The threats a government calls impossible
threats they work on already.
If they say that is not be
they've already finished it."
BetaMountain – Cafeteria
you're really able to visit ArcheoCon
this time? Niko, that's wonderful!" Jamie took a good
bite of her well-sugared donut and smiled. "There should be
some new Xeryon
artifacts this time. Professor Moron is very excited about
Niko tried to imagine her old professor, a very distinguished
man, being excited and failed. "How do you know?"
grinned. "He forgot to clean his hands after class. Believe
me, he had chalk at his sleeves!"
She chuckled. "What's gotten him so excited about the Xeryon
of them. A hollow statue made off a very odd material. None of us
at the university labs were able to scan it. We don't even know
what causes that effect."
Niko took a sip of her green tea. "I'd really like to have a
look at it."
get it. One at the expo, and a better one when Moron nags you to
convince the formidable BETA-scientists to examine the thing for
him." She suddenly gulped and pressed her hand against her
"Jamie, are you
Her friend swallowed
and straightened. "The
day before." She smiled apologetically. "You
know my circulation always dances chachacha, then."
remember. I was pretty worried about it myself the first time. Do
you want to go to MedoStat
to get some painkillers?"
it's not that bad. I wasn't prepared for it, that's all. Guess I
should make a short 'Ladies'-visit now." Jamie got
"Do you want me to
necessary." She took her bag. "Have a look at the
expo-catalogue draft till I'm back. I'd like to get your opinion
glanced for the sixth time at her watch. *Fifteen minutes. Jamie
couldn't need that long. That's imposs–*
Are you awaiting someone, Lieutenant?"
Good to see you." She jumped to her feet. "Can you keep
an eye to my things while I'm looking for my friend? She didn't
feel well and I'm a little worried because she's been in the
Ladies room a long time now."
I'll get a coffee while I'm waiting."
She opened the door to the mirror room and looked inside. "Jamie,
are you there?" Nothing. *Could she still be in one of the
stalls?* She went into the second room. "Jamie? Are you in
here?" Silence. "Jamie? This isn't funny!" Niko
reached almost automatically for her badge.
unexpected sensation of death blew her off her feet. She screamed
in terror while pressing the emergency button on her wristcom and
struggled to escape from the dangerous death emanations that
wafted through the room.
don't care if it's forbidden for men. One of my officers is in
trouble in there and I'm going to help her!*" Zachary flung
open the restroom door and rushed into the room followed by a
still arguing female lavatory attendant. He covered the whole
room in a wary look and was immediately at her side, steadying
her. "Niko. Are you okay?"
shook her head, cleaned her throat, then pointed at one of the
stalls. "Jamie's in there," she whispered in a choked
voice. "Something horrible must have happened to
this stall, please."
out of the question. I can't disturb–"
needs help." Niko gathered herself up.
don't expect me–" the woman began.
you open this cabin right now or I'll kick in the door."
Zachary assured calmly.
commander will hear about this!" The attendant snorted, but
took her general key. A second later she staggered back. "Oh
BetaMountain – SecStaff Office
knew the victim, Ranger?"
Detective." Niko clamped her hands around her forearms,
sitting in front of the investigator's desk, making her
statement. "Her name is... was Jamie. I mean, Djamila
McLaren. We were friends since I came to Earth. We met each
Niko. I don't want your history. What I need to know is: Why was
she there? Did she have any enemies? How long had she used
was no user!" Niko almost jumped up. Zachary laid his hand
on her shoulder, comforting her. "Detective Donegal. She
paid a lot of attention to her physical condition. That's part of
her people's religion and she would never–"
hate to destroy your illusions, miss. But she died of an
overdose. That's obvious. I don't even need the autopsy result to
tell you that." Donegal shoved his messy red hair back and
sighed. "But I take from your words that you didn't know of
her addiction. So," he pressed his palms on the desktop and
got up, "we can stop this. I won't get the information I
need from you. You can leave now. But stay within reach in case
new questions arise."
BetaMountain – Office of Commander Walsh
That's a job for SecStaff
or the NDEA if
you like but not for the Galaxy Rangers!" Walsh
Walsh, are to protect the League *and Earth!* That woman died of
Starwynd. Starwynd! That is a real threat against us. It
destabilized whole governments in the past. They will work on
WILL!" The line was closed.
a nice day for you, too, asshole!* Walsh opened the comlink to
his outer office. "Sheela, emergency call for the S5's. And
take care that the data already collected by SecStaff and NDEA
about the McLaren case are transferred to us."
four stood aline in front of his desk, awaiting their orders.
Walsh looked up from his McLaren-summary, glanced at the team and
noticed the red eyes of Niko. *Shit. She knew the victim,
personally. She shouldn't be assigned to the case.
