By Kenneth Shumaker
Episode 002, ‘Black Cat Circle’
Challenge: issue 112
Words: Black Cat Circle
- Lee ann
- High Prairie, Alberta
Our story takes place in Kenneth Shumaker’s 5th Galaxy science fiction realm of the Toran sector with the crew of the starship, Star Grean. Her captain is the enigmatic and sly thirty-six-year-old veran human male, Levan, who is default owner of Flind Exploration Corporation. Levan lives in a society that is dominated by females, ran by corporate political organisations, and obeys the female ran Venkaer religious institution. This is a society where no male is given the opportunity to command or own property. Yet, we find Levan to be Captain of the Star Grean and her crew, even with a Venkaer’s 3rd Purist on board.
In the previous episode 001 on 216:03:19:19:55
Pilot Levan of the Humar Empire received terrible news, and he had to make a choice. His maternal grandmother died in an inter-corporation takeover duel, where both combatants died – bad news for both corporations and families. The news was given to Levan by the corporation’s lawyer at five minutes to midnight, telling Levan that he has no options for taking the Ulmora Corporation seat on as head, he has to give it up. On the bright side, Levan has inherited a ship, the Star Grean. Now, he’s looking for crewmembers for his new ship.
We now continue in episode 002 at 216:03:21:09:31
Looking at Frena, Levan holds his tongue trying not berate her for talking down to him. Levan arrived at 21:09:22, plenty of time before he planned on opening the office to meet with his new crew. He found Frena impatiently waiting for him at the door, and she cut him a new arse with words that are not polite to repeat.
Instead, Levan says, “3rd Purist Frena, I did say that I would meet here at the office with the crew at 03:21:10:00. It is now, by my chroncrom, 03:21:09:31, well before the designated time. May I suggest I make some java for you while you relax and resort your thoughts for this afternoon?”
It is evident to Levan that Frena hasn’t had a male stand up to her before, as she stands and stares at him with her mouth slightly open and water-blue eyes slightly wider than normal. She flutters her hands a bit and answers Levan, “I like my java black … and steaming hot, dark roasted … fine grind blend.”
Levan bows and replies, “I’ll see if we have any … Please, I think the seats look comfortable by the desk.” He feels a slight pang of guilt for putting her in a lower place, but this is his office and corporation, and they will be flying on his ship. She needs to be aware that he rules in these areas. When they are out in society, he doesn’t rule. But here and on his ship, she is a subordinate, not him.
Levan finds the java machine in the second small room with the plastacine publication room and radio-vid communications center. There is also an interstellar radio-video communication console along with a class three master computer coordination server console with class four security protocol center for the server, office, and business. ‘Damn the gods, if I want to keep all this, I need a female figurehead for the business. I don’t have anyone I trust. But I have Frena, and so far we have a rough understanding. What’ll happen if I offer her to sit as the figurehead of the corporation?’ Levan proceeds to make the best steaming mug of hot black strong dark java he can from the auto-processor, instructing it to use the finest grind it can produce. He makes a second mug for himself. Taking these to the front office after less than five minutes, Levan hands Frena her cup of java.
Frena takes the cup of java, sniffs it, and gleefully smiles. Sipping the steaming hot liquid, she grins with an expression that would make a child proud. Frena says, “This is perfect; you do well.”
Not letting out his sigh, still breathing normally, Levan says, “I have a proposal for you 3rd Purist. I want you to be Flind Exploration’s figurehead. But only a figurehead, if that will work for you. I’ll pay a bonus of ten thousand credits a month?”
Sipping her java, Frena observes Levan as a Tala hunting cat would stalking a Goran hare. “Make it fifteen thousand a month, boy, and I’ll be your figurehead, keeping quiet when you want.”
Now, sighing deeply from his throat, Levan answers as he gives a crisp spacer salute. “Deal 3rd Purist. But for that much, you must speak what I want to be said when I want it said.”
Shaking her head, Frena replies, “That kind of effort will cost you twenty thousand a month.”
Stuck between rocks under the currents in a river, having now opened this dialogue, Levan bows, acknowledging Frena. Levan says, “Okay … agreed, 3rd Purist.”
Frena smiles, saying, “Shall we enjoy this perfect java you brewed, Levan?”
