After leaving the elevator, Stotter and Shouhei went to the Governor’s quarters.
The Governor listened to the story told by Stotter—with Shouhei’s attempted execution omitted. After Stotter finished, the bulk of the Governor lifted from behind his desk. He smiled. “Fiko, my boy. You are a credit to the Corps—and especially to me. Now go and see the medics for your shoulder and get some rest. The Major and I have some business to discuss.”
Shouhei got his shoulder fixed and returned to his room and collapsed on his bed. He slept for twelve hours.
He was awakened by a knock on his door. He straightened his uniform as best as he could. Enforcer Second Class Yuri Jao stood at the door.
He was scowling more than usual. This scared Shouhei because Jao was one of the most vocal in his contempt for Shouhei.
“Come on,” Jao shouted. “We need to hurry. You don’t want to miss the ceremony.”
“Excuse me?” Shouhei was still half-asleep and bewildered by Jao’s sudden appearance. “What ceremony?”
Jao sneered. “Your award ceremony.”
Shouhei and Jao entered the large auditorium on the fifteenth level. The auditorium was large—three hundred seats. It was usually for live entertainment like plays or—as in this case—pomp and ceremony.
The seats were full of the elites of Carleston’s Cove and
The Governor’s entire security attachment had been assembled also. The
Peacekeepers and Enforcers stood in two neat lines down the aisle leading to
the main stage. Sheba
Shouhei stood confused and dumbfounded. Jao indicated for Shouhei to go to the main stage by jabbing him in the back.
As Shouhei walked down the aisle, the Enforcers and Peacekeepers saluted him as he passed. The young Enforcer searched for signs of genuine respect in the faces of his comrades, uncertain if he saw any. Peacekeeper Second Level Stalinsky—one of the Peacekeepers who had been standing in the front of the Governor’s office when he first reported for duty—smiled as he passed.
On the main stage were the Governor and Major Stotter.
Shouhei stepped onto the main stage and stood before them.
The Governor grinned, showing all of his teeth. Stotter remained utterly stoic and unreadable. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the hero who not only stopped the piracy of Artimus Rawlings, but also the assassin Jing Laforsé. We are greatly indebted to you Enforcer Fiko.”
Applause thundered in the auditorium. Apparently genuine.
Governor Bokkasa waited for a few minutes before putting his hand up as a signal for the applause to stop so that he could continue. “So it is with great honor that I bestow upon you the silver Avenir for bravery. Congratulations.”
Applause broke forth again as the silver award, in the shape of Avenir Station, was pinned just above Shouhei’s left breast pocket. Shouhei felt his pulse pound at the honor of getting the award. But he couldn’t help but wonder if this was another of the Governor’s little games.
After the applause died down, Bokkasa broke into a long and dry speech entailing duty and honor. Shouhei hardly heard a word. Fear gripped him as he looked at the icy cold face of Stotter. The Major’s words in the docking bay resounded in his mind: “…on Carlston’s Cove: Your life span is equal to your usefulness.”
Shouhei silently—and desperately—prayed for future courage and divine protection.