As Travis Stein walked out the second door, securing the airlock that led to his office and Eluria’s dormitory, he was greeted by a coworker of his. He hadn’t seen the man before, but he fit the profile of facility employees in dress, mannerism and his security badge was worn in plain view. It really wasn’t saying much that Travis had never seen him – he liked to spend the majority of his time at work in his office talking to Johnny, actually doing his job, or just monitoring Eluria. Even before she spoke to him and began to show him her considerable power, he’d always been mildly fascinated with her, and that had only worsened with her apparent reinvigoration and charge to keep her safe. He felt strange, thinking of it that way. She hadn’t actually told him, or even implied to him that she wanted him to keep her safe, it was just something he felt from her, towards her. Really, all she had said, initially, was that burning phrase that wouldn’t leave his brain. He wondered about that, if it came with any power attached to it or if it was just the conviction with which she spoke it that made it stick so heartily.
“Hey, Dr. Stein. How’s it going, man? I’m Benjamin Gerning, I’m in analysis two floors down. We do data analysis on all the biometrics and electronic data that you push out – vital signs, meal times, hydration levels, how often the doors open and close, who comes in and out – that sort of thing.”
Travis didn’t miss the thinly veiled threat, being told their was an entire department monitoring who he let in and out of his office, as well as how often and for how long he was in Eluria’s dormitory.
“Anyway, I was just coming up to hit the DFAC and I figured I’d swing over on my way and ask how the meeting went?”
Travis had been blindsided. Until this very moment, he’d had no idea the meeting was common knowledge for anyone outside his own clearance level, which this man, this Benjamin fucking Gerning, certainly wasn’t a part of. He hated the politics of this job, but thought to himself he might have to immerse himself a little more in the snake pit, lest he get caught unawares and bitten.
“It went about as well as can be expected. I’m sorry I can’t say more, classified, you know.”
“Oh, yeah, I understand – wouldn’t want to get anybody in trouble. It’s just, there’s some projections going around that says if the program goes through, we’re looking at about twice the D.O.D. budget for the entire Army last year. That’s a little hush hush, and they’re wording it that way to keep the number under wraps, but I did the math and that’d put us somewhere north of 400 billion dollars if this thing works out.”
“That’s quite a bit. I can’t imagine what we’d do with it all, for one practically comatose girl, though.”
“That’s what I really wanted to talk to you about. There’s a rumor going around, that higher is looking to take the first 100 million off the top as a cash bonus for the facility – everyone on the project. I heard it’ll be split into tiers based on performance and relevance to the project – so Ol’ Janitor John won’t exactly be retiring on it, but department leads are going to be looking at almost 100 thousand.”
“Man, that sure would be nice. I’m not exactly in bad shape, but I don’t know anyone who’d pass up that kind of money if they found it lying on the street.”
“Exactly, man. That’s exactly why I came up to ask you what your fuckin’ problem was with the old timeline? Why are you trying to fuck us all out of a bonus, man?!”
Fuckin’ insidious, treacherous whore! Eleanor Phleer was devious, conniving, diabolical, but this? Leaking the details of a classified meeting to some fucking nobody down in glorified IT, so he could come up here wearing his mafioso monkey suit and pretend he wasn’t a paper bitch? To come up here and intimidate him? Fuck no. Travis Stein would crush this insignificant little peon beneath his heel like the fucking blood sucking parasite he was.
And her. She wouldn’t burn. Burning was generous.
“I understand your concerns Mr. Gerning, and I’ll keep them in mind. I’d just like you to keep something in mind as well. I am not someone you want to casually threaten. I’m someone who takes that kind of thing, very seriously. You see, I have very good job security. My involvement in this project, as well as a number of projects in this past for various other organizations have netted me a very respectable list of contacts – the sort of contacts who would be very interested to know how you came to know the intimate details of a meeting about a project you’re not read on to. There’s one other thing you should know, Benjamin. I’ve known Director Phleer longer than you’ve worked here, and as a statement of fact, I can tell you that whatever she told you to make you think this little stunt was a good idea? It was not in your best interest.”
Travis Stein could tell by the sight of the freshly laundered white sheet flapping in the wind in front of him that his retort had more than sufficed to educated young Benjamin Gerning on who exactly he was talking to and the severity of his mistakes. Naturally, the majority of what he’d told him had been poetic license. He did know a smattering of well to do individuals in a handful of three letter organizations, as both professional and personal contacts, but he never felt he was near as powerful as he assumed Benjamin Gerning now thought he was.
He would have to stop by Elle’s office and have a talk with her as well. Of course, a much briefer one, more respectfully worded, but words has to be exchanged none the less. Filling unclass mooks in on classified information to satisfy her own agenda was a new depth for her.
The white sheet in front of Travis blew off the laundry line, as they’re wont to do and Travis made his way to the DFAC to grab himself some pizza and to pick up Eluria’s lunch tray. She had a very strict nutritional plan to ensure her body got everything she needed and that she was in all the optimum ranges for various metrics of health. It all sounded well and good on paper, but Travis had been forced to feed a non responsive Eluria many times and he’d seen that in practice her meal plan only really ensured that her taste buds were as undeveloped and bored as possible.
The DFAC was almost painfully stark white. Every surface was immaculate all the contents were well ordered. Ordinarily, Travis would just call down for his and Eluria’s lunch to be delivered – he hated milling about with all the various people in the building as they sprayed into the DFAC like water from a broken sewer line. Today wasn’t bad, however. The weekend shifts were mostly empty.
Travis swiped his card at the terminal, collected his and Eluria’s food and made his way back to his lair of solitude.