Deleted Scene: Karleen’s Office
Takes place immediately after the first section. This was actually one of my favorite scenes when I first started Against A Rock, and I still like it, but I felt it didn’t move the story along quickly enough and also has the problem of being an event rather than a scene. Floreina does not have a clear goal. Karleen and the slave kind of have goals, but those goals aren’t related to the story as a whole. It did, however, add some nice characterization to Karleen and the ship’s disciplinary process.
Karleen’s office was bright and inviting as Floreina stepped through the open door. She glanced around at the bright landscape paintings and photos of kittens and puppies. Along her top shelf sat a long line of stuffed animals, and family photos along her desk. Thick, pink, wall-to-wall carpeting gave Floreina a subtle desire to take her boots off, being the only carpeted office on the ship. Not an office one would expect of a slave master, though that was most likely the point.
Engraved along the front edge of her desk read a Pax quote: Slaves, obey your corporeal masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them as you would serve New Eden Herself.
Moments after Floreina entered, so did another. Filmar, Milkeinos’ partner. His face was red and focused on Karleen so intently that he did not seem to notice Floreina sitting down in a seat along the wall.
“Master,” said the slave, “You wanted to see me?”
Karleen did not immediately answer, staring at her computer screen for several long moments. “Filmar,” she said without looking up, “are you going to say hello to the gunnery commander?”
The slave looked around quickly. “Hello Master Floreina,” he bowed, and saluted. “I am so sorry about what happened—“
Floreina nodded a silent response.
“Sit,” Karleen told the slave.
He immediately sat down in the chair before her desk, a simple, white steel seat, bolted to the floor in the center of the room, just out of reach of the desk. Rings attached to several points across the legs and back allowed for restraint connections. The seat seemed to be the only object in the office that betrayed the true nature of Karleen’s work.
Filmar’s knees bounced nervously, and Floreina couldn’t help breaking a sly grin as she watched.
Karleen rolled her chair from behind her desk and cocked her neck before looking at her slave. “Filmar,” she said. “Do you have anything to tell me?”
“About what?” he asked. “…about Milkeinos?”
Karleen nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“That was tragic…” said Filmar.
“Yes.” Karleen nodded. “I watched the recordings of your actions, Filmar… and I feel as though you are partially to blame.”
His knees fell motionless and his feet locked to the floor. He stared back silently, a blink of the eyes being his only movement.
“You turned and ran—“ Karleen started.
“I was under orders to retreat—“
“You were not under orders to seal your partner inside the damaged area.”
“I know,” he said, his voice suddenly raising pitch. “I thought he was already gone… I didn’t realize the coolant didn’t totally hit him.”
“You didn’t call in for confirmation,” Karleen replied. “You didn’t even stop to look.”
“I know…” he said. “But it was only a few seconds and I never disobeyed an order. As soon as Master Floreina said that he was okay—“
“No,” Karleen waved her hand to cut him off. “I don’t want excuses. I understand the situation. Your mistake lasted just under eight seconds before you turned back to correct it. That’s not a long time, and in tight situations, I understand that a Minmatar can make a mistake as a result of fear and shock… but your mistake may have made the difference in your partner’s death.”
He nodded and put his face in his hands. “I promise, Master, that this will not happen again.”
“I expect you to report to the slave department for a class four disciplinary measure,” Karleen ordered.
He looked up, his face turning an even brighter shade of red and slowly tightened. “No, please…” Floreina turned to gain a better view of his eyes. “I was just scared, Master… I was so scared…”
“I know you were afraid, and that’s fine,” she said. “But all you have to fear is your own death. You’re a part of something much larger than yourself… and your punishment will be a reminder that there are greater things to fear than death. And next time you’re in a threatening situation, remember your punishment today to remind you that you don’t want to experience that for all eternity.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he nodded, his fingers trembling as he held his head. He paused, then suddenly blurted, “Please, Master Karleen… I’ve never had a class four… I’ve heard horror stories… I already know I made a mistake, Master.”
Floreina held back a laugh.
“Stop,” Karleen replied, raising her voice minutely. “Don’t cry to me about this. Not after I just watched the look on Milkeinos’ face when you slammed the hatch on him.”
“You can lose your mind from a class four, Master!” he blurted.
“If you can’t handle a class four, then we don’t want you on our staff,” she replied. “I experienced a class four in training. It’s something you never forget, and it changes you inside… but I’m still sitting here, and I’m better off for having experienced it.”
Filmar swallowed and took a deep breath, but straightened himself and seemed to collect his composure.
Karleen stood, and Floreina cocked her head to watch the overseer at work. She opened her arms as Filmar stood, and she stepped forward to take him in a warm embrace. “You’re an asset to this ship, Filmar. You made a terrible mistake, but you’re not a terrible slave. Your masters and your Lord still love you. You simply made a mistake and now you need to pay the consequences.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied, his chin resting on her shoulder.
“There’s one more thing I need to tell you,” Karleen continued. She patted him on the back and pulled away. “If this happens again, Filmar… If I catch you turning your back on a teammate, even if only for two or three seconds, then I will have no choice but to terminate you.” She put a hand on his head and gently stroked his hair. “Do you understand that? I need to make that abundantly clear. If it happens again there will be no exceptions, no visit to my office, no funeral, no hugs; just a simple termination. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” He shuddered, took a deep breath and blinked rapidly.
“This is your one chance for a learning experience.”
“Thank you, Master.”
She patted him on the back. “Okay, get going,” she ordered. “Down to slave services for class four discipline, immediately.” Karleen paused. “Unless you would like to pray first…”
“Yes, Ma’am,” the slave choked. “I would like to pray for Milkeinos.” He turned toward the exit.
Karleen nodded. “Okay, I’m going to check the logs in a while and make sure you’re either in the chapel or the disciplinary chambers, okay?”
“Yes, Master.” Filmar nodded. “Thank you, Ma’am.”
Floreina and Karleen watched the man leave her office, head hung and feet dragging. He would later experience as much pain as Milkeinos… but this was much different… this was out of love, and desire for improvement. It was rare that Floreina felt a slave deserved a class four, but when she did it was satisfying to see the look in their eyes and hear the whimper in their voice.
Karleen’s face remained cold and straight until the slave rounded the corner and moved out of site. She slumped into her chair and sighed, looking at Floreina. “Some days…” Karleen sighed. “…this job takes a lot out of me.”
“You ready to hit the station for some rest and relaxation?” Floreina asked.
“Yes,” Karleen replied.