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"Upon My Death" (Act II) by Jeremy Akins

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:33 pm   Post subject: "Upon My Death" (Act II) by Jeremy Akins   

The Enigmatic Proclivity (Outer Jengar System)
Captain’s Office
Date: 13.085 (0821 hours)

Valis Duquan eased into the soft leather of his chair being careful not to upset the hot cup of caff in his right hand. It was his first cup of the day, but Valis wasn't the sort that needed the mild stimulant to be fully awake in the morning. Instead, he enjoyed the soothing sensation of holding the steaming cup and enjoying it's rich fragrance. Valis Duquan was an optimist and chose to meet each day with bright expectation.

A quick tap on his computer terminal keypad brought up a half-second loading screen followed by his customized desktop interface. Another tap and a list of received communications and reports were stacked in the order they were received and flagged by sender and topic. Duquan quickly scanned the list, sipping the hot caff, and determining which messages truly required his attention and which were “junk.” One message in the stack stood out so loudly that it would have been impossible to miss. The topic: “Icis Novitaar – KIA”.

Valis Duquan froze, the surreal nature of that heading causing a chill to run down his spine. As the director of intelligence for Icis' shadow organization, Valis was used to reading reports that defied all belief, but this felt like it must surely be a dream. As the full report came up, Valis could do nothing but stare silently at the screen. Included was a segment drawn from a local news organization from Junk City on Epsilon Eridani in the Eridani System.

A major conflict between rival gangs spilled out into the streets yesterday evening and resulted in the deaths of over twenty gang members whose identities have yet to be released by police representatives. The conflict apparently began around 6:00 PM at the abandoned Kr'v-M'gs Industrial Tower was between members of the Blue Rancors or the Wild Kractas. It's uncertain what sparked off the massive firefight that sprawled across kilometers of the city's streets, but the wreckage is undeniable.

Valis tuned out the reporter as he began to flip through images taken of the scene. Bodies were everywhere, most of them dead punkers from the swoop gangs, but one of them...

The police report identified the body as a human male, roughly 30 years old, approximately two meters tall with a lean muscular build. His body was scorched so severely that his skin had been reduced to a dark ooze. It was impossible to identify the body by sight, but the DNA report showed no uncertainty. The police had attempted a DNA identification, but their files did not contain any match. However, the classified files aboard the Proclivity were a little more complete. The certainty that the DNA belonged to one Icis Novitaar... 99.98%

While still sitting transfixed by the dawning reality that Mr. Novitaar had met a fiery demise, Director Duquan's silent meditation was broken by the harsh sound of his door chime. Another strange event. No one ever disturbed him this early. What could possibly...

The chime rang again. It's tone gave the impression of frustrated impatience, even though Valis knew it was just his imagination. Duquan set his hardly touched cup of caff on the desktop and made his way to the door. Given the morning he was having he hoped that there was a good reason to interrupt him. The chime rang out a third time just as Valis reached the door. “Enough!”

“Yes, can I help you!” Valis barked as the door swooshed open, only to stop with surprise at the tallish man standing there. His blonde hair was drawn back in a pony tail while his roguish features held and unusually stern expression. This was a man in no mood for Duquan's annoyed tone.

There was an awkward moment of silence as the two men locked eyes, then Captain Perth Graham spoke in a low but steady tone. “You've heard about Icis?”

“Yes,” Director Duquan replied simply, stepping away from the door. “Won't you come in.”

Not another word spoken, Captain Graham strode through the door, past Valis Duquan, and stood in the center of the Director's living room. The door swooshed shut and the two men were alone.

Valis cleared his throat conspicuously, then began, “I'm surprised to see you so soon.”

“We don't have a lot of time to act. I need your department to begin an investigation immediately.” Perth's body was tight with pent up tension. “I want to make sure that the motherfracker who did this gets his own chance to burn.”

A quizzical expression played across Director Duquan's face. “I would think that the culprit is obvious.” For a moment he examined Graham, noting the stress lines at the corners of his eyes. “Just a lucky street punk on an op gone bad.”

The laughter that arose from deep in Captain Graham's chest held no humor. “Come on, Vidi. You know better than that. This whole op was a screw up from the beginning. An obvious trap that Novitaar chose to spring on himself. What I wanna know is who set the trap.”

“It was a trap?” Valis Duquan allowed the question for the sake of conversion, but the truth is he didn't doubt it a moment.

“Look,” Perth began pacing, looking down at the floor and shaking his head. “We got a transmission for a secret meeting. This guy, Boneida, said there was a leak in the organization and gave us coordinates for a rendezvous. Trouble is, the transmission had obviously been hacked and we knew that there would be a welcoming committee if Icis showed up.”

Duquan interrupted, “And he went anyway.” It was a statement, not a question.

“You know him as well as...” A pained look from Captain Graham. An almost expressed tear accompanying a suppressed emotion. “knew him... What I mean is that it was always Icis's style to throw a hydrospanner in someone else's hyperdrive. I guess it was only a matter of time...”

Intelligence Director Valis Duquan felt the somber tone fill the room, and offered, “Would you like to have a seat?”

“No.” Captain Perth Graham shook it off. “Thanks.”

“If you could get me a copy of your most recent correspondence and give my operatives some time to comb through the details...” Valis stopped. “What I mean to say is that I'm very interested in determining the source of the purported leak and his or her relation to Mr. Novitaar's death. At the same time Perth...”

The two men locked eyes.

Duquan continued, “... You have to consider the future of our organization. It's all rather sudden, I know, but as soon as the word begins to spread that our founder and previous leader is no more... frankly, all blood and blazes will break loose. Everyone in power will try to take a piece of this organization for him, her or itself.”

The expression on the captain's face told Duquan that the other man didn't like discussing this sort of thing. Likely it only served to drive home the reality of Icis's death. Novitaar had been a man with few if any true friends, but Captain Graham had been closer to him than nearly anyone else. Perth asked the obvious question, “What solution would you suggest?”

“We need cohesive leadership,” Duquan spoke with a calm but determined tone. “I'm not sure who the best choice is... it might be you... or me... or any of the other section leaders. The point is that we need to call a conference in the very near future to select one person to take over as the head of the organization.”

There was an uncomfortable silence.

Duquan continued. “I know how you must feel right now, but time is of the essence. Do you want to see everything Icis worked for destroyed in a matter of months?”

Captain Graham shook his head in resignation. “No.”

“Very well,” Duquan nodded. “I will begin work on tracking down Icis's betrayer immediately. As soon as I can contact the section leaders, we will set up a time and place to meet. Meanwhile, I suggest that you keep this information close to your chest. Don't let anyone know what's going on until we have more of the pieces in place.”

There was something in the body language that the captain displayed which troubled Duquan. As the head of intelligence, Valis was quite adept at reading people and felt as if there was something he was missing about the other man's demeanor. It was as if Captain Graham were hiding something, intentionally misrepresenting his feelings and intentions. However, it was impossible to tell with any certainty and Director Duquan gave the man the benefit of the doubt and chalked it up to stress.

“Is there anything else?” Duquan asked, ready to end the conversation and get down to business.

“Yes... this.” Captain Graham produced a datacard from a pouch on his belt and handed it to Valis. “We found this card on the corpse of our operative, Krespo Boneida. There is some data that may be of interest, as well as a name... Zelm Grosh.”

“That name doesn't ring a bell, but I'll check our database,” Duquan said, slipping the datacard into a pocket. He extended his right hand and gave a faint smile. “Whatever happens, we're in this together.”

The captain took his hand in a firm handshake and replied, “You can count on it.”
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