Renaissance: The Limit of Infinity (Preview)

By Caleb Fast

Prelude

Northern Union, Earth

Lighting danced on the horizon as the Korolya Ptitsya lumbered over the Bering Strait. Martin Ranger watched as water spattered upon the cockpit windows of the outdated shuttle. Looking about the cockpit, Martin saw the patched remnant of a World War Four transport. Tools lay strewn about, many repair jobs were left partially done, and wires hung soldered together so many times they were unrecognizable.

Martin chuckled as he thought the wires looked more like the art from before the Third World War than they ought to have. The two Russian pilots, veterans of the Northern Union’s most recent civil war, sat in silence, keeping a watchful gaze on the gauges before them because the indication lights had long since gone out, or been salvaged for use elsewhere.

Once more, Martin found himself chuckling as he wondered why he even paid money for this flight back to Dallas. Sure, he did want back with his son, but he thought it would be better if he made it in one piece, this hulking junker was a death trap.

The lights flickered and the Korolya Ptitsya shuttered as it dove for the dark water below, the lights then died out altogether. Only the occasional lightning strike lit the cockpit, revealing that the two pilots seemed to be perfectly calm. Martin grabbed hold of his armrests and checked his harness for the hundredth time. He listened as the engines growled in protest to the pilot\’s’ attempts to restart it. It had already stalled twice, but those were above land.

Sputtering, and wheezing, the engines finally turned over. Most of the lights flicked back on and everyone relaxed a bit. Martin lets out the breath he had been holding and he looked around the cockpit once more. Sure enough, everything seemed to still be at least partially working.

“Spokoynoy nochi,” Martin said to the pilots as he struggled against his safety harness. Breaking free from its stone grip Martin exited the cockpit.

Right before the doors slide all the way shut, Martin heard the copilot said something about “Outworlders” and “Beauty sleep”

With a laugh, Martin tried to recall a few of the directions the pilot had given him, as he searched among the crates and countless dead ends that made up the bulk of the ship’s cargo bay.

Eventually, as if by a miracle, he finally found himself in the passenger area. He looked at the sad faces of the sleeping refugees from all over Northern Europe as he made his way down the narrow aisle, occasionally tripping over an outstretched leg in the dark. After a far too long, Martin slid into his personal quarters.

Being wealthy, Martin had decided he wanted a cot and not just a seat to sleep in. He seldom splurged on much of anything, other than his travel arrangements. It was a nine-hour flight from Arkhangelsk, to Dallas, thanks to all the pit stops along the way. Once Martin was in Dallas, he would be off to his family, in Königsberg on the planet Vinn. Martin smiled as he thought of the first-class accommodations he would have for the rest of his trip.

Sitting on the threadbare sheets of the cot—which actually was just several boxes pushed together—Martin opened his suitcase and took out his dated laptop. His father had told him many times the countless stories that this laptop had lived through. He told him how it was good luck and would bring him home. He had told Martin of the time his great-great (and countless more greats)-granddaddy had bought it when he served in the army about two hundred years ago. As the story went, the laptop had stopped a bullet when his great-grandpappy had been ambushed in the jungles of Peru on a humanitarian trip—Martin paused to trace the pockmark the bullet had left.

His father had told him how it had even brought his parents together. His father had told him, ‘Sometimes you gotta trust the old-fashioned ways…’ that speech like all the others were ignored by the arrogant twelve-year-old. ‘Another long speech,’ was what Martin called them.

Martin tapped the laptop’s worn power button and it hummed to life. Although the laptop had likely been repaired more time than the trash heap Martin was flying in, it held much more value. With a buzz of protest, the screen flashed to life. A tear ran down Martin’s face as he looked at the screensaver, which was a short clip of his father waving goodbye on his last trip.

Martin had taken that video for his mother when he was sixteen. She had told him that even though she couldn’t see his father off that she at least wanted to have it filmed. Martin had protested for everything he was worth, Not only was it weird to see someone filming a video of a space shuttle taking off, but he had also grown apart from his father.

Despite his best efforts, Martin couldn’t help but feel so wronged by the fact that his father spent more time on trips than with him. He had grown to the point where he didn’t even go to the ball games his father had bought tickets for. The seats were in the team the dugout, which was supposedly some of the best spots out there. Martin didn’t dare to call his father daddy, or even dad. Father was what he called him in his own act of rebellion. He told himself every day that he hated his father. Everyone he knew had their dads with them at every school event, Martin’s father, on the other hand, never made it to one.