Watching Frena, Levan wonders as to her motives, as no woman has asked him to observe beverages with them before and she is his employee who has legal rights to command him – a tough spot for him. Yet, she’s unusually polite for a female.
The two sit and enjoy their java while waiting for Yar, who arrives punctually at the time of 21:09:55.
Frena frowns at Yar but keeps silent. Having finished her java, she hands Levan the mug saying, “I’d like another.”
Laughing at the paradox, Levan takes the mug and asks Yar, “How do you take your java?”
Caught off guard at his employer asking him how he wants his java, Yar bows, and replies, “I’ll take it with a whitener and two sweeteners.”
With four minutes before office hours begin, Levan brews three more mugs of java as each likes them. Distributing the brewed mugs of java, he says, “I’ll be in my office for the next hour. Relax and enjoy your first hour free with paid employment.”
Entering his office, Levan activates his desk and views the reports from the auto-assistant, which were prepared over the last few hours. He instructs the assistant that also he wants the pages for those seeking employment.
First, he checks the sub-request contracts, finding three government contracts from differing bureaus.
The first one he reads is for a payout of 200 k credits to the crew who assesses the hazards for further developing the Cax system which was roughly explored by a team ten Terms ago. The previous team had found no inhabited planets. Thinking about this, Levan decides the reward is too low for the expenses involved.
The second sub-request is on a mission from the Norail Employment Security Bureau, paying 400 k credits to the crew who enters the established uninhabited Yer system and rids it of the pirates who jump out to raid the Lar system. Levan finds too many unknowns for the payout offered, and the risks are too high to be worth the reward. He rejects this one too.
Looking to the third and last report found by the assistant, Levan reads it. The request is from the Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion Bureau of the Hazdal Space Corporation of the government. It offers 1 mil credits to Corporations who jump to new systems, exploring them and returning with complete reports of the systems. This is just what the Star Grean was designed for, thinks Levan. They just need the right crew for her.
Levan, satisfied that he can get the Star Grean employment if Frena plays her role correctly, looks to the second set of reports – the system charts and reports to get outside of the territory. He finds a system named Tunda which looks promising. It’s three Starfall jumps from here in the Mort System over to the Tor system, then another jump to the Tunda system. It looks to be 43 light years of traveling through a series of four jumps. The last jump is the longest at fourteen light years, which is close to the maximum for Star Grean’s Starfall. Star Grean Stardrive’s maximum technical Starfall reach is nineteen light years – as documented on plastacine.
‘Yes, this is doable with the right crew … if motivated enough. We can make this happen. Now, to prime Frena with some coaching, so she can do a proper presentation to the right department in the right bureau, and then we’re set. No government agency will even entertain a male presence, never mind listen to a presentation for a contract application. I just have to make an appointment. We’ll have time while we wait for that to evolve, as they usually drag their feet for a month or more.’
Making the appointment application, and then moving on to the employment seekers pages, Levan is aghast at the number of screens of seekers, just for this city. After narrowing the fields of search to just local spacers searching for immediate employment, the screen narrows down to fourteen applicants. Taking the list of candidates out to Frena, Levan asks, “3rd Purist, how do you feel about helping me set up interviews with recruits for the crew?”
Smiling gleefully, Frena leans forward, saying, “Interviews are something I’m great at conducting. Let me help arrange meetings, and we’ll sit through them together. I’ll help weed out the scraggs from the seeds in the chaff of recruits.”
Fearing that she’d take over, Levan already regrets asking Frena to help him. But he hands her seven of the names, along with their contact information. Two hours later, the two of them have narrowed their list down to eight interviews to take place over the next two days, starting with the first one in three hours.
Frena sits with Yar and Levan, and she says, “This is so exciting – involved in the building of a corporation and the crewing of a virgin ship. We really need to bless the ship as soon as possible, or Rendfendal will be angry with us.”
Humble, not wanting to anger any god or a Purist, Levan answers, “As soon as we have enough crew members to do a proper ship inspection, we’ll fly up to her.”
Smiling like an eager child, Frena nods, rubbing her hands together, asking, “What should we do first?”
