Max could see Hardton was riddled with anger as Veppa closed the door behind her and returned to the conveyor.
“What is the meaning of this? It's outrageous!” Hardton fired.
Max could tell Hardton was an easy pick for his position. His stature alone proved highly intimidating. He displayed above-average intelligence, even for a Taper and clearly was quickly brought to remedial action under circumstances of concern. Unfortunately, he was also obviously in love with Veppa Wallers. This fact, Max guessed, had caused Hardton to overlook growing morale issues erupting within his shipping department.
“Let me remind you that I was invited here by you-” Max started.
“To investigate substance trafficking Not to eat alive one of my best employees who is not even a suspect here.” Hardton cut in.
Max was growing more impressed with the Taper. “My apologies,” Max bowed. “It's important that I understand how your department is managing to catch nearly all smuggling before they reach port.”
“Are you quite finished?” Hardton pressed.
“Of course. I'll deliver my assessment to you in the morning.” It wasn't a lie. Max had, in fact, finished his assessment.
An automated alert bong filtered through the room. “Emergency transmission from the Transport bay.”
“Continue,” Hardton seated himself.
“Hardy? It's Markus.”
“We've got a problem with transport four,” Markus
Obviously frustrated, Hardton massaged a temple. “Highness! Again?”
“One of the tanks is saturated with Substance Q.”
“You caught it before shipment?”
“Just barely,” Markus added.
“That, at least is a relief. Ready the tank for the Authorities. I will be down directly.” Hardton ended the transmission and directed and agitated glare to Max.
“I can see you have a day. I'll leave you to it,” Max bowed and exited.
“I'll look forward to your report,” Hardton called out sarcastically.
Max smirked as he was leaving. A Taper, growing precocious with a Bedouoin he himself had contracted. Under different circumstances, Max believed he and Hardton would have been friends. It was regrettable that this was near impossible now. Especially given the man's apparent love for Veppa, the Common. No, Max resolved that it was far more likely that Hardton would need neutralization before any advance was made to Veppa... if it came to that. And Max believed it would.
As Max exited the compound, he activated his headset and took a few deep breaths before speaking. It's one thing to interrogate a Common, a Taper, even. But his findings this time were to be directly reported to On High, not an Alpha or Beta, but the leader of the Institution and the Global Government himself. Most would never learn his name, let alone hear his voice or speak to him.
“Oh High, I've completed my analysis,” Max reported.
“Nice work. What's your status, Sir?”
The humility of On High surprised Max. “I believe competitive Commons have regrettably been employed in the same sector, leading to discontent.”
“My findings are that Commons possessing similar competitive genetic traits have become adverse to one another for limited duty praises. The strife has lead to pursuits in illegal activity in disillusioned hope of attaining a skill superior to others in the sector.”
“And this continues, even when illegal efforts are frustrated,” asked On High.
“Yes. Given the genetic analysis of the guilty Commons, I believe the frustrated attempts may have only intensified the determination of future efforts, On High.”
“Interesting analysis, Sir.”
Max waved his embedded ID chip in the base of his forearm over his transport sensor until the doors unlocked. Max buckled his lap belt before entering the destination and giving the order to drive. “With all due respect, On High, they are only Commons.”
“Did you find anything else of interest?”
“As you suspected, Veppa Wallers may be a problem,” Max admitted.
“How smart is she?”
Max was surprised. He could not answer how On High might have assumed Max was concerned with her intelligence. Of all the attributes of concern in the aptitudes: Integrity, Physical Endurance, Intuition, Management... Intelligence is not even primary. The governed had long since given up defeating the Darkers through intelligence. Max answered, “Intelligent enough to fake the aptitude tests.”
“You're certain she's faked low scores?”
“My intuition leads me to believe that she can not only pass intelligence problems, but can infer how many to solve correctly so that her scores repeatedly result in Common – Average,” Max responded.
“How much of the intelligence aptitude can she pass?”
“I would say, On High,” Max cleared his throat. “All of them.”
“On High, if I may ask a question of you,” Max knew
this was highly inappropriate, but resolved that the success of his investigation rested on his resolving of a simple dilemma.
“You may, Sir.”
“I had believed, as all of us are trained, that the
Methods are unbeatable. My findings, then seem incorrect?”
“Do you believe your findings to be incorrect?”
“No,” Max responded honestly.
“Then, what do you need from me?”
Max continued, “If I knew of a flaw, it may help.”
“I know of none.”
“Then my findings are impossible. I only mean, how can I hold that the Methods are sound, and my hypothesis is accurate?”
“But you do this everyday.”
“No, On High. I admonish logic in my investigations and honesty, int-”
“Why do you, a Bedouin, established in knowledge and integrity, secure yourself when traveling by transport?” On High responded with a question of his own.
“Because it feels safer,” Max conceded.
“Even though,” Oh High continued. “Now that all transportation devices are automated, there have been no traffic accidents for centuries.”
“Yes,” Max understood the train of thought and already regretted asking his question.
”It could be pointed out, that it is even impractical to elect security belts, as they cost you some time when traveling from place to place.”
“Although, you are perfectly free to use them if you wish.”
“I apologize, On High.”
“It could be argued, then, that you yourself hold some mistrust for our present day systems, the Methods, Sir,” On High accused.
Max recognized this had quickly become a disaster. Max had a choice to make: blaspheme the Institution or disobey On High by refusal to answer. For a member of the Authorities, this was no choice at all. Max incriminated himself, “That would be a fair assessment, On High.”
On High paused a moment and laughed. “This mistrust is precisely why you were selected for this mission. Good work, Sir.”
On High was gone.