Testing Times Part 1

A hissing burst of nitrogen coolant bubbled over the cold metal floor; an eerie precursor to the opening of the heavy airlock doors that the coolant serviced. The door rolled back on its articulated carriage, sliding into the wall with an ear-splitting grinding noise. The unpleasant noise and gases seemed to unnerve one of the younger Lieutenants standing ready to receive the visitors. His hands trembled slightly and he winced with the loud noise. Commander Nemen always winced too, but only on the inside. Years of exposure to these sights and sounds had failed to take away the razor-edge of the experience, but had dulled it; allowed him to push his distaste and nervousness below the surface at least temporarily.

Nervousness; yes.

Nemen always held a deep feeling of dread in his gut when the high-ups from GTVI came to visit him. They were cold. They were detached. Above all, they were always somewhat sinister. It was sometimes difficult to believe that they really were one's allies. There was just something about their mannerisms, their movements...especially this one. The dirty darkness of the airlock chamber and the dissipating coolant conspired to make the appearance of the visitors more sinister than usual. However, the weak electric lighting slowly flickered to life to reveal an aging man in a dark uniform, rimmed with silver. He walked forward in carefully measured steps. Too measured for my liking, Nemen thought. However, he showed no outward emotion, as always.

"Admiral Kepler," he said, curtly, saluting precisely.

Louis Kepler nodded. "At ease, Commander Nemen," he said in his gravelly voice, clasping Nemen's free hand to his own black-leather gauntlet clad one. The handshake was firm but not warm. Without pausing for niceties, Nemen led the Admiral and his entourage deeper into the facility.

Admiral Kepler stopped pacing Nemen's office and sat down in a swivel chair facing the Science Commander. Then, slowly and purposefully he pulled off his gloves with a loud snap sound. Not once did he take his eyes off of the Commander. As he peeled off the second glove, he began to speak in quiet, measured tones. "So, Commander, we're behind schedule in testing the Golgotha main cannon." It was a statement, not a question. Nemen nodded.

"Yes sir. We also lost one of the test-beds during an operational test recently. I'm afraid that there was nothing we could do to stop a Meson cascade."

Kepler softened a bit, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture. "That's what test-beds are for, Commander. I'd rather lose a hundred of them than find the flaws when the Golgotha is complete."

Nemen coughed. "We are in the business of saving lives after all, Admiral."

"Indeed," the Admiral said quietly, staring out of the view port and into the blackness of space. "Indeed.*quot; Admiral Kepler stood and made a move towards the exit of the small and brightly lit room. He whispered a few words barely audible more than a few meters away from the man, but Nemen was well within range.

"By any means possible."

Nemen couldn't suppress a shudder. It must have been the way that the Admiral had said it, or something. There was something in the voice. Something unexpected. Something menacing.

When Nemen looked up, he saw that Louis Kepler was looking over his shoulder at him curiously. Then, without another word he stalked out of the room quietly. Wearily, Nemen followed the Admiral. He'd want a tour of the facilities; maybe even a demonstration of what they'd achieved in the past two months.

It's gonna be a long week...

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