Seeing that now is as good a time as any to address the rock in the matter, Levan clears his throat. He watches Yar for a few moments before Levan turns to Frena and says, “We are going to Tunda system to explore on a government contract. You are going to get us this contract with a presentation that I’m going to coach you on.”
Frena jolts back in her seat, aghast at the suggestion, “You? You’re going to coach me on conducting a presentation?”
Holding his hand up, Levan silences her and says, “Yes, because we want this contract, and my grandma Velma taught me the proper etiquette and style of presentation to use to receive a positive contact for government presentations to get contracts. Thus, I suggest you should follow my guidance if we are to receive a chance at getting the contract. I am getting us an appointment for a presentation.”
Looking even more shocked at Levan, Frena asks, “How are you, a male, getting an appointment with a government department?”
Grinning, Levan says, “We – you and I – are getting an appointment, not with just a department but with a bureau department of Hazdal Space Exploration and Expansion.”
Shaking her head, Frena snarls, “You didn’t ask for my authorization.”
Levan answers, “I did – you are being paid twenty-thousand a month for your authorization.”
Staring at Levan like an animal blinded by vehicle headlights, it suddenly hits Frena what she agreed to earlier. She just utters, “Oh.”
The desk auto-assistant chimes, uttering, “Message for Head of Flind Exploration from Hazdal Bureau of Space Exploration and Expansion chief of staff’s office.”
Levan looks at Frena and nods.
Frena gulps as she suddenly realises that this is now her position in Flind, whether she is ready or not. It’s not play time or imitation; this is real. Frena says, “Go ahead, speak.”
The assistant utters, “To the Head of Flind Exploration, your request for contract proposal presentation has been received. An appointment has been set for 03:23:10:00. Be punctual as a second appointment will not be arranged. End of message.”
Levan and Frena stare at each other. They’re pale like a spotless plastacine page.
Frena asks, shaking, “Can we be ready in less than two days?”
Seeing her commanding presence drop for the first time, Levan picks up the pieces as it is his job, saying, “Of course, if we work on the presentation between interviews.”
At seeing Levan’s control, Frena regains her normal complexion colour and composure. Frena nods, saying, “Yes, of course.” But her voice wobbles, betraying her words and showing her lack of certainty.
The first applicant arrives for her interview with Levan and Frena. Levan has caved in and agreed that Frena can sit in on the interviews with him. The applicant is a female engineer with three terms of experience. But she has only worked on systems ships in the Mort system. She’s never worked Stardrive ships and has no education regarding them. When asked what she was expecting for pay grade, she boldly said Rank 10, which in spacer terms is equal to a lieutenant paygrade. Levan isn’t about to pay a no-skill engineer, a lieutenant’s rank pay. Levan thanks the applicant after almost immediately dismissing her.
After she has left, Levan turns to Frena, and asks, “Do you believe the gall of her? She has no skills, yet she wants more pay than a ship’s captain typically gets.”
Frena corrects him, saying, “You mean a male ship’s captain. Females receive paygrade Rank 14, remember, and a full Stardrive Engineer Master Ensign 1st Class can rightly expect Rank 10 if a female.”
Fuming at the indignities, Levan doesn’t voice his thought. ‘Not on my ship.’ He holds back his opinions, offering instead: “The next applicant is at 21:18:00; we have half-an-hour. Do you want another java, before we start rehearsing?”
Instantly, Frena replies, “Just like you made in the morning, boy … I mean Levan … Sorry, Captain Levan. It’s going to take some getting used to you being the captain. I will, though, or we’ll come to locked heads – one or the other.”
Levan whispers, “Likely locked heads.” as he walks to the communications/supply room.
Smiling, Frena replies loudly. “No, not necessarily, sweetie.”
Trying not to fume at such familiarities, Levan makes three mugs of java. As he is returning to his office, Levan leaves Yar’s java with him, telling Yar, “Just send the next applicant right in. Don’t mind any shouting you hear in the office, as I may have locked heads with Commander Frena.” He continues walking to his office as Yar grins and half-heartedly salutes Levan.
