It’s been a little over a month since I moved to Aman Sah.
I get to see Boss about once a day. Not much more than when we’re stationed on different worlds, but we get to meet in person and not over a comm system.
I’d gotten a request from Esna Pitoojee, a Knight from the order of the Merciful Crown. He wanted to ask some questions. They were about Gemma. Oh my friend, has it really been a year?
Odd thing. Victoria Stecker, the bitch who killed Gemma has been seen in the area. Boss almost caught her off the station but she had a cloaking device.
So Esna tells me Gemma had gotten a crop of slaves from the Angel Cartel when we were stationed on Kuomi. Says that Nikita Alterana might have been involved. Boss has been hanging out with a few other Angels lately too. So what’s the connection? It’s like everywhere we turn, we’re running into members of the Cartel.
So much confusion. I needed answers.
So I went up to Boss’ office. He grunted as I walked in. the lights were low and he was staring blankly at a pile of data pads in front of him. He looked like hell. He’d let his beard grow in fully and the tattoo he was now wearing around his right eye made him look grim.
“Hi yourself,” he replied. “Do me a favor? Pour us a drink?”
“Sure Boss.” It kind of spoke volumes that Boss wanted a drink. Usually he only drank socially. But I poured out a couple of glasses of absinthe, handed one to him and curled up on the small sofa.
He took a large gulp and stared at me. “We have more problems.”
I sipped mine and grinned, “What now? Don’t’ tell me Star Fraction is moving down here?”
“Our work out here has been based on forming alliances with different groups. On paper, we’ve been giving these groups letters of marque; turning the better pirate corporations into privateers. They give us extra firepower; we give them better logistics and military oversight. It’s made the low-sec systems on the border safer, but there’s been a lot of cracks in the foundation we built. First Kador left, then a few other smaller groups. But now…” He took another swig.
“Now, one of the bigger allies we had out here, ATLAS, has decided to rethink their position.”
It was my turn to take a long pull at my glass. “That’s…bad…Boss. Are they going to be hostile?”
He nodded. “They’ve already made a raid here and took out the jump bridge network. I didn’t put the station on full alert, no sense in panicking everyone, but yeah. This is going to be a real war, not bullshit posturing like we saw with the Orphans. Lady Silas is meeting with the other leaders, but we could be in for a rough patch. As of 0600 tomorrow, I’ll be keeping the station on heightened alert status.”
“Ok. What’s the plan?”
“The plan?” He leaned back in his chair, lit a cigar and closed his eyes a moment, “The plan is I want you hell and gone. Take your ships and set up shop in Vezilla.”
“Don’t argue Sinti. If we need to evacuate, I want to know that you’re safe and we’re going to be busy enough trying to get the rest of our people out of here.”
“But boss, you’re going to need transport ships and the Homestead is one of the biggest we have. Those Bestower-class transports look pretty n’all, but I can handle a lot more cargo and personnel. Besides, something else just came up that you’re gonna need me to handle. It’s about Gemma.”
“Like what?” he glowered.
“Well, I got this message from Sir Esna and…”
A panel on his desk began to chirp.
“Bide a moment Sinti.”
He pressed a button on his desk and a hologram appeared above it. I recognized him. It was Dr. Ganth, the head of the station’s clone-bay.
“Good evening Doctor,” Boss said, “What can I do for you?”
The image of the doctor flickered above the desk, his mouth turned down like he’d just eaten a bug.
“I’m sorry to um…disturb you. Ah…at such a late hour but. Well, there’s a…discrepancy with um…well, don’t worry. I mean, we’ll make any needed replacements but I just thought you should know and…”
Boss cut him off, “Get to the point.”
“Well sir. There seems to be a problem with the clone you have at this station.”
“What kind of problem…no, you know what? Hold that thought. I’ll be right there.”
Boss cut the hologram feed as he stood up. “Coming Sinti?”
We made our way down to the medical bay. Aman Sah may not be as big as the stations normally found in high-sec, but years of sovereignty wars in the area had necessitated a small but state of the art medical center with a dedicated staff. Cloning facilities are a vital part of any modern medical center. Cloned organs and limbs help save the lives of the “regular” customers, but the clone banks are vital to the existence of infomorphs like Boss and me. A “problem” with a clone could result in a capsuleer’s true death. If Dr. Ganth seemed nervous, it was with good reason.
Boss led the way. The clone bank was quiet and smelled faintly of antiseptics. A team of technicians were prepping a clone for animation. I tried to see if I recognized the person-to-be, but Boss kept a fast pace. By bringing me along, he was expecting me to watch his back so I didn’t want to lag behind.
We turned a corner to a hall that lead to the offices for the different department heads. Dr. Ganth’s was the last one on the left. The hall lights were dimmer here, toned down for the station’s night cycle.
Boss didn’t knock. He threw open the door, strode to the edge of Dr. Ganth’s desk and leaned over.
Boss’ voice was low and clear and promised sooner-than instant death, “What’s wrong with my clone doctor?”
Doctor Ganth was a tall man, almost as tall as Boss and much taller than me. Boss has a way of filling a room though and Dr. Ganth seemed to shrink in his chair a bit.
“Well sir, it’s um…I was running a routine diagnostic and I found a discrepancy. You see, we have to make sure that our clones are an exact match with the current clone of a given individual. The clone also has to be an exact match with the clones a person might also have at another station. With “jump clones” this is especially important. A subject needs to be able to er…download quickly and not have to worry about delays. It takes about twenty-four hours before a person can adjust to his new body and that gives us time to make sure that his other clones match. After a day, the subject can “jump” again into another clone.”
Boss nodded, “I understand all this Doctor. If you plan on getting to the point sometime today…”
“Well, when a person decides on certain cosmetic changes, we go through the whole diagnostic process again. You recently got a…tattoo and you indicated that you wanted it replicated on your other clones. So while I was running a diagnostic on your clone here, I got the feed from the clone bank at your home system, Neyi. That’s where I noticed the discrepancy.”
“Since most capsuleers augment their bodies with different cybernetic enhancements and chip sets, clones are always made with ten “ports” so the individual can add whatever upgrades he desires. Your clone here and the one you have in the Curse region have the standard ten ports. The ones you have in Neyi and other high-sec stations have an eleventh port.”
Boss asked, “What do you mean an eleventh port? Ten is the standard. Go beyond that and the person develops cyber-psychosis.”
Ganth typed on his terminal and a holographic image appeared, “I know. So I requisitioned details on the additional port and I received this readout from your home system.”
Boss paled. I think I would have screamed if I could have found my voice.
“You see sir, this extra port…there? It’s a port for a transcranial microchip. A behavior modifier.”