ultracosmicrays: (ray/ray just another day)
[personal profile] ultracosmicrays
Still PG, sorry! It's called laying the ground work, people.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3



Waiting for the return of the Rays, Ian flipped idly through the Filter bands, searching for any mention of the space perturbance. There had been a lot of excited chatter from the FOIL guys but it was mostly going round in circles. Ian felt itchy, he wanted to do something, not just sit there and wait for other people to make all the interesting discoveries.

He'd promised Ray no more hacking, but Ray was chasing down terrorists and Ian was really bored. It couldn't matter just this once, could it?

It didn't take him long to get inside the Contingency's Space Anomalies mainframe. Why would it, when Ian had once roamed the solar system as a spy for the secret Elite Force, trained to go where no man should go in both real and cyberspace and tutored in hand to hand combat by the great Golgamesh himself? Or, you know, long hours holed up in his room with his crappy connection and his mom yelling for him to get outside and find some friends already.

Ian started flipping through the data pages. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. Woah! He flipped back and stared at the wiggly lines on the screen. They resolved themselves as easily for him as letters or numbers. He checked the co-ordinates. Less than two days travel from here.

Excitement began to pool in Ian's stomach. He opened up the data file Marlo had managed to sneak out of Washington. Switching back and forth between the two sets of data Ian found himself bouncing in his seat. There was a clear correlation between the two sets. He started punching in co-ordinates, plotting his course. This was it! He was going to find a warp gate; he was going to take the Riviera into space that no man had ever seen before. He was going to be the most celebrated man in the galaxy!

The Com crackled into life. Vecchio's voice filled the cockpit.

"Okay, we're back on board, give us five to lock down the triker and then take us out of here. Plot a course to Titania, I'll tell you more when we're done here."

Ian's smile faded for a second and then reasserted itself. So they had to go to Titania? The anomaly wasn't that far out of the way, he reasoned. They could do both, Ray need never know.

"Yes, sir," he replied and readied the ship for flight.

*

Kowalski lay stretched out on the floor of the recreation room, one hand pillowing his head, one slowly rubbing his slightly distended belly. He had long fingers, thought Frannie and resolutely did not consider where she might allow Ray to put them.

"Man, your brother can cook," he said. "Me, I just shake out the nearest packet and add water. Sometimes I remember to heat it up."

"Ma taught him," Frannie replied from her cross-legged position on the grimy, faded, blue bench that curved the length of the window. "I was too busy fixing junk with Pa, Maria was too busy chasing boys and Nino – well, we don't talk about Nino."

"You miss your folks?"

"Pa's dead," said Frannie, her voice tight and clipped, waving away Ray's attempted apology. "He wasn't the world's best but he was good to me."

"How'd he ...?"

"Buy the smallholding? Mine accident."

"Ouch."

"Mmmmm."

Frannie had decided a long time ago that living in the present was far better than living in the past, so she closed off the memories that were threatening to surface and concentrated on the shift of Ray's jaw as he chewed on a toothpick. It was a good jaw. Frannie might even go so far as to say bevelled. No, not bevelled, but something to do with tools. Chiselled, that was it. Ray's jaw was chiselled. Frannie wondered if he had a girlfriend.

"Sooooooooooo," she began. "What made you join COPS?"

Ray's hand stilled. So did his jaw. Frannie immediately became acutely aware of the silence all around them. Even the rumbling engine seemed to stop and wait. She found she was holding her breath.

"Lost someone."

The simple words settled on Frannie like a cloud; their weight oppressive. Her shoulders bowed slightly under the pressure. She knew she shouldn't ask, but she did anyway.

"Someone close?"

Ray leapt to his feet and started pacing the room, his face completely closed down. With his spiked blond-red hair standing up like raised hackles, he reminded Frannie of a trapped animal. She wished she could take the question back.

"Yeah. No. Yeah. Partner."

And of course that just hooked Frannie further. What partner? In what sense? What about their death sent Ray to the COPS? Still, she'd learned one thing – whatever the details, this thing was about love. She recognised the signs.

"I wonder if Ian's okay," she said, trying to lighten the mood. "He hasn't even come down for food."

Ray stopped abruptly and whirled round.

"You guys dating?"

Frannie could see Ray was trying to pull himself back to normality so she didn't bristle as she normally would but laughed instead.

"Me and Ian? I don't think so. Could you see it?" Frannie mimicked Ian's voice, "Darling, I bought you the most beautiful ring, it had a diamond that shone like Sirius but unfortunately on the way back to Riviera I was attacked by a gang of criminal masterminds who needed the diamond to energise their Invisi-Ray." She giggled. "I like to know that up is up."

Frannie was delighted to see the beginnings of a smile on Ray's face.

"Besides," she added. "Ray doesn't like franter-, fratra-, screwing around on the ship. He used to be all for it, but that was before Stella."

"Stella?"

Frannie bit her lip and studied her nails.

"Look, fair warning. My brother's been through six partners since she left. Maybe seven, I lose count. He's too hard on them, no one lives up to her, you see?"

Ray's puzzled expression suggested that no, no he didn't, but Frannie ploughed ahead.

"I like you, Ray," she said, peeping up through her eyelashes. "I think you'll be good for me. Him. Us. Don't let him get to you."

"Thanks," said Ray, sweeping a hand through his hair and looking a little lost. "I'm gonna-" and he swung himself down the ladder and out of sight.

A shiver ran down Frannie's spine – a grave moment, Ma always said – and went in search of the warmth of her engine room.






Part 5
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August 2007

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