The next applicant arrives, fully dressed in the full spacer formals of a Purist. She addresses Frena only, which immediately sets Levan into an internal fuming, as Frena joyously carries out the interview. 1st Purist Yesta is from the fringe of the territory, out at the edge of the Eur system. She was abandoned here in Mort system by her last crew during their stopover, and she’s been trying to earn enough credits to fly back to her home in Eur to reunite with her family. Her only real experience as a ship’s spacer is as a communications officer in Mort system ships for four Terms now. When Frena asks her what paygrade she wants, Yesta replies she’d request Rank 7 Communications officer paygrade. Frena thanks her as Levan continues to fume silently. Dismissing Yesta, Frena waits for the door to close, and then, after a count of thirty, she burst out laughing. When she settles down and is calm again, she says, “You can’t seriously consider hiring her? We’re going Stardrive. She’s an inner system com officer who’s a Novice Purist of the god of dirt – the earth god, Zorendal. She’s more useless than a male toilet sanitizer. Don’t even consider her … And did you hear what she asked for pay? That is way out of line for her skill level.”
Now its Levans turn to laugh. After a full belly laugh, Levan calms and then says, “I thought you were grilling her cause you were seriously considering her. You skank, you were tearing her a new arse, female style.”
This earns Levan a menacing glare from Frena, as she asks, “What did you say, boy?”
Suddenly, remembering who he is with – a female 3rd Purist – which means she’s a class three priestess, a woman of rank in society who is accustom to absolute full respect and subservience from all males and lesser ranking females, he quickly corrects himself. “My apologies 3rd Purist, I misspoke. Please forgive my rudeness.”
They are in silence for a few minutes as Levan is standing and bowing to Frena while she glares menacingly at him. Then, suddenly, she lightens up and stops glaring and answers, “No worries, I guess you’re right. I was rough on her, for that matter, I’ve been rough on you, too. You are my employer, my source of income and theoretical superior if you weren’t a male. I will overlook the rudeness, this time, Captain Levan.”
Levan takes a deep breath, after breathing slow, shallow fearful breaths for so many minutes. He feared that Frena would have him relegated to the detention cells, as Frena could easily have had done for his misspeaking. Wiping the sweat from his face, Levan says, “I think we can all go home for today. That was our last interview for the day, as the third one set for today canceled during our first interview. I will see you tomorrow at 22:10:00?”
Frena, reading the relief in Levan, she smiles, and nods, as she hands him her empty mug. “Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow, Captain Levan. Don’t be late again.”
Resisting a groan, Levan wonders what time his being late is. He answers, “I will see you at 22:10:00 … 3rd Purist.”
She stands and leaves casually as she summons a Quickie Cab on her chroncrom. Walking through the reception office, she looks over at Yar and says, “You can check with Captain Levan, but I think you’re dismissed until 22:10:00 as well.”
Yar looks through the open office door at his captain, and Levan nods. Yar gives a crisp spacer salute. Standing, Yar also summons a Quickie Cab over his chroncrom, as he follows Frena out of Flind Exploration.
As Levan opens his apartment door, he smells the dead animal before he sees the Goran Hare with its guts splayed out on his dining table. He waves his hand over the light switch, brightening the apartment. On every wall is spray-painted the face of a cat in black paint, with a three-centimeter band circle around it. The whole disc is half-a-metre in diameter. The vandals got at least one painting on every damn wall. After searching the rest of his apartment, he finds another dead Goran Hare corpse splayed out on his bed. By the state of their entrails, the corpses were left eight hours ago. Searching his possessions, Levan can’t find anything missing, and he discovers that his security system wasn’t broken into. The culprits used a legitimate means of access. ‘Damn thugs, wonder what they want?’ He thinks as he starts cleaning up the mess, starting with the two hares. Placing the corpses and entrails in disposal sacks, along with blood soaked cleaning cloths, Levan takes the disposal sacks down the hall to the chute, and Levan gets rids of the gut-wrenching nauseating refuse.
As Levan is entering his apartment and just about to close the door, he reels back with the impact to his face from two fists.
Levan lays on the hall floor as he tries to shake the stars from his mind and his vision. He feels hands grip his arms and drag him. He hears a door slam shut, and then he feels ice water wash over him. Gasping, as he draws in breaths of air from the shock, the mental and vision stars begin to clear.
A voice commands him: “Stand up, boy.”