Nevertheless...* "To make it short: You are commanded by
prime order to end up the production, trade and use of Starwynd
on Earth. Any other order is suspended till this is done. Since
this is beyond our normal jobs I can't give you a suitable
briefing. Here is a list of the people you should contact as soon
as possible to get reliable information. Good luck, Rangers."
Zachary glanced over the list: "QBall, the Chief of MedoStat
– Dr. Miyar, a doctor of pathology – Martyna Marcus."
He looked at his chrono and sighed. "None of them will be
pleased to be disturbed now." He shrugged. "We'll split
up. Doc, you go into the comps. Get all information available on
Starwynd, its use, specialties, persons known to have contact
with it, and so on. Correlate them with the data SecStaff and
The Doctor's operating again." Hartford grinned.
let me know about it." Fox said drily. "Goose, you talk
with QBall. Niko, Miyar. I'll see what the pathologist can tell
us. Meeting afterwards in our office. No matter how late it's
going to be."
Goose growled slightly. "Prime order."
BetaMountain – GRS5 Office
since none of us is going to see his pillow tonight we better
start putting together what we've found out." Zachary said.
"GV, protocol the whole thing."
on, Captain Fox.=
continued. "To begin with: it is confirmed. The drug we are
dealing with is Starwynd. More precisely, one of its derivatives,
Miyar told me that Starwynd isn't a single drug with some
derivatives, but a group of strongly different drugs which have
almost the same effects and are collected by physicians under a
single name to mark their specialty." Niko brought
drugs have no or only slight effects on the user except when
their presence in the body system is running out. Someone who's
taking Starwynd doesn't get high, doesn't have hallucinations and
doesn't behave differently. Some of the derivatives aren't even
detectable during medical exams if the body had received the
are the differences if not in the way they work?" Zachary
"From what Dr. Miyar
explained to me, in the effects occurring when the drug dose in
the body decreases. The first versions were created about twenty
years ago and it wasn't important whether or not the user got his
doses all in time. After a certain number of doses he died. With
the original Starwynd that was around fifty." Niko
shuddered. "When it was reached the people died."
can remember some news clips when I was a child, maybe ten years
old," Zach said flatly, "about people collapsing dead
right on the streets without obvious reasons."
looked at the notes she'd made in Miyar's office and continued.
"The derivatives that appeared later increased the amount of
doses before the victim dies. The newest derivatives, Starwynd
Eta and Theta, don't seem to have a lethal dose number any
longer." She looked up. "But there's a fundamental
difference between the two. If Starwynd Eta runs out, the victim
goes through some days of heavy withdrawal and is then off the
hook. A victim of Starwynd Theta dies immediately when the drug
level decreases below a critical level. Dr. Miyar said there's no
way known to keep Starwynd Theta users alive but to give them the
drug." She wrapped her arms around herself to suppress her
trembling. "Why should anybody invent a drug without any
effect but to kill the victims?"
Starwynd has another effect Miyar didn't mention." Goose
said icily. "It blocks the brain receptors responsible for
the effects of other - normal - drugs including truth finders
like Sodium Pentothal and its modern equivalents. A soldier or
spy on Starwynd can't be interrogated with drugs and if the enemy
should take the drug from him he dies without revealing
anything." The edge of his mouth twitched. "Was
invented for the military. About sixty years ago."
do you know that, Gooseman?"
have some historical data matching Goose's statement, Zach."
Doc cut in. "It seems that the Konsortium during the Take
Over around 2035 learned pretty fast that these drugs, even the
earliest, deadly, versions could be easily used to get full
cooperation from officials. They exposed the targets to the
stuff, waited till the first severe withdrawal symptoms occurred
and then contacted them, told them what was going on with them
and what they had to do now to get their doses in the future to
stay alive. They most likely didn't tell the people that their
time even with the drug would run out in a few weeks." Doc
pushed his chair of the table and turned for his console. "The
perfect form of slavery. The people did almost anything till they
died of the drug." Doc projected some holographs with charts
and institutional diagrams. "Some of the smaller autonomous
regions on Earth just *disappeared* in those days and the
remnants of the United Nations simply handed their powers to the
Zachary sighed. "But we aren't here for historical
judgement. We need to focus on eliminating the present threat -
Starwynd Theta. Someone seems to be using the old techniques for
his current purposes." He opened the file from the
pathologist and shoved the photographs, printouts and tables
across the desk. "Dr. Marcus did a good job on the victim.
She is one hundred percent sure that the woman got only one dose,
likely sometime around midday. From the seizures of the muscles
she died of sudden withdrawal symptoms including among other
things severe muscle spasms that finally caused multiple
myocardic lesions which directly led to her death. This is the
list of substances found in her stomach. It's ordered by the
times the stuffs were eaten. As you see the drug was in the
it's better for the poor woman that she died of her first dose.
