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Just One More Thing...

Posted on Sun Feb 9th, 2020 @ 3:45am by Client The Narrator & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Port In A Storm
Location: MCRN Holding Facility, High Elysium
Timeline: One Week After The Eros incident, Just After The Dust Up In PassPort Control

"So..." The MCRN Investigator, his name tag read Chu, slowly settled himself into a chair on the far side of the interview table. Ken, Kol and Wulf sat on the far side on plain metal chairs. The sort of thing you imagined was very easy to clean if someone had an accident falling down some stairs on a space station with no stairs. He set a data stack on his side of the table, and it illuminated the surface of the table with file folders. "...just let me get the facts straight before we dive in."

Chu was a puggish man, short by Martian standards but not bulky or weak. He looked like the sort of guy who took his 1Gee physical fitness regime very seriously.

"None of you were aware that you were shipping alongside the heiress to the Hebe Metal Works empire? The folks who helped build every other dome city on Mars?" Chu asked. His eyes weren't dilated with focus drugs, but a battery of camera sensors was probably connected up to an expert AI system to pick out lies or falsehoods. "Guess you guys don't read the society papers much huh?"

Behind calm dark eyes and a slightly stunned expression, Wulf’s pulse was steady and his demeanour solemn. Inside his head, in the privacy of his own mind, the tech was seriously worried, hearing Mickey’s voice on repeat reminding him of those Pressurised Penal Colonies. Their newly minted Captain had one thing right, Wulf definitely didn’t want to go there.

“I just asked her to join us for a drink,” Wulf said, honestly. He showed no overt sign of humour or fear, but this wasn’t the first time he’d been asked difficult questions. “She didn’t talk about her family,” he added, and tried not to think about the stakes here. This wasn’t a routine stop on Ceres or a chance tug on the old Eros, this was Mars and he had no idea how much information they'd been able to glean.

"In my experience it's often better not to answer questions from law enforcement officers." Ken said with a carefulyl friendly smile. "But I never even heard of Hebe Metal. Are they the ones with the gears in their logo?" The engineer adjusted in his seat, getting more comfortable as he rested his hands on the table. "Do they also build other things, or just the domes?"

"We were hired to do a job, not ask questions" Kol stated matter-of-factly with a shrug of his shoulders. As far as Mars was concerned Kol was with the Albatross as a freelance security consultant. In his mind, he focussed hard on what was at stake in order to keep his cool. He hadn't seen the investigator take a focus lozenge, but they could easily have done so before beginning their interview.

"Bunch of funny comedians taking the road to Mars to make it rich eh? I've seen worse acts in Breach Candy's entertainment district, but that ain't sayin' much," Chu said. He turned the data stack flight, altering the display from projecting data into the table's surface screen, and into the volumetric hologram that floated above it. "Let's start off with the easy one because I'm a lazy cop and I'm in it for the pension. Ex-United Nations Marine Corp. Files light on details in places, which figures as some of the notations I've seen in this file read like a virtual reality adventure novel. A mix of citations for bravery alongside a list of demerits in regard to your opinion of certain officers. Funny how they redacted some of the former but not the latter."

He then turned the cube slightly, and two more files appeared in the air alongside Ken's UNMC file.

"Now these two ID's...well gotta tell you they hold water and air like a surface rover. Up to date trade guild listings, medical bio's match, biometrics, work histories. Pretty solid stuff. But see, I have this thing. Folks in the station call it a knack. See in this day and age making a fake ID is nearly impossible. Need to have someone on the inside ready to insert a real citizen ID code into the government stacks so you can anchor the ID you're fabricating to match it. We call them Real Fake ID's. Take a hell of a lot of processing cycles to prove their not legit," Chu pointed a finger at Wulf, and then at Kol. "Kid with a Titanese tech workers visa, and a licensed Security Consultant for Black Guard OpSec out of Vesta Station. On the surface, your IDs look great, but see this Knack of mine makes me see lint at the bottom of these shallow effigies."

He leaned back in his chair.

"You guys want to stick with the story you had no clue the second richest brat in the system wasn't hot bunking on your torch ship? Because if I have to spin up a processing turbine, I assure you the paperwork to send you to a Pressurised Penal Colony will be a joy to write up," Chu said, tapping his finger against the data stack.