Still too shocked to distinguish whether it is a male or female talking to him, Levan reaches up to grab on to anything for support as he tries to stand. He struggles to regain more than silhouettes for vision. He feels hands take his hands and elbows, roughly aiding him to rise and stand.
The voice speaks again. With the ringing in Levan’s ears now a slight pinging, he makes out the voice as a mature male. Squinting his green eyes, he determines that the one speaking is a tall man with a husky build. So, Levan determines the man to be larger than most. Squeaking out through clenched bloody teeth, Levan asks, “What is this about?”
The mysterious man says, “Money, what else? We want a million credits by this time tomorrow. No security is to be called in, or you die.”
Levan spits out blood from between his teeth, and he feels blood trickling down the back of his skull and down his blonde hair. Levan says, “And just how the gods am I supposed to pay that? I can’t pay my two-hundred credits a month rent. I’ve been busy applying for work.”
Laying on the floor again, gasping for breath, after receiving double blows to his abdomen, Levan can only hear ringing in his ears, above the muffled speaking of the man. Tears run from his eyes, as Levan gets enough of breath to say, “My ears are ringing; I can’t hear you.”
He is left on the floor for what seems to be hours. Then, as his breathing normalises, the tears stop flowing and he can hear again. Hands drag him to his feet. The heavy man says, “I said, we know you have millions, as Velma Ulmora died fighting in a duel with Herret Trodan. You are Velma’s only likely heir. If you’re not her heir, then you will find out who is. And if you value life of any kind, you will get your hands on one million credits to give to us. Put the credits in the drive in the case on your kitchen counter. Do it by this time tomorrow, or someone will die … likely you.”
Levan throws up his last meal on the man’s legs. After receiving a kick to the face, Levan becomes unconscious.
Walking up to the doors of 1402 Ferris Towers, his eyes black and his face bruised, Captain Levan loudly groans as he sees 3rd Purist Frena standing and waiting for him, tapping her toes.
He punches in his security code and then places his right palm on the biometric scanner beside the door. With the door swinging open, he silently enters and swipes his hand in front of the switch, lighting up the offices.
Going to the communications/supply room, Levan automatically makes the three of them their morning java, placing Yar’s on ‘keep warm’ in the processor. He takes the other two mugs and leads Frena into his office. He hands Frena her steaming strong black fine-grind brewed java. Levan asks her, “What is your view on extortion?”
Not sure where this is leading, Frena answers, “I abhor the use of it, and will strike out at it to stamp it out at its source. Why?’
Nodding with approval, Levan says, “We need a tracking device, some weapons, and a shortcut on a chroncrom to city security. We’re going to hunt down the Black Cat Circle extortionist group, who beat the air out of me last night. They came demanding one million credits, or they’d kill until they received the credits.”
Frowning, Frena asks, “When do they want the credits by?”
Pointing at his chroncrom, Levan says, “03:23:00:00.”
Nodding yet again, Frena says, “No one threatens my congregation. I’ll get Yar working on the gear. I think he’ll need two-thousand credits to get the items we’ll need. Do you authorise the transfer?”
Having both his employee’s personal credit accounts, Levan uses his chroncrom to quickly transfers three-thousand credits to Yar’s account. Levan then tells Frena, “Talk with him. Here’s the transfer case; do what you need to do. I transferred three-thousand to Yar.”
Saluting with a Purist salute of respect, Frena takes the case and exits the office to wait for Yar and the first interview recruit of the day.
Back in Levan’s office at 03:22:10:00, Frena has a humar male of 57 Terms-age for the day’s first interview.
Levan takes a liking to the man as soon as he boldly walks into the room exhibiting a light regard for etiquette.
After introductions, Levan asks, “So, tell us why you’re here Scall?”
Looking at Frena, then back to Levan, Scall directly addresses Levan, “Captain, I made a mistake and misspoke to a female captain thirty-two months back. I then got stripped of my job and was blackmarked twenty-one months ago. I was banned from ever working as a spacer by the Hazdal Space Corporation Council of Governing Agencies. I want to be honest, so you know what you’d be getting if you hire me. My Black Mark is for ten Terms.”
Laughing, to Frena’s frustration, Levan finally says, “So you’re telling me the government says I can’t hire you on my ship’s crew?”