At least she couldn't be blackmailed, and wasn't dependant on a
criminal for the rest of her life." Doc
Niko jumped up. "She was a human being. She was young,
alive, had plans for her future, her career, her family. We were
planning a Xeryon exposition together when she died." She
sobbed and retreated toward the door. "Stop talking about
her as if she wasn't more than a Bovo-6!" The next moment
the door slam shut behind her.
Goose was already at the door, when he remembered to ask for
her." Goose was gone immediately. Zachary turned angrily for
Doc. "You should get your school fees back from Ms.
Abercrombie. You've got the tact of a hippo! The victim was a
good friend of Niko. If you'd taken a look at SecStaff's files
you would have known that. And that she found her body."
found her above the hangars, overlooking the parked vessels,
after he followed the faint footsteps in the distance. Niko had
her arms folded around her body, and didn't turn when he slowly
came closer. He smelled the faint odor of pain around her, but
her straightened back forbade any attempt to hold her. Her voice
trembled when she finally started to speak, faintly, a monotonous
whisper of sadness and loneliness.
was the first one who accepted me like I am, when I came to
Earth. We met each other at the Archeological faculty. We were
both especially fascinated by the Xeryons. But I didn't
understand this... this physical world at all... everything was
that confusing and–" She stopped, and continued from
another point of view. "She didn't care for what I can do,
but she accepted that my powers are a part of me. She never tried
to separate me from them or saw the powers first. She–"
She stopped again. "Jamie was my best friend outside work."
Niko involuntarily started to sob. "She was my friend. Mine.
Not because my powers could be that helpful, or because it was
cool to know a freak. Jamie was a real friend." Her sobbing
became more audible. "It's not easy for someone like me to
hesitatingly, Goose laid his gloved hand on her tense shoulder,
"remember who you're talking to?" He stiffened in
surprise when Niko whirled round and started to cry in his shirt.
Then, carefully, with uncertain motions, he hugged her, hold her
close, waited, till she calmed down. "Better?" he asked
finally with a hoarse voice.
sniffed and nodded.
relieved sigh he let her go. "Wish someone had told me how
to deal with crying women. I haven't got a clue what to
Niko wiped her last
tears from her cheek and managed a weak smile towards his half
grin, considering his background as strange as her own. "Believe
me, Shane. You do it just fine."
sorry, Niko. I didn't mean to hurt you. I wasn't aware that she
was a friend of yours." Doc said with remorse when she and
Goose reentered the office. "If I–"
it, Doc. It was just the last straw. I think almost everything
anybody could have said would have caused the same. Maybe just a
can help somehow...?" He stopped, realizing that he couldn't
do anything and looked helplessly towards her, seeing that she
"Is it okay
for you to continue?" Zachary asked in the lingering
"It is." Niko
assured him, composed again. "This goddamn murderer won't
slip out of our hands because of my weakness!"
frowned. "This isn't a personal vendetta, Niko. Our main
concern is to stop the drug circulation. Don't forget
"I know. But I
won't forget him either."
sighed. "Okay, then. We tried to continue without you two
but couldn't find the info you should have gotten from QBall.
Where are they, Gooseman?"
Goose fetched a memorychip card out off his shirt pocket and
flipped it on the table.
took it with a questioning look.
was in a real 'I'll talk you through the wall'-mood." He
grinned apologetically and shrugged. "I recorded
"Can you sum it
up?" Zach asked, slightly annoyed.
Simply said, you can't brew Starwynd - least of all Starwynd
Theta - in a backyard apartment on a cooking plate. It's a pretty
tricky process that needs quite a list of substances and can
easily blow up. And most of the necessary ingredients aren't
easily obtainable on Earth."
mean, they need access to a lab?"
a very good one. The normal labs of companies or universities
won't do it. And the brewer
must have an education in medical chemistry."
snorted. "Together with what you said about the past use of
it that brings us to high sec labs related to government or
Pretty unlikely that we can track down a criminal chemist in
But it means also that if we catch the brewer our job's done. The
dealers won't be able to find a new one." Zach said grimly.
"That brings us to the substances used. They can't be taken
from military supplies. That would cause too much official
attention for the facility used."
since the BWL is riding its austerity horse again." Niko
"Which means the
stuff must be acquired *outside* the facility." Zach
finished. "We should do a bit of probing on
substance listing I could search the trade markets for
transactions." Doc grinned. "As long as I can keep my
programs from refreshing my e-cash account..."
you have a listing, Goose?"
