Dante leaned forward in the pilot’s chair and examined the readouts on his control board. One more adjustment must and…
“That should do it” he called over his shoulder, “hit it.”
Dante heard the soft snap of a toggle thrown shut, followed by a deep rumble from beneath him. A second later the starscape in front of him stretched into glowing radial lines as the small craft eased back into hyperspace.
Bear chuckled as he returned to his seat next to Dante. “Told ya!” he exclaimed with glee, “just a little hiccup in the power grid. Fix ‘er up and we’re back in business.” He grinned to no one in particular as he eased his oversized frame into the armchair. “How much longer ‘til we hit planetside?”
“Two more days.”
Bear leaned back in his chair, letting his head loll backward. “So, we drop off Jenner and Ket… and then what?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, computer doesn’t have any itinerary for after Junction, and Lanith said you had the details for the rest of the trip…”
Dante felt a grumble begin to rise in his throat and quickly suppressed it. “Did he tell you… anything?”
“Just that we’d be gone a while.”
“We’re to stay on Junction for a few days, to make sure the patients are fine,” Dante began, choosing his words with care, “and then we’ll head out toward Agamar. We have some business there and then head back. Should take in three weeks in total.”
“We’re, ah, delivering a message to a contact who’ll meet us there.” There was no reason to lie.
Bear’s brow furrowed. “Must be some message to come out here and deliver it in person, all secret-like. You know what it is?”
“No idea,” replied Dante. That was true, too; he had no idea what the core had stored on it.
“Ah well,” Bear said, letting out a ponderous sigh and melting back into his seat. “You know, I’m sorry about the other day,” he said after a moment’s pause.
“Bringing up your folks and all. I didn’t know.”
“Oh, it’s…. it’s not a big deal. It’s fine.”
Bear shifted in his chair, looking Dante straight in the eye. “Atiles, it may not be a big deal, but you ain’t been right since.”
The words hit Dante like a bucket of cold water. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, come on, Dante! You’ve been miserable, not to mention a little grouchy. You didn’t say a word you didn’t need to before we left. Now you shut yourself up in your cabin as much as you can, and I don’t even want to know how many bottle you’ve had to drink the past couple days.”
“I… how did you…?”
“It wasn’t exactly hard to tell.” Bear heaved another great sigh. “Dante, I’m worried about you. Whatever’s got at you, it ain’t good.”
With deft hands Dante unfastened himself from his chair. “No, it’s not,” he quietly affirmed, and retreated from the cockpit.
As the brother’s sat in their booth, the bar began to fill. The regular crowd shuffled in, as workers that had ended their shift for the day jockeyed for seats and attention from the servers. The fact that it was the middle of the week did not seem to concern the new arrivals, as drink followed, voices raised, and a pale blue smoke began to hover overhead. Stephen had been silent for a long time now, and Zealos began to suspect that the liquor had done him in embarrassingly early in the eve, when he broke from his abeyance.
“Virgil would disapprove.”
Reil had to mentally backtrack through their conversation, trying to make sense of his brother’s declaration.
Steve looked at Reil as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“You. Ditching home to run off and join the Rebellion. Again, apparently.”
“He wasn’t keen on it the first time, and that seemed to work out fine then. I don’t put much thought towards what Virgil disapproves of.”
“You should; if you recall Virgil made a career of sending people he disapproved of to jail; and even if he doesn’t, you’d be violating the terms of your release. I can’t see him pulling strings to get you out of prison a second time.”
Reil rolled his eyes.
“Well it’s a good thing I’m not planning on getting caught a second time, then. Not all of us can spend our whole lives worried about what ‘daddy’ would think Stephen. Besides, you’re much better at being the good son than I ever was.”
Stephen slouched back into his seat across from Zealos. He sat there and stewed for a full minute, before responding.
“You really despise me, don’t you?”
Zealos thought about it.
“I suppose I might, if I gave much thought to you. As it stands, no, not really. It's not worth dredging up, it was a long time ago and it all turned out fine.”
“I was twenty-two, halfway through my final year at Panath, and my kid brother shows up at my dorm, expecting me to take him in!” Stephen exploded, “What was I supposed to do? I was not responsible enough to raise a teenager.”
Venom dripped from every word of Reil’s response.
“Gee Stephen, I don’t know. That does sound tough, I think kicking the scamp to the curb and leaving him to fend for himself was the right thing to do after all.”
