Excerpt: Divide by Two

Fourteen years, more planets and space stations than he’d like to remember, broken bones, busted organs and so many dead while under his command, and all Izaak had to show for it was a single line in his official resume. He looked over his table at the new base Commander, Lahine Iwazakow and nodded to her, keeping his face blank. He was standing in front of her, facing the table which had been his own until recently, as if he were the newcomer. “I wish you luck with the base then.”

“Thank you, Commander,” Commander Lahine said as she arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow, her face unsmiling. She had the look of someone who’d come prepared for hot weather and not much else. Izaak had been around people long enough to see that the perfect tan on her strong cheekboned face was some form of sub-dermal pigment implant to keep the hot weather at bay, her narrow lips were too pale and the tip of her aquiline nose was peeling from the sudden treatment. She brushed at her too long, blonde hair and scratched the back of her neck with a long painted finger nail as she pursed her lips. “I wish you the same in your new life.” Whatever it may be wasn’t added but felt.

Izaak wasn’t sure as to what he should be feeling, but the void in his middle was not what he’d expected when he’d thought of starting a new life. It felt more like he was drifting in space than being set free from bondage.

He started to turn away from the table when Lahine spoke. “Commander Izaak.”

“Yes.”

“Are there any changes you’d like to suggest for this base?”

“Take down the fence in the middle of the compound dividing the First Fighters from the Science Division. I wasn’t here long enough to implement that change, but since you’ll be running the entire base from a central command and not from the First Fighters like I—”

Lahine had the expression of someone who’d just made polite talk and was swept away under a barrage of useless information. Her brow scrunched in displeasure, she nodded her head. “I’ll take it under advice.”

“As you wish,” said Izaak turning away fully, wondering why he’d said it at all. The system wasn’t going to change, he knew it.

“I hear your subordinate, Tao-ran Sheng, is leaving at the same time.”

Izaak almost asked who before he remembered it was Tarn’s real name. “Yes.”

“Will he be travelling with you?”

The question annoyed Izaak though he didn’t show it. It was as if Lahine was probing to see if Tarn and Izaak were together in some kind of relationship, leaving together to spend their ill-gotten wealth (though First Fighters was as unprofitable an occupation as ever). His and Tarn’s supposed relationship was something of a common speculation among most people who knew them. “There will be three people leaving the base with me: Tarn, Inspector Hawthorne and one science division member, Calvin Farnell. We’ll be flying out together.”

“I’ll make transport arrangements for you then,” said Lahine without missing a beat. “The shuttle will drop you off at the Space Station Akilina, which is as far as it will go.”

“Thank you.”

“When will you be ready to leave?”

“Tomorrow morning will be fine,” said Izaak calmly. He knew the shuttles were a weekly event and if he missed the one the next day, he’d have to sit around the base doing nothing for an entire week. He would probably have to live in the storage unit during that time since his quarters were taken over by Lahine and her entourage. Vincent, as the visiting ISF inspector, had been relocated to a slightly larger but less central room. No one from the new Command knew he was sleeping with Vincent, and he preferred to keep it that way. He nodded to the new Commander and walked out of his former office towards his current sleeping quarters in the same semi-dazed stupor he had been feeling since the day started.

Lahine, as customary of new Commanders had brought her loyal staff with her and all of a sudden there were a plethora of new faces in the corridors, all staring at him. He entered his room grateful to be away from the probing eyes of the strangers around him. His last act as Commander of CS-1320, officially handing over the command to a newcomer who felt like a usurper, he thought as his let the door slide shut behind him. He stood there for a second, eyes closed, head tipped back as he tried to figure out what he was feeling.

“You want me to pour you a drink?” came Vincent’s quiet voice and Izaak smiled and shook his head.

“You’ll have to bring a bucket if you want me drunk.”

Vincent was sitting on their bed, legs crossed, his ever-present data screen scrolling numbers faster than Izaak could keep up. “All set to go?” Vincent stood up and walked over to Izaak, minimizing the data screen projection from his wrist data unit as he did.

“Tomorrow morning,” Izaak replied, letting Vincent put an arm around his waist. “I’ll have to tell Tarn and the kid.”

“Oh, joy,” said Vincent making no move to hide his displeasure. Izaak wasn’t sure just how much of it was pretence and how much of it was for real. Sometimes, it seemed Vincent and Tarn could exist in the same room without trying to kill each other, but at other times… Izaak realized he couldn’t remember a single occasion when they’d treated each other as friends. At least not when he was present.

“You know Tarn is coming with me,” Izaak reminded him. “You were the one who told me it was alright. It was your idea.”

“Keep telling me that, I might actually believe you,” said Vincent burying his face in Izaak’s chest. “So, you want to come and relax a little.”

“I’m not… I have too many things to do,” Izaak said as gently as possible. “I have to clear out the last of my things and finish all the data transfers.”

“I’m not suggesting we fuck, just come sit with me a little.” Vincent didn’t sound offended, but it was hard to tell with him sometimes.

“Let me tell Tarn about the time of departure for tomorrow,” said Izaak detaching himself slowly. He leaned down and kissed Vincent on the top of his head softly. A kiss on the lips would have led to other things and he really did have work to do. “This’ll only take a second.”

“You can use the internal com,” said Vincent moving away, scowling. “Or you can use mine—” he thrust forward his right wrist on which the data unit was attached. Izaak knew it had to be the latest model that could be worn, although he knew the more popular models would always be those that could be implanted into the body. As he was searching for a polite reason for turning down Vincent’s offer, the com in question cheeped and Vincent stared at it in confusion.

Izaak could see Vincent hadn’t been expecting it. “What is it?”

“It’s a call from HQ,” said Vincent as he moved a little away from Izaak. “I already sent all my data to them and confirmed my vacation. If there was anything, they’d have sent me a note; there’s no need to call me.”

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