Moving On Up

Posted on Thu Nov 28th, 2019 @ 4:18am by Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Snitcher & Lieutenant Commander Talina Sarafian
Edited on on Sat Nov 30th, 2019 @ 9:31pm

Mission: Mission 1 - "Pound of Flesh"
Location: Union Central | Earth
Timeline: MD 1

It had been awhile since Talina last walked the chrome-colored pastel walls of Union Central. Despite the open spaces of the admiralty levels with their expansive windows and natural lighting, the lower floors that could be reasonably accessed through the stairwell still bore the dim-lighting and smoke-stained walls of bygone eras of law enforcement. Eras when peace on earth and good will toward humanity were platitudes and not reality. One would nearly believe in ghosts for the dank aura of the place.

Fortunately for Talina, she lived in an empirical world of facts and logic-based intuition. Even if ghosts were real, the spectral energy of ancient UN inspectors would have long dissipated by now. There was only one soul that haunted the corridors of this level, and he was called Snitcher.

Rear Admiral Snitcher, a rank that divided between the old brigadier and major general positions of past militaries, was a Moclan with a face only a mother could love. Yet, like all Moclans (well, the recognized Moclan population), Snitcher was a literal motherless bastard. Perhaps it came with the job description. Admiral Snitcher was the Section Chief of the Union Criminal Investigation Division within the greater Internal Affairs Division. The flag officers bandied about policies and ideals in the top floors, but it was down here in the guts where shit was handled. When Snitcher handed you shit, you took it without protest. Whether by a hardboiled career in law enforcement or through an unfortunate congenital birth defect, his face looked like the side of a volcano after the lava flow cooled to chunky, porous rock. Coupled with the natural taciturn candor of Moclan culture, it made for a very imposing specimen indeed.

And, for reasons unknown to Talina, he had personally requested to meet with her in person at Union Central. It did not bode well, but Talina resolved herself to be brave and bold. She was a competent officer in her own rite and well-regarded by her colleagues. Whatever Admiral Snitcher had to throw her way, she could take it. What choice did she have?

For some reason, the door to Snitcher's office was unmarked, other than the room number used by maintenance and janitorial staff. There was no knocker, no chime, or anything else to announce her arrival, so Talina simply entered. The door opened without fanfare into an empty room with a stained carpet and a single overhead light that tried and failed to illuminate a scant few chairs. Another door stood at the far end of the room, and honest to goodness, it had a brass doorknob.

Talina's brow arched at the sight. How quaint and archaic. Why in all the world would they keep that throwback? It could hardly be secure.

Click. "You may enter," said a voice through an overhead intercom.

Stepping forward, Talina shrugged off her uncomplimentary criticisms and walked over to the door. Its knob turned slightly, yet the door wouldn't open. She set both hands to forcing it, but the damned thing wouldn't budge. Never one to be waylaid, Talina dug her heels into the floor, dropped her weight, and tugged the brass knob with all her might.

The good news was the door opened without further resistance. The bad news was that it was a storage closet that featured neither office space nor admiral.

"Talina Sarafian?"

Talina whirled around at the mention of her name and saw the most ass-ugly Moclan in the world staring her down from the door through which she had entered. The only door in the room, as it turned out.

"Yes, sir," she replied with as much composure as she could retain. "Lieutenant Talina Sarafian reporting as ordered. Admiral Snitcher, I presume?"

The Moclan ignored the question, instead asking one of his own in a deep baritone register. "What were you doing in the closet, Lieutenant Sarafian?"

"I thought it was your office," Talina said.

Snitcher's stony face was unreadable, but his tone revealed how impressed he was by the answer. "Why would you think my office was in the closet?"

This was already off to a poor start, but Talina recovered. "Because it was the only door in the room."

"Was it?" Snitcher countered. His rigid gaze took in the doorway in which he stood before falling heavily back to her.

"It was," Talina insisted. "I see now that your office has a security feature that requires the antechamber to rotate in order to access your office. Unauthorized individuals would never think it to be more than a long vacant office space."

