually someone was going to get close… and it was best that she was off-planet when it happened.  She’d already moved or destroyed all the more incriminating evidence, including the viruses she’d used on the orbital cannon.  While her ‘signature’ as a cracker wasn’t that distinctive, she wasn’t so arrogant as to believe no one would be able to put the pieces together if she was present to give them more ‘samples’.

Three million spent on pressuring and bribing the police and the owners of those apartments to ‘look the other way’, another four million spent on compensating the men who unleashed my original viruses into the Hurstons’ secured network… and around seventeen thousand spent on ammunition and fuel. That leaves just under nine million credits of profit for this job… not bad, considering how stingy Tojirou is usually.  She thought as she finished calculating the particulars of how she would redistribute her fees.  High-profile assassinations and kidnappings always brought in a lot of money… if you were willing to take the accompanying risks.  Some of her go-betweens and hirelings would figure out what they’d been used for eventually, but it wouldn’t matter by then.  Tojirou’s influence would ensure that within a year or so it would be completely and permanently safe for her to return to the planet… which was one of the reasons she’d agreed to the second contract in the first place.

Not that she really wanted to come back.  The planet’s food tasted awful, its beer was sour and smelled like rotting fish, the air tended to vary between foul to poisonous, and the people were either incredibly wealthy (the vast minority) or absolutely destitute (the rest).  For all that her homeworld was undeniably a hellworld from most people’s point of view; it had at least had decent food and beer.

However, her luck in obtaining connections with Tojirou and other members (many of them rivals with one another) of Hurston Dynamics who were seeking to climb to the top made the planet an easy source for high-paying – though frequently distasteful – contracts.  Irene wasn’t a moralist, by any standard, but she disliked waste… and Hurston Dynamics’ internal politics were the very definition of wasteful.

Irene used her spoon to scoop up a mouthful of the foul-smelling (but surprisingly nutritious) stew she’d purchased from the bar’s somewhat limited menu.  Hurston bars tended to either be high-end, incredibly expensive affairs or small, dirty places with only two or three items on the menu other than beer.  Monetarily, Irene could easily afford eating at a high-end Hurston restaurant every day, for all three meals… but her work made that an unwise choice.  Eating well on a planet with such a massive disparity between the rich and the poor revealed far too much about her personal circumstances for her to feel safe.

“Kido Tojirou, now Tojirou Hurston, has been named to replace Marcus Hurston as Hurston Dynamics’ Stanton CFO.  Mr. Hurston is a single man, with a teenaged daughter named…” 

Having heard what she wanted to hear from the news, Irene quickly finished her meal and guzzled the bad beer, leaving a credit chip behind on the table that was worth two or three times what the actual meal would have cost.  The bartender, an ancient man with dull grey eyes and white hair wearing an oxygen mask, nodded in acknowledgement of her ‘donation’ before going back to wiping out one of the large steins he used to serve his foul libations.


On board her Redeemer, she finally relaxed, letting all the tension from the past few months out in a single gasp of air that escaped her lips as a groan, echoing in the cockpit.  The ship’s crew of four, which she had disembarked for the business with Marcus and Tojirou, was now back in their places, taking care of the everyday work of keeping the ship running.  

She’d left the choice of destination to her navigator, as she wasn’t really interested one way or the other.  It would be weeks or even months before she was recovered enough to undertake the kind of workload she’d endured on Hurston, and until then, they would most likely be working as a small-unit troop transport for one mercenary outfit or another.  During that time, she would be able to reduce herself to ‘just another combat pilot’ and possibly actually relax into a role that was almost enjoyable to her.

She looked out upon the stars and the jump point in the distance with a faint, sleepy smile, her consciousness devoid of calculation or tension… for now.

The End

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