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Deuces Ex Machina

Posted on Thu Dec 24th, 2020 @ 12:50am by Lieutenant Commander Talina Sarafian & Civilian Josh Cagney & Petty Officer First Class Sparrow Kells & Chief Petty Officer Spencer Malone

Mission: Mission 1 - "Pound of Flesh"
Location: Internal Affairs conference room | Admin Hub - Station 314
Timeline: MD 4

"As you can all see, we're down by one since the last time we were in here," Talina began. "Lieutenant Klein will be missed, but we must grieve for him later. Right now we still have a case to crack."

She did her best not to stare at Cagney whose eyes were so puffy that it was a wonder he could hold them open.

"There's a mountain of evidence we've compiled so far from computer searches to interviews to old fashioned footwork. There is a prime suspect just a few doors down and I want him. I want him bad." Talina's nostrils flared. "Let's go through what we've compiled and find something to nail him to the wall."

Spencer Malone leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his broad chest. He took a deep, slow breath and let it out just as slowly, briefly glancing over at Sparrow. "Everyone we talked to had a lot of excuses as to why none of this was their fault..."

A shit tone of inanimate objects had hit a wall out back when Sparrow had processed the news of Klein's death in service. Her knuckles were still a little raw from unleashing more emotion on an innocent (and literal) punchbag in her apartment. And still, it burned that he was gone, but she wasn't crying about it. No, she was focused on bringing those responsible in to pay. The fire was visible in her gaze as she looked from Talina to Spence and back again.

"Orphus is hard linked to the Red Ratels via that cargo bay," she said, simply. "And he said he'd met someone at Galashkah. Both he and Naismith are clearly well aware that La Cosa Altra is working out of the Pila Pila."

Talina nodded. "Naismith copped to accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to La Cosa Altra's activities. Orphus likely did the same. The Rad Ratels were stopped at the system's edge and are currently being detained for a long list of crimes. We're in queue for questioning, but we'll have to wait our turn." Her eyes darted to the side where Stamen sat in a room on the opposite side of the wall. "And then there's the dirty adjunct from the admiral's office. He seems to think he's untouchable, as is whoever he's working for. How does it all fit together? What else are we missing?"

"Why exactly they're grinding up certain people into bio-containers and firing them off into space?" Sparrow asked as she considered the matter out loud. "And why these particular seven? Is there a connection between them, or are they merely people who wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time?"

Looking at the data, Talina could only shrug. "With the information assembled thus far, it appears these were crimes of opportunity. We're still waiting on comparative analyses from the lab however."

Raising a timid hand, Cagney squawked out, "Chief?" The tone of his voice was braced for a serious ass-reaming.

"Yes?" Talina said. Her read of the man picked up an immediate scent of fear. Whatever he was about to say was something he expected her to resent.

"I forgot to tell you something earlier..."

Talina's eyebrows shot up. "Okay? Spill it."

"When the Rad Ratels were detained, they led Security to a Gelatin freighter filled with liquefied remains of assorted lifeforms in jacuzzi tubs? We were tracking the reporter Cetus Lapetus to various locales. He passed through a maintenance corridor that services the Stellar Catholic Mission, the Galashkah gentlemen's club for Moclans, and the station's reclamation plant."

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!" Talina howled. "You've triangulated a common source of multiple abduction sites and you neglected to report it... because... WHY?!"

Cagney lowered his head. "It's personal." He glanced at Teagan. "I was... getting counseling."

"Counseling," Talina said with a click of her tongue. "In the middle of an investigation." She looked at Teagan. "Is this true, Lieutenant?"

Talina waved her hands in the air. "Whatever. Don't tell me, I don't want to know. What I want is us mobilized to move in on the reclamation plant in ten minutes. The Pila-Pala casino resort, the Artanis Hotel, the Catholic Stellar Mission, all the abduction sites converge on the reclamation plant via the station ductwork. If we move now, we might find something... or someone."

Head in her hands, Sparrow said nothing. The Commander had already said it all, there was only the next step to move onto and the hope that, just maybe, some element of professionalism might sneak up on their team sooner or later. Could happen, right? She shifted her left hand over so that those fingers formed an emotional shield across her face, while her right presented Talina with a thumbs up. The rest of the fuckery words remained internal.

Station Reclamation Plant

The expected firefight never happened. When station security swept the reclamation plant they quickly found the processing site for converting missing persons into gory bath lotion, but the Gelatins who were at work there did not put up a resistance. It was impossible to tell, but perhaps one of them was the Jelly from the Pila-Pala bathroom.

"Line them up," Talina ordered security as she indicated the wall.

Cornered and with nowhere to go, the Gelatins allowed themselves to be arrayed against the wall like little blobular nested dolls.

"Look around for evidence," Talina told her team. "Anything that connects these bastards to Stamen."

Sparrow sighed, but nodded in acquiescent obedience. Enthusiasm might be lacking somewhat, but the motivation was there, the deaths of not only their missing persons but also Lt Klein. So, with a deep breath, she moseyed on over to the pipework and looked for the filters. Maybe something had got stuck there, left and forgotten.

A tiny blue blob no bigger than a cherry pit wriggled at one of the pipe fittings near Sparrow's knee.

Gloved hands reached for it, carefully, scooped it safely from its hiding place to be regarded more closely.

"Hey, quit it!" called out one of the blue Jellies from the lineup against the wall. Nobody was near him, yet he was shouting out as though someone was touching him.

Sparrow strode back to stand beside Talina and, ensuring her back was to the line-up, opened her hand to show the Lt Cmdr exactly what she had in it.

"You!" Talina said, pointing out the Gelatin who had protested before. "You're our man. Androgynous amorphous lifeform. Cuff him. Or... however we apprehend his species."

Back in the Admin Hub, Talina burst through the questioning room where Adjunct Stamens was still detained. Her face gloated with a righteous victory.

"Well, don't you look happy as a bitch in heat," he said winsomely. "I suppose you think you found something."

Talina gave him a mirthless smile. "I have a witness," she purred. "And not just any witness. A collaborator. We flipped someone against you in exchange for a deal. So, we don't need you to confess. In fact, I hope you don't. That gives us more latitude to dig into every corner of your personal life and turn up all the ugly shit you're hiding. You're going down, Stamens. You and everyone who's connected to you."

At first Stamens looked surprised. He subtly nodded his head with lips pursed. "Impressive. I honestly didn't think you'd piece it together so fast." He shrugged his shoulders. "Still doesn't matter," he said with a dismissive shake of his head.

"We'll see about that," Talina said, scoffing at the man as she walked away.

"Yes, you will!" Stamens called out to her back with a heinous cackle. "YOU SOOOO WILL!!!"


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