tagSci-Fi & FantasyOffspring Ch. 007

Offspring Ch. 007

byTalemaster©

The Federation vessel left the next day. About a week later Arden came to see me. He had been instructed to make a secure office available for my sole use. It was to contain an interstellar communications device and a computer. He said it would be ready in a couple of days. I was issued with a card that allowed me access to the Feds building and my office. I wondered what the fuss was all about.

I got an idea three days later when I went to see my new domain. My office was on a security floor only accessible by a special lift after passing through security checks. A guard accompanied me and showed me where it was. I had expected it would be just a small cubicle with a computer and was surprised to see a spacious, well furnished office with a desk, leather chairs, a coffee machine and a well stocked bar fridge. Apart from the computer screen there was a six foot display screen mounted on the wall opposite the desk. I wondered which executive had been tossed out of here to make room for me. There had been some serious string pulling. I had obviously become very important to someone high up in the hierarchy. They wanted me to be happy.

The guard explained to me that the computer and the terminal had been programmed with my biometric data and that I was the only person authorised and able to use it. I thanked the guard and after he left I got a beer from the fridge, settled down in my comfortable leather chair and lit a cigarette. Someone had been thoughtful. There was an ashtray on my desk and a carton of my favourite cigarettes in the top drawer. I was still on my first beer when there was a knock on the door. It was a uniformed security man carrying a briefcase. He introduced himself as Colonel Nakov and asked if I could spare him an hour for a briefing. I invited him in and offered him a drink. He settled for a beer.

He came straight to the point.

"This is a security area, as you know. Everything you might witness on this floor is classified. There are two requirements to be able to work here. First I must brief you on the official secrets act. You are required to sign a copy. Breaches of the act are considered treason and are treated as such."

He then took me in detail through the act, paragraph by paragraph and asked me at the end if I understood what I had been told. When I told him that I understood what I was committing myself to he gave me three copies of the act to sign. He countersigned the papers, handed me my copy and put the remaining two in his briefcase.

"Condition number two is that you must be an officer of the Interstellar Federation. You are being offered a commission by rank of Major with the pay and privileges that rank entitles you to. You are required to wear uniform when on duty, though civilian clothes are permitted, if necessary for your work. As a matter of courtesy we would appreciate if you notified security should this arise. You have a level one security clearance, which is about as good as you can get in this place. Are you prepared to accept your commission?"

I told him I was.

He took a piece of parchment from his briefcase, donned his hat and stood up. I knew enough of military procedure to stand up as well. He offered me his hand and said: "Congratulations Major Walters. Welcome aboard."

We shook hands and he handed me my commission.

The official business over we sat down again and had another beer.

"Your uniform and your identification papers will arrive shortly by orderly. We will also arrange for a change of uniform to be delivered to your hotel. It might be a good idea to wear uniform, even when not on duty, for the next couple of weeks or so to let everyone know of your new status. We will inform the Oktonian authorities of your appointment shortly. Officially you are working here in an administrative capacity. We don't expect any problems with the Oktonians. You will be required to attend a staff meeting tomorrow morning at ten, followed by lunch in the officers mess. An orderly will call on your office shortly before ten to take you to the conference room.

"And now, I am afraid I must attend to other duties. Congratulations Major Walters and good luck."

We shook hands again and the Colonel left. Half an hour later the orderly turned up with my uniform and a sealed package. The office had an en suite bathroom with a shower, toilet, washbasin and a built in cupboard that contained towels, toiletries and a space to hang my clothes.

The Federation treats their senior officers very well. The dark blue uniform was cut from the best material and fit as if it was tailored for me. The underwear was genuine cotton, an absolute luxury in these parts, the shoes were real leather, not the plastic shit most people wear and didn't pinch as new shoes mostly do. I had never seen myself in uniform before and had to admit I looked a million credits when I examined myself in the full length mirror. I practised standing to attention and saluting until I was satisfied I looked like a seasoned officer and not stiff and awkward like a new recruit.

The parcel contained my ID card, a card for the officer's mess and a code book with security codes and instructions to keep it in the wall safe as well as a note that showed where I had to swipe my ID in order to open the safe. I did as I was asked and decided I had had enough of this shit for now..

Well, Major Walters, here we go I said to myself as I closed my office for the day and made my way to the lift.

On the way to the hotel I was careful to salute superior officers and return the salute of lower ranks. It would become second nature soon, but for now I had to pay attention. I think I acquitted myself well. When I went to pick up my room key I was told I had been moved to a different floor and that the liaison officer wanted a word with me. I didn't have long to wait. She asked me into her office and offered me a seat.

Here comes the third degree, I thought, but it was nothing like that. She congratulated me on my commission.

"We were a little concerned about the fraud enquiry," she said. "We are delighted with your commission. It proves your reputation is beyond reproach. We have upgraded your accommodation for no further charge. As far as your other arrangements are concerned nothing has changed. We are happy to have you with us, that is if you are willing to remain in our modest establishment."

"I see no reason to move," I said, "I'm happy here."

"Good," she said. We shook hands and I went to the bar for a beer.