“You were a runaway! It would have been illegal for me to house you; I would have been evicted from my dorm.” Steve protested.
Zealos nodded sagely in agreement.
“I see where, you’re coming from, and agree entirely. What are the bonds of blood compared to a ten by ten box with a window?”
“You know, you were always moping about how hard Virgil was on us, and how intolerable it was living under him. I don’t recall him ever raising a hand to either of us. I don’t have any memories of him coming home reeking of alcohol and roughing up mom either. And that’s a damn bit more that I can say about him than some of the kids I went to elementary school with!”
Zealos shook his head at the lunacy of his brother’s words.
“OH! Well that changes everything. He didn’t drink and beat us! Clearly, that makes him an excellent father and a role model for future generations. Silly me, I was looking at this all wrong; here I thought demonstrations of love and encouragement were essential to parenting, when all it really boils down to is not brutalizing the child with your hands. I see now, where I went wrong in judging him. I want to thank you brother, for showing me the error of my ways.”
Stephen didn’t say anything, and Zealos felt anger well up in him that couldn’t be held back.
“And maybe you were just twenty-two, and couldn’t take me in; but I was sixteen, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go! It honestly didn’t occur to me that my older brother would be so attached to his college life that I wouldn’t have been welcome there.”
Stephen looked deep into the bottom of his glass before answering.
“I thought you’d go back home if I didn’t take you in. I told you to go back home.”
Zealos slumped back into his seat.
“Yeah well, I’m stubborn like that. Anyhow it all worked out just fine.”
-Yes, Docking Control, we copy. Heading in on your mark.
-Landing code clear. You’re all free to touch down.
-Thank you, Docking Control. See you on the durasteel.
-You want to take her down?
-Only if you don’t want to.
-I… I haven’t landed anything this big since the academy. I’m a little rusty.
-Sure thing, I’ll set’er down nice and easy. So this is Junction. . .
Hey, you ever been here before?
-Yes, actually. I used to work here.
-No way! How long ago?
-Not that long.
-You’ve been all sorts of places, it sounds like.
-You could say that.
-You’ll have to tell me about it some time.
-All right, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
-That’s not—I was just saying yes!
-Aren’t we coming in a little hot?
-Nah. This little girl is as light as a pylat in atmo. She’ll be fine.
-Think I’ll strap in all the same.
-Hey, come off, there’s nothing—Wow! News report coming in!
-Bear, not now!
-No, check this out: two years ago, two cops died here. They’re running a little special about it. . .
-Just keep your eyes on the dirt and make sure we land in one piece.
Two years ago:
"... And now for the nightly local news, galactic newsfeed brought to you by GHNN - Galactic Holo News Network" *GHNN logo* "GHNN, Your source for important & current galactic events"
*Newsline Jingle* "And now for this evening's news with your host, Nan Luevi"
*Pans in to a blonde female human desk anchor, with a quarter screen picture insert to the right*
"Good evening, tonight's story brings us to the aftermath of a fatal shootout at the docks district; as one police officer has been brutally killed, and another in remains in critical condition. The two officers, as we're told by officials, were detectives from the Department's Crime and Investigations unit. Senior Detective Janita Vironiquarra and Detective Deena-Akaio O'Hara were the lead investigators of the Happy Hour Drug Case.
*Picture insert replays a silent video clip from a previous news coverage feed*
"As you may already know, the new designer drug Ixurlin, better known as the Happy Hour Drug has been on the street for some time now. This highly addictive substance is considerably lethal as it is unique, leaving a trail of victims dead with their faces frozen in perpetual state of laughter. Its latest victim, the Mayor's only daughter, was found dead at a popular rave club late in the morning last week by janitorial staff. Authorities are still unable to determine whether the drug is being produced locally or being smuggled in from somewhere."
*Picture insert changes to a well dressed Rodian standing, waiting, with the word "LIVE" in red lettering highlighted bottom of the insert*
"Live at the scene tonight is our local GHNN reporter Kommda. Over to you Kommda, what can you tell us?"