On his final business trip, Martin had finally broken, telling his dad that he hated him.

He screamed it.

Martin told his Father he would rather him not even come home.

In that moment, pain overtook his father’s eyes. The moment the words left Martin’s mouth he saw a piece of his father die.

After Martin had told him that he didn\’t want him back, a lone tear fell across his father’s face. Martin pushed his father away when he tried to give him a so-long hug. All these years later he still remembered his dad telling him that he would always love him, no matter what. And with that, Martin’s father took his leave.

Martin remembered watching the broken shell of a man who had been his father moments ago retreat. He walked alone to his flight. Martin had created that broken shell, and he relished the pain that he caused his father.

Or at least he did.

Martin wiped a tear from his face as he regrets everything that he did to mistreat his father. Beneath all of his hate was an entrapped, neglected love. He didn’t truly mean anything that he said. Martin remembered wanting to race to his father and hug him and say sorry a million times.

But, as Martin considered apologizing, the shuttle roared to life. Martin remembered filming the take-off with shaking hands. He remembered getting home and calling his father from the in-home comm-station. Behind him, Martin had heard the telltale sound of his father’s laptop chirping with its call waiting sound. His dad had left his lucky laptop on the table.

In the weeks that followed, Martin had starved himself. He hated himself because his father was a great man. He had been going from one war-torn planet to another to deliver aid to exhausted people. People who had their lives ruined by the long civil war that went back generations. Martin had waited awake for hours at the home’s comm-station.

Martin had prayed for any messages from his father.

He waited for any type of news.

Finally, Martin remembered racing to the shuttle depot after the longest month in his life. He had planned out a week of what he had hoped would lift his father\’s spirits and show him just how sorry he was. He had put together most of his money to take his father and mom to the nicest restaurant in the city.

Martin had planned to tell his father he did love him. He planned on apologizing. Martin had waited in the terminal for hours until his father’s shuttle arrived. He had stood to greet him, trying his best to see over the heads of the passengers and refugees. One passenger had stopped in front of him with an ashen face. The man had rattled something off to him in some language he had never heard.

And then he left.

Eventually, the rest of the crowd had also left.

More confused than anything, Martin approached the desk clerk, asking where his father was. The look she had given him was one he had never seen before. She had told him to go to the cargo hold. Martin remembered that he tried to clarify that it was his father that he was looking for and not a piece of luggage.

The clerk then said, “I know honey, I know. He’s down there though.”

Mystified and hopeful, Martin made his way to the unloading dock. He remembered marching through the maze of the spaceport’s innards in search of the right spot. He eventually found the man in charge and asked of his father.

“Martin Ranger? Humph. Your daddy’s dead, kid,” the man had continued, reading off this and that to Martin. He even stopped a few times to give out some orders to the rest of those around him like Martin wasn’t even there. Then, without any emotion, the man shook his head at Martin and demanded, “Now get out of my sight. I’ve told you where he is.”

A crewmember of his father’s flight guided Martin to the morgue. Martin was shown the broken shell of a great man. He had screamed in defiance. He screamed like his scream could bring his father back. For more hours than he could count, Martin had stood there. Lost. Hopeless.

A few people drifted in and out as he stood there. Martin’s mom had awakened him hours after he had cried himself to sleep. Tenderly, she had led him out, and after several months she had him as put back together as she could.

Martin closed his eyes and let the images of his mother play before his eyes. Her love for him is what kept her going while his love for her kept him going. She was too busy with him to care for herself, and after three years she died. However, by then Martin had grown acquainted with death. His counselor had told him forgetting was how to go on. Sure, forgetting didn\’t truly work, but it was a defense mechanism, no matter how weak it was.

All these years later, Martin still woke up every so often drenched in either sweat or tears. Most of the time he would dream of what he could have done to save his dad if he were there in his last moments but there were other dreams as well that shook him to the core of his being. Forgetting wasn’t easy and Martin failed to see why his counsellor had tried to guide him down that path. Forgetting wasn’t a path to healing, if anything it was a path that left lifelong scars. But, until the day that he finally dealt with the buried pains from his childhood, Martin would just have to do his best to forget every day.

Martin touched the screen and the image of his father’s last moments disappeared. They were replaced with the image of his family. His beautiful wife and son—a son who somehow inherited both his mother’s blue eyes and a blue tuft of hair. The duo smiled towards the camera as they sat in the courtyard of their penthouse.

