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[[Rebecca]] saw [[Shauna]] sitting on a bench as she approached [[Umbra]]. [[Aun]] hopped up as she pushed her bike into a rack, and air kissed her boss on both sides. “It’s been a while since you had a double-Umbra day, isn’t it?” Her voice was low and rich, somewhat at odds with her short lean frame and light pink hair.
“It’s shaping up to be an interesting day, alright,” [[Rebecca]] smiled. She recalled the day [[Aun]] had mentioned. Getting in on the [[Luna Beta]] land grab had been very costly, but it ensured [[Rebecca]] would have a share in [[Dreampark Luna]] when it went live. “Let’s hope today is as profitable as that day. Any excitement at [[the Office]]?” [[Aun]] pushed a summary of the day’s events to [[Rebecca]] as they crossed the drawbridge. “Really?” She pointed to an orange entry in the report. It was Mr. O’Sullivan – again. “Are we going to have a problem?”
Shauna grinned as the door slid open ahead of them. “No. [[Doc]] had to take a look at him after, but it was all in the contract.”
[[Syd]]’s lace had informed him of Rebecca’s approach, so he was already getting up to walk over to her when she got inside.
“Good,” [[Rebecca]] said, stepping inside with her usual confidence. She saw [[Syd]] heading towards them, and finally noticed the alert that said he had called to ‘make an appointment with Shauna’. “Shoot,” she said to Shauna. “[[Syd]]’s expecting me. You head to a room in the back while–”
“[[Rebecca]]?!” A booming voice filled the bar, instantly drawing everyone's attention. It came from a mountain of a man at the bar with a giant beer in his hand. He to his feet too fast in the light gravity, and bounced an ungainly half a metre up, comically tilting as he flew and fell. He didn't look away from her, and when their eyes met the shock of recognition took her breath away.
“You… You! You're dead!” She misstepped, turned a six inch heel, and would have gone down if Shauna hadn't caught her. She was rooted to the spot for a long moment, like a gawky teenager on prom night. The mountain of muscles and scars in front of her had deeper crags and creases, but he was definitely [[Kevin Cahn]] - killed in action over twenty years before.
Kevin landed awkwardly, but righted himself easily. “You can’t be here!” He gestured with the hand holding the giant beer, but somehow didn't spill any.
The dozen heads in the bar were swivelling back and forth between Rebecca and the big man. [[Rebecca]] snapped back to full composure in a flash, still reeling inside, but letting none of it show.
The gears in [[Kevin]]’s head started to catch too, though they were still connected directly to his mouth. “No,” he said, “you can’t be her. Her daughter…?” He trailed off, suddenly realizing that he might have blown his cover in a terminal way.
[[Shauna]], with characteristic initiative, stepped in front of [[Rebecca]], toward [[Syd]]. “Buy me a drink?” she asked breathily. She didn't walk as much as wiggle her way over to the man, drawing attention away from her boss and whoever Goliath over there turned out to be. Taking [[Syd]] by the arm, she pushed him down on a bar stool, turned like she was modelling lingerie on a catwalk – or maybe a stage with a pole – and planted her firm bottom on his lap.
[[Syd]]’s AI assistants fed him some interpretations of her body language and expressions, but his brain was redlined already. His lace noted his emotional state as it rampaged outside his preferred range, but the automatic calm-down script was aborted before it began: he was one of Shauna’s regulars after all, and lace-induced inhibitions were the opposite of what he usually wanted when she was on his lap.
[[Mycroft]] noted these interactions, carefully indexing them against the profiles it had on each of the people in the bar. A tiny part of his awareness assessed the new information, and began to look for information on an old relationship between [[Rebecca]] and [[Kevin]]. Nothing came up after a cursory search, so Mycroft spawned a daemon to keep nibbling away at the question.
During 'Na's distraction, Rebecca strode over to Kevin and slapped the privacy button. The silvery mist enveloped them in seconds.
Wrapped in the dead silence of the privacy field, Kevin was losing the struggle with his emotions. “Becky?” his voice was tight, low, and choked with emotion. “Is it really you?” He towered over her, easily 40cm taller and broader. His hands opened and closed unconsciously and convulsively. He did not notice the beer stein in his left hand shatter to shards and powder.
