Chapter 2 Epilogue
by Dr. Seth
CHAPTER 2 EPILOGUE:
Duane could not let them see the sweat on his forehead, nor
the fear in his eyes, nor the knot in his gut. He couldnít let them
know how disappointed he would be, in fact, how crushed, if they
decided that Dr. Slate was to be silenced. He had taken it as a good
sign that they had patiently waited for the two months it had taken
her to straighten out the Neugog mess, but he could never be sure.
As soon as General Thornton ordered him in, he marched
formally into the hall where the Commission was gathered, saluting
them in the most official manner. He couldnít directly eyeball
anyone, but he managed to catch a glimpse of his psychologist, who
seemed to wear a pleasant expression. That was usually an excellent
sign. He rather liked his new psychologist, and she always appeared
honest, as if with one look she could express the otherís thoughts.
Usually, the rest of the Commission was so tight-lipped and reserved
he had a hard time reading their faces.
The psychologist before this one was just like the other
Commission members -- rather secretive and brusque, treating him like
property -- but also strangely obsessed with gender roles in a way that
confused Duane. He kept ranting about how Duane was living out a huge,
macho fantasy, and didnít seem to grasp the fact that Duane had no
choice in the matter and was simply following orders. He also liked
to discuss sex in a most inappropriate matter and was consumed by the
small details of his private life, which only served to infuriate and
alienate Duane. He considered it one of the main factors he had had
his little nervous breakdown a few years ago.
He didnít exactly relish it, but he wasnít all that
disappointed when the Commission voted him off of the planet. His
replacement, and older and dignified woman, was a pleasure to be
around, and she actually listened to him and whatever concerned him,
and also seemed to care about him and his mental well-being.
"At ease, son." General Thornton waved a hand at him
nonchalantly. Duane assumed the position, keeping his eyes locked
on the farthest wall. "As you know, weíve called you here to discuss
the latest security breach -- Dr. Erika Slate. Weíve located the
source by which she gained the unauthorized information, and have
remedied the situation." With a cough, Gen. Thornton pivoted to face
him. He slapped a file brimming with papers onto the end of the long
black table they stood at the head of. "Itís been our decision that
she must be integrated into the BGY panel. We came to this conclusion
from her outstanding record, and her recent demonstrations of
ability, loyalty, and most importantly, silence. You are to deliver
this package," he indicated a small black box on the tabletop, "to
Dr. Erika Slate. You are to explain the contents, which you will
recognize upon delivery. She is the only one to open this package.
You are to destroy the sensitive documents contained herein. Is this
Gen. Thornton waited for Duaneís "Sir, yes, sir", which he
gave without hesitation.
"If it is not her decision to join, you must proceed with her
termination. Is that clear?" Duane once again responded affirmatively.
Duane managed to steal a glance at his psychologist; she had a
calm expression tinged by the slightest curious smile, and her
elegant hands decorated sparsely by silver bands were steepled before
her on the black, glossy table. He searched his mind for the last
conversation they had had about Erika...Dr. Slate.
Sheís bitchy, crabby, rude, annoying...sheís just dripping
with potential. Smartest cookie around. A real fighter. She hates me.
It went something like that, didnít it? Did it aid in the Commissionís
decision? As he was reaching around in his brain for this conversation,
he almost missed Gen. Thornton dismissing him, which was his cue to
grab the black box and march away, which he did with precise, clean
movements and a gut full of concealed elation.
As soon as the heavy door swung shut, Gen. Thornton turned
back to address the Commission. "It was a good thing this decision
was mostly unanimous, seeing as how we have little choice in the
matter," he said through grinding teeth. "To eliminate Dr. Erika
Slate would be to eliminate the RS3, the experimental nucleo-protonic
"Weíve made too much of an investment in both to just throw
them away," the financier clucked, shuffling papers in front of him.
"Well, now we can consider this new development killing two
birds with one stone; after all, weíve been itching to move a
scientific professional to the team to work with them directly." The
head scientific advisor shifted her narrow glasses in a prim way that
was her habit.
"This will be a good development," the psychologist assured
them. "This is a woman who has invented a robotic emotion system, and
who can deny that, at times, Lt. Hunter can function like a robot
with emotions? The Three Laws bind him, as well. Also, it wouldnít
hurt to have another female around aside from Ms. Werth. Lt. Hunter
seems to respond well to female presences, positive or negative."
"Maybe itíll keep his hooker bills down!" the military
strategist felt the need to crudely add, eliciting a round of
chuckles from all except the psychologist. The boorish oaf always
made such jokes about Lt. Hunter, and she shouldnít be surprised;
the man was her predecessorís twin brother. From what she read in
his file, they seemed to have the same personalities as well. It may
not have been the military strategistís job to be nice and
understanding with Lt. Hunter, but it was his brotherís job, before
he botched it. Staring at the military strategistís greasy, dangling
chops, she had a hard time imagining the sensitive lieutenant being
able to really open up to such a person. She could easily imagine
why Lt. Hunter had suffered such a mental lapse, and she hoped that
she would be able to do better by him.
She was quite pleased that the rest of the Commission had
spared Erika Slate, and she felt her addition to Lt. Hunterís life
would be beneficial in the long run. He seemed to be taken by her
abilities and skill, though not necessarily by her actions towards
him. It was a good sign he could easily ignore what seemed like her
immense disapproval of him and appreciate her talents, even those
she used against him. The poor boy....
Fingering the turquoise stone set in the silver ring around
her index finger, she thought of how easily he threw his heart away,
like the few years he pined in aching silence for Ms. Werth. It had
been her predecessorís idea to bring a woman to Lt. Hunter, who was
practically stranded on the U.S.S. Dark Horse, the largest
boyís club around, and without benefit of regular shore leave.
