“Contact?” Ann asked. “Contact with Sevolites?”
Grounded by her violent reaction to the medical treatment of her comatose partner, Ann was ready for any excuse to escape the house arrest her people call Supervision. An invitation to meet the mythical, lost branch of mankind called Sevolites sounded too good to be true.
“Contact, yes,” her recruiter admitted, “but not with the beings you might think of as Sevolites. Just ordinary humans.”
Ann didn’t believe it for a minute. But she played along. “So,” she said, “why are we so interested in ordinary humans on the other side of the Killing Jump, again after — what’s it been? Two hundred years? I thought we were pretty thoroughly out of touch.”
The recruiter countered her irreverent enthusiasm with pedantic seriousness. “Your job would be to work with the Second Contact mission: an anthropological mission of discovery. We know, of course, that some people of Earthly origins existed in Killing Reach at the time of the war, but First Contact was poorly handled.”
“Poorly handled!” Ann scoffed. “What would you call the Big Bang? A bit of a rough start?” She leaned forward in her deck chair. “We got kicked out of Killing Reach — by Sevolites!”
“There are no Sevolites,” the recruiter assured her, patiently. “Sevolites are mythological. The only remnants of the Gelack empire we’ve encountered —”
“What?” Ann interrupted; skin tingling as if she had been dunked in a cold bath. “Encountered? As in now?”
“Why, yes! It’s on the record.”
“I don’t like reading when I’m clinically depressed,” said Ann.
But she knew she was going to volunteer. She couldn’t pass up so exciting a chance to explore in territory the Reetion Space Service had never been.
“Second Contact is going to be an historic mission with the potential to make up for a missed opportunity. I wish I could be more confident your, er, personality was better suited to the job.”
Ann was no taller than her visitor and weighed less, but as she rose to her feet it seemed to her as if she towered over him in spirit. “You’re not recruiting me for my diplomatic skills,” she pointed out. “All you’re interested in is my pilot’s grip. So you’ll have to put up with the rest of the package.”
“You’re a very uncomfortable person,” he complained.
“I’m a pilot,” Ann said, with a shrug.