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| Chapter 9
After a short flight, the major docks her gunboat in the hangar of the Ascendancy medium cruiser Victory Over Fear. You, the major, and Hallisey disembark. The major assigns two waiting officers to escort Hallisey to the pirate wreck, and then walks out of the hangar. You follow her.
“All right, Major, this is your turf. Where do we look for answers first?”
“We’re going to start with the captain, Janice Brown. She’s an old friend, and I know for a fact she’ll be looking into this on her own. But she’s not a trained investigator; She may be barking up a windmill for all I know. Do you have any theories, Detective?”
“A few ideas of what might have caused the delay. Nothing that has evidence backing it up.”
She glances at you, never breaking stride. “It’s a long walk to the captain’s office, Detective. Lay them out for me.”
“Well, it could have been three things. This ship or the cargo ship was out of position for some reason, increasing response time. That would mean we either find out why here, or hope something survived in the cargo ship’s black box. Maybe the warning transmission was delayed somehow – again, difficult to prove much about that with the cargo ship destroyed. Finally, something on board this ship could have delayed deployment or response to the message. If that’s the case, it’s also the theory we’ll find the most evidence of here.”
Quinn nods. “As soon as we’re done with the captain, I’m pulling the complete sensor and comm logs for this ship.”
You pass the rest of the trip in silence.
The captain’s office is spartanly appointed; Function is more prized than luxury in the Ascendancy fleet. Everything is made of advanced composites, and outside of a few personal knickknacks looks like it could be replaced with an afternoon’s work at a fab unit. As you enter, the captain stands up from behind her desk.
“Abi, it’s been too long. Who’s your friend?”
Quinn smiles, slightly. “Janice, good to see you. I wish it were under better circumstances. This is Detective Doyle, with the Vale system police. He’s been working to track down these pirates.”
The captain sizes you up. You’re not sure if she’s impressed with what she sees.
“Our resources are at your disposal, Major. How about I bring you up to speed with what I’ve found so far?”
“Let’s hear it then. What happened to slow you down?”
“Distance. A heck of a lot of it. The day before the incident, we received a transmission from the Vale Transport Authority about some space debris they were tracking, along with a new course to avoid it. We computed a safe course for the cargo ship to compensate, had them log it with the VTA, and everything should have been fine. When we got the distress signal, though, that cargo ship was nowhere near the course we’d charted; It was diverted as far as was possible from us while still having the same destination.” The captain’s gaze becomes steely. “I’ve pulled the comm logs, and shortly after we sent our corrections to the cargo ship, one of our junior comm officers called them, and sent another new course – the one the cargo ship ended up following.”
Quinn leans towards the captain, her eyes intense. “Where can we find this comm officer, captain?”
“Lieutenant Bergeron is in the brig. If you want to question him, be my guest.”
The brig’s small interrogation room is more of the same rapidly produced synthetics that the captain’s office was filled with. A plastic floor, a plastic table, and plastic chairs. The comm officer is a young man of perhaps 23; He’s still got some acne on his face, along with a sullen expression. Probably some VIP’s kid who was rushed through special training and commendations to get to the rank he’s at now. You know the type. It happens all the time in the Vale PD, and back when you came from was no better.
“Do you know why you’re here, Mr. Bergeron?” Quinn asks.
“Because someone’s got a problem with my dad and wants to score some points.” He sneers. “I’m not putting up with this charade. And I’m sure as hell not talking to some dumbass civvie cop.”
Definitely an admiral’s kid, then. Thinks he’s important because of Daddy, and sneers at every civilian he sees.
Quinn narrows her eyes and prepares to tear a strip off the kid. You gesture for her to stop. You’ve got an idea.
“It’s Harrison, right kid?” He stays silent. “Well, Harrison, I’ve got a question for you. Do you know what it’s like to be frozen in time for 200 years?”
Whatever Bergeron was expecting, it wasn’t this. He keeps his mouth shut, but he can’t keep the confusion off his face. Quinn’s better at hiding it, but she’s definitely perplexed as well.
“God, it’s weird. Go to sleep in your bed one second, wake up the next being told your heart failed and they froze you until they could fix you… the whole world, gone in a second. Them telling me that they’re pretty sure I’m all there, but maybe the freezing might have fried my brain too. Maybe I’m gone along with the world I knew, too. Can you imagine that, Harrison? I can. I know it. But there’s something else I know.”
You lean across the table. Bergeron leans away from you as much as he can. You put an unsettlingly intense stare and smirk on your face.
“I know that I made this world, Harrison. Every little thing I did back then… hell, it ripples out, man. Change one little thing, and this ship might be purple. Cows might not be extinct. They might have made these uniform boots with laces instead of zippers. Your parents might not have gotten together, might never have met. You might not even have been born!”
Bergeron is looking more and more uncomfortable. Good – that means it’s working. You just have to keep up the creepy non-sequiturs for a little while longer. A lot of these daddy’s boys can’t handle things that don’t immediately make sense; Push on them directly and they stonewall you, but make them deal with something else, and they’ll spill their guts just to get you to shut up. You sit back in your chair.
“Sometimes I wonder if it’s all real, Harrison. If I should test it, see if it’s just some crazy dream. Ask someone some questions, see if they know things I don’t. Do something crazy, see if the world is crazy along with me. Have you ever wanted to try to find out if the world is real, Harrison?”
You start to lean forward again. Quinn looks like she’s going to intervene, but the kid finally snaps.
“You’re crazy, dude! You’re damn crazy! What the hell, OK, I just did my job! I got a comm from the VTA, said they had a transmitter issue and couldn’t raise a ship in the area, asked me to relay a course! What the hell was I gonna do, say no? I sent on the course where they asked and said goodbye. That’s it! That’s all!”
Quinn jumps in. “Who did you talk to? Do you remember their name?”
“Some guy, Forrester? Farrier? Something like that. Yeah, definitely Farrier.”
You frown. “You expect us to believe that, kid?”
He gives you a creeped out look again. “It’s what happened! Why don’t you just go be a psycho in some other corner, civvie?”
“Because your story stinks. They told you they had a transmitter issue and couldn’t raise a ship practically next door to you? And yet they could somehow talk to you? And you bought that? And you’re telling me this cargo ship didn’t ask for confirmation on a route when they’d just been given a special, secure one minutes before?”
“It’s just comms, civvie! I take messages, I send messages! That’s all! They don’t have me here to think about it, just to do it!”
Quinn presses the button for the guards to take Bergeron back to his cell. “We’ll see, Lieutenant. I’m pretty sure at your paygrade, though, they definitely want a person who thinks on the job. So either you’re an idiot who should the service should boot, or you’re a traitor we should hang. Think on that while you sit in the brig.”
After the guards escort Lieutenant Bergeron from the brig, Quinn turns to you. “Sounds like we should pay a visit to the VTA, Detective. What do you think?”
Do you and Major Quinn go to the Vale Transport Authority to track down Farrier?
[x] No. What do you want to do instead?
Do you continue working with Quinn, or chase down other leads? If so, which leads do you follow up on?
[x] Continue working with her (go to the VTA or do something else)
[x] Go solo on another lead. Which? Do you go to support one of your detectives on their leads?
Do you ask the Major about her history with Nason?
[x] Only if she brings it up