Bewildering Stories

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Through a Glass, Darkly

part 3

by Michael J A Tyzuk

“Through a Glass, Darkly” began in issue 109.
Part 2 appeared in issue 110.

“That was Michelle that the two of you saved,” I said, “wasn’t it?”

Percy nodded. “None of those slaves ever made it to their destination. We dropped them off with some people Monty and I knew. They were freed, every last one of them, even the one who decided that she didn’t want to live on some godforsaken planet somewhere, she wanted to live on a ship with the only two people who had ever shown her any kindness throughout her entire life.”

I shook my head. “You know, we’ve been together for more than twenty years, her and I, and she never once told me that story.”

“It’s not something she likes to talk about,” Percy said. “Hell, she doesn’t even talk to me about it, and I was there.”

“Monty was a good man, wasn’t he?” I asked.

Percy nodded. “He could be just as mercenary as the rest of us,” he said, “but overall I would have to say that he had a good heart. He never left a friend behind, never turned down a call for help. Once he gave his loyalty he gave it for life.”

I nodded. “I guess it would be pretty easy to see why Michelle would fall for a guy like that,” I whispered.

Percy cast a speculative eye over me. “And not so easy to see why she would fall for a guy like you?” he asked.

There hadn’t been any malice in Percy’s voice when he said it, but it still stung. I grimaced. “Something like that,” I said. “Ever since we got together, I’ve been half expecting her to come across someone better, someone more worthy of her. Sometimes I wonder why she doesn’t. I mean, I know I’m a better man than what I was. Living in such close proximity to her has changed me for the better over the years, and I know it. But I still don’t know if I deserve to have her.”

“Especially after what happened last week,” Percy whispered. He shook his head. “You know, she was so right about you,” he said.

My head came up at that. “What do you mean?”

“She had you pegged from the moment she looked at you,” Percy told me. “After you guys brought the Helena back she told me how much you reminded her of Monty, of what he might have been if his life had steered him in the same directions that yours had steered you. She said that you had such potential, but that you didn’t give yourself anywhere near enough credit, that you didn’t think you were anywhere near as good as you actually are.

“She was right,” Percy pressed. “You don’t give yourself anywhere near enough credit. She’s an intelligent and willful woman, do you honestly think that she would be with you if she didn’t see something in you? Do you honestly think that she would be with you if she didn’t think that you deserved her?”

I shrugged, looked sheepish. “Well, when you put it that way...”

“Exactly,” Percy snapped. “So, stop it. You’ve got better things to do with your time.”

I nodded. “I need to help Eric get the flotilla repaired.”

“And I have some trees to shake,” Percy said. “I want to know how those slavers found out you were coming, why they took Michelle, and where they took her.”

“And as soon as you find out, then I take the flotilla and go and get her back,” I said.

“That’s the idea,” Percy agreed.

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

* * *

It was late when I stumbled onto the Moonshadow and collapsed onto my bunk. I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

It was far too early when I was awakened by an insistent knocking at the hatch. I climbed out of bed, stumbled through the ship, opened the hatch and lowered the ramp. Two young men wearing the uniforms of the local constabulary walked up the ramp, stopped about a meter in front of me. “Captain Martin Horvath?” One of them asked.

“Yeah, that’s me,” I nodded sleepily. “What can I do for you?”

“There’s something we need to tell you,” the constable said. “Last night there were two bombings, both of which happened at the same time. The first one took out a local pub, and the other one took out the private residence of a local citizen.”

Even through the fog of sleep deprivation I could see where this was going. “Oh, hell.”

“Captain Horvath, Percy Powell was killed last night in an explosion. Would it be possible for us to ask you a few questions?”

* * *

Percy wasn’t at The Flight Line when it went up. He was at home, just climbing into bed from the looks of things.

I sat the constables down in the crew lounge and let them ask their questions. It was all the usual stuff. Did you have any contact with the victim before he died? When did you last see the victim? Where were you when the explosions happened?

