Among the Worms CH2

In 3054, I was a nineteen year old college student wanting to change the universe through my yet untapped and hidden expertise in the field of journalism. I can now honestly say I was fueled by hatred directed towards anyone who may have a different mindset from my, ever so experienced opinion.

I was sitting in the grass on the Suns Royal University on the planet New Avalon, watching a video on my phone. I stared at the face of the man that embodied everything that I hated about the Federated Suns. A staunch supporter of the military industrial complex and a well known corporate figurehead that seemed to appear on every news feed that I scanned. CEO of Sacrado Industries, fiercely and unapologetically right-wing, and probably what I hated the most was the fact he was so damn smart and polite. He was everything I hated in someone that you just couldn’t hate.

As I watched his video I could not help but believe he was hiding something ugly, evil, and repugnant. No one is that friendly and intelligent without having something to hide, and what made matters worse: He wore glasses! Who wears glasses in 3054? A simple surgical procedure could give you brand new eyes. Somewhere in that burning hatred I had made it my mission in life, as a future journalist to expose him before everyone as who he really is, and I did.

In 3068, I had my dream job as an investigative journalist for “The Sunset Journal” and after many emails and phone calls, I was finally standing outside the man’s office. I could not help myself but be surprised at the lack of extravagance of the door separating me from the office of Sacrado Industries’ Chief Executive Officer. It was not the massive, furnished, mahogany, double doors that I had expected. It was a small wooden door, with a frosted window, and a name placard reading “Nicholas Sigler”.

Turning the knob, I stepped in, again surprised by the conservative furnishings: A small bookcase with trinkets scattered across the top, a small television, playing the news, no music, nothing remarkable except for how unremarkable it was.

“Good afternoon sir,” He said as he stood and held out his hand for a shake. His eyes were ice blue and had an edge of sorrow to them, yet keen and intelligent. No taller than six foot he was in fantastic shape for being in his mid-seventies. “Could I get you something to drink?”

“I don’t drink,” I responded as he walked over to the bottle of, what I expected to be vodka, sitting on the bookshelf.

“Oh well, more for me.” He smiled as he poured it into a small paper cup, “Please, take a load off, make yourself at home.”

“Thank you,” I said while I sat and opened up my notepad, glancing quickly through the interrogative onslaught I was about to unleash on his unsuspecting mind.

I started by asking him about his personal life to relax myself, and to get him complacent.

“How’s the wife and family?” I asked, attempting to front a level of relaxation.

“Oh, they’re all pretty good, my grandkids are headed to college and I told the old lady how much I am proud of them just yesterday.” He said, the lines of his smile: warm and genuine.

“Oh, does she no longer live with you?” I asked, internally excited. Domestic violence? Infidelity?

“Well no,” He said, no longer smiling, he folded his hands across his chest and leaned back in the chair, “Not anymore.”

“What happened?” I asked, as I noticed the tears in his eyes as he leaned back forward.

“Well, she had a heart attack sixteen days ago and is no longer with us.” He said, his lips quivering ever so slightly as he gently rubbed one of the small trinkets on his desk.

“I’m so sorry, was that hers?” At this point I felt like I crossed a line, I didn’t want to seem uncaring, and part of me urged that he was using this to deflect further questions.

His eyes glanced back and forth, from the object to me. He finally sighed, and had a striking expression of confidence as he held up the small picture frame enclosing a brown, dirty piece of paper.

“Do you know what this is?”

I shook my head and quickly glanced at my notes.

“This reminds me everyday that life could be much harder, it’s what got me through seven years of being homeless, followed by four more years of recovering from alcoholism, drug addiction, a divorce, and even darker times of my life.”

“Wow-why?” I was very surprised, he was obviously telling the truth and didn’t mind me scribbling feverishly upon my little yellow notepad. “What’s its significance?”

“Have you ever heard of the army’s Threat Evaluation Group?” He asked, squinting his eyes as if unsure of his own question.

“Of course, everybody has, I had a good friend shoot a video documentary at their training camp a year or so ago.”

“Okay, well, back before it was called T-E-G, it was called C-C-G in the twenties, which meant Combined Capabilities Group, they were responsible for conducting proxy wars and such in the political interests of the Federated Suns.”

“How do you know this?” I asked as I flipped a page on my notepad.

“Have you heard of Operation Pink on Addicks back in twenty five or the Saalm Tribe?” He again leaned back and scratched his gray hair.

