Part IV – Metropolis

I spent three weeks in one of the largest hospitals on Terra, surgeries, recovery. It would have been longer but I checked myself out, I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost one eye because of the skull fracture and the resulting nerve damage. It was replaced with one of the most advanced cybernetics available. Same with my left arm, in the heat of battle I didn’t feel the heat of a plasma shot burning through my EVA suit, vacuum, low temperatures and space radiation did the rest, I was lucky I didn’t die. 

The cybernetics felt…weird, my new eye could see better than my own and the arm was much stronger than a human one. But was still doubtful of my doctors saying that I will be back to normal before I know it. The major problem of the eye was that the color didn’t match my other eye. They made a mistake and couldn’t fix it without more surgery, I’ve had enough people slice into my face as it is. The whole thing left some nasty scars, I didn’t look in the mirror for too long.

Prime is a huge city, it reminds me of London or New York back home.Though I find it much more peaceful and welcoming. Sol system, is beset by old traditions and unreasonably high taxes and regulations on everything, that’s part of why I left. That and something about my parents being disappointed with my career choices or was it my romantic interests? I don’t recall, the concussion messed me up bad.

The company has its headquarters and an expansive landing zone and hangars in Terra, it’s the centre of our operations. The complex has the main office building with street access on the ground and executive landing pads on top. Behind it is a landing zone with hangars and warehouses around the large expanse are auxiliary buildings for some of the divisions that need extra storage, shooting ranges or workshops. Underneath the surface are further warehouses, armories, munition storages and server rooms. The whole complex is enormous, brutalist but still elegant and very defensible if needed. Balconies and supports cleverly hide gun emplacements, the plaza in front of the building is designed with blind spots and long open walkways in favor of the defenders. It’s unlikely that Terra would ever come under siege, but we are ready,

Even the entrance and reception are massive, I always thought it was supposed to be imposing and make you feel small. Just like old cathedrals on Earth do. At the main entrance there is a large waiting area for visitors and a series of security gates for employees. The waiting area has a small cafe which is currently full of people going to work on the upper floors. I prefer the coffee from the machine in the office, it’s not fancy but I doubt the one downstairs is much better. 

I go straight for the security gates, I step inside the biometric scanner and wait. Usually you can just walk right through but this time it takes a while for it to access all the needed data on my new bionics. After a few seconds the panel turns green and the armed guard waves me through. 

“SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!”
I turn around to see who is screaming my name. A bearded man in a well tailored suit is running towards me.
“Gus! My man, what’s up?”

“All good Space, glad to see you back at the HQ.”
“I was in the neighborhood.”

“So I heard. Look, I gotta run to a meeting but can you meet for lunch?”
“Sure, text me when.”
“Alright man, see ya later.”

Gus, one of my oldest and closest friends in the company. He rose through the corporate ranks quickly, which got him stuck behind a desk, but he doesn’t particularly mind. Also I have to admit, the man looks better in a suit than in an armor. 

I take the elevator to the sixth floor. My division has a small reception, seems like every time I come back there is a new receptionist.
“Good morning.” The slender blonde smiles.
“Morning.”

“Mr. Coder?”
I turn around to look at her. “Yes?” 

“These is a package for you.” The points and a crate behind her desk, it looks like my gear salvaged from the Starfarer.
“Ah, thank you….?”
“Jenn.” She is staring at the scars.
“Thank you, Jenn.”

The crate is too big to be carried by one person, but I just grab it by the handle on one side and drag it on the floor to the door to my office. I unlock the door, my office is not very big. Just enough space for a large desk, gear locker that can fit several weapons, armor sets and gear. I also have a few shelves of books and bottles of alcohol from various places I’ve been and a small server rack that I use for remote storage and processing. The window looks towards the inner landing area, I can see a Valkyrie getting serviced out there. I leave the crate in the middle of the room and think “Fuck this, I need coffee.”

