Friday, July 12, 2013

Metal In The Moonlight - Episode 22.



Episode 22

Chief Gnaeus sat in his creaky old chair leaning back with his hands cradling his face. His head ached and his eyes were ever so tired of looking at reports. He felt like he hadn’t slept in days and couldn’t see himself finding the time anytime soon. His mug was depressingly empty as he reached for once more and tipped it over to check the contents. Not even a single drop remained to provide even an ounce of relief for his diminished spirits.

A sudden commotion outside managed to redirect his thoughts quick enough to instead wonder just what was going on out there. But it didn’t take long before his door flew open and the answer was standing before him. Or in this case, she was striding purposefully directly towards him.

“I’m sorry sir, we told her you were busy but…” a meek officer apologized before the Chief cut her off with a single gesture of his hand. “Just shit the door, it’s alright,” Gnaeus offered firmly. This was not going to help his headache in the least, the Chief lamented to himself as his door closed immediately.

A pair of slender hands slammed home atop his desk to send a fresh avalanche of reports and case files flying. “You’re going to talk to me Gnaeus,” Dr. Foxfire declared in a tone that blurred the line from demand to threat. Somewhere hidden in the unspoken challenge Gnaeus almost thought he had heard the subtle presence of a growl. Had she just growled at him? Perhaps he had really allowed himself to become far too exhausted for his job of late.

“Alright, what is it Doctor,” the Chief finally groaned as he rubbed at his eyes. “This had better be important, and quick; I am far too tired for this nonsense.” But instead of defusing any of the explosive temper that had just charged into his office he found the fiery form before him even more eager to ignite. Dr. Foxfire was clearly consumed with some gripping concern that stirred him awake like a bucket of ice water.

“I have just discovered that the source of our current predicament was smuggled onto Gallu,” Dr. Foxfire explained angrily. “And the responsible party is none other than the Magistrate Council themselves.” The proclaimed news stabbed at the Chief’s belly to sicken him with all its implications. There was no way the Council could have been involved – it just didn’t make sense. The Magistrate Council was the direct intermediary between the New Republic government and Gallu itself. They were responsible for overseeing the world’s safety and governing its overall well being. There was no way they could have taken any action to jeopardize it.

“What utter madness,” Gnaeus spat back. “This is foolishness; there is simply no reason why the Council would ever be involved in anything of the sort. It would be like slitting them slitting their own throat. Why would they destroy the very thing they are answerable for preserving?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” Dr. Foxfire hissed icily. “I’ve been considering the matter quite carefully, and you know what I concluded? Nothing arrives on this world without a full security scan of everyone and everything onboard. And while I am the medical authority on world I am always informed to check for biological matters. However there is one above me who has to be involved for any check no matter how trivial.”

“Just what are you implying,” the Chief demanded instantly, his own agitation reaching a bursting point. He had heard enough of this whole business. “Tread carefully, dear Doctor, because you are dangerously close to finding yourself familiar with a cell for a while.

“It is as simple a matter as it obvious, Chief,” Dr. Foxfire confirmed. “Nothing gets onto Gallu without getting through the routine checks and procedures. But if something did manage to bypass any of such checks then it would have to be waived through by the primary authority overseeing matters; and that’s you. So just tell me, Chief, have there been any such ‘special deliveries’ lately? For compassion’s sake people are dying out there!”

If there had been anything left in his empty stomach, Chief Gnaeus was immediately certain that he would have just lost it – violently. None of this made sense but with each passing second the details were starting to add up. Just recently he had received word through encrypted channels from the Council that asked him for special considerations with regards to a delicate matter. It was supposed to be an off-the-book transaction that he had been assured was private Council business. As his superiors he had no reason to question the issue or object for that matter. All he had to do was flag the marked vessel to bypass the security check point and allow it to land, and then leave.

His head began to spin further away from him until he could barely sit upright. He had willing held the door open for this monster to waltz right into endanger everyone he was sword to safeguard. And for what reason other than because he had been told to do so? “Feverish fool,” Gnaeus cursed himself as his guilt circled full round to lurch in his belly in an endless spin.

“There was one vessel,” he confessed weakly. “They said it was nothing dangerous; just a sensitive delivery that was private Council business. Nothing of this sort has ever happened before. I’ve never had any reason to question anything like this, and if it had been something like contraband or the like I was sure we could handle the issue. The Council exists to oversee us, it is their job to make sure that we are safe and get what we need from the New Republic. Why, why would they ever sabotage something they would have to answer for?”

Dr. Foxfire watched sharply as the Chief wrestled with his own guilt as some measure of understanding lit behind his eyes. In some part of her she sympathized with the Chief. He had blindly acted on their request that resulted in the deadly situation they now dealt with. While he had no way of knowing what to expect, he was now primarily responsible for dealing with that very problem. It was asking a lot for someone in his position to accept that something like a man-turned-monster was on the loose but it was something else to know that you basically invited them in.

“Chief,” Dr. Foxfire called to him in a soft delicate tone that lured his closed eyes to open and look to her once more. “We still have to deal with this matter, Gnaeus,” she advised gently. Obediently the conscience-stricken Chief nodded his agreement solemnly as he took a moment to try to collect his thoughts. For whatever reasons the Magistrate Council had seen it fit to covertly conspire to engineer this emergency. And they had used him to do it.

With a somber seriousness Chief Gnaeus reached over to unlock a desk drawer that hadn’t seen the light of his office in a long time. Nestled under a sleepy layer of dust was the familiar presence of his old sidearm. It had never been standard issue even back in his day – in fact he had been written up a handful of times for insisting on carrying the weapon. But he had always been able to count on this formidable friend. Unlike the current standard sidearm’s his officers used this old Python was made to pack a serious punch. He had sent many a man free from his feet when they were unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of his ignored warning. But neither it nor he for that matter had seen anything but the rear of his desk in years. Did either of them still work?

Curiously he clicked the weapon open to check the inserted power cell’s charge and found to his surprise they were still active. The feel of his old Python once more in his grip solidified his decision with absolute finality. “I’m going to hunt this beast down and put an end to the danger it poses,” he vowed with an iron will. “This is my mess and I aim to clean it up, personally.”