" Ki-ri-e, what'd you get back on the name search I ordered you to run? I've been so busy with all this other work I haven't had the time to get back to you on it..."

William was perched in his chair, knees drawn up to his chest and scribbling on a clipboarded document. She had just come in with yet another stack of papers.

" Right, that's what I have here," she said, setting it down on his desk. " I took the extra time to try and edit together my own conclusions in an abstract to present along with the raw data."

" Good idea. I value your insight," William said stiffly. " Can you run and get me a snack from the cafeteria."

Kirie sighed, a hand to her forehead.

" I told Neda I'd be over to help her with something after I dropped this off," she said. " I have a life, y'know?"

William paused for a moment.

" Oh. That's fine," he said. " Have fun."

She gave him a bit of a concerned look before leaving.

He finished filling out the research grant request forms, and then set them to the side, unfolding his legs and leaning over the desk to look at what Kirie had brought in.

...It was oddly lonely without Nova.

Before Nova, he'd been used to sitting in his office alone for hours, occasionally calling in Kirie to bring him snacks or drinks. Now there was a certain restlessness to it, where he found himself fidgeting and wanting to engage in conversation.

...It was such an odd feeling.

The only thing to be done was finish what he was doing as quickly as possible.

He flicked through the pages, studying the report meticulously, and then read Kirie's abstract. As usual, her suspicions regarding the matter appeared to be correct.

Sector 05 had a network of hidden biological weapons research spread out across the DASS, assigning aliases to personnel involved and shifting them around as was necessary. Along with their habit of using ships from other sectors and having sectorial citizenships shifted and then covered with aliases, it flowed smoothly with almost no tells.

But the Mycologica was a slip-up. Reusing the aliases of the deceased crew members with the claim they had simply been reassigned, with no involvement from their sector's accident compensation system, was a mistake.

Asking for the Theologica to retrieve this wreck...

He wasn't sure if that was an accident. It was quite possible he was getting dragged into some kind of political struggle against his will. He didn't like that. He wasn't interested in it. He'd already earned his peace.

He called in Sivira. They needed to have a talk.