Hardwick Industries: Part 4

Internal policy? That was an interesting detail. Sensing my interest, the implant gave me more information. Ever since the Xiniti had freed the members of the Galactic Alliance from servitude to the Abominators, they’d been policing the Human Quarantine area. Galactic Alliance policy was to alert them if people on Earth, the birthplace of humanity, acquired alien technology, particularly that of the Artificers and the Abominators.

If that were to happen, the Galactic Alliance might decide to eliminate all life on Earth.

Why hadn’t the Xiniti passed the information on? The implant responded, “Debt owed to the following individuals,” and listed all the members of the 1970s era of the Heroes’ League as well as those current members of the League (including myself) who’d gone into space early this summer.

Vaughn’s grandfather wasn’t on the list as he’d been dead by the time that debt had been incurred.

I wondered if there were a point at which the potential threat of Abominator technology in human hands would outweigh the debt.

The implant sent back, “Insufficient information. Perhaps you could rephrase the question.”

I didn’t.

“Nick,” Vaughn tapped my shoulder. “You’re really zoning out.”

The helicopter had began to hover above the helipad and then to descend. Ronnie turned back to us. “Once we get down, I’ll open the door and you can get out. You’ve got the seatbelts handled, but if you need any help, I’m here.”

He got out and opened our door. We didn’t have any difficulty with the seatbelts.

“Alright,” Ronnie pointed toward the nearest building. The two buildings would have been twins if they were human. Given that the buildings were made of bright metal and reflective glass, they would have been twins who wore clothes made of mirrored sunglasses or 1950s era futuristic clothes.

But maybe I’m abusing that metaphor.

“That one—Building A,” Ronnie said, “is where the offices are. There are a lot of offices and all the rooms look alike. So you will get lost. Ask for directions. Everybody knows what it’s like and they’ll all help. Building B is all labs and the artifact storage area.”

“Huh,” Walking next to Vaughn, I followed Ronnie as he started toward Building A. “Why two buildings? It seems like you might as well have had one.”

Barely acknowledging me, he said, “Security. If we had offices mixed with labs, stuff would start to move from lab to office and unauthorized people would have an easier time getting into labs with their friends. Plus, some of the stuff in the labs is dangerous. It can’t ever get out into the world.”

Nodding along, I couldn’t help but think that it would have been possible to make it work with one building, but I could see the guy’s point. It did make every entry more obvious.

Noticing that the buildings had loading docks, but that the parking lot had only five spaces, I thought back to my other question. “What’s up with the other building? The one next to the beach.”

Vaughn answered before Ronnie did. “I know that one. Most of the employees live there. It used to be a big resort, but it’s been converted into a mixture of individual apartments and suites. Some people live off campus, but they get picked up and driven in. If you’d driven up from Grand Lake, I think you might have had to park over there.”

Ronnie nodded. “That’s about right. We have a few people drive in—visiting specialists, interns, and sometimes reporters. We keep their cars in a secured garage to prevent vandalism. You know how it goes. Some of the townies are suspicious. You’d never believe the rumors about this place.”

“Huh. What if I do have to drive in sometime? Like maybe I miss the helicopter or a test runs late? Do I have to get a sticker or something?”

Ronnie shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. You’ll have an ID before the end of the day. It’ll get you in and out of the garage.”

“Cool.” We walked down the sidewalk and I kept on noticing things. For one, there were no bushes. The lawn was all green grass straight up to the buildings. The buildings in turn were far enough away from each other that if you had security on the roof of each one, you wouldn’t be in too much fear of hitting the other building. Also, you could target the same person from each roof.

Again, maybe I was being too paranoid. Gunning down someone from multiple sides seems like the kind of thing that would get bad publicity. On the other hand, when you thought about the parking situation, you could see where that might get bad publicity too. They’d set things up so that no one could leave unless they allowed it.

On the other hand, no one outside knew about it—something that worked both for the parking situation and for anyone that the security guards might hypothetically shoot.

“After you,” Ronnie held open the glass door. Vaughn and I stepped inside, walking into a corporate lobby I’d expect to see anywhere but less than 100 yards from the beach. It had grey marble floors, brown, wooden walls and a black marble desk with a wide white top.

A high pitched female voice said, “Hi, Ronnie. Are these the new interns?” I looked up from the tile. I knew that voice.

Wearing a red business jacket, and skirt, she had olive skin, long, dirty blond hair, thick lips and a square face. She looked exactly like Tara if Tara were four inches shorter instead of a little taller than me. Also, if Tara didn’t have noticeable muscle and were in her mid-to-late twenties.

Vaughn and I exchanged glances—which she noticed. “Is something wrong?”

Vaughn shook his head. “No, you look a lot like someone we know.”

The woman flashed a wide smile at him. “I hope she’s nice. I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with you because of someone else. I’m Emmy Rogers. And you are?”

She held out her hand to shake ours as she said, “Thanks Ronnie,” and waved him off.

Vaughn shook her hand, “Vaughn Hardwick-Jones. And don’t worry about making a bad impression. You’re doing great.”

Smiling, she turned toward me. I shook her hand saying, “Nick Klein. I’m interning at Higher Ground, wherever that is.”

“You must be very smart,” she said. “They’re all big brains there.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t feel that smart.”

She grinned. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. Now if the two of you will come over to the left side of the desk and stand in front of the wall, I’ll take your picture.”

I followed Vaughn over there, wondering what this all meant. On the one hand, it might mean that Emmy was the person that all the True had been based off, meaning that the True had been created within this complex. This was the optimistic possibility.

It also might be true that the True had already been created and that Emmy was one of them. In that case, the war for humanity’s survival had begun.

9 thoughts on “Hardwick Industries: Part 4”

  1. [If that were to happen, the Galactic Alliance might decide to eliminate all life on Earth.]

    It’s a real comment on humanity that the governments of earth are perfectly aware of this and yet instead of throwing all Abominator and Artificer technology into a fire they study it anyway. Why take such a risk?

    1. It’s a good question, but at least in my head the reasons go like this:
      1. No one really likes being told what to do.
      2. It’s been forty plus years of being told “No, you can’t use human tech to use the jump gate and also we won’t give you help to get tech that we will allow.”
      3. People in the know are pretty much convinced that the answer will *always* be “No.”
      4. People in the know also know that the Xiniti aren’t going out of their way to enforce it even if they don’t know why.
      5. While the mercenaries the Hrrnna hired (way back in Glory) did broadcast that having alien tech would result in alien attack, not everyone believed them. They hadn’t been told that before. Not all governments know the risk of having Abominator tech. In the ones that do, some people are willing to take that chance because of all the other reasons I just mentioned.

      1. I would add that powers that be and the Xiniti are fully aware there are hostiles frequently showing up and attempting to wipe out humanity. If humanity is to keep fighting these forces off they have to gamble on improving the tech. Or one day an assault too numerous for the heroes to stop may arrive. And the enemies of earth only need to win. Once.

      2. In addition, the governments that are “good” will find themselves outcompeted by the governments that are “bad” creating a powerful incentive to study alien tech and endanger the world.

        If you’re the leader(s) of a nation what do you do? Follow the rules and lose to the governments that don’t? Or study alien tech to keep up but endanger the world? It’s a classic tragedy of the commons, where the commons are “the good will of Xiniti protecting earth from destruction”.

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