Joseph MacGuire kicked his feet onto the desk he and Jack Sloan shared and cleaned the dirt from his fingernails with a Mag-Cutter.
“Not sure why you’re so creeped out by this place, Jackie. It ain’t that much different from our 90th floor office at Genudine, the only difference is that the rats here ain’t wearing suits. ”
Joseph and Jack had worked as a team for Genudine’s corporate security department for years. Joseph’s charisma and ruthless nature helped him excel at his executive level position, while Jack’s technical knowledge and paranoia worked just as well for him.
“Don’t forget we weren’t crammed behind pallets of building supplies in a storage ship warehouse back home either,” Jack smirked, struggling to push rounds into his Repeater’s magazine. “You’d think they’d make these damn things easier to load after all the revisions they’ve done on them.”
“Still don’t know why you need three rounds a pull to shoot vermin. Afraid he’s gonna dodge?” Joseph teased.
“Where’s this informant of yours at, anyway?” Jack said, ignoring his coworker’s quip.
“Should be here soon. She kept repeating how valuable this data of hers was supposed to be for the N.C. Said it would absolve us of any blame,” Joseph said. He wiped his Mag-Cutter clean and stuck it in the table. “All she asked for in exchange was food and protection.”
“Absolve us of what? The T.R. military has swept every civilian ship half a dozen times in the past four days,” Jack said, pulling the slide on his Repeater. “Whatever evidence they’re looking for blew up on Discovery-7.”
Joseph saw a blonde, fair-skinned woman looking around nervously in one of the glowing monitors propped up on his desk. “Looks like that’s her,” he stated, turning to Jack. “Put that thing away, Jackie. Last thing a girl needs to see in a dark warehouse is your scrawny ass drawing a bead on rodents.”
Jack watched Joseph get up and open the door on the other side of the pallets, greeting the woman and leading her in to their makeshift office.
“Have a seat, Krysia,” he smiled.
“Mr. MacGuire, no?” she asked.
“Please, call me Joey,” he grinned at the beautiful woman. “So, what did you bring me today?” Joseph inquired, kicking his feet back onto the desk. Jack rolled his eyes while staring at his monitors, knowing that this would be another agonizing hour of listening to Joseph’s flirty act.
“Mr. MacGuire,” she said, ignoring his charm. “There’s something rotten at the core of this mission. I’ve got a disc showing the beginnings of a major scandal involving the Lieutenant Commander,” she declared.
“Waterson?” Joseph laughed. “What’s a pretty thing like you be doing with that dejected sad sack?”
Krysia fumbled through her bag and pulled a holodisc out. “He was my boss. I’ve been recording him on and off for months to try and get proof of some of his advances, but this I ended up with this about a week ago. I took a few things from his office’s gun safe for protection and I’ve been in hiding since. They’re looking for me, Mr. MacGuire,” she said, handing the thin blue disc to Joseph.
Joseph fumbled under the desk to search for his holoplayer amongst the various wires and electronics. As he popped in the disc, the form of Lt. Commander Waterson sitting at a dimly lit desk slowly flickered to life.
Lieutenant Commander Brent Waterson clicked on his comm, silencing the intermittent beeping that had interrupted his train of thought. A long day spent in a series of heated impromptu meetings with three other senior officers of the fleet left him with little focus and even less energy.
“Mr. Waterson?” the voice sheepishly questioned.
“Yes, Krysia?” he asked.
“Councilman Miller is here to see you.”
“Great, show him in,” he responded.
Miller was lead into the Lieutenant Commander’s office, a converted no-frills bedroom on Discovery-2. A disheveled Waterson greeted the councilman with a yawn and a handshake.
“What’s going on, Brent? It’s getting a little late for meetings,” Miller yawned.
“Sit down, Adam. We need to talk about this increasingly dire situation,” Waterson said. He filled a mug with from the carafe on his desk and sipped it.
“This couldn’t wait until tomorrow? You’ve made your concerns about food production and housing space perfectly clear.”
“This isn’t about food or housing, Adam. It’s about Connery.”
“Connery? What happened?”
The Lieutenant Commander paused and leaned forward onto his desk. “Nothing happened to him, Adam. I’m concerned with the way things are going with the fleet. We’ll all be dead in two years time, and it’s going to be because of Tom.”
“Two years? What the hell are you on about, Brent? He’s the only thing holding the morale of this fleet together.”
“Morale? There’s a crime epidemic that’s been spreading over the fleet for months. Nobody has any confidence in this mission anymore. We left our desire to finish this journey together on the other side of that wormhole.”
“You’ve seen the statistics, Lieutenant. Unrest throughout the fleet is high, but it’s only a small fraction of the population responsible for the problems we’ve experienced over the past few months. It’s hardly a damn epidemic.”
