The government agent smiled widely. He was very eager to be rid of her.
“Of course, Doctor Zhou, we understand the importance of the facility,” he said. “The UN has been very clear in its inquiries. As have you.”
“Good! Years of research will be lost if we can’t retrieve it,” said Mei, surging up from her seat. Finally. Progress! She’d waited five hours to see this man. She’d been sent to five different offices in three different sections of the city to get this appointment. “When can we go? I’m ready when you are. I have the equipment. I know the location. Retrieving the data won’t take more than a few hours, I promise.”
“Your enthusiasm is... noted, Doctor Zhou,” said the agent, smile flickering just a bit, “but we’re not facing the same climate as ten years ago. The ecopoint is now, technically, behind enemy lines…”
“I know,” said Mei. She’d been prepared for this question. She tapped Snowball on the head. The map bloomed in a wide projection on the wall. The agent, to his credit, looked only a little uncomfortable. “But, like I said, I know the location. See? HERE is the ecopoint, and HERE is the omnium. It’s about 1000 miles southeast and not in its path at ALL.”
“Nevertheless, Doctor Zhou,” said the agent, recovering. Mei shut off the map. “Omnic activity has been detected in the past six months. By law, we can’t allow civilians to enter that territory. It’s very complicated, you must understand--”
“And I do,” said Mei, brightly. “That’s why I’m requesting a military escort. You do have the authority to do that, don’t you? I’ve spoken to Lieutenant-Colonel Bezhukova, and SHE said that YOU said that--”
The man turned red. “I do, I do,” said the agent, who was quite afraid of the Lieutenant-Colonel, who worked directly with the Colonel, who was nephew to the Marshal, who-- “And I’ve put in the request. We’ll see if the Marshall can spare someone for your security detail. But, Doctor Zhou, you must understand that we are fighting a war. We are very busy and this might take some time--”
“Oh, that’s fine,” said Mei. “I am very good at waiting.”
Mei sat back down in her chair.
“My record is ten years,” said Mei.
“What?” asked the agent.
“Thank you SO much,” said Mei.
“Take however long you need,” said Mei, placing her hands on her knees. “I’ll be right here.”
An hour later, she had her permissions. Her security detail would meet her noon the next day
Her escort met her on the airstrip, a captain in the army. She waited by the small double transport commissioned by the UN, wearing a military long coat and a big grin.
“Ah,” said the captain, as Mei came down the steps to the busy strip, bags rocking on an unsteady hover trolley. “This way! Your chariot awaits!”
She shouted across the strip. Mei skidded to a halt in front of her.
“Oh,” said Mei, looking up. The woman was very tall, and the pink hair took her off guard. She recognized it from the posters. She’d passed about six as she’d left the hotel. “You’re Captain Zaryanova!”
“And you are the little penguin who has our chain of command running in fear,” said the captain, bending down to emphasize the point. “Good afternoon, Doctor Zhou. I tremble before your might.”
“Um, roar?” said Mei. She put a hand on her tower of bags to keep them from tumbling down behind her. “Please, just call me Mei.”
“And if you are just Mei? I will be ‘just Zarya.’” said Captain Zaryanova. “Look. We are now friends. Need some help with those bags?”
Zarya’s eyes lit up. She picked up the hover cart and shoved it into the cargo hold.
“Oh ARE they?” she asked, resting her elbow back against the the side of the plane. “Will that do?”
“Yes,” said Mei. “...Um, wow.”
“Now,” Zarya clapped her hands together, “shall we be off?”
“Shouldn’t we wait on the others?”
“No others,” said Zarya. “Just me.”
“I don’t scare as easy as the rest,” said Zarya.