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Washington D.C.

Rhel Valentine landed on a nearby rooftop of a forty story building, a block and a half away from the cafe the Lieutenant Colonel Frazier had arranged for their meeting. He could just make out the patio of the cafe with his bare eyes. Slipping a hand into his coat pocket, he pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses. The lenses magnified the rest of the scene below. The place was open, and busy. A good place for a meeting, but also for a double cross. Even from his position, Rhel knew that a sniper could make the shot if this was set up, after all he did know the penalties for hacking into classified American military data files. It just made this all that more fun, besides it was a chance to meet Frazier in person.

And there she was, sitting at one of the corner tables, her blond hair loose around her shoulders and wearing civilian attire that consisted of dark dress pants, and a white blouse. She was tapping her finger against the table impatiently, with a cup of cappuccino nearby. Rhel grinned. He had seen her several times, trailed her, shadowed her, trying to learn much of her habits and research in the process. She was after all his greatest enemy on this planet, but also his best accomplice in getting off of this planet. The best part was, she didn’t even know.

Removing the sunglasses, Rhel moved towards the far side of the roof and jumped down into the ally below. Moments later he was crossing the street outside of the shop. He wore a dark leather jacket and red collared shirt underneath, with dark blue jeans and black leather boots. With his black hair and silver necklace he looked more like some middle-aged wanna-be goth. He passed the hostess with a wink, who gave him a smile as he made his way directly towards Anna. If she did had people watching, they were kept at a distant, either they didn’t think he posses much of a threat, or they were waiting for her orders.

“It’s nice to finally meet the Lieutenant Colonel in the flesh.” Rhel said with high confidence as he took a seat directly across from her. If she was surprised by his appearance or way he spoke to her, she didn’t show it. Instead he noticed her eyes narrowing in on him, sizing him up, measuring him, which followed by a look of disappointment. Perhaps he should have worn an Italian suit?

“You are Valentine?” She asked, suspiciously.

“Where you expecting some punk teenage kid, or maybe a masked villain with a heart painted on his head?” Rhel asked playfully. The waitress approached him and he ordered a latte. “I take it from your expression I’m not what you expected?”

“No, you’re not.” Anna replied, truthfully. “How do I know you’re really him, or just some actor to stand in his place?”

“When has Valentine ever steered you wrong Frasier?” Rhel asked, his dark red eyes focusing on hers. “I have not been anything but helpful to your research and experiments, correct?”

Anna remained silent, her lips tightened into a thin line, while he thought he saw a form of anger and aggression behind those hazel eyes. “Why did you come?”

“Why not? Like I said, it’s nice to finally meet you face to face. Hacking and emailing can be so impersonal at times. I thought it was time we move on to the next level.”

“Next level?” Anna asked, perplexed by Rhel’s words.

“You’ve almost reached your goal, haven’t you? But you’ve still got a long ways to go. You need a stable power source still, to run the engines and life support. Not to mention that artificial gravity device that Locklear has just publicized. The original was broken, wasn’t it?” From the corner of Rhel’s eyes, he could see Anna’s hand turn into a fist, as she leaned back in her chair, possibly considering her options, including one where Rhel never leaves his seat alive. But, if anything he just proved he was the real Valentine.

“You arrogant bastard.” Anna whispered, the words were filled venom that made Rhel think of the serpent people from Feith 3. “Coming here, with your attitude and know-it-all knowledge… What makes you think this isn’t some trap, that this was just a lure to get you to show your face once and for all? After all hacking into military records is illegal in this country, I could arrest you as a terrorist or treason… take your pick.”

“Oh the possibility hasn’t been lost my mind. I know you and your country take great pride in all your secrets and such and that you also go to great lengths to keep it all secret. But… you see, I know my own capabilities and I am rather confident that if you were planning on arresting, or killing me, that it just won’t work.” Rhel said with a dark gleam of his eyes. “After all, I’m too valuable. I would be better suited as some sort of hired consultant, or contractor than someone behind bars or even on the loose.”

“Are you asking for a job?” Anna said, with a harsh laugh.

“Depends what’s in the briefcase.” Rhel shrugged. He only noticed the briefcase upon sitting down, it was kept under the table and behind Frasier’s legs. It either held some information she needs help with, or a gun to shoot him with. His latte arrived and he leaned back, taking a sip and enjoying the conflict that was going on behind the Lieutenant Colonel’s mind. If he could secure an actual paid job within the military, he would have a much easier time accessing all their data, not to mention the ship they were working on. He needed to make sure they hadn’t messed around with it too much to prevent him from reaching more civilized space.

“What makes you think we would want a hacker like you working for us? It’ll be a risk against our security system, what else are you looking for?”

“Why, all I’m looking for is seeing the day were humans stretch out towards the stars. Isn’t that what you all are trying to achieve? Space travel, luxury space travel I should say.” Rhel said, putting on his most innocent face he could muster, lying all the while through his teeth. “Listen Lt. Colonel Frazier, I have a wealth of information stashed away that could propel your project forward by years. If you let me on your team, I can guarantee you that your first ship can be set out to space before Christmas.”

“Really? Christmas of this year?” Anna asked, raising her eyebrow. Rhel smiled and nodded his head. He continued to watch the woman’s body language, knowing he was winning her over. She then reached down and produced the black briefcase, opening it up and removing a stack of papers.

“This is your contract, if you are to work with us you will not be able to use any of the information gathered for your own purpose outside of our project. Basically all of your knowledge you claim to have and anything you create for this project will belong to us, and us only.” Anna’s lips curled into a smile.

“Deal.” Rhel said effortlessly with a smile, trying to keep a straight face. Frasier really though she had him, could control him with a piece of paper with his signature on it. If everything worked out according to his plan, he wouldn’t even be on this planet by the time the contract ran out.

“You will receive an email confirming the location for your first day of work. We have branched out and have several labs around the country working on particular parts of the ship.” Anna said.

“That is rather silly.” Rhel said with a condescendingly.

“For security reasons, it has to be this way. But… I think I know exactly where to put you for now.” Anna said retrieving the paper work and rising to leave. “It has been nice meeting you face to face. Good night Mr. Valentine.”

“Good evening ma’am.” Rhel said with a mock salute. His red eyes watched the blond-haired woman leave. He didn’t like that last bit. If all the parts of the ship have been broken and assigned elsewhere, it’s going to take longer to get them all together and fit them into place. Security, yeah, he’ll have to work his way around that, but at least he got his foot in the door.

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