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A-to-Z Challenge — Letter U

April 24, 2015

Undoing the Tangles

Astraeus Earth Force Station, 2115 A.D.

“I don’t know what you are talking about!” Marshall shouted. He sat in the interrogation room, his hands curled into fists, his eyes widened, and his lips trembled.

“We’ve been watching you for a while, Marshall. We saw your file. You have mad computer skills,” Rourke said as he opened several files on the computer and whisked them into the air before Marshall’s face. “Look at those grades from ITT. Why’d you take a job here and not in some big corporation?”

Marshall turned his head from side to side looking first at Davies and then at Rourke. Sweat beads had already formed on his forehead and were now falling into his eyes. He wiped away the salt. “I wanted to be in space. I’ve always wanted to be in space,” he muttered.

“Don’t give me that bull shit! You are The Reaper. Fess up now!” Davies screamed as he leaned in close to Marshall’s face.

“Honest, I don’t know who this Reaper fellow is. It’s not me!” Marshall put his hands over his face and began to weep. His shoulders shook with each sob.

Davies stood upright and walked to the door, frustration eating away at him. He turned and looked at Rourke. They’d been at it with Marshall for over an hour and still knew nothing more than when they brought him in. Davies lifted both hands and shrugged.

“Okay, Marshall. Let’s take this from the beginning,” Rourke suggested. He opened a folder on the desk and pulled out the journal page from the casino. He slid it across the table. “When did you leave this marker?”

Marshall pulled his hands from his face and looked at the paper. “When I first got on the Station,” he began. He took a deep breath and continued, “Some guys from Tech took me to the casino one night. We gambled, drank lots of whiskey, and then all I remember is waking up in my quarters the next morning. I haven’t been back there since.”

“Did you know you were in such debt?” Davies inquired.

“Not at first. About a week later some guys trapped me in the Galley. They said I had a marker and they were there to collect on it. I told them I didn’t have that kind of money!”

“What happened next?” Rourke asked.

Marshall shifted in his seat and raked a hand through his hair. “They told me that I had two choices. I could either do as they asked or they would kill me and my entire family back on Earth.” He began to weep again. “That was no choice!”

“It’s okay. What did they ask you to do?” Rourke asked as he placed a hand on Marshall’s shoulder.

Marshall looked up at Rourke. He sniffled and nodded his head. “They had me encrypt files, send out acquisitions through the system, and hack into your computer, sir.”

Davies rushed forward and slammed his fist on the table. “It was you who caused the shutdown, wasn’t it?” he insisted.

“No, sir!” Marshall exclaimed. “But I know why they did it.”

“Well?” Davies questioned, his face reddened. He was tired of the stalling.

Rourke removed his hand from Marshall’s shoulder and pushed Davies back from the table. He understood how frustrated Davies was, but his anger wasn’t going to get them answers. Davies pushed Rourke’s hand away and stood firm.

“Continue,” Davies said, his voice calmer.

Marshall looked at Rourke again. “They showed me some files on you, sir. Years of service and stuff about your wife and daughter.” He stopped and turned his focus on Davies. “And they had files on you too, sir.”

“What was their purpose for showing you the files?” Rourke asked.

“They said you two would be replaced soon and if I wanted to be on the winning side, I would continue to do what they asked. All I did, sirs, was leave my computer turned on for them. Someone else sent out the virus.”

“Who they hell are these people you keep talking about?” Davies asked, his voice raised.

“I don’t know, sir. I only saw the two guys once. After that, everything came to me through encrypted emails. As soon as I read the emails and closed them, they disappeared off of my computer, like they were incinerated.”

“Marshall, this is very important. Can you give us a sketch of the men?” Rourke inquired.

Marshall lowered his eyes and sighed. “I can try, sir.”

“That’s all I ask.” Rourke turned from the tech and nodded at Davies. “Get a sketch artist up here and then meet me in Command,” Rourke said as he walked to the door.

_________________________________

Rourke slumped over his desk. He’d gone over the information Marshall provided a million times in his mind. He turned his Kellion on and looked over all the files he had on the case. The answers were there, somewhere. He just couldn’t see them.

Davies walked in and sat down across from Rourke. “I don’t know if I believe that guy,” he said.

“He seems sufficiently scared,” Rourke commented as he closed the files before him. “You were right about one thing though.”

“What’s that?”

“Someone is trying to discredit both of us and get us off this Station.”

Davies chuckled. “Hell that could be anyone. I know I have enemies. How about you?”

