CHAPTER NAVIGATION BAR
TALES OF BUFFALO COMMONS
" FINESSE "
A minute later Finn had a lot more information but very few answers. He was back on approach for the luxury yacht, which he had confirmed was the only object in sight, and because it was the only place to land within range of his Grav-Vest. It didn't make sense, but that boat had to be his drop zone.* * *
He also knew his relative position was nearly one thousand kilometres west of the Azores. In the thirty years since the tides had recessed this small chain of once-paradisiacal islands in the eastern Atlantic had regained much of their charm to the Ultra-Wealthy™; and for an Astral mission begun in Hereford England it was also the most logical of nearby remote and unfrozen locations. But it still begged the question, why target a recreation vehicle?
"C'mon Finn, think," he chastised himself.
This had to make some sense. The target was remote and small, so that was a challenge. It was also moving, not just on the undulating sea but also back and forth. The pitch and roll of the craft made approach more difficult sure, and that sail made it positively dangerous...
Finn stopped and smiled. That mainsail was wagging back and forth with great force, from both the swell of the tidal action and the wind. If he didn't approach this properly he could be taken out quite effectively by nothing more than a simple textile and such a hit could knock him unconscious, which was very dangerous in a pitching sea.
Very good, Finn thought, a simple, yet elegant danger. He continued his glide, circling around the boat one last time before heading aft of it; which he decided was both the safest approach to those sails and the most covert to the craft. If that was how they wanted to play it then he'd see how well he could deliver.
Celeste Etoilelle's slender arm lazily slid behind her back. Her finger tips glided past her silk C-Strings, across the small of her back and up to the micro-clasp on her luxury Phendo™ top which, as her wrist twisted and her index finger made contact with the trigger, released its hold, letting the spaghetti straps of the top fall off her.
It wasn't necessary, the reason Phendo™ was "THE" suit to wear was because the material allowed for full tanning exposure even when fully dressed, but Celeste wasn't thinking about the tan lines, she wanted the hedonistic feeling of the light saline mist of ocean on her bare skin.
With her eyes still closed, protected by both full spectrum eye-shields, she smiled impishly and then reached to both sides of her C-String bottom and triggered their release as well. It took a little more effort to lift her hips up and pull the 30 square centimetres of material out from under her waist but the moment the cool breeze caressed her bare form she was glad she had.
It had been too long since she'd last indulged this way, she'd gone from one Vid-Pic to the next for most of this decade and such a punishing schedule had taken its toll on her. The worst part was the promotion end of it, Celeste was one of the few performers who still appeared in her films without character filters and they paid her top Geo because of it.
The downside was that she was one of the few faces still instantly recognized by a society more interconnected than any previous. Thankfully there was this haven. A remote self-piloted boat in the middle of the Atlantic. Bliss.
* * *
A sudden wind sheer pushed Finn into an unexpected dive, causing him to lose altitude. Quickly he triggered the Grav-Vest, reducing the drop speed back to metres per minute, rather than the metres per second rate he had just accelerated to.
It took a few moments for the webbing to release the wind from its aero-pockets and retract back into the seams of his Astral uniform; during that time the additional drag of the loose fluttering material risked prematurely draining his Grav-Cells while audibly giving away his position. Finn wasn't sure, but figured he was still too high up and off target for anyone below to notice.
It was a greater fear that someone would glance skyward at the wrong moment and see the dark figure glide past the perfectly clear sky. The human eye was drawn to motion and he was all that.
Finn slowed as he passed the starboard side of the yacht one last time. He almost missed seeing the figure on the deck, a form nearly the same colour tone as the craft. Finn nodded in appreciation, it was a very nice attempt at camouflage. No one else seemed to be present, and heat signatures for the craft were nil, save for that one body.
He continued aft deciding final approach would come nearly at sea level from the rear. He'd close in, slowing until he was very nearly on the boat and then, if he timed it right, he'd step onto the craft without a sound, as casually as one stepped off an escalator.
* * *
Celeste's mind wandered, drifted off to recent events, and she tensed as she remembered the fear she felt a week ago, facing off against that sadistic cretin in Las Vegas. Her nose crinkled at the memory of his stink while he was all over her. It had been hours, but it felt like days, and despite his assertions she hadn't enjoyed even a moment of it.
She recalled his bragging to her, how he'd managed to suppress her alarms, sneak past her guards and protective fields, and make it into her home. She remembered his boasts, the vile things he promised to do to her and how much worse the reality was. As she drifted between wake and sleep she remembered him too well, his brutish power and his limited sympathies.
She shuddered awake a moment, almost alarmed that it was still happening, but then remembered where she was, and how far from such things it made her.
* * *
Finn glided up towards the stern of the boat, approaching the ramp formed into the hull as one piece during construction. The name of the vessel, "Carte-Blanche" was splashed across the tail, under which were the port of origin and a registry number. On a hunch Finn optically entered the registry number into his system, just on the off chance that a match existed.
A moment later a series of pending articles began piling up on his sidebar, one on top of another. He paused, hoping his presence so close to this craft wouldn't be noticed while he opened those articles with the highest relevancy rating.
The boat was registered to Celeste Etoilelle. He had no idea who that was but apparently many others did. One article after another detailed her encounters with the media, the cost of her celebrity, her lack of privacy and most disturbingly her recent six-hour trauma in Las Vegas at the hands of someone the media had dubbed "Lothario Jones".
Finn blanched. The things this woman had been through recently would haunt her for years. He looked up and realized that the camouflaged form on the hull of the boat was in fact the same person he was reading about, and she wasn't camouflaged, so much as naked.
Surely his sudden arrival, out here, in what she would believe was a sanctuary, wouldn't just jeopardize the covert element of this exercise but her mental state as well.
In fact, Finn suddenly realized the incredibly huge public relations disaster, and anti-military backlash that could follow the "invasion" of this starlet's private craft by his person. But before he could decide what to do the starlet rolled over and began to sit up.
* * *