One word repeated itself over and over in the kid with the Titanese tech worker's visa's head. It wasn't a good word. Just a short one that started with F and rhymed with duck. But it resounded more times than Wulf could count as the Martian kept talking. They were on to him. And not in a - yeah we're sure you're hiding something so we're just gonna nag at ya until you break - kinda way. This was more of a Mickey was Right and the MCRN was in Full-on Check Everything and Everyone Mega-Uber-Protect Mars Mode.

Wulf leant forward in his chair, rested his elbows on the table and looked at Chu through the pretty HD show of data. He was scared, and that showed in his eyes now, but he couldn't be sure if that would make him seem more or less honest to 'Lazy Cop' here. Lazy Cop with his Knack that the three of them really didn't need right now.

"I knew who she was," Wulf said. "She said she needed a ride off the station, and when the news hit, she tried real openly to buy us off with a shit ton of credit. We didn't take it, and..." He mustered up a coy smile. "We didn't share a bunk with her either." Second richest. Wulf's heart thumped faster. "Are we in trouble for bringing a pretty young rich lady home?"

"Ah huh....and which station did you pick her up on again?" Chu asked.

"Hygia" Kol replied calmly. He knew what Chu was trying to do, it was the oldest trick in the investigator's handbook. Keep going back to the same points in the hopes that the investigated stumble and admit what they were trying to hide. Thankfully, between the three of them, he didn't think they'd actually give anything up. Not if they all stuck to the cover Mickey gave them.

"And he didn't share a bunk due to lack of trying either." Ken remarked right after Kol answered the question. "But then again agent, wouldn't you try? As my young compadre said, she was pretty. Pretty annoying." And Ken gave a grin as wide as Olympus Mons was high.

"Yeah, well, what can you expect from these high society types," Chu said as he looked down at his notes. "So you pick up Miss Money Bags on Hiygia Station, which you guys were visiting due to transporting some MCRN Doc with a case of the space crazies. A Doctor...Kasmir Zado? Who I hasten to add has a similar squeaky clean ID file that just smells of freshly minted plastic from the printer."

The investigator stood up, his paunch overhanging the table slightly.

"I'm going to step out for a coffee and a nicotine patch, and when I come back in this whole act of yours better begin to make more sense to me than it does now. Or I'll make you each individually regret making me fill in the formwork to torpedo your ID's," Chu shook his head. "I'll even turn the cameras off cause I'm a nice guy like that."

And with that he left the room, leaving the three Stoogies of the Albatross to stew.

Wulf stood up as soon as the Martian left the room. He stretched his arms up until his elbows clicked, then walked from one wall to the other and stared up at the corners. "Turn off the cameras," the tech said with a roll of his eyes and a sharp exhale. "Yeah, right." He turned back to regard Kol and Ken and sighed with a demonstrative shrug of his shoulders like a proper Belter. "We didn't do anything wrong, right?" He did genuinely believe that. They'd rescued people here, big damn hero style. Kai had been grumpy as hell despite the save. And now they were in trouble. He sighed again, a hopelessness fading into his features. This wasn't fair at all. "We didn't do anything wrong," Wulf repeated, just in case Mars cared even a little bit.

Ken looked to Kol for a moment, judging the man. Then he let out a quiet sigh. "Wulf, sit down." and he nodded to the chair. "This is just like that time on Tycho when they mistook us for those pirates." Ken's voice was the picture of calm control, "But the more you get yourself worked up, the more they think we are up to no good. Trust me, all is good. We're walking out of this room soon enough. But you have to sit down, and calm down."

He acknowledged the quiet sigh. Noted the calm voice. Registered the simple nod. All overt warning signs that Wulf recognised, but he didn't want to sit down. He needed to pace. Despite their current predicament, the tech was thinking about Mickey, Allegra and where they might be now. And he was wondering what Kai had done to not want to be back here. Ken's voice was still talking, hell it was practically serene. "I am calm." Wulf stayed out of grabbing range, and wandered over towards the door that Chu had left by. "But it's not fair..." he said, with a soft defiance that wasn't aimed at the Tross' engineer at all.




"Chief Inspector Devox, a pleasure as always."

Chu said that with the same warmth and feeling a funeral director gave to a paramedic about to attempt a miraculous resuscitation. Where Chu was stocky and pug like, CI Devox was a tall and slender arctic fox. Her white hair was marred at the temples with streaks of black, that matched the dark contact lenses she wore. Rumour was that her eyes had been damaged by a pixie dust user with a flare gun in her rookie year, others swearing her eyes had been surgically removed so that she didn't turn officers to stone with a glance.

