Drick found themselves, once again, sat at the same pop up food stall poking at a bowl of noodles with a resin bi-pronged fork. This time Marsh sat with Drick at a small round table near the back of the food court area. A quaint term for what was supposed to be a temporary location. Drick could remember when the tables looked just old. Now even the stains on the surface had stains on them. What appeared to be a laquer on the aluminium top was actually generations of sauces carefully smeared together and heat sealed by thousands of hot plates.
Marsh was tucking into the noodles with a gusto reserved for those who were enjoying life. He shovelled huge forkfuls into his mouth and chewed with relish. Drick didn’t have the heart to tell him that what he was eating was most likely a tunnel bunny, the local term for any rodent or creature that lived underground or rubble. He was enjoying the food and that was all that really mattered. Marsh even seemed to like the mushrooms and tunnel fungus that was at the bottom of the bowl. He finished and immediately went to get another. He asked Drick but they politely refused, they hadn’t finished the first bowl.
Marsh was close to finishing his third bowl when Lane arrived. Drick watched Marsh study the woman taking careful note of his eyes and his expression. Drick was impressed, he hadn’t lingered over Lane’s incredibly sculptured body, more looked her up and down in an interested, but casual, fashion.
Lane smiled and sat down. She dropped a few credit bars on the table and waved a hand at one of the roving serving staff. “Beers and shots for the three of us and I will cover the food,” she said. “Take the rest of the credit as a tip.” The staff member smiled at Lane in a genuine fashion.
“They only give real smiles to big tippers?” Asked Marsh.
“Pays to be a representative for the Union” Lane replied. “So you are Marsh, I guess. Your photo doesn’t do you any favours. You are a lot trimmer and more chiselled than a holoscan shows.”
“I am about fifteen centimetres taller as well,” said Marsh. He noticed the blank look on their faces. “Old two dimensional movie reference for you. I am Marsh, yes. I guess you are Lane?”
“Drick told me about you.” He smiled and shook Lane’s outstretched arm. She noticed that he took the time to read her bio tag. “Sorry,” he said smiling in embarrassment. “I haven’t really got used to scanning icons and knowing what they mean from a distance yet. So I have to take the time to look properly so that I don’t look more like an idiot later.”
“That’s fine.” Lane flashed him a smile. “I hope everything Drick told you was bad?” She winked at Drick who rolled their eyes.
“The worst,” said Marsh. “Did she talk about me?”
“Sure, she never said you had a nice voice though.”
“Of for,” Drick rolled their eyes, “will you two quit it or get a room.” Drick snarled, “I can only stand so much of this rat shit before I lose my stomach.” The end of Drick’s sentence was punctuated by the server placing drinks on the table. Drick held up the shot glass, muttered “up yours” and drained it. Putting the glass on the table Drick picked up the beer. “So we’re going to talk?” Drick stared at Lane.
“Sure. Always nice to have a conversation with new people, friends and total asshats like you Drick.”
“Sweet, I see the charm is only wasted on the flesh bags you fancy.”
“No,” Lane smiled. “I just add extra for them. I wouldn’t waste any emotion on you Drick. You’d simply use it against me or someone else. You are a serial bastard after all. Isn’t that your favourite phrase for yourself?”
“Maybe. Did you get the material I sent?”
“We did. I have to say on that matter I, and my superiors are understandably overwhelmed. We asked you to retrieve some very specific information and any other small bits associated. We didn’t expect you to get all the material, and so much more. It is an incredible achievement. Admittedly it cost us a significant sum in materials. The clones and vessels alone were an executive’s ransom, But the return is breathtaking.”
“Well, thanks. I guess that pays off all my debts and adds a little in reserve?”
“Good. I will be wanting to use some of that straight away. I will need a ship and a crew, able to sweep and go anywhere in system. Then I will need some significant time with a medical team and I need you to clear up a lot of loose ends on the planet for me.”
“Interesting.” Lane frowned. “You sound as if you are leaving us Drick?”
“We are. Firstly to a location in the system, and then elsewhere. I won’t be discussing where.”
“That’s a shame. What you did for us nets you a lot of respect. You could easily retire here, or move into the Union full time. They would protect you and I know they would find use for your, quite considerable, talent.”
“Not interested. Thanks for the offer.”
“Well I was asked to invite you. I was also ready to negotiate a substantial reward package. But I know you, Drick. You have your mind set on a course and I doubt even a planetary body could pull you off trajectory. I can arrange for what you want. I would say that it will still leave you with us in your debt.”
“I know,” said Drick with a smile. “I will be transferring that credit to a few people on the planet. They will be made known to you. They will benefit from what I am owed. I assume that’s acceptable?”
“Good. then get some more drinks in, and we can fill in some more details.”