Criticality (9): Pleasurable Dreams and Sordid Realities
The endless night when the sky wept to accompany the mourning below did little on an account of tiredness to put uneasy minds to rest – not that Commissioner Gyro could sleep anyway. He lay on his back staring up at the ceiling fan and could honestly isolate, latch onto, and follow one of its blades in the nightlight lit room.
Concerned, the Commissioner’s lady friend Edith Jensen lay on her side staring at him. It came with the territory, and she knew what she was getting into when they were first together back on Earth. Certainly having followed her husband all the way to Second Earth in pursuit of an opportunity for the same dangerous profession cemented a resolve of support that was unwavering but no less nerve-racking.
A couple of kids would do that. Their daughter, Ardina Stowe Jensen-Gyro, had already started school, and the plus side to this migration was the Second Earth school system was second to none. Six years older than their toddler son, Devore Kearns Jensen-Gyro, who had arrived shortly after they had all arrived in the Quadron System, the doorbell elicited not just a concern for the family’s overall safety but a concern for getting the baby to go back down.
“You expecting someone?” Edith asked while handing Commissioner Gyro his LUNC.
“Yes,” the Commissioner said simply while accepting the LUNC and sitting up to get out of bed and locate his robe.
The cries in the background were unmistakable, and Edith accepted, “I’ll get Devore.”
Ardina could sleep through an exploding star, and she was truly one of the lucky ones.
The artificial rain on Second Earth was normally warm, so it was not out of the ordinary to see people walk calmly or stand patiently through its dousing. Like any other sensation, the synthetic planet’s weather systems were an enunciation of being alive so the placement of a damper, or otherwise an umbrella, on that only served to deaden the senses. In quick, fleeting moments, the night’s events had once again proven that life could be snatched away senselessly before an eye even had the chance to blink. There was no reason to hasten the process by numbing the various sensations which might one day be longed for when it was all over.
Three men stood outside of the front door in a triangle formation with the two in back visually surveying the periphery with their hands tucked tellingly inside of their trench coats. At this hour, that occurrence could have meant any number of things, but Commissioner Gyro opened the door up regardless. He knew who it was and greeted, “General Pile.”
“I’m sorry to intrude upon you and your family,” the General apologized, “but you understand this could not have waited?”
The Commissioner nodded as Edith came into the scene holding Devore and using the cadence of her motherly charms to rock him up and down to a calm that would eventually cause the baby to drop off. She was obviously not happy with this occurrence, and her mere presence in the doorway with a telling posture and gaze of polite anger suggested that this had better have been important.
General Pile caught onto the body language and took a verbal step back, “My men can wait outside. We don’t mean to impose.”
“No,” Commissioner Gyro replied, “it’s okay. You don’t make a habit of this. Everybody, come out of the rain.”
Had the circumstances been completely different, this visit by the General might have been construed as an honor. After all, it was not everyday that the second highest ranking Space Force official behind Leader 1: Jerry Stuyvescent placed house calls. As such, accompanying him were his personal guards, Dat Rotca and Cas Trinity which were the peer equivalent of Leader 1’s personal guards Murk Wreosir and the late Chico O’Reilly.
A rare occurrence indeed, General Pile and the Commissioner knew each other on a first name basis, “Horace, it’s been a long time. Too long. We can sit down and speak in the kitchen.”
“Thank you, Omieha,” the General said while removing his soaked trench coat and handing it to Dat.
“Can I take any of your coats or offer you some tea?” Edith inquired in a surprisingly unforced and hospitable manner that played completely counter to the lateness of the situation. She was truly a commissioner’s lady to be so understanding and not kick the lot of them out of their place of residence. Like said, this path had seen traces of her footsteps down it in the past.
General Pile spoke for Dat and Cas, “No, thank you. My personal guard will remain here – out of the way. I don’t plan on staying too long and appreciate what I’m sure is your strained patience.”
Edith smiled and sighed, “You’ve got that right.”
For a commissioner’s salary, the house was surprisingly modest but adequate. The kitchen seemed cramped with a simple round table and four chairs in the center, but this was not the type of meeting that warranted being carried out on the comfort of the couch in the family room.
Commissioner Gyro’s crossed arms and LUNC resting on the table top said it all, so he allowed the General to begin, “When I selected you to head up the Second Earth Special Police Force, it was based upon your impeccable track record of turning cesspool police departments around into something respectable back on Earth. This was what I wanted in order to get Second Earth’s law enforcement up to code from the start. Expansion often causes…opportunities for the undesirables, and your unit mitigated much of that to a point where a normal citizen can take the air at night without fear of harassment. The pact with the Space Force was a lovely one which obviously kept us from having to soil our hands with the grassroots effort of maintaining order, but I have not been entirely forthcoming on what was behind everything.”
