A daughter to come home to, part 1 NSFW
Danyka's stylus scratched across her datapad rapidly, jotting down the caller's information. "I see. And so - yes, absolutely. And so we can send you a modified SynThera kit with the modifications you requested, the burn countermeasures. ... Yes. .... Ah, detection would be separate. We can absolutely... hm? No, we do offer it. But the SynThera kits don't contain it. ... Yes, the scanner..."
"Danyka!" Alei's voice somehow managed to pierce through the door between them. "Danyka, get in here!"
"Could you hold, please?" Danyka set the handset down and got to her feet, stepping into Alei's office. "Yes, Ms. Riekert?"
"Come over here and look at this," Alei said, her voice trembling. "Is this real? Did they try to contact me?"
Danyka bent over the terminal Alei was seated in front of.
A news article was open in one part of its screen. "Union Expansion to Ellida Proceeds," it said, and Danyka's cybernetic eyes scanned the rest in a matter of moments and offered her mind the summary. A team of mech pilots had finished construction on a base on some isolated ice planet. In an effort to make it more of a human interest piece, they'd interviewed one of the pilots because she was 14 years old. The pilot's name had been highlighted, one Minka Riekert.
... Minka Riekert... Where had she heard that name before...
She scanned the other open windows just as quickly. "FreeLancers, serving under Captain Rosa Hawkes." "Union Rehabilitation Center Locations." "Minka Riekert, pilot, 1 license." "Slaver Ship Raided; 13 in Custody and 8 Prisoners Recovered." "Judgment on the Case of (Juvenile; Name Sealed)"
This last seemed to be what Alei was referring to. It contained the key line "(REDACTED)'s one known surviving relative was contacted, but could not be reached."
"How long have you been looking at this instead of working?" Danyka scolded playfully. "Um, give me a minute. I need to search my notes." She returned to her datapad, swiping up to return to the main page and entering the search term "Minka".
She turned up a lot of hits. Most of them were years ago - ten years ago, maybe. But one was just one year ago.
And then she remembered.
Danyka carried the datapad back into Alei's office. "Yes, here. I received a call asking if you were Minka's aunt."
"And you didn't tell me?" Alei was stunned. "Danyka... I only found this because I had alerts out on my own name, but..."
"Ms. Riekert, I understand your distress completely. But remember that when they were first taken..." She hesitated. "There were many hoping to... take advantage of your grief. Claiming to have proof of them, or claiming to be them. A few more stragglers through the years since. You told me to refuse all future such calls and not to tell you. I didn't know this one was real."
"... I see," Alei said, sounding shaken. "I had completely given up hope then. But this... they authenticated her identity and everything. She's the real thing. My niece is still alive." She sat with this for a moment before turning to Danyka. "Danyka, I'm afraid I need to ask for a more personal favor."
"If that's a problem, you are in deep trouble," Danyka said lightly. "I'm at your service in every way, and that includes for personal matters. The company wants you comfortable so that you can make the best decisions for our clients."
Alei smiled. "Find me a family lawyer. Someone who can help me make the case I need to get Minka back. I'm going to contact Captain Rosa Hawkes about getting my niece."
"Yes, ma'am!" Danyka swept out of the room, though she paused at the door. "This is your chance, isn't it?"
"To have a daughter."
Alei coughed. "... I can't deny I'm hoping... Danyka, please."
Alei straightened her outfit. She'd carefully selected her clothes today. Outfitted herself in her finest business suit, a deep purple nearly as dark as her midnight-black hair.
The wire-rimmed augmented reality spectacles were polished to a sparkle. She picked them up - carefully, so as not to smudge Danyka's hard work with a fingerprint - and set them on her nose. They were so clean that her eyes somehow looked bluer in the preview than they had before she put them on.
She lifted a hand, and in the spectacles' display she could see the menu ring appear around her wrist. She twisted so that the record-countdown option was facing up and glowing, and curled her hand into a fist to select it.
The timer appeared on the display promptly. "Record start in 10... 9... 8..."
She breathed out a slow breath.
"6... 5... 4..."
This was no different from any of the other thousands of speeches she'd given to a recording device. Only this time, it wasn't about closing a deal or recruiting a new researcher. This time it was about seeing her niece again.
"3... 2... 1... Start"
She lifted her gaze to the camera, a serene smile on her face.
"This message is for Captain Rosa Hawkes. My name is Alei Riekert, with the New Dawn Pharmaceutical company, Chemtech branch. You and I have not met, but you have already played a very important role in my life."
She'd made notes, but she didn't need them. This was a message from the heart.
"I have been told that my niece, Minka Riekert, has been under your care for some time now." She had to take a moment to pause, bow her head, lick her lips. Her mouth felt dry. "I knew Minka when she was just a small child. Three years old. She was so precious. Even then, she was always trying to get at my omninet terminal..."
Ah, that's why my mouth is dry. My eyes are wet. She smiled, trying to recover her composure. "She was taken from me not long after, along with my sister. Elva and her family were everything to me. I hoped that I could do something to bring them back, but..." She swallowed hard. "In time... I had to give up hope before it killed me."
She took another steadying breath, looking to the side for a moment. "Just today, I found that my niece Minka is alive. That she has been safe for over a year, and that... I was even contacted. To Minka, if you are watching this... I am sorry. Had I known it was real, not just another scam or prank, I would have..." She shook her head sharply, making her tight bun wobble slightly. "Never mind that. I have failed you so far, but I want to make up for that. I want us to meet. Captain Hawkes, Minka, and I can all be present. And... one other."
This was likely to be the most presumptuous part of the message. It had to be delivered diplomatically. "I've engaged the services of Ms. Reva Kron in navigating the matters of bringing Minka under my guardianship, should that be desirable. I believe that Minka's childhood has been taken from her, and that if there is anything I can do to give her a normal life, it is my responsibility as her aunt and as someone who loves her to give it to her. To that end, I have made arrangements to resign if necessary to be a present and loving parent for Minka. I have missed you so much, Minka. I won't let this chance slip through my fingers."
Her fist curled, and the spectacles chirped to indicate that the camera they were controlling had stopped recording.
"Danyka, can you review this recording before I send it?" Alei called, her voice trembling. Would it be enough...?