I walk past the other offices on my way to the break room. I notice a lot of new names since the last time I was here. At the coffee machine I meet my director, Han.
“Lots of new faces around here.”
“Yup.”
“Should I come find you after you had your morning coffee?”
“Yuuuuup.”

He walks off and I can’t help but think that this man has coffee instead of blood. Can’t blame him, running this place plus the pressure from above take a toll on a man.

I grab a cookie out of the jar and take it and my coffee back to my office. I fire up my computer and check my emails. There are none new since last night except two. First one is from the Internal Affairs Review Board, they are notifying me that they are looking into the Starfarer incident. The other one is more interesting. It’s a lunch appointment with Gus, sent to me by his…assistant? I want an assistant. 

“You are grounded.”
“But come on, dad!”
Han gives me a murderous look.
“Look, until they are convinced enough that you didn’t sabotage the quantum drive they won’t let you off world.”
“WHY IN THE EMPIRE, would I sabotage the ship I WAS ON?”
“Dunno, PTSD?”
“Right. Now what?”
“Well I was hoping you would stay in the hospital until it gets resolved. But since you want to run around I will find you something to do.”
“Like what?”
“Something fun and useful.”
“Right.”

I turn around to walk out of his office.
“One more thing.”
“Yeah?”
“Did you blow up the ship?”
“No.”
“Would you tell me if you did?”
“Probably not.”

We both laugh as I leave. Han has about as much tolerance for bureaucracy as I do. But he shows it less and he knows that I’m more useful to him if I’m out there fixing things. And he can put me out there again much sooner if we just wait and let the paperwork work itself out.

“This place wasn’t here the last time.”
“That’s why I took you here. It’s awesome. They have real meat.”
“You mean like actual real meat?”
“Yep.”
“Nice.”
The restaurant does look pretty fancy and I feel underdressed in my jeans and shirt while I see very executive looking guys in suits. Gus fits right in.

“How are the prosthetics?”
“They itch. Especially the eye. But I can spy on the guy who lives across the street with it.”
“That’s something, right?”
We laugh while the waitress is staring at us confused. After we order the conversation continues.
“Is Rich in town?”
“Nah, probably sweating his ass off on some jungle planet somewhere. Out of instant comms range. Though he probably got the news about you.”
“Ah, shit. I will send him a message so he can sweat without being worried about me.”
 

Gus takes an uncomfortably long sip of his water.
“You need to go talk to her.”
“Who?”
I know who he means.
“You know who. She came by the office asking about you when you went missing.”
“How the fuck did she know.”
Of course she did, she works for the Advocacy.
“Come on, she is with the Advocacy. She knew what you were going to order before you did.”
“Right.”
“What’s up with you two anyway?”

I know that question was coming. I don’t know. Things are weird. She works here, I work everywhere else, I’m in the private sector, she spies on the private sector.

“Things are…weird.”
“Well, go talk to her. That’s an order.”
“Who promoted you to be my boss?”
We laugh. He outranks me by several levels by now. Back when I got hired we had the same rank, now he makes decisions that actually make a difference. And he couldn’t be happier to get out of the field.
“Seriously, go talk to her.”
“Yep.”

I get back to the office, perfectly full of real beef steak. It cost a lot but it’s the small luxuries that make you happy sometimes. I sit down at my desk and see a new email from Han.

From: Han
Subject: Fun&Useful
Message:
We have a new guy coming in tomorrow. Take him along for planetary comm array inspections. His resume and assigned atmospheric vehicle codes attached.

Please don’t scare him off.

-Han


Looks like I’m not needed today so I head out. It’s still pretty early in the afternoon so the crowds are not so dense and I’m making my way home quickly. I mean, most of the way is just by a tram but I do have to take a short walk to my building. There is a new flower store on the way.
“For fucks sake.” I whisper.

I hesitate in front of the door. Flowers in one hand, a bottle of wine in the other. I don’t want to do this. Not now. Not after all that happened with me. Not with how…damaged I am.

I don’t even knock but the door opens and she is standing there.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

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