FOURTEEN: THE SLOW, STUPID SEED OF DOUBT




NOW THAT SHE WAS in the thick of things, Trisha had begun to feel that maybe she’d made the wrong choice in joining up with the Crustacean Conglomerate.

Or was it Consortium now?

Up to this point, organizational name changes—and there had been many—had all been communicated by internal memo. However, considering that they were now in the middle of their first major military operation, she didn’t think the leadership team would have much time to type up and distribute memos.

Yet King Crab had clearly changed their name. Again.

She couldn’t help but think back to that moment. A doctor had dared stand up to King Crab. It was the moment she’d been waiting for since the orientation pool party.

To be honest, she’d been quite keyed up to see the man at work. Watch him deal with the petty quibbling of the cowering masses. And when that doctor had opened his mouth, she’d expected to be dazzled with a dizzying retort, a speech, something poetic and inspiring. Yet, she didn’t get any of that. When faced with his first real obstacle, King Crab had merely drawn his pistol, and shot the man down.

It was the act of a thug and a coward, not a charismatic leader out to make a difference.

Not that it mattered. Not anymore. In the end, all that really meant anything was how she felt. And right now, she didn’t feel good about any of it.

Getting past the whole crustacean motif, something that had given her pause from the get-go, bullying the sick and injured didn’t quite sit well with her. For the past year, King Crab had been rather secretive in regards to exactly what it was they had been training for.

When asked he would usually respond:

“Why, we are training to change the world, prawn.”

An answer that had always excited her. Changing the world. That was some epic stuff right there.

But what did this hospital have to do with changing the world?

At first, when they had begun, when the van doors had opened and they had all marched into the hospital, it had all made sense. She wasn’t sure why, looking back on it now, but it all seemed to be the correct path. She’d been swept up it in all; the excitement, the pageantry, not to mention all the gunfire. But now that the smoke had cleared—literally—she had this tiny itching doubt in the back of her head that told her that maybe she wasn’t where she really needed to be.

Typically, this was the sort of thing she’d talk to Rick about. She’d always felt that no one understood things better than Rick. But the thought of further discussion with the man made her scalp itch. Besides, she hadn’t seen Rick since the elevator. That’s when the trouble had started. It had been the two of them, actually, Trisha and Rick, that had discovered the unconscious prawn.

The two had been ordered to guard one of the elevators down on the main level. It was a service elevator in the back of the building, away from the action. It was there, in fact, away from it all, that the Seed of Doubt first began to take root in Trisha’s brain.

As the two had stood together, both on either side of the elevator, alone with nothing but themselves and their thoughts, Trisha had asked the question that had been bubbling to the surface of her thoughts since King Crab had shot that doctor:

“Are we doing the right thing?”

“What do you mean?” Rick looked confused. Cute, sure, but confused. “We’re following orders.”

“That’s no excuse,” she said. “When they look back at this, a hundred years from now, will they call us villains?”

“For guarding an elevator? I would hope not.”

“No,” she sighed. He sure was cute. “That’s not what I’m asking. Are we, you and I, doing the right thing here today, in this hospital?”

He thought about that for a moment. His eyes went all scrunchy in the way that they do when he’s really working on a hard one.

“Well,” he said after a considerable amount of internal deliberation. “I mean, King Crab told us to guard the elevator, so we are. He didn’t ask us to guard the kitchen or a rabbit habitat or anything.”

“Rabbit habitat?” She shook her head and then gave him a long look.

He smiled.

She cocked an eyebrow. Just thirty seconds ago his smile would have had her smiling back, lost in his eyes. But now. Well, the Seed of Doubt bears much fruit.

“Look, do you think joining up with the Crustacean Conglomerate was the right idea?”

“Conglomerate?” His eyes went all scrunchy again. A spike of annoyance drove itself into her head. “I thought we were the Crustacean Consortium?”

“Did you see a memo that I didn’t see?”

“Well, no, but King Crab—”

“It doesn’t matter!” She was shouting now. “All I’m asking you is if you feel okay with all of this?”

“The elevator?”

A sudden urge to lash out, to ball up her fist and smash it into the man’s beautiful face, struck at the spike of annoyance like lightning connecting with a cell phone tower. She managed to ignore it and smile.

“No,” she said through clenched teeth. “Not the elevator. Do you feel okay with being here, in this hospital, threatening the lives of patients and doctors?”

“We’re following orders.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

“Yes?” He drew the word out, like he wasn’t sure if he was providing the answer she’d wanted from him and it made him more than a little uncomfortable.

She was about to respond, to ask him why he was suddenly such an insufferable moron, when the elevator bell chimed behind them.

They turned at once as the elevator doors slid open.

There, inside, in a heap in the back, were the bodies of two prawn soldiers.

“That’s Tom and Gordon,” Rick said as he stepped into the compartment.

Trisha held the doors open as Rick gave the two prawn the once over. She knew Tom and Gordon. The two had gone through training with her and Rick. They’d been in the same unit. Tom with his shock of red hair, and bald Gordon. What had happened?

“Well,” Rick said. “They aren’t dead.”

Trisha exhaled with relief, not even realizing that she’d been holding her breath.

“Someone sure kicked the crap out of them, though.” Rick crouched down once more. “This’s odd.”

“What?”

“They still have their weapons, but their walkie-talkies are gone.” He stood and scratched his head.

“We have to tell King Crab,” she said. “He’s not going to like this.”

“Yeah,” Rick said. “Those walkie-talkies were expensive.”

Trisha sighed once more, the Seed of Doubt burrowing ever deeper.

  • How will King Crab react to the walkie-talkie theft?
  • Is Trisha's relationship with Rick doomed?
  • How we doing so far?

Find out the answers to none of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!






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