Scall frowns and nods, and then answers, “Precisely, Captain.”
Levan looks at Frena, and asks, “3rd Purist, do Purists follow Government edicts all the time?”
Frena starts to smile, and she answers, “Not this one.”
Levan starts to reach for Frena’s knee to pat it, then before getting even a quarter of the way to Frena’s knee, Levan withdraws his hand from such familiarity. Instead, he says, “Good, that’s what I like to hear. Please Scall, tell us what you might bring to a ship like ours?”
The baffled man answers while somewhat sputtering, “Well, I’m a 2nd Class Stardrive Engineer with twelve Terms of Stardrive experience, and seven Terms on inner system tubs before that. My first six years in Stardrives was as a junior engineer, then followed by two years as a junior officer. The last years before my incident, and begging my pardon, I was with a ridiculous female captain who knew nothing about ship engineering. I was her senior engineering officer.”
Levan’s eyes are moist and sparkling in the light of the room, as he is so excited, not believing his luck. He looks at Frena and can see she likes Scall, too. Levan asks, “What pay are you asking for, Engineer Scall?”
The downtrodden ship engineer answers, “I would be happy, right now, as a junior with Rank 5.”
Shaking his head, Levan replies, “No my friend … if we take a chance on you, we’re paying you right with you in your proper station. You are going to be offered Senior Ensign 1st Class Engineer with paygrade Rank 7. That’s my thinking. None of this hare-footing around, we’re going all the way, sticking our whole foot in the noose.”
Grinning broadly, Scall spacer salutes Frena, and then Levan, asking, “Where do I sign up?”
Grinning, Levan just got to snub the government and hire a first-class senior engineer, cheap. It is a win-win for him until the government slaps his hands with their penalty and sentences him with detention cell time. But they have to catch us first. “Scall, we’re giving you different ID, until your real ID clears the Black List. I know the person who’ll supply it. But I’ll have to see them alone, tonight. Consider this as bonus pay from me. You’ll be registered under the new name for the ship’s crew for now.”
Frena slaps his arm and says through her teeth, “You didn’t tell me you had underworld connections?”
Levan chuckles, saying, “A few, from my pre-university days. While we wait for our next recruit, will you two leave my office so I can contact my connection.”
Over an hour later, at 03:22:13:00, the fourth recruit of the series arrives. Eager to please the panel, she addresses both in her greeting. But she settles into talking with Frena, without entirely ignoring Levan, answering his questions when he addresses her, such as when Levan asks, “Tell us about your tub experience, Gunner Krenda.”
The female security officer replies crisply, “I became a ship’s gunner for security, seven Terms ago. First, it was on system ships, only getting onto Stardrive ships on the last three runs. But I’m bored with regular inhabited safe systems. I want to one day run on jumps that move out of the territory. I want to fly on exploration ships, discovering new systems.”
Frena looks at Krenda incredulously, and she asks sarcastically, “Really? Are you serious?”
Shrugging slightly, Krenda boldly answers, “By all means, yes, I’m serious.”
Levan winks at Frena, and he turns to Krenda, saying, “Do we have the job for you! What are your melee and weapons security skills like?”
Confused, Krenda replies, “I teach both at security schools when I’m between spacer jobs. Why?”
Excited, Levan leans forward, trying not to overstep socially allowed statements. He says, “What position and pay would you expect on an exploration ship?”
Thinking hard about this, Krenda replies, “Gunner, junior or senior, Rank 6 pay?”
Frena nods to Levan. Already having made up his mind, but happy to have Frena’s agreement, Levan says, “Tell you what, the Star Grean Exploration ship is looking for a Senior Ensign 1st Class Gunner. We are willing to pay at paygrade Rank 6. You’re hired Krenda; be here at 03:24:10:00 to start.”
After filling out Krenda’s documentation and moving on with the day, the next applicant arrives at 03:22:15:02. He is a 56 Term’s-old male. The merchant belies the myths of a spacer quartermaster being a squirrely small figured woman. But this one is a large mature male, healthy and virile. A full-time corporate employee he is from Dozoran Corporation, he was employed as a store merchant for the last fifteen Terms. He informs Frena and Levan that he’s willing to leave the security of a corporation position to become a spacer, as he wants to expand his horizons and grow before he dies of old age. He brings his Terms of merchant experience and his garnered corporate merchant connections with him. Meelar is asking for pay grade Rank 4. But Frena offers Rank 3. Meelar, being so ingrained by society to accept female authority as absolute, agrees to the offer without negotiating. He is employed as Senior Ensign 1st Class Quartermaster Paygrade Rank 3.
