Fiction Friday! Escape pod here!
Blue Flame of Revenge - Part 5
Detective Aleira looked at the university's main building. It was not what she expected. She was expecting an impressive structure, well maintained and oozing accademia. This place had certainly seen better days. In fact it looked practically run down. How it attracted any students she did not know. She walked into the foyer and approached the desk.
"I need to speak with the head of the physics faculty." she told the receptionist flashing her badge. She hoped the woman didn't look too hard, her Amarrian credentials meant nothing here in the Federation. She had travelled by shuttle to Luminaire after reviewing the orders for molecular lasers over the last year. This small Gallente University had placed an unusually large order several months ago. Given the raids to steal the lasers back in Amarr space were so professional, they had few leads. It might be a coincidence that this university wanted to purchase the exact same number as was stolen, or they may have decided to find a less legal way to acquire what they wanted.
The receptionist told her to take a seat on one of the worn chairs. As she sat Aleira wondered how such a run-down establishment could afford to order a single molecular laser never mind six. After a few minutes a man approached. She stood to greet him.
"Detective. I'm Professor Deuverin of the Esalion University. How may I be of assistance?" he gestured for her to walk towards the door he'd come from.
"I've never heard of the Esalion University before Professor." she said following him.
"Ah yes, we're a small entity compared to the likes of the bigger institutions. However we are very specialist and have some great minds here."
"But not maintenance staff?" she stated looking at the missing tiles in the false ceiling exposing wires and conduits.
"We funnel our funding into our research and education. Building maintenance if far down the list."
They entered a secure laboratory that the Professor unlocked with a code on a side panel and a retina scan. Inside was an array of what appeared to be lasers. Aleira noted they looked similar to the ones stolen but these appeared to be copies.
"Three months ago you placed an order for six molecular lasers from Carthum Conglomerate. Can I ask why?"
"Of course. We are doing research here that requires that equipment to perform. However as I am sure you are aware Carthum Conglomerate declined our order stating security issues." the Professor explained.
"But why six? These are very dangerous pieces of equipment and even the top institutes only have one or two. Why would you need six?"
At that point there was a beep and the Professor pulled his datapad from his pocket. He read the message and slipped the pad away.
"I'll show you." he said walking to a desk. He opened a draw and turned around, suddenly produced a gun.
"You should have stayed in Amarr." he sneered and fired. Aleira's world went black.
Sosa crawled through the ventilation duct slowly. Whilst Aki had hacked into the hotels systems and disabled the security sensors, the guards below would still hear any loud noises. At the next grill Sosa looked down. The auction items were still in their cases. Three rent-a-cops were sat at a table playing cards. He checked his watch, 30 seconds.
He heard the door buzzer go and watched one of the guards stand. Each had a stun baton and a pistol. Probably a Duvolle Labs blaster. He thought of the irony that if this went wrong they'd be fired at by their own clients weapons. From his position he could barely see the door as it opened. A room service trolley came into view pushed by a woman in a hotel maids outfit. The other two guards stood smiling.
The trolley was pushed to the table and the maid removed the silver covers from the plates. Steaks, burgers and fries along with cans of Quaffe.
"Thanks darling!" one of the guards said.
"Oh don't thank me yet." she purred bending down. Sosa watched the men as they took the opportunity to stare at her ass.
She pulled three bottles of beers from the bottom shelf hidden by the trolleys white cloth.
"I assumed you guys wouldn't say no to a drink. I shouldn't have but looks like you've got a long boring night."
The guys enthusiastically thanked her and begged her to stay and eat something. She politely refused and left leaving the three very happy security guards to their meal. Sosa watched as his second in command glanced up at the ventilation grill and gave a discreet smile. He had less than five minutes to wait until all three were on the floor snoring. He quickly unscrewed the vent and dropped the rope to the floor securing the top end with a powerful magnet.
"OK I'm down Aki. You're up!"
The lights on the locks on the display cabinets went from red to green.
"That's the easiest part Capt" Aki said over the comms.