“You think?” The Commissioner sniped. “This time around, it was one of your own soldiers, but I do not appreciate the fact that the longer this charade continues, it could be one of my Police Force Officers.”
“Yes,” General Pile admitted, “so I am leveling with you now. Before even engaging you with the offer of the Second Earth Special Police Force job, I’d recently been made aware of an impending danger…”
This latest piece of information peaked Commissioner Gyro’s curiosity as he sat up.
The General continued, “…by a man who had saved me from it. When your life is in danger, you’ll believe even the most farfetched stories.”
The Commissioner pressed, “How farfetched?”
“Omieha, I’m Space Force,” General Pile explained, “and we tend to want to believe that we’ve seen it all. In many respects we have seen everything, in this universe – which is really nothing at all. We’re powerful, and there’s no doubt about that, but our adversaries are only allowing us to see what it is that they want us to see.”
“What did you get my unit into?” Commissioner Gyro demanded softly.
The General did not mince words, “There’s a war coming – a big war, and one that has certain people within the Space Force concerned.”
Shrugging, the Commissioner deduced, “Well, I would suspect that’s obvious with your very being at my kitchen table. Whatever this issue is, you’ve known about this since well before you extended the Second Earth Special Police Force offer to me, so what was our part supposed to be in this?”
“I needed your unit to bide time until the resources were built up that could aid in your defense of Second Earth,” General Pile announced. “This incident with the Shokan is the tip of the iceberg, but it proves that our ultimate adversary no longer feels the need to play the shadows any longer by displaying these types of aggression right in front of our face.”
“It’s a distraction,” Commissioner Gyro formulated his opinion, “because if there is something that can cause the Space Force concern, as you say, they would have no need of petty blood feuds. They’d want you distracted chasing your tail on nonsense like the Cipher Coliseum incident when my unit is much better equipped to deal with it at a ground level. Those are elementary tactics.”
An uncharacteristic laugh came from the General, “Yes it is, but remember I said that only certain people within the Space Force were concerned. The others, I would imagine, are either compromised or eliminated.”
Your lady friend doesn’t like me and I understand completely. Families should not be brought into this craziness that happens to be our chosen careers. Shortly before the Space Force’s massive exodus to the Quadron System, these adversaries brought my family into it, and I never felt so powerless.
There’s no secret as to why I got divorced. If that had happened and things were reversed, I would have divorced myself too. Luckily, my ex-wife still retains the protections of the Space Force Doctrine for herself and our children, but at the time of the incident, that subtle comfort didn’t mean a whole lot – not to us nor the mercenaries sent to take us out.
Had it not been for this ninja who wore a long, flowing headband that looked like it was supposed to be the belt to a gi worn around a waist. Here’s that farfetched thing again. I dropped the keys to my family’s house and froze, but he was not the enemy.
An unlikely ally, but I couldn’t be sure. Jeez, my family was stuck in the car – surrounded in the driveway. These mercenaries had the gall to try and take me in broad daylight. It was a total violation of the Space Force Doctrine which would have warranted their deaths and the deaths of generations of their family members because of my Space Force Rank of General, yet they held no fear. There were only two options: Surrender and hope for my family or shoot it out and take my chances. Screams were coming from the car, and the Hand Laser was in my grasp.
This ninja had repelled down the side of my house in order to provide me with a third option: Himself. Now I couldn’t make out his eyes because he had his back turned to me since he was facing the driveway which initially calmed me to his sudden presence, but I could tell without any sort of experience or Space Force training that he was definitely time-hardened and battle-tested. He went at the four mercenaries without any weapons, and I had his back.
Stalking low and seemingly quicker than the Hand Laser shots that were unleashed to meet his advance, he used some sort of Ninja Speed to duck out of the way of the blasts. Omieha, believe me when I tell you his position did not register with my eyesight, and he was just in front of my face. But what his aggression did was back the lasers off of me and distract the mercenaries from the interest in my family. In going after my wife and kids, at first, it meant that they wanted me alive for some reason. I’m still unclear as to the reasoning, but in that moment I didn’t have time to think about that. All I could think about was the opportunity to make this three on two and better improve our odds.