 “Hello, Natallia,” Martin whispered.

Natallia had been dead for seven years. Martin’s son Clive was only a year old when she died, so he didn’t go through the pain of loss like Martin had. Martin traced his deceased wife’s face and eventually tapped the only icon on the screen. The laptop chimed happily for a moment before Clive answered the call on the other end.

“Hi, daddy,” Clive’s image said as it filled the screen.

“Hey, Clivey!” Martin smiled, forgetting his poor cabin accommodations as he looked at his strong young boy, “Where’s Lydia?” Martin went on to ask of the caretaker whom he hired after his wife’s death.

“But dad… I wanna talk to you!”

“Alright,” Martin immediately gave in. It had been weeks since they last spoke due to his hospital visits and the lack of adequate comm-arrays in Russia, “What do you want to talk about?”

Clive spoke for an hour, as Martin listened enthusiastically. He watched as Clive showed him what he learned at school. Smiled as he listened to Clive recite the last four meals he had had (surely with some embellishment, cookies and cake were brought up countless times). Martin had told Lydia, ‘Only the best for Clive,’ and she saw to it. Lydia showed love in a way towards Clive that Martin thought only Natalia could show.

“Oh, sorry buddy,” Martin cut Clive off mid-sentence, looking at the flashing battery charge, “I’m almost out of batteries, I’ll call you back in the morning.”

“Promise?”

“Prom—\”

The cabin lights flickered again, and Martin paused mid-word to search for a safety harness of some sort. The engine continued to hum in the distance. Martin felt the ground buck and heard a metallic thud as he was thrown from his feet. The lights continued flickering as Martin struggled to get to his feet. Then the lights shut off altogether and the only illumination in the room was the laptop with Clive’s face.

Martin looked up to his laptop, and saw Clive’s scared face, “I love you Cli—\”

Chapter One

Paradise, Galatia

Seventeen Years later

           “Wake up! Up! Up! Up!” Commander Jenniston calls loudly, awakening everyone in the large cell. Several men groan at her sudden intrusion, and Jenniston continues on joyously, “Another day of work, another day closer to freedom.”

Jenniston hits a panel on the wall beside the door and the lights of the cell weakly flicker to life. The old bulbs illuminate the grey walls, grey floor, and equally as grey ceiling. At one time, the room may have been one solid shade of grey, but between the vandalism, age, and blood, the color had long since changed to its current patchy state. As with the rest of the prison, cracks seem to line every surface. The ground was settling faster than the Coalition anticipated when it rebuilt the prison about fifteen years back.

Despite all the cracks and other structural issues in the prison, no one ever tried to escape. Everyone knew that even the largest cracks are by no means a way to get out. Venturing outside of the massive walls that lined the prison complex meant leaving the security of them. Leaving the security of Paradise meant certain death. No one ever lasted long against the monsters that lie just beyond the walls of the prison.

Clive Ranger, along with the other prisoners squint against the bright lights Jenniston had flicked on. Clive had awakened from his same old nightmare to another entirely different one. His dad had been gone for almost seventeen years now and yet Clive still couldn’t move on. Every morning the same images of his father flash before his mind’s eye in an ever-repeating nightmare. Without fail, there is always the bright flash, the sound of an explosion, and then of the empty cabin with the gaping hole out to the stormy skies that Clive’s father had disappeared into. A streak of blood on the floor marked his father’s final attempts to stay alive.

And then the dream was over and there were always the cell’s glum lights. There was always the wakeup call. Then there was the work.

Life on the prison world of Galatia was not something many people were cut out for.

Jenniston looks around the room studying the twenty bunks, and their exhausted occupants. Eventually, her eyes settle on one bunk—bunk TA-12.

“Ah, another one,” Jenniston smiles. She walks towards the bunk barking some obscure orders into her comm-unit. Jenniston then draws her bloodied baton and demands, “Up!”

When the bed’s occupant fails to immediately comply, Jenniston lashes out. She swings her weapon of oppression savagely, beating the man who remains still. After several strikes, Jenniston then covertly check for a pulse, only to find the body cold to her touch.

Clive watches as a squadron of guards march into the room, “What are your orders, Commander?” Captain Richardson dismissively asks Jenniston who is still hovering over the dead man like an assassin over their first contract kill.

“Take this rat to the furnace,” Jenniston orders before she draws her revolver and shoots the dead man. Jenniston spins around triumphantly and she glares at the other inmates before demanding, “Anyone else too tired to work? Any of you want a day off too? You can join your friend here!”

