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A-to-Z Challenge — Letter M

April 16, 2015

Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.

Davies stood at the podium in the Command Center overlooking the crowd of officers who served under him. “Officers, we are here this morning to mourn the loss of one of our own. I know all of you have questions and I would like to ask Commander Rourke to address you.” He turned to his side and nodded at Rourke and then stepped down from the podium.

Rourke took the stand and smiled down at the men and women present. “For now, I want to address you all not as officers, but as citizens aboard the Astraeus,” he began, his smile turned into a frown. “As you all know, Marcus Bruin was shot and killed last night, but let me be perfectly clear: the man who was shot was not Officer Marcus Bruin; his mind and body were being controlled by the Makaa.” Rourke paused as the news stirred a wave of astonished ahs through the room.

“And now, I will address you as officers,” he continued. “My fellow men and women of the Security Team aboard the Astraeus, we have a serious problem on our hands. With two members of the Makaa still running amok on this ship, any one of us could be affected. For this reason, you will all be assigned in sets of three as you go about your daily duties. Chief Davies will address this with you later. For now, we must be vigilante. A 17th century English clergyman named Thomas Fuller once said, ‘It is madness for sheep to talk peace with wolves.’ Well, we did just that at the end of the Makaan War. We talked peace with wolves and became willing sheep. But at least now we know how they work. They sacrifice themselves to possess another species. In turn, that controlled species does the will of the Makaa. The Raython bombs that eradicated the Makaa were specially designed to kill their unique DNA sequence. We lost millions of infected Earthlings because of this. The sacrifice was dire, but there was no other way to rid ourselves of those evil parasites.”

Rourke paused again and allowed the information he’d just given to sink in. This was information not widely known unless one had high security clearance. Rourke knew he was taking a chance letting this information out, but it had been decades since the war and he needed his men and women to understand what price was paid and how it was paid. “We learned how to create those bombs from the Katharsi,” he informed. “This is one of the reasons the Makaa and the Katharsi are still at war to this day. You must understand, an attack on a Kathasian Ambassador aboard this ship has grievous consequences for all of us. Earth Gov will not tolerate a renewed war with the Makaa. At this moment, I can trust each and every one of you because your blood has been tested and you have all been found one hundred percent Earthling. This could change in a nanosecond. We have a sworn duty as Earthlings to protect the Kathasi for their knowledge and sacrifice that allows us to be free people. And we will protect the ones on board this Station… at any cost,” Rourke stopped speaking and pursed his lips together. “Chief Davies has a few words to say now,” he concluded, yielding the podium.

Davies returned to the podium and stood upright, his hands clasped behind his back. “Here’s the deal, officers. We have some renegades running around on this Station wreaking havoc. The integrity and leadership of your Commander is being tested. Our authority — the Commander, me, and all of you — is being thwarted. I don’t know about you, but these facts make me madder than hell!” Davies exclaimed, slamming his fist down on the podium. “As the Commander informed you, you will all work, play, eat, and sleep in sets of three.” The room exploded in moans and Davies yelled above the noise, “There will be no discussion on this course of action! Furthermore, you will all be assigned Raython lasers. Keep them charged at all times. One shot will eradiate a Makaa instantly and prevent airborne extraction of their parasitic organisms. You will also wear full safety gear. That includes the masks, officers!” Davies knew how his team hated those masks, but for now, they were all unaffected and he meant to keep them that way. “The schedule has been sent to your link-ins. Team up with your buddies and find those remaining two Makaa!” Davies barked, but when the officers stood around a bit longer looking at their link-ins, he screamed, “Now!” and the officers scurried out of the Command Center.

Rourke sat down at his desk and Davies joined him. They still hadn’t discovered who was behind all of the mishaps and the madness was taking a toll on both of them. Rourke leaned back in his seat, a scowl on his face. He longed for a drink, but that was not possible so early in the day. This job was going to make him an alcoholic.

“I have that meeting with Ambassador Amon after lunch,” he reminded Davies.

“You want me to sit in?”

“Yes, I do. I need all of the support I can get right now,” Rourke admitted.

“Sure thing. I contacted Sanchez. He said to give him at least three days on Sparks and Marshalls, and another week on the rest.”