They went to great lengths to assure me that I wasn’t a suspect, which suited me fine because I knew for a fact that I didn’t do it. However, I had a pretty good idea of who was responsible, the problem was that I didn’t know their actual identities. I just knew, in general, who they were.

The constables assured me that they were doing everything they could to find the man who planted the bombs. God knows they had every reason to; in an effort to keep the local law looking the other way while Percy and our group went about our little business of ridding the galaxy of the worst of the fringe scum, Percy had made it a habit of donating to the local constabulary twenty-five percent of the cash value of whatever we managed to take from our targets. He started this practice the day that Michelle and I took the Helena. Those donations usually came at critical times and often made the difference between taking the worst of Xanadu’s law breakers off of the street now and having to wait until they did something really horrible.

Besides, I think that the local law recognized that we weren’t really a threat, not on Xanadu, anyway. For that reason and others they were generally inclined to leave us the hell alone.

After the interrogation finished and I had seen the constables to the hatch I went forward to the cockpit and checked the signals board. The message light was flashing. I brought the computer to life and had a look at the message headers. Most of them, the high priority ones, were from Eric. They all said the same thing. Eric wanted me to call him on the Chameleon, ASAP.

I put in the call to the Chameleon, leaned back in my chair and waited. Eric appeared on the monitor a few seconds later. “Did you hear about Percy?” he asked without preamble.

I nodded. “Yeah, I just got a visit from the local constabulary.”

Eric frowned. “Surely they don’t think you had anything to do with it,” he said.

I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I think this was just a routine inquiry. Probably won’t hear anything of it again.”

“Did you get a chance to talk to him last night?” Eric asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “I told him what happened. He said he had lost contact with his man at the slaver base, but that was the only indication he had that this whole thing might have been a trap. He said he was going to shake a few trees and see what fell out.”

“Maybe he shook one tree too many,” Eric suggested.

I shrugged. “That could be it. Somehow, I don’t think that it is, but it could be.”

Eric cocked his head. “Okay, so what do you think is going on?”

I shrugged again. “I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “I just can’t shake the feeling that all of this is connected, is all. It feels like it’s part of some master plan, but I don’t know yet who is making the plan.”

“So, what do we do now?” Eric wanted to know.

“Well, I’m going to grab a shower and a shave,” I said, “and then I’m going to go pay a visit to a fellow Percy told me about a few years ago. He said that if anything ever happened to him then this fellow would tell us what it was we needed to do. Maybe this fellow will shed some light on what’s going on.”

“And maybe the horse will sing,” Eric returned and signed off.

* * *

I strode down the ramp and closed the hatch behind me, and then ran smack into an Elf. Even worse, he was an Elf who was wearing the uniform of Federation Military Intelligence.

“Look, I don’t have time for this right now,” I said irritably. “Besides which, it happened more than twenty years ago. You guys have had all that time to come looking for me, and now I just don’t have the time to deal with it.”

The Elf grinned a wicked grin. “Captain Horvath,” he said, “this isn’t about the Treasury Theft.” Then he extended his hand to me. “My name is Morgul, and I was a friend of Percy Powell.”

My eyes went wide and my chin hit the duracrete deck. Morgul was the name that Percy had given me all those years ago, the name of the person who would tell me what I needed to do if something ever happened to him. I hadn’t expected my contact to be an Elf. I didn’t know that Percy had any dealings with the Elves, especially not an Elf who worked for Intelligence.

I opened my mouth to speak but no words came out, so I closed my mouth, swallowed, and tried again. “You’re not what I expected you to be,” I said as I shook Morgul’s hand.

Morgul was still grinning. “You, however, are everything that I expected you to be.” He gestured to the closed hatch. “Shall we conduct this discussion someplace a little more private?”

Private sounded good to me. After that whole Elven Central Treasury Theft fiasco I was more than a little paranoid about having any kind of dealings with the Elves at all, especially any place where it we be so easy to have a sniper covering me. Of course, if the Elves really wanted to get rid of me that badly, it would be just as easy for them to plant a bomb on the Moonshadow, but I wasn’t thinking along those lines just then. As a matter of fact I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just reacting.