Evidently, he had installed Ms. Werth for more vulgar reasons, but
of course, the lieutenant was too shy and self-conscious to ever
fulfil his previous psychologistís foolish desires. When she had
taken his role as Lt. Hunterís psychologist, and Ms. Werth had been
installed for a good amount of time, she could easily surmise from
brief observation that Lt. Hunterís painful pining was in truth
advantageous; it kept him alive. For the years that he had this
crush, he was focused, energetic, and happy, at least on some levels.
Now, his cheerfulness was once again waning, since he had given up on
Ms. Werth, and perhaps even the thought of companionship, for some
time. Though it would be cruel to see him in such agonizing, unspoken
sorrow, if he could develop this bond with Dr. Slate, conceivably she
could become his reason to live....
Duane couldnít separate the mildly queasy feeling Quarkís
super-fast elevators gave him from the giddy joy that Dr. Slate had
been spared. He was happily whistling They Might Be Giantís "Famous
Polka" in the serenely empty elevator, tapping out the rhythm with
his polished black dress shoes as he zipped to the twenty-third
floor. With a vibrant ping, the ornate doors slid open. The halls
were deserted because of the late hour, so he felt no shame in
singing a little louder.
THE COMMISSIONíS DECISION
As he rounded a corner, he gave a little tip of his hat to the
janitor waxing the floors (who returned his gesture with a perplexed
expression) and continued whistling on his way. Dr. Slateís door was
slightly ajar, and he could see her staring fixatedly into a
microscope as she burned some sort of microchip.
"Knock, knock!" he announced his presence, rapping on the
doorframe at the same time.
"Ah, Lt. Hunter, I was expecting you." She didnít raise her
eyes from her work but motioned him in with her hand. As he
approached her, she seemed startled by the musical jingle the
multiple medals on the breast of his dress uniform produced (he
always wore his dress uniform to confront the Commission) and she
abandoned her microscope. After she lowered her glasses down from
their perch on her head, she looked him straight up and down, most
likely taken aback at seeing him so formally dressed. As her eyes
dragged over the length of his body, he started to feel a little
unsettled. After her examination, she seemed a little unnerved as
"Youíre lucky I have no other life outside of work," she
grumbled, more or less to herself. "So what is it you need to see me
about at such a late hour?" She tossed her hair over her shoulder in
an irate way that Duane read as a signal that she was irritated with
"Iíve been given orders to give you this package, which
contains information regarding your new status." He presented her
with the black box.
"What new status?" she took it and examined it half-heartedly.
"Youíre now a functioning member of the BGY 11 project; you
were cleared for active duty." He watched as she extracted two thin
slices of identically square paper with incoherent marks decorating
them, one design in red, the other in blue.
"Oh, really? What if I donít want to be Ďcleared for active
dutyí? And what the hell are these?" She held up the papers, which
Duane easily recognized. Without answering her questions, he took
the papers from her and held them up to her desk lamp, locating two
watermarks embedded in the corners of each paper. As he lined them up
perfectly, he pressed the papers together, forming one paper. The
marks blended as well, and purple words appeared in the mix of
colors. It was the official establishing document of the BGY
Commission, which would explain all of the terms to her. He handed
it back and patiently waited for her to read it.
"Oh." She wiggled her glasses on her nose nervously. " I...
guess I donít really have a choice whether or not I want to join,
according to this Ďtermination of contractí clause." Duane smirked.
"So, you all right with this?" he asked.
"I have to be!" She went to put the paper in her desk drawer.
"Iím going to have to destroy that." He held out his hand for
"What if I need to review it later?" She pressed the thin
sheet into his hand. He promptly whisked the paper through his lips,
and pressed his tongue to the roof of his mouth.
Dr. Slate stared at him with mixed disgust and curiosity. It
looked to her as if he were eating it, but it was only half-true;
the paper dissolved instantaneously in his mouth.
"What have I gotten myself into?" she said awkwardly to Lt.
Hunter, who was still mouthing at the last bits of paste.
"Well, if you need to review the contract again, you have to
put in a formal application with the military. I can help you with
all that," he answered.
"I see." She turned her attentions back to the box. One last
object was resting at the bottom; it was a strange, round piece of
technology, the size of a silver dollar and three times as thick. It
was glimmering solid black, with a small red light at the center.
"Pretty," she said mordantly, holding it up for him to see.
"Ah. Thatís the human version of the Big Guy signal. It has a
tracer and a link to five different satellites, plus the ability to
transmit a signal from just about anywhere. Space, underground,
underwater...Call me anytime." He instantly realized that he must
sound like some kind of lecher coming on to her, and embarrassedly
scrambled to recover. "I mean, in the case of a planet-threatening
crisis!" He scratched at the missing piece of his eyebrow nervously.
Despite his blunder, she gave him a little smile, which
somewhat put him at ease. Then the little corners flipped up, and he
recognized it as her trademark sarcastic-smirk. "Well. Iím just
thrilled about my new government-issued pervert hotline!
1-900-HotBots?" she leered.
He returned her little sneer half-heartedly. Well, I asked
for it! Lt. Hunter reprimanded himself glumly. If he were going
to be happy that she had lived to see another day, he would
appreciate every single one of her endearing little smart-ass
"The Famous Person wears the same size water skis as me,
sheís got three cars, as many years Iíve lived in this ci-ty!
Her hair is blonde and mine is brown, they both start with a b!
But when the phone inside her rib cage rings, itís not for me;
But when the phone inside her rib cage rings itís not for me!"
On to Chapter 3's prologue!
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