Ophelia called everyone into the conference room for a meeting early in the morning.
“Well done on the last mission,” she began. “It was nice and simple but you all performed your duties well and, mostly, professionally. Mostly.”
“Not that we really care on this ship so long as it gets done,” Lucy added, a smile on her face.
“True enough,” Ophelia agreed. “Our next mission may not be so easy. We’re going to Akumil for an official job.”
“An official job?” Kat asked.
Lucy nodded. “I don’t even know the details yet. They just called us up and said to come hastily.”
“Is that an unusual occurrence?” Yuri inquired.
“It’s never happened before,” Ophelia stated. “We’re technically an akumillian ship, but we have a commercial registry.”
“There are rare cases of them summoning a commercial craft for government work, but they’re exceedingly rare,” Lucy said. “I believe the last known case was a good eight years ago.”
“And now they want us,” Grace muttered. “Curious.”
“They could at least make it a job offer,” Leon muttered. “I don’t like being tossed into shit without having a say or being told why.”
“It has to be something really important,” Kat observed. “Something they couldn’t afford to hear no over.”
“True enough,” Lucy agreed. “Whatever the case, we’ll find out when we get there. Ophelia and I are going to meet with the official. The rest of you will be on stand-by. Make sure we’re ready to launch the moment we return.”
The Cerberus landed on Akumil. Ophelia and Lucy hurriedly prepared to disembark, the two of them each donning strange necklaces.
“Hey, what are those for?” Farah wondered.
“They’re a signal,” Kat answered. “Akumil has a very poly-amorous culture. So, they have special jewellery to signify that someone’s not interested, only interested in men, only interested in women or bound in monogamy. Those necklaces signify the latter. Without them, both of those two would find themselves getting propositioned a lot.”
“Is it really that easy?” Allison wondered. “Too bad I’m taken or I could go out and try my luck. After grabbing the thing that keeps men away, of course.”
“I’m going to tell Yuri you said that,” Kat stated.
“I said I wasn’t going to because I’m taken,” Allison protested. “I wouldn’t cheat on her or anything.”
“I was just teasing you,” Kat said.
“Good,” Allison breathed a sigh of relief. “You sounded really serious.”
Ophelia and Lucy found themselves in an office where absolutely everything was perfectly organised. There wasn’t so much as a speck of dust to be seen.
Eight other people crowded around, all akumillians and all trying to touch nothing. A well-muscled woman walked i and took a seat at the desk. She shuffled some papers and glanced around.
“Captain Fimoly with aide Vuxith?” She asked.
A middle-aged man and his young assistant stepped forward. “As ordered,” he stated.
She nodded. “Captain Yolli with aide Nerth?”
An older looking woman stepped forward. “We came like you wanted.”
“Captain Wester with partner Wester?” She asked.
“We’re here,” Ophelia offered.
“Captain Jivun with aide Rhilon?” she asked.
Another pair stepped forward.
“Captain Duplith with aide Bimils?”
The final pair stepped forward. “This better be bloody important,” she muttered.
“I’ll ignore that,” the woman at the desk said. “We’ve called the five of you here today because we need your ships. You will escort the Stylx to sector 5732. You will wait while it completes its mission. You will escort it back and you will receive your payment. Any objections?”
No one spoke up. “Good,” she said. “Be ready to depart within the hour.”
Ophelia and Lucy left quickly.
“What do you make of that?” Ophelia asked.
“There’s something gravely important to this mission that they aren’t telling,” Lucy stated. “But that much is obvious. It’s also one they can’t afford to have failed but they want kept in the dark. They wouldn’t draft so many ships otherwise. There’s one other thing we can glean from that conversation.”
“And that is?” Ophelia asked.
“They consider us expendable,” Lucy answered.