"Oscar Papa Foxtrot. Welcome to Polo Harbour, Commander. Please request landing."
I keyed in the landing request on my left hand panel. "Thank you Commander, please proceed to landing pad 07."
Pad 7 was on the opposite side of the planetary base so I took the opportunity to have a look around. Polo is a small, planetary base located on a high metal content world. It sort of looks like it was constructed far away and then sort of randomly dropped onto what is an entirely featureless world. There are a few tall buildings in the middle, surrounded by landing pads of varying sizes and a few solar panels dotted around to generate the massive amount of electrical energy required to sustain the base operations. I circled around the base rather than flying at low level across it, something that annoys flight controllers no end, and dropped neatly onto the designated landing pad. We dropped into the hangar and, as soon as atmosphere was established, we exited the ship and headed toward the administration building.
The admin building is a lot nicer than a lot of the similar buildings on the Colonia Highway. It had recently received a bit of spending cash from the Colonia government and the whole building looked very nice. There was a lot of neat furniture and lighting that made the area look welcoming. The staff were dressed in smart uniforms and, unusually, smiled a lot. Not fake smiles put on for the benefit of tourists, these people looked genuinely happy. The central reception area was beautifully decorated, a neat, white steel and glass, circular desk area in the centre, in which a young lady in a smart, grey uniform stood. She looked up as we approached, the soft green and blue lighting playing happily on her silver and white hair. "Welcome to Polo Harbour," she said with a natural grin on her face, "how can we help?"
"I am looking for someone," I said, simply. I wasn't sure how this was going to work out and I was pretty exhausted. "I believe that they are here." A thread of hopefulness crossed my face.
"I can try," she replied, the smile still present. "What is their name?"
"Oasis Mellon," I said. "I was told by a friend that they were here."
The smile stayed but seemed to drop a little. She stood back a little, her eyes still locked on mine but ever so very slightly more hostile. "I don't know anyone by that name, but a lot of people pass through. Perhaps you would like a room?"
I wasn't sure if this was her being helpful or her holding us for someone to "take care" of us. Either way it didn't matter, we really didn't have a choice. What I did have a choice was in the level of comfort I could be afforded. "I think I will," I said. "What have you got in a luxury suite?"
Her face brightened again, this clearly being something she was more comfortable with. "We have a lovely suite on the top floor of this building. It provides unparalleled views."
Given that I'd seen all the views, both paralleled and unparalleled, and knowing that I'd be seeing the vast desert of nothing that this planet was in an unparalleled way I decided to take it anyway. I paid the fee for 2 nights and ordered a security droid to stay with us. This isn't unusual, a lot of places offer these droids for a fee to customers with money. By flaunting wealth I would attract the attention of someone at some point and having some portable firepower attached to a state-of-the-art fire controller would be good to have. We headed to the lifts to wait for the droid to catch up.
As we stopped near the lift Linka stood in front of me. "What do we do now?" she asked.
I thought about it for a minute. "I don't know for sure, I didn't really expect them to give us a map to someone like Oasis Mellon. They are probably pretty shadowy, especially given that if they can help us then they probably make a few enemies by doing this a lot."
She nodded. "You are right. As always." A little smile crossed her mouth and she blushed.
I smiled back. "I wish!"
The smooth purring of electric motors driving a discreet drive train announced the arrival of the security droid. It was basically a capsule shaped white metal object on top of a four-wheeled chassis. The wheels were white plastic solid rims with grey, soft-rubber wheels. I placed my thumb on the sensor on the top to register as the lessee. It acknowledged me, scanned me and Linka, and then we entered the lift.
The ride up to the top floors was quick and silent. We exited the lift, turned left and walked the meter or so to the door to our suite. I opened the door with a grand pose, something that Linka completely misunderstood wondering if I was having a heart attack. I rolled my eyes as we entered sort of explaining badly, then just giving up. The droid followed us in then promptly turned around and guarded the door. It made a soft humming noise. The reception person was right, the view of the desert-like surface was unparalleled and quite dull. It had definitely not changed since we'd flown in. The rest of the suite was, in contrast, magnificent. There was a huge bed in the middle of the floor, a massive hot-tub at the opposite end and a wonderful bathroom full of marble and expensive gadgets. I looked at Linka and said, "We need swimsuits."
