It's the second Wednesday of the month, so it's time for another random word story. I find this exercise fun, so I may keep up with it for awhile.
Once again, I used a random word generator to choose 3 nouns, 3 adjectives, 3 verbs, 3 adverbs, 1 interjection, and 1 preposition. Here are the words I need to incorporate into this story.
Nouns: asterisk, perspective, process
Adjectives: degenerate, communal, hungry
Verbs: promised, suffer, civilize
Adverbs: legitimately, individually, blindly
For the fun of it, I also made a Wordle out of the generated words.
The asterisk next to the name Ainsleigh Fisher captured Cabrera’s attention. Out of the hundreds of names on that list, only one had been singled out in this way. Such lists of military recruits came across her desk all the time, and some were always marked. For the first time, she couldn’t stop wondering why.
Cabrera had already promised herself she’d get to the bottom of any anomalies. Her superior officers never liked to answer these types of questions, but she couldn’t take no for an answer. Not this time! The last time she followed along blindly . . . no. Never again.
She marched purposefully through the corridors of Wayside Station. In this down and out former hub of interstellar commerce, it was easy for the military to operate unhindered.
Cabrera soon stood in front of Captain Iverson’s desk. “I see there’s another name marked on the latest list,” she said assertively as she plopped the tablet before him. “What do those marks mean?”
“Your job is to organize names in our database, not to get curious,” Iverson responded, his voice sharp and chilled.
“Why are these names marked though? These people are never included on any passenger list afterwards, so I can only conclude they never leave.” Cabrera paused. “Sir, I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’m second in command. You can trust me.”
Iverson’s slate eyes were like stone walls. “By keeping you out of the loop, I’m giving you deniability.”
Cabrera cocked her head to one side. “Sir, how can you expect me to trust you’re legitimately working in the best interests of the Stronghold if you won’t let me in on anything we do here?”
Several long moments passed. Iverson finally shook his head. “Alas! You finally show your true colors!” The tall man stood and adjusted his military jacket, which was covered in so many medals and ribbons it should have been too heavy to wear. “I wondered if the death of your husband would have this kind of impact on you.”
“I knew the mediation the doctor gave him looked wrong, but I didn’t say anything.” She had to swallow back her emotion to keep the tears from coming. “I swore I’d never ignore my doubts like that again.”
“Very well,” Iverson grumbled. “If you insist on getting a dose of perspective, I have no problem giving it to you.”
Cabrera felt small as she considered what she’d gotten herself into. Iverson was a powerful man. Getting on his bad side was never good.
Iverson took her to a staff elevator, and they went down several decks. Cabrera’s heart raced as she stood beside him. Plummeting down the elevator shaft already made her stomach feel displaced, but the silence in the enclosed space made it a thousand times worse.
“Questions are a dangerous thing,” Iverson said as the doors opened. “Step through only if you still want the answers.”
For the first time since she started this, Cabrera truly hesitated. Should she sense such peril from simply seeking the truth? Yet, in spite of that hesitation, she remembered her husband, and how suddenly she lost him. No matter the outcome, she needed to seek the truth in all things. With this conviction firmly in mind, she stepped out. “After you,” she said levelly.
Iverson lead her to a thick metal door. It required three key codes to get past the locks. Cabrera went cold. Nothing else in Wayside Station was this heavily secured as far as she knew.
The first thing that struck her about the room was the smell. It reeked of unwashed bodies. Approximately two dozen people were crammed into this single room. A communal toilet sat in one corner. Unpadded benches represented the only furniture.
The room’s inhabitants flinched and fled to the perimeter of the room. Welts were visible on several of them, and she suspected Iverson had something to do with those injuries. “What are these people doing here?” Cabrera asked acidly.
“They posed impertinent questions,” Iverson replied. “Everyone who signs up for service and asks such questions is brought here. We can’t have inquisitive recruits. They can be problematic.”
“Everyone?” Cabrera shuddered. “Shouldn’t cases be judged individually? Not everyone who asks questions will pose a threat.”
“Too risky. Too time consuming. My process is efficient and effective.” He sounded like an instructor. “Civilization requires agreement. You can’t civilize so-called free thinkers. They seek only to destroy.”
Some of these people had been here a long time, and she guessed none of them had a shower since their arrival. Several of them had almost no body fat left. The hungry faces were so thin and sunken that they hardly looked human anymore. Cabrera felt like throwing up. There certainly wasn’t anything civilized about this. “You don’t feed them at all, do you?”
“It costs too much. We just leave them here and let nature take its course. I check on them once a week. I remove the dead from time to time. You may think it monstrous, and maybe you’re right.” Iverson grinned. “It’s not personal. Just procedures. You claimed to be concerned about the Stronghold’s best interests, but they approved my plan. It’s not documented so we can avoid questions from bleeding hearts, but this program will help keep our government strong.”
“You’re letting these people suffer and die, you degenerate scum!” Cabrera screamed. Emotion had taken over completely. Her hands were balled into fists, and she wanted nothing more than to punch him.
Iverson’s eyes sparkled. He pulled a phaser from his pocket and aimed it between Cabrera’s eyes. “If you care so much for them, you can stay with them. We had to make your husband’s death look like an accident, because you were still around to notice his absence. Now that he’s gone, no one’s going to be looking for you.”
Cabrera trembled with disbelief as she watched Iverson walk out and lock the door behind him, thus sealing her fate.