Ma’evoto strode through the clean room doors. He hadn’t felt so off balance since he started training as fighter, but the only sign of his discomfort was the off-beat rhythm his thumb tapped against the tips of his fingers.
Waiting for him was a woman who might have been the ultimate geek. Short cropped kinky hair paired with a long skirt of… indifferent style, and a sleeveless vest that gave full access to the sub-cutaneous circutry that crawled up her deep brown arms like tattoos. She had the far-off look of someone watching a retinal display. Probably display contacts. He knew she was a woman because her file said so—if it hadn’t he’d never have guessed. She didn’t wear a single triangle or star. Given geek culture that might be intentional or might be an oversight when she picked out her clothes.
The only thing that didn’t fit was the rabbit ears poking up out of her hair.
“Ms Malka.” He offered his hand
It took a moment, but her eyes slowly refocused. “Oh. Sorry.” She took his hand in both of hers. “Mr. Frederickson.”
“It’s Littlesun. Ma’evoto Littlesun” He tried to smile but it felt like more of a grimace. “I’m reclaiming my old name.”
“Oh. Sorry. Mr. Littlesun.” Her eyes darted around the room, and finally settled on something behind his left shoulder. “Um… I’m a bit confused. About why I’m here, I mean. And why this is here. I mean, top level clean room in government headquarters. That’s… like out of a thriller novel. And I’m kinda bottom tier over at ISA so really shouldn’t you be meeting with one of the…” she trailed off. Probably had been about to use a nickname the political appointees at the space administration wouldn’t like. Ma’evoto grinned.
“Please, don’t stop on my account. I have some less than flattering names for your superiors myself.”
Her mouth snapped shut. Opened. Closed. “Ah… well I don’t mean to suggest they are bad people you understand.” She was babbling now. “Not the best engineers maybe, but they know their jobs and they really are… I mean you don’t need to… that is…”
“Relax, Ms Malka. I’m not going after your colleagues. Some of them will moving to new jobs soon, but I’m not looking to make any more examples. One should be enough, don’t you think?”
“Ah. Yes.” She swallowed.
“Good.” He started the room’s standalone comp and inserted a filechip. “As for why there’s a top tier clean room in government headquarters—mainly to be sure there is one place in the damn building where people can’t be spied on.
“Take a look at this.”
A hologram sprang to life, a spherical space station with one large door and a number of smaller ports. Specs and calculations surrounded the main image.
Malka leaned in. “Nickle iron? An asteroid base? But what about… Oh, I see. Interesting.
“I didn’t take you for a fan Mr. Littlesun. But this looks like something out of Troy Rising. And if you are going to be that ambitious, why not the Death Star?”
“Because we have a chance—barely—of finishing this in two years. And both the old NASA engineers who dreamed this up and the author who wrote Troy Rising understood the importance of little things like having blast doors across your exhaust ports.”
By the time he finished speaking, Malka’s eyes were glazed again. “Two years. The engineering challenges alone…”
“You don’t need to worry about anything else. Funding, bureaucrats, politics—forget about it. Handle the engineering. I’ll see that everything else is taken care of. That’s not a license to spend money. But first priority is making it work, second priority is making it safe. Money is third.”
“It’s doable. Maybe. With the right team.” She hesitated. Refocused. “How will the team be chosen?”
Ma’evoto leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. The movement hid his sigh of relief. She was onboard. “Anyone at ISA that you want is yours. If there are outside people you need, put a list together and I’ll see what can be done. They’ll need to get security clearance same as everyone else at ISA. Don’t waste my time suggesting people you know won’t pass.”
There was a knock at the door. Right on time. He opened the door to let Deborah in. “One last thing. This is Deborah Wirth. She’s been in charge of my magical security, but she’ll be transferring to work on the battlestation as soon as your team is up and running. She’ll have her own team for integrating mystic defenses and other abracadabra into the station.”
Deborah, who’d told him the origin of that old stage conjurer’s phrase one drunk night, stuck her tongue out at him.
This time Malka’s mouth flopped open. “But… but… no one has ever made magic and technology work together.”
“That,” he smiled, “is an engineering problem.”
Deborah muttered something—he couldn’t hear what. A moment later, Malka’s bunny-ears started twitching.