After a few sips and deciding that the orange juice needed more syrup, Deitrich dumped the rest into the sink, hesitated, and then placed the glass on the counter. He was too tired to do the dishes right now. In fact, he barely felt motivated to open the door into the automated dishwasher. Which was probably why there was an enormous stack of dirtied dishes sitting in a pile on the counter, right where he’d shoved the glass.

After a moment of trying to remember what he’d been about to do, Deitrich went into his bedroom. On the floor was a slick black box with a single button on it. Deitrich pressed it with his thumb, waited for the scanner, and the top of the box flipped open. Inside were important things Deitrich had forgotten about, and he spent the better part of an hour flipping through treasures like his stack of ancient family photos and old mortgage reports.

Finally Deitrich pulled an envelope marked “Confidential” from the bottom of the box. There was his sister’s strange lipstick smudge in the top corner, her way of being funny and ‘getting on his nerves’, and a single piece of tape-wire holding the envelope shut. He’d never felt very comfortable prying into his sister’s business, considering how high a position of government she held, and now that she needed it, he felt even more uncomfortable touching it. Forget the fact that the Ops Marines were in lockdown and the government was in crisis with a mentally useless Prime Minister: if anyone found him holding a top secret government document from the Luniarius United Colonies, he’d be mugged for sure. Yes, there were still muggers around: they called themselves ‘The Freesouls”, but they were still muggers. Organized muggers in a shining city on the edge of the sea, but still thugs.

Deitrich made his way out of his apartment and across a number of long, suspended skywalks, glancing up every so often at the moonshadow. Maybe the Democratio was serious, and a nuclear strike really WAS imminent: either way, Deitrich couldn’t do anything about it. The fact that his sister hadn’t even bothered to talk about it made him even more resigned to his fate: she probably would have warned him if the nukes were targeted for Neo London, right?

Either way, it was out of his hands.

Deitrich passed several corporate offices, many of the employees standing in groups and shouting or whispering about the current events, many of them glued to their projected view-screens, watching some boring newscaster or another debate the level of threat posed by the LUC’s threats. Deitrich smiled to himself. At least some people still cared enough to care.

It took Deitrich maybe an hour to reach his sister’s “favorite hangout spot”, about 15 minutes after he’d realized he should have taken a hover-cab. His sister’s love of talking in code seemed only mildly sane considering her position in the government, and especially with the tense interplanetary situation, Deitrich figured his sister was especially tense, no matter how bland her phone conversation. Deitrich found himself longing desperately to see Marianne in person.

The ‘hang-out’ was actually no more than a pair of soda vending machines on the seventy-eighth floor of the London Municipal Bank. Deitrich had worked there before changing jobs, and sadly realized that his new position as Data Systems Inspector was really just as boring as his role as the LMB’s chief financing officer. At the time his sister had just been a small fish in the big corporate pond, trying to use every means at her disposal to rise in the ranks. Deitrich had been her ground-man, slightly more motivated then, and helped her get the loans she needed from the bank.

These soda machines, sitting atop the glass tiling of the seventy-eight floor and humming with the sound of infomercials on the screens in the background, had been their meeting spot when his sister had “special business”. That had been code-talk for illegal conflict-of-interest bank deals. How his sister would ‘talk to him’ here, considering she ought to be on the moon still, was beyond his understanding.

Deitrich went and leaned against the wall near the soda machines, hoping that whatever was supposed to happen would happen without him having to go chasing after it. He stood there for nearly twenty minutes before a tall figure in a pin-straight coat and business clothes walked up to him.

“You’re Deitrich.”

Deitrich nodded and sighed. Without speaking he held out the envelope and the man snatched it up. “Need anything else?”

The man shook his head. “You sister needs you to help her one more time. Then she promises you’ll be done working for her forever. Just keep the news on. She’ll call you back in a couple of hours. Be sure to answer. When you do, she’ll need you tell her if the schools have closed, and whether or not the Council is launching a pre-emptive strike on the moon.”

Deitrich nodded and yawned, held up his hand in a vague cross between a salute and a wave, and walked back in the other direction. Whatever nonsense his sister was playing with this time he could not say, but he figured it was better to just do what she wanted. If the nukes fell on London, and his sister wasn’t telling him everything, there was nothing he could do about it anyway.

Back in his apartment, Deitrich again slid a finger lazily across the countertop, this time on the other side, and his attached living-room lit-up with a hazy fuzz from the wall-mounted plasma screens. “News channels, Marianne.”

The hot voice came back instantaneously. “All of them, Deitrich?”

The reflexive answer came instantaneously to his mind. Yes, all of them. Take them all off. “Yes, but not CNN. I hate CNN. Stupid Americans always trying to make themselves look better.”

The End

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