James couldn’t help but stare dumbfounded at the screen. What on Tero had just happened? Barrett murdered the president? In cold blood, more or less? And nobody was going to do anything about it? This . . . this was nothing like what he had been wanting or fighting for. James couldn’t help but to kick himself. He was reluctant to take this job in the first place. And why? Because he was distrustful of the government and the reach they already had. And now what had happened? A freaking military junta. If you even wanted to call it a junta. It was more of a military dictatorship. And Barrett totally implicated that James was instrumental in making this happen. The thought crossed James’ mind almost as if whispered by somebody else. The shock of what had been put in front of him during the speech was starting to wear off. It was quickly being replaced by anger.
“How dare he!” James yelled. He slammed his thumb down on the off button and threw the remote against the couch as hard as he could. “Seriously! How dare he! I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want this. What are we doing? What the hell is going on?”
Zelma said nothing. She sat, completely motionless, staring through the screen. She did not have the first clue how to take this news. Still, she didn’t take it as hard as James. Some of this, maybe all of this, had to do with their outlook on government before. She had been instrumental in a lot of government action before, and Barrett had always leaned on her pretty hard. This, mostly likely, was not going to change. But her job might have just become quite a bit harder. It had been a pretty breezy time keeping James into the mission so far. She didn’t see this coming, though, and clearly it wasn’t sitting right with James. Not that she blamed him, but orders were orders. How was she going to keep James fighting so hard for this government when he pretty clearly wanted nothing to do with it? She didn’t know if they were going to be able to get him on board in the first place. Things just got a lot trickier.
James had been stomping around the room, yelling at the top of his lungs. Zelma had not really been paying attention to him, instead focusing more inward. He had come to stop now, staring at her and still yelling. “What am I supposed to do?” he yelled, not three feet away from her. “Am I supposed to just carry on like nothing happened? Am I supposed to help stamp out whatever opposition pops up? Am I going to be killed off because Barrett has what he wants now, and now I’m just an inconvenience? What the hell!” James kept carrying on and started noisily pacing around all over again. Zelma struggled to come up with an answer. Bossok came in from another room, though, and came up with something for her.
“Look, this isn’t going to change much for you,” he said. “I mean, he wants to destroy the osanda as much or more than anybody else. He’s going to have you spearhead this mission. Once you kill them, then you can decide how to deal with this coup d’état.” Always the pragmatist, Zelma thought.
James just let loose a few deep huffs. “How am I supposed to trust this guy? You can’t just kill the president without telling anybody.”
“Actually,” Bossok countered, “that seems like the best plan if you’re going to kill anybody. Especially the president.”
James shot him a look that transcended biology.
“Look, this just isn’t right,” James continued his tirade. “You give us all this equipment and all these people, send us out on these semi-secret missions, and then you take down the freaking government that was supposed to be supporting all this? You would think that’s something you would run by the guy who’s supposed to be spearheading your military effort. Especially if you’re about to make the military your government.” James turned to Zelma. “Did you know anything about this? I’m not accusing you or anything. I just want an honest answer. Did you know anything about this?”
“No,” Zelma said quietly. “I didn’t.” She quietly cleared her throat. “I know there were things I kept from you, that I had to keep from you for a long time. But, I have been honest with you ever since the first attack. As soon as I wasn’t required to keep anything from you, I let it all out. One way or another, I’ve told you everything I know. I swear, even if I was supposed to keep something like this from you, I never could. This changes the game too much.”
Bossok thought about repeating what he had said earlier, but decided against it. Reason, he reasoned, was not a particularly strong trait in humans. He decided to stay out of this one and make another drink. Humans did have a pretty strong sense of taste. Or at least of brewing. He didn’t suppose it was necessarily the taste that made it so good, though it didn’t hurt. He stumbled his way out of the argument.
James’ gaze never left Zelma’s eyes. Finally, his piercing eyes softened and fell to the floor. James sighed. “I believe you. I just don’t understand.”
“We just heard his argument,” Zelma said, somewhat defeated as she offered her hand towards the screen. “He was making sure that we get to continue our war. I just . . . there had to be another way. Why would he so quickly jump to assassination?”
“I intend to find out,” James said. “The Vindicator is still my ship, right?”
“I haven’t heard any different,” Zelma said.
“Let’s fire it up,” James said. “We’re going hunting for some answers.” James started to amble off to make the announcement to the base. He had started jokingly referring to the base as Jamestown, a nod to ancient Earth history he had learned. Others around him had picked it up, though it was unclear if any of them got the reference. So Jamestown it was, unironically. James punched the door to the kitchen, not out of malice or anger, but to get Bossok’s attention. “Come on, Drinky Crow, we’re going to space.”
"Can I bring this into space?” Bossok asked, already starting to slur his words.
“Are you driving?” James asked.
“They didn’t even let me drive my own damned thorki ship,” Bossok said just before taking another swig. “Don’t know why I’d start driving a human one.”
“Ain’t no law about drinking and passenging,” James answered. “Come on.”