Friday, April 3, 2009

Great Hites # 47

This Week we have Stories by

This weeks winner was Norval Joe!

Scott Roche
Norval Joe
Jeff Hite

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Magic Quadrant Part 3
Scott Roche

The mysterious figure hunched over and crawled into the Jefferies tube, pulling the access door shut, behind him. He was certain that he hadn’t been followed. This deck level was largely empty during even a normal duty cycle. In addition, thanks to the Red Alert status which relegated everyone not on duty to their quarters, it was even less likely that he would be discovered. Still if someone in security did catch him there would be hard questions.

Once he was securely in place, he slid the small device out from its hiding place and slapped it on a conduit. Unless you knew exactly where to look there was no way anyone would spot it. Satisfied with that he spoke into the micro-recorder he had in his bag of tricks. “Log number forty-seven, Agent Alpha Three dash Zero Zero Seven recording. We have arrived at the agreed upon coordinates. I have necessary access to all of the ship’s subsystems as required by my mission. If I run into any problems I will avail myself of whatever options I can find, though I want to state for the record that I find none of the potential answers is very savory."

Stating it for the record would do little good if the recorder never made it back into his overseer’s hands, but it made him feel better. “I will initiate self destruct or make the necessary adjustments to the power structure to assume command only if I am forced to do so. Otherwise I shall let things proceed as planned.”

Working for Section 31 often meant that he had to do things that most people would find not only unsavory but perhaps even outright treasonous. If it meant keeping the Federation safe though, no agent worth his salt counted the personal cost. The only problem was, this particular agent had let his guard down and started to get to know this crew. He was friends with some of them.

That didn’t mean he would shirk his sacred duty. Friendship meant little if they were thrust into a disaster, the proportions of which made their involvement necessary. It still made the whole matter stickier than he liked. “The science officer has yet to detect the modifications that were made to the sensor package. I await the transmission from our operatives on the other side. Agent Alpha Three dash Zero Zero Seven out.” He replaced the micro-recorder into the slit pocket in his red tunic’s sleeve. Only the most advanced sensors would detect it and even then it would have to be turned on.

He turned in the cramped space and opened the hatch. Satisfied that the coast was clear, he crawled out and dogged the hatch behind him again. He had three minutes to return to his quarters before he was missed. That was plenty of time.

Family Matters
By: Norval Joe

The king stood in the passage just outside the open door to his daughters ante chamber, and watched the ladies-in-waiting hover and fuss like a swarm of helpful bees attending to a single flower. "She is beautiful', he thought as the ladies primped and preened her in preparation for the betrothal feast, just a few hours away.
A son-in-law that would be the most beneficial alliance for the kingdom was not the foremost factor in the kings mind as he negotiated with the eligible men of the surrounding kingdoms, but it was high on the list. He wanted his only daughter to be happy, that was foremost. Ten kingdoms touched the boundaries of his own, or were within a days ride of it. All had varying degrees of hostility or cooperation with his land. Should he choose the son of his most trusted alliance and cement a relationship that was already strong, or pursue the son of his most heated rival and build a bridge to cooperation that had been difficult to achieve in the past? Would allying with this rival, then, offend his trusted friend, and thus shake a fundamental and valued relationship? Should he choose the dim witted, but handsome, youth of one king over the intelligent, but middle aged brother of another? None of the choices had been simple; all had potential repercussions that might prove to be undesirable.
He had made his decision and forged an alliance with one of the more distant kingdoms that produced much of the grain that his kingdom used; It had seaports and was strong in trade with distant, exotic countries. In addition to fields of grain and sailing ships, the kingdom had a prince, the heir to the thrown, a few years older than his daughter. The princess had accompanied the king and her older brother each autumn, since she was eight years old, as the king traveled to the foreign land to secure treaties and trade agreements. It would seem that the princess had been concealing an interest in the young prince for many years; when he presented the idea to the princess of marriage to this young man, she reacted with indifference, and replied, "My desire is to serve the kingdom. If this is what is expected of me, I can do nothing but comply with your wish."
'She will be a beautiful queen,' the king thought, proudly, as he heard her reply, her shining eyes putting the lie to her affected indifference.
The king turned from the door and walked toward the banquet room, where his trusted advisors and ministers were preparing to receive the prince and his envoy, in preparation for the official betrothal.
A scribe, red faced and perspiring sped down the passage and threw himself at the kings feet. "My Lord, I bring the gravest of news. The princes envoy was attacked as it passed through the eastern forests, and the prince was taken hostage. The rest of the entire party were killed, save a single squire. He reached our gates only this very hour. He said that there is a large contingent moving this way. He brought this emblem from a dead solder of the attacking party."
Mechanically, the king took the emblem form the messengers outstretched hand. He recognized it immediately and wanted to cast it down in disgust. The kings face paled then reddened in turns, as the implications of the attack clarified in his mind. "Rise, good servant." The king said gruffly. "Send word that all are to gather in the banquet hall within the hour. I must, now, speak to my daughter."
His son stood and all discussion ceased in the hall when the king entered. He was composed, but it was evident from his demeanor that the news was not easily received by his daughter. Emotionally drained and feeling all of his five and a half decades, he dropped into the large cushioned seat in the middle of the long banquet table; with a wave of his hand, he indicated that all who stood in attendance, should sit. "Father, will she be alright", the prince leaned in and whispered? He nodded an abbreviated half-nod to reassure his son.
All the choices were before the king, and he knew that a decision would need to be made quickly.
He looked, first, down the table to his left. There sat his minister of finance, the deep sense of unease clearly readable in her eyes. She saw his contemplative stare and quickly glanced down to the sheets of parchment on the table before her. She shuffled them about and acted as if she was reading them, hoping that this would divert the Kings attention elsewhere. Her lead accountant sat to her right, careful not to look up from his own notes. To her left sat her chief economist, blissfully unaware of the tension.
He then looked down the table to his right. His minister of trade sat between two of his long time friends, the guild masters of the bakeries and the blacksmiths.
Between these two groups were arrayed the various other ministers and advisors.
The king signalled to his steward who rang the dinner chime and the room was suddenly filled with servants rushing about to get the various platters and tureens onto the long banquet table within three of the kings deep, steadied breaths; they knew that he was counting, and were too familiar with the results, if the count was too long. The food on the table, the servants disappeared as quickly as they had come.
"Eat", the king declared when the last of the servants had left the banquet hall, "This was to be a celebration banquet, after all." He looked at the steaming entrées, a look of dismay growing on his face; sweet and sour soups, candied yams, and chocolate fondues. He looked at his ever expanding waist and at the dinner service again. 'All sweets', he thought, ' not a savory choice on the table. No wonder I'm getting so fat!'
He looked up from his evaluation of the table to see his dinner guests; The entire entourage sat, motionless, waiting for the king to be the first to eat; someone's stomach groaned loud enough for half the table to hear.
The noise startled the king from his contemplative stasis. With a heat he hadn't expected, he growled at his advisors, "Make your selections and eat. With an invading army approaching our lands, we've many decisions to make this evening, and none of them are savory." He slammed the table for emphasis and picked up a honey coated date ball to throw, sullenly, into his mouth. The dates were crunchy and sweet, yet difficult to swallow.
They all began to eat cautiously pondering the steps that must be taken to prepare for war.

