Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blood on the Stars - Part 1: Secrets & Lies - CH. 5 (1)

It was over a week before any of them had a chance to do anything about looking into the possible aliens under the Mantou Islands. Duke walked into Hans’ office just a little before quitting time. He spoke more loudly than was necessary. “I wanted to talk to you about our new hire, Honora. She’s doing pretty good and I was thinking maybe it was time to raise her to junior pilot status.”

Hans rolled his eyes and directed his attention to the computer. “Alice, please inform pilot trainee Honora Li-Macklin to come to the office please.”
“Yes, sir” replied she replied. It was only a few moments before Honora stood at the door of Hans’ office only slightly out of breath.

“Please come in and shut the door behind you.” Hans’ waited patiently for her to do as he had asked as soon as the door was closed before he continued on as if everything were normal. “We called you in here today because Duke believes that you have progressed far enough to be promoted to junior pilot now. I’ve reviewed your test scores and I have to say that I concur with his assessment. You are now being promoted to junior pilot status. Congratulations.”
“Thank you, sir.” Honora smiled politely.

“Please stop recording this conversation Alice. This is will now be private conversation.” Hans waited until the computer indicated on the display that it had done so. “Okay, Duke, what gives?”
“Well she really does deserve the promotion, Honey is doing great and has been certified on most of the craft that we fly out of here, but more importantly, I’ve made contact with some of the people I know and they think they can get the equipment we need.” Duke took the seat across from Hans and relaxed a bit.
“Okay, but I’m still not comfortable dealing with the sect of the society. I can’t help but be reminded of everything I’ve told despite what you keep saying.” Hans tapped his fingers on the desk.

“I get that, but I assure you that it’ll be okay. These people that I know, well, let’s just say I’ve known them a very long time and they are not the kind of people you think they are. Trust me.” Duke pulled a notepad from his pocket and brought up the information he was looking for. He transferred it to the main display so that everyone could see it as well. “This is what my contact says he can get his hands on.”
“That’s military grade. How can he get his hands on that? It’s closely monitored. No one should be able to get that outside of the Armed Forces.” Hans couldn’t believe what he was seeing. This was the exact item that he could only dream of getting his hands on earlier and now he was being told that it was going to be his to use.

“I know. Which means it’s not going to come cheap. Three of these are setting us back a pretty penny. I haven’t said yes yet, but he needs an answer quickly. Things like this will not stay on the market for long. He owes me a favour which is why I get first shot, but the price is not going to be negotiable.” Duke looked at the floor.
“How much?” Hans sighed. It had to be expensive or Duke wouldn’t be hesitating the way he was right now. He wasn’t the type of person to beat around the bush.

“One million creds.” Duke said, his voice cracking slightly as he said it.
“For all three?” Hans was relieved, he had expected it to be more than that.

“No, each.” Duke frowned and looked up at Hans. “I’m not sure how we’re doing to be able to afford that.”
Hans smiled and leaned back in his chair tapping his fingers together. “I actually think we might be able to negotiate with your contact. Three million is good, we can do that if your person will play ball.”

Both Duke and Honora looked at him as if he had lost all of his marbles. Hans just waited for a few moments and when neither of them spoke he decided to break the tension himself. “Look, we may not have the cash, but we have something better. We can offer him a trade.”
“Trade him what? I don’t think any of us have anything worth even close to that amount to give him besides those alien artefacts and I don’t think he’s going to have any interest in alien artefacts – proven or not.” Duke burrowed his brow as he racked his brain for any sort of clue of what Hans was talking about.

Hans laughed. “Of course none of us do. I’d be surprised if we did, but we do have access to something worth a lot more. Maybe some sort of interstellar craft that needs to be decommissioned?”
Duke moved his mouth as if he was trying to say something, but no words came out. Honora grinned at as she said the one thing that both of them were thinking. “That is brilliant, but how are you going to manage that?”

