Anderson looked over to her again as they stood in the lift, "I have to ask; why no rank? Did you really get out?"
Alera peered at him from the corner of her eye. "It's more like they threw me out Michael."
He sighed in disbelief. "If they threw you out Alera, what are you doing here now?"
"Some skills are hard to come by." The doors before them opened to the bridge. Alera turned back slightly as she walked out. "Let's just say I'm on contract as a free agent and keep it at that okay?"
The Captain frowned, unsure of what to make of the way the situation was unfolding. He stepped out of the lift whose doors shut quickly behind him.
"Ah, Major Kusanagi," Jameson waited for a salute that never came.
"What's the deal Dick?"
Richard shuddered, "Perhaps we should continue this conversation in my ready room. Follow me."
The three walked up the stairs to the aft of the bridge and down the corridor. When the doors to Admiral Jameson's office closed, he turned around abruptly and nearly spat the words out through his teeth. "Major, can I ask what you're playing at here?"
Alera turned to Jameson. "I'm not in the Navy anymore Dick. Let's get to work before I get too expensive for your bosses. Time is money." She popped the cork out of a bottle of scotch and took a whiff. "No rum on this boat?"
"She's a free agent now," Anderson said, rolling his eyes.
"Jesus Christ." Jameson shook his head. "You were a loose cannon enough back when the Navy still had its hooks in; I can just imagine the crazy you're capable of now that you're on the dime."
"No Jameson, I really don't think you're imaginative enough to really know what kinds of crazy I'm capable of; but that's neither here nor there. You guys have a job for me or not?"
Anderson nodded, "Admiral, I'm just as eager as Misses -"
Anderson tried again. "I'm just as eager as Miss Alera to find out exactly what her role is here.
"We need a ship."
Anderson waited, his head cocked. "We need a ship? With all due respect sir, don't you find that statement is lacking information? We have -"
Jameson sighed and wiped his brow. "Anderson, we need a civilian ship so we can conduct a covert recce operation on Thalos to find out who's supplying the resistance. We have no idea what else they have waiting out there for us and I'm not going to bring a battlegroup into a blind fight. They just might have enough firepower to chip away at us until there's nothing left."
"I guess that's where I come in," Alera said, smiling.
"You're going to steal a ship?" Anderson asked.
"That is my specialty Captain. Always has been."
Anderson glared at the Admiral. "And you were trying to give me shit about information runners?"
"Urgh." The Admiral shook his head. "She used to do it for the navy. She was part of a unique special operations command group designated to board and wrestle control from ships mid combat."
"How is it that the navy can fire her, then hire her freelance?"
"Because she wouldn't come back in uniform. She refused."
"So why not get someone else?"
"Because I'm the best," she said, taking a swing of scotch from the bottle.
Jameson pointed all four fingers at her, "Come on, that's disgusting, at least poor a glass God Damnit."
"Well, anyone's good with a platoon of highly trained marines at their back."
"Really Mike? You want to take my place? I'll sit here all cozy and call the shots while you get ripped up and watch the life leak out of your friends. How's that?"
"I've done plenty of that Alera, you have no idea."
"I can assure you that I've done a lot more."
"That's enough with the pissing contest!" Jameson said, his hands raised. "Grow the fuck up! You're professionals for God's sake."
"Some of us are," she said, taking another swig.
Anderson reluctantly ignored the comment, as did the Admiral. "Listen, let's just get this done so we can all get back to life the way we like it."
Alera scoffed, "Far away from you navy pricks, got it. I'm on board with that plan. So point and shoot, I'm ready whenever you are."
Jameson shrugged. "You're on your own as usual. Pick your team grab a shuttle and find a civilian ship by whatever means you can."
"I have one condition." Anderson added.
Both the Admiral and Alera turned slowly toward him as though he had just tipped a giant precarious stone down a village valleyside.
"Oh yeah?" Alera asked.
Jameson shook his head. "What, in God's name, is your condition?"
"I want oversight."
Alera frowned. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means plainly that I want someone I can trust to be on your team."
"What? You can't trust- "
"No, I can't."
"Let's face it Anderson, you don't have anyone on this ship with the required skillset," she said matter-of-factly.
"That's not entirely true. There are two Marines onboard, they transfered over a few years ago. Jim Black and Jon Low."
Alera's eyes lit up in recognition at the names. "Huh, alright, I'll take them."
Anderson was almost uncomfortable at her swift response.
"Tell them to meet us at the shuttle pad in twenty minutes, civilian dress," she said as she slammed the scotch on the liquor hutch and stormed out of the room.
Anderson turned to the Admiral and was about to speak when her voice came echoing down the hall.
"Twenty minutes sharp!" she yelled; her words punctuated by the closing of the ready room doors.