When no one immediately responds to Jenniston’s calloused remark, she seems to get even more angry. Flipping the bunkbed, Jenniston throws both the dead man and the inmate on the bunk above him, the ground. The man from the upper bunk scurries to his feet before backing up to a wall where he finds some semblance of safety. The other inmates look at each other helplessly, three of them give a defeated nod which tells the others, ‘We are done, good luck to you.’ Clive catches their attention and silently pleads with them I an effort to keep them alive.

“Line up!” Jenniston ordered.

Sixteen men stand and shuffle into a haphazard line. The three that had chosen to give up remain next to their bunks, pale, defeated, and yet still defiant. The three look at Jenniston, at the guards, then finally back to their friends. The trio then pat their hearts gently as they look to their friends, giving them their final goodbyes—the Paradise way. Jenniston and the guards notice the men at the same time. Clive and the rest of the prisoners return the Paradise farewell as everyone focuses on the three.

“Your choice,” Jenniston says with a shrug. Without turning away from the three, she continues to the guards, “Guards, no need to be humane. Make them suffer. Drinks on me for whoever can keep theirs alive the longest.”

The sixteen surviving prisoners look away, and begin to shuffle toward the door, as is the protocol. Suddenly, another gunshot rings out, and the inmate leading the line crumbles to the ground. Clive and the others raise their hands and clasp them behind their heads, per yet another protocol. Glancing down to Jenniston’s latest kill, Clive grimaces.

Lying before Clive, in a pool of his own blood, is Raymond, a man who had shared stories about his time as a Coalition politician before he leaked some documents to the Resistance to save countless lives. Raymond had always assured Clive that he would do it all again. Time and time again, he’d declare, ‘I’d rather die an honest man, than a rich one.It looks like he got his wish, Clive thinks solemnly as he slowly looks away from his dead friend.

“Did I say you could leave…?” Jenniston asks with a cruel grin, as she slaps her neck idly with her revolver, “I’m offended that you didn’t want to stay for the show, in fact… I think you should take part in all the fun!”

Jenniston takes three guns from some of the guards. Releasing the magazines from the rifles, she hands the weapons over to three new inmates. The three hesitantly take the weapons, then hold them loosely at a distance. Looking distastefully at the weapons, they glance around the room in concern.

“Go on,” Jenniston prods, “I don’t have all day.”

“I would never…” A man who went by Brett argues weakly, “I can\’t. I won’t hurt my friends.”

“Very well,” Jenniston shrugs once more. Nodding passively, she raises her revolver and pulls the trigger. Another gunshot. Another body. Jenniston picks up the rifle from the fresh puddle of blood and selects another appointee. She continues in a condescending voice mostly to Clive, “If you don’t kill these three, I may just kill everyone in the mine’s first shift. That’s all seven wings of the mines too. What is that Clive? You’re good with numbers, right?”

“That’s… Well, that’s f-fourteen hundred people!” Clive stutters as he realizes this was no empty threat. As per the usual, Jenniston was very much serious. Clive knew for a fact that she wasn’t bluffing because there were countless accounts of her purges. Rumors of purges so cruel and complete, that they somehow found themselves spreading to the outside world.

The chosen three fix their gazes upon the condemned who lower their heads in consent. Clive taps his foot to get the others’ attention. Once he sees that they are paying attention to him, Clive nods, giving them the order to comply. The three grasp their rifles a little tighter, and look up, their faces showing determination as they prepare to save the lives of hundreds at the expense of three friends.

“I thought you snakes would agree,” Jenniston spits out the words like venom. Fortunately, Jenniston is oblivious to the fact that the three were acting on Clive’s orders and not hers. Grinning like a madwoman, Jenniston presses, “Go on. Send these rats from one Hell to another. Oh, and everyone will watch. I’m sure you all can learn something from this.”

Clive looks toward the six men, but gazes past the scene that was about to unfold, as do the other men. No one should watch broken men get killed like this. We sure will learn something, Clive tells himself as he stares past the scene, And that’s how we will kill you, Jenniston.

Clive puts up a mental barricade, muffling the cries of pain that sound from the condemned as they are beaten to death by their own friends. There’s something about cries of pain like these that no one could ever forget. They were cries that one should never hear, and surely never grow used to.