I took Morgul aboard the ship and sealed the hatch behind us, led him into the lounge. We sat down on opposite sides of the table. “So, what can I do for you?” I asked cordially enough.

The Elf reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a data card which he laid down on the table. “Some years ago,” Morgul began, “Percy told you that if anything were to happen to him that you should look me up, that I would have instructions on how to proceed.”

I nodded. “That’s right,” I said. “He didn’t mention anything about you being an Elf, though.”

“He probably didn’t think it was all that important,” Morgul said dismissively. “That data card contains information that Percy sent to me last night just before he died. It also contains a message explaining the significance of the data. I understand that Michelle has been recaptured by the slaver group that Monty and Percy originally rescued her from.”

“Yes,” I confirmed. “The agent who told us about the compound we attacked was compromised and we were ambushed when we arrived. At least, that’s what we think happened.”

“Well, your conclusion was correct,” Morgul said. “The agent in question was named Donovan, and Percy would have told you that he was a member of his organization, but that’s only partially true. The reality is that Donovan is an agent of Federation Military Intelligence who we had tasked to work with Percy and his network.”

I leaned back in my chair and frowned. “Did Percy know that Donovan worked with Intelligence?” I asked.

Morgul nodded. “Percy and Donovan were partners,” he said.

My eyes bulged out of their sockets and my chin hit the table top. “Percy Powell worked for Federation Military Intelligence?”

Morgul was grinning now. “Well, we really didn’t give him all that much choice in the matter,” he said, and then proceeded to tell me a story.

After Percy and Monty rescued Michelle they took up an apartment on Xanadu and sent her there. This made Xanadu their de facto base of operations, and they always returned here between runs. One time when they were hauling a load of contraband narcotics for the drug lords on Mirimar they were challenged by a Federation cruiser just outside the system. The cruiser ordered them to heave to and stand for inspection. The cargo was well hidden but Percy and Monty weren’t all that happy about the idea of being boarded just on general principles, and they knew that if they refused the cruiser would just disable them and they would be boarded anyway. So they complied.

An inspection team and a squad of Marines came aboard from the cruiser. The Marines held Monty and Percy in the lounge while the inspectors went through every square centimeter of the ship. They found the drugs, of course, but they didn’t say anything about it. Instead they opened one of the containers and slipped a Radion patch between the bundles. Within less than an hour the cruiser was boosting out and away and the Dragonheart was going down the well to make her rendezvous for delivery.

A few days later the Dragonheart was back on Xanadu. They had just grounded at the spaceport and disembarked when they were met in the hangar by Morgul. He was wearing civilian clothes, but he flashed them his Intelligence ID and asked to speak to them aboard the ship. Once they were aboard he thanked them for their assistance in the operation that took out the last remnants of the drug syndicate on Mirimar and presented them with a reward of one hundred thousand credits. Percy demanded to know what the hell Morgul was talking about, so he explained.

A Radion patch is the ultimate passive homing beacon. It’s a little device developed by the Elves that scans and broadcasts the local radiation spectrum. The transmission itself is so low powered that it’s virtually undetectable, and even if it is detected the people running the detectors are more likely to assume that the readings are some kind of sensor artifact. What they really are, though, is a convenient wrapper for a micro-burst beacon transmission. The range is pretty limited, only a few billion kilometers, but the beacon is foolproof.

The drug lords took possession of their shipment and sent it off to one of their warehouses. By this time the local authorities, with the cooperation of Military Intelligence and the Marine Corps, had pretty much wiped out just about every stronghold the Lords had except for one, the one to which the shipment was taken. The important thing about this warehouse is that it was also the home of their processing labs and offices. A few hours after this shipment was delivered, the place was stormed, commando-style. Neither the drug lords nor their henchmen survived.

Morgul made Monty and Percy an offer. He told them that he was willing to pay in similar quantities for similar service down the road. Percy demanded to know what would happen if they refused. Morgul explained that the drug lords had some very powerful off-world allies, and that it would be a shame for them to learn exactly how the Federation was able to locate and infiltrate that last stronghold.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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