Power’s Pink Price - Chapter 098

Published at 2nd of April 2024 01:26:52 PM

Chapter 098

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And yes, it’s the exact email I wanted, waiting for me on the burner comm unit.

“To Admiral Alex Abrams,” it's refreshing not to be called a goddess after so much time in space.

“From Archbishop C3P0,” huh, an odd coincidence.

"I received your message,” I figured you would, “and yes, I will deign to meet with you, inferior meatsack that you are,” actually, my body is more metal than flesh these days, “as I am visiting Absalom Station soon anyway on unrelated matters, and had a cancelation on a more important person than yourself,” right… “so I can squeeze you in.  I have attached a meeting invitation with the time, date, and location.”  I suppose killing this pompus idiot would be contrary to current goals… oh well.  “Sincerely,” oh, you have a rather lot of wax there, “C3PO, Archbishop of Triune.”

I open the calendar entry (it’s a burner that's not even connected to my ship or any of my accounts except for the one email service that I ordered for the purpose: It's okay if it's a virus infested mess after I’m done), and review.

Oh, that’s ‘nice’ of him.  Twenty minutes to get there, and it’s at the opposite end of the station.  Eh, whatever.  I disconnect from my body long enough to cast a Fleeting Time Stop spell, then reconnect.  There… now I have all the time in the world… very nearly literally, even.

The station is deathly quiet as I walk through it, not bothering to open doors: Ironguard lets me simply walk through them.  I walk past vendors partway through pouring drinks, people frozen mid-step, occasional birds stuck mid-flap… I may have lingered a while in a women’s shower I accidentally walked into… but I do eventually get there.  

No, I didn't bump my nose on an expensive wooden door halfway through.  And even if I did, Regeneration would wipe out any bruise in seconds, so there’d be no proof of such a vile accusation at all.

Before I let time resume, I cast Superior Invisibility on my more obvious weapons: Both rifles and the Longsword. I keep the pistol visible (I want their security team to find something), and the Shout Projector is both non-lethal and integrated into my body… that's much harder to do anything about.

I watch the time on the integrated com unit in my body as I let time resume… it's always fun to watch it sync up with local time and identify that I spent… really, three hours? Huh… wandering the station. Of course, to anyone watching, I just suddenly appeared with no warning.

I knock on the door of the meeting place… a temple to Triune. Big place, made of hull metal, carved with iconography about the triple nature of the merged machine deity. Well… they're confirmed as a real being here, so… I shrug as I tap on the datapad mounted as a doorbell.

A spinning ball of light pops up on the screen, I'm guessing a disembodied AI, “Ah, Admiral Alex Abrams… are you here for your appointment?”

I nod, “I am indeed, with Archbishop C3P0.”

“Very well,” the AI spins, “Hold still for the security scan, please.”

I really doubt they need me to do so, but I follow instructions anyway.

The ball of light blinks, “You’re one of us?”

Oh, right. I'm maintaining a Superior Invisibility spell on my organic portion, and am still wearing my Mythic ring underneath it all. The scanner probably showed an empty Infiltration Skin under the outer armor… eh, I can run with that, “Not so loud, eh? There's a lot of folks who don't know exactly what I am, and I'd prefer to keep it that way,” it's even a true statement as far as it goes… but I am being deceptive.

“Right, sorry, I didn't mean to out you,” the receptionist on the screen apologizes, “I will need you to check the Radial Dirge pistol and the grenades at the door, but you can hang onto the Crackdown Shout Projector; it won't do anything to the Archbishop anyway, and would take a while to remove, given…” the light pauses, “...your situation. So sorry, I'm used to people being open about… that kind of thing… here, for obvious reasons.  But… don't worry, this is a safe place.”

I chuckle, “Given that the Archbishop has been arranging alpha strike ambushes against ships I've been on, you'll pardon me if I don't take that at face value… but I will drop off the grenades and the pistol with your security team… assuming I'll get them back when I leave, that is.”

