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Aug. 7th, 2007 @ 06:45 pm Interrogation
Part 1 | Part 2

"You ever heard of this JIM before?" asked Kowalski, lounging on a chair back at the Hub while they waited for the suspect to be brought in.

Ray shrugged.

"Nah. You?"

"New one on me. What's it stand for anyway?"

"Justice through Independent Measures," said the Hub-Captain, juggling three cups of chava and a bag of pastries. "Catchy it is not." He dropped the bag on the table and handed round the cups.

Ray took a long sip. The drink was almost too hot, but the bitter, sharp taste was just what he needed after what he'd witnessed. Something stronger wouldn't have gone amiss but they were on duty. Destroying the images of blasted baby parts that had been burnt onto his retina one cell at a time would have to wait.

"There's been news over the Filter about other explosions on other Worlds. Nothing official, just rumour and speculation. I think the Contingency is trying to keep it on the down-low, doesn't want people running scared. They've only hit Contingency-linked buildings so far, this hospital, the Central University in Tranquillity, some random office buildings in Acis."

"Do they give warnings?" asked Ray. The Hub-Captain looked only too pleased to be asked.

"We got a Link over the Filter, but it was scrambled so we couldn't trace the source. The Techs think it probably came from off-world. By the time we worked out the message it was too late to evacuate." The Hub-Captain's face fell as he remembered the victims.

"They got the same for the other bombings?" inquired Kowalski, beating Ray to it. "All scrambled, all a little too hard to work out?"

"You thinking what I'm thinking, Kowalski?" asked Ray.

"They want to be seen as making a good faith gesture, giving time for evacuations, but they make the warning so complex that there's no way the buildings will be cleared in time. They get civilian deaths, with luck they get to kill some of the emergency services too, they get to blame the local law enforcement for being too slow and they get publicity for their cause. They win. We lose. That what you were thinking?"

Ray was impressed, despite himself.

"Yeah," he said. "Give or take a couple of changes in punctuation."

A disembodied voice announced, "Suspect is processed and ready for interrogation."

Ray got to his feet as Kowalski looked wildly around for the source.

"How do they do that? It's freaky."

"The wonders of technology," grinned the Hub-Captain. "You get used to it. I'll show you the Interro-Suite."

Despite its high-class sounding name, the Interro-Suite turned out to be a small room with a table and chair screwed into the floor in the middle of it. One wall held three flat monitors and the opposite wall appeared to be missing. Kowalski wandered over to the space and started to peer into the room beyond. He appeared to bounce back off some invisible barrier and landed on his ass, head narrowly avoiding the table. Ray laughed.

"Yeah, har, har," griped Kowalski. "What the Mother was that?"

"I beg your pardon, Detective, that would be the InvisiWall. You're not the first one to be caught out. Sentinel Gardino broke his nose on it. It's a new installation. Strong as steel, but entirely transparent. Allows us to continue to interrogate a suspect in here whilst monitoring the level of pressure being applied to a separate suspect in the other room. Make sure no Pan-System laws are being broken. The fact that it may precipitate early confession is a pleasing side-effect."

"What do you mean 'pressure being applied'?" asked Kowalski, getting to his feet and giving his nose a sharp twist. He winced.

"Torture," said Ray, his voice even and quiet.

Kowalski met his eyes and they held each other's gaze as the Hub-Captain blustered something about Pan-System treaties and definitions of acceptable force and the Greater Good.

"Stop you there," said Ray, still looking at Kowalski, beginning to feel like maybe here was someone Ray might think about trusting. "You lost me at Greater Good. Suspect now?"


Frannie swivelled in her seat, head tipped back, enjoying the flash of blue sky that zipped past outside the cockpit window on every turn. It was a happy surprise every time they made landfall. Frannie only ever dreamed in stars.

"Washington think they have something solid this time?" she asked as Ian came and went in her eye line, reorganising the figures on his console for the millionth time.

"Absolutely," enthused Ian. "There's an area of space perturbance about zero point five parsecs from the Edge. No one has come up with a feasible explanation for it – it's been driving the instruments crazy. It has to be a warp gate, Frannie. It has to."

Frannie stopped swivelling.

"Will they be allowed to investigate this time?"

