Thursday, April 21, 2011

New Job

Alex woke up to several changes. Carbon was missing, the covers tossed back from where she had been. The shower was on, the rest of the suite partially lit by the bathroom light through the open door. Lastly, there was a chime going off, quiet and pleasant.

The first two fit together neatly. Alex had no idea what the chime was. He looked at the clock, just after six station time, but it wasn’t coming from there. He sat up and scanned the room. The door controls were pulsing slowly. Someone was waiting outside.

A little panic shot through him as he jumped out of bed. He retrieved his clothes from the floor and hastily dressed himself as he stumbled over to close the bathroom before turning to the front door. They had decided to keep things under wraps and he would be damned if they would blow it on the first morning. Having Dae show up at his quarters while she was taking a shower there was not his idea of feeling people out. He prepped a hasty and unconvincing lie - her shower was not functioning properly so she had to use his just this one time - as he toggled the viewer.

It was a younger guy, maybe twenty and wearing a shirt with the hotel logo on it standing next to a room service cart. Alex toggled the lock, stepping aside as he rolled the cart in and caught a glimpse of his name tag. Charles had a friendly sort of look about him, though he would disappear into a crowd with ease. He scanned the room and got a sly sort of a grin as he handed Alex a tablet with the bill. “Continental breakfast... for two. The extra towels you requested are on the lower shelf.”

“Ah, yeah. Thank you.” It was just breakfast for one, with a fruit bowl on the side. Alex scribbled his name across the line and tapped a few extra dC onto the bill for a tip, handing it back just as the shower shut off.

As Charles double checked the bill, the shower door opened and shut. Painfully slow, he nodded to himself and clasped the tablet in his hands behind his back and smiled broadly. “Oh, no sir, thank yo-”

Alex cut him off, eyes narrowing as he leaned in towards the young man. “Leave.”

That didn’t wipe the smile off his face, but he was surprised. Charles backed up a step before he turned and walked briskly out into the hallway. Alex hadn’t intended to be a jerk, but having things get out via a bellhop seemed to be the worst option.

He toggled the lock after the door closed, turning on his heel to the bathroom. His voice was sharper than he had intended, incredulous as he opened the bathroom. “You ordered breakfast?”

Carbon was already swathed in his robe, towel draped over her head as she patted her antennae dry. “Yes, there is an automated system. I also requested extra towels, to be delivered at 6:30.”

His eyes darted to the clock embedded in the bathroom mirror, only 6:11. “Huh. Well, they delivered early.”

Her head snapped up, eyes glinting under the edge of the towel. “Did they suspect anything?”

“I kicked him out when I heard the shower turn off. I’m sure he suspects something that I’d like to keep private is going on, but that could be any number of things...”

“Good. That is good.” She relaxed and went back to patting herself dry. “I had expected to be done well before it arrived, or I would have woken you up.”

“Just do that next time.”

Carbon pressed the towel into her face and worked her hands backwards, coming away much dryer. She smiled warmly at him, “I will.”

Alex smiled back and stepped out of the bathroom, leaving her to finish her grooming. There was food and it had been a day since he’d eaten. He poured himself a cup of coffee and perused the cart, pleased to see things he recognized. A croissant and fruit spread, boiled egg and... He picked up a slice of salami and smelled it. Floral and musky. People on Ki didn’t know anything about curing meat.

He ate it anyway, washing it down with a long drink of coffee when the door started to chime again. He grimaced, more from the coffee being instant than another visitor so soon. A few moments worth of work erased Carbon’s presence from the room and she gave him a dry smile as she closed the bathroom door.

Alex had expected Dae or the guy who delivered the room service again. What he got was someone he didn’t recognize, but definitely a Navy officer going by the service khakis. He couldn’t make out the rank insignia on the little viewer screen, but he was older, greying around the temples. Probably something higher up. This was a surprise.
He straightened up and hit the controls. “Hello.”

“Mr. Sorenson. Captain Gladwell.” The Captain stuck his hand out and flashed a smile that came off as amicable though very well practiced. “Good to see I didn’t miss you this morning.”

Alex had trouble believing someone from the military would have trouble finding his whereabouts while on station, but he didn’t mention that as he shook Gladwell’s hand. “No, you didn’t... Come on in.”

He stepped inside and waited for the door to close before continuing. “Thank you. I won’t trouble you for long, son, seeing as you’re in the middle of breakfast. Just need to drop your transfer papers off and say that I am very impressed with the artifact.”

“Transfer papers?” He bypassed the compliment entirely, taking the packet of documents that Gladwell offered him.

“You’re being transferred from the CPP to the Office of Naval Intelligence, Section 7.”

“But... I don’t want to be transferred. I like being a pilot.” Alex stared at the paperwork, which seemed to validate what the Captain had just said.

“I understand that, son. But as you are aware, the Navy operates the CPP and your civilian consultant contract allows us to change your assignment. Right now, everything being as it is, we need you in Section 7.”

“Don’t call me son. Why are you doing this?”

Captain Gladwell smiled again, much less amicable this time. “As you wish, Mr. Sorenson. To be frank, we need intel on the Tslao. You may have noticed the primer is threadbare and sometimes inaccurate.”

Alex did not like where this was going. “I had.”

“That is despite our best attempts at acquiring more information about them. Evidence suggests they have intentionally hidden their social structures from us in the past and the level of security awareness they posses at a civilian level is just short of remarkable. This all in addition to their distinct lack of trust in outsiders. This puts us a disadvantage.”

“And?”

“According to the Kshlavo’s internal sensor logs, we believe you are the first human to be wholly accepted by any Tslao.” He paused and sized Alex up before continuing. “Any information you could acquire would be of immense help, not only to the Navy but the entire Confederation.”

Alex spoke very slowly. “I don’t think I want to be involved with this... I just want to be a pilot.”

Gladwell looked less than impressed with that, all the geniality gone now. “I’m sure you don’t. You may terminate your contract at any time, Mr. Sorenson, and you will be transferred back to Earth immediately. I would strongly recommend coming down to our office and speaking with Rear Admiral Argueta before making a decision like that. She can lay the situation out much clearer than I can. Good day, sir.”

2 comments:

  1. I sent my notes on. All I have to add is... I wonder how much of this Carbon heard through the door.

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  2. Another great chapter. I honestly don't have any real feedback except that the balance between hiding their relationship and not worrying about it seems a little off to me. Was Alex unaware of the sensor logs, or simply unaware of how revealing they were? Is breakfast for two for a single person not considered suspicious by Tslao standards?

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