Sosa went to the cabinet containing the book. Carefully, using gloved hands he removed it from the case and opened it. Taking an smaller imager he scanned each page and slid a tiny disk into the spine. After replacing the book he secured the display case and climbed back up to the access panel.
When the three private security guys woke an hour later they knew they had been drugged but after confirming nothing was taken they vowed not to tell anyone for fear of losing their jobs. Their superior did review the security camera footage as he always did to check they weren't neglecting their duties. However all he saw was a carefully stitched together video showing nothing wrong, courtesy of the Katsu Maru's resident computer genius.
"Agent Rouppon?" the man asked.
Ingvar stood and extended his hand. "Yes, you must be Detective Thassian?"
The man was much older than Ingvar and he assumed must be close to retirement. He was Gallente and had a haggard look about him. He gestured to a side door of the precinct's reception. Entering, Ingvar could see it was a interview room.
"So what can I do for the Federal Intelligence Service?" Thassian asked as they sat.
"Its a delicate matter and I'm afraid there are only some parts I can talk about. We are dealing with a grave threat to the Federation and we believe there are links to a previous old case of yours."
"Anything I can do to help." the Detective replied.
"Well I've read the files obviously but I'd just like you to run through the case from start to finish. Pretend you're speaking to someone who hasn't read the file. I like to hear the investigating officers story from the heart, not from a case file where every word will be scrutinised and admissible as evidence."
The Detective laughed.
"Yeah I know what you mean. The amount of time we spend thinking 'should I write that down' and cannot put any of our instincts or gut feeling into the file. Evidence only. What is the case?"
The Detective's face dropped immediately and his skin turned ashen.
"Shit. Of all the cases you are going to make me drag that one up."
"I'm sorry. I've read the file so know this must be difficult but we really need your help here." Ingvar lied. The man's reaction was enough to tell him it was a particularly nasty case.
"OK, but not here." he said rising grabbing his jacket from the back of the seat where he'd placed it.
"Where are we going?" Ingvar asked confused.
"If you are making me drag that shit up, then you're buying. I trust your bloated Federal expenses account can stretch to a few whiskys.
Riku creeped through the corridor. The carrier was running on a skeleton crew now that it was back docked in station. However, alone, without any comms or assistance he had to be careful. He had no idea where anyone was on the ship and could easily bump into someone. His first priority was to get to the main computer core. It was not difficult to find. Security was minimal. Why wouldn't it be he thought. They were docked in their own hanger. Riku worked his way through the vast databanks until he got to the terminal. Retrieving a small black box from his belt pouch he plugged it into a port on the terminal. A green light showed it was active. Back on the Katsu Maru, Aki would be receving a signal that piggybacked on the carrier's own link to the GalNet. Riku was confident that he'd know what to do when he saw it.
Next Riku worked his way down to the security deck. Along the way he had to dodge a few groups of Black Sun crew. All appeared to be relaxed so it was likely the link had not been discovered. As he neared the brig area he started to encounter security. There were active armed patrols in this part of the ship which led him to believe his hunch was correct. Hiding in side rooms and around corners he was able to slowly make his way to the main brig area.
The cell block itself was a wide circular room. The control centre was in the centre and along the outside wall were the cells. One of them had the force shield up meaning it was occupied. However from his vantage point Riku couldn't see who was in there. The guard at the control centre was facing the entry corridor where Riku was hiding behind the corner. There was no way to get close without being seen. The other problem was he was also running on hunches. At this point they had no proof that this ship was involved in the abduction of the scientists and murder of the Nestor crew. They could have been called in at the last minute to take out the Nestor after the Katsu Maru had scared off the Guristas pirates. For now Riku wanted to keep his gun holstered. He chanced another look at the brig. The guard was turned around, looking at something. Riku could see a light flashing from somewhere in the brig. It wasn't an alarm, it was a white light flickering. The guard stood and walked towards the light, vanishing from view. Riku took the chance and quietly jogged down the corridor. He peaked around the edge into the brig. The guard could not be seen and the flickering light appeared to be coming from another locked cell. He looked again. Yes, two of the cells were occupied, the one with the flickering light was on the nearside so had been hidden from his view, but no sign of the guard. Then he spotted him. He appeared inside the other locked cell and looked furious. Riku entered the brig and the guard yelled. However behind the forcefield there was no sound. Riku went over to the other cell. Laying on the bed was a Gallente woman in a white lab coat. He deactivated the forcefield and she looked up.