"Try and stop them. Mort's readying a probe."

"Tell me what this means, Ian."


"I love to hear it."

"We find the warp gate and the universe is ours. Not just this dumb solar system with its Contingency and its restricted set of sentient life forms."

"If you mean humans, just say humans."

"We could come out of the gate anywhere, Frannie. Planets and planets of strange creatures, weird races that communicate through modern dance, technology that we only dream about. Aliens. Real, honest to Mother aliens."

Frannie grinned.

"I thought you'd already met aliens, Ian. Didn't you assist in the birth of the Racharta race, mixing your DNA with the dying Grulags?"

Ian had the grace to look ashamed for a brief moment. Then he shrugged.

"Mother knows this ship needs some colour," he said. "But seriously, this is it this time, Frannie. I swear. People are gonna have to stop writing off FOIL as a bunch of tinhat whackjobs. We're getting close."

"To the Greater Truth," Frannie affirmed.

"That and hot alien sex."

This was one of the times Frannie regretted not having an extendable punching arm.


The suspect turned out to be a red-headed, pasty-faced kid, several months off his last encounter with a washcloth. Looked like he could barely dress himself in the morning, let alone be part of a terrorist organisation. Still, Ray knew better than to judge by appearances.

Ten minutes into the interrogation and they hadn't got more than a grunt out of him. Ah, teenage hormones. He leant against one wall, watching Vecchio take his turn.

"Sparky," said Vecchio, leaning onto the table and smiling a smile that got nowhere close to his eyes. "You don't mind if I call you Sparky, do you? Seeing as how you're not exactly forthcoming with the details."

No response. No surprise.

"Sparky, your bag was stuffed full of B92, already identified as a component in the hospital explosion. That's enough to get you a severe Contingency Punishment. Imagine how bad it would be if we could link you to all those dead children. You should've seen them, Sparky." Vecchio got into the kid's face, voice still measured and calm. "Severed limbs, caved in heads, some of 'em looked like they'd just fallen asleep, not a scratch on them. Only they didn't wake up when I shook 'em. No more school for them. No more games of COPS and outlaws in and out of the precincts. No more 'I'll show you mine' and skinny-dipping in the river. No more nothing. And here's you, shit deep in the middle of it and proud. Well fuck you, Sparky, I'm gonna have you taken to the bombsite and give you the full tour. Let those memories stay with you all the way to hell."

The kid blanched and his tongue flicked out and licked his lips.

Ray pushed himself off from the wall. He touched Vecchio on the arm and without looking Vecchio moved away from the table, falling behind Ray. Tag. Ray didn't have time to think of how easily they seemed to work together, it was his turn.

"Look, kid," he said, turning on his sympathetic smile. "My colleague here has been through a lot today. No one wants to send you for Punishment. Because you have a totally good reason for being stupid enough to think you're getting through a Port Check with a backpack full of explosive on the same day a bomb goes off in the city. Don't you?"

"I..." started the kid and then clamped his mouth shut.

Ray amped up the wattage of his smile. He took a small, white packet from a pocket and laid it on the table, batting it back and forth between his index fingers. The kid's eyes widened a little. Ray quirked an eyebrow at him – scratch my back, I'll scratch yours kind of deal.


Ray began to pick at the paper on the packet.

The kid's tongue came out again. He was looking hungry.

"Got something to tell me?"

"I ... I'm into fireworks, okay? I make 'em at home; take 'em out to the North Gate at night. Sometimes I sell 'em, sometimes I just watch 'em burn in the sky. It's not illegal or nothing, no wait yeah it is but it's not like anyone cares. I've had Sentinels buying them on the sly before now. They weren't exactly busting a gut to get me to lockdown."

"You live near the Port?" asked Ray pushing the packet half-way across the table towards the kid, keeping one finger resting lightly on top.


"You wanna tell me what you were doing there?"

"I'd just got the B92 from my supplier and I know that's not illegal, they use it in fertiliser and I swung by the port to pick up a package from my grandparents that was due in on a trade ship from Titan. Perfectly innocent, man, I swear."

Ray flicked the packet the rest of the way across the table. The kid picked it up, turning it over wonderingly in his hands. He began to ease the paper wrapper apart, slow and careful. Ray knew he was trying to make it last. He left him to it and walked over to Vecchio and muttered in his ear.

