“Just tell me what you know then,” Corwin said.
She actually sighed a little. “Very well. There are more details in the dossier you’ll be receiving shortly, but in short, this time we want you to acquire the artifact in question, not just examine and appraise it.”
Corwin tapped his fingers on the console in thought. That was outside his usual line of work. “I don’t know anything about archaeology, Ms. Sobol. I don’t have the training or the equipment for it, fascinating as the subject is. And I don’t know anything about the world this artifact is located on. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”
“Nonetheless, that is what they wish of you. You are, of course, free to refuse.”
Free wasn’t the word he’d have chosen. Twice in the past he’d turned down assignments that had conflicted with his duties at the university, and while there had been no overt action taken against him, the distance between the burden of his debt and the progress he’d made in repaying it had almost magically seemed to widen. It was a subtle but effective message.
It sounded ridiculous, so he was tempted to refuse on the spot. He schooled himself to patience though. “Okay, fine. I’ll check out the information and transmit my decision.”
“Excellent. And, do be careful, Captain. Sobol out.” Her holo dimmed to nothingness.
He leaned back, staring at the cockpit ceiling until Aru alerted him with a chime that the info-pack had finished transmitting. “One of these days I’ll be able to afford a new vocalization module for you, Aru,” he said. One of these days I’ll own this ship and Aru with it, and maybe then I will indulge my interest in archaeology, he thought with a mental sigh.
The dossier in the info-pack was almost as skimpy on detail as Madeline had been. Several facts stood out in his attention; the target world had been the site of a failed colony more than a thousand years before, had been used as a base of operations by pirates numerous times in the time since, and had been utterly abandoned for the past two centuries.
Most notable at all, there were no details about what kind of artifact it was he was actually seeking. Instead, the dossier used words like “rumored” and “alleged” to describe some sort of information store or database.
“Well Aru, at least this doesn’t sound terribly dangerous,” he said aloud. Aru already knew the contents of the dossier, of course. “Though I do wish there was more on what caused the colony to fail and why the pirates stopped coming back. Can you see what you can dig up about that?”