Co-written with ShadyMistral Trade Station
Mistral Trade Station was enormous, a metal orb home to several hundred thousand people, suspended in space only a parsec away from a rogue star in the middle of nowhere. Comfortably far removed from the borders of the Sovereignty, it was nonetheless near enough to still profit a little from the safety provided by pervasive Star Force Wild Space patrols. This made it attractive to traders and other freelancers who dealt in cargoes that might not be illegal exactly but certainly had records questionable enough to earn the attention of CBI customs if they entered the Sovereignty -- attention their owners typically wanted to avoid. By trading through Mistral Station and its small legion of uniquely specialized forgers, such cargoes could be whitewashed to the point where they could pass the muster of Sovereignty customs, a practice the station’s owners pointedly ignored as long as they got a cut of the profits. And even though the CBI didn’t like it, as long as the Mistral traders didn’t engage in anything too overtly illegal they would probably be tolerated by virtue of CEID agents usually having better things to do than harass trade stations out in the boonies.
Mistral then was, Sidney considered, a place full of disreputable people, none of whom wanted too many annoying questions asked. In short, it was the perfect place for a meeting like this. Impelled by its gravitic drives his luxury yacht slid through the station’s low-power shields and drifted into the private dock he had hired for the day, close to the spine of the massive station. His sleek, flaming red yacht was an ancient antique, built by Ferrari in orbit around Earth sometime before that company and its Nova Terran counterpart Ferraroi had annihilated each other in a series of trademark lawsuits that had left not just copyright lawyers but also philosophers (and later bankers) spinning from their existential implications. In most other places the ancient Heart of Gold
would have attracted plenty of unwanted attention. Here, though, it seemed the station’s traffic controllers made it a point to ignore it, something which suited the owner just fine.
Inside the slickly furnished main cabin, Sidney was surrounded by seven of his Wild Geese, a handful of hand-picked men and women recruited as much for their exceptional skills as their trustworthiness. Most of the mercenaries had been in Sidney’s employ for the better part of a decade. Their loyalty was beyond doubt, which was precisely the sort of thing he wanted in a situation like this: bad guys with big guns to bail him out in case this whole operation went south, the chances of which he estimated at 50/50.
“So boss,” Jason Chandra and turned his seat toward his employer, “Before we go out there... Any idea what to expect?” The team leader of the Wild Geese cradled a military-issue plasma rifle in his lap, ‘just in case’, and he obviously wasn’t too happy about the unpredictability of this mission.
Sidney considered his question for a moment. He produced the written letter that had arrived at his villa half a year ago and went over it one more time, like he’d done at least a hundred times before.. The author had included the coordinates of the station and the time of the meet, six months later. Considering the letter had been deposited on Nova Terra and had to make its way to Solaris, that betrayed a great deal of planning on the part of the author. Finally he shook his head. “Nope. Not a clue.”
Sirocco Montague brushed a lock of raven hair out of her eyes and raised an eyebrow at him. “Didn’t you say you knew this guy we’re meeting?” He felt the familiar, playful brush of her telepathy slide off his mental defenses. Sidney smiled. He had enough high-end gear stuck in his head to make him impossible to sense, not to mention his most valuable memories weren’t even stored in his head to begin with, but Sirocco liked to remind him of her abilities. “I used to know him,” he corrected and furrowed his brow. “But that was thirteen hundred years ago.”
She twitched, and his smile widened. That was the usual reaction people had when he reminded them just how far he went back. It was an easy thing to forget even for those who knew. After all, he looked pretty spry for someone born 1418 years ago -- whatever someone that old was supposed to look like. Most people still expected a walking mummy, he supposed. “To be honest I have no frigging clue how he survived this long. If
he survived this long,” he added after a second. “For all I know this is some sort of trick to get me out here.”
“A trick by whom?” asked Phani Angeimiro, their sniper.
Sidney shrugged and got up from the comfortable seats to lower the folding stairs. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we. After you?”
