Friday, May 13, 2011

Widening Gyre

Edwin Brzezinski was a big man. Tall, burly and bald, he looked like he might have traveled with a circus at one point as a strong man, lifting impossible weights and bending iron bars. He made Alex seem slight and simply eclipsed Carbon.

He was also a pretty nice guy. Alex knew this first hand, Ed had been his trainer. He was one of the best in the Program and probably one of the most respected personnel on the station. He had been doing this for a long time and loved his work.

But right now, Ed was confused and a little bit surprised. He stood there, holding a crisp white button down shirt, wearing an expression that said he did not know why this little alien thought she knew him or why she was speaking english. His eyes traveled down to Carbon’s badge, lingering there for a long second before a glimmer of recognition lit them up. Ed was good with names.

The pleasant smile that graced Carbon’s short muzzle melted away, her face registering something just short of horror for a moment. She regained composure before he looked back up, a faint smile returning. She still shrank away from Ed as she did this, ears and antennae pressed down as she took a step back and leaned against Alex.

Alex registered that to mean Carbon did not actually know Ed in person, but was recalling his memories. His brain spun, trying come up with a cover story that made sense to him, let alone Ed or anyone else. The little ONI shield on his badge was not making him a better spy. Maybe he should buy some time. “Oh, hey Ed, hows it going?”

The words came out too fast, too loud. Ed looked up and the confusion that was leaving his face came back instantly. “Alex?”

Alex nodded and laughed, breaking out a smile that was more nervous than he would have liked. “Yep!”

He still looked confused and Alex knew that he did not like being confused. Ed would just keep asking questions until he was satisfied he understood what was going on. “Shouldn’t you still be out in the deep?”

“Yeah. There was... Uh, we ran into some-” He stopped himself and blanched. “I don’t think I can talk about it.”

Ed looked skeptical about that but tipped his head in assent, the confusion gone for now. “Nobody told me you’d been brought back in, you should have stopped by Training and said hello.”

“Yeah, things have been kind of hectic since I got back. Lots of people want a lot of stuff, had a job transfer and all that.” He rubbed his neck and shrugged, feeling guilty about not looking Ed up before now.

“Ah, I see ONI got you. Let me guess, Section 7?”

“Yeah. They do that a lot?”

“Often enough. Makes me want to ask you a whole load of questions I know you can’t answer, so I won’t.” He nodded over at Carbon, who had quietly shuffled out from between them and stood next to the belts, looking as casual as she could. “You ever going to introduce me?”

“Thanks. Ed, this is Shipmaster Tshalan... Shipmaster, Ed.” Alex didn’t think Ed thought anything was up... or he was just doing a good job of hiding it.

Ed stuck his hand out at Carbon with an easy smile, affable as he’d always been. “I’m sorry we didn’t meet when they launched the Kshlavo, I had been called away on a family matter. I assume Alex has spoken well of me?”

Carbon’s hand disappeared into his and she smiled back. “Please, call me Carbon. He always spoke very well of you and in great detail.”

He laughed. “As you wish. Well, can’t say I was expecting to see either of you today... You guys want to grab dinner? Even if we can’t catch up on what you’ve been doing, I love to hear myself talk.”

There was a moment of silence before Alex and Carbon both started to answer at the same time. Carbon managed to start first. “Oh, I do not-”

Alex was much more enthusiastic as he unintentionally cut her off. “That’d be great! Where are you thinking?”

“The usual, Noonan’s. Unless there’s somewhere else you’ve been wanting to go?”

He was dimly aware of the wide-eyed stare from Carbon that seemed to say she did not approve of being interrupted or the idea of having dinner out. “No, that sounds perfect.”

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