Snitcher kept staring that unblinking, withering stare. "Correct. If you had figured that out seconds sooner, you might have averted my closet." He paused a moment before adding, "Please close my closet door and come with me."

Either the man was an insufferable prig or he was a manipulative mastermind. Perhaps, Talina decided, he was both. She kicked the closet door shut with her heel before falling in step behind him. That was a test, unlikely the last, and she had to be quick on her feet to see others coming.

The UCID Chief's office was windowless and spartan, with few decorations to mark the space as a personal one. In place of windows were monitor screens. Dozens of them. Rather than images or pictures, they were various streams of text, glyphs, code, and other forms of written communication.

Without pomp or ceremony, Snitcher seated himself behind his desk and pressed a button to temporarily deactivate his data feed. Nearly ominously, the hum of the monitors cut short, leaving them both in silence.

"Sit or stand, it makes no difference to me," Snitcher said. He withdrew a polyceramic pipe from his drawer and lit one end with a sparkplug-looking device. He took a deep drag and let out a puff. "Do you know why you are here?"

Another test. Talina noted the environment, the smoke, the casual indifference. It all added up to make a statement. She phrased her answer accordingly. "Because I was summoned."

"Precisely." Snitcher nearly smiled, but it amounted to little more than a lip quiver. He set his pipe aside and reactivated his dozens of monitors. This time, they glowed white with reams of clear text rife with the seal of the Union Fleet. The central monitor fixed to the admiral's desk featured Talina's face. So this was her personal file, and likely every personal log that ever referenced her in the seven years of her career. "It is no secret that you are a distinguished officer. Unit 794's case load has yielded a higher success rate of 72% from 65% since your promotion to Deputy Unit Chief."

Talina nodded. "Yes, sir."

Taking a breath, Snitcher regarded her in the unknowable Moclan way before continuing. "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?"

Standard question. Talina answered it without missing a beat. "I intend to be leading my own unit in the UCID."

"Your profile suggested as much," Snitcher said. "I just wanted to be sure." He opened a drawer and set a data tablet before her.

Obeying the nod of Snitcher's head, Talina took up the tablet and glanced over its contents. It was a data feed from Station 314, a major hub in Union space which safeguarded an intersection of major space routes. Included were various streams of maintenance logs, security reports, even news blurbs. "I don't understand," she said at length, though she was still reading.

"Check the login credentials," Snitcher said.

Talina did so and came by a great surprise. "LTCDMR Talina Sarafian," she read aloud.

"It's keyed to your biometrics," Snitcher said. "Your thumbprint activated the collated reports from your new station."

It dawned on her then. The obnoxious antics. The pointless questions. The veiled promotion. Was it all an initiation rite for a new unit chief? "Thank you, sir. I won't let you down."

"Close your cases, control your people, and file your reports on time. That will be thanks enough," Snitcher said. "It is my hope that we never meet again."

Insufferable prig it would be. Talina nodded. "Understood, sir."

Snitcher stared at her for a few long seconds before finally saying, "Why are you still here? You may go."

Talina jumped to her feet. "Yes, sir. Good day, Admiral."

On her way out the door and back the way she'd come, Talina perused the reports on her new tablet. It seemed Station 314 had a great many more commercial interests than Station 794, which made sense. 794 was closer to the Krill border and mostly supported incoming and outgoing explorers and supply ships. By comparison, 314 appeared to have more contact with the public.

No wonder its command position was available. If there was anything UCID agents hated, it was dealing with the public. Talina made a note to look into the previous unit chief and their reasons for leaving. As her thoughts rushed toward meeting her new unit and what challenges she might face in assuming a leadership role, one of the security reports had caught her attention.

Seven missing person reports had been filed in the past 2 weeks, with the latest one ticking up before her very eyes. It was hard for anybody to go missing in the 25th century, much less 7 in two weeks' time. Talina felt her mouth tick up in the makings of a smile. She may have just found her first case as unit chief.