Chapter 4: Dante
When I took this job, they didn’t say I would be running the show. I mean, who am I to run anything? Let alone a security job. I’m a pilot by trade, security isn’t the highest thing on my list of priorities usually.
Contrary to popular belief, security is a hell of a lot harder than it looks. Especially running it.
It’s writing watch bills. Making sure people show up for those watches. Making sure people don’t dirt bag the job during those watches that I made sure they weren’t late for.
See what I mean?
It’s getting woken up in the wee hours of the morning over something dumb because the new guy doesn’t know what to do about a problem.
I usually run on a mixture of carbs, caffeine, and sugar to get me through the day. Tack on the responsibility of managing Ethan Blake and you have yourself a wonderful cocktail that’s sure to give you a daily migraine.
He’s always so angry and bitter. I mean I get it; this isn’t a place anyone really chooses to go. Unless you’re me. Not to mention the whole situation that went down that led him here.
It’s crazy to think about.
A whole ship full of people just ghosted by the Sekrid without warning. And then they make Ethan take the fall for it. Why they didn’t just execute him is beyond me, but the fact still remains that he’s my responsibility.
I’m pulled from my thoughts by a blinking light on my monitor, signaling an incoming call. I tap the answer button on the display, causing the face of Dr. Cain to appear.
These chats between us have been occurring almost daily since Blake got here.
“Good morning, Dante,”
“What can I do for you, doctor?” I ask with a sigh.
“Oh, come now Mr. Hall, don’t be so glum. Today is a new day, which means there’s more progress to be made,” She replies with a wide smile and a cheery tone, causing an involuntary eye roll from my end.
“So,” Dr. Cain starts
. “Here it comes,”
“Update me on Blake,”
“There’s not really much to update. He does his job, eats, sleeps, repeats. Is there something you’re looking for?” I explain.
Dr Cain’s expression turns to a grimace. “No, not particularly. Am I wrong for wanting to keep tabs on a criminal who’s placed on my ship?”
I shrug “I guess not. But why don’t you just leave him to me. He’s fine. And you know I’m more than capable of keeping him in line,”
“How long have you been with me again, Dante?” Cain asks. I think for a moment. “Two years about, I think,” “I suppose that’s enough time for me to allow a little trust on my end. Fine. But don’t mess this up, Dante. I don’t like being unhappy,”
Dr. Cain has a knack for talking to people as if they’re children. While incredibly intelligent, I’m inclined to believe she thinks she’s a mega-mind among others.
“Won’t let you down, doctor. Scout’s honor,”
“That’s my good boy,” She says as she hangs up.
I immediately let out a disgusted cringe.
“I hate when she says that,”
I give a glance to my watch and see that it’s time to start the day. Springing from my chair, I walk out of my office and down the hall, opening the door to mine and my new roommate’s quarters.
I walk next to Ethan’s rack and give a shake to his shoulder. My hand comes off him drenched in sweat and I notice that he’s shaking and mumbling in his sleep. I double my efforts to wake him and shake him all the harder.
“Ethan, wake up. You’re having a nightmare,” I say to him.
He suddenly snaps awake and leaps out of bed on top of me. I collide with the ground hard, his body weight adding to the pain. I feel the cold steel and audible click of a pistol touching my forehead. Ethan stares at me with intensity. I can see in his eyes that his mind is in another place.
“Ethan…I need you to put the gun down…” I say quietly.
A moment passes and I see the reality set back into his eyes. He releases the gun from my forehead and falls backwards against his bed.
I quietly place my pistol back into its holster after silently holding it to his ribs. I sit up and stare at him, allowing the adrenaline to subside.
Ethan looks at the floor, breathing heavily.
“I don’t suggest waking me up like that,” He says.
I raise an eyebrow “Oh no, it’s okay Ethan. I accept your apology for putting a gun to my head,” I reply sarcastically.
Ethan looks at me with an aggravated expression. I stand up and turn towards the door. “Get ready, it’s time to get started,” I say before exiting.
I stare out through a viewing window into space as I take a piece of gum out of a trouser pocket, unwrap it, and place it on between my teeth. I chew it a bit harder than normal on account of my annoyance. I see Ethan’s reflection as he approaches me from the room.
I turn to face him. “Ready?” I ask.
He gives a subtle nod.
“I already checked and made sure the watches were relieved and manned. So, first order of business is to—”
I’m cut off by the vibrating of my wrist device. I bring it up to my face and notice the small alarm light is blinking. I navigate the small screen on it and find that there’s been an alarm triggered from Doctor Cain’s lab.
“New plan, follow me,” I say to Ethan.
He silently follows behind me as we navigate at a brisk pace to Cain’s working area. We reach her lab and enter. I see Dr. Cain staring rather intently at a viewing monitor
. “Doctor. What seems to be the problem?” I query.
She removes her glasses and turns toward me.