“Yes! I have!” Then embarrassed, I leaned back, trying to appear more professional. “Operation Pink was a military operation that started in twenty four and ended when a team of special ops guys went rogue and disappeared, a whole bunch of civilians were killed and an investigation cleared all of the leaders of any wrongdoing, of course.”

“Well, yeah, that’s the one, but that’s not how it all happened though. I was there, with CCG five, and I was one of those guys that ‘went rogue’, I was given this while on that planet, and to this day, I will never forget Operation Pink.”

“What happened? Is it classified?” I asked, excited to maybe have a deep look into something that stirred up so much controversy in past decades.

“I would tell you,” He said as he placed the frame back on his desk, “But I won’t without the FOD.”

“What’s a FOD?”

“A Forward Operating Detachment.” He explained, “Myself and four other men were assigned to FOD thirteen thirty-nine for Operation Pink, and if they won’t talk, then I won’t.”

“Well, can we call them? Where do they live? I’ll go talk to them tomorrow.”

“No,” He shook his head, “They won’t talk to you, he said as he adjusted his glasses. “They don’t like journalists, reporters, anybody with a recording device or notepad really. I’ll give them a call and I’ll see if they want to talk, but I can’t promise anything.”

In 3069, there I sat on a small couch in Mr. Sigler’s home, my computer sat on my lap, and a beer sat in my hand. I had met Dallas Bradshaw already, a tall blond man, with a loud voice, who enjoyed wearing jeans and button ups. He had greeted me with a robust handshake and an accent derived from the ancient southern territories of the United States on Terra. He had a lip full of chewing tobacco and spoke with Mr. Sigler in the most repulsive way.

“Hey fucker.” He started, shaking Mr. Sigler’s hand and giving him a massive hug. “How does my phone sound so clear, but when my comms guy calls, it's broken and unreadable? ”

“Nope, not this time.” Mr Sigler responded with a painful smile. “Where’s Chris at?”

“He ain’t here yet?” Bradshaw looked around jokingly, “Well shit,” He spat into a styrofoam cup, “Probably couldn’t get his legs workin’ this mornin’.”

I chuckled quietly at my computer as I jotted down their words.

“That was fuckin funny, huh?” Bradshaw snapped at me.

I looked up, surprised that he even heard me and honestly terrified as he towered above me.

“Oh, I apologize, I didn’t mean to insult you.” I said quickly.

“Careful.” He responded then looked back at Mr. Sigler.

A knock at the door sounded and Bradshaw immediately called, “Getcheer broke ass in here, Park!”

The door opened and an elderly asian man stepped in, probably older than the other two, head bald, with a smirk gracing his lined face.

“We can smoke in here right, Nick?” The man asked.

“Not before I shake your hand, brother,” Bradshaw embraced him, then proceeded to pick him up and take off one of his legs. I sat, horrified, not sure what to do, I was then convinced, Dallas Bradshaw was completely insane.

“Hey bitch!” The man yelled, “Put my old ass down and give me back my damn leg!”

“Just makin’ sure it’s still all you.” He grinned and handed him the prosthetic limb.

“I swear to god, you do that to me again and I’m going to kick you in the nuts at five hundred meters.”

Bradshaw laughed and patted him on the back, “Need a beer, Chris?”

“Sure why not?” He said as he lit a cigarette with a built in lighter in his prosthetic arm.

“Is that standard?” I asked, intrigued.

“Hey!” He turned to me, with an elated expression. How are ya?” He shook my hand, “Nope, had my nephew install it, kid’s good with prosthetics and lighters, pretty damn convenient for me.”

“Aren’t you worried about the negative effects of smoking?”

He cackled loudly, “Addicks can’t kill me,” He took a drag, “This can’t kill me.”

I had spent that evening furiously typing on my computer what I had learned about these men: Mr. Sigler shaved every day because he felt it was like cutting himself off from his prior homeless life; Dallas had a loving wife and three kids, two of whom had joined the army and one of them was a medical doctor on New Avalon; Chris lived on a ranch, though he never told me where, he was never married, and people around there liked him “because nobody got away with doin’ shit they weren’t supposed to,”; and the fourth man, who they referred to as the WO (pronounced “woah”), had taken up a job living on a periphery planet making “Shit tons of money", though this WO never showed up, I withheld asking why.

Eventually everyone calmed a bit and sat on the porch, sipping their beer and staring into the street, without a word, that is until Dallas spoke up.

“Well Boxer, we’re not here to fuck around,” He said, “Nick, tell him about twenty-five.”

Mr. Sigler had placed his cup of water on the cement, and sighed. He then turned to me and uttered, “What do you wanna know?”

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