The Cerberus made its landing on Nitriux at 12:52, slightly earlier than they’d anticipated. Ophelia met with Farah and Kat. Since they were all ready to go, they disembarked a little early.
The EIG representative was tall, dark &, possibly, handsome. Ophelia shook his outstretched hand. “Captain Ophelia Wester,” she greeted.
“Public relations officer Malak Jordan,” he said, giving them a smile that showcased his perfect teeth. It also looked, to Ophelia, like the practised fake smile that you get from someone who’s used to manipulating people. But maybe she was just projecting her feelings about the job itself onto him. “We’re oh so delighted to see that you’ll be touring our operation here. And who are your lovely companions?” He gave Farah and Kat the same disingenuous looking grin.
“Farah Jilani, pleased to meet you.” Farah introduced herself. She returned his smile but hers, Ophelia knew, was genuine.
“Katie Horne,” Kat said. She kept her face impassive. “Are you going to guide us to this area of the mines you want us to tour, or will that be someone else’s job?”
“Right to business, I like that,” Malak said. “You lovely ladies will be guided by our mining forewoman, Ellen Wright. Come along, I’ll introduce you. I should warn you, Ellen is a bit shy around people. But, I assure you, she’s a wonderful supervisor.”
The trio followed behind him. Ophelia got a message on her hand held and quietly checked it. It was from Kat and it read “Is it just me, or is our host awfully eager to toss out the flattery?”
Ophelia looked back at Kat and nodded. “Definitely,” she replied. “And isn’t it odd that he’d come greet us and provide no new information?”
Kat looked down at her own hand held to read Ophelia’s reply. It wasn’t long before Ophelia got another message. “I noticed that too. Why not just have our guide greet us if you’re not going to say anything useful? Unless you want to create a strong first impression, which shouldn’t be necessary if this job’s exactly as described.”
“Agreed,” Ophelia typed back. “We’ll have to be on guard.” She copied the conversation and sent it on to Farah.
The EIG had a sophisticated security system around their files, that was for sure. Lucy was still confident that she could get into them, given some time.
The question was, could she get into them in time to find information that would be useful to Ophelia and the others? She licked her lips and got to work.
Ellen was a dumpy woman with light hair and blue eyes. She fidgeted while being introduced to the Cerberus away team.
“A… all right,” she stammered, almost sounding nervous. “I’ll… it’s down this way.”
It didn’t take long before Ophelia got another message from Kat. This one was also forwarded to Farah.
“This goes beyond not being good with people. Do you buy the story that this is just nervousness?”
“You don’t get to be a forewoman without some people skills,” Ophelia responded. “I don’t think her shaking is social anxiety.”
“The poor woman is definitely afraid of something,” Farah typed. Her and Ophelia’s messages were sent at about the same time.
“I’ll talk to her,” Ophelia wrote. “Maybe I can figure out what’s going on. If that doesn’t work, Kat can try to seduce her.”
“Why me?” Kat responded. “You two are prettier.”
“That’s not true at all,” Farah typed. “You’re very pretty, Kat!”
“It has to be you because you’re the only one here who won’t get into trouble for doing it,” Ophelia answered. She put her hand held away and moved up to Ellen. The small woman was staring straight ahead, still shaking ever so slightly.
“So, what kinds of things can we expect to find?” Ophelia asked. “Any interesting deposits, formations with funny shapes, flying rodents?”
Ellen studied her. “We… well, there is a rock that looks a bit like a beehive,” she answered. “S… some flying rodents b… but they’re very small and w… timid. They won’t bother us.”
“Anything that will?” Ophelia asked.
“N… th… i… ma…” Ellen took a deep breath. “Th… there’s nothing down there your crew shouldn’t be able to handle. I… Nothing you can’t handle.”
What she’d started out trying to say and ended up with wasn’t lost on Ophelia. There was something down there all right. Something they were expected to deal with.