Merideth Introduction
By Jeff Hite

The Sound of his phone Ringing was like a nail being driven into his skull. The headache was back, and the high trill of his phone was almost more than he could handle this morning. He thought about ignoring it but, both ignoring it and answering it had consequences that he didn't really want to face that this point. It rang one more time before he made his decision and picked it up.
"Rob, this is Mary." Rob did the best not to roll his eyes. Mary was the best receptionists the company had, but her voice had a quality that could strip paint of walls in any direction she choose to point it.
"Yes, Mary."
"Rob, you have a guest up here, and your conference call with marketing is in five minutes." It was completely odd for a guest to be visiting him. Mary was very good about not letting any sales people in, and he didn't have any planned guests from the other departments.
"Who is it Mary?"
"I don't know Rob, he would not give me his name, and when I tried to get rid of him, he said he was an old friend and that you would make time for him."
"An old friend huh?" If this job had one cost it was his social life. He had not been home before nine thirty in over a month, and had mostly spend his weekends just trying to recover from the weeks. That was of course the weekends that he didn't end up working. "Alright Mary, I will be but shortly. When the conference call comes in, can you stall them for a few minutes?"
"Alright Rob, but they won't buy it for long."
"Thanks Mary." He hung up the phone and took a quick look at the train wreck that was his schedule today, then he made his way to the front lobby. There was a man sitting in the chair facing away from him, and a woman in the chair opposite him that he could not take his eyes off of. When she meet his eyes he felt like the room had just lit up.
"Rob, look at you," the voice was unmistakable, and it was probably the one thing that forced him to take his eyes off the woman, now standing up in front of him.
"Larry, what? but where have you."
"Larry?" Mary's voice removed the last spot of stubble he'd missed this morning.
"Surprised to see me again?"
"That is an under statement." Rob said when he finally was able to speak again.
"Yea well things happen in funny ways."
"The last time I saw you was on the top."
"Lets not talk about that now," he said holding up his hands. "Rob, I would you like you to meet my friend Meredith." The woman at Larry's side held out her, hand and for the first time in his life, Rob felt like maybe he should kiss it and not shake it.
"It is nice to meet you Meredith. Did you meet Larry in Greece?"
"You could say that," She said with a smile and voice that made him feel warm. "It is very nice to meet you, Larry has spoken a lot about you."
"Rob, your meeting is waiting."
"Thanks Mary. Listen Larry," Rob started.
"It is alright Rob, I understand I just wanted to let you know that we were back in town. Can you meet us for a late dinner. We can celebrate your promotion. Mary told me you got Dave's job."
"Alright, but."
"No buts tonight at the steakhouse on the west side of Broadway at nine-ish alright?" Rob nodded dumbly. "Great, we will see you there. Get to that marketing call."
Rob watched the two of them go and could almost feel the room getting colder as they stepped from the lobby to the streets beyond. Larry had been one of his only friends for years. Mostly because they both worked for Unitide, but Larry had been gone for years since they had lost sight of each other while looking for what Larry thought was the was entrance into the home of the gods. And what about the woman with him. Larry had never, as far as Rob knew, been very good with women, and Meredith was certainly the most beautiful woman that Rob had ever seen him with. He didn't have time to think about this now. He needed to have his thoughts together for this call, or the marketing team would walk all over his department again.