Only, the ninja was counting on evening the odds as he had dispatched his first victim before I had the chance to blast the second unsuspectingly across the hood of the car. Don’t ask me how he did it – I just saw the mercenary’s body drop and counted my blessings along with the improving odds. That body tumbling over the car must have terrified my family to no end as my wife had made her way under the wheel and started the car up in an attempt to back out of the driveway and speed off away from this mayhem. I didn’t fault her in the slightest for not even considering my well-being when thinking about escaping to save our children, but it was a move that, in causing the mercenaries to jump back in avoidance of the car, had caused them to zero back in on my family.
These guys had Hand Lasers and Laser Rifles – it boggled my mind how well equipped they were with Space Force weaponry no less, and the one with the Laser Rifle was intent on using it to take out the car. Because of the car, I was shielded from any bit of a clear shot, and had to take cover as the other mercenary had switched to the desperation mode that came from botched missions where the target might have been nice to have been taken alive but would probably be just about as good – dead. Chunks were being taken out of the siding of my family’s home, and to be honest, I was thinking about how the quality of the stuff I didn’t even want to pay for may have just helped to save my life in ducking behind it. Pinned down – nowhere to go, I looked up to see if I could catch sight of my new ninja ally.
The force of his attacks were astounding, and had my wife not removed the kids from their view, I would have never had the opportunity to peek around the corner in order to see the one that downed the mercenary after me. Picture this: My ninja friend appeared in front of that mercenary and sidestepped the ensuing Hand Laser blast. He then grabbed the thing while it was being fired and managed to trap and the mercenary’s right wrist while twisting the right arm that it belonged to into the mercenary’s body. From there, he delivered a savage right cross to the mercenary’s face before following it up instantly with some kind of left jump spin kick and finishing it off as that left foot touched back down with a brutal right kick to the back of the mercenary’s already reeling head that actually trailed the previous kick in the exact same motion.
I still cringe. The impact of that mercenary’s face on the concrete took a hundred dollar power-washing job to clean up. His skull was obliterated, and that sound…. Well, let’s just say that the mercenary removed his attention away from under the optional pop-up scope to ascertain its meaning.
In some respects, I could empathize with that final mercenary in seeing that decapitated body gushing blood that ran down my sloping driveway like soapsuds from when I washed the car with my that was now safely down the street. He had frozen as I had frozen, and the ninja stood there unfazed with no fear, no remorse, and no worry. Perhaps that was because it allowed me the opportunity to put the mercenary out of everybody’s misery with a couple pulses from my Hand Laser.
“Thank you,” I said coming out from under my hiding spot that was the extended doorway to my home. This ninja had my respect instantly as well as my indebtedness, but, “We’ve got to go after them.”
“No, they’ll be fine,” he said, “but I need your help.”
By now, the Commissioner was sitting forward with his elbows pressed against the table top – fascinated with the story and anxiously awaiting the punchline.
All General Pile could do was shake his head as he commented, “I was like, you want ‘me’ to help ‘you’? What could I possibly do to help that ninja that just did all of this for me? In retrospect, it didn’t matter. I would have done it, so I shouldn’t have even asked any questions.”
This all sounded familiar, and Commissioner Gyro began to search the directory of his network that resided partially within his mind by memory but requested assistance, “What color was that headband?”
“Bloodcurdling crimson red,” the General answered. “I could never forget that.”
“Acro of the Djibouti Clan saved you?” The Commissioner was even more intrigued than before, and it could be heard in his spry response.
Interjecting that piece of information into the conversation had taken General Pile by surprise as that was confidential, but it should not have, and he stated as much, “How did you know? Actually, I should’ve known. Did you know Acro? With your network, I’m not surprised.”
It was something that Commissioner Gyro could not take the total credit for as it was his deductive skills which should have been commended, “No, I’ve never met him, but I do know of the Master Dyoogie legacy. The Space Force employs one third of it, Acro was the second third, and the final third resides back on Earth at the Djibouti Clan Dojo in Buffalo Grove where I once used to work. What did Acro ask of you?”
“He needed me to put together a group of specialists that I wound up calling Enforcers. I was not the first ranking Space Force official to be attacked – I’m sure, and I know I wasn’t about to be the last. Acro requested that I create a channel which ran up to me but was ultimately independent of the Space Force.
His reasoning was because of the tainting of the upper levels of our hierarchy. His proof was the four bodies lying in my front yard.
I don’t know who I can trust. All I do know is that my loyalists are being targeted and taken out, and our adversaries clearly no longer fear the Space Force.