The journey into the station was uneventful, but the Wild Geese were still alert as they entered one of the six main promenades that looped around the equator of the massive space station. Like most such places, it was lined with shops, bazaars and drinking establishments where unruly traders, gamblers, druggies, hookers and other disreputable types liked to hang out. No one paid the small troupe of armed men any mind, apart from a few heavies who sized them up, then decided they looked like more trouble than they were worth. They made good progress toward the meeting point, until they were interrupted by a radio message from the pilot of the Heart of Gold
“Boss,” radioed Celso Tanguy, “I’ve completed a tachyon sweep of the station, and I’m picking up some unusual energy readings from a hangar not too far away from your position. It looks like... Well, boss, it looks like an omega energy reactor.” He seemed a bit nervous, but that was perfectly understandable. There was only one power in known space that made extensive use of such reactors: the Karlack Swarm. But if the Swarm was here, why wasn’t the station crawling with bugs and spores?
Sidney considered the possibilities. It seemed a little too convenient for Karlack tech to show up just here, just now. Still, he hadn’t come all this way just to turn back now. Besides, it wasn’t like he’d come unprepared. He shrugged. “Let’s keep moving. The faster we do this, the faster we’ll be out of here in case the Swarm comes a-knockin’.”
The man walked into the bar in a slow but cautious manner. It was dark, it smelled of stale beer, spilt drugs, vomit and even worse things, and it was filled with suspicious looking characters - pretty much the standard hive of scum and villainy that one expected to find in a disreputable Wild Space establishment.
He moved forward purposefully, scanning the room for things out of place, looking for a sign of trouble. He didn’t look dangerous, dressed as he was in what looked like a black military uniform and a long black coat, neither adorned with any insignia or markings. He carried no visible weapons, wasn’t overly muscled, and showed no trace of cybernetic surgery. No, he didn’t look dangerous.
But looks could be deceiving.
Four large figures came up behind the old man, two humans in military style grey clothes and two strange aliens, one of them in a powered armor suit. They were armed, drunk, and spoiling for a fight. The man ignored them, instead striding calmly toward the bar, ordering a drink, and sipping it with a blank star on his face.
“Stop ignoring me! You arrogant son of a bitch!” The alien shouted and lifted his rifle with his power armored hand with the intention of striking the old man in the back. Suddenly the man spoke. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
The alien ignored him and with a swift motion tried to hit him with the but of the rifle, but found his hand frozen in place before his rifle could connect with the man’s skull. “What the hell?”
“You know...” The old man spoke again. “I came here to have a drink with an old friend. You boys are ruining my evening. Please leave. Before I am forced to do something you will regret -- briefly.”
The three humans started laughing. They pulled out their guns and pointed them at the old man. “Are you threatening us?” One of them asked. “Do you know who we are? I have killed men for less!” The man pointed to his buddy. “He has the death sentence on six systems!”
“I like his coat,” The alien in the suit bassed, straining his suit’s servos against the invisible force that was keeping his hand from moving. “Just shoot him in the head.”
“I don’t know who you are, and frankly I don’t care.” The man said. His voice was still devoid of any emotion -- as if he was bored -- and turned to face them. “And because I’m in such a good mood, I’ll give you boys one last chance to leave me alone.”
“You...” The alien was about to speak, but stopped when he realized his hand was again free to move. Quickly he aimed his weapon at the mans head. “Lets see how cocky you feel about that after I blow your head off.”
“Give me your best shot.” Now the old man curved his lips and showed his teeth. In the blink of an eye he moved his hand forward, focusing unimaginable psionic power through it and transferring it to the alien with the rifle, sending him flying across the room. With a loud crash the alien smashed into a wall with such force that he cracked the strong bulkhead and most of the bones in his body, his power suit doing little to alleviate the damage to his body. Before his human friends could react, their guns flew from their hands, ripped out by an unseen force. Pain flashed in their chests, they couldn’t breath, it was as if their lungs were burning. They collapsed on the floor convulsing from the pain, small amounts of smoke came out of their mouths, and a second later they stopped moving. They were dead, their lungs burned up from the inside out by mental fire.
The fourth alien started running. He made it six whole meters before the old man thrust an open-palmed hand his way. “Get over here!” he shouted, and a spiked tentacle flew from his hand, catching the man in the back only to explode out the front of his chest in a writhing mass of dendrites. The runner dropped to the ground, killed instantly.
As quickly as they’d come, the tendril vanished again, and the man abruptly turned back to his drink. For a moment, every person in the bar had frozen and even the music had paused. Then, as if responding to a hidden cue, every patron in the bar produced a weapon of some kind and aimed it at the stranger.
The man in black sneered predatorily. “Now this is more of a challenge.”