Rebecca was no stranger to large dangerous men in emotional turmoil. Theatres, bordellos, and smuggling were remarkably similar in that respect. ''Well ''this'' part hasn’t changed in 25 years,'' she thought. Assuming the Mary Poppins Schoolmarm persona was so familiar it was almost first nature to her now. She leaned in and somehow ''up'' and all of a sudden she was in Kevin’s business with a face made of storms. Her tone was quiet and flat despite her expression. “That name died when you did.” It was almost a hiss. She let no satisfaction make it as far as her eyes when he collapsed onto his barstool.
“Talk,” she said. She did not sit. At least this way she could look him in the eye without damaging her neck.
He took what felt like a long time collecting his thoughts.
She did her best to push her wildly oscillating emotions down, but there was no way. ''What’s the point being an actor if you can’t twist emotions?'' she thought. She played to her strength instead. She took the tumult in her guts, lit it on fire, and put in in her eyes.
She saw fear and regret in his eyes. He saw wrath. They both had unrequested recollections of their very passionate relationship. They both blushed.
[[Kevin]] noticed [[Rebecca]]’s left eyebrow moving slowly upward. Something deep in his soldier’s soul saw the incoming fire. “I was on a mis—a job,” he said. It was hard to force the word out. ''The last time I was this choked up was with her too,'' he thought. He shook his head sharply, flinging the memory away. “It… I… The…”
Her voice ripped the words out of him. “I got blown up! Both arms gone. Lots of other damage.” He paused for a long moment. “Damn, that was a good Drill Sergeant,” he said. "A grin pulled his right cheek up. His weathered creases were so deep that 'shar pei' wandered through her mind.
Rebecca’s whole demeanour clicked into teen-girl-crush in an instant: hip cocked, sly grin on a tilted head, looking up through long lashes. “You like it?”
[[Kevin]] erupted in booming laughter. When they finally caught their breath they found themselves almost in a hug, arms on each other’s shoulders, tears streaming down their faces. [[Kevin]] started to withdraw, but [[Rebecca]] was having none of that. In defiance of basic Newtonian mechanics, pulled his colossal frame in to her arms. “Asshole,” she whispered.
[[Rebecca]] finally sat on one of the cubic seats, and assumed her hard-nosed business character. It was one of her favourites. “You first,” she ordered.
[[Kevin]] sighed. “The last twenty years… Well, I never thought I’d be a suit, but I got a corporate job and it turned out I’m really good at logistics. About a month ago I saw some…” He paused, considering what he could tell her. “I realized that the corporations are on the brink of all out war. It’s going to be a fucking murderfest. I was ''not'' going to survive that.”
[[Rebecca]] absorbed that for a while. [[Kevin]] waited, obviously impatient. He wasn’t sure there was anything they could do to stop the [[Cyborg Collective]] from finding out he was on [[Luna Alpha]], and when they did… Gritting his teeth, he shifted his bulk, about to stand.
“We need to bring [[Syd]] in on this,” [[Rebecca]] said. “We have some complementary business interests, and we’re going to need his skills and contacts.”
[[Rebecca]] leaned out of the privacy field. She couldn’t see [[Syd]], so she subvocalized, °[[Mycroft]] tell [[Syd]] to join us now.° She ducked back into the field. A moment later a [[Syd]]-sized area bulged inward, glowing red at the intrusion. [[Rebecca]] reached through. When he took her hand the cloudy barrier dissipated, revealing a flushed and flustered [[Sydneous Balta]].
“[[Rebecca]], what’s going on?” [[Syd]] hadn’t let go of her hand, and was squeezing it nervously.
“Syd, this is Kevin. He’s an old friend, and he needs that little display of surprise erased from the record.”
Syd’s eyes bugged out a little. His mouth opened and closed a few times but he made no sound.
“Really, Be… Rebecca? We need ''his'' help?”
Rebecca turned on him, incidentally pulling her hand away from Syd’s grasp. “Syd is the only successful smuggler in this colony,” she said hotly. “If he can’t do something to fix the record, he will know who can. I trust him.”
“Uh…” Syd cleared his throat. “I don’t think you understand what you’re asking.”
“Look,” [[Kevin]] growled, “If some AI puts together Rebecca and me… hell, those people wouldn’t hesitate to erase this building and everyone in it.” He was getting riled up, and Syd was shrinking away. “They would kill everyone in this ''entire base'' without a second thought!”
This time Syd’s ''KeepCalmCarryOn'' program ran. “You’re asking me to hack ''[[Mycroft]]''. That’s… well, it’s incredibly hard, and I can’t do that and,” he turned to [[Rebecca]], “and the other thing.”