“The majority of that ‘small fraction’ we’ve been throwing into Explorer-5’s jail have connections to that New Conglomerate group. Connery’s letting Mattherson’s mercenaries run amok on the fleet, and all he needs to do is tighten the Republic’s grip on the people. Instead, he’s giving them the velvet glove treatment. There were half a dozen casualties in that housing ship just last week. What happens when your daughter ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time? The N.C. is going to tear this fleet apart.”
“What exactly are you proposing Connery needs to do, Brent?”
Waterson perked up and smiled. “Pull his head out of his ass, for starters,” he barked. “Hell, this conversation wouldn’t be taking place had he enacted martial law back in October as soon as we left the Solar system. We need a fleet-wide curfew; we need to prevent them from assembling. Instead, Connery considers the freedoms of the people are worth more than their lives. Civilians are still in possession of whatever firearms they decided to bring along with them two years ago,” Waterson ranted. “We should’ve disarmed them before this mission even started.”
The Lieutenant Commander paused and stared into the mug as he swirled the coffee around. “Ideally, what Connery needs to do,” he continued, “is step down as the commander of this mission. Let someone with a pair run the show.”
“The man ran a government that took care of forty-three billion people; he can handle the forty thousand in the fleet. You’re insane to think he’s going to step down,” Miller said. “Even more so if you think the people would even consider voting the man out to allow some hard-ass to enact your neurotic, heavy handed restrictions.”
“These restrictions are the only things that are going to keep this fleet alive long enough to find a planet we can live on, Miller.”
“Lieutenant, I’m not certain what you’re expecting to accomplish by bringing this up to me alone. Hell, you could’ve saved your breath for next week’s council meeting when they shoot down your oppressive measures like any sane person would do. I’m done with this ridiculous meeting, Waterson,” Miller said. He shook his head and turned around, walking towards the closed door.
“I wouldn’t walk through that door if you value your family’s lives, Adam. You should sit down,” Waterson threatened.
The councilman froze mid-step. “Excuse me?”
“It’d be an awful shame your Jenny is at the wrong place at the wrong time. I can’t exactly promise that the local authorities could continue to keep your family safe, what with being spread so thin lately. I’ve spoken to far more than just you about this matter, Adam, and the final step before I can begin to put this plan into action is your cooperation. Everything else is already in place, and all we need now is another beloved figurehead. When the time comes, of course.”
Miller stood facing the door and turned around to the grinning Lieutenant Commander, knowing his hands were tied. “Another? You’re sickening, Brent. How do you call yourself T.R.?”
“Because no one will ever find out, Adam. Who would question us if we pinned it on some of Mattherson’s starving N.C. cronies? We’re calling the shots here, remember? I trust that you’ll comply, given the terms of our agreement, correct?” Waterson said, grinning at his victory.
Jack paused the holovid and looked at the frozen image of Waterson grinning in shock. “You think it’s real?”
“I’d say so, Jackie. This needs to get to command before someone offs Old Man Connery. I just can’t tell if Waterson truly believes it or just thinks Connery is hogging the limelight,” Joseph said. He began to stand up.
“It’s good then, no? I’ll be compensated and protected for this? Secure room, food?”
Joseph paused, sat back down and smiled at her. “We haven’t ironed anything out yet, Krysia. I can assure you that you’ll be compensated well when this is all finished.”
“Waterson is hunting me down, Mr. MacGuire. I can’t just go back home and wait for you to talk to Connery.”
“Unfortunately, we’re completely removed from anything related to your compensation as part of N.C. policy to prevent misuse of our already stretched supplies. We’ll have one of the lawyers on Discovery-9 write up a contract in a few days after we can verify the authenticity of this holovid.“
Krysia stood up and leaned over their desk as any trace of patience disappeared from her demeanor. “You assured me I would be taken care of, Mr. MacGuire. I can’t just sit around at home anymore waiting for your lawyers to cut through red tape.”
“I’m sure we can expedite the process, Krysia. We can have this taken care of tomorrow morning, easily,” Joseph assured her.
Krysia pulled the Mag-Cutter out of his desk and leaned in further, pointing it at his throat. “I’ll be as good as dead the second I step onto Discovery-2. I’m not going back.”
Joseph slowly pushed his chair backwards. “Hey, hey, let’s take a step back here, ma’am. We can-“
He flinched as his words were cut short by three rapid deafening bangs. When he opened his eyes, he only caught a brief glimpse of blonde hair sliding along the table before disappearing. He turned to see Jack, shaking violently and holding a Repeater.
“The hell is wrong with you, Jackie? I had it under control!” Joseph shouted.
“She had a Mag to your throat, Joey. You wanted me to wait for her to turn the thing on?”
Joseph slid over the desk to find the woman on her side. “Ma’am? Can you hear me?” he asked, leaning in closer. He shook her shoulder briskly to no response. He stood up and turned to his panicked friend. “She’s bleeding out.”
“What the hell do we do with her?”
“We? You’re going to figure out the closest airlock and get rid of her. This ain’t on my hands.”
Their argument was interrupted by rustling behind them. Joseph turned around to see Krysia’s bloodied grin as a grenade rolled into his boot.