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The Commodore’s large boots banged as he walked briskly down the hallway. Natalie struggled to maintain his pace.

“Umm, Sir?” Natalie began to say.

“Natalie, hold your thoughts,” the Commodore said without looking back.

Natalie’s face faded from confused to dejected, no one had ever told her to shut up and truly mean it.  The comment slowed her pace as his words sunk in.  A thousand replies raced through her mind, from a polite “excuse me?” to “who the hell do you think you are, speaking to me that way?”

“Try to keep up, we don’t have much time,” the Commodore said before any words reached her lips.  His interruption of her internal monolog infuriated her even further.

“Natalie,” suddenly the Commodore’s boots stopped clanging as he stood in front of what appeared to be the door of a storage closet, “do you know why I asked you to come with me?”  The Commodore’s back still turned as he waved his wrist over the door handle.

“No-“ Natalie began to say but was interrupted by Commodore once more.

“You see, Natalie,” the door clanked and banged as heavy locks began releasing, “we have quite the situation on our hands.”  The final lock gave way and the Commodore pushed the door open, “2 of our Alfa pride have, well, ‘lost communication’,” he said as he made his way through the doorway.  “Come on, now.  Keep up,” he finally turned back and showed his face, motioning for her to enter the room.

Natalie’s mind had finally given up.  The trauma from 2 Alfa’s last transmission, the chaos in the Command Room turning to stone cold silence, the Commodore whisking her down the hall and then disrespecting her, to finally a highly secure broom closest.  Her face went blank, her eyes didn’t blink, and the Commodore’s words seemed distant like a dream.

“Natalie!”  The Commodore shouted, “let’s go!”

Natalie smirked and let out an absentminded giggle as she followed him through the doorway.

Meanwhile, on the far side of Astro Base, Schuyler was trying to piece together rumors of 1 Alfa’s disappearance as he sat at the end of a notorious space traveler’s lounge.  His ability to drain a mug of sway was far greater than his ability to recognize a lead.

“So then I says to him, I says, ‘you unload all this junk.  I got it here, buddy, now you get your grunts to get this shit off my ship’- you know?”  Schuyler stared at the back of greasy half-bald head.  He giggled as a little tuff of hair bounced with each word the man said.  “Huge pallets of magiron and transistors, my back can’t handle that no more, you know?”

Schuyler continued to giggle at the bouncing hair until he interrupted himself with an obnoxious burp.  The man instantly spun around on his bar stool to confront the disgusting sound.

“Ey oh, what the fuck you smelly bastard?”  The unshaven, un-showered, and equal revolting individual said as he looked Schuyler up and down.  “Can you believe this fuckin’ guy?  Get a life you dock rat!”  The man said as he spun back around to finish his original conversation.

“Yeah, so everything gets unloaded and then he asks me if I know where he can get liquid uranium.  I was like, ‘woah woah, pal.  I run a reputable shipping business here!’  Just sign my fuckin’ invoice so I can be on my way.’”  The other man he was talking to seem utterly bored but the balding man carried on anyway.  “So anyways, I told him his best bet was Yibbia.  Doubtful any of those assholes out there have any but they’d probably know where to find it.”

“You sure do talk a lot,” Schuyler slurred to the back of the man’s head.

“Is this guy talking to me?” The balding man said to his bored friend and pointed back at Schuyler with his thumbs.

“Fuck yeah I’m talking to you,” Schuyler chimed in.  “Your head looks like a womprat’s ass.”

The bartender, eavesdropping on the entire conversation, was quick to jump in.  “Ankele, you’re out!”

Schuyler’s smirk transformed into a grin.  “Oh yeah?  You don’t think this chump’s noggin looks like Wastie fallout?”

The bald head quickly whipped around and the man’s eyes sucked Schuyler in like a black hole.  Before the man could speak Schuyler continued, “his seven strands of hair could grease a hover bucket-“

Suddenly the world became very dark for Schuyler.   A loud thud rattled his skull and his hearing slowly melted away.  Schuyler’s body flopped to the floor and his cheek pressed against the cool tile.  A warm liquid filled his mouth as he slipped out of consciousness.

 

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