Chapter 3: Dion1
The walk to the cargo bay took a bit longer than the one to the general. There were fewer people also, but there were still the stares and whispers. Maybe they were worried about the fact I still had my weapons. I guess they knew I wasn't stupid enough to attack them. The story about my fight against the Badlander was already circling about the base. It had made me the enemy of Axis and the UAA was the only place I could turn to. When I had finally reached the cargo bay there was already a group of scientists circling around the pile of Night City artifacts chattering amongst themselves. One noticed me and alerted the others to my arrival.
Their immediate concern was the proper way to remove various items without detonating any hidden explosive devices. So far all they have done was to separate things into groups. There were several tables in the back where I went to first. The first known non-explosives: papers, half a chair, spent shell casings, a copy of Johnny Silverhand's greatest hits (I already had one), pencils, a few packages of vacuum freezed kibble, ect. As I examined them one of the scientists asked me if I could explain what was on some of the papers. They were stock reports, private assets, client listings, and a few diagrams of the portal machines. I collected everything related to the portal and asked if they could figure any of it out. One of them took the paper stack and left the room studying the sheets.
The second looked more interesting. This one had a case of pistol grenades. I explained how they worked and asked if it was possible to manufacture them on the station. These were handy devices which I had used in the past. I set two on an empty table and kept the rest. In addition there were a few frag grenades, bits of armor, a damaged radio head set, an empty nerve gas grenade, some computer parts, an intact skill chip, and the hilt of a mono katana (chances were that the blade is somewhere in the sands). I separated the grenades and the skill chip from the other stuff and went on.
The third table looked something like the work desk in Rapid Fire's repair station. It was covered in pistols, SMGs, and a few rifles. Most of it was in good shape, however none of it was better than what I currently had. But there were no explosives or anything that could accidentally be dangerous (the Algolian weapons appear to work much like Earth's).
Last I started looking at the bodies. No one was holding a grenade so I began to disarm them. The worst part was having to touch their cold stiff hands to remove their guns. But soon, and with a little help from the guards, the hardware was taken off for the doctors. Most of the items were distributed among the doctors, scientists, and techies. What remained was the junk to be disposed of later. I asked that they examine one of my extra clips of ammo for the Colt with hopes they could make more since I only had fourteen shots left. By then it was 1930 hours. An errand runner gave me a card and a Rimfire badge then gave me directions as to where the funeral was being held along with where my quarters were located. I fastened the badge to my left coat pocket and hoped it would cover up the bulge from my holster. Not knowing how long it would take me to get there, I decided to leave then. The guard offered to drop off my belongings at the barracks for which I accepted and gave thanks.
The runner said it took place in the city park. As I walked along the corridors to the elevator which would take me down to the city, I noticed there was not an official uniform. There seemed to be five styles of dress. Four styles were probably the official uniforms of the four nations of Algol, that meant the fifth was that of the UAA. As long as wearing the UAA uniform didn't seem to be required, I'd try to pass off my leathers and Earth's uniform. After all, most of the people I knew wore them. When I finally reached the main elevator, it was almost full. I reached it just as the doors were about to close. "Is this filled up?" I asked politely.
I received a series of no's from some shocked people. I entered and the doors were beginning to close again when I heard a woman shouting to hold the elevator. No one pushed the open button, but I knew there was space for one more person, especially if she's attractive. When the doors were a foot apart, I stuck my right hand between them and pushed them open, just in time for the woman to rush on. She panted slightly as the doors closed, this time completely, and we began to descend. "Thank you." she huffed, "Say aren't you that man everyone's talking about. The one who shot up a Badlander without a mekton?"
"Guilty as charged. Acting-Ensign Fox at your service." I replied doing as much of a bow as I could in a crowded elevator. She had long blue hair and was wearing the same style of uniform Haversom had but with a red dagger insignia down the left breast from shoulder to belt. The Rimfire badge was on her right collar. I noticed hers when she noticed mine.
"That's neither a regulation uniform nor the correct position your Rimfire badge, Acting-Ensign." she stated in an athoritive tone.
Now why did she have to go and say that? We were getting along fine until she chose to criticize my wardrobe. "Well if they had given me a regulation uniform and told me where to put the fraggin badge, then we wouldn't be having this conversation now would we?" I replied my voice was dripping with sarcasm.
The military life would take some getting used to, but I vowed that I would not become just another faceless solider. "Well I will see to it personally that you get a proper uniform and that you are instructed in the proper way to speak to your superior officers. Who do you think you are speaking to me in that tone of voice?"
"I think therefore I am, Nate 'Fox' Conners co-founder of Rapid Fire Arms Service, monarch of weapons in Night City, bearer of armaments to the police force, sultan of SMGs, ruler of rifles, magistrate of machine guns, general of grenades, baron of bazookas, and headmaster of handguns! And who do you think you are?"