Chu suspected it was so no one could tell if she was watching the sports channel on her optic implant.

"A charmer as always Inspector Chu," Devox said cooly. They stood in a room at the end of the hall from the interview room, with the wall display keyed to the rooms internal surveillance feed. It was like standing on the other side of a paper-thin wall of glass between them and the three suspects. "What are your feelings?"

"My...feelings?" Chi asked.

"Yes. That famous gut of yours," she said the word like the dirty epitaph to good policing that it was. Chu considered this for a moment.

"Well, any newbie rookie fresh off of dorm patrol down in the domes could smell these guys aren't the freshest fish to come out of the vat. The only one of them with a solid lock on their ID file is the UN Marine. File has a few places where someone from the Diplo Corp dropped ink all over it, so I'm guessing he's some sort of hard case. Though he's got the seals and cert's for heavy electrical work, and they are legit," Chu then nodded to the others. "These two, the Security Consultant and the Comm Tech...I'd bet my pension they're carrying a pair of Real FakeID's. Top shelf work, they'd have gone through customs without anyone noticing apart from them palling around with a trillionaires daughter."

"Recommendations?"

"Book the two with ID issues for further questioning down in Hebe City, let'em stew in an Iso-Cube and see where the stress fractures lie. Let the other one go and see where he wanders off to with passive citizen mapping," Chu said. "Something about these guys just sets me off."

"Agreed. But we have been ordered to let them go," CI Devox said. She held up a hand. "This comes from Olympus Mon's, MCRN High Command. I got the call from the Inspector General personally that we were infringing on an investigation in progress by Clock Work."

Mars didn't have a secret police, and Clock Work went to a great deal of trouble to make sure everyone knew they did not exist. Part civilian agency, part shadowy arm of the MCRN, Clock Work kept the gears turning and greased so the Martian Congressional republic wouldn't grind to a halt because someone got greedy or stupid.

"So we have a group of folks the shadow handed bastards at Clock Work are keeping an eye on, and that doesn't make you feel a little hot under the collar about letting'em skate out of here? Clock Work deals with treason and spycraft, not petty identity theft and being surly without a permit." Chu growled.

"Agreed. Which is why we're not talking right now. I've order you to release them, nothing more or less," she turned her black eyes to look at Chu. "I suspect your dogged persistence, a well-documented fact in your file, might lead you to extracurricular activities where your superiors might not wish you to go?"

Chu looked at her for a second, and nodded.

"Very good," Devox said and left the viewing room.




Chu reentered the interview room, followed by two uniformed officer's carrying small plastic boxes holding their personal effects.

"So before we get to the part of this show I know you all want in on, does anyone have a sudden attack of common decency to reveal? I like a honest telling of things," Chu said as he sat down in his chair. "It's a failing in me, I like the dramas with the ending that gets telegraphed all the way out in the opening credits. Cause right now you three are just shifty enough to ping my radar, but not enough to waste the processing cycles to prove it. So you want to speak up, now is a chance to do it with my good intent on the table. Anyone?"

Kol's face was a picture of frustration. It was clear from his perspective that whatever Chu had on them was nothing more than speculative, otherwise, the investigator wouldn't have been pushing on the trio to slip up otherwise. "We've told you everything we know unless there's something you know that you haven't told us," the ex-agent said calmly, making sure not to betray too much of the irritation he was trying to quash. "If that's the case there are more efficient ways of getting information out of us than constantly trying to get us to trip up; which you won't because we haven't done anything," he said resolutely.

During the time Chu had been absent from the room, Wulf had finally sat himself back down again. The tech watched the man re-enter their confined space and said nothing. He listened to the questions, politely asked if seemingly sarcastically phrased, and Wulf said nothing. As Kol spoke his mind, words far more serene than his expression, the tech kept his silence, his dark gaze locked on the Martian.

While he wasn't quite stupid enough to push his luck with this situation, Wulf felt a little confidence building back up now that they weren't being arrested, hauled off to single rooms (or worse cells) or even harshly interrogated together. He looked from Chu to Ken and back again, before he asked his own question, tone picking up a tiny patina of brightness with the hope rapidly building within.

"Who's the first richest?" Wulf asked, and his face offered only genuine, innocent curiosity.

"Please enjoy your tourist visa's, the Martian Congressional Republic appreciates your economic infusion," Chu said with a sigh. He turned and made a gesture to one of the cop's. "Process these space cowboys out of my station and down the beanstalk. Make'em Olympus Town PD's problem."

 

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