The incoming message light lit up on the control panel, immediately shattering Corwin Koell’s state of placid contentment.
“Great, just I needed. Aru, put it through for me will you?”
A series of chirps responded; he assumed it was an affirmative. A glowing holo-projection appeared in the cockpit of his freighter; he swiveled the pilot’s seat around to look at the perfectly kempt, professional figure standing patiently in the projection.
“Good evening, Captain Koell. I trust all’s well?”
He bit back a sarcastic retort; it wouldn’t help. It never did. “As well as can be expected, Ms. Sobol.”
“Please, Captain, do call me Madeline.” The woman in the image frowned a moment, then resumed her patiently pleasant tone. “I’m calling to thank you for your swift and expert handling of your last task. The agency is very appreciative of the translation you accomplished.”
“Then the agency should be thanking Jayni, not me. He’s the one who did the translation.”
She nodded. “Of course. But Jayni would never have had the opportunity to translate the tablets for us had you not brought him in to help you. The agency prizes that kind of initiative, and rewards it as well. You’ll find a bonus on your next payment, Captain. Isn’t that good news? You’re that much closer to paying off the debt on your ship.”
And that was the rub. He was always ‘that much closer’ to paying off the debt, but somehow the numbers never showed it. For the first few months he’d simply told himself that star ships were incredibly expensive, and it was only natural to be overwhelmed by the numbers. Two years with no measurable progress though, that had him frustrated and angry.
“That’s just great news. Best news I’ve heard all day. Be sure and give the agency my thanks.” She’d always been his sole contact in the shady organization he worked for, and she was never willing to give up any details about them. “So that’s it then?”
“There is just one more thing.”
Of course, he thought. There always is. “And that would be …?”
“It’s a little outside your usual area, but nothing too strenuous. We’ve obtained information about a discovery of interest. A person of your background can streamline the process for us.”