Gio must have fallen asleep, because when he looked up there was someone sitting in the crash couch across from him in the otherwise empty shuttle. She wasn’t quite staring at him, but looking through him. Lightyears away. Chewing gum.

She seemed totally at home, but her outfit was out of place on a military transport. She wore a charcoal gray collarless blazer over a white tee, straight black trousers, and lace-up dress boots that were utilitarian and well-used. Black hair in a short choppy bob that looked like it might have been styled or might have just been messy. She was completely monochrome save for an indistinguishable blue and red tattoo crawling out of her collar line and up her neck. Small dark eyes like still water. She squinted, just briefly. A recognition.

“Hi. I’m Gio.” He held up a hand in a mini wave.

One corner of her mouth twitched, but she just kept on chewing.

“I guess I fell asleep. You must have gotten on at Apogee, huh?” Apogee Station was a small scientific outpost in an otherwise unremarkable system. The military funded it in exchange for exclusive refueling rights. He’d memorized every garrison, firebase, and dry dock within ten parsecs of Aludra. As a freshly minted officer, it was his duty to know these sorts of things.

The transport rolled a little; minor course adjustment. Gio grabbed the arms of his seat for stability, but the woman didn’t budge. She seemed to defy inertia. “So, where are you—”

“You talk too much.”

Gio was taken aback. The woman smiled for real now, but it was somehow unwelcoming. She swallowed her gum.

“You’re new, so I’ll give you free pass. Just stay out of the way and try to observe. Don’t try to learn because you won’t understand what you’re seeing; distorted frame of reference. You’ll learn in time. Now change your clothes.”

She nodded her head at a bundle on the seat next to him that he hadn’t noticed.


Now she held up a hand, but not in a mini wave. “I said, ‘stay out of the way.’ You’re bugged.”

He must have made a face, because she repeated herself.

“Change your clothes. We’re catching another ride. Call me Resa; I’ll be your handler.”

Gio couldn’t believe it. “Major Resa?”

She scowled. “Change your fucking clothes before I change my fucking mind.”

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