Fiction Fragment Friday
Well I think this has officially become a series. With this week I’m adding a category for Toran Station so you can easily find all these stories. I’m not sure if this is a short story in the works, a novella, or a full novel. I do plan on putting them all together when it is complete and doing some rewrites. I will add in the connecting tissue at that point as well.
“I don’t understand how you got such poor terms on these contracts. You’re paying base rate prices for bulk orders, twice the standard price for shipping, and no penalties for late deliveries.” I had been going through Toran Station’s supply contracts for three hours and the one thing they all had in common was the station being screwed over. In all my years of auditing books I had never seen anything even close to this bad before.
“Beats me. I just started last week.”
“When can I meet with the station administrator?”
She just shrugged her shoulders and took a big drink of her coffee. “No clue. I haven’t even met him yet. He doesn’t really come into the office. Apparently, he does all his work remotely.”
I couldn’t help but shake my head and roll my eyes at this latest revelation. A few puzzle pieces were starting to come together in my mind, but I still didn’t quite know what the final picture I was building would look like. “Are you hungry?”
She looked up at me with a bit of a smirk. “Why Mr. Wetherford are you trying to ask me out on a date?”
“Not at all Miss Sakuraba. I’m just ready for a lunch break because if I stare at this screen any longer, I think I’m going to lose my mind. Plus I have some questions and I think I would rather ask them outside of this office.”
“Are you insinuating the room might be bugged? That’s a little paranoid don’t you think?” Her tone sounded incredulous, but her expression gave away quite a bit of concern.
“I would never dream of accusing Administrator Foster of installing surveillance equipment in his office. However, I do see invoices for such equipment here that were never marked as received. I also see contracts for undisclosed installation services.” I tried to read her face at hearing this news, but she seemed to be getting more guarded by the moment. “So back to my question. Are you hungry?”
“You know now that you mention it I do seem to be getting a bit hungry.”
“Excellent. I’ve only tried one restaurant on the station, so I think I’ll let you lead the way.”
She led me out of the administration office and towards the closest lift. Once we were on board and the doors closed behind us she turned to me. “Do you really think he installed surveillance equipment in the office?”
“Well that would be more reassuring than my other suspicion.”
“And what would that be?”
“That he had them installed throughout the station to spy on everyone else.”
She led me out of the lift to a little sandwich shop called Jeremy’s in a shopping district I had not been to yet. The menu was simple, but the prices were very good. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was being underpaid and made a mental note to check salaries in the afternoon. I had a feeling it might tell me a lot about who might be in the know and who wasn’t. We made small talk while we ate with her mostly telling me about the businesses on the station and asking what I had already tried.
When I finished eating, I decided it was time to try and get some of my questions answered. “So you said you’ve never actually met administrator Foster?”
“That’s right. I was hired by his assistant, and he hasn’t been in the office since I started. Honestly, it’s been really boring and most of my time has been spent either trying to get my access sorted out or telling people I don’t know where he is.”
“Didn’t you find that a bit strange?”
“Of course, I did, but it’s not easy to find stable work around here. You get a job you don’t ask too many questions.”
“I’m not so sure about the stable part.”
“What do you mean? You can’t get more stable than station administration.”
“Maybe on another station. From what I’m seeing this station is so far in debt it won’t be able to pay basic operating costs for more than another month. Did you know you have half the maintenance crew recommended for a station half this size? The engineering crew was let go over a year ago. There’s nowhere left to cut costs and I’ll be honest I’m starting to get nervous about the safety of the station itself seeing how run down it’s gotten.”
Now she did look concerned. “He let the engineers go?” I nodded. “I think I owe the maintenance crew an apology. I’ve been fielding complaints all week and had just assumed they were incompetent.”
“They might be. I haven’t actually looked into them, but they’re stretched really thin and having to cover for the engineering tasks they likely aren’t qualified for as well. I plan on checking in with them because I suspect the supplies, they’re getting might be low quality.”
“You can tell that from the orders?”
“Nope, just a feeling. I don’t know anything about the supplies themselves. I couldn’t tell you a good brand from a bad one. It’s just a feeling I have though. I’m seeing the same supplier being granted the contract for disposal. I suspect the station might be paying them to haul off the parts that they then refurbish and sell right back to you.”
“That is insane.” An expression crossed her face that I couldn’t quite place. “If we are out of money, why did he hire me? Why hire anyone?” I couldn’t make eye contact with her. “Wait what have you figured out?”
“I don’t know anything for sure.”
“Don’t bullshit me. You figured something out.”
“You said yourself you were told to babysit me. He knew I was coming, he needed someone to work with me, and he didn’t want anyone who actually knew anything to let it slip.” I could see the anger on her face. “Please don’t take that the wrong way. I’m not saying you’re dumb or bad at your job. I’m just saying that you are too new and haven’t been told anything he doesn’t want me to know.”
“That son of a bitch.”
“For what it’s worth you seem pretty observant and seem to be asking all the right questions.”
“Not soon enough. Come on let’s get back to work. You have a lot of files to go through and I’m going to help you do it. I grew up on this station. It’s my home, and I’m not about to let him destroy it without a fight.”
I grabbed the bill and paid the entire thing before she could protest. It still felt like I was missing large parts of the puzzle, but I had a bit of hope. Two days in and I already had two allies who were dedicated to finding the truth. Things were starting to come together so of course the next day someone tried to kill me.