Friday, April 8, 2011

Keeping Secrets

“This may seem complex, but it is very simple.” Dae Yeong sat on the other side of a conference room table from Alex and Carbon, leaning over it as he slid them each two stacks of paperwork. Archaic, certainly, but still the most official. “Do not speak to anyone about anything you experienced in any fashion for the duration of your mission, without a signed order.”

“Oh, well, that shouldn’t be too hard. ‘So how was it?’ No comment.” Alex pulled the mountain of paperwork over to himself. At least a dozen folders, many of them finger thick, were stacked on top of a pile of pale blue paper with Tsla text peeking out at him. He’d see about getting a translator when he got down to those.

“I would recommend more tact, many people will never fully understand these circumstances and answers like that may put them off. But you are essentially correct.” He leaned back in his chair and looked between them. “If either of you have any questions, I will be available to you until you are done.”

Carbon shook her head and Alex shrugged as they started in on the forms.

It was basically what Dae indicated, but full of lawyer words that Alex had a tenuous grasp of. His eyes darted over to Carbon with a touch of envy. Her stack was shorter and the CPP had a personal AI waiting for her when they arrived, giving her near-instant access to any sort of reference material she needed. He got to ask questions.

The sheer volume of the forms was unsettling, but each seemed to cover a unique aspect of the mission and the things that went wrong. There was the original mission non-disclosure agreement and the extended non-disclosure agreement. Then there was the encounter with the Ehom, which included special agreements for being in control of a government vehicle when it sustains damage, using emergency equipment and using a government vehicle outside of normal operational parameters, among other things.

That didn’t even eat up half of the pile. The rest covered seeing, touching and boarding an unknown object, using unidentified technology and having an alien foreign object implanted. It was a strange mix of documents that hadn’t been altered in decades and a few that had been finished just days ago. It was only the second time in 60 years humanity had found abandoned technology, which had only been an old tkt settlement. There wasn’t a lot of precedence.

Alex took his time reading everything that had been put before him, even if it was slow going. It at least appeared that Carbon was doing the same. They took a break after an aide had delivered lunch, several hours into the day. By the time they had pushed through to the Tslao paperwork, they had been there for just over eight hours.

Dae locked the signed forms up into two different briefcases and handed them off to another aide, securing the door as she left. “Thank you for your patience with this. Many returning crews chafe at having to go over paperwork and there is usually much less to do.”

“I kind of expected it. Had a lot going on, you know?” Alex stood, stretched and leaned back against the table.

Dae shook his head. “Officially, I do not. So that you understand, Alex, that alone is almost too much information for you to give out.”

“Oh, yeah. This is going to take some getting used to.” He rubbed his eyes, which reminded him of how much his wrist hurt from all the writing.

Carbon pushed her chair away from the table and stood apart from both of them. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Yeong. If it is not troublesome, may I be shown to my room? It has been a very long week.”

“Of course, Shipmaster. Both of you have been given diplomatic quarters for the time being. It breaks with the decompression routine, but there is enhanced security and privacy up there.”

“That will do fine, thank you.” Carbon smiled faintly and gave him a shallow bow, little more than an incline of her head, some sort of formality. She’d done the same thing to Alex when they had first met, without the smile.

“I could stand to get some rest, myself.”

Dae nodded and lead them out to the elevators, waving his badge over the call pad for an express that bypassed the rest of the hotel that occupied the upper tower in the station. It was very well appointed, with wood accents and a thick carpet and not a hint of the blue-gray paint that seemed to cover most everything else on the station.

The floor they stopped at was more of the same, Dae showed them down a side corridor and dropped Alex off at his quarters before leading Carbon further down the hall.

The room felt strange. It was nicer than anywhere Alex had stayed before, just short of being what he would consider opulent. Lots of real wood, granite counters in the bathroom and a king sized bed. At least the package of clothing they had left for him on the dresser was just standard CPP issue station gear. He picked it up and headed for the bathroom.

Quarantine had bothered him a little, but that was still a very compact area. This was just... enormous. The bathroom alone was three times bigger than his cabin on the Kshlavo. There was elbow room when he changed his clothes.

Maybe it was better in the dark. He crawled into bed and tried to get comfortable. “Lights, off.”

He waited for several minutes. It didn’t get better. The room still felt empty and now it was dark, too. Maybe he could sleep in the closet. Fold up the comforter and make a little bed...

A knock at the door interrupted his descent. Alex wasn’t sure he had heard it until it happened again. Someone was actually knocking on the door, not using the call button on the lock.

He shuffled over towards the door controls in the dark and thumbed the button to activate the viewer. Only the top half of a head was visible, but it was clearly Carbon. Probably no one else on the station had blue-black fur and antennae, anyway. He hit the panel, squinting into the light of the hallway. “Hi.”

Carbon pushed him back into the room and closed the door behind her, resting her head against his chest and slipping her arms around his waist. “I have missed you, Alex.”

“I missed you too.”


  1. Ok, that was sweet. Also, for some reason I really like the description of the paperwork being a mix of old and newly written. Very realistic.

    Long notes will be along later.

  2. I'm really enjoying this series (I read all the other chapters last week). I agree with Platt on the paperwork, and the rarity of such encounters bit was a nice piece of background, which I expect we'll be seeing a good deal of now that they're no longer stranded, or in quarantine. I also liked the contrast of Alex's current quarters to those on the Kshlavo, and wanting to sleep in the closet. Solidly written chapter.

    Since you started this a few months ago, has anyone sent you fan art for it? You did a really good job describing Carbon, but it would still be fun to see her illustrated.

  3. @J.A. Platt: Thanks!

    @George: Glad you like it! As of yet, no one has done any fan art... or at least they've not told me about it. I suspect the former to be more accurate. Should probably just try to work something up myself...

  4. I'd be interested in giving it a shot (though don't expect too much). Want to give me more specifics or should I just base it off of the descriptions in the chapters?

  5. Shoot, if you want to, go ahead! I'd like to see what mental image you've got going based on what I've written in the story.

  6. I'm getting caught up :)

    One thing I noticed was that you used "diplomats quarters". Should it be "diplomat's" or "diplomatic"?

    I'm totally hooked now, and should be up to full speed within a few days.

  7. Probably should have been diplomat's but I think I might just go with diplomatic... as a matter of fact, I have!