Thursday, January 2, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 2 (1)

Hans took his time looking up the information that he wanted. He doubted that anyone would notice the queries he was making, but he preferred to be careful. He still wasn’t sure of what he had found, but if he was right, it would pay for him to cautious.
Everything he found pointed him towards one possible conclusion and he couldn’t wait for a chance to head over to those islands to see what he could find. It would take more than just a weekend to go through an unmapped cavern system he’d need a lot more time to make it worthwhile. And more information.
He did his best to keep it at the back of his mind as the weeks wore on. Work, since the incident, had been going more smoothly now that Duke had at least a little respect for him. Hans couldn’t wait for his vacation time to start in just a week so he could start exploring the Mantou Islands. It was almost all he could think about now.

“Phone call, sir.” Alice interrupted his thoughts.
“Who is it?” Hans had been just about ready to pack up and leave for the night. It was unusual for anyone to be calling him at this time.
“It’s a Major Ken Hu.”
“Put it through.” Hans sat up a little straighter in his seat as an image appeared before him.
“Hans! Long-time not talk old friend. How is civilian life treating you?” Ken smiled brightly at him.
“Hey Ken. It’s day after day of the same old stuff. Just less saluting.” Hans smirked. “How is life on your side of the galaxy?”
“Ah, you know. It’s the same as it always was.” Ken shrugged. “Some things just don’t ever change.”

“So what do I own this wonderful little phone call to?” Hans smiled, but inside he was starting to get a little suspicious. He had lost touch with most of his friends in the Armed Forces when he had left. A few still called once in a while, but not Ken and none ever called him at the office.
“Just wanted to catch and see what you were up to. Heard you were on that new planet, Cantun. It’s got some really interesting geography doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, it makes piloting around here a little special sometimes, but I really haven’t had time to do much besides work out here.” Hans smiled and tried his best to be evasive. It was clear now that he hadn’t been circumspect enough in his queries.
“I bet, but I hear there’s some interesting caverns and such. Looking to pick up that old spelunking hobby of yours?”

“I wish,” Hans laughed. “But you know how things can be my business. I’ve got this centre to manage and as the planet grows I’ll be in charge of all addition centres we open here as well. It would be nice to have time for hobbies again.”
“I bet. Well, I ought to go now it’s getting late over here, but I just wanted to touch base with you. It’s been a long time.”

“Appreciated. Don’t be such a stranger, Ken.” Hans held his smile until Ken’s face vanished from the display. He hated being so suspicious about everything, but it was too much of a coincidence for him to take it lightly. He briefly thought about stepping up his plans, but decided against it. There was no need to hurry, not yet at least.


“Hans, can I talk for a minute?” Duke stood in the doorway to his office looking as unimpressed with everything as usual.

“Yeah, what’s up?” Hans closed the display of reports that he was working on quite gladly.

Duke stepped into the office and closed the door behind him. “I was just wondering about this flight plan that you filed.”

“What about it?” Hans leaned back in his chair and motioned for Duke to take a seat.

“Well, it goes kind of close to the Mantou Islands, doesn’t it?” Duke continued to stand, ignoring the offered chair.

“Just trying to get a better feeling of this planet since I’m going to be calling it home for the foreseeable future. Besides, the plan keeps me out of the hot zone. I’m a good pilot. Anything else?” Hans smiled politely, but the last thing he wanted was for anyone to questioning his flight plan, not after the call from Ken a few weeks previous.

“Just a little concerned is all. These machines are my responsibility and boss or not, I’m not going to let you take one into a no fly zone. It’s not exactly against the rules to take one for personal use, but it’s not exactly smiled upon either. So, just concerned is all.”

“Don’t worry Duke. You ought to know that I’ll take good care of it.” Hans pushed the annoyance to the back of his mind and kept his voice even. “I do appreciate your concern though.”

“Huh.” Duke crossed his arms and leaned back against the door. “You know, I’m thinking there’s more to this vacation than you’re saying.”

“It’s just a vacation.” Hans frowned. “I’m not sure what business it is of yours where I decided to go on my vacation, Duke.”

“Sure, boss.” Duke shrugged, turned and opened the door to leave. He stopped for a moment just outside the door and looked back. “You’re going to those islands aren’t you?”

“Have a good afternoon Duke.” Hans brought the display of reports back in front of him again so that Duke was partially obscured by the translucent display. He waited until the door closed before pushing the display aside again.

He pressed his fingers together and stared at the door. He couldn’t help but wonder at what Duke was thinking or what conclusions he had already come to. Hans was sure that he couldn’t know the truth, but it was still a small cause for concern. Either way, he was leaving tomorrow to explore those islands on his own.

Hans brought the display back in front of him and tried to focus on the work in front of him. He wanted as much cleared off his desk as possible before going away for a week. The thought of coming back to mountains of work was not one he enjoyed. For that reason alone, he needed to focus on getting his job done today and nothing else.

It felt like the slowest day he had ever experienced. Every now and again, when he left his office, he noticed the occasional sideways glance from Duke that he did his best to ignore. Business as usual became his mental mantra until it was time for him to leave. He couldn’t wait to get home and get packed up for the trip.

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