End Times: Status Report

Echo’s voice emanated from the wall console, “My Lady? Are you awake?”

Luanne sat up on her bed, “Yes.”

She always thought that it was odd that the androids would ask that question; they could tell by sight. She did not know if it was due to some sort of etiquette algorithm or just general etiquette rules they learned on their own. Nobody could say any more; they have been refining their own programming for over 100 years now.

“Commander Marion arrived to give you his report. He wanted to visit Ms. Marie-Camile and he is in her room.”

Luanne glanced at the console and it read 8:02. One thing about the Commander, he was punctual. It was just as well. She did not sleep much with thoughts racing through her mind trying to come up with strategies against this latest gambit.

“Let him know I will join him shortly.”

“Very well, my Lady.”

 

Several minutes later, Luanne entered Marie’s room. Johnathan stood next to her bed. The spider-like auto-med was in standby mode watching them. As she approached, he did not seem to notice her until she was nearly next to him. He turned towards her as if it required some effort on his part and stood at attention. Judging from the dark circles under his eyes and wrinkled uniform, he got as much sleep as she did.

“At ease, Commander.”

Almost immediately, Johnathan’s stance changed. Usually, when ordering him at ease, he would continue to stand in attention but gradually relax his posture as they talked. Luanne looked from Johnathan to Marie and back to him.

“You were one of them as well if I remember.”

“Yes, My Lady, it was only for about a year.”

“Oh? You are going to have to tell me that story.”

“It’s nothing exciting… failed to follow orders and got culled.”

Luanne stared at Johnathan and blinked a couple times, “You are going to have to tell me that story then. You? Not following orders?”

Johnathan shrugged, “It happened.”

He turned towards Marie and looked down at her, “It’s hard to imagine that I’m only a few years older than her.”

He continued, “She could have killed me on that day… now… look at her.”

“I remember you two getting in a fight. Nobody told me what it was about.”

Johnathan scoffed, “I was young and cocky. She had my ticket back in and I didn’t consider all the places where someone could hide a knife. Thankfully, everything worked out. I got a nice scar as a reminder.”

Johnathan placed his hand on Marie’s shoulder and Luanne could see a smile form on his face. After a moment, he turned to her and said, “With all due respect, I think we need to talk business now.”

 

After giving her regards to Marie, she and Johnathan went to her office. Luanne knew that Johnathan was more comfortable there. She kept it Spartan for that reason. There were some photographs of previous leaders of Rhineshire Hospitality on the wall to break up the monotony.

At the suggestion of Echo, the large portrait of the corporation’s founder Ronald Rhineshire, her great-great-grandfather, hung behind her when she sat at her grand antique oak desk. She thought it looked intimidating. She was sure that was why Echo made the recommendation. There were windows that looked over the Chicago Enclave and that was the spot where Johnathan preferred to stand.

“What’s your report, Commander?”

Luanne did not intend to be formal but it was business now. Johnathan turned slightly and then continued staring out the window.

“Blackguard is not cooperating with my requests. They are not even giving me the coordinates of the encampments they raided.”

“Do we know if they raided anything?”

“Talking with the Security Directors of the other American enclaves, I was able to learn the locations of some of their targets. All of them have been inside security zones.”

He continued, “Through some unofficial channels, I got the impression it was Denver that ordered the raids. One of my contacts said he thought they were going to relocate them. Oh yes, there will be an announcement later today. It’s not going to be good for you.”

Luanne nodded, “I suspected as much.”

“I deployed sentry drones as you ordered. I told the information drones that we deployed them to observe Blackguard on our property and to address any additional security concerns.”

“Thank you, Commander. Did you say the raids were on encampments inside our security zones?”

“Yes, my Lady.”

“How is that possible, Commander? Especially on this scale?”

“I do not have an answer for that. I know I don’t remember any activity in the intrusion reports that would indicate as large of a presence as these raids suggest.”

Luanne sat in silence for a moment, “Make that your priority. I want to know if someone figured out how to circumvent the security grids.”

“Yes, My Lady. I will let you know what I discover.”

“If that is all Commander, you are free to go. Please, get some sleep. I am going to need you at your full capacity before this is over.”

“Thank you, My Lady.”

Johnathan walked away from the windows and through the door that automatically shut after him. After she was sure that he was not going to return, she allowed her curiosity to get the better of her.

“November, can you display Commander Johnathan Marion’s employment history?”

“Yes, My Lady. Is there anything else you need?”

A clear transparent sheet on the desk activated displaying his history. As she studied it, she said, “No, thanks. That will be all for now.”

Finally, she found what she was searching: “February 14, 2162: Blackguard Inc. dismissal, violation of employment terms, insubordination.”

 

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