Doc took it and
screamed. "QBall talked for four hours?!! It'll be hell to
find the listing in all this. Can't you specify the time a
concentrated a moment. "About 75 minutes from the start,
Doc entered a time
window. "Rats! It's really there! How can someone who's
always late have such a time sense anyway?"
should check the League planetary imports and customs, too."
Niko thought aloud. "If those stuffs are forbidden here it's
maybe easier to smuggle them in than to buy them
substances won't be declared as what they are in the custom
Zach. But what about the freight declarations for the worlds they
came from?" She narrowed her eyes while thinking about it.
"It's a lot of data but–"
right. The most likely way to track the stuff." Doc said,
while one of his programs scrolled the listing on his monitor.
"I'll automate search and comparison. My little prog's can
do the work overnight then."
good. Do it. Any other ideas?"
We should cut the control the dealers have on their
As we already know there's no withdrawal possibility for
Sir. But the danger isn't the use of Starwynd but the victims'
total dependence on the dealers. And that's something we *can*
BETA to hand out Starwynd!?*"
that than to leave the victims under foreign control,
cut in, "if we successfully stop the circulation of Starwynd
BETA must do it anyway. Or do you want all those people to die
Fox lowered his
head and clenched his fist. "I know." He sighed. "But
it's like dealing ourselves. It doesn't feel
casualties don't either." Goose said coldly.
Somewhere outside Embassies
Area near BetaMountain
stupid idiot!" The violet alien cowered under the hissing
voice of the angry human man in the blurring holographic
body mask and folded its stalk eyes safely behind its
neck. "How could you let her go?!"
didn't know she'd have a clearance for the mountain. By the time
I got my visitor-ID she was already gone. When I found her again
she was sitting at a table with a Galaxy Ranger. It was
impossible to approach her then and–" It pointed one
of its stalk eyes towards the terrestrian man. "But she'd
got only a tiny dose. Maybe she makes it till
Starwynd, headbanger. Starwynd! She's already dead now. And the
authorities are informed about our ongoing business, which
increases the risk for us from now on. I'd really like to use
your carcass for the fermentation process." The human
snapped. "But I'll insist on a fifty percent higher payment
for my services instead! I'll contact your chief tomorrow through
the usual channels." He disappeared into the
"The boss won't
like that at all." Wqwarrth murmured, feeling unlucky to
have to bring back this news.
BetaMountain – Office of Commander Walsh
like you to know that the Board, though it didn't take long to
make a general decision in your favor, isn't pleased at all with
this issue. I'm here to negotiate the final
The slim physician with short dark hair folded his hands in front
of him. "A controlled handout of the drug is the only option
if we want to save a lot of people from dying since a withdrawal
from Starwynd Theta isn't possible." Miyar looked earnestly
over the other people in the office. "And MedoStat needs
quite a supply of the drug before the circulation is shut down by
your men. We don't know how many people are
St. John said. "The Board assures that your requests on this
issue will be handled immediately should they occur, Dr. Miyar.
But the drug-keeping
restrictions for medical facilities apply also for
I know these restrictions quite well and I accept their sense and
need," Miyar spoke very firmly, "but in this case they
are very dangerous. You must see, a victim of Starwynd
mean an user, Doctor." The Senator cut in.
doctor's right with his choice of words." Walsh nodded
towards Zachary giving him permission to explain the
Starwynd Theta for a trip or something like that, Senator."
Zach explained carefully. "It's a toxin somebody gave them
without their knowledge to make them totally dependent on his
mercy. And it works awfully well. Those people are victims. To
call them users would do them wrong."
Senator screwed up her nose but decided to drop the issue. "Go
of Starwynd Theta has about fifteen minutes when the drug runs
out, Senator. Not more. We have absolutely no reliable
information about how many people we would have to serve when we
make the announcement."
won't work if we have to tell some of them they should stay by
their local dealer for a while till MedoStat gets the necessary
amount of the drug."
not, Commander?" The Senator said coldly. "They stayed
with them before."
we don't do this for their benefit alone. We want to break the
control the dealers have over them, since that control gives
those criminals an incalculable influence on society. Since
Starwynd when taken properly doesn't change behavior, it's even
possible that that includes politics, military, and the economy.
If we don't cut all their controls at once we give them the
chance to launch a counterattack against us, using their still
dependent victims. Nobody wants that."
