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A-to-Z Challenge — Letter F

April 8, 2015

Falsely Accused
Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.

Three days had passed since the first deaths were discovered in the Caverns. Since then, seventy-eight others had died in the Medic Labs. The virus quickly replicated, but they managed to isolate its strain, dubbed Cav-E, and formulated a serum that seemed to be working on the remaining twenty-two near-deaths and the over a thousand other ill patients. The situation could have been worse. If Dr. Martin and his team hadn’t been alerted to the Caverns just days after the contaminated fruit was discovered, there was no telling how many lives may have been lost.

Rourke, Davies and Dr. Agarwal sat at an isolated table near the Gardens in the Galley. After days surrounded by death, the life of the Gardens renewed Dr. Agarwal. It seemed to have a positive effect on Rourke and Davies as well. The three chatted and laughed for the first time in days. Slowly though, as if rain clouds had gathered, their conversations turned to the more solemn topics of recent events.

“I heard back from Sanchez this morning,” Davies said as he took a sip of his coffee.

Rourke glanced up from the bowl of fruit that had occupied him the last few moments. “What did he have to say?”

“Kerchev is clean. Sanchez track his records all the way back to Kiev where Kerchev grew up and went to college, and to Orlando where he served as lead Tech for the UCE Space program, before joining the Station ten years ago. He couldn’t find anything suspicious nor any illegal activity.”

“I think it’s time to have a chat with him. Can you arrange a meeting with him, Charles? I am so damn lost without Dalia’s assistance.” Rourke said, a faraway look in his eyes.

“Sure, no problem, Jeremy.”

Dr. Agarwal placed her hand over Rourke’s hand. Her silent reassurances where one of the things Rourke loved most about her.

“I’m okay, Ananda,” he said, smiling up at her.

“We both know that isn’t true, Jeremy,” she said, her voice soft but stern. “None of us have slept much for nearly a week. Come by the Labs later and I will give you a sedative for tonight.”

“We’ll see. You know I hate those things.” Rourke said, frowning.

“I’ll take one,” Davies chimed in.

Dr. Agarwal laughed lightly. “Sure, Charles, but you must bring Jeremy with you.”

“Enough, enough,” Rourke said, sliding his hand out from under hers and throwing both hands into the air. “I don’t need both of you ganging up on me.”

Davies and Dr. Agarwal laughed and then composed themselves, each lifting their coffee and taking a drink. Rourke grinned and shrugged his shoulders. He enjoyed the ease of their company and their playful banter.

Davies finished his coffee and scooted his chair back. Standing up, he said, “Well, I will let you two enjoy your morning coffee. I am going to check on Adams and set up that meeting with Kerchev. About an hour, okay with you, Jeremy?”

Rourke nodded. “Sounds good. And thanks again, Charles.” He watched his old friend leave and then turned his attentions back to the doctor. “Dinner tonight?” he asked her, smiling mischievously.

“I would love to have dinner, Jeremy. Call me later to confirm,” she said, smiling back at him. “I really should get back to the Labs though.”

Rourke leaned over and kissed her. As he released her lips, he gazed into her brown eyes, his face tender and relaxed. “Okay, Ananda. I promise we will spend some quality time together soon. I will call later.”

Dr. Agarwal smiled and slowly nodded her head. “Soon,” she whispered.

_______________________________________________

An hour later, Rourke and Davies sat side by side at the conference table in the Command Center with Kerchev sitting across from them. Kerchev shifted in his chair. He glanced down at his hands and then back up, looking back and forth from Rourke to Davies. A few silent moments passed.

“Am I in some kind of trouble?” Kerchev finally asked.

“Have you done anything to be in trouble?” Davies asked, leaning forward and staring Kerchev straight in the face.

Ignoring Davies’ strong-hold tactics, Rourke turned his computer around and slid it across the table to Kerchev. “I’ve pulled up some files. I want you to take a look at them.”

After flipping through the files, Kerchev looked up at Rourke. He stared at him for a few moments, confused. “I don’t understand, sir.”

Rourke pulled his computer back and waved his hand over a file. As it drifted into the air, Rourke began his questions. “Did you send that email to Murphy? Did you authorize those acquisition forms?”

Kerchev stared at the email for a long moment, then looked over the acquisition forms again. “No, sir.”

“Oh c’mon, Kerchev. Your name is on them!” Davies said.

“With due respect, sir. Why would I ask someone in Mechanics to encrypt files for me? I am a competent encryptionist. If I wanted to hide files, I could do it myself.”

“Are you admitting to hiding files before?” Davies asked, his face hardened and his eyes angered.

“I said I could, sir. Not that I have.”

“We traced the email back to your computer,” Rourke said, pulling the trace file up into the air.

“Sirs, just what are you accusing me of here?” Kerchev questioned, a determined look on his face.

Rourke looked over at Davies and Davies nodded. “Actually,” Rourke began, as he closed all of the files in the air, “we don’t think this is your handy work at all, Kerchev.”

Kerchev let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, sirs. I can tell you with all honesty that I did not send that email.”

“I believe you,” Rourke said. “How well do you know the tech, Scott Marshall?”

“Not very well, sir. I hired him about six months ago. He came highly recommended. Do you think he is involved?”

“We don’t know yet, Kerchev,” Davies chimed in. “This all started about then… the missing funds, the bad machine parts, stolen goods… he could be the master mind behind this or working with someone else.”

“Kerchev, I want you to keep a close eye on Marshall. We need to know where he is and what he is doing at all times. Can you do that without raising suspicion?” Rourke asked.

Nodding, Kerchev replied, “I will do my best, sir.”

Davies stood up and walked around the table, placing a hand on Kerchev’s shoulder. “Listen, I am sorry we had to drag you in here today and throw out accusations. You’ve been loyal to Commander Rourke for ten years now. We just had to be sure you weren’t involved.”

Kerchev looked up at Davies, a wiry smile on his face. “I understand, sir. No hard feelings.”

“Good! That’s all settled then,” Rourke said, standing up and clapping his hands together one time. “Let’s get to work and catch this bastard!”

(more to come in tomorrow’s challenge!)

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