The front of the Dirty Hoople bar looked innocuous enough, insofar as any scum-filled watering hole full of violent and desperate men, women and less easily identifiable life-forms could be said to look innocuous. The mercenaries readied their weapons and prepared to storm through the murky entrance when Sidney held up his hand. “One second boys,” he turned his attention to Sirocco. “Let’s have a gander at what we’re walking into first. Sirocco, if you’d do the honors?”
The black-haired woman closed her eyes as she set up her mental preparations at the speed of thought. She slipped into the waking trance with the practiced ease of a veteran psion, and reached out with her mind. Mistral Station opened up before her ultrasenses. She felt the cold steel of the station’s endless corridors under her feet, could feel the layers of dirt against her fingertips. Below, the throbbing fire of the fusion reactors. Above, behind thin sheets of ceraplast, the icy cold of space. And in-between, the breaths and heartbeats of the thousands of men and women who lived here. A frenzied wave of human emotions washed over her: the greed of the traders, the elation and dashed hopes of the gamblers, the dreary boredom of dockworkers, the hopelessness of the stranded and disenfranchised, the rush of the addicts and the ecstacy hard men found in the arms of loose women... She could feel all these things, experienced that multitude of emotions in the time of a stray thought. The experience was overwhelming. So she blotted out the murmur of half-conscious thoughts and desires, narrowed her focus and swept it forward like a psychic flashlight.
That was when she felt it. A presence unlike any other she’d encountered before: a mind gnarled and crooked like an old tree, vast and deep, possessive of hurricane strength, and so utterly ancient it took her breath away. How could she have missed it? Then she realized the entity had been shrouding itself, and for some reason had now chosen to drop its massively powerful psychic veil. She had only just begun to wonder why it had done so when a ripple of psionic energy coursed through the station, and Sirocco reeled as if physically struck. She stumbled and was caught by Anthemum Dubal, her lover. “Christ boss,” she was breathing hard. Beads of sweat were forming on her forehead. “I don’t know what the hell you’re meeting with, but I think it’s about to bring the house down.” As if to illustrate her words the door to the bar flew open. Men and women wailed as they came running out, many of them covered in blood. Nighmarish screams echoed out from the bar, punctuated by erratic gunfire and, more worryingly, wet sounds like ripping and tearing flesh. Then, just as suddenly, the place fell very, very silent again.
Sidney looked around the small circle of mercenaries. Alarms were now going off around them, and people were running for cover or safety all around them. Anthemum Dubal was fingering the Byzantine psyk-out grenades that hung from his belt. Demo-expert Morris Les Six was ratcheting the slide on his automatic grenade launcher. Unconsciously, Sidney unfastened the strap on the holster that contained his antique laser pistol. He eyed each of the Wild Geese. “You know, coming to this place was my idea. In hindsight it might not have been my finest. Any of you have a problem with going forward, I won’t hold it against you.”
For a moment the men and women were silent. Then Jason Chandra shrugged. “Hell boss. We don’t get paid the big bucks to bail on you when things get interesting.”
Sidney nodded. “Well then,” he said grimly. “I don’t know what’s going on, but be ready to rumble, just in case.
The Wild Geese moved with liquid swiftness, streaming into the bar and securing its entrance with a show of weapons no-one in the bar wanted to mess with, especially not after what they had just seen.
The first thing Sidney noticed when he entered was that the place looked more like an abattoir than a drinking den. Blood was everywhere: it caked against the ceiling, it ran in dirty red smears off the mirrored walls and pooled in thick puddles on the bar, the tables and the floor. There were bodies everywhere, or rather what was left of them. Many were no longer recognizable as having belonged to humans. Even those that were, were maimed and butchered. Bodyparts were strewn everywhere, and the smell of cordite and ozone was drowned out by the pungent odour of death. It was a scene straight out of a horror-holo, and in the middle of all the carnage and destruction stood a single figure, untouched by the terrible bloodshed. In fact, not even a single drop of blood marred the leather of his coat.
At first that black trenchcoat reminded Sidney of a famous bounty hunter-cum-gunslinger he’d met on several occasions, but the man wasn’t physically imposing enough to be the Duke of Death. In fact, the only thing that made him look dangerous was the fact that he seemed so completely unfazed by the butchery that surrounded him.