Senator's face got pale at the scenario Walsh described. Briskly
she looked up and hardened her chin. "Okay, Commander. You
won. I suspend the drug keeping restrictions in this case. You
will get immediate access to the whole supply of Starwynd Theta
the Board and its military allies have."
also have to make sure that the drug supply doesn't run out,
Senator." Miyar said. "The victims are going to need
Starwynd in daily doses for the rest of their lives."
understand that, Doctor." The following 'My name's not
Wheiner' was clearly understandable. "The Board will take
care for that. Maybe we can use the money of some of the public
health funds for it. If they don't apply here, where do they
apply?" She composed herself a little more and got up. "I
expect you to take care that the drug is kept safe and that its
hand out is under strict observation. You," she nodded
towards Miyar, "and you," she looked at Walsh, "are
responsible for that. If something goes wrong with this your
heads will be the ones rolling. Clear?"
get the first delivery of Starwynd Theta in two hours. I expect
you to launch this project immediately. Today would be best. I
don't want any criminals having the option to decide Earth's
fate!" With an arrogant turn she left the office.
mean other than the criminals already ruling Earth's fate.* Walsh
mumbled under his breath. Aloud, he said, "Okay, Doctor.
You've got a lot of work to do. Start it. I'll get some MP's
transferred to MedoStat to take care of security."
Miyar had gone too, he said, "Captain Fox, do you and your
people have a trace already?"
are still checking custom and freight papers from all around the
League, Sir. Since it looks like the chemist belongs to a high
class laboratory it's likely that he moves in high military and
security circles. We can't track him down directly but we'll try
to get him through the deliveries of substances that he must get
to produce the drugs."
concentrated on the brewer alone?" The commander
"Yes, Sir. Since
Starwynd Theta is difficult and dangerous to produce, the
circulation will come to an end if we drain the well, which means
catch the brewer. The distribution organization alone is no
threat. It's very unlikely that they'll be able to find another
brewer for that stuff. So we could leave them to Police and
"Right. Go on with it and keep me informed. Dismissed."
BUREAU OF EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL AFFAIRS
PRESS RELEASE –
THIS IS TO INFORM YOU ABOUT THE SAD FACT
THAT A VERY DANGEROUS DRUG CALLED STARWYND THETA IS CURRENTLY IN
CIRCULATION ON EARTH. WHOEVER COMES IN CONTACT WITH THIS DRUG
SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CONTACT BETAMOUNTAIN MEDOSTAT TO GET FREE
ABSOLUTE DISCRETION IS GUARANTEED.
FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO ALL PEOPLE YOU KNOW AND INFORM FELLOW
CITIZENS WITHOUT REGULAR COMPUTER-ACCESS.
MIYAR, CHIEF OF MEDOSTAT
WALSH, SUPREME COMMANDER OF BETA
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION IS
AVAILABLE IN AN AUTOMATED NEWSLETTER:
firstname.lastname@example.org. USE "Starwynd" FOR SUBJECT LINE.
Embassy of planet Lorraint
you see now, what you caused us, you mwregstalf!?"
The ceremonial scepter slammed on his forehead for the sixth or
seventh time. After the third, Wqwarrth had stopped counting. A
heavy claw kick sent him down the three steps to the lower floor
and thankfully out of reach for further strikes. The ambassador
turned briskly for his first attache. "Collect our finances.
Take care that the terrestrial freight papers are in order."
He snorted and twisted his stalk eyes in annoyance. "And I
want a full information bulletin about the bloodhounds they send
for us. We have to strike back severe and fast, otherwise the
damage can't be kept limited and our daily income will
you have in mind, my prince?"
one or more of the hunters die of Starwynd, our clientele most
likely would lose its trust in the *official stuff*." The
leading Lorraint stopped at a marble-topped table and tapped a
fast rhythm on it with his three fingers. "I want you to
identify the hunters and to poison at least one of them,
preferably with a dose close to the lethal decrease level. I
don't want to leave them enough time to react."
attache bowed deeply at his new orders. "A magnificent idea,
as always, my prince."
contact our deliverer. We are going to need more stuff to replace
the losses this mess costs us." His attache was nearly gone
when he added a last command to his order: "And take care
that Wqwarrth doesn't ruin our further plans."
course, my prince." The attache checked the charge of his
energy weapon while leaving for the lower halls to search for
NORAD Memorial cemetery
always thought it would be you standing at *my* grave, Jamie,
since I'm the one of us with the dangerous job.* Niko laid her
armful of sunflowers down on her friend wrapped in rich
embroidered sheets. Djamila's mother was from an old clan of
southern Sahara and insisted on a traditional funeral: no coffin,
no church, but silence remembrance and burial objects for
good-bye. Djamila had always loved sunflowers.
are preparing the findings for the far future generations of your
profession, Jamie...* Niko shivered at the odd thought cruising
through her mind and lowered her head. *I miss you, Jamie.* She
tightened her chin. *I will get the one who did that to
She didn't notice the
violet, stalk eyed alien standing near the cemetery fence.
