Episode 5: Dinner Party

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"Don't act like I forced you to come here," Dean said under his breath as he and Ben waited for their neighbor Robert to answer his apartment door.

Ben sighed, but kept quiet. Starting the evening off with an argument would only make things worse.

Robert answered the door in a burgundy half zip sweater and slacks. His wavy gray hair just barely combed, so you still had the impression he was very busy, and very smart.

"Please! Come in, gentleman," Robert swung the door open wide and waved them inside. Souvenirs, awards, and weighty, boring looking books adorned every shelf and bookcase.

Ben was surprised to see a familiar face appear around the corner and stroll towards them, a full wine glass in hand. Gabe, the rude desk attendant who had snarked about Ben getting lost on his first day of school.

When introduced to Ben as Robert's son, Gabe responded with an indifferent "We've met," then turned and greeted Dean with a firm handshake and a smile.

"Oh, really?" Robert said. "Where did you two meet?"

"I was filling in at the front desk on his first day of school. Henry had to escort him, he got lost," Gabe said with a serpentine grin.

Robert guffawed and Dean chuckled along nervously. Benjamin flushed hot red.

"Don't tell the navigation guys that, they might have an aneurysm," Robert said.

"Nerves, I suppose," Dean said, patting Ben stiffly on the back.

"I thought you were a biologist?" Ben said to Gabe.

The smug grin left Gabe's face and he furrowed his brow. "Yes, of course. I worked the front desk when I was a student, and when they're in a bind, I'll sometimes help out for an hour or two."

"Despite our capabilities," Robert added condescendingly, "Tenacity is a small community, and employees aren't easy to replace. People fill in when they can."

"Anyway, please!" He continued. "Come in and make yourselves at home. Help yourselves to the hors d'oeuvre, my chef is serving bulgogi tonight, I remember you talking about how much you enjoy Korean food, Dean."

The four settled in on the plush couches while Robert glided from one topic to the next, barely pausing for anyone else to contribute. Completely checked out, Ben looked around the room. There was plenty to look at. In the center of the coffee table under a glass case, an impressive metal model of a space cruiser caught his eye.

"Ah, Benjamin, I see you've noticed the Cypher X, that was my last project on earth, some 25 years ago." Robert said. Are you interested in engineering? Architecture? Science?

"Um, not really. That's a cool model, though."

Dean let out an exasperated sigh, and Robert looked empathetic and nodded.

"So," Robert swirled a glass of wine. "how do you plan on making your way here on Tenacity?"

"He wants to be in the Elite Force," Dean interjected.

Robert looked impressed. "If you can get in, well," he and Gabe exchanged a smirk,"Wow, that's all I can say. Nothing personal...it's just the Elite Force is a top tier military operation-not boy scouts."

"Of course! Not debating that for a second," Dean said. "If he had more of a... strong personality, maybe I could see it. I'm just afraid this is a passing, rebellious, even, phase, and he's wasting time that he could be using to advance in some other area. He's a really smart kid."

"Mmhmm. He must be, it's a rare non-Tenacian born child that doesn't need remedial classes to catch up to their peers here. There are scores of interesting careers to be had on Tenacity, Benjamin. Why military?

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