Sam Tank yawned. A scruffy looking man stood nervously before the commission. He wore a cheap suit that not only failed to match his tie but also the pants to the jacket. This was the fifth time the commission had gathered and the third time Mr Rhodes, the terminal manager at Newport Haven, had fronted them – one would assume he would have grown some confidence for the experience but there he stood, fumbling his speech worse than ever.
“So I must stress that after considering the safety protocols in place at the various levels of command this couldn’t have been an accident. And I- I am not sure how the commission feels about this information but there still hasn’t been any action!” his voice rose uncontrollably as he tried to spew out his sentiment. Sam glared at him until their eyes met and he immediately bowed his head to avoid the attention. “Fur- further, uh, more, I feel it is my duty as terminal manager and....and as a citizen to inform-” he looked up again, found Sam’s intensity still bearing down upon him, “To inform-” he exhaled , clearly distressed. “To inform the population with or without the approval of the board!” again he finished rather boisterously, his passion and anxiety lifting him for a moment before he shrank back down into his shell, cowering as if to repel the board’s response.
The moment hung in the air. Normally Sam would want to shoot an aggressor down with precise immediacy, but Mr Rhodes made no effort to solidify his stance which would serve to weaken it naturally. Sam waited a moment longer, watched as Rhodes peered out of his hiding spot like the townsfolk waking up to the morning after the invading party staged a midnight retreat. It had just occurred to him to say something-
“Are you threatening the board, Mr Rhodes?” Sam asked lazily, not even validating Rhodes’ courage with aggression, simply dismissing it completely. The terminal manager hesitated. “We have addressed the issue previously. The board has agreed that disclosure and the collateral damage associated would be far too great.”
“But it’s the truth.”
“No it’s not the truth, Mr Rhodes, it is your highly regarded opinion. The opinion of the terminal manager who failed to respond to any of the warnings sent to him which may have prevented the loss of hundreds more lives by a simple evacuation procedure. Convenient-”
“-But I told you I-”
Convenient,” Sam raised his voice, “that you have a theory of your own to contradict the testimonies of the central programming rail authorities. These warnings were recorded on the system. We have the records, they have been presented to the board, we have records of the records being presented, validated, supported by third parties. You, Mr Rhodes, only have circumstance. In fact the only record you have is the dim witted, lingual prat fall of Mark Tanenworth, who has since stated that he was commenting based on a confidence in your highly regarded opinion.”
“But...it’s not...it’s not fucking fair!”
“Fair? Mr Rhodes, please. You are a terminal manager, though at the moment it is only by title since your terminal managed to collapse under your command. Please don’t tempt us to strip you of your title, a dismissal which would be quite fair.”
“Is that a threat?” Rhodes mumbled, low on confidence or even anxious energy.
“I’m sorry can repeat that Mr Rhodes?”
“I said ‘Is that...is that a threat.’”
Sam had a flash of killing the man. Like swatting a fly to rid yourself of its nuisance. It was the gangster instinct which Boss seemed to value and adhere to so willingly. But however fanciful and dramatic a statement (or overstatement) it produced it was simply too problematic. One had to wash their hands after squashing a fly or risk spoiling the meal. Much easier to spray the fly. But sometimes a little too easy. Sometimes a real statement was to trap it in a jar, wait until the stale air slows it to a walk, pluck its wings and let the big bad world have its way with it. That was the kind of statement Boss had failed to make.
“Perhaps I am Mr Rhodes. It would seem a rather weak threat, more like good business sense, no? An allusion to the dog and the hand that feeds is all I am making. A threat wouldn’t even encompass the various vaccines and provisions that the dog enjoys, the rights of the owner to muzzle the mutt before it attacks wildly. A threat might even allude to the lifespan of the dog in relation to the owner, how easily it is remembered, replaced and forgotten. No, I believe the real threat to every dog is the sacrifice of his manhood. Are you a family man, Mr Rhodes?”
“I- I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“I think you do, Mr Rhodes.”
The terminal manager stood rigid in his place, unsure of what to expect or what was expected. Sam shooed him away, giving him a mock smile of encouragement as he did. Rhodes looked like a child as his eyes darted down and towards his flanks hoping for some magic force to lift him from his vacuum. He eventually turned and walked, deflated down the pews and towards the exit.
“Oh and Mr Rhodes, before you start believing yourself to be the family pet of choice I would like to inform you that you are a barely a goldfish in an aquarium of passing intrigue. It would suit you best to align your memory as such.” Fucking twat, Sam finished. To his credit the man did not heed Sam’s final jibes, walking unflinchingly out the door. Sam shook his head with a wry smile, commenting to his co-commissioners, “If he ever does grow a pair we might have to cut them off after all.”
The other men chuckled obligingly, pathetically. They had about as much worth as Rhodes, probably less. At least Rhodes filled his intelligence void with a moral code. Sam stood, “Finish it up without me, I have a meeting to attend. Somebody write up a report, a big one, and send it to me. This is the last commission.”
He left the large conference room, glad to be rid of the ordeal. The whole commission was a sham. The first one was televised. Sam had arranged for Brian Smithwaite to deliver the most boring, monotonous pile of Public Broadcast garbage that the subsequent meets were not rendered feasible for television. From there the minutes, the commissioners and the news reporters assigned to document the proceeding were all in the pocket. Rhodes was the only hurdle, the rest was show.
Citadel Inc. Business as usual.