Fractured Orbits Chapter 10
Fractured Orbits is book one in the Encoded Orbits Trilogy, It’s being released as a serial with chapters coming out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is the last free chapter.
For the second time in two days, Orin found himself on the tram heading to General Swa’s office. Her aide said the general urgently needed to see him, forcing him to drop everything and rush her way. What the aide didn’t say was why she wanted to see him. He hated Swa’s head games.
As he watched the grey landscape outside the tram window go by, he tried to figure out why he’d been summoned. His team had been doing routine work since Veena’s breakthrough on the enemy’s activity around Candy Cane Lane—hell, the Protectorate had even declared victory over the Nader Alliance. The war was supposed to be over.
With a gentle thud, the tram stopped at the command module, and Orin set off on autopilot towards his boss’ office.
“You sure took your time,” the aide said as soon as Orin stepped into the expansive lobby outside Swa’s office. “Wait here. I’ll let the general know you’ve arrived.”
As Orin watched the aide disappear into the other office, he realized there was nothing worth calling him in for. He clenched his hands into fists to keep from trembling as he regretted leaving his flask back in his office. Too agitated to sit, he strolled to the far wall where floor-to-ceiling windows brought the grey rock of the hollowed-out asteroid into view. Maybe Swa planned to disband his unit. Send everyone home.
At the thought of home, his kitchen back on New Haven came to mind. He’d hated the lemon yellow walls at first. Mary had painted them while he’d been away for work—the scent of the paint still lingered. When he walked into the room, the bold walls almost glowed. The overwhelming colour was too much. Just as he opened his mouth to say he hated the walls, Mary came in with her divine grin, and he’d told her he loved them. And in time, he had grown to love the walls. But that world was all gone now—ashes and memories were all that remained.
Standing an arm’s length from the clear metal wall, he rocked back and forth as he stared out the window. The greyness suited this phase of his life. Without Mary, the colour had vanished from his world.
As he rubbed the back of his neck, he noticed something outside had changed. Trying to figure out what, he pushed his misery aside. The view from this end of the asteroid differed from the barrack module or the module his team worked in.
In the distance, the aperture of the shield gate separated the interior from the open space beyond. On the other side, a few military ships were visible, their matte hulls defined by sharp lines. To his left sat the barrack and work modules connected by the ribbon of tram line. To the right, the vertical farm producing their food rose as a shining beacon of light.
But nearly hidden by the massive farm sat a structure he hadn’t noticed before. He scratched his head. No obvious tram line connected to it.
Before he could ponder too hard, General Swa’s aide called him into her office.
Inside, Swa wasn’t alone. Three civilians stood before her huge desk. The two women and single man all wore asteroid grey suits and cultured blank expressions. No introductions were made, but Orin recognized Dr. Greer from their earlier meeting.
Swa stood and put both hands on her desk and stared Orin in the eye. He swallowed before meeting her gaze.
“I saw security’s report about the ‘event’ with Dr. Oswiu’s daughter.” Swa’s harsh tone was matched by her freshly pressed indigo uniform.
“It’s been taken care of. The girl has been through a difficult time—first surviving the bombing of New Haven, then having her father disappear...” His words trailed off as he realized Swa wouldn’t care.
“I suspect Miss Oswiu will continue to have these ‘events.’ And they’ll get more severe with time.” Greer came forward. “I’ve been over her blood analysis. The girl has the XE-73 genetic marker—the same marker we found in the super-soldier corpses we recovered on Candy Cane Lane.”
“The marker is not a natural mutation,” the closest of the two women said. She held her nose high and looked down on Orin.
“What are you saying?” Orin asked. “Security combed through both Dr. Oswiu’s and her husband’s records. Both of them came up clean. And until she came here, Molly spent her entire life on New Haven. We even have all the little girl’s medical records.”
“Yet, she isn’t who she seems.” Greer’s nasally voice grated on Orin’s already frayed nerves.
The woman who’d spoken before took a step closer to Swa. “And she is a risk to this facility.” The third one hadn’t said a word yet.
Swa pulled herself up to her full height and crossed her arms over her chest. “I can’t afford a wild card like her on this facility.”
