FlashbackJoined on August 7, 2005, 1:09 AM Visited on January 15, 2019, 3:34 AM
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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.”
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This case makes it easy to requisition heavy spacecraft. A heavy assault craft for your own squad, and four more besides crewed with patrol officers for backup. Enough firepower for a fight, but a small enough group to avoid sensors. The ships are fueled up and launched, starting their trip out to the asteroids; After setting the autopilot, you step out to try to track down Nason.
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After a quick jump to Central, you and Nason head into the squad’s office. Inside, Hallisey and Antos are waiting, along with someone you don’t recognize. A middle-aged woman, brown hair going gray, dressed in an Ascendancy military uniform. As you enter the room, she gets up and closes the door behind you, then sits down again. Nason frowns as he sees her, and when she spots him her expression matches. Is there some history here you don’t know about?
“Detective Doyle. I’m Major Abigail Quinn with the Ascendancy Naval Investigator’s office. I need to ask you some questions.”
She must be the complication the Captain was talking about. “What can I help you with, Major?”
She leans forward. “First you’ll need a little background. The transport that was just destroyed by your pirates was one of ours – a covert shipment. What I’d like to know is why you delayed response to this attack just long enough see that ship destroyed, because the way I see it, these pirates have to have some inside support in this police force… and I think that support is you.”
You’re taken aback. That’s a big accusation, and is she’s comfortable making it, she’s either sure enough to make it, or the military is pushing hard enough on this that nobody will care if you get taken down while they find these guys. And as long as they’re pursuing you, they aren’t looking in the right places.
“I took a calculated risk, Major. I was chasing a potential lead that would have gotten away; If I’d jumped immediately, your ship might still be destroyed, and we’d definitely lack the information we have now.”
Quinn narrows her eyes. “And just what information was worth the lives of my people, Detective?”
A misstep. Nothing to do but push forward. Maybe if you share all the info you have on the case, you can get her to divert her suspicions. “We were able to get a location where the pirates have been rendezvousing with smugglers to sell their hauls, and sensor data to let us track where they came from for those meets. There’s only a few places they could be hiding there; We should be able to bag these guys soon.”
Hallisey breaks in. “Major, I can assure you that Detective Doyle isn’t behind this. What’s happened here is simply a horrific co-incidence, and going at each other’s throats won’t help solve this case. We should be working together to find these pirates, pooling our resources.”
As Hallisey speaks, you walk over to your terminal and start entering commands. A data cube pops out of the synthesizer, and you hand it to the Major.
“Here’s all the information we have on this case; Every lead, every dead end we hit, every suspect. I’d prefer to work with you, Major, but at the least take this, so your investigation has every advantage it can.”
The major looks pensive, then stands to leave. “You’re clear for now, Doyle. But we’ll be watching.”
The door swings shut behind her, and you turn to your team. “Well then. Antos, Hallisey, what did you find out?”
They look at each other, and Antos speaks up. He looks happy with what he’s found – looks like wrangling forensics has put him right in his element.
“Well, we’ve found some anomalous genetic material that doesn’t match the passenger manifest. Nothing came up for matches in the local criminal database, so we’ve sent out-system requests for analysis, and requested a warrant to search the citizens’ database as well. If there’s any hits, we’ll know in a few hours. That’s not the best of it, though.”
He stands up and activates the holotable, filling it with a weapon schematic. “This is the weapon that did most of the hull damage. It’s a turret-mounted plasma flare weapon; Works as a main engine, too, if you set it up right. And get this – it’s not made in the Ascendancy. This sort of plasma gun only gets manufactured in Earth Directorate space.”
You glance at Hallisey – she looks vindicated. Good for her.
Antos continues. “It’s a great weapon for what they’re doing; You can dial its yield pretty carefully, cut away parts of the hull precisely at range, then board, kill, and steal. And it being so exotic means we should be able to track where they’re buying from. Nason, got any black market contacts that might be able to give us some tips?”
“If they’re coming from the black market and not buying directly.” Hallisey’s eyes are shining with interest. “They might be straight from the Directorate itself; This could still be an undercover attack by them!”
Antos rolls his eyes, but Nason looks thoughtful. You decide to intervene before this goes any farther.
“Well, at the least we know what we’re up against, weapons-wise. I’m going to requisition a heavy assault craft for our trip to the asteroids – no sense in getting ourselves blown out of the sky faster than we need to be.”
You walk over to the holotable and clear it, then bring up the sensor footage from the latest attack. “Now that we know what they fight with, let’s see how they fight with it.”