As it turned out, the others were in agreement with my decision, even Beverly Yates, the lawyer. The Ericksons and Mister Yates came in to see me a couple hours after the meeting. I told them what had happened.
The lawyer, who I could tell had been doing the job for many years, was somber.
“I fully believe it would be unwise to pursue any sort of vendetta here. I agree with your assessment of the Torgal company being aware of the situation, but attempting to reap justice would be a costly endeavor that would be unlikely to be called in our favor. They never would have grown to be the industrial titan they are without some of the best legal counsel in the galaxy.”
“I agree,” said Marcus. “I think you made the right choice, Adresta. I hate that they can get away with it, but we don’t have enough proof and they are just about untouchable.”
I hated it too. It felt bad leaving the situation as it was, but there was too much risk involved, not just to me personally, but with my legal representation being associated with Erickson Enterprises, they would likely get some backlash too.
Echo was by my side and was nodding. “It is what it is. The good news is that the big man himself is trying to save face. Not having to use your own money or waiting for a settlement from Kruger to pay for your medical expenses is a massive help.”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Absolutely. I thought I was going to be stuck in this bed for the next few months. About the only thing that I need now is transport to the Procyon system. The kind Torgal head neglected to arrange for that.”
My pride-colored friend looked to her father. “Can we take her, Dad?”
He was quiet for a few seconds, obviously thinking it over. The end result was a hum. “I know you said that you want to be with her, Callisto, dear, but I don’t think I can stay around the institute for that long. The crew are getting shore leave, but we can’t just take a month off while we wait for Adresta. No offense, Miss Matson, but I do have a business to run.”
I couldn’t find fault in him and shook my head. “None taken, sir. I completely understand.”
Echo looked disappointed still. “Please, Dad? I don’t want to just put her on a passenger liner. Maybe I can just take the Hrafn? Like, we can go back home and drop you off and then go to Procyon.”
A raised eyebrow from Marcus. “Callisto, while I am not unwilling to allow that, you don’t have a pilot’s license and Adresta is in no shape to be flying right now.”
The girl winced at that and I almost had to laugh. “The great and wonderful Echo can’t fly?”
She blushed even deeper. “I… I never got my license, no. It was always the plan that I was going to be a captain one day, our ships have pilots. I didn’t need to learn.” Echo pouted but then lit up again. “Maybe we can borrow Casey? I know you’ve let them fly the Hrafn before. And you’ve been saying that you wanted to get Yasmin more hours in her logbook, and there are still other pilots if you do go out.”
Rachael chuckled into a hand. “Our daughter definitely got her stubbornness from you, Marcus. I doubt you are going to be able to dissuade her.”
The captain rolled his eyes, but was smiling even still. “And if the stubbornness didn’t get to me, the puppy dog eyes she got from you would. Alright, daughter. If Casey agrees, they can take you to the Celeste Institute. You’ll have to convince them yourself, though, and if they say no, you will have to figure something else out.”
“Thank you, Daddy.” In a way, I almost had to fear for the future. If I ever ended up dating this ethereal and stunning woman, I might very well end up subjected to some of those convincing tactics. I didn’t think I would be able to resist.
Marcus could only chuckle at his daughter. “Well, in the meantime, Miss Matson, you might want to contact the Celeste institute. If I recall the process we went through with Echo, you’ll need to let them know you are coming and submit your body file along with a genome sequence so they can start building the transference vessel.”
“Yes sir. That would be the first step. I’ll be sure to call them here in a bit.”
“Good,” he responded. “I’ll see about getting a wheelchair for you for now. It would make things easier to transport you.”
The kindness in all of their faces was at least a minor blunting to the depression that threatened my mind. Losing my ship had been a major blow to my ego. I had put so much work into the Oxide and all of that was now gone. If there was anything good that could be taken from this situation, it was that there were people that truly cared for me. My transition would have come someday, my name change would have come, but meeting the Ericksons was surely something that was already changing my future for the better.
Echo gave me another hug. “Vox says she is here for you too, as much as she can be, at least. She will send the body file to Celeste once they are ready for it.”
That was another blow to my ego. With my implants all fried and my holopad gone along with my arm, I no longer had any way to talk to my (S)AI friend. Even with the Ericksons here, I still almost felt lonely.
“Well, tell her I said thank you.” I got a nod in response.
The four of us exchanged a few more pleasantries, and then my guests soon left to go get themselves some lunch. Mine came shortly after in the form of some rather unpleasant-looking goop in a pouch. I still wasn’t allowed to eat solid food, so I was limited to the liquid diet. The taste wasn’t horrendous, but the texture was really what got me. The pouch was labeled as ‘pureed honey roasted sweet potatoes’, but only felt like sticky sweet slime going down my throat. Truly a disagreeable feeling.
After lunch I asked for a communications terminal to be brought to my room, along with a sample kit so I could get the genome sequence. The sequencer required a nurse to make a quick prick of my skin to get a blood sample. They read out that the sequencing would take about five minutes to complete. Plenty quick to be ready for Celeste.
