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Excerpt for Family Feud by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Family Fued

By K.C. York



Copyright © 2016 by K.C. York

Smashwords Edition 2018

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Published by K.C. York

Tallahassee, Florida, United States of America

This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or deceased, is entirely coincidental.

https://www.kcyork.com



Family Feud



The ancient fax clacked out information on a roll of thermal paper which was yellowed with age but usable. The sound echoed throughout the room. Li watched Angie as she sat near the machine, her feet on the desk, leaning back, staring at the ceiling tiles with her arms crossed.

He walked over from his cubicle and gave the fax a menacing look meant for Angie (and she probably knew it) before sighing. "This is ridiculous."

Cooke, sitting two desks over and filing her nails, looked up at them and snorted.

"Or we can kick the high power transmitter on and eat wattage. Up to you." Angie’s eyes never moved as she spoke. Cooke ran her hands through her spiky blond hair and rolled her eyes at Li in frustration. The best indicators of the severity of their situation were the dark roots and shagginess of her hairstyle, which was now in its third month of neglect.

Li offered her a minimalist shrug. He was even taller than Angie, and when he sat down on the edge of her desk it looked as if he crumpled.

"Why couldn’t they wait until the next scheduled transmission? Why the all-fire hurry?" He leaned over Angie to catch her eye. She kicked her feet off the desk and sat up.

"I don’t know. Neither does Peter; don’t ask."

Li shrugged, since he was not planning on asking Peter anyway.

Sue walked in to drop off some papers at her own desk, taking in the scene with a practiced eye. "Inventory?"

"Yep," said Angie, crossing her arms again.

"Not like it’s going to change, other than to get smaller."

"Yep," said Li, crossing his own. Sue recognized a stone wall when she walked into one, though, so she shook her head and headed back out.

"She’ll tell Peter," said Cooke, brandishing her nail file at Angie.

"Fine. Don’t change anything." Angie leaned back to stare at the ceiling again. Next to her, the fax machine rattled on.

Li had his suspicions about the fax and he knew Angie did too, but it was safer in the meantime to pretend they didn't.

##

When Peter was six years old, he loved the Moon. It was a vast adventure land that most children never got to play on, a huge ball of dirt which was his for the taking – his, and his little sister Angie’s. She was only three when the family first arrived and she did not remember much of it but he recalled pushing her stroller up to the window of their father’s office and pointing out the landmarks they could see from there. Peter knew she loved it too, even back then when their parents told him that she was too young to know the difference. Fond memories were all he had left, though, because he did not love the Moon anymore. It was an empty, ruthless place that he longed to leave, without really imagining that he ever could.

He was sitting at his desk in his father’s old office, studying the small globe of Earth in front of him. Earth was actually hanging somewhere over his left shoulder at the moment, a fact he knew as certainly as he knew the time. He looked up when Sue barged in.

"NMSMO is sending another inventory for us to do." She used the station word for the National Moon and Space Mining Operation, "mizmo," and Peter almost smiled. His father never allowed that low-brow slang into his executive suite.

He shook his head. "Next transmission is scheduled for 1600 hours standard."

"No, I mean now. By fax. In the main office, I saw Angie baby-sitting it with Li."

Satellite fax was cheaper than the laser, just a lot slower. What Peter did not understand was why they bothered, when it was already 1340 by the clock. They could have waited two hours for regular transmission. He spun the globe with a finger. "Angie’s got it, then. She knows what to do."

Sue was truly International: a French Canadian with the temper of a Latina. She claimed her great grandmother was Cuban, and with her thick eyebrows and womanly hips, Sue was convincing enough to be believed. Peter loved watching her walk, coming or going it did not matter, but he hated when she set her hands on those fine hips and raised her expressive eyebrows at him.

"Are you just going to sit there?"

He refused to return her stare.

"Captain Peter Franklin McDonnell, are you just going to sit there?"

"What should I do? March over and rip the report out of her hands?"

Sue opened her mouth to answer, but Peter raised a hand. "No, Sue. No. We know what this means, that they are crunching the numbers on their side and that’s all. It will just cause a big row for nothing." He motioned for her to sit down. After a moment, she gave in and sat in one of the executive leather and wood chairs across the desk from him. It was a handsome, traditional office for a risky, high-tech enterprise, and it never looked right to those who grew up on the station. It was the fact that it was his father’s own office that kept Peter in it, more than the furniture which, to him and others, was Earthy and exotic.