Hans shrugged. “Same way I managed to doctor up the files for your trip back here. I’m pretty good at altering files and it won’t take much to get a craft to be decommissioned and destroyed on our records. In fact,” Hans tapped a few keys and brought up a report for one of the interstellar craft that was in their system. “We have this little beauty that needs to be decommissioned according to company policy.”
“That really is brilliant. That ship is in perfect working condition and is worth far more than three million on the black market. He’d be a fool to turn something like that down.”  Duke shook his head in disbelief. “I swear you will never stop surprising me Hans.”

“And I keep telling you that I often surprise myself. I would never have imagined that I’d be doing this one day. You know what happens to us if we’re ever caught?” Hans glanced at them both as they nodded gravely. Every citizen new the cost of dealing with the black market and it would be an even steeper punishment for selling controlled items like what they were planning to do.
“Okay, Duke? Set up a meeting with your contact and we’ll see if he’ll deal with us. I can doctor up the files to take care of the ship in the system so no one needs to worry about that. It’ll be untraceable on this end. I can get the registry changed and everything. It won’t come back on us. I can assure you of that.” Hans did his best to make them believe him, but he could still see the doubt in their eyes. Still, they had no other choice because there was no way they would be able to come up with enough money to pay for the items that they needed.

“Yeah, I’ll see if he’ll deal, but for an interstellar ship I’m sure he’d jump through hoops for us. Is there anything else you think we might be needing; maybe some sort of back up plan if things go wrong?” Duke still didn’t sound convinced, but he wasn’t about to back out now.
“I don’t think so, but I haven’t exactly planned for all contingencies here. This isn’t something any of us are prepared to deal with. For all I know we are planning to walk right into our deaths.” Hans shrugged. “Let’s be bluntly honest here. We might never come out of those tunnels and no one will ever know what happened to any of us.”

“We know that Hans. I don’t think any of us are wearing blinders here.” Honora smiled weakly. “Besides, none of us really have anything to lose.”
None of them had anything to say to that and with nothing else to say, Honora and Duke gave Hans a respectful nod before leaving the office. Hans made a few notes on his personal notepad before doing anything else.

“Alice?” he asked as he brought the display over to face him. “Please bring up the forms for decommissioning a ship.”
“Yes, sir.” She brought the forms of quickly. “May I say, sir, that even though that conversation was not recorded I was still listening and what you suggested is highly illegal.”

Hans didn’t know it was possible for a computer to be worried, but he couldn’t deny that she definitely sounded nervous. “I’m aware of that, but it was private conversation Alice. There will be no record of that conversation ever happening, correct?”
“Of course not, sir.” Alice sounded a little miffed and Hans shook his head. She was just a computer. She couldn’t have feelings. It was one of the reasons that he normally chose not to name his systems. Once you personified them by choosing a name it became easy to attribute emotions to what was nothing more than a fancy circuit board.

“Good. Please do not speak to anyone else of the conversation that you listened to. In fact, I would prefer if you wiped it from your memory bank s altogether. Is that possible?” Hans was busy filling out the form as he spoke.
“I wish you wouldn’t ask that of me, sir, but if that is what you request I could delete it; however, such private conversations are safe all but the most official inquiries.” Alice said.

“Then delete it from your memory banks. I would prefer that you met all official inquiries with ignorance about this as opposed to knowledge. We are talking about a highly illegal matter here. The penalty for trading in the black market is steep. Please, delete all knowledge of it.”  Hans requested as politely as he could.
“Information has been deleted.” Alice confirmed.

“Thank you Alice. Please file the following reports with the company. We are decommissioning the Junebug of as of today and ordering a interstellar craft for in system usage.” Hans stretched and yawned. It had been a long day.
“Reports have been filed, sir. Anything else for the day?” Alice asked with her customary politeness.

“No thank you Alice. I’m going to go home now. Good night.” Hans grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and headed for the door.

“Good night, sir.” Alice said softly as she turned down the lights in the office and began to power done all unnecessary systems. Hans just shook his head and chastised himself for treating Alice as if she was a real person. Sometimes his reliance on machines bothered him, but most of the time he just took it for granted.

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