Kevin looked at Syd, hard. "Can you scan in here for recording devices?"
Syd smirked a tiny bit. "Of course I can. Scan him," he said. The field glowed amber around Kevin's whole upper body, from neck to knickers. A lot of his torso was either artificial, reinforced, or augmented - any had the potential to record. Syd shrank back. ''That's a lot of hardware to make it up here, and I wasn't part of the transfer.'' He tagged this for follow up. Someone was getting people past customs. ''Maybe a friend like Rebecca?'' he thought, hopefully. His AI assistant made a skunk fart in his sinuses. ''Maybe not a friend, then,'' he thought, involuntarily recoiling from the sudden lace-induced stench in his head.
Kevin saw a small, feeble man's rearing back as an attempt to make himself a smaller target while getting as far away from the big man as possible. He smirked, wondering how a coward like Syd ran a business well enough to tweak his own logistical Spidey-sense. ''Lucky, I guess.'' His smirk broadened to a grin. “No, no. Scan ''everybody''.”
The nanites followed orders. Rebecca's irises and ears glowed orange, and her purse glowed red. ''Contacts, earphones, and a phone,'' he thought. ''Normal.'' Syd though, he was a different story. The man was practically a walking recorder. ''You expect eyes, and ears. Skin? Nose? Tongue?'' Syd's head lit up too, showing he had a lace. Kevin sighed - there was no way to get all that shut off quickly. "Fine," he said, taking a tiny moment to enjoy Syd's surprised discomfort at his sudden exposure. He casually reached out, lifted Syd up by the breast of his suit jacket, and thrust him leftward, to dangle outside the privacy field. Once he was out, Kevin turned to Rebecca. “The world today knows me as Jackson McCallum,” he said, his voice hard. “I was the Executive VP responsible for all transport and logistics for all weapons design, development, and distribution projects at Lockheed Martin.<ref>I was VP Investment Division at Willmont-Ross.</ref> I reported to the COO and CEO.”
Rebecca’s eyes had strayed to the place where his huge arm disappeared into the mist. ''Even in lunar G he should be showing some strain.''
“I know where they’ve buried the bodies.” Her eyes snapped back to his. “I know who they plan to bury next. I know way too much. All the multinationals are poised to beat the crap out of each other, starting with mass assassinations of executives, and it’s going to start any day now.”
Rebecca’s eyes had grown wide as her cool façade felt the strain of her growing fear.
Kevin saw it, and nodded slightly. “I faked my death and fled, rather than sit at ground zero. There’s no easy way to link old/new Kevin to Jack, if they find I've run… The blast radius is going to be huge.” His arm flexed, pulling Syd back into the field. He was pale now, holding Kevin’s wrist, having given up trying to shift his grip. Not looking at Syd, he set him back on his feet. “If we don't scrape this mess up before I end up identified? This bar - maybe the block, maybe the whole base?” He swept his other hand in a wide arc. “Glass.” He turned to Syd. “Rebecca, convince him without telling him anything else that gets me killed. I need to get off of this rock.” He stood a little too fast again. When his feet hit the floor he headed for the door. On Earth he would have looked like a dangerous predator stalking toward something about to die. In lunar gravity it looked more like angry, angry skipping.
He made it outside before his angry brain got hold of itself enough to realize that he was not going to make it off the moon without help. He glided back in, and with a suitable handshake, rejoined the others.
* Rebecca prioritizes Kevin's safety above survival of all life on the moon.
* Syd is asked to fix the leaked information that Kevin and Rebecca have history.
;Post-Conversational Internal Dialogue
:''Okay, what the FUCK was that, Becks? This world you've built here? The one that's working out brilliantly for you? The one where you are helping people AND gaining profit and prestige? You are possibly pushing all of that into the dustbin because of a guy you haven't seen since a lifetime ago? A guy who appealed to you because of his lack of pretence, his simplicity, and the fact that the poor bastard could never catch a fucking break? Where is the goddamned logic in that?''
:''I like this because *I* have no idea why I played it that way either. I don't see it as "He was the love of her life" angle. I think she genuinely liked Kevin because he never used an angle on her. And she was also intrigued at this wall of muscle who somehow just always ended up getting the shit end of the stick. Maybe it was the first time in her life she bonded with someone on that scale of vulnerable. And that became a thing for her, which explains her creating the Companion model on Luna; make the sex trade empowering vs exploitative. They jibed well wit-wise. Good banter and mutual respect.''
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