“That’s fine. No,” he thought out loud, raking his hair, “it’s not fine, but what choice do we have?”

Davies was about to reply when Rourke’s link-in buzzed. It was Kerchev. “Commander, I’ve sent you some files. I think you will find them very interesting, sir.”

Rourke pulled up the file case on his computer and opened the files Kerchev had sent. He whisked them up into the air and stared at them. “What exactly I am I looking at, Kerchev?”

“Well, sir, Hastings and I began checking the financials of Jack Sparks. In the last three months, his UCE Air Force pension account has increased by ten million units.”

“He’s retired. He should only be getting a set amount every month,” Davies surmised.

“Right, Chief Davies. We tried to track where the funds were coming from, but the accounts have hit every planetary bank between Earth and Nezara Prime.” Nezara Prime was on the furthest outreaches of space. Earth Gov hadn’t travelled beyond that point yet.

“Good work, Kerchev. Keep digging into Sparks and while you are at it, look into Marshall’s financials too,” Rourke decided.

“Will do, sir,” Kerchev replied and the link-in went silent.

Rourke leaned forward in his seat and closed out the computer files. “I think it is time we had a chat with Sparks,” he said.

“I will get Shannehey to bring him in after we’ve chatted with the Ambassador. I’m headed for lunch. Want to join me?”

“Yeah, I will see you in the Galley in fifteen.”

After lunch, Rourke and Davies met with Ambassador Amon in the conference room just off to the left of the Command Center. The three sat at a small round table with black leather chairs. A bottle of Kathasi wine, three glasses and a computer adorned the table. The Ambassador was dressed in a red Katharsi robe, less regal than the one he had arrived in the previous evening.

Rourke poured the wine and passed a glass to the Ambassador and then one to Davies. “Ambassador, I wish to once again extend my deepest regrets at what occurred last night. Earth Gov is very concerned and we have increased our security.”

The Ambassador took a sip of the wine and waved a heavily ringed hand at Rourke. “Commander, one does not get to be an ambassador from Katharsi by thinking himself invincible. Any time I leave IBI, I know there are great risks involved. I am just thankful for the quick response from our Chief Davies here,” he said, turning to Davies and revealing a wide smile of bone teeth.

“Just doing my job, Ambassador,” Davies replied.

Rourke stirred the conversation back to the topic at hand. “Ambassador, the reason I asked you here is because we have confiscated some stolen artifacts. Illegal artifacts, sir.”

“I see,” the Ambassador rasped in his throaty Katharsian accent. “I take it by illegal, you mean forbidden, Commander?”

“Of course,” Rourke agreed.

The Ambassador fell silent and drank more of the wine. After a long moment, he queried, “And I suppose you need my assistance to insure these items are returned to their rightful owners without backlash to your Station?”

The Ambassador was more tactful than Rourke had given him credit. “That would be most helpful, Ambassador,” he assented.

“Have you caught the offender?” the Ambassador inquired, turning his attention to Davies.

“No, sir. We have not. We are still investigating that crime and others related to it,” Davies chimed in.

The Ambassador sat his wine glass on the table and clasped his fingers together. He stared intently at Rourke for a moment. Finally, he asked, “Commander, what assurances can you give me that if I do help you, more of these artifacts will not appear on your Station again?”

Rourke sat straight up in his chair and placed both hands on the table, palms up – a sign of sincerity to the Katharsi. “Ambassador, I have strict orders in Shipping and Receiving that every crate, box, letter or package that enters this Station is to be checked. And not just scanned as usual practice, sir. Everything is to be opened and thoroughly searched. No more forbidden relics will find their way aboard this Station.”

“You are a man of integrity, Commander. I’ve only heard good things about you throughout the galaxy. I will take you for your word. When I leave in the morning, I will transport those artifacts with me. I will ensure that they are returned to their rightful owners. I can do this discretely, Commander. No one will suspect that they came from here.”

“So the IBI will not be involved?” Davies questioned.

The Ambassador’s lips twisted upward. “There is no need.”

Rourke poured another round of wine and saluted the Ambassador. “You’ve done us a great service here today, sir. You have the gratitude from all of us at Earth Gov.”

(more to come in the challenge!)

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