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Absence of Information

By Victoria Martin
Page 2 of 8

2.

I've never been the emotional type. Things just don't affect me the way they seem to affect other people, which is useful in my line of work. I like to think of myself as a professional, so I don't ask too many questions about the whys and wherefores of my commissions, I just get on with the job. It's not up to me to worry about the morality of any of my assignments, I leave that to my clients, though it has to be said that none of them ever seem to worry unduly about such things either. It's an attitude which has stood me in good stead over the years, even if it has occasionally got me into trouble as well - I should have done myself a real service if I'd asked a few more questions about Dorian, for a start. But the ability to keep a cool head and not worry too much about anyone else has been a real life saver on occasion. It got me off GP for the second time in my life, and it got me where I am now.

Of course, some of the credit for that is due to Orac. I would never have been able to salvage the essential components of the teleport without him, and the teleport, for all its current deficiences, has played a major role in my professional success. Without it, it would have taken me years to buy my own ship, and I couldn't have taken so much time off to pursue my own private business, either. Still, when it comes down to it, I don't overestimate Orac's significance; other factors have been just as important. Take luck, for instance. It was sheer luck that I was accidentally included in the pile of corpses that were dumped outside the base, and equally down to luck that they hadn't got around to burning them before the place blew up. And I give myself some credit for being cautious enough to wait till that point before making a run for it, in spite of the unpleasantness of my situation. If I'm entirely honest, nothing that came afterwards was as bad as that, not even sneaking into the silo to retrieve the flyer, nerve-racking though it was. Lying under a pile of dead bodies is definitely at the bottom of my Things I'd Like To Do Again list. Anyway, once I'd got hold of a flyer, I buzzed around the area to see if I could find Scorpio. I didn't have anywhere else to go, and I thought there might be a chance of salvaging a few weapons or at least a change of clothes. What I didn't expect to find was Slave. He was down to his last few power units, but he functioned long enough for Orac to cut in and give me the coordinates for where he was hidden. As I said, I'm not the emotional type, but I must admit that when I held that box of lights in my hands, I felt as if I'd met up with an old friend - a particularly useful, if rather bossy old friend. I'd always suspected Orac of having his own agenda and that day convinced me of it. I was instructed in no uncertain terms to dismantle the teleport and remove the key components, and he seemed positively disappointed that the star drive was smashed beyond the point of salvage. Thereafter, though, he shut up and let me sort things out in my own way. I traded in the flyer and used the cash to get off GP as fast as possible, then I took on a few commissions  and saved hard. Orac was pretty helpful, actually - he's a great resource if you want to trace people's movements - and in his spare time I had him listening out for indications that any of the others had survived.

It took a while, but eventually he traced Dayna to a neutral planet in the outer worlds called Alderon; she'd gone there straight after GP and seemed to have settled there for good. In fact in less than a year she'd had a child and become co-owner of a large farmstead, so there didn't seem much point in disturbing her peace. That was the only positive identification, though. Someone who might or might not be Vila was active on Freedom City from time to time, but other than that, we drew a complete blank. I suspect Orac looked rather harder for Avon, but he could find no more trace of him than of Tarrant, and eventually concluded that both of them had died on GP. I think he carried on looking just the same - after all, sifting through piles of data was what he was made for, and it didn't matter to him whether the outcome was positive or negative, he just wanted definite confirmation either way. Orac doesn't like loose ends. As for me, I did occasionally wonder if I should check out the possible Vila sightings, but on the whole I threw myself into my work and put my old life behind me. As soon as I had enough money, I rented a ship, and with Orac's help managed to install a functioning teleport. Well, when I say functioning, I mean I never died using it, but it wasn't exactly a luxury model - it was accurate enough on the vertical coordinates, but on the horizontal plane you could find yourself anywhere within 50 metres of where you wanted to land, which meant I couldn't use it to get inside buildings, or even anywhere built up. Teleporting back to the ship worked fine, though, and it got me out of a sticky spot on more than one occasion, plus I saved an absolute fortune in shuttle and docking fees. With Orac and the teleport to give me the edge over the competition, I soon earned enough to buy my own ship and reinstalled the teleport in her, but in spite of Orac's tutoring I still couldn't figure out how to fix the accuracy problem. He never mentioned Avon, but I couldn't help thinking about him and how easily he would have resolved the matter. I suppose in a way that primed me - otherwise I might have sailed through that last job without ever noticing the file.

I certainly wasn't expecting it to have an impact on my personal life when I took on the commission. The target was a high-up in the civil service, who had just been promoted and had decided to celebrate by divorcing his wife for a blue-eyed floozy several decades her junior. The wife, not taking kindly to such disloyalty, gave me the access code to his office along with my usual fee. Under the circumstances it was child's play - if only all clients were that helpful! I waited in the office until he had sat down at his desk, then dealt with him and was about to get Orac to bring me up, when I caught sight of the file that his head was resting on. I suppose it was the curious fact that the document was handwritten that attracted my attention, but what leapt off the page were the initials in the second line - KA. As I said, I had been thinking about Avon only recently, so in a way I was primed; under normal circumstances, I don't believe I would have noticed so slight a clue. It seemed imprudent to stand reading the file in the dead man's office, so I took it back to the ship with me and read it out to Orac, who was distinctly huffy about having to submit to such a primitive means of communication. However, the the first couple of lines shut him up most satisfactorily.


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Victoria Martin

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