Thursday, June 12, 2014

In Custody

by Edward M. Erdelac

Considine sat wedged on the damp bench, head bowed beneath the leaky bulkhead of the sub-ferry between Jelly and Haj, their body armor jabbing his sore joints and leg painfully.

“You look like you’ve been shook in a box of nails, Inspector,” Jelly observed.

“I don’t feel much better than that, Jelly.”

“Don’t talk to the prisoner, Jelly,” Haj said.

“Come on, Haj,” Jelly whined. “A couple days ago we were working for him. The Inspector’s no crook.”

“What exactly did they tell you, Haj?”

“You killed a guy up on Avenir. Some guy at Morgenstar Munitions. Fed him to an autochef, then stole a company fighter and crashed it out in the desert.”

“That guy fell in the autochef himself, the clumsy sod,” said Considine. “And he killed Brendermeyer.”

Haj and Jelly both looked at him at that.

“Brendermeyer’s dead?” Haj repeated.

“Blown up, with the same Morgenstar Munitions detonite we confiscated from Croix. Croix got it from Orin Bantry, the fellow who got turned into meat paste. He was supposed to blow up the angels.”

“Blow up the angels?” Jelly perked up.

“The ones on the edge of the Boatic Trench. They’re keeping something at bay. Something big and mean down there. This creature, it thinks the world is going to end, or at least it’s telling people it is, mentally or somesuch. It wants to get on the Avenir and high tail it.”

“Go on,” said Haj shaking his head. “So this Bantry fella was what? Mind controlled?”

“No, he was a fanatic. Like his boss. Morgenstar.”

“Aloysius Morgenstar?” Haj said, and now he laughed. “That’s a big one, Inspector.”

“Morgenstar serves Rahab?” Jelly ventured.

Considine looked sharply at Jelly and narrowed his eyes. He nodded once.

Jelly drew his pneumatic pistol and pointed it at Haj.

“What’re you on, Galveston?” Haj exclaimed, flinching back. “Put that thing away!”

“Take yours out and give it to the Inspector,” Jelly ordered.

“You scrambled?” Haj chuckled nervously.

“I mean it, Haj. Two fingers.”

Haj grimaced and pinched the end of his pistol, slid it from its holster and dangled it before Considine, who took it and primed it.

“Thanks, Haj.”

“Don’t mention it,” Haj murmured.

“When we dock, you stay on board, ride the ferry back,” Jelly told Haj, reaching forward and plucking his communicator off his vest.

“Your stupid beliefs are gonna get you thrown in the brig with him, Jelly,” Haj warned.

“Better company than you at least,” Considine quipped. “Jelly, what do you know about this Rahab thing?”

“The angels tell us it’s evil, and it trades powerful visions for a man’s life force. They’ve watched over it for a long time. It takes all of them to keep it down there. And it’s not alone. There are others like it. Demons.”

“This is such detritus,” Haj whispered.

“Then don’t listen!” Considine snapped. “But shut up.”

“So yeah,” Jelly said, “the angels guard Rahab and the demons.”

“What about the cataclysm? Is it real?”

“The priests tell us nothing lasts forever, but that if it does come, Rahab has to be at the center of it, or his evil will spread to other worlds, and follow mankind wherever he goes.”

“They were going to make me do it,” Considine said. “They use these organisms, implant them in your bodies, they did it to Croix. They’ve got another sub, all wired to blow and waiting in Zirconia. I’ve seen it,” he said, tapping his own temple and recalling the image the pilot organism had placed in his mind. “I remember…it’s in the southwest dock. A one man affair. Blue, with a red stripe. The number….the number AA-32. Call ahead and have it impounded.”

Jelly nodded and flipped open his communicator.

“You’re as crazy as Croix was,” said Haj, shaking his head. “What the hell happened to you up there, Inspector?”

“I guess I was illuminated, Haj.”

Jelly had been talking the whole time. Now he closed his channel and looked over at Considine.

“I called the southwest dock controller. He said that sub left Zirconia ten minutes ago.”

“Damn it! Did he get a look at the pilot?”

“He said it was Aloysius Morgenstar.”

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