The sun was setting on a typical sunny late summer day on Terra as Relen Gedion walked through the city. The Hellhunt was a dive bar in one of the rougher neighborhoods in the city, which didn't encourage him as to the nature of his business. He was down on his luck, but he wasn't willing to work for pirates or do anything illegal. Well, at least nothing overly illegal.
Gedion strolled down the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. He still had his sunglasses on though the sun had almost set, as the wind was whipping violently through the narrow streets, pelting him with the dust and grime of the city. Strong gusts buffeted him, knocking his tall but narrow frame off of the straight path he was walking to his meeting place. Gedion hated to be late, and he wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.
The Hellhunt was almost deserted, as it was the middle of the working week, but all the normal fixtures of a bar were there; A dumb-but-tough giant of a man in a black jacket at the door for security, a middle-aged woman dressing far younger than she should standing behind the counter drying glasses and staring blankly into the room. She looked over at Gedion as he entered, and he smiled as their eyes met. She struggled to return a smile, almost sarcastically, but her face struggled against a long history of surgical alteration and refused to stretch to accommodate any expression of warmth. Sataball highlights were playing silently on a screen above the bar, and standard bar/drinking music emanated from some unknown speakers.
There were a few patrons in the bar, an elderly drunk man, a younger sleaze with some 'hired' company, and a woman, sat in a booth with her back to the door, light brown/blonde hair pulled back in a tight ponytail.
"That must be Saskia Linsen" Gedion thought to himself as he walked around the perimeter of the room and approached the booth. His thought was all but confirmed by the fact badge on her should that read "BL"
"Stop right there," the woman spoke sharply without turning around. Gedion jumped as she spoke, caught off-guard by the abruptness.
"Uhm… ok?" he tentatively replied.
"What is the password?" the woman sternly inquired.
"Wait… the what?" Gedion answered completely confused.
"The password you fool, the password! Quick! There are ears everywhere…" her voice trailed off.
"Wait… what? I think maybe I'm in the wrong…" Gedion couldn't finish his thought before the woman erupted in laughter. She spun around to face him, laughing so hard that tears were forming in the corners of her light green eyes.
"I can't believe you feel for it! Come on, you really need to lighten up if you are going to fly with me." She struggled to say through her laughter. Gedion's confusion turned to mild frustration, then warmed to laughter in the span of a few seconds. He found it hard to hang on to the annoyance, after all, she had got him pretty good.
The woman stood, wiped a laughter-tear from her eye, and held out her hand towards Gedion.
"Saskia Linsen's the name, Ballistic Logistics specialist." She announced proudly, her head nodding with each word for emphasis. Her face was light and smooth, round in shape with round cheeks spotted by freckles. Her thin pink lips smirked a little as she perceived Gedion studying her face.
"Oh… yes… uhm… Relen Gedion. Nice to meet you," he fumbled awkwardly with his words, realizing he had been caught. He wouldn't say she was beautiful per se, but she was infectiously cute, in a slightly school teachery way. She was short and slight of frame, which she compensated for with high energy, rocking back and forth on her feet as she shook his hand. Gedion released her hand, wondering if he had held it a moment to long. She just kept grinning at him.
"Sorry, I'm not normally this nervous… ever really. You just caught me off guard with the whole password thing and…" Gedion began.
"Don't worry about it. Let's talk business, ok?" She cut him off. It seemed her high energy didn't make her a very patient listener. She gestured to Gedion to take a seat at the bench opposite her.
The two of them sat down and Saskia picked up a datapad that was resting on the table. She swiped through screens of information for a few moments before speaking.
"So I hear you know your history," she began.
"Specifically alien history?" she continued, briefly looking up from the datapad.
"Yes, that's right," Gedion replied.
"What can you tell me about this then?" Saskia asked as she slid the datapad across the table. The datapad spun around and stopped in front of Gedion.
