2946-08-28: Tales from the Inbox: Finn's Heist

Euphrasie H. submitted this story, and though I can't prove it, I can't disprove it either. She read a story on this feed a few months ago about a mystery ship calling itself KR-122, spotted tailing a convoy to the Frontier before disappearing without a trace shortly after it was challenged, and proposes that it was engaged in some sort of criminal enterprise and merely following the convoy for safety and convenience. She provided her own account as well as several news articles about this phenomenon in general: while they would never attempt to steal from the Navy, certain underworld elements are engaged in regular and widespread attempts to defraud the Survey Auxiliary. What they do with the materiel acquired by such efforts is not clear, but the ships and other equipment so stolen seems to be funneled toward the Coreward Frontier for an unknown purpose.

Euphrasie's story supposedly took place a few weeks before the departure of the convoy in which Quetzalli traveled to the Frontier. KR-122 might not have been related to her story in particular, but I can't dismiss her theory that it was part of a similar enterprise out of hand. As always, the audience is encouraged to make up its own mind on this connection, and to be careful with people one meets in strange spaceport bars; even those who seem to be friends might turn out to be something you didn't expect.

The drinks came, and Euphrasie stared at hers a long time before picking it up and sipping it thoughtfully. The young man across the table, meanwhile, upended his own small glass of liqueur as soon as it was set in front of him, then slammed the empty container back down vigorously and punched an order for a second into the smart table's menu.

As he paused indecisively over the confirmation button, Euphrasie snuck a look at him. His loose, sandy hair hung in front of eyes whose red rims and rapid, haunted flicking to every source of motion the club's poor lighting couldn't quite conceal. His formerly easy smile had evolved into a perpetually strained grimace. Finn had never been a large person, but his hunched, beaten posture made him look even smaller.

Still insistently jabbing the tabletop display, Finn looked up to Euphrasie. "You know, Frazi." He said, reverting reflexively to the diminutive name he'd coined for her when they were both children. "The worst thing you ever did to me was save my life."

Euphrasie shook her head. Their meeting now was purely by chance; they had fallen out of contact ten years before, when they were both barely teenagers. Now, she was heading out to the Coreward Frontier with a Survey Auxiliary commission, and he was... Well, she preferred not to think about what Finn did for a living since he’d disappeared.

"Was I supposed to let you go to the atomizer, Finn?" She replied. "You didn't kill that man." After all these years, she didn't know what she had expected. She'd waited for him, hoping that some day, he might be able to clear his name and return, but he never sent even a cryptic text-only message that told her he was all right. She'd given up and signed up for Survey on her twenty-first birthday, the way they'd always dreamed of doing together, and now, with her freshly printed commission in hand, she was leaving Herakles space forever. It was just like Finn to literally bump into her as she was preparing to pilot her new Idril Yara through its first interstellar voyage.

"I could have fought the charge, Frazi. Cleared my name." He told her. "Instead, I was scared, and I ran. You helped me keep running, and by running I was condemned." The second drink arrived, and Finn glanced hurriedly to both sides. "Can't stay long." He said, staring long and hard at something over Euphrasie’s shoulder. She turned to look, but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary that might be keeping his attention. Perhaps, the pilot decided, her old friend was seeing ghosts. "Boss doesn't like me to hang around too long before a job."

"I can't stay long either." Euphrasie confirmed, as she returned her attention to Finn. "My departure window is in three hours, and preflight takes almost an hour." That was it, then. She was leaving, the agent of the Naval Survey Auxiliary, and he was staying, the pawn of the system's most unsavory syndicate, who would keep him around only as long as he made himself useful.

"It's still good to see you again, though." He told her. "One last time, I suppose."

Euphrasie shook her head sadly before draining her glass. "Come with me, Finn." She urged him. "By the time they know you're gone, we'll be halfway to the Frontier." Survey ships were small, but there was enough room on Yara for a crew of up to three – and Euphrasie was slated to pilot it alone. She could pick up another carton of nutrient paste before she boarded, and Finn’s presence would cause no trouble.

"I can't." He told her. "You don't understand. Boss has too many friends. They'll find me."

"Hell with them." Euphrasie slapped her palm on the table, feeling oddly buzzed after the single drink. "The Frontier is a big place."

Finn shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry." He said. "For not going with you, and for everything else."

"Everything else? Finn, you were always kind..." She shook her head, feeling somewhat unsteady. A foggy realization bubbled up from somewhere below her conscious thought. One drink shouldn't have made her feel like that. She’d turned around so breifly, but it might have been enough time for Finn; he’d always been quick. "You didn't."

"Boss needs your ship." Finn shrugged. "Survey will get you a new one, don't worry. They have spares of everything."

Euphrasie tried to stand, but her legs were wholly nonresponsive. She steadied herself against the table, but it was a losing battle. "Finn..." She tried to snarl, but it was barely a whisper. Losing a ship before she even left port? Her new Naval Survey Auxiliary commission would be torn up on the spot.

Finn winced, then shook his head and stood. As he leaned down over her shoulder to rifle through her pockets for the activation token that would lead him to the survey ship, he put his lips close to her ear. Even over the pounding music of the club, she could hear him whisper. "Goodby, Frazi."

As he left, she tried to follow him, but succeeded only in slumping down on the table, watching with unfocused eyes as Finn walked out the door.