Chapter 18: Dion1/Rimfire
Haversom took us to his debriefing room (which was nicely redecorated since the Aggendi attack) to hear the full story. Larani gave most of the report with the rest of us filling in as needed. Haversom didn't know anything about the hidden message but he did agree that someone else did and it was not just a lucky break. He sat back in his overstuffed chair and said, "First, as of this date I have put you all up for commendations. You have all performed well above and beyond the call of duty. The Rimfire is complete, and will pull out of dry dock the day after tomorrow. Your quarters have been moved onto the ship. Dass will give you all a tour tomorrow morning. I have been contacted by Sunlight1. The commander there has managed to find information pertaining to our particular problem. Your first tour of the system will include a stop at Sunlight. I want you to pick up whatever information she has. Dass and the rest of the Rimfire's crew have been briefed on this purpose of Operation Rimfire. Keep and eye out for Axis; I have no idea what they are up to, but it always pays to watch them carefully. Sooner or later they're going to take a shot at us, and I want to smash them when they do."

He gave us the evening off, and told us to meet Altair Dass in the airlock of Alpha Quadrant the next morning. We were well remembered by the city, especially those who participated in defending the base. There was another dinner held in our honor with more home cooked food, music, and dancing. It was much better than military food and more sincere than what we got on the Ettaran fan carrier. About halfway through dinner, Altair Dass arrived in an Overwatch uniform, followed by fourteen other in similar uniforms. They were introduced as the crew of the Rimfire. The meeting too brief for me to match names with faces. There was navigator Lt. Hedric Fal, ship's pilot Lt. Karri Yall, weapons officer Ens. Realan Ulam, Ops controller Ens. Salmax Dora, technician Ens. Jenmel Harris, flight controller Ens. Garris 'Haj' Hajakinson, secondary pilot Ens. Sarka Loara, cook Mendab Orthal, communications Ens. Arisa Tenkell, security chief Ens. Rethom Sal, doctor Ens. Dal Jabess, maintence Ens. Onell Tara, and zero-gee OPs Ens. Felina Goment. They left before we could talk, blaming their brief visit on last minute checks and promised there will me more time in the morning. "Bring whatever personal belongings with you as you will be moving onto the Rimfire." he said as they left.

The rest of the dinner went well. Gossip about members of the crew circulated about Fireflight between drinks. Without anything to contribute, I listened carefully. I used the inducer again that night. After the dreamless snooze, I packed everything and caught up on the news. Rillia's company was taken over by a rival and her trial was underway. My inability to testify would make little difference with the tape there to speak for me. She's expected to be found guilty on most charges. Other than that, the planet wide economy was drastically improving. Literally millions were made overnight. Too bad I couldn't get a slice of that. Then the 5:00 alarm sounded and I was ready to go. Tharis, Tammis, and Aleoi were rather grumpy from heavy drinking. "Tharis, I thought you learned your lesson last night! What happened?"

"Don't shout. I just got carried away, that's all." it was clear that he was in pain and was trying not to let it interfere with his duties.

All ten of us caught a transport over to the airlock were Dass was already waiting. Another UAA worker suited up was with him. When we got there, we entered the airlock and Dass began to cycle it. When the pressure reached zero, the lock opened to reveal two half-track-like moon buggies. Dass entered one while the other man entered the other. They motioned for us to follow them. After a half hour of driving, Dass pulled up to a large crater. We disembarked and headed for a crater edge. Set into the edge, almost invisible from more than thirty feet and well-hidden from above, is a large door with a combination lock. After punching in a string of numbers, the door opened into a small fifteen by fifteen foot room. When the door closed air was piped in and the sudden feeling of rapid decent.

