The ready lounge was a muted bustle of activity: pilots were entering and leaving the room, fitting manifests were checked and updated on data pads, orders were snarled into communicators - all the usual activity you have before heading out on a roam. Compounding was the fact that this was going to be Redemption Road’s first public roam, and while most of the pilots actually had flown together before, there were a couple of new faces in the crowd who tried to find their bearings.
Myself, I had joined a group of pilots in one of the quieter corners of the lounge. After the obligatory introductions - it hadn’t been easy, but I had managed to not introduce myself as “Monakh. Druur Monakh.” in my best actress voice, since that usually only resulted in awkward silence and embarrassed coughs - we took it easy, enjoying our drinks, occasionally commenting on the going-ons, or swapping an anecdote.
All the while I kept an eye on the entrance to the lounge. I tried to be surreptitious about it, but as time passed and I was growing concerned, it was noticed.
“Waiting for somebody?”, asked the Sebiestor next to me, shifting comfortably in his seat, his faded Quafe T-shirt clearly having seen better times.
I tore my gaze away from the entrance. “Yes, matter of fact I do.” I sighed, and forced myself to relax. “See, a couple of weeks the authorities and myself got into a little dispute as to the morality of my actions, and let’s say, they are sore losers.”
“You’re an outlaw.”, he translated with a smile.
“Yup, and still green at it.” I admitted.
“I thought you folks meet up in Sendaya?”
“That’s where the ‘green’ part comes into play.” I suppressed a sigh. “All my stuff is still here in Berta, and I am not sure my undocks are good enough.” I took a sip from my drink. “I can probably high-tail it, but this being RILED’s first public roam, I didn’t feel like throwing yet another spanner into the works.” I shrugged. “So I arranged for a support pilot to help me out a bit - but she’s running late.”
“You don’t by any chance mean her?”, he said with a nod towards the entrance.
A Ni-Kunni pilot had entered the lounge, her black hair cut to chin length, and, upon spotting me, firmly walked over to us.
"Good afternoon, pilots.“, she announced. ”I am Eta Monakh, but you can call me Ma'am. I will be your support pilot for today.“ She smirked. ”That is, if you are one of the lucky ones who paid for my services.“
She beamed around the group, then a frown crept onto her face and she fixed her eyes on me.
"What, of all the people who hired me only you showed up?", she said with a hint of annoyance. "I'm afraid that I will have to charge you extra then - you know, opportunity cost and stuff. ... Why are you laughing? This is serious business!"
I stood up and hugged her tightly. "It's good to see you! ... Ma'am.”
She giggled, dropped her stern 'business woman' mean, and returned the hug as affectionately. "Glad that I can help."
"Same last name," noted the Sebiestor with curiosity in his voice, "so you are..."
"Her sister," replied Eta happily, an arm around my waist. "Adopted. Why, what did you think?" She rested her head against my shoulder and, giving me her best bedroom eyes, gently caressed my cheek with her finger tips. "Say, how much time do we have?", she almost purred.
I smiled wickedly and kissed her on her brow. "For you, all the time in the world. At least 40 minutes."
"Then lets not waste it!", she exclaimed, disentangling herself from me, and hooking her arm into mine. "It's been days since we last did it!"
Momentarily resisting her pull, I turned towards the other pilots. "Gentle-beings, if you excuse me, but as you can see it is hard to resist her when she's this excited." I grinned mischievously. "I'll see you in fleet."
About an hour later, hovering in my pod just a couple hundred klicks off the Mifrata star gate, the moment in the ready lounge kept popping into my head. The looks on some of the pilots' faces - priceless! I giggled again, forgetting that I had an open comms line with Eta.
[ You think they fell for it? ], asked Eta, amusement in her voice, her Orca blocking out the sun.
[ I didn't lie! ], she protested. [ It has been days since I last flew support for you! ]
I went to answer, but fleet comms interrupted me:
[ Fleet - jump, jump, and warp to Mifrata gate. ]
Local spiked, and a few seconds after, the force field guarding the Orca's ship hangar flickered and expelled an Algos-type destroyer into space. A gentle command to my pod's engines, and I began moving towards the destroyer, engaging the boarding sequence.
[ Here's your ride, ] came Eta's voice over comms, while my virtual vision flickered momentarily as the pod was pulled into its rightful place inside the Algos.
"Thanks!", I replied, finalizing the last connections with my pre-flighted ship, and immediately firing up the engines before the local navy would pay me a visit. "I'll see you on the flip side."
[ Happy hunting! ]