Friday, January 23, 2009

Uncivilized police behavior

The car pulled up to the stout ferrocrete building that housed the Badlands Quarter Peace Officer Corps Precinct. It sat there for ten minutes, as the driver inside the little green car waited, watching the main public entrance across the street. The Peace River storm wall was half-closed, shielding the city from a north-blowing sandstorm, and casting much of the Quarter in a shadow. It made for easier surveillance from the car, as the lower ambient light made being inconspicuous just that much more simple.

A single figure walked out of the precinct, shuffling past the row of small patrol cars and police bicycles. He hunched over, hands stuffed in his long coat, his hair slightly more tussled than usual. He stopped at the sidewalk, turned to walk down the street, crossed the street and double backed to the car. The maneuver was essentially meaningless, but the man did them anyways. Old habits were always hard to break.

The door cracked open and the man climbed into the car, wincing slightly. The door closed shut.

"You alright?" the car started rolling forward, a slight hum emanating from its electric engine. The man in the back looked up at the rear-view mirror where he made eye contact with the driver, who had asked the question. He smiled grimly.

"Yes Wilkins, nothing a few analgesics won't cure," Claude Marlenoix nodded. Wilkins fished around in the glove compartment, one hand on the wheel, and produced a bottle of painkillers, which he handed back to his boss.

"Thanks," Claude smiled grimly. He popped the pills and looked out the window quietly, watching the crowds surge down the Street of Willows in the afternoon sun.

"How bad?" Wilkins asked, pulling into the side street next to the restaurant.

"Not bad at all. But strange. Usually PaxSec invites me to the precinct under some guise or another. This time the Peace Officers picked me up in the Bazaar. That CIB lieutenant, Vance," Claude rubbed his jaw, "bit of a brute."

Wilkins' eyes flashed. The two men had developed a very close working relationship during the War. "How bad?" he asked again, more emphatically. The car stopped with a shudder.

"Not bad!" Claude sighed, "but he's heavy handed. I don't understand why the POC is looking at us. Unless..."

"You don't think Delacroix-" Wilkins interjected.

"No, no," Claude waved the notion away, "not consciously, anyways. But there is a connection somewhere. I think Delacroix and his friends are making Vance nervous."

Wilkins chuckled, "they make us all nervous."

Claude nodded, "yeah, but now we've made Vance nervous."

There was a pause.

"I'll get on it boss," Wilkins nodded as they got out of the car.

"Yes. I think that's prudent," Claude didn't even nod. His eyes were fixated on the restaurant. Wilkins followed.

* * * * *

The woman walked through the alleys of the Labyrinth with practiced ease. She didn't look up. She didn't have to. She knew the route perfectly. Quickly dodging through the crowds only made it harder for anyone to tail her. She knew it wasn't foolproof, but she hadn't been tailed for more than ten minutes before she lost her pursuers in the Labyrinth. This time it was no different. The Labyrinth was just too good to her. She paused as she found the door and knocked three times. As she waited, she looked around the neighbourhood, such as it was. Busy alleys, shadows and an ambient hum of activity nearly overloaded her senses. Sonya would miss this place, she realized as the door opened. She smiled to herself and stepped from warm shadowy Labyrinth and into the cold, tense safehouse.

The dilapidated apartment building was near-abandoned when Roger and his closest advisors moved in. Now it stunk of human habitation and the cigarette smoke of social revolutionaries. Sonya wrinkled her nose and poked her head into the various rooms, looking for her husband. She found him hunched over the little kitchen table she had found for the group, smoking a cigarette and reading the latest reports on a datapad. Roger Zahn wasn't much older than his wife, but the hardships of the Prospects and the pressures of radicalism had taken its toll. Sonya swallowed hard. She would try, one last time, to reason with her husband. She knew it wouldn't work, but she had to try. Roger was committed to this cause. That's why she loved him, after all.

* * * * * *

The Badlands Quarter Peace Officer Corps precinct was bathed in the shadow of the half-closed storm wall. It significantly muted the view of the Quarter from Fenton's office, but he didn't notice. Detective Estobar Fenton was busy studying video and still camera surveillance footage, trying to put everything together.

So far, he had put Sonya Lien and that Doctor Chambers together. That was easy. Lien was a Mekongese national, and so was Chambers. They had an affair in university until the Doctor joined the MILICIA in TN 1915. The others didn't fit. Tarmalin was a nobody. Vonyran was a minor duelist. They came up in Khayr-ad Din and in New Baja. Big deal. Marlenoix and Delacroix were Southerners, but so what? He wasn't sure why Marlenoix was brought in. His senior partner, Rucker Vance, said something about sedition charges and gun-running, but Marlenoix's interrogation centered around Delacroix and Chambers.

"A need to know basis," I'm sure. Fenton muttered to himself with a wry grin. He looked down at the pictures and the transcripts of the interrogations. Vance wasn't telling him something, but that was pretty standard for senior detectives. He was warned at the POC Academy that it would take a while for a senior partner to trust him. These were not trusting times, Fenton noted sadly, as he looked up and out of the office window. The unrest was tearing the city apart. He knew that something would have to give. He wasn't entirely sure if Vance's tactics were sound, but even the precinct chief had to admit that the hard-nosed detective and his junior partner were getting results. The Quarter had gotten quieter, and the radical activists had gone to ground.

Fenton sighed. After going to ground, the activists' next move would be to do something spectacular. "So why are we worried about four itinerant Badlanders?" he wondered aloud. Naturally, he understood that the Badlands Caravan Guild was a conduit for information and smuggling in and out of Peace River. The POC and PaxSec were quite diligent in their security sweeps of the Bazaar and the caravan fleets as a result. The junior detective sat and thought. Was there a connection between the radicals and these four? The Guild did not stand to gain anything through an increase in radical activity and terrorism in Peace River.

Fenton remembered that interview that made the Executive caste uncomfortable. What was that old man's name? He chuckled. The harsh truths exposed by Trishaw Carmichael's interview had strengthened people like Simosa, and that reformer Hitachi. She had gone to ground too. But Fenton wasn't worried about Hitachi. He could see the writing on the wall: if the radicals' terror could be minimized, Simosa would sweep the election. So what was Vance doing?

Estobar Fenton frowned and continued his research.


Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.