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Tangled Threads, Tangled Strings

by Michael J A Tyzuk

Table of Contents
Part 6 appeared
in issue 150.

Tamara Tomson, detective extraordinaire of Acheron City, has had a few successes in the recent past, but they have been earned at the cost of some terrible losses. Now, she awakens every morning a mess, not sure how many bottles of wine she drank the night before. Her dissolving life must be put on hold, though, when a set of simultaneous murder sprees occur throughout the City.

Tamara is assigned to the case along with her partner, Jeremy, who may care a bit more for Tamara than he does for the case. As the connections between these murders become tangled like a puppetmaster’s strings, Tamara realizes that while her problems may have been suppressed, they can come back to haunt her.

part 7 of 11

“Is that why you interrogated me about my nightmares?” Tamara asked. “Because you see something valuable in me and you want to preserve that?”

“Of course it is,” Jeremy answered. “But if you must know, I’m not the only one. A lot of people around here are worried sick about you. They wouldn’t be worried if they didn’t care about you, you know.”

Tamara nodded. “I know. I just don’t know how to get myself out of this place I’ve gotten into, you know?”

Jeremy smiled. “Yeah, I know. But that’s okay. You’ll figure it out soon enough.”

It was then that Mike Richardson came into the squad room and strode up to Tamara and Jeremy. “We found a few things,” he said without preamble. “You’re going to want to see this.”

* * *

Tamara and Jeremy were seated in the guest chairs in front of Kevin’s desk. Kevin was leaning back in his chair, watching Mike speculatively as he handed out datacards to his attentive audience. Kevin inserted his card into the reader for his desktop terminal. Jeremy pulled a datapad from his pocket, inserted the card, and began to scroll through the contents. Because she had left her purse in her desk drawer and didn’t have any pockets in which to hide a datapad, Tamara had to make do with reading over Jeremy’s shoulder.

“Your forensics people are good,” Mike said. “In fact, they’re almost as good as the people attached to Intelligence. The diversion arranged by Tamara and Jeremy allowed us to catch the Underground completely by surprise. The downside is that the battle to take the safe house was fierce, so it was necessary for the Marines to act with lethal force. I would have preferred to take a few of the soldiers alive, but we’ll have to make do with the ones that you two captured.”

“The soldiers’ bodies have been taken to the morgue at the garrison for the time being,” Mike continued, “until I can arrange to have them moved to the Rising Star. I’ve got people at the garrison performing genetic testing to see if we can determine who these people are and where they came from. In the meantime, however, we have other information to consider.”

“The Underground tried to wipe the contents of the safe house computer when we made our assault. Fortunately for us the Marines figured out what they were doing and were able to stop them before they succeeded. I had my people upload the contents of their database to the Rising Star for analysis. The first file on that datacard contains the results of that analysis. What it boils down to is this: the contents of the database confirm that this is one of several safe houses the Underground is operating here in Acheron City. The database also confirms that the Underground was working on neural implants of the type used to create those disturbances that were reported the day we made orbit.”

“So, the Underground was responsible for turning those people into killing machines,” Kevin summarized.

“Precisely,” Mike answered. “And, thanks again to their database, we also know the identity of the lead researcher for what they refer to as the Puppet Master Project. That information is in the second file on that datacard.”

Jeremy opened the file in question and frowned at the image on the tiny screen. Tamara looked up at Mike. “This says his name is Phillip Graham, but he looks like the two guys we captured from the safe house,” she noted.

“And those two fellows looked enough alike that someone would think they were twins,” Jeremy put in. “I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense that if there are twins there’s always the possibility of triplets.”

“I suppose so,” Tamara conceded.

“There could also be another explanation,” Kevin reminded them.

Tamara nodded. “But from what I understand cloning leaves behind biological traces that can be identified,” she said. “We’re going to have to have those two fellows examined.”

“Agreed,” Kevin answered. “But we’re not going to be able to do anything until they talk to their legal council.”

Mike frowned at that. “You’re letting them talk to a lawyer?”

Kevin shrugged. “I have to,” he said. “The Imperial Charter of Rights and Freedoms depends on it. The only way that I can get around that is with a finding from Her Majesty that the conditions of the Charter don’t apply to these individuals, and since you haven’t provided me with such a finding I’m constrained to operate within the limits of the law.” He turned to Tamara and Jeremy. “This reminds me, the Search and Seizure Warrant for your little raid this morning should be on your terminals by now.”