The man turned around and looked at Sidney. He smiled. “Ah. Sidney, dearest of all my friends...” He extended his hands in greeting. Standing as he did amidst the maimed and massacred, it was a supremely creepy gesture. “Its been a while.”
“It’s been a while indeed.” Sidney moved a few meters into the bar, careful where to place his feet so as not to step in any of the ubiquitous pools of blood or heaps of torn flesh. He regarded the man (if he indeed was a man) for long moments. He recognized the goatee, the gray hair, the line of the man’s chin... It had been over a thousand years, but it still wasn’t a difficult thing to remember. “Comrade Shady, I presume.” He looked at the extended hands, then put his own into his pockets and stepped over a body that had been torn in half -- vertically. He sat down two chairs away from the man, on one of the few seats that wasn’t spattered with blood. Behind him, the Wild Geese nervously trailed their weapons on the man in the leather trenchcoat. Sidney briefly surveyed the carnage -- he’d seen a lot of heinous shit in the past millennium and a half, more than enough to desensitize him to gore and violence, but even so the butchery on display here was extreme. He focused his attention on the man who he’d thought dead for many centuries. “I suppose what I should ask is... What the hell, man?”
“Oh, this?” The old man looked at the severed bodyparts scattered all around them. “I was only defending myself. And making a point. The locals here are... an interesting bunch. Very eager. Very stupid, too. Perhaps this was a poor place to meet after all, but I had to pick a spot we wouldn’t be overheard.” He cracked a sinister smile. “I suppose that’s taken care of now, yes?” The man looked at Sidney, who frowned a little. The smile vanished. “Shady... It’s been such a long time since anyone called me that. These days I go by ‘Seth’.”
“Seth,” Sidney pronounced the name slowly, as if to savour its taste. He’d changed his own name a few times through the centuries, but always ended up going back to his old one before long. “I see.” He looked around, appearing for all purposes as if he’d only now noticed the wanton carnage and bloodshed. The frown deepened. Was this really the man he appeared to be? Only one way to find out. “I see you’ve picked up some new tricks over the years.”
“One does not survive as long as I have without paying the price.” Seth sighed. He was unsure how to best explain things. “And the price I paid was high indeed... I have been cursed by immortality, a rather vile form of it. As you might have guessed, I am no longer... Human.”
Sidney put one and one together. “We detected an Omega Reactor in a hangar not far away from our own. I take it that’s your ship?”
“Yes,” was the short answer. The long one would take time. “You guessed correctly. I have transcended humanity, and am become something far, far worse. I am an Aspect of the Karlack now.” Seth could see Sidney twitch at that. “Life always finds a way to surprise us, doesn’t it? Old friend...”
“It’s one way to achieve immortality,” muttered Sidney, “though not one I’d consider myself.” He eyed the man opposite him. ‘Seth’ appeared human enough... He caught himself. That was probably what the poor bastards in this bar had thought as well. Bloody Karlacks. They were wily buggers, as the Sovereignty had found out to its dismay at more than one occasion. “How in the name of all that’s holy did you get tangled up by the Swarm? When we made First Contact...” he shrugged. “Well, I thought you’d been dead for a long time.”
“I didn’t exactly have a choice.” Seth sighed. The look in his eyes betrayed painful memories. “I too thought I was dead, I thought that it was over, that the game was finally over. I was wrong. And instead of the sweet oblivion of death...I found myself waking up in a nightmare of the worst kind.” Seth paused for a moment, he seemed angry, or sad. It was hard to tell. “Q” He muttered the name angrily. “Is an asshole.”
A wry smile split Sidney’s face. “We are certainly in agreement on that.” He opened his mouth, wanted to say more, then hesitated. This wasn’t the place. Or the time. And quite possibly not the person. “Hmm,” he muttered, then idly turned his attention to the bar. “I wonder if they have any cognac here. Remember when we drank cognac at the CATO signing ceremony in Orena?”
Seth treated him to a sideways look. “You signed the charter in my old office, in Stasograd.” A pause. “And we drank vodka. Or at least you and I did. I’m not sure if Paul joined us. He never could hold his alcohol very well.”
“Goddammit,” Sidney’s shoulders sagged noticeably as ‘Seth’ recalled facts only Shady could know. “Q, you cocksucker. God-dammit
.” Both men were silent for a moment, seemingly lost in memories. Then Sidney abruptly stood up and told his mercenaries to wait outside. The Wild Geese seemed conflicted about obeying his command, but after reiterating it they did so anyway. With the last of them gone, Sidney leaned over the bar, carefully not to get blood on his suit. “I don’t know about you, but I really
need a drink.”
