Imagine waking up one day unable to recall who you are or where you came from – only to find you are serving a sentence as a convict conscript for crimes you have no memory of ever committing…
The individual who had been observing the interview from behind the holofacade stalked across the room towards him and through the non-existent wall. Under any other circumstances, Vane would have appreciated the sight. This woman was certainly worth looking at – a heart-shaped face, perfect skin, and trim physique. Added to which Vane was between relationships and had been for much of the last year, the demands of his work making it close to impossible to fit in any kind of personal life. But he had already decided from their short acquaintance that he disliked this woman. He disliked her arrogant attitude and he disliked the agency she worked for. Anger raised the colour in her face and set a blue flame in her eyes, she held her slender body taut, breasts thrust out towards him like weapons of war.
“What the hell happened there? What do you think you are playing at, Commodore?”
The question was snarled at him, her lack of professionalism appalling.
“I’m not playing at anything. This is a very serious issue I am required to bring under my consideration, not any kind of game – uh -” her security badge was unhelpful: ‘C. Tyran, CSF’, so he used the polite form of address: “ – Var Tyran.”
The woman smouldered in front of him, shoulders squared up as if in a fighting stance, whilst the sheer, clinging, fabric of her outfit left little of her feminine outline to the imagination. Vane found it hard to focus for a moment, and to his irritation that allowed her to seize the initiative.
“I thought I made it clear to you before the interview, Commodore. The process needed nothing more than pure formality on your part – just ask the questions and grant the discharge. In fact,” and here she paused to stab in the air towards him with an accusing finger, “you, agreed. Now we have questions raised and if this runs as far as the CRD it could take forever to get the process completed – if indeed it ever is.”
Vane felt his jaw tightening again. Something about this woman seemed to have an extra cut through on his emotions.
“I am not,” he said, “prepared to put my name to any discharge. I know what kind of man Revid is and in my professional judgement, it would be a huge mistake to allow him to exist anywhere other than my Legion. The facts show he is utterly unsuited to civilian life.”
“The facts?” The woman sounded dismissive “I’ll give you the facts Commodore, they are very simple. It is in the interests of the Coalition Security Force for this man to be discharged into the community. And that means it is in the best interests of all who are responsible for the security of Central to comply with whatever is required to facilitate the process. Knowing that you don’t need any other facts – only obedience to orders and duty. And I am ordering you to cancel any further inquiry, declare yourself satisfied, and recommend the discharge.”
Vane bit back the retort he wanted to make, furious at himself for letting her get to him. He forced calm into his voice – calm and command.
“You have no authority to give me orders.”
Her mouth opened to reply and, for a moment, he thought she might argue against the inarguable. Instead, she looked abruptly away from him, allowing her hair to swing forward and hide her expression from view. One hand moved to brush the hair aside, exposing her face in profile, like a cameo, each feature highlighted in perfect proportion. When she looked back at him, her expression had changed utterly, as if he were facing a different person. For a moment the shadow of something cold, hard and calculating seemed to linger, then it was gone, softened into a small rueful smile. She inclined her head apologetically.
“You are, of course, quite right Commodore. I don’t have that authority and I regret implying that I do. Please accept my apology. I fully accept the ultimate decision in this matter is yours and I shall report so to my superiors.”
She looked almost forlorn as she turned away and walked across the room, leaving Vane uncertain what to do or say in the face of her capitulation. So he said nothing as she collected her things from the desk she occupied during the interview. He watched her lean over to grab something that was rolling out of reach. The fabric of the stylish suit she wore, pulling tight around her hips as she did so. For some unaccountable reason his victory, whilst just and essential in this case, was not a comfortable one. He wondered if there was some way to offer a less bruising outcome from her perspective.