“More than enough, I am sure,” Rourke chided. “But it sounds like we have a common enemy. Can you think of anyone?”

Davies scratched his head. “We both served on Ganymede together. After that, we only crossed paths a few times during the war. I am sure we’ve pissed off people since we both came here.”

Rourke nodded his head and stretched back in his chair. “Whoever is doing this has tried every way possible to discredit us, even using aliens to get to us.”

Davies picked up a notepad from Rourke’s desk and started jotting down information. “Okay, so whoever this is has to have connections. Maybe with Earth Gov or IBI? And definitely with the Makaa,” he suggested.

“Well, we know the Makaa and the Katharsi are enemies. So I doubt it is anyone in Earth Gov since they work closely with the Katharsi.”

“Right, but the IBI has connections to all known alien races, including the Makaa,” Davies surmised.

Rourke sat upright in his chair. “What if this whole thing is revenge from the Makaa?”

“They would need a connection in Earth Gov for that. Earth Gov would never remove either of us without sufficient evidence.”

“Which is piling up fast!” Rourke exclaimed.

“So who would have connections to both Earth Gov and IBI?” Davies asked.

“An ambassador,” Rourke proposed.

“Armand Assad is the Earth Ambassador. He’s a good man. I served with both of his sons on Ganymede. I can’t believe he would be involved.”

“If not him, then maybe someone on his staff. Can you have that detective friend of yours vet his whole staff?”

Davies stood up. “Yeah, I need to check on his progress with the others we asked him to look into.”

Davies turned to leave when Tomas entered the room carrying a tablet. He sat it down on the desk and whisked his hand over a file. It drifted into the air above them.

“The men Marshall talked to,” Tomas said.

Rourke studied the three sketches. He didn’t recognize the first two men, but the third one looked familiar. He’d seen that face before, but where? He stood up and looked at it more closely. And then it hit him.

“Remember the guy who attacked us down in the Caverns?” Rourke asked as he turned to Tomas.

Tomas stared at the picture. “That could be him, sir.”

“Let’s get him up here for a chat,” Davies suggested.

“I am on it, sirs,” Tomas said as he turned to leave.

“See if you can find the other two while you are down there. Take as many men as you need,” Davies said as he patted Tomas on the back.

“Yes, sir,” Tomas answered as he left the Command Center.

__________________________________________________

Two hours later, Davies and Rourke sat across the table in interrogation from the large Caverner. Davies had contacted the detective. Sanchez had nothing new to report on the previous list of men, but promised he would investigate Assad’s staffers. Davies wanted answers long before Sanchez could give them to him, and he wanted them now.

“What’s your name?” Davies asked the man.

The man glared back at him, defiant.

“I won’t ask again!” Davies screamed at him.

“Tom Abrams,” he mumbled.

Rourke smiled. “See, that wasn’t so hard. Now, who do you work for?”

The man leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. He clinched his mouth shut.

“You’ve already been fingered,” Davies said. He punched on the tablet and produced the sketch. “Looks a lot like you.”

“I don’t know nothing,” the large man protested, not even looking at the sketch.

“We already have you for extortion, Abrams. Do you want us to add murder to those charges?” Rourke asked.

“I ain’t murdered nobody!” the man yelled as he jumped out of his seat. Davies stood and pushed the man back down.

“Then tell us who you are working for!” Davies insisted as he sat back down in his chair.

“Man, all I know is he’s a loan shark. He hired me to knock around some guys who owed the casino some money. I knocked them around and he paid me.”

“This guy,” Rourke began as he called up a picture of Marshall and showed it to Abrams, “you didn’t just knock him around. You gave him instructions.”

“Yeah! So what?”

“Don’t be a smartass!” Davies yelled.

“I just did what I was told!”

“What’s the loan shark’s name?” Rourke prodded.

“I don’t know his name!”

Rourke sighed. He was losing his patience. “You know more than you are telling us!”

“Fuck this shit!” Davies yelled as he stood up and went for Abrams. “I am just going to throw you in the hole and let you rot!”

Abrams threw his hands up in defense. “Okay! I’ve only heard rumors.”

“What kind of rumors?” Davies asked as he backed away from the man.

“People say he’s a big time techie, but I’ve only seen him once. He had on a mask and a hooded sweatshirt, so I never saw his face.”

“What do they call him down there?” Rourke asked, but he already knew the answer.

“The Reaper,” Abrams confirmed.

(more to come in tomorrow’s challenge!)

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