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A-to-Z Challenge — Letter C

April 3, 2015

Contraband
Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.

Davies paced back and forth in his room. He still hadn’t confronted Rourke with the information Murphy had given him. Hell, he still couldn’t believe it. He ran his hands through his hair and longed for a cigarette. He hadn’t smoked for decades what with the ban of tobacco on all Earth Stations, but now he wished for one. He walked over to his bar and poured himself a drink. Thankfully alcohol hadn’t been banned yet. The Katharsian whiskey reminded him of Jack Daniels back home on Earth. The Katharsi were the only aliens allowed to sell whiskey to Earth Stations. Somehow they’d tapped the market and tonight Davies was grateful. He needed a stiff drink.

He sat down on the edge of his bed, sipping the amber liquid. He couldn’t stop thinking about that email. Someone must have hacked the Commander’s station. There was just no other logical explanation. Rourke was a good man. A true law-abiding leader. He would follow Rourke to Hell and back if he asked him. He took another swig of the whiskey and then sat the glass down on the bedside table. He could ill-afford another sleepless night.

“Computer,” Davies said into the darkness, “send a message to Commander Rourke and tell him I need to speak with him immediately.”

“As you wish,” responded the suave female computer voice. Second later, the computer responded again. “The Commander says to come to his room.”

Davies walked the short distance from his room to Rourke’s. After being buzzed in, he nodded at Rourke and sat down in one of the chairs, slumping forward with his hands in his hair.

Rourke stood by the viewing window and watched Davies carefully. He could tell there was something troubling his old friend. “What’s wrong, Charles?”

Davies looked up at Rourke and then over to his bar. “Mind if I have a drink first?”

“Go ahead. Pour me one while you are at it.”

Davies walked to the bar, poured two whiskeys, and then joined Rourke by the viewing window. As he handed Rourke his drink, he said, “I’ve got some disturbing news, Jeremy.”

Rourke took the drink and swallowed a gulp. “Fuck, Charles… what now?”

“Jeremy, I’ve known you for the better part of thirty years. You gotta know I don’t believe this for one minute, but I gotta do my job.”

“Out with it, man!”

“Okay, okay! Murphy came to see me this evening. Like Adams, he’d been sent an email telling him to encrypt a folder full of files.”

Rourke took another drink and put the glass on the table. “Was it from Kerchev?”

Davies shook his head. “Not this time. There was no return address, but Murphy traced the email.”

“And?”

“Jeremy, it came from your computer.”

Rourke looked at Davies, his eyes wide and his mouth opened in shock. “My computer?”

Davies nodded. “I know you didn’t send that email, Jeremy. There is no way it was you.”

“You’re damn straight it wasn’t me! Someone hacked my computer. There’s no other explanation,” Rourke said, picking up the drink and downing it. He walked back to the bar and poured a double and downed it too. His face flushed, he turned back to Davies and said, “Who can we trust on this, Charles?”

“I don’t trust any of the Techies. They could all be working for Kerchev,” Davies replied, joining Rourke at the bar for another drink.

Rourke rubbed his hands together and looked off into space for a moment. “Adams and Murphy. Do you trust them?”

“Adams did confess pretty quickly and Murphy came straight to me. So, yeah. I think we can trust them. What ya got in mind?”

“We need to trace this hacker. If you can get Adams and Murphy a secure line, maybe they can track this guy without any of the Techies finding out.”

Davies put his glass down on the bar and walked toward the door. “I will get Adams out of the hole and wake up Murphy. You should get some sleep, Jeremy. No sense in all of us staying up.”

“Sure, if I can sleep. Keep me posted, Charles.”

_________________________________

Murphy and Adams sat across the desk from one another in the Security Center tapping away on their tablets. They’d been at it for almost an hour with no success. Whoever hacked the Commander’s computer was tech-savvy and damn good. Davies paced around the room, stopping every now and again to look over one of their shoulders. He was about to finally sit down when a call came over the intercom.

“Captain Davies, this is Officer Bruin down in S&R. Sir, I think you should get down here immediately.”

Davies looked at Murphy and Adams and said, “Boys, keep at it. If you find anything, call me.”

Davies hurried down to S&R and met up with Bruin by the shipping dock. Bruin and three other officers were standing over open crates. “What ya got?” Davies asked as he bent over one of the crates.

“Contraband, sir. One of the crates has tobacco. The other two have exotic wines and spirits from Arzania.”

“Who’s listed on the manifest, Bruin?”

Bruin shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. “You are, sir.”

“Bloody hell! Confiscate the whole lot of it and put it in holding. And while you are at it, wake the Commander!”

Davies stormed out of S&R and took the lift back to the Security Center. Someone really has balls, he thought to himself, his anger rising. Inside the Center, he stomped into his office and slammed the door. Murphy and Adams both looked his way, glanced at one another and then went back to their tablets. Davies opened his desk drawer, pulled out a bottle of whiskey and drank a long gulp. He was just about to take another swig when his door opened and Rourke stood there looking at him.

“What the hell is going on, Davies?”

“Some bloody bastard ordered tobacco and spirits from Arzania in my name! That’s what the hell is going on!”

Rourke entered the office and plopped down in a chair. This whole mess was getting out of hand. First him, now Davies. Someone was fucking with them both.

“How’d the security team know to check those crates?”

“Fuck if I know. I was too mad to ask.”

“Well ask them now, dammit.”

Davies pushed the intercom and called up Bruin. “Say, Bruin, how’d you guys know to search those crates?”

“We got an email from the Commander, sir,” Bruin replied.

“I didn’t send that email, Bruin,” Rourke said.

“All I know is it has your name on it, sir.”

Rourke stood up and went back out into the Security Center. “Murphy… Adams… what’s the status?”

“This hacker is bouncing all over the place, sir,” Adams answered.

“Okay. Keep working on it.”

Rourke went back into Davies’ office and sat back down, shaking his head. “I swear I am going to murder Kerchev!”

“Maybe we are looking at this the wrong way,” Davies said, shifting his body in his chair.

“What do you mean?”

“How long has Kerchev worked for you?”

“About ten years now.”

“Right. And he’s never done anything like this before. So why now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he’s been gambling and needs the money.”

“Or maybe,” Davies began as he opened his Killion 2100, “he’s been hacked too. Look here,” he said, pointing to a file and waving it into the air in front of Rourke. “I was looking over all the techs who work with Kerchev and I noticed that six months ago a new tech was hired.”

“And it was six months ago when all of this nonsense began,” Rourke chimed in, his face alit with excitement.

“Yes! I ran a background check on this guy, Marshall. He’s one of the best techs there is. Top in his class at ITT. He could have gotten a job anywhere on Earth or even as a lead Tech in a major intergalactic corporation.”

“So why would he take a menial position on a space station?” Rourke pondered.

“Exactly!”

“You think we should bring Kerchev in on this?”

Davies closed the file and shut off his computer. “I’ve got a detective back on Earth doing a full sweep on Kerchev. If he doesn’t find anything, then yeah, I think we should bring him in.”

Rourke stood and rubbed his eyes. “Okay, let me know what he finds. Let the boys in there get some shut-eye. They can get back at this in the morning. I am headed to bed too. Good night, Davies.”

“Good night, sir.”

(more to come in tomorrow’s challenge!)

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