Tamara smiled at that. Under normal circumstances they were supposed to have the warrant in hand before they conducted the raid, but in this case they had been able to circumvent that little legal loophole with the help of a particularly compassionate Magistrate who would doubtlessly ask the department for a favor sometime in the future. And the department would be compelled to grant him his favor. Such was the price of quick justice.

Jeremy was still reading the file on the datapad. “This says that Phillip Graham was based at the safe house we raided,” he noted, “but he wasn’t there when we secured the place. So, either he wasn’t there when we conducted the raid, or he escaped during the raid.”

“Either way that makes him a very dangerous man,” Tamara said. “Does their database give us the locations of their other safe houses?”

Mike nodded. “There’s a map in the first file,” he said. “That’s the other thing that I wanted to talk to you guys about. The map on the datacard confirms the information we got from Intelligence, but it also gives us locations for safe houses that Intelligence didn’t know about.”

Jeremy had called up the map on his datapad. He looked up at Mike and whistled appreciatively. “According to this the Underground has tunneled into the utility maintenance network below street level,” he said. “They’re using that to move from safe house to safe house. That must be how Phillip Graham escaped. Unfortunately, that means he could be anywhere in the city by now.”

Tamara was scrutinizing the map over Jeremy’s shoulder. She felt a cold shiver walk up and down her spine as one of the safe house locations caught her eye. “One of those tunnels runs into a basement apartment in one of the residential towers across from the spaceport,” she said.

Mike nodded. “That’s where I think Phillip is going.”

“It would make a certain amount of sense,” Jeremy agreed. “If he was at the safe house we raided then he has to be thinking that his project is compromised, at least on this planet. So he’d want to leave and go find greener pastures.”

“And he’d take his research with him,” Mike added. “Some of his research notes were in the database, but I have no reason not to believe that this Phillip is a very intelligent man. If I were in his shoes and working on a sensitive project like this I’d always have a copy of my research notes on a datacard in my pocket.”

“And I’d make sure that the other safe houses wiped any copies that might be in their databases,” Tamara put in.

“That makes capturing this Phillip Graham a number one priority,” Kevin stated.

“Unfortunately, it also means that we have an additional problem,” Mike said.

“What would that be?” Tamara wondered.

“Well, by this time the Underground has to know about our raid on that safe house,” Mike explained. “Now, if I was in their shoes and discovered that my supposedly secret operation had been compromised by the opposition I’d be looking at bugging out. I think they’re preparing to evacuate.”

“And if they leave there’s nothing to stop them from coming back,” Jeremy added.


“What do you have in mind?” Kevin wanted to know.

Mike took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t have enough Marines on the Rising Star to be able to raid all of these safe houses at the same time, so I had a little talk with the garrison commander and I’ve arranged to borrow some of his men. I’ve instructed my Detachment Commander to take command of that part of the operation.”

“While you and me and Tamara make a run out to the spaceport,” Jeremy finished, “and see if we can’t bag us a bad guy.”

Kevin turned to Tamara. “Can you live with that?” he demanded.

Tamara nodded. “Given what he’s done so far I’m inclined to believe that this fellow is sufficiently dangerous that I’m happy to have the extra pair of hands along for the ride.”

“Then get moving,” Kevin ordered. “I’ll get in touch with our Magistrate friend and get you the warrants you’ll need.”

Tamara and Jeremy and Mike filed out of Kevin’s office. They stopped at Tamara’s desk so that she could collect her purse. Jeremy turned to Mike. “Why don’t we meet you at the target site?” he suggested.

Mike arched his brow. “Why?”

Jeremy gestured at Tamara. “Well, as cute as she looks in that dress I don’t necessarily think it’s the thing for her to be wearing on this kind of raid, if you know what I mean.”

Mike grinned and clapped Jeremy on the shoulder. “I know what you mean,” he assured the other man. “Get her taken care of. I’ll meet you at the target.” He turned and strode out of the squad room.

Jeremy picked up the black blazer that Tamara had draped over the back of her chair and helped her into it. “You know, this isn’t necessary,” she said. “I can handle the raid dressed like this.”

