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Jul 04, 2020 4:35 PM
space spies get up to some space spying
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They've had her in this apartment for a few months now, since her last assignment. 

It's nice, a little small, nothing special. Cleaner and quieter than the homes of her childhood, but that doesn't say much. The outfacing wall is all window and this high up it's so close to being able to see the whole world, but the view is locked away behind ugly buildings neighboring hers, dirty asphalt scrawled with argon.

The apartment had already been furnished when she moved in, possibly in an attempt to prevent Sookhee from stealing the furniture she needed and drawing attention to herself.

Sookhee finds this idea mildly offensive. Furniture isn't very exciting, and anyway she's stolen plenty of little things in this city with nothing more interesting to occupy her time, and hasn't drawn undue attention once. If she were a bad thief, they wouldn't have recruited her in the first place.

She's impatient for her next job. They give her a small allowance for rent and food and electricity, but that's nothing compared to what she'll cash in the next time she finishes a project. (Her earnings from the last assignment would have been enough to buy a much larger apartment, not enough to buy a personal ship. Sookhee spent the money on a very fancy pair of earrings.) 

Eventually, her com lights up. 

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One new message lights up the screen.

나포구, 양화로 21길 3층에서 내일 저녁 10시20분에 대리인 만난다.

짐을 싸기 시작해야한다. 

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Finally.

They've given her a time and place to meet tomorrow. They've also told her to start packing, which means that whatever instructions she receives tomorrow will involve going somewhere.

It's not that Sookhee hates Napo-gu, or even dislikes it. She was similarly excited to move here on last assignment. But there are so many places she hasn't seen yet and so few that she has, and a new assignment means she's going to be just a little bit closer to touching the whole world.

Despite her habits, Sookhee really doesn't have that much to pack.

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"Third floor" means third floor of the fire escape in the back alley of the building. That's where Sookhee's correspondent is waiting, sipping a coffee from a paper cup that she bought a few counties away. She's wearing a plain, trim black coat and mirror shades. Her hair is pulled back into a tight, small bun. 

"안녕하세요? 오래간만이에요,"  she says when she sees Sookhee, speech controlled and precise despite her thick accent. "I hope you've been settling in well."

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"I have! Thanks. This city has lots of pretty buildings." The prettiest buildings are far away from Sookhee's apartment, but she doesn't mind walking. "But I guess I won't be here much longer?"

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"Not particularly. I have a ticket for you; the flight's in two days." The ticket is a small silver microchip. She passes it to Sookhee. "We've booked a hotel room for you and your partner. The address will be sent to you later tonight."

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Sookhee pops the ticket chip into a slot in her pocket computer. They never tell her where she's going. She won't find out until she shows up at the transit port and scans her ticket for the flight information. Sookhee is so busy remembering about this and being annoyed that she almost misses --

"My partner? I don't have a --"

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"No one has a partner before they do. It's just for this assignment. You have differently useful skillsets."

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Sookhee's skillset has served her just fine. "Don't I get to know anything about that? The assignment?"

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"Not any details, yet. There will be more for you in the hotel. What I can tell you is that... it relates to a number of crime networks we've been tracking. And political networks. There are a couple different intersections we're starting to take a closer look at, yours is one of those. Human trafficking. -- if that's going to be a problem, you have exactly 30 minutes to resign so that we can make alternative arrangements."

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When Sookhee was little, she'd thought that "human trafficking" sounded like a nice thing. Her hometown was unpleasant and unimpressive and it sounded appealing to be sent through traffic until you arrived somewhere prettier and fancier and more fun. There were too many people in the crowded slums; moving them somewhere else was probably a good thing.

When little Sookhee expressed this, her aunt laughed loud and hard for several minutes before lightly chuffing her upside the head. No human trafficking until you learn how to pick locks, Sookhee-ah. Then we'll see! And Sookhee had learned how to pick locks and learned what human trafficking meant. It did not, in fact, sound fun.

"That's not a problem."

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"Good. Your ID, then." She hands Sookhee a black synth-leather wallet. 

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She takes it, and returns an identical wallet with her fake ID from the last assignment. "Is that all, then?"

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"Yes. We'll be in touch."

She leaves first, leaving Sookhee alone on the fire escape. Her shoes are remarkably quiet on the metal stairs.

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She's supposed to wait for another twenty minutes before leaving herself, according to The Protocol.

According to The Protocol, she's also supposed to wait until she's back in her apartment before she looks at the ID, to make it harder for any cameras to pick it up and link the ID to clandestine meetings on fire escapes. But. It's not like she has anything else to do.

Sookhee pulls her shirt over her head and, inside the shirt, flips the wallet open and shines her pocket computer at it. 

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The card has the name Eri Tamako printed in English next to a very boring picture of Sookhee. The date of birth is about a year off.

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Well. That wasn't that exciting.

 

Sookhee sits down on the fire escape and dangles her legs over the side. She looks out at the lights of the city and thinks about being Tamako and flying through the stars.

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After twenty minutes, Sookhee walks home. She's already finished packing, which leaves her with nothing to do. Usually the answer would be 'go out into the world; steal some things', but it was too late for that to be a good idea.

She rolled around in bed until finally her com lights up again.

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It's an address that means nothing to her.

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Great.

The address means nothing to her now, but it's going to. She's going to go this hotel, wherever it is, and find out what it looks like, and then she'll probably go somewhere else exciting, and more and more addresses will start to mean things to her. (Also hotels have nice little soaps; she's excited for that.)

Sookhee puts the com down and rolls over and falls asleep.

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And in two days she goes to the transit port. Upon scanning her pocket computer at check-in, Sookhee discovers that the ticket is a fourteen hour flight to Naikeni. 

She hasn't heard of Naikeni specifically before, but she's it's a part of the Shizani system which she has heard of. The reputation is very elite, very beautiful, filled with elaborately structured nature and carved mountains and mansions filled with real, actual wood -- so some of the forests have to be real, but nobody knows which ones. Sookhee is delighted.

It's unfortunately possible that once she meets her new partner they might be directed somewhere else entirely, but at the very least Sookhee will be sure to walk around and collect lots of souvenirs. She's so glad she bought those fancy earrings. 

She shows her ID and smiles at the check-in clerk and is pointed at a transport to the appropriate hangar. 

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Boarding the ship is a long and tedious process. After lots of impatient shuffling, Sookhee is able to file onboard with the 149 other passengers. Everyone has an assigned seat and complimentary luggage compartment. After takeoff, nobody is obliged to remain in their assigned seat. There's a lounge, and a small restaurant, and a very small pool that is not thought to be overly sanitary. 

There are announcements over an intercom that nobody pays attention to, and then they're off.

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Sookhee likes space. She finds an uncrowded viewport and sits beside it for hours, watching the stars blur past. 

She doesn't sleep much in transit. By the time they dock, she's very tired. She stumbles through the Naikeni airport in a dreary blur, just alert enough to show the appropriate documents at the appropriate times and correctly answer questions when asked.

The transit port is, disappointingly, not very different from the port she came from in Napo-gu, but the port isn't what really matters.

What matters is that when she steps out of the Eastern Terminal exit onto a gently sloped glass walkway, she sees grassy hills all around her and mountains in the distance and she knows she did it, she did it, she made it somewhere real. 

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She flags a taxi. The ones here are shaped like the taxies in Napo-gu, but they are dark blue instead of yellow. A window slides open and she ducks down to shout to the driver. "그라쓰 스완 호텔에 갈 께요, 알아세요?"

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The taxi driver stares at her blankly.

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Yeahh, it was a long shot.

"I'm going to the Glass Swan Hotel, in Keipa City," she tries instead. 

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