A-to-Z Challenge — Letter L
Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.
The Katharsian guards escorted the Ambassador and his wife back to their quarters while Davies’ team cleared the Rotunda of the remaining guests. Rourke made sure that Dr. Agarwal was secure back in her own room and stayed a few moments until she was calm enough for him to leave. Meanwhile, Bruin’s body was taken to the morgue until the next morning when an autopsy was to be conducted.
Rourke paced back and forth in the Command Center, his face and eyes red from rage. Bruin. How the hell did he get caught up with the Makaa? Or did he? They would have to wait for the autopsy to confirm, but the Makaa were parasites. One of them could have easily taken over Bruin’s body and controlled him. That was the lesson they’d learned from the ten years of battle against the Makaa: they could be anyone, anywhere. That’s what made them so dangerous. Rourke didn’t want to make speculations, especially about Bruin. He’d been a loyal officer for five years. No, he thought, it had to be a take-over.
Davies entered the room and sat down in a chair with a heavy thud. “I just checked in on the Ambassador. He and his wife are okay, shook up, but okay.”
Rourke stopped pacing. “Thanks for checking in on them. Did the Ambassador say anything about the charges against him?”
“I asked, but he said he wanted to talk to both of us in the morning.”
“What do you make about Bruin?” Rourke inquired as he sat down in his desk chair.
Davies sighed and threw his hands in the air. “Honestly, Jeremy, I don’t believe it. I vetted him personally. He was no Earth Gov flunky tossed on to this Station. He was a good man, a respected officer on the fast track to a promotion.”
“We’ll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve got Kerchev scouring the Intergalactic database for any charges the Makaan Czar may have filed.”
“If he filed them,” Davies retorted.
Rourke nodded. “True, those bastards don’t go through the normal channels. Always going off half-cocked and taking matters into their own hands. Be damned the peace treaty they signed!”
“What do you think they have on the Ambassador?”
“Who knows? They may have heard about that Katharsian ambassador attempting to buy those artifacts and decided to take their rage out on the only one they could get near.”
“You know what that means? We only heard about this today. Someone had to have leaked that information to them.”
Rourke placed the palm of his hand on his forehead and massaged it. This whole mess had given him a headache from hell. “Yes, but they’ve been hiding on the ship for nearly a week. We just found the artifacts three days ago.”
“I hate to say it, Jeremy, but this whole thing is beginning to smell like a set-up,” Davies declared as he leaned forward in his seat.
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s pull up all of the facts and look at them again.”
Rourke agreed and turned on his Killion 2100. He began pulling files and waving them into the air until they were lined up chronologically. “Okay, the first problem we discovered was the missing funds.”
“Right, and then the encrypted files,” Davies said.
“And then the faulty spare parts, the fruit, and those damn artifacts,” Rourke observed, pointing to their files.
“Don’t forget the tobacco and spirits,” Davies reminded him.
“Yeah, those too. And then the three Makaa showing up on the Station. The blackout.”
“And finally this assassination attempt. What do they all have in common?” Davies inquired.
Rourke walked around all of the files, studying them intently. He stopped a couple of times, zooming in on some of them and then began pacing back and forth. “They all make Astraeus look horribly bad,” he finally said.
“I hate to say it, Jeremy, but I think this is a personal attack,” Davies paused for a second, then continued, “on you.”
“On me?” Rourke questioned, then thought for a moment. “I am in command so naturally all of this would reflect badly on me, but I think this is more personal than just me, Charles. You and Kerchev have also been highly attacked.” Rourke pulled down all of the files and then opened a worksheet. “If I give you a list of names, do you think you could get that detective friend of yours to do a background check on all of them?”
Davies nodded. “Sanchez owes me big. He’ll do just about anything I ask.”
Rourke typed some names on to the worksheet. He showed it to Davies before sending it to Davies’ computer via a secure email. Sparks, Brody, Murphy, Adams, Hastings, Martinez, and Marshall.
“That’s quite a list, Jeremy. It will take a couple of weeks to have all of them thoroughly researched,” Davies advised.
“Tell him to start with Jack Sparks and Marshall first. Something about those two doesn’t set well with me.”
“Will do. I’d better get this ball rolling. It’s a long list of suspects and not a lot of time to deal with it,” Davies remarked as he went toward the door. “I will see you in the morning.”
Dr. Agarwal, dressed in a blue contamination suit, walked around the autopsy table a couple of times as she stared down at Bruin’s body. She didn’t know the man personally, but he had been treated in Medic Labs a few times by Dr. Martin. He was a good looking kid with sandy hair, a boyish face and a slim physique. She ran the scanner over the length of his body and then drew a few vials of blood. While the scanner continued to run, she took the blood over to the microscope. She extracted some and put it on a slide, then punched some codes into the microscope’s computer. She slid the slide under the magnification and looked up at the computer screen. Thousands of parasitic organisms swirled around among the blood cells. It was confirmed. Bruin had been infected.
She punched her link-in and called Rourke. As she waited for him to answer, she motioned for Dr. Martin and two assistants to come in. “We’ve got to set up for a complete blood extraction,” she said to them. The link-in buzzed. “Commander,” she began, “he is infected. We’ve begun extraction.”
“How long until you have him contained?” Rourke asked.
“It will take about thirty minutes for the blood and then I will have to extract his organs and bone marrow. He should be fully contained within three hours.”
“Okay, doctor,” Rourke said, then whispered, “Ananda, please be careful.”
Dr. Agarwal responded softly, “I will, Jeremy.”
Dealing with Makaan parasites was highly dangerous. One slip of a knife, one nick of a finger and she could get infected as well. And if she remained in close proximity to anyone else, a mere sneeze could infect others. Makaan parasites could be transmitted by fluids or airborne. That was the mistakes they doctors had made decades back during the war. They assumed that only fluid transmission was possible. By the time they realized it was airborne too, thousands had been infected and all bent to the will of the Makaa. Every organ had to be extracted and radiated. The bone marrow and blood destroyed. Even the eyes had to be extracted. That had been another mistake. They forgot about the fluid in the eyes. Once everything had been removed, the body had to be flash-dried, instant mummification. Only then could the body be cast-off into space for burial. They’d burnt the bodies in the old days, further infecting anyone within a fifty mile radius. There had been a long list of mistakes and so many lives had been destroyed in the process.
She turned to her team. “Let’s get this done as carefully as possible,” she said as she turned on the blood extractor and went to work.