The Enforcers fly under everybody’s radar and in between the jurisdictional layers of private and public law enforcement. In the Space Force, outside of me, I entrusted the knowledge of their existence to only one other person. Even my closest subordinate officer, Admiral Vertlett, has no idea of this side project, and I’d never concern Leader 1 with something this petty until I had something concrete to back up my farfetched story – which I don’t. I merely have Acro’s word which is good enough for me, but will not be suitable enough to convince the Space Force of both a war and a set of enemies that threaten to eclipse it. Now, you are the second person to know.
I’m a company man. I love the Space Force and believe in its principles, but I am not so blinded by that love that I don’t realize the need to provide a little tough love to bring it back to its former magnificence. It is not something that I can do from within because trying that method would mean my life. It’s also not something that you can do from the outside because the Space Force is just too powerful. The Enforcers equalize out some of that technological, muscle deficit to assist you while working outside of the normal channels and parameters to assist me,” the General responded.
“But that’s against the Space Force,” the Commissioner did not kid himself about the worth of the Enforcers’ contribution. “What am I supposed to do about a war that can potentially overwhelm the mighty Space Force and obviously has you spooked enough to be telling me all of this?”
Hands would be full with Second Earth so General Pile suggested, “Continue what you’re doing and protect Second Earth, but above all else, I’m telling you this so you can protect yourself. Be careful Omieha, and I know you are, but things are set to become much worse than we’ve ever seen them. In my coat, I’ve got a slate computer with the information that I know. You are welcome to it to get yourself up to speed on what this universe is facing.”
With a nod, Commissioner Gyro acknowledged, “Your forthrightness is appreciated. While you’re in a mood to volunteer information, let me ask you this.”
“Shoot,” the General permitted.
“Why have communications been severed with the Terran System?” The Commissioner questioned.
Looking down a moment at the table before once again meeting Commissioner Gyro’s gaze to answer honestly, General Pile said, “I don’t know. That wasn’t my doing.”
A directive from Leader 1 this significant that the General did not have anything to do with it was troubling. The Terran System was the birthplace of all Humans, and the Space Force had in essence stripped the majority of the fleet from there to position its near entirety almost exclusively within the Quadron System. A few months of communication and travel restrictions would not even raise any eyebrows and could be sold as some sort of issue with the communication beacon network or concerns over a fabricated viral outbreak – really anything the Space Force could come up with because they were not in the business of abusing trust (having never done so previously). The troubling part was why, and it was clear from General Pile’s reaction that although he did not know exactly, he did know that it had to do with what had been at the root of this discussion.
“Again, I’m sorry to have involved you in all of this,” the General reiterated, “but I always knew it would come down to you being one of the only people I could trust.”
Silence on the part of the Commissioner was not to be construed as anything other than pensiveness. He was working mentally through his current personnel assignments and thinking about how best to reorganize them in order to better deal with this latest data dump of information.
Not receiving any sort of response and not wanting to further inconvenience Commissioner Gyro – as if that was even possible at this point, General Pile simply stood up and offered, “I’ll see myself out.”
Back in bed, the Commissioner now lay staring up at the slate computer he held over his face. Lengthy, thorough, yet concise, that compilation of files was far from what one would consider to be bedtime reading. Fascinating like an eBook from Dope Enterprises, it was impossible to put down.
The light from the screen had kept Edith awake, as well, for almost an entire hour, but she now lay asleep holding Commissioner Gyro with her face nestled against the left side of his head. There was an understanding that necessitated support. It was not easy for her, but it could not have been easy for him either, and she would not be the woman in the car driving off with the kids while he was somewhat solely (because of the power of his position) tasked with making sure that the conditions in which Ardina and Devore were raised were safe.
If not for the love that they shared for one another, Edith realized that the Commissioner was laying his life on the line for her and the kids. His position and stature was reassuring in that many couples let alone spouses were not even privy to the extent of the dangers that were actually out there. It was information that he readily held at his fingertips – now more than ever and was always forthcoming in disseminating because she would worry less with more information at her disposal.
The all-around sacrifices in this relationship beget sacrifices. Edith sacrificed a normal carefree life because the dangerous sacrifices that Commissioner Gyro made were ironically for her – otherwise he would have long since found a safer job. It was safe to say that if he had not made those sacrifices for her, she would not have stuck by him in sacrificing this fabled normal life, but had she not stuck by him in sacrificing that normal life, he certainly would not have made those sacrifices for her.