It was a dreary day, like many had been for the better part of a year. The rain drew trails along the outer panes of glass, any debris that had settled on their surface the night before burned away by the acidity of the rainwater. Bright, phosphorescent lightning bolts split the otherwise night-dark sky though it was only just past noon local time.
Cas snapped back to attention. She blinked, looking around to take in her surroundings. She was in an office, pristine and meticulously organized. She turned around. The desk behind her–her desk, she surmised thanks to a simple, black and white name tag–had a computer that looked in need of replacing, and an empty picture frame with a metal dog tag draped over it.
The officer who had entered wasn’t one with whom Cas was familiar. He stood at attention, and saluted when Cas acknowledged him.
“At ease, Captain Wilkins,” Cas said after returning the salute. “What can I do for you?”
Some of the tension left Captain Wilkins. “You’ve been assigned a new lieutenant, ma’am.”
Cas sighed. “I’d told them I don’t need a glorified assistant,” she replied abruptly. She paused, and considered her next words with care. “Forgive me. It’s been a taxing day.”
Captain Wilkins waved off the concern. “No apologies needed, Commander,” he said. “Keeping up with the protective coatings on the base to keep the constant weather anomalies has many of us a bit…Well, unfiltered I suppose. Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Appreciated,” Cas said. “And is this new lieutenant here?”
Captain Wilkins nodded. “Just outside,” he replied. “Shall I bring him in?”
Cas acted as if she was weighing her options in her hands, prompting a chuckle from the Captain.
“I suppose so,” Cas replied finally.
Captain Wilkins turned and motioned to the new lieutenant. He offered a salute and left as the Cas’s newest cohort stepped into the room. When he entered, Cas blinked a few times.
He was slightly shorter than Cas. His hair, a raven shade of black, was swept neatly back and held with product. He was thin–a sign he did not come from money, and therefore had limited access to food. A bandage covered one of his eyes, and the other one probed at Cas.
“Commander Cassiopeia. Let me just start by saying what an honor it is to be assigned to you, and to such an important project,” the lieutenant said.
Cas nodded. “The Ellipse is proving to be quite an undertaking. I hope you’re not easily frightened by long hours, difficult problems, and insurmountable odds…Sorry, what was it again?”
“Apologies, Commander. Lieutenant Gavin Redford, reporting for duty,” the lieutenant, Gavin, replied.
Cas studied Gavin. “Do you have a brother, perhaps?” she asked. “Another relative I may have crossed paths with, perhaps?”
Gavin shook his head. He frowned. “I can’t say I do,” he replied, adding, “My condolences for your loss. I’d heard about your husband’s passing in the line of duty.” He nodded to the frame and the dog tag that rested atop it.
Cas shook her head. “He died in a skirmish over water reserves,” she replied. “Killed by some of his own men, no less.”
“Pardon my asking, but I had heard you chose to not seek the death penalty as is customary in such…events,” Gavin said. “Why is that?”
“A bit of a bold question on a rather heavy subject,” Cas said, a finger raised. “Perhaps we can talk about this once I’ve learned if you’re up to snuff for this project. What happened to your eye?”
Gavin smiled. “Cybernetic eye,” he said. “Still healing, freshly installed and everything. I had a suspicion it could come in handy. Time will tell, though, won’t it?”
Cas snapped sharply back to the present upon feeling the cold metal of Gavin’s cybernetic eye in her pocket. As her vision returned to focus, she realized she wasn’t alone.
“Raph,” Cas said. “It’s so good to see you. We’ve got a lot to discuss, and not much time to do so I fear.”
Raph saluted in response. Maeve and Bertie stepped into view.
“My dear friend,” Bertie said. “We’ve got far more to discuss than you could possibly imagine.”