"It looks like a door to me…" Gedion replied at first. His eyes surveyed the image. There was a circular structure with a seam in the middle, and a thick rim around the outer edge. Outside of the frame seemed to be rock, maybe an asteroid. His eyes continued to scan the image, searching for details or clues to the doors origin.
"It doesn't seem to be human made, but I'm not sure…" He trailed off as he continued to zoom around the image. After a few more moments, Saskia began to sigh with disappointment, but Gedion cut her off.
"Wait, what are these symbols here?" He asked no one in particular, zooming in and noticing what looked like runes, etched in the metal circle surrounding the 'door'.
"Good, I was beginning to worry you were going to be a waste of my time," Saskia responded with a grin. Gedion scoffed at the notion. He secretly hoped she had been being flirtatious.
"It's too difficult to make them out clearly, not enough resolution. We'll need to go examine them in person. Where is this located? How did you find it?" Gedion began questioning.
Saskia cut him off by snatching the datapad from his hands.
"Whoa there, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Now about the job…" Saskia changed the subject, scrolling to a different file in the datapad. "Here are the terms," she continued, again sliding the pad back to Gedion.
Contract for Services Rendered
Travel to, study, and retrieve any objects of value from objective
Contract with employer to be terminated upon completion of mission
Compensation: expenses plus 10% of value of objects retrieved
"What? No cash up front? You don't trust I'll deliver?" Gedion protested.
"Look pal," Saskia replied, miffed at his response, "We don't know you, we've never done business with you before. You're lucky we're even giving you this shot. I mean, meeting in a place like this, it should be me wondering if I can trust you, not the other way around," Saskia continued.
"Wait, what? I didn't set up the meet for here, I was told to meet you here," Gedion retorted.
"Well I damn sure wouldn't pick to meet in a dump like this." Saskia replied.
"Then who told you to meet me here?" Gedion inquired, his curiousity piqued.
"An old wingman of yours, guy by the name of Tydus. When we were looking for someone to help us decipher the symbols on this door, I pulled up the UEE database. You were listed as a top expert in alien history and technology. Your file only had Terra as a possible location for you, but it listed your old wingman, Tydus, also on Terra, and gave a comm number. So I called him up and asked where I could find you, and this is what he said." Saskia explained.
"Ah, Tydus, the old dog." Gedion played along. He may have passed his time in the service studying alien culture and technology, but the UEE had seen it more as a nuisance. There was no way they would have classified him as a top expert. And what's more, he never had a wingman named Tydus.
"So that's how you found me. Tydus, man, that takes me back. How is he doing these days?" Gedion pried for information.
"Good… I guess. The video on the feed didn't work, said he was having some trouble with his array, but otherwise he seemed fine," Saskia recalled.
Gedion nodded thoughtfully, disguising his disappointment at not turning up anything useful.
"I think he might have a drinking problem though…" Saskia added.
"Why would you say that?" Gedion replied.
"You could hear the clink of ice in his glass. He practically sipped in between every sentence." Saskia said, miming a drinking motion.
"Right, I'll take the contract, when do we leave?" Gedion replied, suddenly all business.
"We can leave in one hour. I'm in dock 137, just meet me there," Saskia answered.
Gedion nodded, stood, and walked out of the Hellhunt.
By now night had fallen on the city and the seedy neighborhood was aglow in neon blues, yellows, and pinks. The wind still pummeled him as walked back towards the tunnel home to collect a few personal items before the journey.
"I don't understand it. Why would my father impersonate a wingman I never had? He wouldn't need to hack my UEE account just to get me a job. Could he even do that? I mean, he's just a mid-level politician. Something isn't on the level here." Millions of questions bounced around in Gedion's head.
Before long, they turned back to the image of the mysterious alien door and the contract.
"What was that door? Who made it? And what could be behind it? I really need the money to get back on my feet." His mind rambled on.
But no matter how much he thought about the adventure awaiting him, he couldn't shake the troubling feeling of how it all had been set up. He resolved to mention nothing to Saskia or anyone else the Ballistic Logistics for now. There was only one way for him to solve either mystery, and it was waiting for him at dock 137.