They were cries that Clive has heard a thousand times, and he never managed to completely block out. Despite his best efforts, the wails of agony broke through his mental walls. Despite his best efforts, the screams always seemed to echo in his subconscious.

Jenniston watches with a devilish grin as three men are destroyed at her order. Clive can tell that the absolute power was intoxicating to Jenniston. He watched as it made her tremble with excitement.

After what felt like hours, two lifeless bodies are laying in front of Clive and the others. They are battered and hardly resemble the men they once were. Just one man is still clinging to life and he helplessly looks up to the man who had yet to finish him off.

Upon realizing that her fun was nearly over, Jenniston orders, “Stop.”

The three prisoners snap out of their dutiful trance and jump away from the bloodied mounds before them. These were once their friends. Men with names. Men with families. And yet, they had killed them like animals. The three inmates toss the weapons aside and fall to their knees. Richie, one of the chosen three, finally breaks, and weeps openly. His tears run down his face, washing away the blood which had splattered onto it. His cries echo off the cold concrete walls, his wails are soon accompanied by those of the other two.

“Leave this one to bleed out,” Jenniston orders. She strides confidently over to the door before she continues coolly, “And don’t clean this mess. I need it for evidence in our investigation. Why would these three men suddenly kill their own friends?”

Clive snaps to attention as he hears the lies being spun before him. How could a woman be so cruel? He listens, shocked as Jenniston tells the story of what ‘Really happened’ saying the three were found killing these men after they killed the man in bunk TA-12. Per her orders, they are to be exiled on the outside of the prison walls. None survive the beasts of the wilds beyond the wall. Clive had heard that Jenniston was apt to make up these coverup stories in the past for her own benefit, but had never been present for the spinning of one. Clive shudders at the thought of anyone buying into the lies.

The three look through their tears at their friends. They had killed and were to be killed by the beasts beyond the walls. That is the justice system of Paradise Galatia, no matter how one looked at it. They were to be left to fend for themselves against creatures bred from a hundred years of ‘science’ and inbreeding.

The resulting creatures made up a huge variety of killing machines which few lived to tell about. When these creatures first arrived, they killed off about half of the people of the Galatian jungles in a matter of a few months. After nearly a year the galactic superpowers sought to contain the creatures they had created. The result was a hundred-meter-tall wall encircled by the ancient jungles. In time, it became the prime location for an inescapable prison, Or at least that\’s what they believe, Clive muses expectantly.

“Alright you three,” Richardson summons the condemned as he gently helps one of the inmates to their feet, “Up. You heard Commander Jenniston.”

When the three are standing, Richardson quietly leads them out of the cell to their certain end, his team in tow.

“As for you,” Jenniston smiles wickedly as she faces the remaining prisoners, “You’ve missed your breakfast. It’s too bad too, I heard they had protein bars today. Straight to the mines with you. Move it.”

•••••••••••••••

Clive and the others shuffle by the cafeteria longingly as they make their way to the west wing of the prison for the morning shift. Every corridor has an automated security check, so Clive flashes his prison ID and walks through. As had become the custom, Clive is leading his line of inmates into the mines.

As Clive had been told by the last Mr. X, ‘Some men are born leaders, others are thrust into that position,’ Clive was one of those forced leaders. ‘Mr. X’ was the title given to the person responsible for planning escape attempts, and now Clive had the ‘honor.’ He stops at the entrance of the titanium mine’s west shaft, allowing the rest of the two hundred people charged with working the west wing to press in around him. Nothing had changed in the last year and a half except for the faces Clive saw. Clive has outlived most every prisoner in the complex, so he has been deemed the luckiest man in Paradise. But, as he told everyone who uttered the idea, he was anything but lucky to stay alive in here this long.

“The others wanted me to ask you, sir,” Jenessa Gurst, a tall, built woman from Sinerra, and Clive\’s second in command starts as she leads the line of female inmates alongside Clive\’s group. When she sees that she has Clive’s attention, she continues, “Where were you and your roommates? You didn\’t show up for the morning mess, and we were kept clear of the area around your cell all morning.”

Jenessa had fallen off the grid several months before Clive was captured. She had led countless task forces for Clive up until the moment she disappeared. She had gone dark alongside the entire team that Clive had sent out with her at the time. It wasn’t until Clive found her a couple months ago in Paradise that he got the full story. Evidently the ship she had been on was carrying some sort of disease. After several months in Coalition quarantine, Jenessa was the sole remaining survivor. When a Coalition emissary came to visit the quarantine area, he immediately recognized Jenessa, who was quickly arrested. After several months in various prisons, Jenessa found herself here, in the dumping ground of the Coalition’s most dangerous enemies.