– GRS5 Office
your goodies, Doccie!= The green sparkle shot out of the console
and danced around his head, bouncing a couple of times off his
temples. =OOooooh. Goodie, goodie, goodie, Doccie! Wanna party
"Did you feed
them the formula of LSD, Doc?" Niko hid a smile behind her
hand, watching Doc who opened his cyberspace portal while
hurrying to the main console.
course not." He snorted. "With my new Sensib-function
they're sophisticated enough to adapt themselves to the topic
they are aimed
Firefly screamed and caused a dozen red blips on the screen where
foreign freight papers showed up.
Goose said in a dry voice, "they're high."
it!!!" Doc clapped his fingers on the console next to his
keyboard. "Pathfinder! Collect your wits and track this
freight down to its consignee."
The green sparkle whimpered. =Don't shout. My brain
"You have no brain.
Do your job!" Doc grunted. "Let's hope this leads to
something, it'll be hell to program this off them
=Consignee of -ick-
all the goods is -ick- the Lorraint Embassy on -ick- Earth,
address and a list of inhabitants with holos." He decided to
ignore the verbal interrupts his program had.
appeared immediately on the screen. Doc pressed a key to print
and save it. "Okay, save it to file–" He frowned.
"What are these green pixels scattered across the image,
Doc.= The program sounded somehow ashamed. =I felt suddenly sick
to my stomach...=
Doc buried his
head in his hands. "Why me?" He asked the gods of
bytes. "Why is it always me?"
took the printout. "I'm going to inform Zach. We'll need an
official okay for questioning at an embassy."
come with you," Shane grinned, "gives Doc some time to
get his progs through withdrawal."
guy like you who's immune against everything shouldn't joke about
withdrawals, Gooseman." Doc snapped as the door slid shut
So only Niko saw
Shane stopping in his tracks for a second, clenching his fist
till the muscles under the cloth of his sleeve trembled with
tension, before he walked on as if nothing had happened. *Another
one of his demons.* She thought sadly. *He won't talk about this
Embassy of planet Lorraint
regret having to tell you that ambassador Qaarth is not available
at the moment. He's in hypercom conference with our government on
Lorraint. It's impossible to disturb him now."
we have to talk with him in the case of pre-drug substances
smuggling in the name of Lorraint's embassy. That's a very
you accuse the independent world of Lorraint of being involved?"
The attache asked coldly.
are investigating a serious drug threat on our world."
Zachary said firmly. "Our government wishes to have this
done and expects cooperation from our League allies since these
drugs are not only dangerous for human beings."
understand that." The Lorraint stiffened. "But the
ambassador cannot speak with you. I'm sorry." The heavy door
"That's it for
cooperation." He sighed. "Until we get permission to
call him to BETA as an individual."
but Earth we'd be in there already and cause that crook to
squeal." Goose grumbled.
we *protect* the law, we don't break it." Zach was
about a little bending?"
bending, Gooseman!" Captain Fox snapped heading for their
glider. "Get us to HyperSpaceCom. I'd like to check
Commander didn't grant a warrant for interrogating the
ambassador." Zachary sighed. "I thought we'd have a
chance since I could prove that they obviously lied to us, but it
didn't matter for the decision." He looked around. "Niko
should already be here."
up with Doc?" Gooseman asked, searching, too.
called me this morning, said he had some problems with his
programs to fix. I promised him not to call him unless there's an
emergency." He shrugged. "Don't know what the problem
symptoms," Goose chuckled. His look wandered along the line
of tables at the panorama window front. Niko always liked the
spectacular view when eating.
turned frowning for him at the cryptic comment.
breakable fell down, table-legs slid screaming across the floor,
a couple of angry – and frightened - shouts. Before Niko
realized what was happening a gloved hand clenched like a vice
around her wrist, pressed her bones until the lettuce-filled fork
dropped from her numbed hand. She screamed and tried to pull her
hand free of– "Gooseman!"
didn't react to her. "Did you eat any of this?"
Did you eat any?"
Instinctively her powers flared, drove her pain into his mind
causing him to stagger, while she prepared for the anger there,
appeared behind him, his bionic hand grabbed for Goose's shoulder
to free her.
The fear chewed on
her. She made a denial sign and Fox stopped, frowning. "I
haven't start eating yet, Shane." She said as calmly as she
could into those green eyes fixed on her face and a wave of
relief rushed over her. "Would you now please let go before
I lose all sense in my fingers?"
looked down on her fragile wrist, caught in his cruel grip, as if
noticing it the first time and his eyes widened in shock. She
rubbed the throbbing, reddened skin. "What made you do
something on your leaves." He said hoarsely, almost choked,
still staring at her injured wrist.
*sugared* lettuce." She massaged her hurting wrist and
continued, annoyed. "It's not the first time I've eaten
His eyes narrowed.