“Dr. Oswiu is a critical member of my team.” Orin’s anxiety crept in, amplifying his worry about where the meeting was going. “Don’t forget she’s the one who broke the code resulting in our victory at Candy Cane Lane. Her work has saved thousands of Protectorate soldier’s lives.”
“She broke a code that confirmed information we already knew. Not exactly worth decorating the woman for.” Swa paused and pursed her lips. “However, we need her to keep working. Breaking the new codes is critical to our project.”
All three of grey suits nodded in unison. A shiver ran up Orin’s spine.
“The girl is sufficient for my part of the project.” Greer turned to Swa. “You can keep the mother. However, those codes may contain important insights to my research. I need to be kept informed of her progress. Even partial results may accelerate my work.”
Swa nodded. “Then we go ahead with removing just the girl. Best bet would be to pick her up at school.”
Orin’s eyes widened. Were they really planning to kidnap a child? He stepped forward between the general and Greer. “What are you talking about? I can’t condone taking that girl away from her mother.”
The woman who hadn’t spoken yet cleared her throat. “That girl represents a deliberate human genetic mutation.” She spoke to Orin like he was a child. “Deliberate mutations created the rift between human populations. The GenEn laws were supposed to prevent more of these...experiments.”
A breath caught in Orin’s chest. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Experiments?”
“It is unlikely the mother doesn’t know—meaning she has played a role hiding the girl’s mutation.”
“But...” Orin scrambled to pull his thoughts together. “It can’t be.”
“I think we’re done here.” She nodded to her two colleagues. “You are authorized to proceed with your plan.”
Greer and one of the women turned and walked out of the office. A sense of dread crept over Orin.
“We have a facility for people with these sorts of potentially dangerous mutations,” the remaining woman said. “She will be well cared for.”
“You can’t just take a child!” Orin stared at the woman, but she wasn’t intimidated. He turned to his superior. “General, you can’t let this happen.”
Swa sat on her chair and steepled her fingers together. “Don’t forget your place in this organization. You will go back to your office and make sure Dr. Oswiu remains engaged in her work for the rest of the day. My people will take care of the rest.”
“You’re nuts. There’s no way Veena will do anything for us if we take Molly.” Orin’s voice rose with each word, and heat started radiating from his face. “You can’t kidnap a little girl!”
“Thank you, General.” The woman smoothed the front of her blazer. “I’ll keep you abreast of our progress.” She turned and left.
“Dr. Oswiu will remain in your department. See that she continues her good work,” Swa said.
“What the hell is going on here?” Orin’s nostrils flared. “I thought we were moral people.”
“You’re dismissed, Dr. Akton.” She swivelled towards the exterior view.
“You can’t do this!”
“Do I need to call security?” Swa glanced over her shoulder at him and raised an eyebrow.
Pursing his lips, he tried to think of something to say that would change Swa’s mind. He stared at her profile; her features appeared carved from stone. She wasn’t going to budge.
A shiver ran up his spine. They’d called him here to make sure he was complacent in Molly’s kidnapping. They wanted him to be as guilty as they were. They could use his guilt to manipulate him into doing more things he didn’t approve of down the road. He swallowed and wished for a second time that he’d brought his flask with him.
He turned and left the office. Out in the waiting room, he went over to the window. A tram had just left the Command Module—no doubt containing Greer and the two women on their way to take Molly. There was nothing he could do to stop it.
Clenching his trembling hands at his side, he forced himself to turn away from the window. “I’m just a fucking pawn,” he said under his breath.
General Swa’s aid looked up from where he sat at his desk. “Can I help you?”
Orin’s gaze went to the comms console in front of the aide. He could call Veena. Maybe it wasn’t too late for her to get to Molly before Greer did. He bit his lip. No, there was no way Veena could escape with Molly in time.
“If the general is done with you, you need to move on,” the aide said.
Orin nodded and starting trudging towards the tram station. With every step, he hated himself more and more. Swa had gotten her wish—his compliance in kidnapping a child. A cold wave washed over him as he considered what Swa might force him to do next.
to be continued…
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