TRS Corporate HQ, Milgrom, Bekenstein, Boltzmann, Serpent Nebula, March 18, 2196
“Are you sure he’s alright?” asked the girl on the screen above my bed.
I adjusted the bed to get a better look at the console, “He’s fine Oriana. He wasn’t even there.” My left elbow itched, which was a vast improvement from the nerve shattering pain of a few days before. Thank God for pain killers and skilled surgeons.
Oriana nodded, the but her voice trembled a bit, “Okay. It’s just that he hasn’t called or emailed in a few days and I was worried.”
“That’s my fault. Somebody had to step in and do the heavy lifting while I took a nap,” I said.
“Ah…of course,” she said. Her blue eyes lit up, “Miri is on the field. The southern farms have had some problems with pyjacks stealing grain but I can get her on the link.”
“No, that’s okay,” I said with a wave of my right hand.
“You really need to talk to her, Theo,” she said. She pouted in that Lawson way, with thick pressed lips and and angry squint that screamed disappointed with extra ton of disapproval thrown in for good measure.
“Have I ever told you that you’re too smart for my own good.”
“Don’t change the subject. This is about you and my sister,” she said with her head canted to the left.
“I know. Listen Ori, I want to do this right, it’s just, just not easy,” I said.
She sighed, “Fine, but don’t put off forever. My sister deserves better.”
“That she does. “A soft bell chimed, “Listen, I got to take care of something. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he gets some leave to visit you, as soon as I can spare him, okay?”
A tall, blond with a boy cut in a business suit strolled in.
“So what can I do for the Milgrom police department today?” I asked.
Detective Cruz sat down, eyes fixed on a datapad balanced on her knee, “I just need to go over a few things Mr. Thompson.”
“Thompson-Ramos,” I said.
“Sorry, Mr. Thompson-Ramos,” she said without taking her eyes from the datapad, “So, you spotted the attackers first?”
“Yes. A Mantis gunship.”
“Similar to the ones used by your company, correct?” she asked.
Ah hell no!
I took a deep and painful breath. The arm was better, but the rib cage still ached. She was baiting me and I wasn’t going to fall for it.
“The A-61 Mantis gunship is a very popular model among mercenaries, planetary governments and police departments. I believe MPD has a full squadron of them, last time I checked,” I said through clenched teeth.
“I see,” she said, again without even glancing at me. “So, the gunship came fairly close to the building before it fired, yes?”
“Yes. Whoever flew it wanted us dead.”
“So you believe that you were the target of the attack?”
“Hard to tell since the shock effect from rocket fire doesn’t care who is in the way.”
Her black eyes snapped up. It was the first time since entered the room that she looked me,”What was the nature of the meeting?”
“That is confidential, I’m afraid,” I said with a smirk.
“I could get a warrant for the records,” she replied nonplus. But her eyes had that, ‘Don’t push me buddy,’ stare so common in cops with little patience and less sense.
I gave her one of my own, “No you can’t, Detective. This is billions of credits above your pay grade and I suspect few parsecs beyond your jurisdiction.”
“Nobody is above the law, Mr. Thompson,” she said.
“That’s Mr. Thompson-Ramos, Detective-Inspector Alisa Marie Cruz,” I said. Her lips curled at the sound of her full name, like a child called out by her mother. “Yes, I looked at your record and you do have an impressive arrest to conviction ratio but…”, I sat up on the bed,”but you’re a city cop, a good one, but just a cop. Five of the fifty richest in Alliance space are dead and two of the survivors are the richest in Citadel space. Yet, here am I, talking to you instead of an Alliance rep or a Spectre. Do you know why?”
She folded her arms across her chest, “Enlighten me, Mr. Thompson-Ramos.”
“Because somebody wants this to disappear. What better way than to send someone with limited resources to investigate, have them find nothing and drop this into a cold case file never to be reopened again?”
“Do you want this to,” she made air quotes, “disappear?”
“No, Detective. I want to find whoever is responsible. That is why my company has cooperated fully with your investigation.”
“But you won’t tell me what the meeting was about.”
I shook my head, “I’ll tell you if you agree to share what you have on the case.”
Her jaw dropped, “Share information. No, I don’t work with mercs.”
“If you want to get to the bottom of this, you will.”
She got up to leave, “Not a chance.”
“You don’t have a choice. If you’re lucky, and that is a big if, your will catch a patsy or two and whoever did this will remain out of your reach,” I said. She needed proof that I could be trusted. I entered a code on the console.
“Security Screen Activated,” said the building VI.
“What did you do?” asked Detective Cruz.
“Security field. Jams personal wireless networks,” I said.
“You can’t do that!” she tried the door but it did not open.
“It also locks the doors. The answer to your question is that it was an meeting with our financial backers. My company has spent the last decade securing human colonies all over the Terminus systems. Training and equipping planetary militias was step one, now we are moving to step two.”
“Creating a rapid reaction force of patrol cruisers and escort carriers to protect shipping lanes and support colonies under attack. I hope you can see why somebody would want to throw a monkey wrench into the proceedings.”
She tapped the datapad and handed it to me, “Explains this.”
It showed several pictures of a batarian on the slab of the local morgue. Another pic showed the back of the neck with a blurred image. At first I thought it has been censored but then I realized that someone had done a poor job of erasing a tattoo: a tattoo of a blue sun.
“Did they all have this?”
“No, just the one. We check for traces of acid wash, but found none on the others. We suspect that he was former Blue Suns before he joined with this outfit.”
“But all of them batarians?” I asked
“All except for the caterer in the server room,” she said.
“Which points to a inside source, one with lost of money. That VI they introduced into the server was high end software,” I said.
“We went over the guest list. Do you remember seeing Anthony Andorff there?” she asked.
I closed my eyes and focused on a mental picture of the room. Faces appeared but none matched Mr. Andorff’s.
“No. It can’t be a coincidence.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then he is involved in this somehow. I could follow the mercenary angle for you, Detective, while you share anything you get out of Andorff. I think it would best way forward.”
“And why should I do that?”
“Because I could go over your head and have superiors pull you from the case. But I like said, I checked your dossier. You are good at what you do and I need that. Besides, going to the Governor or the Chief Inspector would be petty at the best. You are the one on the ground doing the hard work.”
She put her hand on her hip, “And what do I get out of this.”
“A favor from the CEO of a major security company. You never know when that can come in handy.”
She sighed, “You’re still a suspect, you know.”