“Nothing about this – about what you’ve caused,” Janette chastised, “is in any way…funny.” The eight remaining Galaxy Bloc soldiers trained their laser rifles on the intruder.
“Isn’t it though?” Boyd smirked before returning the deathly seriousness to his own face in countering, “Dio Qze has some sort of rabid, killer plant for a core…. My gosh, I’ve eaten the vegetation on this planet!” Seeing what he had just seen was enough for a person to give up vegetables entirely and become a strict carnivore.
Although she did not have to, Janette reassured, “The harvest yield is completely safe. Our quality controls include a thorough processing and analysis of all collected crops. I’ve eaten here myself. Everybody has.” Rebutting the accusatory arrogance of the Space Force was something that the unincorporated planets had long since gotten used to but tired of. This was the story of a burgeoning new faction who continued to be treated like a child – like it had no idea how to function independently when it should have been respected as an adult. Did they make mistakes? Yes. Nobody was exempt from that. Was this one of them? No. And the botanist needed to make things clear.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have to answer any of your questions,” Janette reminded the intruder. “You’re the one who’s trespassing on – well, actually underneath Galaxy Bloc soil. This is technically an act of war.”
“One that the unincorporated planets dare not bring to bear,” Boyd threatened.
“One,” Janette emphasized, “that you’re going to be exploited to help avert.” Like it or not, and she did not like it in the slightest – the intruder needed to be used as the propagandist fodder for feeding the curiousness of the Space Force’s overreaching interests. He was too powerful to kill, and the botanist realized this. But he also happened to be too dangerous to let escape…without the proper coaching.
Boyd flung his eye contact to either side of Janette as if to visually request privacy for the purposes of discussing the terms to this mutually agreed upon settlement. She obliged the tentative acquiescence by raising the first two fingers of her right hand to gather the attention of the troops to a single point before signaling with those fingers downward for them to lower their weapons and a side swipe of her wrist to encourage an ordered departure.
After holstering his LUNC, Boyd created a thumbs-up hand gesture before proceeding to point over the back of his shoulder at the closed door which had not yet been breached by the biological weapon. He decided to broach a lingering subject in earnest, “What about Burdlit?”
Almost dismissive in tone if not for the urgency of having to deal with the intruder as the most pressing matter at hand, Janette replied, “He’ll be fine,” prior to turning around and heading off.
Making no mistake that Janette happened to be just about as formidable mentally as Burdlit had been imposing physically, Boyd shrugged off her cold lack of sentimentality and trailed behind the botanist as the presence of Galaxy Bloc soldiers loosened up – parting to allow them an angle of access on through to the rest of the hallway. He neither looked forward to the next challenge nor relished this different type of opponent, but rising to meet and hopefully exceed the rigors of the moment was the misnomer of an occupation where survival was embedded so deeply within its job description.
“Well,” Boyd said while increasing the length of his stride in order to catch up with and walk alongside Janette, “at least you’re not counting him out.”
“He has a job to perform,” Janette stated, “as do you, now. The question is for whose side will you each perform your deeds.”
With a sigh of relief, Boyd mentioned, “So you’re aware of the Carriveaua want short of an…openly expressed wish to see all Humans destroyed?”
The intruder was offering up more of that Space Force self-righteousness, so Janette refused to make eye contact with him when rebutting, “We’re not stupid or as stupid as you’d believe us to be.”
“The Carriveaua biological weapon which exists as Dio Qze’s core did leave me to wonder,” Boyd shot right back.
“They call the biological weapon a Deew,” Janette explained, “and its presence had caught us by so much of a surprise that even the planet’s realtor seemed to garner a convenient measure of selective amnesia when trying to explain to us how something like it could just come about.”
A crime if Boyd had ever heard one, he offered, “If you’ll allow me, I’d like to have my people check into this realtor.” If there were even more unincorporated planets within the Quadron System that possessed Deews in place of their cores – or more on the way, tracing the sales aspect could lead back to the supplier and the source. The Space Force only required enough evidence for a glance of the wrongdoing before they would readily sanction the use of the Enforcers to cause those wrongdoers to disappear.
An offer such as that was laced with one-sided and exploitable gotchas, so Janette expressed reservation, “And then your people contact my people? I’m not so sure about that. It kinda defeats the purpose doesn’t it?”
“Please don’t wait until it becomes too late before you start asking for help,” Boyd warned.
“We,” Janette stopped in her tracks, turned, and argued, “don’t…need your help!” The intruder was starting to wear on her nerves when she most needed to hold things together, but there was very little tolerance for piousness at this point.
And Boyd was not expecting that but should have, so he lashed back with an urgent plea, “Galaxy Bloc can be our link to the justification for stopping the Carriveaua problem. Put your pride aside, and do this for your people!” Being reduced to pitching an emotional sell was not quite the point of leverage that the Enforcer wanted this negotiation to stem from, and Janette happened to be in the early stages of testing out her own emotion-laced pitch on him as well.
After raking her right arm into the intruder’s chest while claiming, “The Carriveaua aren’t the problem,” in order to brush him aside, Janette pressed off ahead and somberly accused, “you are.”
She was good. Boyd actually wanted to chase after her…and refute the levied charges. The Enforcer inside him was screaming out for him to put a laser pulse in the back of the botanist’s head, escape to the surface, and contact the spacestation at all costs. But that da-nable empathy was getting in the way.
With distance between them, Janette’s fabricated frown turned upside down into the curl of a devious grin. This was not even a case of feminine wiles overwhelming the masculine psyche. She believed that the Space Force would have trained its elite operatives extensively to be able to resist such advances, although, this might be something to try out a little later to, if for nothing else, confuse the issue. No, multiple soldiers could have died at the intruder’s hands, Walten Uchbinder would have been left behind to perish, and Dio Qze might have been relegated to the fate of ashes – if he had it in him to make the proper business decisions. And this was not a case of hesitation on his part either. The botanist had happened upon the infamous chink in the impenetrable armor:
Boyd cared so much about the mission that the Enforcer was beginning to lose sight of the mission itself. Desensitization for black ops operatives would always be a bigger blessing. Being of one mind to carry out orders and follow through on mission objectives without question became the gem of their nucleus and the crux of their effectiveness. They often delved into the areas of understanding an enemy so that creativity could run its course in besting said foe – but only briefly, so there was always a chance of going in too deeply.
He was in trouble. For once, Janette had the intruder exactly where she wanted him.