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The Architects: The Illusion of Death – Part 1, CH 3

The executive crew of the Anna Karenina gathered in a meeting room. Sirius kept to the wall, letting himself blend in and maintain a semblance of anonymity while the captain, a stocky Earth-man with greying hair, began to explain the reason for their meeting.

“As of yesterday, we received a notice from Mars HQ that our sister ship, the supply ship Karamazov, has gone missing. Our orders were to go to their last known location with all due speed and determine if the Karamazov needed repairs. An unfortunate loss of pressure on one of our decks has slowed this progress, but I just received the go-ahead to make the final portion of our journey. Officers will need to prepare the decks for flight at a planned full G, but first, I want to impress on you all the importance of our mission. We are flying into an unknown situation and the Karamazov may be in danger. I want all of you to be prepared for the worst and while underway re-review the protocols for both combat and rescue operations. Shit might get rough, you’re dismissed”, The captain waved everyone out of the meeting room. Sirius followed his crew mates out, only to be stopped by the first mate before he could leave.

“The captain and I want a quick word with you before you leave”, he said. There was something about the man’s face shape that always gave off the impression that he saw himself as better than everyone else. That, and his behavior too.

“Oh, shit, am I getting cut? It wasn’t my fault that-”, Sirius cut off as the first mate gave him a look that encouraged him to shut up.

“Just listen to what we have to say”, the first mate explained, then looked at the captain expectantly. The captain took a moment, then began to explain.

“Listen, technician, you’re new to these decks, so you probably haven’t been sucked into the ‘office politics’ of the upstairs yet. Your work profile seems to agree on that point as well”, the man paused. “Actually, outside of Chief Welder Smith, your boss, you don’t really seem to see much of anyone consistently, do you?”

“Could you get to the point, sir? I appreciate the check-in, but I doubt my social life matters that much to you”, Sirius answered. I wonder where this line of questioning is supposed to lead?

He couldn’t remember the last time that anyone he’d worked for had pulled him aside for any kind of face-to-face conversation. Is this a bad sign? Or a good one? He asked himself.

“The point, technician, is that I’ve been hearing some people on this ship expressing some rumors that the Karamazov’s loss of contact was an inside job. A product of mutiny. And perhaps, these same people are getting some dangerous ideas. It could be, that as soon as we find the Karamazov these two groups might join and forge a larger rebellion. You know how it goes, just as well as I do”.

Sirius nodded. Mutiny was becoming increasingly more common. Earth-Mars tensions were increasing which was starting to cause a lot of dysfunction on ships with more diverse crews. Like the Anna Karenina, there were thousands of ships run by a small handful of Earthers outnumbered by the rest of the crew coming from the Jovian planets or Mars. Combine that with long travel times, overlong workdays, and relative isolation from the rest of the world, a series of small feuds could build up into full-scale rebellion and violence before the ship hit its next port.

“Now, my interest in your so-called social life was twofold. First, to determine if you might be one of them, and second, to see if I can trust you”.

Sirius laughed at the thought of the captain trusting him for anything beyond the barest minimums of his job description but the man’s expression betrayed no trace of humor. The First mate glared in response to his sudden outburst and he realized that they were being serious.

“Why do you need me? You’ve got a shipful of other officers more trustworthy than me”, Sirius explained, “Why aren’t you asking one of them?”

“I was assigned to this ship because the last guy quit at the last minute. Almost all of our current set of officers have stronger loyalty to the previous captain than to me. It doesn’t help that I’m from Earth – from what I understand most of the crew have a problem with that”.

“You read my file; you know how I ended up here” Sirius argued.

He wasn’t quite sure what he was arguing against. More work probably. Either way, it felt good to argue. Whatever it was the captain was talking about, he didn’t want to be involved.

“What makes you think that I don’t also hate you for being from Earth? I grew up as a Program kid, barely had time to learn how to walk before I was shipped off to work on a mining station for the benefit of rich Earthers. Doesn’t give me much incentive to be good friends or take a bullet for you, if that’s what you’re asking”, Sirius asserted.

“Which is exactly why I’m asking. If the crew turns, it’s gonna be useful to have a man on the inside. You would be the least expected, given your history. And with your job designations, you have access to the most tactically important decks: the engineering decks and the executive decks. Basically, if the ship was locked down due to mutinous action, you’re probably the only person who can move freely between them without being questioned”.

Sirius considered it. The man was right on every single point so far.

“I have a feeling”, he started, “that it wasn’t just pure chance then, that I got those jobs. How long ago has this been planned?”

“Since I got on this ship. I make it a practice these days of having a contingency for that sort of thing. Did my research, and your name popped up as the best possible candidate for the sort of project I’m suggesting”.

“I respect you enough that I won’t tell anyone you’re shopping for moles but that’s as far as my respect goes. I don’t really want this job bad enough to say yes to being your informant. I don’t mind taking my leaving papers right now if that’s what’s at risk”.

“It is what it is”, the captain shrugged using his hands to exaggerate the movement, “Just a shame though, I understand your prosthetic is in need of replacements. I just happened across one with full tactile sensation, the latest processors, and all the extras a guy could want. I suppose I could find someone to sell it to instead…”

Sirius was torn. On one hand, he really didn’t like the proposed assignment, made him feel like a snitch. And on the other hand – well – he couldn’t feel his other hand, thanks to his rusty piece-of-shit prosthetic. He did the math in his head, it would have ordinarily taken him another year of working to earn enough to repair the current arm, twice that to replace it with the lowest-end model. The captain had a convincing argument.

“Fine. I’ll take the job, but I’m not about to take any bullets for anyone”, he conceded.

Sirius hoped he wouldn’t have to make good on it anytime soon. With any luck, his contract would run out in a month or so and nothing would happen between now and then. There were plenty of other legitimate jobs that didn’t require a background check.

“Heard”, the captain acknowledged, “Wait for my orders, they’ll come through the first mate instead of me, would hate to blow your cover so soon. If anyone asks why I kept you, make some excuse. Dismissed”.

As Sirius strapped in for the next leg of the trip, he took some time to go over the captain’s request in his mind. The captain must have felt really threatened if he needed to ask a random tech for backup. If he’s right, how many officers does he think are corrupt? And…What the hell am I going to do about it?!

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Horror, Sci Fi