"That kid would kill his non-existent grandparent for a couple lumps of sugar. What kind of fucked up world is that?"

Vecchio nodded.

"He's bullshitting. Spend enough time with Ian and you too will have the useful capacity to spot a yarn at three parsecs. Break?"

"Yeah," said Ray, who was starting to feel cooped up in this little room.

Back in the offices the two Rays grabbed another cup of chava and reported their progress – or lack of it – to the occupants of the room. A dark-haired man with a sharp face looked up from the Slab he was reading.

"Take him next door," he suggested, "that'll get things moving."

"No," stated both Rays in unison.

"That's not what we do," clarified Vecchio. "What you do is your own damn business but we do not do that."

He put a hand on Ray's shoulder. Showing solidarity, thought Ray.

"He's quite the handful, isn't he?" said an affable looking man. "He was causing a rather high level of disturbance at the Port for such a small individual. I found it difficult to apprehend him and return him to the Hub. He has a great deal of spunk."

Ray and Vecchio exchanged glances.

"Excuse me, Sentinel ..." Vecchio paused.

"Turnbull, sir. Sentinel Turnbull."
"Thank you. Excuse me, Sentinel Turnbull, are you telling me that the suspect resisted arrest?"

"That he did, sir. And he wasn't playing by any rule system that I've ever read. I do believe one Port Official received a bite to the chest area and there may also have been gouging."

"Uhuh. Ray?"

Ray stood up a little straighter and took a step towards Turnbull.

"Get me a list of all ships that have left port since you arrested this dink. NOW!"

Turnbull scurried off with Vecchio yelling behind him,

"Put a block on all departures until I say otherwise!"

He turned to Kowalski.

"Goddammit, what is wrong with these people?"

The list turned out to be short: two known trade ships, one Contingency Maintenance vessel and one private ship had left the Port following the arrest of the suspect. Ray and Vecchio easily discounted the first three – no traders would risk their necks and the attacks were all aimed at the Contingency, why would they harbour the terrorists? And with ships needing to know precise weights to calculate lift off there could be no stowaways.

A search of all the landlocked ships turned up nothing. It looked like the ship calling itself Subura was the one they wanted. It had logged a course for Titania. Ray and Vecchio were half-way out of the building when they saw the kid being dragged down the corridor back to his holding cell.

"Sorry, Sparky!" yelled Vecchio. "Turns out we didn't need you. Your friends are gonna get what's coming, we'll make sure of that."

Suddenly the boy came to life in his captor's hands. Pulling violently at them his face curled into a snarl and he spat towards the two COPS.

"No one can stop us! We are righteous! We are many! You people, you think we're happy? You think we asked to be born chained while the Contingency gets fat and lazy? Independence. We will have it whatever the cost!"

He was borne away, still screaming.

Ray and Vecchio looked at each other, grim. They had a ship heading to Titania and they had the first flickers of understanding. Now they were getting somewhere.

Part 4
Current Data
ray/ray just another day
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Date:August 7th, 2007 06:23 pm (UTC)
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I just want to say, I love this 'verse like all manner of lovable things. That's all.
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Date:August 7th, 2007 09:19 pm (UTC)
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Why, thank you. I am happy to hear it. :)
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Date:August 7th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
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I most 'specially love "Frannie only ever dreamed in stars."
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Date:August 7th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. I rather love that my own self.
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Date:August 8th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
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*flails* Day 3, and you're already hitting my narrative kink of shared morality brings the couple together? \0/

(Also Ian chasing the stars, looking for alien tail is making me giggle. LOTS. Also FRANNIE!)
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Date:August 8th, 2007 11:24 am (UTC)
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Yay for narrative kink hittage!

I'm concerned about Frannie what with not writing her before. Let me know if she gets OOC, k?
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Date:August 16th, 2007 03:51 am (UTC)
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Sentinel Turnbull! YES.
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Date:August 16th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
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Date:November 22nd, 2007 03:43 am (UTC)
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I am slightly confused but completely intrigued!

And Turnbull, yay. :D
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Date:November 22nd, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Slightly confused is perfect at this point. \o/