3rd August 3301 – 16:28
I woke up this morning completely disorientated. It took me quite a while to understand that I wasn’t in the Cobra MkIII’s bunk bed anymore and even longer to realize what was actually waking me up. It was Ivan Matzov over the intercom pressing me to get up and ready. I had slept over 30 hours and his contact had now arrived at Filippenko Dock.
We walked down to the shipyard where a commander going by the name of Nosscar was waiting for us. Two men, apparently crew members, were standing next to him and stood still as he walked up to me and Matzov. He pointed at an old Viper MkIII and said: “This is your ride, it’s been knocked around a few times but will do the job just fine”
It had been confiscated by the local authorities several years ago and Nosscar seemed confident nobody would even notice its disappearance.
We loaded the black box we had taken from the Cobra MkIII on board the new ship and left Filippenko Dock.
3rd August 3301 – 22:47
Just three days ago, and immediately after we had docked at Filippenko Dock, Matzov had insisted on treating me to my first proper meal in nearly three months. He was a man of fine taste but as incredibly tasteful as the Witchhaul Kobe Beef steak was… without a doubt, far better than any food cartridge I ever had… I must admit it was probably wasted on me. He had spent the entire dinner trying to shed light on what was going on, and quite unsuccessfully I must say. I understood how he had been involved in smuggling very sensitive materials into LHS 3564 in order for Caplin to work on the probe. I understood that the mission I had just completed wasn’t an Imperial exclusive operation, but a much larger project involving several corporations, yet so many questions were still going around in my head, unanswered.
Even up until now and while cruising to an unknown location, escorted by two battleships…
I still can’t understand why anybody would want to have me killed. Oh yes, Caplin is missing… or most likely dead, according to Nosscar… but me? I just dumped some fancy tech 25 Kylies from here.
4th August 3301 – 11:31
We cruised the entire night, avoiding high security systems like plague. Not even one contact attempted to line up an interdiction and still, I couldn’t lift my eyes from the radar. While Nosscar’s communication officer, Jarret, was ID’ing every single ship in our vicinity, Matzov rightfully reminded us that it would take a madman to interdict a wing like ours.
A fair comment, yet I couldn’t help but feeling like bait during the countless and interminable refueling stops.
These last hours spent with Nosscar and Matzov cleared up quite a few questions as to why I had to runaway.
While Matzov seemed genuinely worried for my life, especially now Caplin had gone missing, Nosscar was convinced that the Cobra MkIII’s black box I was carrying was the key of all my trouble…
His sources linked no less than the Emperor’s son himself, Harold Duval, to an assassination contract on my head and the retrieval of my ship’s data.
In spite of being kept in the dark about our final destination, it was clear that each and every jump were taking us further away from Imperial controlled space.
We all lined up for a jump to the Dinda system when commander Nosscar said: “Last jump. We’re here.”
I followed Matzov to Ravenclan’s Astro Lab while Nosscar was closing the convoy.
I requested docking permission and nervously made my way to the docking pad. I heard Nosscar’s Anaconda counterthrusts kicking in, he was following right behind me.
Once I had disembarked the Viper, Matzov advised me to remain station side for the time being and to wait for a man called Mukesh Premji who would get in contact with me shortly. He would be taking care of things from here on.
Cmdr Matzov kneaded his temples with his knuckles. It had been a stressful few days and the last remnants of a migraine lingered.
The process itself had been simple enough, the trick had been locating Vauban precisely in the first place, and then making sure he followed. Persuasion had been enough, and for that, Matzov was eternally grateful. Threats were a sign of a proposal lacking the validity to stand on its own merits. Thereafter, the unquantifiable fear of interception had made for tense and nervy travel.
Matzov regretted the loss of Nosscar to The Company. He’d once again shown his talent. The man had a gift for sniffing out money, and was more than handy in a tightspot. The ideal man for this job, even if he’d set up his own shop and was no longer on ‘the inside’. Business was business afterall; favours and networks led to deals. It was good to work with Nosscar one more time, and Matzov hoped it would not be the last, despite Nosscar having stepped out alone.
Just a couple of t’s to cross, and i’s to dot now, and this business would be concluded.
Matzov tapped out the code and the video connect sprang into life.
“Greetings Colonel, I understand everything went smoothly.” Once again, that stern faced young man.
“Yes indeed. The delivery is made, and I leave Vauban in doctor Mukesh’s care.”
“Excellent. How did the Cmdr seem to you? Does he know much?”
“Nothing, I’m sure. At least not of consequence. I tried to fill in some of the gaps for him, but his mind was swimming. Perhaps he doesn’t know what he knows.”
“Indeed. We shall see. You’ve done well Matzov. You have shown your gift for connecting people and things. Even those that don’t realise they need connecting.”
“My thanks…” Matzov was cut off as the screen went dead. As usual, what was said was said, and the stern faced young man had simply hung up.
Matzov chuckled, ‘high praise indeed’ he thought, ‘coming from him’.
He sat back in his chair and stretched. Vauban had been, not quite an innocent abroad, but certainly he came across as no world weary cynic. He wondered how he would get along with Mukesh Premji. Mukesh was lot like Caplin in many ways, in Matzov’s experience. Clever; enthusiastic; eccentric. And Caplin, what had become of his old client? Matzov made a mental note to put out some feelers. Discreetly. If Nosscar was right, then poking his nose into that little mystery too far was not a wise thing to do. Still, he’d like to know. Knowledge was a currency all of its own in business négociations.
‘Ahh yes’ he wondered aloud, ‘business’. He turned his head to look at the neat stack of contracts on the side. It had not reduced whilst he was away. New deals had continued to flow, and more contract review naturally followed.
Matzov kneaded his temples again and sighed. Opening the first binder, he took up his pen. Time to move on.