Heading for Virtus
Reef. What a dumb name.
Reef Condale had been keeping an eye on Photeus since he joined up with XSO several months prior. Even when Photeus came to Gedion with the confirmation of the vision, the artifacts, and put himself in their hands, they still assigned him a handler. Reef was a gruff man who barely said more than, "Good morning." and, "Good night." At least that's all Photeus saw him do. Both men hardly gave each other a chance, and Photeus treated the man like the old mining boss; ignored him but could feel his stare through his back. At very least on the trade runs, Reef would fly the Freelancer MAX while Photeus got some sleep. As far as Condale sleeping, Photeus was positive somehow the man was watching him then as well.
The trade runs were interesting at least. Photeus made a connection with a Xi'an named Wohevt when they first started trying the runs. Wohevt never liked Reef much, so that's what he and Photeus had in common. After haggling prices over a few drinks the first time, they established a friendship seeped in trade and negotiation. Reef would always keep a sharp eye to make sure Photeus and Wohevt weren't trying to subvert XSO's interests, but otherwise stayed out of the way. After a few runs, XSO started trusting Photeus more, Reef had nothing bad to report, and Wohevt became interested in bigger deals with XSO. This current run was the biggest shipment yet and Photeus was now carrying contracts from the highest levels of XSO outlining more permanent shipments and standard routes. While Photeus was sometimes bored with the routes, the routine brought him a bit of peace here and there. That was something.
"Good morning," Reef spoke as he woke from sleep. He sat up, stretched and headed for the helm.
Photeus decided to shake up the routine today as he was feeling pretty good for once. "Reef. Your name is really stupid, do you know that?"
Without missing a beat, Reef fired back, "So naming yourself after a child's superhero isn't?"
Photeus was initially a bit shocked but laughed at Reef, "So you can do more than just greet me? Good to know."
Reef sat down at the second crew seat and looked over the computers, "You're still an outsider to me. Until I'm convinced you're loyal to XSO, no one will be convinced."
"Yeah, I figured that one out myself. Why don't you like me? Why can't we just be friends?" Photeus smiled setting up the joke.
Reef was having no part of it, "All you seem to be capable of are jokes, deflection, and causing explosions. It's just a matter of time until you screw around and blow up a real friend of mine. Consider that and get yourself together."
Photeus let go of the possibility of smoothing things over with Reef and winning him with his charming personality. In his silence he saw a flashing light on the console, "We have a call."
"Wohevt. At least your inane babbling is useful in this case."
"Alright you blunt asshole, I get it. Connecting.."
The line crackled to life and a Xi'an with a heavy accent came nearly yelling to life, "Photeus! Where are my goods you promised me!?"
"It's unlike you to jump straight to business. We'll discuss the goodies over drinks at Sedux Hal in the Trade Zone," the tinge of annoyance in Photeus' voice was apparent but softened to friendliness. Wohevt usually wouldn't ask about merchandise first, but with the next contract looming perhaps he was nervous.
"Goodies? What are these 'goodies'? I ask you for ship parts and medical supplies, not 'goodies'!" Now the Xi'an had annoyance in his voice.
"Wohevt, I have what we agreed upon, and I have a contract for trade with XSO ready for your signatures. Like I said, we'll chat over drinks tomorrow," Photeus reassured the Xi'an trader.
Suddenly the mood lightened, "Oh well, ha ha! I'm sorry, I misunderstand sometimes. You humans speak so strangely. No, how you say, polish in your words. We will have drinks, it is agreed! Meet at usual time in Sedux Hal?"
"Yes, we will see you there. Photeus out." Photeus dropped the line, but the thought that something was strange lingered in his mind.
"Odd," Reef spoke up after a few minutes.
"You think so?" Photeus remained amazed that Reef had any vocabulary at all.
"Yeah," the gruff man explained, seemingly annoyed the whole time, "he usually goes on and on about his children, women, goods he's ready to sell you, and anything else. He only speaks business with you when he thinks you are drunk."
Photeus nodded thinking, but Reef interrupted his thoughts again, "I'm going to run closer than usual to you on this round. Something's up."
"Good idea." Photeus was honest in his response.