I called downstairs and ordered some from the concierge. They were delivered and I raced into the bathroom to put mine on. Like a child on Christmas morning I was in the hot tub like a flash, hot water and bubbles everywhere, soaking the stress and strain of the journey out of me. It felt so good. Linka went into the bathroom and came back out with a towel around her. She looked really shy, so I turned away as she got in, letting out a massive sigh as she did. "You didn't need to do that," she said. "If I am going to be a functioning human again I need to get over it."
"You are doing fine, Linka. All in good time. It's cool."
She smiled again, in sort of a saucy way that took me by surprise. We sat in the hot tub for over an hour, ordering cocktails from the on-tap service. We were having so much fun and were quite nicely toasted when the security droid suddenly lifted itself up, popped the panels on its side and deployed its guns. Instant sobriety on my part followed. I got out the hot tub, wrapped a towel around my waist and walked to the rear of the droid. Looking at the panel on the rear of what was its head I selected the replay option. The droid had been scanning through the door and had detected someone or something approaching. The image showed a figure wearing a hooded outfit, walk up to the door, leave something outside and then run off. Analysis revealed that the box wasn't full of explosives and didn't seem dangerous and the hooded delivery character appeared to be gone.
I set the droid to stand-by and opened the door a fraction. The passage was empty. At my feet there was a small, wooden box, about 20 cm by 20 cm by 20 cm. I picked it up, placed it on the droids scanner leaving the door ajar, and let it scan the contents. The scan didn't reveal any chemicals that could cause an explosion so I let the door close and lock. I took the box back with me to the hot tub and looked at it. There didn't appear to be any likely place to open it, no locks or hinges. I shook it gently and it made a sort of rattling noise, it clearly contained something.
I pushed the sides of the box and sort of teased it a little, prodding to see if there was a weakness. Nothing revealed itself. Linka reached out her hand, "May I?" she asked. I handed the box over to her and she studied it closely. "Hmm," she said. "What's this." She poked it something and the box made a clicking noise. "That's odd," She said. "That was very well hidden." She turned the box over and out dropped a clear, glass ball. The entire thing was perfectly see-through except for a silver dot, about 3 mm across. She handed the orb back to me, looking slightly victorious and not a little bit smug. I turned it over and over in my hands, I looked deep into it and saw nothing. The silver dot appeared to be just that, a silver dot. I handed it back to Linka.
She looked at as I had done and then, as she stared at the dot, the orb lit up. It wasn't anything dramatic, it just lit up a little, but in the middle was a series of numbers. I hurried over to get my e-tablet and dashed back to write the numbers down. There were three long strings, one under the other. The first was, "beatus qui emancipati sunt". The second was "a-6192.03125b-114.1875c16482.625". The third was, "091033041750" While Linka stared into the orb I double-checked the strings then, once I was sure I had them, she looked up at me. Immediately the light and numbers disappeared.
I recognised the second set of the numbers more or less immediately. They looked like spatial co-ordinates. I entered them into the e-tablet and it returned Boewnst KS-S c20-950, a system pretty close to us. The third one looked like a date, written in an old European format. The benefits of a classical education. If I was right then it was going to be tomorrow at about 18:00 UTC. But the first was a bit odd. It was clearly a sentence but not in a language that I understood. I showed Linka what I'd worked out as she stood next to me at the foot of the bed. She nodded, I wasn't sure if she was happy or sad. For me it felt like just another in a long series of steps that seemed to never end and seemed to be fraught with danger at every level. She walked back to the tub and got back in, helping herself to another cocktail. She smiled at me, "If this is our last night alive then let's make it amazing." With that she slipped the straps of her swimsuit off her shoulders, leaned forward and threw the swimsuit onto the floor. She looked at me, one eyebrow raised, and said, "Joining me?"