Dara Needs A Better Job
This week, we hope you enjoy one adventurer’s spectacular shift in employment status. ~ Julian and Fran, June 25, 2023
Dara Needs a Better Job
by Carrie Vaughn
Dara Grace was in the embarkation queue at Tube 23B of Verity Station’s passenger sector when two armored soldiers got on either side of her. She hadn’t sensed them coming, and for a moment she blamed her glitchy implants—but no, the soldiers were using a suppression field, muting her sensors. She couldn’t sabotage her way out of this one. The other passengers, the innocent ones, pressed back from her, stumbling to get away. Didn’t stop them from staring, like this was some kind of drama vid come to life.
“Dara Grace?” one of the soldiers asked, in a voice filtered through their helmet mic.
Part of her wanted to run on principle, just to see how far she could get. She did not.
She reassured herself with the old cliché: if they wanted to kill her, they would have done so by now. They could have grabbed her and shoved her into an airlock before she ever reached the ship, and no one would even know she’d gone missing.
They didn’t want her dead, because they wanted to talk to her.
And she knew why.
They were very polite, at least. Their training had instilled some kind of restraint, because they never touched her. They also never gave her a chance to argue as they steered her into increasingly more secure, more guarded sections of the station. Civilian visitors, professionals in transit, and resident techs gave way until nothing but uniformed soldiers remained. Her escort brought her to a room that required a supervisor’s bio code to open; a manager with multiple rank stripes on their shoulders keyed open the last door.
The woman waiting inside what turned out to be a nondescript conference room was a MilDiv ship captain.
“Come in, sit down.” She was severe, imperious, with short-cropped hair and dark eyes. She wasn’t tall but seemed so.
Dara Grace felt like the reprobate she was, sinking into a chair without really thinking. The soldiers took up positions at the door. This was a show, a gesture of intimidation. They couldn’t possibly think they needed guards to handle her.
The woman consulted a datapad, which seemed like an affectation. “My name is Captain Mirea Sallust. I have a few questions for you.”
“Couldn’t have sent a message?” Dara asked. All she had here was bravado, might as well use it. But her voice seemed to echo, and her guts were quailing.
Sallust didn’t seem affected by the attitude. Didn’t so much as twitch an eye. “Tell me about your last job.”
Dara resigned herself. She held no cards, had nothing to bargain with. She could resist, that was it. “I think you must already know everything about that job, since you found me without a lot of effort.”
“It was some effort.”
Was that a joke? An attempt to build rapport? Dara couldn’t tell; Sallust radiated cold.
Reflexively, Dara sent a signal to try to hack into that datapad; but the suppression field was still working, her interfacing abilities neutralized. Now she couldn’t think of anything to say, so she just stared. She was gratified when Sallust broke the silence first.
“Really, I’m not interested in you,” Sallust said, which Dara already knew. “I’m not interested in your job or your employer. You met someone. It’s him I want. Tell me, and not only will I clear your record, I’ll pay double what you were supposed to get for the job.”
That was . . . a lot. Way more than Dara had ever expected. Sallust must really want him.
Dara had a decision to make.