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Godfrey followed Akiko to a glass building not far from the loading docks. He glanced between her and Gene, wondering how far he’d get if he decided to run. He didn’t think it would be far enough. And he wouldn’t have put it past this woman to know just where Sennett and the others were, and detain them if he tried.
“Have you ever been to Station Central before, Councilman?” Akiko asked.
“No,” Godfrey said, as they walked past the front desk. The building’s main purpose seemed to be a tourist information center. The walls flashed with event information and activities. There was, according to the advertisements, levels for shopping, dining, museums. There was even a beach themed level, and an amusement park on the top floor.
“You should try Punchello’s for dinner one night, it’s my favorite,” she said. “My treat, I insist. Just tell them you’re there as my guest.”
They wove through the crowd of people milling around, looking at displays and taking pictures, until they reached a quieter hallway. There, Godfrey saw doors with the names of what he assumed must have been other council members. Akiko led him right to the end of the hall, to a door with her own name. She entered, letting the two men in.
Inside, Godfrey saw a white, high polished chrome desk. The floor was a simple tile, and the walls displayed posters of classic movies and plays.
“Please take a seat,” Akiko said, gesturing to two padded chairs on one side of her desk. She settled herself on a backless chair on the other side.
Godfrey sat, Gene settling in next to him. “So,” Akiko tilted her head. “Station 86 sure has been through a lot, hasn’t it? First, eleven of the twelve council members are assassinated. Then, you had that problem with the AI dogs. Then there was that botched election issue. I understand your friend was off planet at the time, and she was nearly killed by a lose virus on Station 16?” Akiko shook her head. “Poor man, no wonder you wanted a vacation. I’m so sorry to spoil your first day here with this.”
“That’s not my concern, Councilwoman,” he said, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “My concern is that I’m not a councilman anymore. I’m a private citizen. As I’ve already told you, Station 86 decided to change how we’re governed. We held a free election, and we chose two Marshals to lead us, one from each political party.”
“Yes, but the problem with that is that elections aren’t legal on the stations,” Akiko said. “You’re the remaining Councilman, so you’re fully within your right to claim these two people as fellow council members. But a marshal is not an official title.”
“If you’d had an auditor at the time, they certainly would have told you that,” Gene said. “But I understand that you lost your last auditor. He was on the ship with Councilwoman Thorn?”
“Yes,” Godfrey said, “but I don’t understand how you peoplethink you’ve got any kind of right to tell Station 86 what we’re going to do with our people. We decided that we wanted to be governed differently. Why should that be any of your business?”
Akiko folded her hands on her desk. “Because with Earth silent, my council and I are now the political center for all of the stations. Therefore, it’s my job to assign a new auditor to Station 86. Gene here will go back with you when you go home.”
“It sounds like we’ve got a lot of work to do together, with eight council seats empty,” Gene said.
“Nine,” Godfrey said. “I am not a council member.”
“Mmm, sorry,” Gene said, “but a council member can’t resign with empty seats. You’ve got to stay until all twelve are full. It’s down in the constitution you agreed to when you became a station citizen.”
“And in the oath you agreed to when you became a council member,” Akiko said, nodding. “I’m afraid you’re stuck until the council’s full again.
“But, please don’t let that darken your vacation. Relax, have fun with your friends. We can worry about all this when it’s time for you to go home.”
“Alright,” Godfrey muttered. “Since I’m stuck as a councilman, I might as well act like one. What are you planning for the Hollow Suits?”
Akiko and Gene tensed. “I think that would be a matter best discussed later, when you haven’t just arrived” Akiko said. “In fact, I wonder if I could ask you a favor regarding that. We haven’t publicly spoken about the Hollow Suits yet. Would you mind not mentioning it?”
“Why haven’t you told the people who live here?” Godfrey asked.
“Because we’re trying not to start a panic,” Akiko chuckled. “We’re handling it, even as we speak. There’s no reason to worry the people on the station. Especially since they, like yourself, are on vacation.”
“But if these Hollows get on the station-,” Godfrey said, but was interrupted by a knock on the office door.
“I’m so sorry,” Akiko said, rising gracefully. She went to the door, and admitted a young man in a bright blue suit.
“Jeremy, what can I do for you?” she asked.
“Sorry, Councilwoman, but I thought you should see what Commander Tanner just sent to everyone on the station,” the young man said.
Godfrey remembered his wrist pad buzzing as Akiko had led him away. He looked down now, and played it. Gene did the same.
All citizens and visitors of Station Central, please be advised that known terrorist Jason Whitehall has escaped from police protection and is thought to be somewhere on the station. If you spot him, please contact authorities imminently. Whitehall is thought to be armed with illegal weaponry, and is suspected in the murder of May Conner.
Gene was looking at his own wrist pad, his other hand over his mouth.
“Um, wow,” Godfrey said. “What’s this all about? I thought your council didn’t want to cause a panic.”
“Tanner is not a council member,” Akiko snapped.
She turned, flashing her smile again. “I’ve kept you from your friends long enough. Forgive my interruption.”
She opened the door wider, and gave Godfrey a gentle inclination of her head. “Have a good day, Councilman.”
Godfrey realized that he wasn’t going to get anything further from the situation. His long trip was also catching up with him. He stood, and said, “Thank you, Councilwoman. I suppose I’ll be seeing you soon, Gene.”
“Yeah, of course,” Gene said, but he wasn’t looking up. He was looking at his wrist pad still, his brows furrowed.
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