When she walked into the briefing, the next morning, Ann was greeted by an urbane young man. “Ann of New Beach, I am gratified that you accepted our offer. You are the best pilot Rire has on record!”
“Ranar, right?” said Ann, feeling better about the mission.
“Yes,” said Ranar.
He was handsome in an understated way, like an Oxford-educated Raja in a British Empire drama from the 20th century Earth repertoire of feature films that Ann indulged in for entertainment. His tunic fell from neck to thigh over matching slacks, a conservative style for Rire redeemed — in Ann’s opinion — by the exotic addition of a twisted braid motif for decoration. The pattern of the braid never repeated, but tumbled down his body worked in browns and reds evolving through a white phase into solid green dominance.
Ann snapped her fingers and pointed. “A Gelack motif!” she said. “Green is House Monitum’s color.”
“Uh, yes,” Ranar admitted. “This was copied from images we have of Liege Monitum’s vest braid. Of course, fashions may have changed in two hundred years,” he added, sounding wistful.
Lurol stood across from Ranar, dressed in the ridiculous white lab coat that was her hallmark affectation. Thomas sat curled up in a morph chair. The room’s central stage displayed an idle blue diamond interface.
“The first thing I want to know, Ann,” said Ranar, “is whether you can work with Lurol.”
Lurol stuck her hands in her pockets. She had a wide nose, thick lips and a lanky build with short, brittle hair that was perennially uncombed.
“My partner, N’Goni, did not give consent to be visitor probed,” Ann trotted out her prepared acceptance. “Therefore Lurol was right to withhold treatment.”
“But,” Lurol was ruthless, as usual, “I could have ruled N’Goni incompetent on the grounds of advanced spacer’s syndrome. I had the authority. But I truly believe he was of sound mind when he declined the visitor probe option. I had to respect his wishes.”
“And I did my best to break your face for it,” said Ann. “For my part, we’re done. You?”
Lurol shrugged. “You work with pilots, now and then you expect the odd assault.”
“Good enough,” Ranar decided.
“I like this guy,” Thomas told Ann, hooking a thumb towards Ranar. “He’s driven.”