***

What a difference a uniform makes. Who in his right mind wants to talk to a senior Fed officer? Certainly not the spacers. Normally I would have had someone to talk to by now, not this time. Most of these guys have some minor scam going they don't want the authorities to know about. Best not come to the attention of officials. The lower ranks naturally wouldn't approach a senior officer unless there was a reason. The senior officers would only talk to you if they knew you. And seeing there were no upmarket whores looking for business I was very much on my own. Not that it was a worry to me. It was just an interesting observation.

I went up to my new room to see what surprises, if any, were there. The room I had been given was much more spacious. It had a corner with a two seater lounge, two matching armchairs and a coffee table in addition to the standard stuff. My spare uniforms were already hanging in my wardrobe. The bathroom was bigger and had a bath as well as a shower. The real surprise was the shagging room. Instead of a humpbot cubicle there was an Oktonian shagging platform and the customary stand for the clothes. I wondered if that meant I could get the girls from now on to come to me.

Sure enough, when I went for my lesson I was told that the girls would come to my room, if I wanted them to. All I had to do was to let reception know half an hour before my appointment so the girls would know where to go. That opened up some interesting avenues. For the moment I decided to keep this quiet from Lata.

I did nothing adventurous in my session.

Over a beer afterwards I realised that I'd had a very profitable day in many ways. I was now part of the establishment, no longer the unemployed miner with a few bucks in the bank. I was earning money again, not that I needed it, but is was nice anyway. I had scored a better room and, most of all, I had something to do with my time on this shit heap of a concrete island. I wondered what the next day would bring, something I hadn't been doing for a while.

I slept well that night and went to the office early. I wanted to check on a few things before the staff meeting. First I familiarised myself with the various security procedures required to get the computer and comm terminal to work. Once I got it going it was simple fare. Nothing I wasn't used to.

I checked my incoming mail and found a note from Lata telling me that she had sent me the photographs I had asked for and their evaluations. I had no trouble downloading the images and that's where I got my first surprise. The picture were taken from very far away, but with very high resolution equipment. They were a lot better than the stuff coming from space probes I've had to work with to prepare a geological profile for assessment to see if a planet or asteroid was worth exploring further.

Whoever had done the evaluation was a rank amateur in my book. Almost any engineer I knew could have done a better job. Whoever it was had scribbled marks all over the images, explaining in an attached memo what he thought certain features meant. It was pure fantasy.

I was in the middle of drafting a reply when the orderly turned up to take me to the meeting. I closed my files and switched the machine off.

The staff meeting was interesting. Mostly junior officers, a few majors and colonels, about thirty in all. I was introduced to the group as Major Walters, reporting directly to Colonel Saraswati from Federation Research Command on Earth. That raised a few eyebrows. All the officers there were raging homosexuals who evidently did not like the idea of a heterosexual amongst them reporting straight to Earth command if their facial expressions were anything to go by. However, military etiquette is designed to allow people who can't stand each other to work together in comparative harmony so there was no drama. The lunch afterwards in the officer's mess was excellent and a lot cheaper than at my hotel. I created my mess account and lunched together with a couple of captains and a major. The conversation was bland. I was glad when it was over and I could return to my work.

My report wasn't very complimentary, though I did try to put it in civilised language. What it boiled down to was that whoever had done the work was an idiot and I could do a lot better if they gave me copies of the original photos untouched and in full resolution and a couple of software programmes I specified. I also gave them a list of areas where the fuck ups were and my reasons why the evaluation had gone wrong.

I mailed my report, closed up and went home.

At my lesson later in the day I did some animal stuff. This time I was a rooster on a chicken farm doing one of the hens. It did nothing for me, but I felt I had to do stuff like this for a while, since it seemed likely I had to roam Okton4 in animal form at least some of the time. As always the Oktonian woman seemed to be unaware of what I was on about. I had asked her to come to my room. Apart from the different locale there was no change in the procedure.

My earlier idea had just become a doable project. The idea was simple. Since I had now unsupervised access to the shagging area it would be a simple matter to install one or more hidden cameras to monitor what happened there. The problem I had was that if I did request it through normal channels I would lose my justification for the implanted camera which I wanted very badly.

I decided that would be a problem for another day and went to bed.

***

There was nothing new when I arrived at the office. I had not expected an answer to my request from Earth so soon. While I had nothing to do I decided to familiarise myself some more with the different security procedures. There was quite a bit of information in the manual I had been given. It was stressed that before talking to anyone in the organisation about classified matters it was necessary to check on their security clearance level. It gave an access code for an organisational chart which, amongst other information gave the clearance level for each member.

Not really knowing anyone yet apart from Arden I decided to check on him. It didn't take me long to find the information. It was interesting. I knew that Arden was a Major, the same rank as I. What I hadn't known was that he was second in charge of security with a level one security clearance and that he reported to Colonel Nakov.

That was handy to know, he might be able to help me with the surveillance camera in the shagging room. I wasted no time and rang him up. I told him I needed to talk to him and could we do this over lunch at the officer's mess.

"Look Frank," he said, "I haven't got a lot on my plate right now, why don't I come to your office for a chat and we go to lunch after."

"Actually, that would be perhaps better."