“Nice of you gentlemen to show up. It appears we have an anomaly just outside the station,” She says, pointing an arm of her glasses at the viewing monitor.
I step forward, grabbing the monitor, and adjusting the height of it so that it’s level with my face.
“What the hell is a storage probe doing way out here?”
“Curious isn’t it, Mr. Hall?”
“Well what do you want us to do?” I ask.
“I want you and your…colleague,” Cain points a sneer in Ethan’s direction “To go and retrieve it for me. It’d be an easy way for him to prove himself, don’t you think?”
I notice Ethan narrow his eyes at her. I step back from the monitor.
“That’s not exactly our department, Doctor. It’s a simple probe. Shouldn’t a couple of your researchers’ go and get it?”
“That would be the case except…it’s a storage probe. We don’t know exactly what, if anything, is placed inside of it. So, get suited up, and go get the damn probe, Dante,”
I give a frustrated sigh and turn towards Ethan.
“Alright, you heard the lady—”
“Doctor,” She emphasizes.
“Right…Doctor. Let’s go get ourselves a probe,”
Ethan quietly still follows me down to the hangar bay and into a small transport ship. I open one of the lockers on board and pull out a spacial condition suit and begin to put it on. I notice Ethan mirror my movements. I adjust my body around after getting dressed to settle into the suit.
“Sorry…about earlier,” I hear quietly mumbled.
I look at Ethan “Come again,” I ask.
He rolls his eyes, frustrated. “I’m said I’m sorry for before,” He repeats.
I place my hands on my hips and think for a moment. I place a pat on Ethan’s shoulder whilst nodding my head.
“Don’t worry about it. I know what you guys deal with out there,” I say, turning towards the cockpit. Ethan follows behind me.
“Were you an operator?” He asks me as we both take our respective seats on either side of the cockpit.
I key in a few sequences for launch.
“No, but I used to fly over what you were shooting at and drop bombs on them,” I reply with delay.
I lift the shuttle off the hangar deck and smoothly guide it out into space, floating towards our destination.
“Flyboy huh? Always wondered what it was like to take on a Sekrid pilot,”
“I suggest you keep wondering,” I caution.
I look at Ethan with a hint of seriousness “Imagine flying through the sky at mach seven. While at the same time having to make split second decisions in an environment that can change from gravitational to nongravitational at any given point in a battle. While also still having to compete with an enemy force that you know for a fact has been trained better than you. And then tack on the collateral duty of supporting ground troops,” I explain.
“Sounds…hectic,” Ethan replies almost speechless.
“Tell me about it,” I say sounding even more serious.
Ethan looks at me awkwardly as I continue to stare at him with a hard expression.
I suddenly break my seriousness and smile wide “But I’m just that damn good,” I say as I return my sight back to space.
I hear Ethan let out a few laughs “You had me a little scared for a minute there. I thought you were reliving some moment you had or something,” He says between chuckles.
“You’ll find I’m not all that serious about things. I like a relaxed lifestyle,”
“Seems like you get a bit more serious when the good doctor is around,”
“Only because I have to be. We have a certain rapport with each other. I get away with talking to her a lot more casual than most people,”
“Why is that?”
“Guess I just have that affect on people,” I say, bringing the shuttle to a stop close to the probe.
“Your turn,” I say to Ethan as I motion a thumb to the airlock.
Ethan stands with a sigh and steps to the back of the shuttle. I hear hiss of air as he secures the airlock. It’s only a few moments before I see him floating in front of the ship, connected to a tether and moving towards the probe.
I notice he also has a cable connected to him so that I can reel in the probe.
“This is…weird,” He says as he reaches the probe.
“What?” I question.
“This thing is definitely our tech. But it’s old as hell,” He explains.
“You think it’s just been wandering out here? And ended up on our doorstep?”
“I would say that. But this thing looks brand new. Not like it’s been floating in space for the past few decades,”
“So…outdated tech, but brand new? Interesting,”
“Alright, she’s hooked up, reel it in,” Ethan instructs.
Without responding I take hold of a lever on the control console. I push it forward and it snaps in to the first setting, causing the cable to reel at a slow, steady pace. Ethan holds on to the probe as it reels in order to maintain control of it.
Before long, him and the probe disappear out of view again. I’m only reminded of their presence by the slight thumping of the probe entering the storage compartment underneath the shuttle.
The airlock hisses once more and Ethan steps back into the cabin, returning to his seat in the cockpit. I smoothly turn around the shuttle and direct it back towards the Zeus. As we enter back into the hangar, I noticed the Captain has decided to come down from his isolation.
As soon as we land, a group of scientists are immediately around the shuttle, opening the cargo bay and extracting the probe. Ethan and I remove our suits and exit the ship, snapping the Captain a quick salute as we approach him.
