Chapter 37: A Few Loose Ends

Production facilities would have to be pushed to their limits if half their outstanding naval contracts were to be filled.  Bowcorp and Grausman were already picking at his wounds, whispering in the ears of his contacts on the AOC.  Take-over attempts by one or both his rivals were inevitable.  For the sake of customer relations he had born the indignity of silence when the FDF blamed him for losing the Charlemagne.  The incident with the launch craft sale didn’t help matters of course, and now the disaster at Jupiter.  Three humiliations inflicted upon him by this “Julian The Bastard.”  There would not be another.

            “Councilman,” Deputy Commander Perry handed Martin Lockhard the data pad and deftly slipped away before he had time to finish reading it.  A wise maneuver, the CEO threw the pad at the next person he saw and stormed off to intercept Commander Kijé.  He found the man returning from the detention center and fell-in beside him to press his point.

Dirty little nik didn’t even stop for me, he realized, pushing his blood pressure even higher.  “What is the meaning of this, Commander?”

             Kijé didn‘t even glance at him while responding, “If I’m understand your query, Councilman, ‘This’ is a demonstrative pronoun.  I frankly expected more from a Yale man.”

            “How dare, you!” Lockhard shouted, clearing the hallway.  “Do you realize to whom you’re speaking?”

            “I do,” the commander responded, finally stopping and turning to face him.  “Can you say the same?”

            There it is, Lockhard thought.  He’s all but admitted it.  The man had a spotless service record but much of his career remained inaccessible.  Any information being denied to a standing member of the F10 Council could have but one explanation.  The commander was no Naval Intelligence officer but an ISS Oversight Operative, meaning the council itself had marked him out.  These are dangerous waters I tread.  He regarded the man as one might a scorpion.

            “Stanley Morgan has been with my company for more than fifty years,” the executive said, straining to control his temper.  “He is one of the most respected and well-paid specialist executives in the security field; he has won more accolades–”

            “Since you are obviously familiar with the man, I assume you know about the mistresses, the gambling. . .”  Kijé, in no mood to be questioned, turned and walked away, making a point of out-striding the councilman because it so obviously made the man grind his teeth in umbrage.

            Lockhard tisked in disdain, “I hardly see how that can amount to–”

            “You have hardly seen much, sir,” Kijé said, turning on the man again.  Their faces were mere centimeters apart.  After a long moment he walked away, leaving the councilman shaking in bewilderment and rage.  He was glad this was nearly over, torturing Lockhard was entertaining to put it mildly but the man wasn’t completely stupid.  He would almost certainly protest to the council if he hadn’t already.  Work hasn’t been this fun in a long time, he thought, suppressing the urge to smile.

 

Everything began to crystallize for Martin Lockhard.  The council itself was after his head.  His empire would make for considerable spoils, even heavily divided.  Why else would such a deep cover ISS agent be assigned to the matter of these four ships?  A thought then occurred to the executive.  This ill-bred beast could be here to assassinate me and lay the blame at these pirates’ feet.  I certainly have enemies enough.  He told himself to remain calm, focused.  Cold blood had served him long and well and now was not the time for a policy shift.

            The man is absolutely nerve-wracking.  Yes, that must be it, he told himself.  I’m unhinging myself with worry over lesser men, it is unbecoming.  Youngest CEO in company history, he doubled its stock price within ten years and earned his seat on the F10.  He would be dead before letting anyone take what was his by cunning and birthright.

 

Deacon looked over his portable as he sipped coffee in a restaurant just off the main floor of the Galaxy Lounge, a magnificent ballroom that could comfortably hold over four thousand people.  “The largest entertainment space in space” according to the sign above the door.  The food was excellent, if overpriced, and the service outstanding.  He had eaten here over a year ago with Julian, Olga, and Guy on their now infamous business trip.

            Surrounding the twenty meter circular dining area for most of its length, a massive aquarium held hundreds of exotic fish and two dozen sharks: makos, tigers, hammerheads, and bulls; even a great white reproduction, though really a mako genetically modified to resemble its larger kinsman.  The real king of the sharks had vanished, never adapting to life in captivity.  Deacon hoisted a glass to the absent monarch, Better dead then a slave.

            The sudden shake-up in security would put the station’s defenses in a seriously weakened condition, especially since Commander Kijé insisted upon resetting all access codes to the armories and security doors personally.  The maintenance report in front of him showed that his people had taken the needed steps to disable the security-bots when the time came.

            He felt his spine ice-over as his thoughts turned to the CEO.  As a matter of practicality, taking him alive might have been a better idea.  A shield like that might hold the FDF at bay just long enough to make the difference, but Julian’s eye for the dramatic reigned supreme.  He might be right or wrong about the effect on the population, Deacon didn’t care.  That pig of a man put his name to paper killing thirty-million people.  Billy was dead, Uncle Jack was dead.  Kakumi, Broden, Maria. . .  Most everyone he ever knew.

            Clark, along with other contacts made that last visit, proved invaluable in getting key personnel to help render Lockhard City an open target.  Deacon’s personal com would unleash a symphony of chaos at the stroke of a key.  Only one obstacle remained that he could do nothing about:  Lockhard City’s defense fleet and the navy warships on station at Hades Rising.  Everything depended on Julian’s timing and the Grand Marshal’s word now.

 

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