"Thought so, see you in ten."

"Well Major Walters," he said after we had settled down with a beer, "the uniform looks good on you, welcome to the spy business."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Let's not fuck around, Frank. We both know you have been hired to spy on the Oktonians. You are a bright boy and by now you must have figured out that is was me who got you the job. I am with security and part of our job is to gather as much intelligence on the Oktonians as we can. We're on the same team."

"Who else knows about me?"

"Only the Colonel and I, apart from your mob, of course."

"Why choose me?"

"Simple. Spying is about exploiting opportunities. We know fuck all about the Oktonians, and believe me, it isn't for lack of trying. Then you come along. Even the little you told me was more than we had been able to gather, in spite of our best efforts. I couldn't pass that up."

I decided to fly a kite.

"Look Arden, hypothetically speaking, if I were to ask you to help me with a little illegal surveillance, would you be obliged to report that to your or to my superiors?"

"Shit, you are a natural. In this business you hide more from your own organisation than from the rest of the world together. Need to know and all that shit. The straight answer is, as long as it doesn't interfere with the interests of the Federation, no, I wouldn't need to pass it on. This comes under the mutual back-scratching act. We do favours and we receive favours, mostly without the knowledge of our superiors. It's part of how the system works."

"I need someone here on Okton4 I can work with. My gut feel tells me I can trust you. I am prepared to level with you in exchange for your co-operation. Most of what I'm about to reveal is not classified, though I expect it will be after Colonel Saraswati tables her report to her superiors. The photographs I want to show you are classified level one, but you are cleared for that so there is no breach. All of what I am prepared to give you is known to the Federation, so there is no clash of interest. However, I need your guarantee that you will not pass any of this information on without my clearance."

"I knew I was making the right decision when I proposed recruiting you. I accept your conditions. You have my guarantee."

"Good, then let's go and have some lunch, after you tell your office you will be tied up for the rest of the day. This will take some time."

We got some strange looks in the officer's mess, but no one said anything.

When we got back to the office I told Arden what happened in the sessions with the Oktonian women. About being unconscious for a time while I was being cleaned up and while the women got dressed. I didn't tell him about my adventures with Lata. I gave him the same explanation Lata would give her superiors that the Oktonians were using sex and hallucinogens to collect sperm.

I showed him the photos of Okton4 and told him why I thought they had been misinterpreted.

Arden was floored by the amount of new information he'd been given.

"What do you think it all means?" he said after I finished my presentation, " and how can I help you?"

"First of all I need to know what happens in these sex sessions. I want one or more surveillance cameras installed in my rooms at the hotel. Unofficially."

"I can get that done, though funding it might be a bit tricky, if you want it done without the organisation's knowledge."

"What do you have in mind?"

"The traders are forever spying on each other. There is one electronics engineer who is the best, though he is expensive. Officially he installs and maintains security cameras for the Oktonians in their hotels and bars. He also does clandestine shit, I know him well."

"Don't the Oktonians use their own surveillance gear?"

"Not that we know of."

"Strange. Tell your man I would like to see him tomorrow evening at my hotel at around eight, if possible. I'll pay for it."

"Anything else?"

"I need a complete run down on the lithium trade, ore quality, degree of contamination especially organic material. I also want any psychological profiles on Oktonians, if they are available."

"I can get you that easily enough. I suggest we do this through channels. Put in an official request with my office and I will see it gets done."

"Thanks Arden. I think we should call it quits for today. How about we meet tomorrow some time, I'm sure you have a lot of questions.

We had another couple of beers and went home.

***

I was in the middle of typing out my requests for information when a light flashed on the screen showing that mail had arrived. The sender was Lata.

In spite of being curious I finished what I was doing first and sent my requisitions off to Arden.

My darling Coochpacifyer, it said,

Haven't you tossed a mob of cats amongst the pigeons? When I handed copies of your report to the committee General Weinberg went ballistic. "Who is this arsehole who is criticising my best analyst?" he screamed. He kept on and on until he finally ran out of steam. He wanted a vote to toss your report out with the garbage. That's when I stepped in and said that it would be better if we showed the report to some independent authority on the subject before discarding it. That way no one could claim we had acted negligently if it turned out later there had been some substance to it.

You know what committees are like. No one wants to stick their neck out and what I proposed was a responsible thing to do that no one could fault. I carried the vote. They summonsed Professor Williams, who was in the middle of a lecture, to the committee room to give his assessment. He took his time scrutinising your report and went over the photographs in meticulous detail. After four hours he announced. "Every now and then I have reason to be pleased with one of my ex students. Tell Major Walters he is correct on every point he raised. I give him an A plus."

General Weinberg turned green and stormed out.

Anyway, they authorised the release of the original images to you and are formally asking you to assess them. When you are done, Professor Williams will check your work and give his own report.

Get to it, Darling, don't let me down.

Lata Coochbearer.

Good old Professor Williams. I didn't know he was still lecturing. He must be over eighty by now. I had to laugh. I have been called many things in my life but Coochpacifyer was a new one.

In the attachment were the images I had asked for plus a letter formally asking for my analysis. It was signed by the committee chairman, a General Taubner.

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