Anny had only met top brass from SD a handful of times, they rarely left Central Command on Space Station One, and her father was a small fish in the grand scheme of things. If they’d seemed merely snobbish and irritatingly above it all, the woman here was all but irritated to even be aboard a station is lowly as Eight. When Jayce shook her arm heartily, she looked down as if expecting some leftover muck or infectious disease to cling there, brushing off the sleeve of her fresh-pressed uniform that glinted with polished silver buttons.

Grand Overcaptain Captain Mitchell had the pallid, almost translucent skin of a lifelong spacer who had never heard of ‘shore leave’ or time for sun lamps with a shock of lank blonde hair to match. Her eyes were the sharp, pale fire of a leader who had packed away the last of her heart long before Command School and her cheerless lips were pressed into a hard, thin line.

WISR seemed to have learned his lesson about civilians saluting, he folded his arms behind his back, fingers twitching nervously.

“Let’s get this over with, G.C. Lockley,” she grumbled as she lead the way to the Engineering Wing.

She had to wait at least a full minute – checking her watch as her air of authority waned by the second – for Haskell to pretend the doors hadn’t been opened in quite some time. Finally, the rusted airlocks creaked aside with no whoosh of hot air, no hum of massive machines, not a single status light twinkling in the dark.

Grand Overcaptain Captain Mitchell didn’t say a word, twirling on a heel and stomping off to find the nearest intact interface panel.

“AI,” she demanded the moment the device recognized her handprint, “Play back security footage dating to the computer’s delivery.”

“Certainly, ma’m,” Haskell replied, thankfully without a trace of irony.

He must have been listening and watching, planning ahead to edit the video. Aside from the odd critter scurrying across the stained linoleum, not a single soul seemed to have come near the construction bay.

You. What is your name and your rank on this vessel?” she roared next at Anny with an accusing finger, eyes blazing.

Anny merely pushed her hand away with a gentle shove.

“My name is Anny Lo- Lamora. Agent of SYMM.”

“Agent, I demand you have this rogue AI supply the true security tapes immediately and submit it to the PAX program.”

“Actually, G.O.C. that’s precisely why we’re here,” WISR said, “We can assure you that what you’ve seen is the complete and utter truth. The AI is no rogue.”

“How dare you speak to me. I want her arrested, and that- that thing dismantled.” she said, whipping around to face Jayce.

“I ain’t doin’ any such thing,” the Grand Captain replied, “Take me in all ya like, but you leave my- her out of it. She ain’t done nothing.”

“Goodness, you seem rather invested in this thing. I wonder why,” Anny said in an irritatingly innocent-sounding tone as she pulled out her phone.

“I will remind you that while SD nor SYMM represent the Central Government of Planets-”

“Which is why I imagine you’ve been moving a dangerous, likely illegal machine across the system without their knowledge. This wasn’t a commision by SYMM, and I know this because I asked them.”

She turned her phone around to reveal a message from Nikolae. 

i’ve no idea what your on about but thats deff against the law

Have a nice day! 🙂

“You were going to present it to SYMM as a prototype and then have them lobby to the Central Government to make it legal.”

A pale hand reached for a waist holster. Before Captain Mitchell could even touch metal, Captain Jayce swept in, putting himself between Anny, WISR, and the Grand Overcaptain.

“By all means, try it,” he growled, “See if you can outdraw me. See if three bodies don’t put a target on your back. See if the government ain’t interested then.”

Captain Mitchell ground her teeth, icy eyes narrowing, “This isn’t over,” she sneered, pointing between Anny and the Captain.

Duke and Gregor were nearly bowled over as she pushed past them. They shrugged at each other before following not far behind.

“Well. That sure was something,” Jayce said.

“We did it!” Anny cheered, holding up her hands for a double high-five from WISR, “We took down the machine!”

“That’s me girl!”

Before she could stop herself, she threw her arms around Jayce’s middle.

“I’m sorry I was so mean earlier, Dad,” she said into his threadbare Captain’s jacket.

“Hey, it’s okay. I know how you hate being here.”

“That’s no reason for acting like that. I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too, Angel-girl, I shoulda told you my intentions before making you come over here. You know, I think about you every day, wondering how your job is going, if you’re doing okay. Guess I shouldn’t be worried, considering how you handled things today.”

“I’ll- I’ll message you more often, I promise!”

“And you,” he grabbed WISR up in one arm of his big embrace, “You take care of my Angel-girl, do you hear me?”

“I get the feeling she can take care of herself,” the Android grumbled but a withering glare from the captain had him shrinking back and stuttering, “I mean- uh- yessir…”

The overhead lights flickered on and off and a polygon face appeared on the interface screen not too far away from the three of them. 

“No hug for me?” Haskell asked. 

“Would if I could! Thanks for all of your help today,” Anny replied. 

WISR piped up, “So uhh, I meant to ask, is ‘Angel’ just something your dad calls you or…?”

Jayce tilted his head to the side, “What now?”

“Well, I assume her name is ‘Anne’ or something to that effect?”

“Is that why ya keep calling her that? You serious? I thought it was ‘cause you two-”

“What?” WISR leapt back in alarm.

“No way!” Anny shouted, “it’s just the name I use at work!”

“It ain’t like some kinda cutesey…thing?”

“Not ever!”

“And here I thought I was the drama queen,” AI sighed, shaking his polygonal head from side to side.

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