Silverfish : Chapter 1

Julian pulled up the message center on the datapad and stared at it with a sigh.  Six angry messages from his mother, four from his father, nine from his sister, and even one from his grandmother.  At least they hadn’t gotten his brother in on…  The unit chimed to signal an incoming communication.  He briefly considered knocking himself unconscious via banging his head against the wall.  Then he accepted the call.

“You’re boycotting the symposium.”  Captain Leon Vendral starred daggers through the screen.

“News travels fast.”  Julian shrugged.  Not that attending that farce had interested him in the first place.  Dress up and be shown off as though he were still a toddler, while the upper crust congratulated each other on their foresight to have been born into the right families.

“Oh, the press is having a field day.”  Leon shook his head and held up another datapad.  “The Prime Minister’s own namesake has refused to attend, citing protests against hew restrictions imposed upon —”

“They arrested medics, Leon.”  Julian ran a hand through his hair.  Crossing into the quarantine zones without proper authorization was illegal, but getting ‘proper authorization’ for anything resembling humanitarian work was all but impossible.  He was giving serious consideration to heading out to join one of the protest groups and cross over himself.  Let his grandfather’s public relations team spin that story.  “They arrested medics for treating the sick and injured.”

“For violating safety protocols.”  Leon took a deep breath.  “It’s not like they are going to do much time.  It’s just a slap on the wrist and they’ll be…”

“That’s not the point and you know it.  There are millions of innocent civilians trapped inside the zones and —”

“Innocent people don’t harbor terrorists, Jules.”

“It’s not that black and white.”  Julian glared.  The zones had gone up so quickly some of those trapped inside were guilty of no more than doing their afternoon shopping.  Entire districts walled off with force-fields, no one allowed in or out without being properly vetted.  Which translated more often than not to knowing the right people or able to afford bribes.  “You’ve sat at the same dinner table I have, so don’t pull that crap on me.  Half those zones are pure retaliatory poli —” The communication winked out.  For a moment, he thought his brother had broken off the call.

Then the ship shuddered and rocked hard enough to knock him out of the chair.