The skytech adjusted her coat against the chill night air, fingers moving with practiced ease over the wires athwart southern block, connecting com-links and checking the mini-generators that kept the sector running. Her craft ejected a sharp, slow beep. Power low. End of shift. She pocketed her scanner and multi-ratchet and steered the vehicle to street level. She docked the modular hovercraft in the local shift-garage, which lowered beneath the ground after vessel-securance. As the woman left the garage, she checked the time and prospective night weather patterns on her wristband, whereupon a boy, lost deep in thought and moving with great animation, nearly collided with her.
“Sorry. I was looking for you.”
The boy’s voice was instantly familiar to the woman, though his face was shaded in the dimness of the shiftyard.
“Graf. What are you doing walking around at this hour? Haven’t you heard about the attack? I called you earlier. I was worried sick.”
“I’d heard. I’m fine. Alder doesn’t like me taking calls when I’m learning. Didn’t mean to worry you.”
“You know its dangerous to be walking alone.”
He looked away a moment. Contemplative.
“I know. I was waiting for the director.”
“Vera Straker. Haven’t you heard of her?”
The skytech arched a brow and crossed her arms below her breasts.
“What have I told you about fibbing.”
“I’m not fibbing. I met her today.”
The skytech walked a little down the road, the boy following and looking up to the moon with a faint smile. Lind furrowed her brow. He did not appear to be lying.
“What was the director of Kryos Industries doing at the docks? Their higher ups rarely go topside.”
“I dunno. She didn’t say.”
“Why do you look so pleased, little scamp?”
“Because, she’s gonna show me her ship. I just didn’t know when she’d be returning. Forgot to ask.”
“Its a cruiser class shuttle. From the Progenitor.”
“Well, lucky you.”
Lind smiled broadly as the boy looked longingly off towards the docks, obscured by the cloistering residential district. She knew how much this meant to the boy, fascinated as he was by all things nautical.
She guided the mirthful youth down the street to the southern quarter where her tenement lay. For the past three years, the high, gray block had functioned as Graf’s temporary home. They moved up inside, past the old security guard who wished them good night, to the second floor and from there to the tenth door to the left. Lind unlocked the door to her cramped apartment whereupon the automatic lights whirred to life, casting the sparsely furnished abode in bluish glow. Scarcely was she through the door before her transmitter began ringing. As the boy made himself instacake from the rehydration cupboard, Lind spoke into the device.
“Is this Lind Howell?”
“This is Martha MacAllen from Vilar Corp. I’m calling concerning Ryard Vancing. Our archive shows he’s a friend of yours.”
“Y-yes. He is. What happened?”
“He did not return after his shift was over. Nor has his lev-han returned. Which suggests its protocol was overridden. His vehicle and personal transmitter were also untethered from the network, so we’ve been unable to contact him. Do you happen to know where he is?”
“No. I haven’t heard from him since yesterday. But Ryard wouldn’t do something like that without a good reason.”
“If you learn anything I hope you’ll let us know. You can contact me through this number.”
“I will. I… I’ve gotta go.”
She closed out the line and scrolled to Ryard’s avatar on her affin module.
She turned to behold Graf watching her with concern.
“Is Ryard alright?”
“I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”