After a few moments, Dass removed his helmet and motioned us to do the same. A set of door on the other side of the elevator opened into a huge circular chamber, in the center of which sat Rimfire. It was a magnificent ship, more advanced than I would have thought possible. Dozens of engineers and technicians where completing the engines and preparing to remove the scaffolding. Supervising the work is a large man with grey hair wearing an Overwatch uniform. Dass pointed him out as the Rimfire's chief engineer, Farid Mox. Mox waved and made some inside joke I didn't understand to Dass as we walked up the entry platform and entered the ship.

He took us on the grand tour of the ship we would be spending the next few years. It was very impressive and technically advanced, even when compared with everything else I have seen on Algol. The last stop was the main bridge were the crew was waiting for us. We got reintroduced to the fourteen crew members. I learned to match names with faces and remembered who was who by using an old fixer trick. I wish I remembered to use it last night, but my concern about Laian was too distracting.

Haj came up to me and led me aside. I noticed that his left arm was chromed. "I wanted to thank you for donating the cybernetics to Algol. As you can see, I received one of the spare arms straight off the previous user."

"How do you like it?"

"Well I'm a bit taken about having someone else's body part. But there's something else, something they didn't know about."

"Think of it as a transplant. You're not alone. Second hand parts are common in Night City. Now what is this 'something'?"

He raised his arm and a small screen popped up as a equally small panel slid to reveal buttons and knobs. "It's a portable TV. It's designed to receive various frequencies and display the images."

I tried to demonstrate how it worked. He got Dion's station and one from Algol, but it was snowy. The rest was static. I showed him how to adjust the channel settings and the knobs functions. He was really impressed by the gadget, so much so that he almost forgot about the Live Wire. The Live Wire is similar to the interface plug like I have. But these include their own cables that are self manipulating. They were invented about a year after I got my metal, otherwise I would have gotten them myself. I gave him the details and how it could be used here. It gave the impression that having a mini-snake in his arm freaked him more than having a little TV inside it.

But he was our flight controller who hoped to reenter combat and his Night City arm had much better reflexes than his old Algol one. With a bit of practice, he could be combat ready again. My talk with Haj ate up what remained of the allotted time with the tour and we were herded out before I could talk with any more of the crew. He took us to the circus room. It was a giant carousel in the center of the ship that launches mektons. Our Sentinels were already loaded there.

Aleoi was surprised to see her helmet insignia was being painted on one of the shields. "Yes, all of you will have your helmet insignias painted onto your mekton's shields by tomorrow. Mr.Conners, we will require some sort of pattern to be painted on your shield since you don't have one yet. When you've finished, see me on the bridge. Everyone is dismissed. Take the elevator to the living quarters and settle in."

Moving into our new rooms took some time. They were about twice the size of the ones on Dion and had roughly the same style. Must be the same contractor. My insignia was simple enough, a triangle with the picture of a fox's head looking forward. I kept the colors simple (light blue and black) for no other reason apart from light blue was the color of the paper.

On the way to the bridge, I passed by Arisa. She was sitting in the hallway next to her door crying. I could feel something was wrong so much so that I knew I had to try and help or I'll never forgive myself. Sitting next to her, I asked what was wrong. "Daryl, my little brother, vanished yesterday in Arcol. My family is looking for him frantically. Oh, I wish I could be with them right now. I'm so worried about them."

She sobbed again and leaned on my shoulder for moral support. I held her and tried to convince her that everything will be all right. Through my mind, I could feel her calm down. She was still worried, but it wasn't as severe as before. Hope of Daryl's safe return filled her, displacing most of the worry and fear. I couldn't decide if my developing gifts had something to do with it. When she finally collected herself she thanked me and returned to her quarters. Right before the door closed, she looked back and me and asked if I had time for a cup of soykaff later. I told her I'd be back just as soon as I get my insignia to Dass. The captain approved my idea and faxed it down to the circus crew. I had to tell him just what a fox was and he agreed that it fit my personality.