"I am Captain Larani Kynis leader of the Rimfire flight squadron and your commanding officer! Let me tell you that you might have been a big fish in this Night City, you're just one of ten warriors sent to defend Algol from Axis. And if I think for one second that you are endangering my unit, you will be removed faster than you can think! Is that clear?"
"Yes sir." I barked as military as I could.
By now the elevator was slowing down. Everyone else seemed to have enjoyed the show. The captain sighed then as we walked out said, "I understand your position. You didn't get up this morning with the intention of becoming a fighter in a war on another planet, I bet. But as flight leader, I feel I should have done something to prevent Daric's death. You just happened to be the first member of my unit I came across. Actually with the way things are right now, your clothes are just as good as anything anyone else is wearing." she finished with a small laugh.
I could tell that she was under a lot of stress. "No hard feelings then, Captain?" I asked cautiously.
"None, but you will have to learn the proper way to greet your leader."
We both got a laugh out of that. The funeral was a short distance away. Fortunately we were a few minutes early which gave me the chance to glance around the city. Despite being underground and in space, there was a sky of sorts, from a holographic projection perhaps, filled with stars. I knew that none of them were real, but I did wonder which on was mine. Don't get nogalastic, I though to myself, it won't do you any good since there's no way to get back. I just had to make the best of the situation as I've always done. Though it was dangerous, being part of the Rimfire team was the quickest way to earn these people's trust. One of the rules of Night City is that when venturing into the unknown, make sure the natives are friendly because they will always have more firepower than you. Plus I knew that anywhere I went, I'd be a source of attention so why not turn it to my advantage?
I noticed that it was unusually bright around the park were the services were begin held. As if a bit of noon sun was held over til night just for this occasion. This city seemed to be like any other with buildings, roads, and so on. But it looked a whole lot better than home. No pollution, no crime (at least so far), no street gangs who'd shoot you if you looked at them wrong, in sight. Boy, did I start to miss home! But then, this was a military base, it had to have some degree of order to it. I was willing to bet that it was a different story planetside. After the services, I felt I simply had to get something to eat, then a good rest. Life and death were common back home, I guess seeing another stiff lost some of its affect on me.
There was a vid screen on a fancy table with holograms on each end of the deceased. Neither the body nor a coffin was in sight. I liked the hologram of him in a running pose with a dagger coming out of a wrist holder. His expression was similar to some people who I have provided services before. If any Algolian could survive in Night City, he would be it. If fact, I'd say he'd be right at home there. Too bad he wasn't as good in one of those mekton things. But his loss was my gain. Nothing neither I nor Larani could have done about it. But I could understand her feelings.
I've been in charge before and have had people, some of them good friends, die under my command. She will spend the rest of her life asking herself whether she could have prevented this and realizing that she could never learn the answer. The same is true of me and all I could do is try to talk her out of it. Snapping her out of her light depression shouldn't be too hard. After all he was never even under her command, at least not officially. We neither saw nor heard of him until now. The front row was reserved for us in the Rimfire flight crew. I saw Cedric come up. I introduced her to Larani and asked if anyone has seen any other members of Rimfire. No one had. Larani said that the escorts assigned to the other shuttles were delaying their arrival until tomorrow. The general wanted Daric to be put to rest ASAP.
We sat down and waited for the services to commence. Cedric and Larani made small talk about what kind of mektons they would be issued, what its capabilities were, and exchanged information about what they knew about Rimfire and Daric (which wasn't much). I gave a mental command to my internal disk player and silently listened to the latest album by Face Boys. (It was a gift after I outfitted their body guards for their Night City concert last year. It's great to fight to.) I lost myself in the beat until Larani tapped me on the shoulder. "What are you doing? You're making a spectacle of yourself sitting there nodding you head." she asked.
"Just listing to some tunes, Captain, as I wait. How much longer is it going to be?"
"General Haversom is arriving now. I don't know how you could be listing to music right now, but stop it and act respectful! You're at a funeral for crying out loud!"
"What do you suggest? Mozart?"
"Just turn it off."
Yeah, yeah, sure, sure, sure, whatever you say. A broadcasting camera was wheeled down the aisle and for the next thirty minutes I half listened to speeches about how good Deric was and how much he will be missed by his family and friends. The vid screen glowed to life and we were assaulted by another speech, this time by Deric's former commander. This seemed to go on forever. I almost considered turning the player back on but didn't trust myself not to attract attention to myself. Just when I though I was going to fall asleep, the speech ended and Haversom was thanking everyone for coming and wished us a good night.
People began to get up from their chairs. Some formed a line to express their sympathy to the family via the camera and others left. I joined Cedric and Larani on the way back upstairs. "Either of you know where a guy can go to get some grub?" I asked. Cedric suggested the cafeteria in the barracks. They asked if they could join me to discuss plans for the Rimfire group. Cafeterias had a universal reputation for serving bad food and I was worried as to how my body would react to alien substances. As with many things, I didn't have much choice. I had to eat sooner or later. Besides, they seemed to be as human as I was, I should be able to eat whatever they can.