As they entered the room, Alicia heard Theseus give an almost silent sigh, echoing her own feelings of despair. The five board members didn't have to say anything; they knew there had been no improvement since the last meeting.
New Worlds for Humanity had been on a downward spiral for more than four years since the original owners had been bought out. Alicia hadn't seen the full numbers, but everyone had heard the whispers spreading through the departments.
She hoped to find out how the company intended to fix this mess. She and Theseus headed two of the most important sections: Supply and Science, though he'd been a late hire, barely a year ago.
"Alicia, Theseus, please sit down," Brown said with a nod.
They sat. They listened to the five board members, even though everyone knew Brown made all the decisions. An hour later they were dismissed; literally dismissed from the company and told to clear out their offices before the end of the day.
Theseus had never been friendly, but when he met her at her office door and said they should have a drink, she didn't argue. She felt numb by the suddenness of the news. Unlike him, she'd spent years here, helping the company grow and deserved better. When security checked through her box, she felt a surge of anger. She'd been a loyal, good worker for years before these fools took over --
Theseus tapped her arm. "Drinks," he said softly. "A fond farewell."
Something in his worried look stopped her tirade. Her heart began pounding harder. What was going on?
She followed Theseus out of the building, glancing once at the steel and glass, a place she'd loved. This had been a dream job until Brown and his people took over.
She almost tripped, her legs gone wobbly at the thought of not having a job --
"You don't bring an aircar in, do you?" Theseus asked. She shook her head mutely and hoped tears didn't spring up in her eyes. "Good. We'll take mine. Come on before anyone thinks to try and stop us."
"Stop us?" she asked, startled by the words.
"They haven't thought this through yet. They don't realize how much we know. Just come on. I'll buy you a drink and we can talk for a couple minutes."
She didn't argue. She had nothing better to do.
Theseus took them to a nice place across town, a bit more upscale than she would usually attend. She was dressed for it, at least, in her best work suit.
Damn. Anger began to take over the feeling of shock and betrayal.
"What the hell happened?" she demanded over a glass of red wine.
"The short answer? You know a good part of it in Supply. The Company doesn't have funds to keep supplying the eight colonies with anything new. Good thing they're pretty self-sufficient at this point. Brown overextended his credit when he bought New Worlds for Humanity. He's been trying every 'get rich quick' scheme he could to get the money back. We're part of the new plan. He's fired over a hundred people in the last month, most of them lower level so we didn't notice."
"It's not going to help him."
Theseus agreed with a nod, sipping at his own wine. She would have taken him for a beer person. "There's more, isn't there?"
"I had that feeling."
"Do you know about Grey Station 9?"
"That would be the last station we built, right? Out at the far edges of nowhere."
"Argo Navis Fringe, the farthest from Earth and the Inner Worlds." He sipped again. "The world is Cholchis --"
"Nice tie in with the Argonaut mythology," she said and won a sudden, brilliant smile from him.
"Not many get that reference." He looked impressed before the anger reappeared. "The world was being terra-formed, not a domed colony. For some reason, the computer controls shut down so Brown and his people decided to hold back on finishing the station."
"Except he collected transport fees from people at the other eight New Worlds for Humanity settlements and shipped about four thousand people there."
Her hand gripped the wine glass. "Unfinished station? Planet not ready for settlement?" Alicia couldn't believe that was what he meant. It wasn't possible.
"Yes. And Brown canceled the next scheduled supply ship to the station, too."
"Abandoned? Abandoned them? Son of a bitch. I thought -- but not that!"
"Not a lot of people realize," Theseus said softly. "You and I -- how do you feel about going to the IWC with this?"
"But the Argo Navis fringe is far out of their territory."
"It is. But New Worlds for Humanity, as a company, is not."
She took another sip of wine and thought about how she had reacted to the news; the horror of the thought, the anger that the place she'd trusted would do such a thing.
"What do we do?" she asked.
"Get out of here," he said, looking to the window. She hadn't realized he'd put them somewhere they could see the aircar and now she watched as someone familiar walked around it, left another person as guard there, and headed towards the door.
"Brown's personal guard," Theseus said. He stood and moved towards the back wall, leading her away. "Let's go. I came here for a reason."
They were in danger; she couldn't quite connect with the feeling, even though she knew it was true when she saw the guard heading for the door. Theseus took her arm and hurried her to a hall and then through the kitchen.
"Theseus, how are you -- trouble?"
"Yes," he said to the bigger man who had moved up beside them. "Everything I said. I'll contact you when I can. Don't worry."
"Go. We'll make a distraction for you."
Theseus patted the older man on the arm and they headed out the back door.
What the hell had she gotten herself into?
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