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Science Fiction Thriller

"Stay the course," James muttered to himself as he prepared for his interview. It was his parent's dream that he go through with this. They always spoke so highly of the program. 

James didn't want to disappoint them again. 

He had the typical high school and college experience for someone of his background. Typical rich kid partying away his days barely passing his classes. Gentlemen's C's as his father would say. But now it was time to grow up and do something meaningful. 

Then amazingly, his father pulled some strings and got him this interview. James had told his parents midway through college that he thought he might just want to live at home for a few years after college. He could work directly for his father. Who needed to really have internships or experience programs like this one when they could just go directly to work? 

James sighed as stared off. His father was in the oil business. He would drill wherever it was, even if it wasn't safe for the animals and creatures there. James worried about this more when he was little. Those animals could be so cute!

But he got over it. Now he understood that while those animals and creatures could be very cute, they didn't feel things like the rest of us. So it was easy to rationalize. But he tended to get tripped up when he saw the photos of the natural life. Even the plants were different. 

"James?" James looked over at the pretty receptionist. She was smiling. "Mr. Frawns is ready to see you."

"Thank you," James said standing up. The receptionist winked at him and James couldn't help but smile. He took a deep breath and walked into the office of Roberts Frawns. 

James had known Mr. Frawns since he was little. He was casual friends with James' father. 

"James! How are you son?" Mr. Frawns asked James when he walked in. James smiled good-naturedly and shook his hand. 

"I'm doing well sir, and you?" James asked. They made small talk for a few minutes before they got into it. 

"Well, James, I must say I'm happy you're applying." Mr. Frawns said as they sat down. "A lot of kids in your position would just want to go directly into work without ever understanding what's actually going on in the places we work at. That's why more and more companies are requiring new hires to have at least a year of experience actually supervising a rig." James nodded. He heard the same speech from his father often. 

"Yes sir. I believe that having hands-on experience is the only thing that will make me ready to join my father's company." James smiled weakly. "Stay the course," he said softly, speaking to himself. Mr. Frawns didn't notice and was delighted with this response. 

"Exactly! Now, the beauty of our program is that we match you with the best location. This one is pretty far away from home I must warn you. We've been trying to set up there for decades but you know those lobbyists." Mr. Frawns waved his hand dismissively. "They care so much about the animals and how it affects them but they use the oil just as much as you and I." James nodded. This was also a speech he heard from his father often. 

"Is there a lot of wildlife there?" James asked. Mr. Frawns nodded and handed James his tablet. It showed photos of very strange-looking animals he had never seen before and James smiled. "They look a little funny. I'm sure that there won't be too much bothered by the rig. Often times the animals aren't. Sometimes the marine life. But that's only if someone makes a mistake." James said. Mr. Frawns nodded. 

"Exactly. You know that we're safe. Normally I wouldn't assign you to such a high-profile rig so early, but considering your father and the fact that it's his company, I can't think of anyone better. Tell me, why do you want to do this?" Mr. Frawns asked. James got the uncomfortable feeling that Mr. Frawns knew he didn't really want to be here. 

"I want to make my family proud. I want to be able to support my father and his business. I want him to have a legacy." James looked down, then back up, his eyes confident. "He deserves a legacy. Every good man does." 

Mr. Frawns leaned back in his chair and regarded James. James got the uncomfortable feeling that Mr. Frawns could see his soul. Slowly Mr. Frawns started to smile. 

"I think that's wonderful, James." Mr. Frawns started to pull out a folder and James let out a relieved breath. "As you know this program matches young men just like you to rigs all over that are owned by big companies like your father’s. Normally in a case like yours where it's a family member we try to match you to your family's company. As I mentioned, your father is starting a new rig." Mr. Frawns looked up from his papers to James. "Has he mentioned this to you?" James nodded. 

"Yes sir. He's mentioned that there was a big protest because of the local wildlife." James said. There had been protesters outside of his father's work and their home for ages. 

"I'm sure. I think there's a lot of misinformation out there about what actually happens to the places we find oil. But people love a cause." Mr. Frawns said shrugging. James smiled politely. Truthfully he worried sometimes, but what could he do? 

"Yes, they do sir," James said. Mr. Frawns nodded, lost in his own thought. 

"Yes." Mr. Frawns said eventually. "Now, would you be available to start at the end of the month? It's about a... five-hour trip. Amazing how fast technology will get you there. Then you'll be there for a year. It may be hard to get word back here so you'll need to be prepared for that." 

"I know sir. I've heard the stories of my father's time in this program." James responded. He actually thought that it may be nice to be away for some time. 

"It's certainly a fun time." Mr. Frawns said with a slight laugh. "I remember my own time. Now, this is the location and everything you need to know." Mr. Frawns said handing James a folder. James looked over it and frowned. 

"It's right by that huge oil spill that happened on Hains rig a few years ago," James noted. The Hains Corporation was his father's biggest rival. 

"That's why it's taken so long to get approved to do. But we're going to follow the rules like the Hains Corporation should have. I trust you to be better than them." Mr. Frawns said. James nodded, understanding the pressure he would be adding to his formerly easy life.

"I'm ready." He assured Mr. Frawns. Mr. Frawns nodded. 

"I'm sure you are." 

They went over the rest of the details before James left. Mr. Frawns walked him to the door. 

"James, a lot of people are counting on you." Mr. Frawns said at the door. "We don't need a repeat of the Hains accident. What happened on Mars was horrible. But Mars isn't populated like Earth is. It has so many animals there. The humans that I showed you pictures of are actually fairly sophisticated. They would probably make good pets if they weren't bipeds. So be careful."

"I know sir," James said. He smiled. "Stay the course."

June 24, 2022 00:46

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1 comment

Kathleen Stamper
15:26 Jun 24, 2022

Great twist at the end!

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