Taking the time to complete all documents and making sure all the new employees have their plastacine copies, Frena and Levan work side-by-side diligently for an hour until the last applicant arrives who is twenty minutes late.
Frena wants to turn him away, but Levan agrees to hear him out.
Biogeoscientist Kni states his case. Kni completed Corporate University several months ago, admitting that he finished third from last in his class. Kni claims that he was bored with classes, so his assignments were done half-assed.
Levan says, “We don’t take on slackers. Crewmembers must pull their full weight that they’re responsible for, and are required to fill in others’ positions as are able. Why would we hire someone who does things half-assed?”
Almost as if shocked that he is being addressed like he is even being considered, Kni sits up proper and starts taking the interview seriously. He answers, “Captain, I haven’t been given the opportunity to express my potential. I received more education than my family required, to find something challenging or that I excelled at. The trouble was, I excelled at it all, and wasn’t challenged. But getting work experience might show me a new way of thinking – working beside others who challenge me to do better.”
Levan ponders this and then looks at Frena, who shakes her head. Watching the floor, and then up at Kni after awhile, Levan can see the tension in Kni’s jaw and arms. The boy seems to want this now. Levan asks Kni, “What do you expect to be paid?”
Kni immediately says, “I have all this education, which means I have loans to pay off still. I’d like to ask Rank 5 pay?”
Frena laughs and standing up she leaves the office.
Moisture highlights Kni’s eyes as his lips tremble and his cheeks redden. He asks, “Was I out of line?”
Levan nods, saying, “Yes, by a lot. You don’t have the experience to ask for that kind of pay. I might change her mind if you’re willing to accept Rank 3.”
Excited at a job offer with pay, Kni leaps up from his chair, saying, “Yes, talk to Purist Frena. I’ll take Rank 3.”
Levan smiles, motioning to the chair and saying, “Sit, I’m offering you Senior Ensign 1st Class Biogeoscientist at paygrade Rank 3 if you can be ready to ship out on 03:24:10:00.”
Almost shouting, Kni says, “Yes!”
The man from the Black Cat Circle arrives at Levan’s apartment as he indicated he would. He opens the transfer case and sees the disposable credit transfer drive chip. Taking the case, he nods and silently walks out of Levan’s apartment. Levan watches on his chroncrom as Frena walks out of his storage room with Yar.
Levan asks, “You have the rented hover vehicle ready?”
Levan starts for the door saying, “Then, let’s go.”
Yar leads down to the garage, where Levan takes the controls of the hover car. Yar guides him as navigator, using the tracking device and following the case. They travel for nearly an hour until the vehicle being tracked stops outside an old style concrete house and the occupants scurry inside with the case.
Levan, Yar, and Frena wait in the hover car, watching the house.
Then, suddenly, the third-floor windows blow out with a flash as an explosion occurs inside the home. Several men run out of the exit on the ground floor, to leave over the next two minutes as the insides of the house burns. It appears no one calls emergency services, as no emergency vehicles arrive in the next half hour. The trio of spacers watches from up the street. Several of the escaping men were obviously severely injured.
Levan says, “The trigger worked nicely. As soon as they inserted the transfer chip, it blew the case. Now we know where their safe house is, if they use it again. I counted eleven escaping. You two? I recorded them all.”
Levan starts the vehicle, and they drive toward the downtown official Hazdal Space Corporation Bureau government towers for their presentation appointment, which is in forty-five minutes.
To be continued in Episode 003 on 216:23:10:20 …
After waiting in the waiting room for twenty minutes past their appointment time, Levan has Frena take the lead, as they had rehearsed the interviews the last two days. Now the presentation is in Frena’s hands, as government bureaucrats never listen to males. Without Frena this contract presentation will go nowhere.
© 2017 by Kenneth Shumaker with Inevitable Unicorn Press
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