Offspring Ch. 017byTalemaster©
That evening I was handed a note from Colonel Nakov asking me to present myself in his office at ten in the morning for an important conference. Whatever had been converging on me had arrived.
I turned up on time and in uniform. I was ushered into Colonel Nakov's office. Arden and the Colonel looked sombre and bade me sit down.
"I have bad news," the Colonel said. "There is no gentle way to break it to you so I come straight to the point. Just over a week ago Colonel Saraswati had a massive stroke in the middle of a conference with Captain Schreiber. In spite of the best medical treatment she could not be saved. Yesterday they switched off her life support system. She died within minutes. For what it's worth, there would have been no pain.
"I know you used to attend her lectures when you were a student and that you were very fond of her. Please accept my sincere condolences."
He stood up and we all shook hands.
"I apologise for not having informed you of her condition earlier," he continued, "I was under orders."
He handed me an envelope and said: "This has arrived from HQ for you. Needless to say the documentation within cannot leave the building. I know you need a stiff drink after this, so I will permit you to study the contents in the officers mess. The information inside is confidential and not to be discussed outside this office. Hand the envelope back to me when you are finished. It will be added to your other security items we hold for you."
He stood up, the interview was finished.
I went to the officers mess, ordered a large Cognac and a beer and sat in a quiet corner of the club. My hands shook when I opened the envelope. There were two letters inside. One was from the committee chairman General Taubner informing me of what had happened. He then went on to say that my report had been vetted by Professor Williams and had been accepted by the committee in toto. He congratulated me on a job well done. I was to carry on with my plans for the future as stated in my report.
He also said that a reorganisation of the department was necessary, but would take some time. In the interim I was to report to Colonel Nakov who was under orders to help me where necessary. My status within the Federation was unchanged.
He finished by telling me that he had been very close to Lata for many years and that the loss of her was a great tragedy to him, as it must be for me.
The other letter was from Bernice telling me in detail what had happened and offering her condolences.
I read both letters several times and decided these people were on the level. It was an unfortunate accident, nothing more, especially since Lata had been taken ill before my report had reached the committee. I returned the envelope to Colonel Nakov who, on my insistence, read both letters while I was there. I told him I was happy reporting to him.
"At least we know there won't be any unforeseen security problems under the new arrangements," I quipped in parting
Colonel Nakov laughed. "I wish all my officers were like you Major Walters. I am proud to have you."
Over a beer I contemplated what the new arrangements meant for me. With Lata dead it meant that only Feng and I knew about the time travel bit. That was a plus. Not that I had worried about Lata giving me up, but she would have been vulnerable to interrogation if someone was suspicious of me. Nakov being in charge was potentially troublesome. Since I was officially working for him he no longer needed HQ approval to have me investigated. The question was, would he? I'd have to be doubly careful.
I rang Feng and asked him how he was set for lunch. We decided to go Indian and met half an hour later in a small restaurant on the first floor of an office building. I had never been there before. Over a lamb vidaloo, some cucumber raita and a few chapaties I told him what had transpired and what I thought it meant.
"You don't have to worry about Nakov. He is going to be very orderly and not risk upsetting you and maybe look bad at HQ. You just got a pat on the back by the top brass. Taubner is a five star general. Normally he wouldn't even notice a guy like Nakov. If you tell Taubner what a helpful and allround good sausage Nakov is it'll do wonders for the Colonel's career. He'll lick your boots ever after."
"All very well, I just wish I had nothing to do with any of those arseholes. Unfortunately, that's not an option."
"Maybe there is a way. Let me think on this a while. In the meantime I have a little present for you."
Feng reached into his pocket and brought out another device, similar to the camera, but smaller.
"Another camera?" I queried.
"No. Plug this thing into the camera and press this button. It's a memory module. It will download the recording and reset the camera. There will be a green light when it's finished. Then you unplug it and take it back here. The advantage is you don't have to bring the camera back each time, it can keep recording when you're gone. That'll give you round the clock surveillance, if you want it."
"I like that."
He popped the module into its waterproof container and handed it to me. If nothing else, it would be easier on my arse. I arranged to meet Feng after I got back so we could see what the camera had recorded. I thanked him, settled the bill and left for the hotel.