*Picture insert enlarges to full screen, while the anchor desk lady becomes the picture insert. It was early in the evening, the cloudy sky blended from light blue to pale yellow gradient over the horizon as the sun was casting a warm intense almost topaz light onto everything. A tramp freighter could be seen climbing for altitude through a break in the clouds in the distance. The white glow of its engines glared bright, and the sunlight glinting like gold off its hull. The reporter Kommda, a green skinned male Rodian, sporting a stylish 3-piece suit, while holding a comlink sized mic in his hand. Behind the Rodian, the dock warehouses looked like a war zone. A police cruiser was charred and smoldering. One building wall was visibly damaged and scored with blaster burns. Officers and investigators were milling about performing their duties. Smashed Crates, broken palates, broken debris and dented barrels were scattered around. Orange numbered marker cones littered the area.*
"As you can see, this isn't your ordinary confrontation. It was a massacre." The Rodian gestured with his hands the area all around him. "The damage you see here has the investigation unit puzzled, if not seriously worried. These two lady detectives walked into a trap. They were seriously outgunned. And I'm talking about some heavy hardware on the scale of medium to heavy repeaters. Just look at the cruiser, its a smoldering wreck. Its nothing short of a miracle that the late Detective Vironiquarra was even able to call dispatch for backup."
"Kommda, are there any eyewitness reports? Anything?" The anchor desk lady Nan Luevi asked from within the picture insert.
Kommda replied "Well Nan, we don't really have a direct eye-witness, but more perhaps a bystander that was within the vicinity who came forth shortly after the backup arrived on scene. A resident bin diver, his name, species and identity is being protected at this time for further questioning. What we learned from his statement however isn't a whole lot to go on. He didn't actually witness anything, just heard the exchange of mixed blaster fire, and a few explosions like something out of a holovid."
"Explosions?" Nan Luevi, the anchor asked in curiosity.
"Thats right, explosions. It's kind of hard to see from this angle, but what looks used to be a neatly stacked row of crates and barrels, they're broken, dented and scattered in a mess. On the ground, in spots where the holocam can't see are some pretty dark and pitted patches of duracrete."
"If I may ask, do you know where the detectives were found and are there enough clues to piece together what happened?"
"At this point Nan, there isn't a whole lot to go on let alone what all transpired; sofar we can only hypothesize. From where Detective O'Hara was found amidst the barrels and crates, it looks like she was trying to create a diversion or draw fire. Detective Vironiquarra was either found in or near the speeder, the officers won't elaborate further. What we do know however, is that Vironiquarra was able to make that fatefull call to dispatch to call for backup. And that her call was ended abruptly. Forensics are currently gathering carbon samples from the blaster scoring, hoping to identify further clues."
"Further clues? You mean it might be possible to find out who was responsible?" Nan asked.
"Not directly, no. The forensics lab however, might be able to determine the type of weapons used, then that could become another useful clue in the case. You see, Tibbana gas is the primary catalyst required for blasters to be functional. Each weapon type has its own unique signature, in the way it mixes the energy with the Tibbana gass to form a laser bolt."
"Well, that is all the time we have, as we have to cut to commercial break. Thank you Kommdo for taking us live to the tragic crime scene."
"Thankyou Nan, this is Kommdo, signing out."
*Picture fades out, replaced by the GHNN broadcast logo*
*Station announcer's voice* "And now, a word from our sponsors..." *Pro Imperial new ISB Information Hotline partnership with GHNN clips.*
*Screen changes back to the anchor desk, with the news lady Nan Luevi*
"We're back. For those just tuning in, minutes ago we we're live at the scene with our top reporter Kommda. Where late this afternoon at the docks warehouse district, a Police drug investigation turned brutally tragic, as one officer was pronounced dead at the scene, and leaving another in critical condition. We take you now live to the 25th Police Precinct where Chief Bem Galiri makes a press statement."
*Picture insert shows a crowd of reporters before a senior Police Chief standing outside on the front steps of the old and worn Precinct before a crowd of reporters. Picture expands to full screen.*
The Police Chief still looked good for his age. His once hard chiseled face now softened slightly from wrinkles and creases. His almost pure white receding hairline, framed a deep sapphire blue set of eyes full of wisdom and intelligence. Chief Bem Galiri was well beyond the age of retirement by twenty years, almost as old as the building itself. Yet, the Chief like the building, stood stoically defiant on its foundation against the impending storm to come.
