by Edward M. Erdelac -
Considine opened the door to the interrogation room and stepped in.
“Alright Ms. Pacoy, I understand you’ve got a match.”
She was sitting at the table where he’d left her, a pixviewer in hands. She turned it to him, screen glowing in the dim room.
“That’s him. That’s the one that loaded the cargo on Avenir.”
Considine took the pixviewer and regarded the face and file in front of him.
“Alright, you can go, Ms. Pacoy. Let’s keep a closer eye on our cargo bay, shall we?”
Jelly stepped aside to let her leave the room.
“Orin Bantry,” Considine read, skimming the details of the man’s personnel file. He was rusty-bearded, balding on top, green eyes.
“Should I call it in, Inspector?” Jelly asked.
“No Jelly,” Considine said. “I think I’ll handle this one personally. You can go back to the garage.”
“Alright,” Jelly said.
Orin Bantry, thirty-four years old. He’d been with Morgenstar Munitions for seventeen years, was a Cover by birth, his father a miner on Sheba, mother a teacher on the space station, one of the glorified tutors who passed a rudimentary education on to the kids of the Sheba miners. They had to know how to read their oxygen regulators, didn’t they? How to seal a pressure suit and operate a drill.
Humble background, yes. He’d made the jump to Avenir as part of Morgenstar’s outreach program, basically a quota filling, much publicized hiring process the company ran every year to keep the Sheban miners from thinking they were a slave class. One lucky soul in a million got a cush job, got to live on Avenir.
Bantry’s job hadn’t been exactly cush, as the program put most Shebans and Covers into the freight depot, packing detonite and hauling crates. He’d apparently been one of the few to display genuine career aptitude. He wasn’t just a leg-upper. Worked his way up from freight to R&D, concocting the zero-G explosive devices his family used to safely blow holes in Sheba without scattering the miners into infinity.
But after eight years of being a hands on worker, he’d been promoted only a few months ago to administrative assistant to Aloysius Morgenstar himself, latest in a long line of corporate heads who could trace their lineage back to the founding of the company.
And now he was smuggling detonite to a whacko ex-grit breather on Zirconia.
But why? And why the confluence of two one-in-a-million individuals? A topsy bug hunter who made the jump to kelp farming and a brilliant chemist who’d been dug out of Sheba….two caste jumpers.
Something in his jaw pained him. That little man, that homunculus he used to joke about. The one that kicked him in the tooth when something wasn’t right.
He made his way back to his office and keyed in Gorsh again.
“Stanlon!” Gorsh in his clean suit, in his nice Peace Council office. “We’ll have the extradition crew ready in about ten minutes, so have Croix ready in about thirty?”
“I’m afraid there’s going to be a delay,” Considine said. “ZMB has quarantined the suspect for the time being. Seems he’s riddled with all sorts of viruses.”
“What! I’ve already put the extradition in motion.”
“I know, but you know how ZMB is. They’re adamant about scanning him.”
“Scanning him?” Gorsh repeated, a little nervously it seemed. “Under no circumstances!”
“That is, I won’t have the delay. The wheels are already in motion.”
“Well I’m sorry, but we’ve no jurisdiction over the Medical Bureau, as you know. The doctor told me there’s a danger of contamination, and you know how touchy the sea monkeys are down here about germs. Nothing short of a squad of Enforcers is going to get him released early.”
“Damn!” said Gorsh. Something certainly wasn’t going his way.
“May I make a suggestion? How would it be if I maintained a close watch on the whole thing personally, and brought Croix up myself as soon as he’s released?” said Considine.
Gorsh was chewing his lips. What was the matter with him? Why did he want Croix so badly?
“Very well, Stanlon,” said Gorsh, straightening his tunic. “But I want you to keep a very close eye. And I want the results of the scan transmitted to my office as soon as….no, wait. I want you to bring me the results. And impress upon the ZMB the need for candor. We’re building a case, here after all, and anything, any narcotics in his system, for instance, any abnormalities at all, could be admissible as evidence.”
“You want the results kept secret?”
“Alright….sir. I’ll advice discretion.”
“Do more than advise it.”
“Gorsh, do you expect some abnormality to show up in the scan?”
“I don’t know of course. Don’t be ridiculous. Look, we’ve had some botched sentences up here lately. Lot of angry relatives, influential people petitioning the Peace Council. I just want this to go very smoothly.”
“I see. Alright.”
“Alright. Stay on top of it, and call me as soon as he’s released, or if there are any complications.”
“I’ll do that.”
Gorsh winked out again.
Well something was surely going on here. He’d felt it prudent not to mention the doctor’s diagnosis that Croix was dying from his ailments.
Croix. What was it about the man that agitated Gorsh? Well, Considine’s purpose in delivering the man personally was two-fold. He could continue this investigation better on Avenir.
Now all Croix had to do was survive long enough to make the trip.