Dora, Fal, Sal, and Haj were on the bridge also doing some system checks. When Haj noticed me he said that Arisa helped him adjust the TV to a combination of civilian and military frequencies. It would seem he was adjusting nicely, though the Live Wires were still not in use. On the way back to Arisa's, I almost ran into Eiran. He was happily excited about something. Ariel wrote him a message saying she arrived on Muria safely and hoped he was well. She also hoped to see him again soon. Eiran was glad that being separated hadn't ended their relationship. Then he left to tell the others.

I decided not to repeat the proverb about distance and love, he already knew it. Watching him put a smile on my face impossible to wipe off. Arisa was a bit taken back when she opened her door. She was still worried about Daryl and turned back to the phone. I couldn't hear who she was talking to but I guess it was a family member. "Him? Oh, he's one of the Fireflight crew. They came on here earlier today....Sergeant Nate "Fox" Conners....He was on TV? Took down Taylor Mining?...He looks okay to me....I will Mother. Good luck. I'll call back later. Bye....Bye." She hung up and sighed.

"Still no word?" I asked.

"No. Nothing has happened. I feel so helpless."

"There's nothing you can do out here except to hope."

She poured the black liquid into two cups and sat against the counter in silence. I sat at the small table and waited for her to talk. She stared into the cup and soon began telling me about her family. They were from Elara and lived in one of the port cities. She was drafted into the EMF despite her pacifistic beliefs. In time she found she liked being a communications officer and transferred to the UAA when the war was winding down. Her family never understood why she stayed in the military longer than necessary.

I asked her why she did stay. Arisa couldn't answer that. There was more to her existence here than back home and she had no regrets despite what happened to Daryl. I mentioned about how different we are. I was an Edgerunner. Fighting and killing were a daily events and couldn't be avoided. Instead of countering with some pacifistic rhetoric I expected, she said she understood. She said she understood a soldier's need to kill an enemy and that she kept her beliefs personal. But she did ask how I could stand it day after day.

"It's survival. Something you get used to. There, you either shoot or be shot. It's can be a terrible place sometimes. They even hold a nightly contest to see who could guess how many people died that day. We Edgerunners are all soldiers of one sort or another. It's a war between yourself and everyone else. You have a few friends, a few more enemies, and too many people who don't care either way. It's a lifestyle you get used to."

We talked some more about things. Try as I might, I couldn't steer the conversation away from her brother. There was little I could do. Lifting her spirits involved knowing about other things that she would know also. But my two weeks here left me woefully inadequate in Algolian common knowledge and Night City was too violent for her tastes. At least she found someone willing to listen to her and someone she could trust. I left her a more relieved woman with the right amount of concern for her missing sibling and enough hope to last her a while.

The next hour was spent updating my journal before hitting the inducer. There was still some time before launch which I spent cleaning weapons and maintaining my metal. However that didn't take long (I make a point of buying only the best for myself), so I began learning about mekton construction, information that could be invaluable if I ever get back home. Their basic construction was like cybernetics. But the main question was how did they clear the hurdle of pressure.

Like buildings, mektons weighed many tons. The only reason why mektons weren't developed on Earth was because there was no way to counteract the constant shifting of weight. They would literally collapse under their own bulk. But the Algolians had different metallurgy and engineering techniques that needed my science chips to fully understand. The concepts were understandable after reading it several times. The technology was reproducible on Earth which made my studies more valuable and fascinating.

Soon Dass's voice came over the intercom. "Good morning, people. We launch in two hours. All flight crew to stations. All fireflight squadron members please use the acceleration couches in your rooms. That is all." he stated.

I wired my terminal into the security systems and watched in morbid glee the flight crew scurrying all over sections of the ship like roaches in a dark alley as I munched on some chips. Bored of witnessing the flurry of preparation activity, I phoned up Larani. She was already strapped into the couch and wondered why I didn't do the same. "Come on Captain. It's not like we launching in five minutes! We still got time to kill before we get strapped in."

"We have our orders. This is Dass's ship and we do as he says. So snap to it mister." I agreed and hung up.