There was a good deal of chatter within the crowd of reporters until the Chief cleared his throat. All fell silent as Chief Galiri begun his speech. "Today... Is a sad day." Galiri started out strong and slowly with dramatic pause. "As tragedy has befallen upon two of our finest officers; our Precinct, and our city is significantly weakened by the loss. With a heavy heart, I must announce that Senior Detective Janita Vironiquarra has been pronounced dead at the scene, officially at 5:36pm. She had served bravely and heroically in the line of duty; while trying to saving the life of her partner. Our Precinct offers our deepest condolences to the Vironiquarra family. I must also announce, our other officer, Detective Deena-Akaio O'Hara has been critically injured in the line of duty. She remains in critical condition, on life support, within Intensive Care, suffering from extensive trauma and injuries. O'Hara was just barely and valiantly clinging to life when our unit found her as they arrived on scene. Our Precinct's hope and prayers will be with the O'Hara family tonight."
The chief looked downcast, and only paused for a moment or two before continuing, and before the media could start their flood of questions. "Let me tell you something about these two fine officers. Janita was about twenty years my junior, when she first arrived at the Precinct here as a rookie. Fresh out of the academy, bright and young, headstrong, and wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Janita had a special quality about her, she had a sense or a knack for guessing at clues and things and often turned out right. She rarely ever missed her mark, once it was in her sights. A talent like that can't be trained. You either have it or you don't. Janita had earned her title much earlier than average in her career, becoming lead detective. Never did she ever subscribe to that celebrity status from the media attention by solving case after case. She was always back to business as usual. Janita was hard working and truly dedicated, always by the book, a purity that could never be bribed or tainted. Janita was like a daughter to me, and next in line for Chief of this Precinct when I finally choose to retire later this year. And today, I'm shocked to the core."
Detective Deena-Akaio O'Hara was the perfect partner for Janita. Deena served on the force as a street cop for a couple years until she was able to get transferred into Criminal Investigations at our Precinct. Janita's former partner was retiring, and someone had to show the new 'rookie' in the unit the ropes. Deena had a natural curiosity, a sharp eye for detail, and drive that couldn't be tamed. Something fierce and bright burned within her. Stubborn and headstrong, sharing some similarities with Janita, Deena never gave up. Deena slightly differed from Janita in some ways - sometimes pushed the envelope, didn't always follow the book precisely or found ways around it. Often when a big case went down in a bad way, the shoot outs, the explosions, when the whole force would be going in for the crackdown... Deena would already be there long before, and either be in the thick of it, or out of sight risking her neck. When the whole shebang would be over, Deena would be the typical one to come out of the shadows or burning building. Looking disheveled and worse for wear like she had just been dragged through a row of city demolition and construction factory droids... And I'd be yelling at the top of my lungs at her, in surprise and concern she could've been killed for the stupid crazy stunt of foolishness she pulled... And you know what? All she'd do is walk towards me slowly, cocking an eyebrow giving me a smug 'know it all & poodoo eating' grin of hers; reach into her usually then torn and shredded inner trenchcoat pocket, hand me some datacard and simply say "I got it..." Deena was always tougher than durasteel nails that way, and never failed at retrieving the key evidence we needed for the case. No matter the danger presented to her. Deena, for all the passionate arguments we had, and it was for your own good. But I had never told you, to me, you were always like the grand daughter I never had. Your still young, in your prime of life, and I know your made of sterner stuff... so fight for it! Pull through for us so we can welcome you back."
The chief's eyes had begun to glisten during that sentimental personal note of encouragement to Deena, he did his best to refrain from shedding a tear. The chief held out an open hand, palm flat towards the audience and took a moment to try and recompose himself, before he began again. His voice was somewhat choked however as he spoke. "Why did this happen? How could this have happened? Well, I'll tell you why. It was a statement. A big, and bold statement. From whoever is behind this, wants to make it known Janita and Deena were too good at cracking cases; and too close at what they were about to discover. This menace of a substance called Happy Hour is a plague roaming our streets, worse than any street gang. A reign of terror that must be brought to and end. I will nolonger retire as planned, but stay on until I personally see it through to getting this case solved."
The press started asking questions, but the chief was visibly weakened, as his true age showed. He turned around, placing a hand on the hand rail, and headed back into the sanctuary of the Precinct. One of the Precincts sergeants and relations officers stepped into handle and answer the media's questions.
The screen collapsed back into a picture insert, bringing the desk anchor to full view. "We at GHNN would also like to express our condolences and prayers to the Vironiquarra and O'Hara families. We'll have more on this story later in tonight's broadcast. And now for the local weather..."
It turns out you can't 'close' a Discussion, so I will say:
THIS DISCUSSION IS NOW CLOSED!!!
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