"Peter—" Sue started, then stopped and chewed her lower lip.

"Everyone’s worried. I know."

"You are the leader now. All the miners are gone, it’s just us. You are going to have to make a decision here, whether Mizmo likes it or not."

"It’s not Mizmo I’m thinking of."

"Angie," said Sue with a heavy sigh, leaning back into the chair.

"She’s got a point."

"She’s not the Executive Captain here!"

"She could be, she’s as well trained as I am and everyone knows it. Look, whatever we do, we are going to have to do it company-wide and everyone is going to have to work together. The less I do to pull things apart the better."

"It doesn’t matter what you do, Angie has already pulled things apart. It’s your job to put them back together." Sue stood up. "You know I’m on your side."

Peter templed his fingers and closed his eyes. "We don’t need ‘sides.’"

"Well, you got ‘em." Sue walked out.

##

Cooke read the print out and snarled. "I am not, repeat, not counting pencils."

"Just agree with what they put there." Li leaned over her as they read down the roll of inventory that curled onto the floor and was still chattering out of the fax. "This is just the offices and living quarters. Nothing from the physical plant."

"They plan on leaving it to come back to. The only question anyone is asking is: what can stay, what can leave?" Angie paced the office.

"You mean, who." Cooke handed the readout to Li and sat back down at her desk.

"No one is being left behind, Cooke," said Li, giving her a long, slow smile. She purred back at him, their flirting ritual of four years uninterrupted even by catastrophe. Li was a former miner, come into Mizmo management the hard way, and he had a shorter history in the offices than anyone else but Cooke never seemed to care. She was one of the ones who had spaced up as soon as they were seventeen and old enough to sign the sterilization consent form. "No babies born on the Moon" was the rule, and that had suited her fine.

Angie and Peter, on the other hand, were of the few raised station side. Of the 100 or so office workers, only twelve had grown up there, and they were a tight group. Even in their current divided state, the Station Rats kept in contact, if only to argue.

"Sam." Angie waggled her ringing phone at Li, who nodded but did not bother to reply. Sam was Angie’s closest contact to Peter, the boy who was Peter’s best friend and Angie’s first crush. Li did not envy Sam's current status of envoy between them.

Angie grimaced before answering, thumbing it to speaker because she could be a real asshole sometimes. Li rolled his eyes and she gave him a feral grin.

"What, you’ve taken the fax hostage?"

"Sam, it’s just an inventory from Mizmo. Big deal. Tell Peter he’ll get to see it, too."

"Peter doesn’t care, told me to piss off. Sue and the others, though, are hot, and I mean it."

"Okay…and what? They going to storm the main office? Welcome on! They can have it, and the inventory too."

"Damnit, I’m just sayin—"

"What? Saying what? I’m doing my job, Sam. That’s all. As Assistant Executive Captain, inventory is part of my job description. They can look it up online, so tell them to bite my ass."

"Don’t be stupid."

"I’m not."

"While you and Peter duke it out, have either of you stopped to think that everyone’s lives are at stake here? The station’s failing, Angie."

"Like I don’t know that? Fuck off!" She hung up on him.

"You know how Sam hates cursing." Cooke looked straight at her.

"Not the time to pick a fight, Cooke. Back off."

"Just saying!"

Li raised his hand to silence them, feeling the tremors of shock down his spine as he read the latest print out. "This isn’t inventory." Angie and Cooke scrambled over to look.

"Holy mother—evac instructions? This is what couldn’t wait until the regular transmission? My god, are we on countdown?" Cooke’s eyes scrolled over the text as she talked.

"And why stick it at the end of inventory?" Li looked over at Angie, puzzled.

"Good way for us to miss it," she said.

Halfway through the evacuation instructions, the paper roll ran out.

##

At the call, Peter plowed out of his office and headed straight for the main office. The executive branch was a small pod sitting high on the crater’s side, over and above the rest of the station. He jogged down the ramps and tunnels that led to the largest pod where most of the administrative offices were, passing few people. Since the majority of the miners were evacuated two months ago, the station was only hosting a skeleton office crew, a few engineers, and a handful of mining supers, none of whom had much to work on since the mining stopped. He passed office clusters where people were trying to find something to do, or catching up on filing, or simply sitting around any place that was not the cafeteria, but overall the whole station felt deserted. He finally came up to the main office, a large and long pod with no interior divisions, filled with low-walled cubicles. Like everywhere else, it was a ghost town, except for the three people standing on the far side by the ancient, back-up fax machine.


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