The terminal was a bit more complicated. Since I did not have a contact address for the institute, I had to manually look it up through the interstellar net. Thankfully, that didn’t take too long and I soon was having to agree to the charges for making the call. A moment later, the call was placed and I found myself looking at a splash screen bearing the institute's logo.
A face came on screen. “Thank you for calling the Celeste Institute! I’m Red! How can I help you?”
With a bit of effort, I adjusted myself in the bed so I was more easily visible to the camera. “Hi, I’m Adresta. I’ve made some inquiries about services in the past but now find myself in a situation where I’m going to need your services more quickly than expected.”
Interestingly, despite her name, Red actually had purple hair, though the unnaturally striking crimson eyes seemed to suit it better. Said eyes seemed to search the screen in front of her and widened.
“Oooh. Looks like you had a bit of an ouchie. We should get you taken care of ASAP!”
I almost had to chuckle at the representative’s demeanor. She was obviously rather excitable.
“Yeah, I was hoping for that.”
She nodded quickly. “Absolutely. Let me get you directly over to Doctor Hayes. She’ll be able to make things happen better than me.”
I thanked her and the screen once more faded to the institute logo. This time I was left waiting for a few minutes. I really did hope they would be able to get me in.
Another woman, presumably Doctor Hayes, appeared on screen. “Good day, Adresta. I understand you have an urgent need for services?”
“I do, unfortunately.”
“Well, the good news is that we just finished with a client and our next scheduled client was canceled due to nonpayment. I’m afraid I must request the payment up front, however. The cost will, of course, fluctuate depending on the specifics of your body file and any additional features you choose to add on.”
The doctor’s face stayed neutral throughout her statements. I was very happy I would be able to get in so quickly. Her mentioning the price still left a twinge in my soul however. This was life-saving technology that could solve so many problems, yet it was locked behind a paywall that very few people could afford to breach. Yet again, this was a symptom of the larger problems I had with the entire healthcare system, but there really wasn’t anything I could do. Luckily, I wouldn’t be the one paying for it.
“Can I get your name so I can start the file?”
I could feel my face twitch and one corner of my mouth draw up into a small smile. It still felt very nice being able to use my chosen name in an official manner now. “Adresta Matson. I should have a file already, I’ve inquired into your services previously. You can use my comm-net ID to trace it.”
“Adresta Matson… hm… lets see, ah. I found the file, though it was listed under…” she trailed off, her eyes bulging out at the computer screen in front of her before they flashed back to me, looking astonished.
“Hold up, are you the same Soren Matson that’s been in the news? The one that a Torgal manager attempted to murder?”
It shouldn’t have surprised me that she knew about it at this point. “Yeah,” I said weakly. “That’s me.”
“By the void! When we got the call a bit ago, the finance manager was surprised and told the entire office about it, but all we knew was your name and that Torgal was paying for it. Then one of the attendants made the connection between the name and the news reports from last week. Your name is everywhere!”
“Well, I’ve legally changed my name now. If the news is still saying Soren, then they’ve got it wrong.”
“Oh gosh, I guess they do! The plane of luck must truly be tilted in your favor for you to have survived such a catastrophe!”
I couldn’t agree less. Luck had little to do with it. If not for the incredibly quick actions of Vox and the Ericksons, I would have died for sure. The doctors both on the station and in Treysana were highly skilled and kept me alive against all odds. I wasn’t going to vocalize those thoughts, though.
“Well, in a high profile case like this, we’d better get you taken care of! The construction of your transference vessel will take two weeks; will you be able to arrive before then? You will have to go through several sessions of neural scanning to ensure proper migration.”
I had spent what was likely an inordinate amount of time researching the process ever since its existence became public, so I was intimately familiar with all of the steps involved.
“Yes, if things go according to plan, I will be at the institute within a few days.”
“Excellent, and do you have a body image and a genome sequence for us to build off of?”
I nodded. “I do. The genome is being sequenced as we speak and will be available any time now and a body image should be sent to you as soon as we are finished talking.”
The doctor tapped away at her computer. “Good, good. Will there be any additions you would like to make?”
I shrugged with my one shoulder. If it wasn’t my wallet paying for all of this... “I’ll take the full kit. Full ocular and holographic suite, musculoskeletal structure, the works.”
She chuckled. “Torgal is signing over a blank check and you are taking advantage, huh? Can’t say I blame you. Squeeze those bastards for everything you can, I say. If things are half as bad as some of the reports say, that entire branch deserves some sort of settlement.”
A snort forced its way out. “I’m afraid that I can’t comment on that.”
Her chuckle turned into a stifled giggle and Doctor Hayes once again began tapping away at her keyboard. “You got it, hun. When we are done with you, you’ll be at the very edge of what’s allowable under the genetic engineering laws.”
“Sounds like I won’t have to deal with any of my old back problems again, huh?” I said it with a weary smile and the woman looked at me caringly.
“Nope, a fresh start with nothing but the best.”