I sat in the lounge aboard my ship flipping through the pictures on mom and dad’s flat.
“How old were you there,” Horus asked.
Horus is one of five disembodied AIs I have on board my ship. All of them programmed by my dear friend, Daniel Dresden, one of – if not the most, talented programmer in the verse. Why he chose me as a friend I will never know, because I don’t know squat about programming and couldn’t carry on a conversation about software if I tried. That said, I really do appreciate Daniel’s handiwork especially when I am on long deliveries by myself, because heck, I am never really by myself. Space is a lonely place, but I always have company.
Horus was programmed with a British accent as a Daniel ‘joke,’ but I love it. Horus is a very rational program and a deep thinker. We play chess together and he helps me think straight in a crisis. Ma-rye-a is my ship as well as my pilot/co-pilot depending on what I am occupied with at the time. Sam is my security and freight guy. He has control over the equipment in the pod bay and can load and unload most everything without my assistance. He also has my back throughout the ship in the form of sensors and lasers. Cassie is my entertainment guru. She knows my interests and surfs the net daily to find entertaining tidbits for me to read or scan when I have down time. She is also my fashionista. And then there is Moby, my cook and nutritionist. He probably took the most tweaking to get right since I am not into healthy living as much as happy living, especially when I’m on a long boring space flight.
When I got back on board yesterday I connected mom and dad’s flat to Ma-rye-a and I was sharing old family photos with them.
“I was about nine or ten,” I answered.
I studied the picture. I couldn’t have been any older them ten because mom cut my hair all off the summer of my eleventh birthday. We were on Milantia and had to wear spacesuits. I kept complaining that my hair was always in my face within the helmet. I remember how it would tickle and you couldn’t scratch. Mom tried everything, putting it in a ponytail, braiding it, nothing seemed to work, so she cut it all off short like a boys. I’ve worn it short ever since. Even did the bald look for a while when it was in fashion.
“You were so cute in braids,” Cassie giggled. “Maybe you should grow your hair out.”
She’s like your favorite girlfriend and always acts like a teenager at a sleep-over.
“I was ten,” I said and rolled my eyes.
“I like it the way it is,” Sam said. His comment was almost drowned out by the hiss of the steam line he was using to clean the pod bay deck while we were in dock.
“You are one of the few men I know that like women with short hair,” I said.
“I have good taste,” Sam joked back.
How Daniel managed to program so much humor and personality into my AIs I have no idea, but I love him for it. They are like family.
An orange spice tea appeared at my elbow in the prep unit attached to the chair.
“Thank you, Moby,” I said.
The tea was followed by a chocolate chip cookie bigger than the palm of my hand.
“Wonderful,” I said.
They heard me crying earlier when I got back from my visit with Marstead last night. They were all doing their best to cheer me up. That was the only thing about having them around, they were always around. I could silence them, even turn Horus, Cassie and Moby off, but I would never chance turning off Ma-rye-a and Sam. And what would be the use anyway? Once I activated the three I turned off, they would have access to Ma-rye-a’s data base and just download what she overheard. We lived as a very close knit family and during this time it was kind of a good thing. I was appreciating the attention.
“Oh, I like that one,” Ma-rye-a said. “You look so masterful,” she joked.
It was me at about thirteen in a Glucl’ock costume for a class play. Leave it to me to be cast as the monster. I stood bent over at the waist, extended costume arms dragging boney, blood red knuckles on the floor as my serrated tail trailed along behind me.
“Yeah, right…It is so me.” I smiled, closed the file and went to the one marked 014.666.2460. I was just about to open it when Ma-rye-a announced;
“Call coming in from Marstead.”
“Put it through down here please,” I said. “Marstead, whatsup?” I asked as his face appeared on the screen. A worried looked turned into a relieved one almost instantly.
“You’re all right?” He asked.
“Doing better.” After all, I had known my parents were gone for over six months now. I cried myself to sleep for several days when I first heard. It was the good memories I was trying to remember now.
“Is Sam on duty?” Marstead asked. He was familiar with my crew.
“He’s always on duty,” I answered, “why?”
I rose up straighter in my chair and pulled the monitor attached to the arm a little closer. Marstead was agitated. I hadn’t seen him this way since I was hurt a while back on a mission with Jake and Arr. He wanted to call my parents then and I had to talk him out of it. I didn’t want to worry them. In fact, I wouldn’t have called Marstead. Jake did that upon our return. He thought family should know and he didn't know where mom and dad were at the time. But, Jake knew Marstead, in fact he had actually helped my mercenary friend out of a jam with his legal expertise once.
“Your parent’s housing was broken into. Housekeeping was going to do a final paint this week, before the new faculty member moved in. They found it a shambles this morning. The UOA just thought to inform me an hour ago. I spoke with Captain Luchin. He thinks it might have been the same people who were at your parent’s dig. He said they were looking for something. The furniture was all broken up and cushions torn, pictures pulled off the wall. They were looking for a safe.” Marstead stopped to take a breath.
“Incoming call from Captain Luchin,” Ma-rye-a announced.
“Conference, please,” I requested.
My screen split and the Captain’s face appeared on the other side of it.
“Captain,” I acknowledged. “I have Marstead on the call as well. He tells me you believe the people who tossed my parent’s housing were the same who were at the site.”
“I believe so, though I have no proof. They are experienced and left no evidence behind.” The Captain cracked his knuckles on two hands. “My thought is they were after something in particular. Perhaps something mentioned in your parent’s notes, which were stolen as well. I also believe that the next place they will look is the UOA gallery where your parent’s collection is being cataloged and stored. I am going to set up surveillance there, but I wanted to check your status.”
“I’m fine,” I looked at both men questioningly. “You don’t think they would come here?”
“If they know about Alex and Laura having a daughter and they find out you are in dock here, they just might make a move on you,” Marstead said before the Captain could. His military training was showing.
“I am going to send a couple of men around to post guard at your dock entrance,” Luchin said. “It won’t hurt to error on the side of caution.”
“If you think it is necessary,” I agreed.
“I do,” the two men said almost simultaneously.
“You should lock up tight and put Sam on alert,” Marstead advised.
“Okay,” I mumbled. They were succeeding in scaring me.
“I can come by and bring you anything you might need tonight,” Marstead offered.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I was just sitting around reminiscing. I wasn’t intending on going out.”
“Good,” they both said together.
They were definitely cut from the same cloth.
“My men will be there in about ten minutes. Don’t open to anyone, not even them. They will not ask to come in. They have orders to remain vigilant outside. If someone asks to enter, they are the bad guys,” Captain Luchin advised.
“Gotcha,” I said.
“I’ll call you tomorrow morning,” Marstead said. “Maybe we can have breakfast together. I can bring something by.”
“Just come,” I advised him. “Moby’s supplies were just delivered. I will have him whip us up an omelet and some of his home fries.”
“See you in the morning.”
I signed off.
“Sam? You heard?” I asked.
“Battening down the hatches as we speak,” he confirmed. “On board sensors up and functioning. Lasers set to kill.”
“Stand down MightyMan,” I said referring to a cartoon character from my childhood past. “Lasers on stun will do sufficiently. If they come snooping around and get past Luchin’s guards, I want to ask some questions of my own.”
Me during my 'bald' phase Lol