Without turning, Clive briefs Jenessa on the morning’s happenings, “Jenniston made another surprise check-in. Dean died last night, Jenniston found the body, and it all went south from there. She exiled three of our boys too—including our demo expert Richie.” Once he had finished Clive pulls the lever for the lift. With a loud groan, the lift races into the mine below.

Lights play on the faces of the two hundred prisoners as the freight elevator roars along. After quite some time, it grinds to a halt far from the actual mine shaft. Here, work lights illuminate a rickety tower of scaffolding that rises the hundred meters necessary to reach the ragtag elevator. One by one, everyone makes their way to the shaft below. Everyone shuffles along to their respective tunnels for another day of work in the dank, poorly lit tunnels of Paradise.

“So, does that push our plans back again, sir?” Jenessa asks as she and Clive make their way to their station, “Because we are losing our strength, and our hope, sir.”

“No,” Clive shakes his head. Picking up a dull, worn pickaxe he gets to work. After striking the wall of the tunnel he is mining a few times, Clive goes on to say, “In fact, I think I may push things ahead. I think we can convince a few of the guards to join us.”

“Who? And how? They all serve Jenniston diligently, sir.”

“Captain Richardson seems to be disturbed by Jenniston’s cruel treatment of us. I’m sure he would be willing to help. And if not voluntarily, I’m sure he would help us out for a price.”

“And how do you suppose we pay him, sir? Open up our wallets and hand him a few of… whatever they use here? We don’t have anything!” Jenessa argues hopelessly as she takes an angry swing at the tunnel wall nearest her. Grit and dust go flying, which sets Jenessa off, and she takes several dozen more swings on the wall as she grits her teeth.

Once Jenessa had marginally calmed down, Clive reaches into a crevasse in the wall, and pulls out a small bag. Smiling, he opens it to show Jenessa as he continues with a chuckle and teasingly condescending, “There’s several billion Coalition dollars’ worth in here. Did you really dare to doubt my resourcefulness?”

“How?” Jenessa asks, curiosity—and a flash of hope—blooming in her eyes.

“Last month I found a small seam of these gems. I dug out what I could, and then boarded up the shaft. If Jenniston found out that she was sitting on something of real value… Well, I hate to imagine what she would do. Now, we just have to make sure Jenniston and Triborn hear nothing of this and we should be home free.”

Clive quickly tucks the gems into the folds of his tattered prison garb as a line of inmates shuffle by him and Jenessa. Once they are all out of earshot, Jenessa presses, “What about the old plan? If Richardson joins us, that’ll make everything easier, right?”

“It will,” Clive answers confidently as he smashes a nearby rock.

“Are you sure about Richardson?”

“I wouldn’t offer it unless I was certain. I trust his team too.”

“Well… I guess they aren’t like the rest.”

“They’ve treated us better than the other guards, that for certain. They actually treat us like we’re people. You and I both know that they want out of here as bad as we do.” Clive presses.

Clive’s mind was already made up. He was going to recruit Richardson; his only issue was that he wanted Jenessa’s support. Leading everyone to their potential deaths was a burden Clive wasn’t interested in bearing alone. But, if Jenessa was on board, that would make everything easier on him.

“You’ve got your mind made up,” Jenessa observes, “I can see it in your eyes.”

“I think he’s our best bet,” Clive cedes with a shrug, “I think we could get more people out this way too.”

“But he and his team are always down here with us. We’ll need to be in the hangar… how will he help us up there if he’s down here?”

“Triborn and his team sweep the mines after every shift, if we knock them out, Richardson is next in line to take over.”

“Won’t Jenniston suspect us?”

“I’ve got a plan,”

“Can’t you just tell me the plan for once?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Clive asks mischievously before he chuckles. His chuckling, in addition to the dingy tunnels, force Clive into a coughing fit. Clive then weakly wobbles over to a nearby cart and glances back to an exasperated Jenessa before pushing the cart toward the exit of the tunnel.

“Really? That’s all you’re going to tell me?” Jenessa demands. She always hated when Clive left her out of the loop, but that was just the way he did things. He had learned the hard way that people can’t be trusted with all the cards, so he made sure to keep his best hands to himself.  

He pauses just long enough to call back, “I’ll tell you more at the end of the shift.”

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