"That's not sugar on it!"
stopped, stared at him in disbelief. "How–?" Then
she remembered. "Your eyes," she whispered. "What
do you see?"
There's no sugar with that color in it."
you sure–" She remembered a day at the lake half a
year ago. "Forget it."
you let your dish out of your sight?" He asked, tensed
interrupted herself. "But... yes. I went to get my lemon
"We should get
that to QBall. Fast. For an examination." He nodded towards
Fox cut in. "Did you come to your senses finally?" His
impatient movement covered the chaos of fallen and broken dishes
and the crowd of silently staring people around them.
that me?" Goose finally asked.
rolled his eyes.
BetaMountain – Office of Commander Walsh
Commander," QBall on the screen pushed his viewing aide
higher on his nose, "there is Starwynd Theta on Ranger
Niko's sugared lettuce. The total amount is very close to the
lethal declining amount." He took a deep breath. "She
would have died within seconds after consuming her meal. Though I
haven't a clue how Gooseman could know that."
turned for the Rangers in front of his desk. Niko became slightly
pale at QBall's news but didn't say anything. He noticed the red
finger marks on her lower arm and two claw scratches. * Damn, the
boy must've been pretty afraid for her to grab her that hard.*
"Gooseman, to QBall's question: How did you know
"I didn't know it
was Starwynd, Sir. But I knew it wasn't sugar on those leaves.
And after all that's currently happened I thought it better not
to risk anything."
did you realize that it wasn't sugar, Gooseman?" Fox frowned
at his answer. "We were more than twenty meters away. And
Starwynd *does* look like sugar."
Sir. It doesn't."
enhanced senses," Walsh explained shortly. "His color
resolution greatly exceeds the normal."
has tried to kill me." Niko said suddenly with a slight
tremor in her voice.
Ranger. And it's likely that all of you are targets for further
assassination attempts." Walsh said coldly. "What
better way to create distrust between the drug victims and
MedoStat's anti-slavery project than if one of the investigators
dies of Starwynd?"
there any opportunities to detect Starwynd?" Fox asked. "I'm
afraid for my family."
a portable laser scanner at LongShot sensitive enough for that,"
can't use it all the time, Sir."
Captain. It would send the wrong signal to the victims."
Walsh snorted. "Your team has to be very careful till the
investigation's finished. But that's enough. I give you
permission to interrogate your prime suspect here at
"We are allowed
to summon ambassador Qaarth, Sir?"
you are. But be careful of protocol."
Walsh's office, Zachary stopped. "I'll go to InterSec
right now. It's their responsibility to put a diplomatic VIP to
raised a brow at his grim statement. "You want to set the
inquisition after them?"
believe that would be too nice. Especially when considering that
there were no hyperspace comlines to Lorraint open today."
He walked briskly towards InterSec's office at the other end of
the waste administration hall.
you know what these non-established HCCL's mean,
ambassador Qaarth got his people to lie right to our faces this
morning." They continued their way back to their own office
in silence. After a while, he said in a very low voice. "I'm
sorry. I didn't want to hurt you."
ran her fingers across her still throbbing wrist and saw him
wincing at that movement and his tension growing up again. "You
saved my life doing it," she said trying to comfort him. "I
He said roughly. "Don't excuse it."
will heal, Shane." She assured. "Look, it's almost gone
see... I didn't even notice."
know. You were too busy saving my life," she teased him.
"Nobody destroyed half of the cafeteria for me
"I take care
for my friends. As you said - people like us don't find friends
BetaMountain – SecStaff Interrogation Room 2
you are aware that you created a diplomatic incident with
scanning my pockets let alone *my person* without my agreement!"
The stalk eyes of Lorraint ambassador Qaarth twitched agitated.
"This will have serious consequences for
Zachary said as calmly as he could, "you're carrying two
hundred grams of Starwynd with you. Two*hundred*. Enough stuff to
enslave at least five thousand people. Drug dealing is a serious
crime here on Earth. That means you will be facing consequences.
Extremely serious ones if you don't give us the names of your
accomplices and drug deliverers."