“Oh, yes, absolutely,” the AI assures me, “We recognize the right to self-defense… and I don't think the Archbishop is aware… is it okay if I…”

I roll my eyes, “Tell him whatever you'd like, but do try to keep things on the down-low, please.”

“Right! Thank you, I'll… it'll be just between us… I'll let the Archbishop know your preferences in that regard.  Hold please….” the ball of light on the screen is replaced by a slowly shuffling fractal.

I can only imagine the conversation going on behind the scenes.

I wait a moment, and the ball of light comes back on screen as the door opens, “The Archbishop will see you immediately after you clear security.”

“Thank you,” I tell the AI as I step through the door, which closes and locks behind me.

Security just on the other side of the door is a few firearms built into the wall that track me, a short hallway, and a series of lockboxes along the hall until it reaches another door, currently closed.  A human looking hologram (not the race like Euler: A wall-mounted projector producing a visual interface for an AI hosted somewhere, much like the signing with Steven oh so long ago) in a business suit gives instructions, “Place your weapons in the lockbox, please.”

I nod, wordlessly drop the grenades and pistol into the indicated lockbox, and close it with my thumbprint… it beeps an angry red when I do. Oh, right… I never got around to fixing that.  I don't have ‘real’ prints on my body.

The hologram concentrates a moment, and the box light turns green, “Sorry about that; all fixed. As skilled as you are with the whole…” he pauses and gestures at my body, “...I figured you'd have suitable fingerprints.  It's a common problem with SRO's, though, so we have a standard solution.”

Yeah… I really should fix that, “Thank you,” I pause, “I never did get your name….”

The hologram smiles, “I'm R2D2, and yes, I'm the same person who answers the door.  Don't mind the guns, they're just for show… mostly.”

The far door opens, and I walk through, where a gold-plated humanoid shaped robot wearing red robes greets me.

“Sorry about the ‘meatsack’ thing,” this is Archbishop C3P0, clearly, “You are so good at blending I wasn't aware you were a Pinocchio; ALL of our agents missed that.”

Odd that they'd reference a story of a wooden boy who wanted to be real… “Well… I normally avoid scans and just use my ID. So, about the hunt you've called on me…”

“Oh, that,” the Archbishop waves a hand, “Yes, I can call that off, but I do need a good reason.  Tell me, how is this going to increase use of Drift technology, exactly? You're removing the need for face to face meetings….”

I chuckle, “Yes, but it makes it much easier to locate resources off planet and place orders for things; likewise, it makes it a much simpler matter to find off-world buyers.  Meetings and transmitted messages are going down, but shipments will go up soon enough.  Additionally, as it's simpler to get to know people off-world, advertise vacation spots, book rentals, and so on with my new communications technology, this will result in more tourism long-term.” Why yes, I am rolling Diplomacy here.  Not Bluff, though; I do expect these to be the long term results.

The gilded robot nods,“Okay, I can see that… and is it just good for moving data?” My Sense Motive is tingling; that's a pointed question.

So now it's time to lie, “Correct. If you're asking about how I've been attending meetings on distant worlds so close together in time… I have a fighter tricked out for speed: A high end Paraforan Resonator, a Signal Ultra Drift Engine, the works… and the ships I send in advance with the actual equipment also have a way to get a much shorter version of the Summon Drift Beacons spell running when it's time for me to show up to seal the deal.  So yes, I have been attending all those meetings in person,” fortunately, I'm good at bluffing, too.

“And you're the ONLY one with this technology?” Okay, that’s a very, very pointed question.

So I'm lying again, “For the moment. Of course, I do communications tech. I have a few drops set up to broadcast the ‘how’ if I don't reset them periodically; if I die, it goes open-source and becomes pretty hard to repress.  Until then, I rent it out.”

C3P0 nods, “Yes… I think I can convince the folks involved to call off the hunt…” the Archbishop pauses, “But there is something I want….”

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