"Let me guess. You're the masseuse." she said dryly.
"Close, I'm working for Duvolle Labs. Apparently they'd like you back!"
The woman sat up quickly.
"What took you so long?" she replied.
"OK Riku has got the doctor." Aki said.
"Nice job with the guard by the way." the Captain stated over his shoulder. "He's going have a bit of explaining how he came to be locked in one of his own cells."
"A real trick of the light." Aki laughed "I've given Riku a escape route and the internal security on the carrier is in diagnostic mode so he'll be fine. I suppose you'd like to know what was in our ancient Caldari book?"
"Is the translation finished?"
"Yes sir, best the computer could do. That language hasn't been spoken in a millennia. I've been searching for certain keywords. I'm assuming Thanan is not interested in tactics for longsword fighting or tips on wooden bow construction so I was looking for something connect with his fields. Meteor or asteroid strikes, comets, things like that. Anything referring to space, stars, sun, sky and the like."
"Only one thing. About ninety days into the campaign it states a "the eye of heaven" appeared and shone down on them. There are a few references to a blue eye dominating the night sky and even visible during the day. It was larger than the closest moon apparently."
"Another Caroline's star? Birth of the Caldari Nebula?" Yoshi reeled of some ideas.
"At a guess I'd say super nova sir. Whatever Caroline's star was is linked to the Jove. I think this was a blue star going super nova. It makes other references but I did some further digging and found this."
The Captain looked at the screen.
"Folk Songs of Gallente Prime in the Merovingian Period. Sounds a riveting read!" the Captain said.
"Its not." Aki replied dryly "However I was searching for historical documents during the same time period and got a match. This was a paper from Calle University on ancient folk songs and there is one that mentions King Merovingian and a blue light in the sky that outshone the stars and the moon. King Merovingian reign was around the time of our Caldari book although we cannot be exact. I then checked references against star constellations both mentioned. I am pretty sure they are referring to the same phenomenon and was able to get a rough direction."
"Let me guess, its in the same direction as the Nestor jumped back from?"
Aki smiled and nodded.
"So we think there was a blue star that went nova five millenia ago. Thanan for reasons unknown needed something from whats left of that system and is happy to murder hundreds for it. He'll even spend half a million just to hide a reference to that former system in an ancient book. Why?"
Yoshi and Aki shrugged.
The bar was exactly how Ingvar expected. This close to the police HQ its clientele was mostly law enforcement. They got their drinks at the bar, a triple whisky for Thassian and Ingvar took a light beer, before retreating to a secluded booth.
"So, the Thanan case. Shit cannot believe you are making me go through this. Going to make my therapist happy!" Thassian said taking a gulp of the amber liquid. "As you know its over a decade ago. Back then Thanan Industries was a tiny enterprise, nothing compared to the huge corp it is today. They only had a few small mining ships, a hauler and a prober. Norms captaining their ships, no eggers. Anyway they got lucky, a big rogue roid was found floating in the black chock full of Zygreen. Thanan wanted to ensure everything went well so was on the hauler himself transferring the minerals. They got hit by pirates, nothing new there. However these pies didn't try the usual explode the target and sift through the wreckage, they actually boarded the ship. Thanan was at the helm and he wasn't going to let the cargo that could make his company be stolen. He overrode the safety protocols and opened both doors of an external lock. Obviously as soon as the second was open a few mill the force of the escaping atmosphere blew the entire lock out. Ripped a chunk out of the ships side. The ship made it to station, just. We found three bodies inside one of the corridors. The intruders had been wearing zero-G gear and some had managed to lasso their harnesses onto something as the ship decompressed. Didn't save 'em of course. Thanan didn't care, he'd got his prize."