Don't forget, I am ambassador. I am diplomatically immune as long
as my government doesn't hand me over." The Lorraint smiled
softly and took the detected drug parcel out of his pocket
positioning it in plain sight on the table. "And I'm sure my
father won't do that. Not for some minor problems on a foreign
planet as far away as yours."
problems!*" Niko behind the observation window shot up from
her seat that fast that Goose beside her automatically grabbed
her wrist to prevent her from jumping through the mirrored glass
in front of them. "This drug dealing bastard–"
an ambassador." He continued with a slight growl for
She sank back onto her
seat. "Jamie's murderer will slip our fingers because we're
never going to get his deliverer's name out of him."
eyes rested for a short moment at her shoulders, bowed down with
grief. Then he looked into the interrogation room, at the table
between Zachary and the angry ambassador, at a transparent parcel
with tiny sugarlike white crystals that looked slightly
blue-green to him. His eyes narrowed when he recognized the drug
seeing it in its pure form for the first time. "Maybe we
don't need it." He grabbed his coffee mug and headed for the
looked up in surprise when the door behind him opened and Goose
disturb you." Shane grinned and overlooked the table. "Fine,
there it is." He tore open the parcel with a sharp
fingernail and poured its contents into his mug.
ambassador jumped up from his chair. "You–"
But the ST
had already taken a deep sip and smiled. "Ah, that's better.
This machine oil wasn't drinkable without sugar." He took
another deep sip then drunk his coffee down to the mug's bottom.
"If it were at least hot, but..." He shrugged and
turned for the door. "Excuse me, Captain."
stared at him with open mouth. "You mean your coffee was
*sweet*?" The alien ambassador asked carefully without
letting Goose out off his stalk eyes.
it was." He opened the door to the corridor again. "I'm
continuing with my reports, Cap." The door slid shut behind
– Office of Commander Walsh
48 minutes later
gave you permission to question Mr. Qaarth. Nothing else."
Walsh slammed his palm onto the desk and continued in a harsh
voice. "And you accused the ambassador of a sovereign planet
of drug dealing with *sugar*!"
Sir. We accused him because he carried Starwynd Theta around. We
tried to convince him to give us the name of the one who produces
the toxin." Zachary exclaimed.
looked from him to Goose and back. "Would you four explain
to me the following scene from the interrogation room recording
that the ambassador had ordered, then?" He played the scene
with Goose drinking his coffee.
Zachary started, but ignoring military behavior, Goose
the ambassador isn't pleased to be ripped off by his chemist."
He smiled cruelly. "As far as I know the Lorraints take that
kind of loss of face very personally," the cruel smile
deepened, "and usually give it back. Literally."
mean..." Niko began, turning towards him, forgetting
Commander Walsh and the whole appalling situation for a
"That his brewer is
in really big trouble now." He shrugged. "Guess that's
what?" she asked, still struggling with the information
she'd just got.
worth at least 5 million credits it was the worst coffee I ever
Walsh snorted and got
up from his desk. "The Board expects your final reports
tomorrow morning. *I* expect them in two hours. Dismissed, except
After the others had
left: "You took an unacceptable risk when consuming the
I was sure Starwynd Theta wouldn't have any effect on
couldn't know whether your immunizations would cover Starwynd's
newest derivatives or not."
could, Sir. Do you remember the stuff which was used on us back
at Wolf Den when it showed up that not all ST's were fully immune
drug effects? We were never told its name. It didn't
have any effect on me."
Walsh cursed under his breath. "They skipped it because it
made the using ones too dependent on reliable supply routes. The
goddamn stuff had cost us more than sixty lives. And where does
that come in with Starwynd Theta?"
is the same."
DEATH OF CHARLES WILLIAMS
YESTERDAY MORNING SENATOR ERIC
WHEINER'S PERSONAL ATTACHE, AIDE AND RIGHT HAND WAS FOUND SLAIN
IN HIS SWIMMING POOL BY HIS SHOCKED SERVANTS. ACCORDING TO A
POLICE PRESS COMMUNIQUE THE 41-YEAR-OLD FORMER MEDICAL CHEMIST
WAS STABBED TWICE IN THE CHEST, AFTERWARDS HIS FACE WAS
DISFIGURED. NO FURTHER INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT THIS TIME.
THOUGH OUR CORRESPONDENT FROM BEYOND EARTH TOLD US THAT SOME
POLITICAL GROUPS ON LEAGUE ALLY PLANET LORRAINT PERFORM THIS KIND
OF EXECUTION TO MARK THE VICTIM AS A FRAUD. WE ALL HOPE THAT THIS
ISN'T THE PRELUDE TO ANOTHER BOOM OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL CRIMES ON
OUR BELOVED PLANET EARTH.
AFTER HIS INVOLVEMENT IN UNREVEALED CRIMINAL
ACTIVITIES, THE BOARD OF WORLD LEADERS EVICTED LORRAINT'S
AMBASSADOR ON EARTH, QAARTH OF LORR, AND ENDED EARTH'S DIPLOMATIC
RELATIONS WITH LORRAINT. A PRESS SESSION ABOUT THIS TOPIC IS
SCHEDULED LATER TODAY.
To S. 'Trivia' Blank for spending her time with chasing mistakes
out of a 14-year-old story.