“Me too.” Seth smiled. “I believe the bar here has quite a selection. Nothing good though.” He pulled a bottle off the bar, wiped the blood off, and unscrewed it. “I thought you gave up drinking?”
Sidney appraised a bottle of cheap liquor that contained an absurdly high percentage of alcohol. That’s something at least
. “That was a long time ago.” With a sense of deja-vu he poured himself a stiff drink and suddenly felt really old. He shook his head. “I have the weirdest meetings these days.”
“Really?” Seth sighed. If only you knew.
“Well you can imagine my surprise to find out you are still among the living.” He looked at his old friend with renewed interest. “You look different.”
“This body is... a replacement,” Sidney tapped against his temple. “The important bits are elsewhere.” Speaking of which...
He boosted the bandwith of his wireless connection to the computer core of the Heart of Gold
. I’m going to need a hell of a lot more processing power for this.
As the ship began cycling data to him, Sidney shrugged. “Believe you me, it wasn’t an easy thing to do... It was a close thing at several occasions after you were... gone. During the Diaspora and then again during the First Bragulan War...” Remote-storage memories flooded his mind. “I was lucky. Very lucky. Luckier than some, to be sure,” which brings me back to you, my friend.
Sidney pulled a finger around the edge of his glass. “So... now what are we going to do?”
“Luck... bah.” Seth took a big gulp of his drink. “Some have it, some don’t. Life in the Swarm is not all its cracked up to be.” He gave a sad smile. He wasn’t sure what Sidney would think of him. “I think you got the better deal old friend.”
. It was a lot to take in even for a CI. Not only had one of his oldest friends come back from the dead, which itself was hair-raising in its far-reaching implications, but he’d done so in just about the worst possible way. But he was good at dealing with unforeseen circumstances, or at least the digitized part of him was. It had to be, if nothing else it was an occupational hazard. Already new data poured through his implants. In the vast computational recesses of his mind, holistic scenarios unfolded with lightning rapidity. Probabilities blossomed and with them, potential courses of action, queries and lines of conversation to be pursued, each building on different objectives to be achieved. He opted for one of the simplest. “So, let’s approach this rationally. You’re an Aspect. You’ve got the Overmind looking across your shoulder. Want to get rid of it? I have... resources. Favours I can call in. I’m sure there’s something to be done.”
“Believe me I thought about it. Even tried it a few times. No such luck.” Seth waved his hand as if dismissing the very possibility. “The Overmind is so much more than you think... old friend. And after so many years, I cannot leave, even if I wanted to and could. I have...” He paused. Unsure of how to best explain this.”... responsibilities. The Karlack are so much more complex than simple bugs that the galaxy thinks they are. They only need... guidance. Control. Otherwise the damage they could do would be... unimaginable.” Seth didn’t know how much he wanted to reveal, or if he could trust Sidney with such information. But he had been without a friend for so long, that now he felt different, he felt alive again. It all seemed so unreal. An old friend to share his story with. Sidney Hank once again having a drink with him. It felt like the good old times, all over again.
Sidney couldn’t help but smirk as he recalled a half-forgotten line. “When you’re in, you’re in for life?”
“And in my case...’life’ is a very long time.” Seth said and smiled. It was a sad smile. “Not what I wanted out of life. Honestly, after all that we accomplished last time, I thought we deserved a break. A vacation of sorts. No such luck. It seems the game never ends...Still, what is done is done. We play the cards we’re dealt.”
“We do indeed.” Sidney weighed some options, then came to a conclusion. He clucked his tongue. “I want to show you something.” He reached into his suit’s jacket, pulled out a thin piece of data-paper and held it out to Sha- Seth
. “Have a look at this.”
From: ADRESS SCRAMBLED
Have you seen Agatha? I can't find her...
From: ADRESS SCRAMBLED
I can't get in touch with anybody. What's going on? Where did they all go?
He looked as the man in the black trenchcoat read the brief messages he’d received. “You know, we might not be as alone as we thought.”