Ingvar took a swig from the bottle and nodded.
"He was giving statements to me when the call came in from the morgue. They had expected to find Serpentis ID on them. No ID at all, but when they stripped the bodies they found the tattoos. I mean, for fracks sake, who have suspected those guys would have tried to rip off a mineral hauler?"
Ingvar could only nod as if he knew.
"Anyway, as soon as we knew it was them we arranged extra security for Thanan and his family. However we were too slow. By the time we got there his wife and two kids were gone. We set up a field office in his place and waited. Finally they called. I nearly crapped myself. There on the vidscreen was one of the dead men that was supposed to be on the slab at the morgue. Took me a while to figure out it wasn't really the dead man, it was his twin brother! Fracking twins working for the Templis Dragonaurs! Anyway they wanted a cool billion. No way Thanan had anywhere near that at the time, even if he sold every asset. They must have known that. I guess that was the point. They gave him 24 hours. After that they called back. He begged and pleaded with them. Offered everything he had. That man wasn't interested. Twelve hours later a video file was received. Shit man, they had his wife tied to a wall and all these tools laid out. Then they went to work on her. It went on like that for nearly a week. A dozen files sent in all. Shit man, how the hell a person can do that to another. Those Templis are sick in the head. Thanan watched them all you know. Every vid, from start to finish. He watch every second of what they did to his wife. I still wake up in the night and can hear her screams. Anyway. there was no 13th video. We found the wife and two kids dumped in an abandoned factory unit a few days later. All three killed with a bullet to the head. The only saving grace that they didn't work on the two kids like they had with the mother. We were never were able to track them down. Never could bring them to justice. I lost my own wife and kids in the months after it. PTSD or some shit the quacks tell me. So Agent, anything else you need to know about the case that ruined my life?"
The alarm blared loudly as Riku led Dr Gian down the corridor.
"They know we've escaped!" she shouted over the din.
"No that's not the escape alarm. Its another."
"What is it?"
The doctor stopped with a look of horror on her face.
"Relax! A friend is playing with the ships computer systems, he will have hacked the AI and set off the alarm to clear a route for us. There is no leak." Riku stated grabbing her hand and leading her down the corridor through a set of blast doors.
The hanger bay was empty. The alarm had seen to that. None of these mercs were paid enough to risk a slow agonising death through radiation poisoning. They had abandoned the ship immediately and were awaiting the drones to find out what the problem was. Riku led the doctor over to a shuttle. Its engines were already on and the access ramp down.
"Good old Aki!" Riku said with a smile.
They boarded the shuttle and left the carrier within thirty seconds. As soon as they were clear of the station Riku fired up the comms.
"Riku! You have our wayward doctor?" Captain Sosa asked.
"Yes sir. You want to to take a directly to the Douvolle station in Fricoure?"
"Thats a negative. Meet us in Luminaire. Thanan is planning something. Ingvar is heading back now with new intel. The Doctor might be able to shed some light on what's going on."
Riku acknowledged the orders and plotted a course for Gallente space.
Thanan watched as the technicians worked. The six molecular lasers were mounted on the support beams in the middle of the cargo bay. Heavy duty energy conduits snaked around the bay connecting to various terminals and power relays.
"How much longer?" he asked the man stood next to him.
"To fix the equipment, another day. The main task is the calibration. That could take 48 hours. The lasers must be perfectly aligned for it to work. That is a slow, painstaking task."
"So we can deploy in 72 hours?"
"Yes sir. You have waited 12 years, I hope three more days isn't too much to ask. You have the book, the chances of anyone realising what you have, and what you will achieve, are slim to none."
"The only loose ends are those people working for Duvolle Labs. However they have gone quiet, lets hope they stay that way. And of course our inquisitive Detective from the Throne Worlds."
"What should we do with her?"
"I'm heading to the university to question her personally. I doubt they will be able to do anything in the time left. Best to know what they know about us though. Carry on here. I'll be back later."
With that Thanan left, happy that in three days an entire race would feel the same loss and horror as he had done for the last decade.
To be continued.....