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The Differential was a smooth-looking ship that resembled, Moon thought, a pregnant thigh bone. From perusing its schematics, she knew that the bulbous formations at one end housed the bridge and extensive navigation and sensor equipment. At the other end, they contained the ship's massive engines. In the middle were the habitation, work and storage decks, with a small bulge near the bottom where her lab had been hastily tacked on. A smattering of round viewports all along the ship's main body poured shafts of bright light into the surrounding space.
She additionally knew that the ship housed a total of one hundred and twenty crew members, all male, and was designated a medium Raker class. That meant it was used for "lighter" enforcement dutiesinvestigating or cleaning up problems rather than for the heavy coercion to which the Republic usually resorted.
Moon should have been impressed that such a ship had been put at her disposal. It showed the importance the Republic accorded her research, the resources it was prepared to invest in order to make her wishes come true. Three years ago, she would have been jumping with joy, giddy with smug euphoria. But three years ago she was a different person. Now, all she and that person had in common was a name.
The shuttle arced above and approached the other side of the bone, so her glimpse of the newly constructed addition on the elevated display panel at the front of the small ship was brief and maddeningly incomplete. With a frown, Moon moved to the back of the shuttle, checking on her luggage. Once, she couldn't have even contemplated travel without taking with her multiple changes of clothes, a library of only five hundred of her best-loved books and journals, two computers, a current assortment of useful gadgets and her favourite electron microscope just in case. But the past few years had taught her a lesson in what wasand wasn'tnecessary. She had ruthlessly purged her bad habit, replacing it with something approaching ascetism. She had only one large, shapeless bag, and if it resembled the satchel that Kad Minslok had carried that fateful morning an eternity ago, she tried hard not to think about it.
The small craft jerked as it was caught by the ship's tractors, but Moon hardly noticed it, her feet already apart to compensate for the sharp movement. She grabbed the bag by its short, thick handle and walked to the front, ignoring the small group of passengers who were still in their seats. All four were soldiers, none of them high-ranking. Republic drones. She quelled the thought and stared at the dull grey of the curved door, wondering who would be sent to meet her.