The Worker's Heart
The Worker's Heart
After selecting the cleanest everyday uniform from the pile-pants he had always thought of as KemVar green, tan short-sleeved linen shirt over the standard-issue black KemVar flexshirt, and a new pair of boots he hadn't quite broken in yet-Machado grabbed his go bag and, almost as an afterthought, pulled his cap over his head and headed toward his Commander's office.
Commander Felipe Mateus Cardoso was new to this division of Acquisitions. He'd been head of Machado's section for only a little over three months, and Machado wasn't quite sure what to think of him yet. Conflicting rumors marked him both as a "buy in," with his old-money family spending clink on a cushy commission, and as a boots-to-ground favela kid who worked his way up to sit in the comfy chair. Machado didn't give much credence to either story; it didn't matter much anyway. Cardoso was the boss, his boss at least, and where he came from wasn't important. One thing he knew, though: when orders came through, he'd better show up for the briefing on time, ready to work. Cardoso was not a patient man.
Machado wondered why he was being summoned. It was possible Cardoso just wanted to yell at him some more, but he doubted it. Unlike his previous commander who never said something once when eight times would do, Cardoso seemed to prize efficiency. He gave an order once and expected it to be followed. After Liberdade, Cardoso had read him the riot act, privately. Machado had the feeling that his clean record and the regard his unit had for him had a great deal to do with the conversation remaining private. But he doubted that would help his career prospects, at least in the short term.
Machado always knew what he would be when he grew up. His entire family earned their livelihood from KemVar in one way or another. His parents both worked in the energy plants, but his mother's sister, his Aunt Teresa, served. Back then KemVar's military arm was still referred to as Security. Having grown out of its private security roots long ago, even then KemVar fulfilled most military functions for the old government as a private contractor. To the kid he'd been, it sounded like the most exciting career out there.
Whenever Teresa was off duty she'd come around the house and Machado would sit for hours listening to her tell the same stories over and over. His mother always just shook her head at her crazy little sister, but his father loved the tales almost as much as Machado and his friends did. Even when he was young, Machado knew his mother worried about Teresa, but she always came back home with another story. Until she didn't. The official notice said ordnance accident, which maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. By that time Machado had already made up his mind to join Acquisitions. He grieved for Teresa, but unlike his mother, that grief didn't extend to resenting her job.
When Machado hit sixteen he signed up for the Defensores do Futuro, like most of the other kids in his neighborhood. Though his parents worked for KemVar for their entire careers, the official transition from what was already called old gov to the corporate state was still relatively new then. The previous few years had brought a lot of changes. The transition went pretty smoothly in the city, but the occasional protest still sprung up once in a while or appeared in the news. For families like his, sending their kids into the Defensores was a good way to show loyalty. And well, Machado thought spending weekends in what amounted to teen boot camp to be a blast. He figured it would give him a head start on a career track in the military, just like his aunt.
At eighteen Machado signed on to the civil service force. All eligible young adults were required to undergo the training and serve for at least a year. Machado signed up for three to pad his resume for Acquisitions. Though he never doubted for a second that he would make the cut, he thought