“Well done, gentlemen. I’d like you two to escort the probe to its destination. We have a secured area set up for it in the labs sector. Doctor Cain is already there,”
“Aye sir,” I say as Ethan and I take our place next to the probe that has been loaded on a large, automated cart.
Upon reaching the lab sector, we steer the probe directly in to a lab that has been covered in white tarp and sterilized. Men in quarantine suits are waiting there with all manner of scanning devices. The cart automatically comes to a stop, releases the probe, and backs away from it. It comes to a stop at the nearest wall and shuts down.
Ethan and I step back from the probe as various scientists crowd around it. I notice the Captain press a button from inside another secured room, separate from the lab.
“Give me an update,” I hear over a 1MC that’s inside the lab.
One of the scientists stops and holds a thumbs up to the Captain.
“Open it,” His voice sounds again.
Without hesitation, one of the scientists steps to a small panel on the probe. Ethan and I instinctively step closer to the door. The scientist taps a button or two, causing a click and release of the probe. I notice fumes begin to exhume from the seal of the now opened storage compartment.
There’s a squeal of pressure building. Like a bottle of wine, the door pops open like a cork, spewing the dark green fumes into the room.
Ethan looks at me and then shoves me through the doors of the lab. As I land on my back side on the floor, Ethan rushes to the lab’s panel and activates the locks. I watch through the transparent doors as Ethan covers his mouth with his uniform blouse.
I look over to the separate room housing Doctor Cain and Captain Andrews. They scramble around nervously, handing orders to various personnel in the room. I turn my eyes back to Ethan, who is now rushing to the opposite end of the room, stumbling on the way there.
He involuntarily slams his hand in to a large red button at the far side, turning the emergency ventilation on. He collapses to the floor afterwards, causing me to spring to my and run to the door.
“Ethan!” I yell out as I bang on the door.
I wait until the fumes are completely ventilated before pulling my pistol from its holster, firing several rounds into the door, causing it to shatter. I rush in towards Ethan. I glance around and notice, that the other scientists are pale and blue, likely dead.
It only makes my heart beat faster as I reach Ethan’s side and turn him over. A weight lifts off me as I see the shallow rise and fall of his chest. I notice the medical team rush in and step back as they begin to assess Ethan.
Once I know he’s in good hands I walk briskly to the separate secured room with purpose.
I shove the doors open “What the fuck was that?!” I say, pointing towards the probe.
“You need to watch your tone, soldier,” The Captain scolds.
“All due respect sir, but what the hell good are those fancy sensors if they don’t detect that kind of crap?” I say, still heated.
“The sensors didn’t detect whatever that fog was,” Doctor Cain interjects.
“There are people dead…on my watch,” I point out.
“No…no not true Dante. I ordered it. It was my call. No fault on you,”
“How are you so calm about this, Lauren?”
Cain snaps an angry-surprise expression in my direction for using her first name.
“Don’t ever use my first name again. And if you must know, it’s because I’m a scientist. I’m not sure what’s housed inside that probe, but it is most certainly a boon of research that it did. A few lives in order to discover something great is a positive trade as far as I’m concerned,” Cain explains.
I shake my head and throw my hands up.
“I’m going off duty. I’m done with today,”
“You can’t do that,” Captain Andrews orders.
I turn around “Why don’t you ask your boss if I can or can’t,” I say as I exit the room.
I stop short as I see them wheel Ethan out on a stretcher. I continue walking beside him down the hallway.
“Is he going to be alright?” I ask one of the medics.
“We have him stabilized, but his lungs sound like they have some damage,” The medic diagnoses.
“Keep me posted on his condition,” I order.
The medic gives me a nod and separates from me as they head towards the medical wing.
I walk down a long, white hallway on a high level of the station. The lights are dimmed on account of the station being in low power mode at these hours, causing patches of darkness that coat the area.
I reach a door at the end of the hallway, lifting a hand to knock. I hesitate for a moment, then place a few of them on the door. There’s a brief moment of waiting before the door glides open to reveal a blonde woman in a silk bath robe.
She smiles at me “I was wondering if you were going to turn up tonight,” She says as she turns away and returns to an artificial fireplace in the center of the room.
I step inside, running my eyes up and down her body before she turns back to me.
“Wine?” She asks.
I give her a small smile. “Not tonight,” I reply.
She saunters over to me, looking me in the eyes “I hope today didn’t change this little arrangement we have,” She says.
I place a hand on her face “Business is business. In here is something…different,”
She places a kiss on my lips, turning away and returning back the fireplace. I watch as the silk robe falls from her shoulders and lands on the floor, revealing her backside.
She looks back at me playfully. “The Doctor is in,” She says in a seductive fashion.
I traverse the room until I’m directly behind her, her body pressing against me.
I place a kiss on her shoulder.
“No…no I think the Doctor is out tonight. I think I’d like Lauren to come out to play,” She looks over her shoulder at me, flashing another playful smile at my boldness before kissing me deeply.