“I...this is...” Seth’s voice trailed off. It wasn’t easy to surprise him. A man, or a thing if you wanted to be more accurate, that had been around for as long as he was. Saw the things he did. But Sidney had managed it and more. “Agatha? These messages... could it be? Paul?” The questions hung in the air. Could more of them be alive and kicking around the galaxy? Seth had thought he was the only one, finding Sidney proved him wrong, and now... these messages. Things were progressing in a rather unexpected direction. “I’ll be damned... I take it you have investigated the origin of these messages?”
“I have the Collectors working on it,” Sidney replied, savouring for just one unbelievably smug moment the satisfaction of being able to say such a thing. “It’s a long story.”
“The collectors?” Seth raised an eyebrow. “How the hell did you...I take it the resolution of the recent tensions with the machines is your doing? As smooth as ever old friend...”
“I had a... hand
in it,” Sidney replied, and a shadow of a smile danced around his lips. “What do you think we do now?”
“This is a big thing.” Seth said. “If there are others out there...we must find them. If there is one thing that I have learned in all these years...its that nothing happens without a reason. We must investigate this further. If it proves that more of our old friends are among the living...” He paused a moment, contemplating the consequences. “It could mean that something is up. Of course, this could all be a trick of some kind, someone using our ancient history against you. But if its not...we must be sure.”
“Nobody knows who I am,” Sidney murmured. “Nobody except...” Nobody except Q.
The thought gave him pause. Why had the strange alien brought his old friend back to life? Why this meeting, why now, when after so many years Grid Works was so close to completion? Could it be a coincidence? Or... For a moment he was seized by fevered paranoia. Could it be that this man, and whoever sent those messages, could they be his own personal Ghola, his Duncan Idaho? Was this the first move in some diabolic plot to bring him to ruin?
Sidney ruthlessly fought down the nauseating wave of paralyzing anxiety. The galaxy does not revolve around you. He cannot know. He must not. You took every precaution. It is a coincidence, it must be.
But that didn’t answer the question Seth had rightfully posed. Things were happening in the galaxy, things he didn't know about, didn't understand and didn't control. It was disconcerting to say the least, and for someone so used to be at the center of all intrigue it was all the more so. He obsessively combed a hand through his hair, a gesture anyone familiar with him - as Seth was - would recognize as anxiety. “Yes,” he murmured. “We must be vigilant. We have to find out what is going on.” He locked his eyes on Seth. “And what in the meantime? What do you propose we do now?”
“That is a good question.” Seth looked at Sidney, he noticed his discomfort, an inner struggle of sorts. And although he could use his abilities to try and see what it was, he opted to take a different approach. “You seem nervous Sidney? Something bothering you.? Taking a moment to contemplate his friends question he decided to continue. “We are friends, and were once allies, I would like for us to be allies again. Something is happening, and I believe we stand a better chance of figuring out what, together. Like in the old days...what do you say Sidney?”
Sidney nervously tapped his fingers against the bar. “I believe you’re right. We should keep in touch.” He frowned. “Question is, how? I can’t be certain, but I don’t think the Swarm is hooked up to the Datasphere?”
“And letters just won’t do.” Seth grinned. “Hmm...there are ways to keep in touch. The Swarm has certain ‘stockpiles’ of alien technology. Things we... ‘acquired’ over the years. Among them are several quite advanced AI’s. I’ll see about getting one of them functional again. Didn’t have any need for them until now. I’m sure that they will be effective enough to allow us to communicate in private, with some help from your own CI of course.”
The nervous tapping stopped. Sidney nodded. No need to explain I
am the CI... Not yet, at least
. “That will work. I have to say I’m... disconcerted, by what’s going on. But then,” he cracked a wry smile, “the dead walking the earth would probably be sufficient to disconcert the staunchest of men.” He took a sip from his glass. “No matter the circumstances however, it’s good to have you back, old friend.”
“Its good to be back.” Seth smiled and raised his glass.”A toast. For old friends coming back from the dead.”
“Hear, hear,” said Sidney and raised his own glass. He looked around the blood-drenched bar and smiled a little more easily this time. “I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not one for signs and portents.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Seth looked around himself. I really should have chosen a better place.
“So tell me...what have you been up to all these years? I didn’t keep in touch with much of the galaxy, but I’m surprised that it took me this long to find you. And even now, it was accidental.”
“Alright, but this’ll be a long story,” Sidney reminisced. “It all started shortly after the Straylight
left for Earth...”