Jeremy grinned. “That’s not what I’m worried about,” he said. “See, I figure that if we go on this raid and you’re dressed like you are now then I’ll get distracted during the inevitable firefight. I’ll be so busy staring at you that I’ll miss my target.”

Tamara grinned. “Flatterer.”

* * *

Tamara and Jeremy stopped at Tamara’s place just long enough for her to change clothes. Within moments she had traded her dress for a faded pair of jeans and a pink cashmere sweater and the two of them were on their way to their rendezvous with Mike Richardson.

Mike was waiting across the street from their target building. He was sitting at a table at an outdoor bistro, munching on a sandwich and reading from a datapad. Jeremy and Tamara sat down on either side of him. “Good to see you’re making yourself inconspicuous,” Tamara quipped.

“Well, I was feeling a bit peckish,” Mike explained. “Besides which, women always seem to take so long to decide what they’re going to wear, so I thought that having a light meal to keep up my strength would be the appropriate thing to do.”

Jeremy chuckled. “Don’t let the pink sweater fool you, Navy Man,” he said. “This woman’s got balls at least as big as yours.”

Tamara beamed at the compliment. “It’s so good to be appreciated for my talents.”

“Talents have nothing to do with it,” Mike responded. “He’s still thinking about you in that dress.”

“Of course he is,” Tamara returned. “So are you.”

Jeremy cocked his head at Mike. “Why is it that we allow them to think that they’re the center of our universe?” he asked.

Mike grinned. “They’re called breasts, Jeremy.”

Tamara looked almost obscenely proud of herself as she echoed, “They’re called breasts, Jeremy.”

“Oh, yeah,” Jeremy said. “Breasts. For a moment I forgot about those.”

“With her around I find that impossible to believe,” Mike said.

Tamara grinned. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, “as fun as this conversation is didn’t we come here to arrest ourselves a dissident?”

“She does have a point,” Jeremy admitted.

“Two of them that I can see,” Mike said. Tamara kicked him underneath the table. He rubbed his wounded shin. “Sometimes redheads just have no sense of humor,” he lamented.

“It’s auburn,” Tamara corrected him. “If you’re going to mention it the least you could do is get it right.”

Tamara, Jeremy and Mike casually walked across the street to the front door of the target building. It was a security vestibule with an open outer door and a locked inner door. To get in the visitor was required to enter a code into an intercom panel built into the wall. A list of tenant’s last names and their appropriate code numbers was posted beside the panel. Tamara and Mike stood guard while Jeremy fished a code picker from his pocket and set to work on the lock for the inner door.

Moments later they were down on the basement level, standing in front of the door to the reserve safe house. Mike produced a hand scanner and held it in front of the door. He held up a single finger as he put the scanner away and drew his sidearm. Tamara and Jeremy pulled their own sidearms in response. Tamara motioned for Mike to take up position on one side of the door while she took up position on the other. Both of them had their weapons in the safe position, aimed down at the floor.

Jeremy took a deep breath, and then lashed out with his foot. The door to the apartment crashed open. Mike went through first, closely followed by Tamara, with Jeremy bringing up the rear. “Acheron City Police!” Tamara called out when she caught sight of Phillip. “Don’t move!”

It was already too late for that.

Phillip had taken a storage container from one of the closets and carried it to the dining room table. He had opened it and was busily pocketing charges for his sidearm. When he heard the door come crashing in he had pulled a second sidearm from the box and came around to aim both weapons at whoever was coming through. Tamara had just finished her directive when he pulled first one trigger, and then the other.

Jeremy had grabbed hold of Tamara and ducked down the hallway. Mike had ducked around the other corner and taken refuge against the living room wall, but he hadn’t stopped there. He had gone all the way through the living room and came around into the dining room, brought his weapon around to bear on where his target should have been.

But Phillip was no longer there.

Tamara came into the dining room, closely followed by Jeremy. She looked around and saw a section of the dining room wall slipping back into place. She wedged her foot into the gap between the wayward section and the rest of the wall and heaved the panel aside. An open, empty tunnel appeared before her. “Oh, hell,” Tamara muttered. “He’s in the utility tunnels.”

“Let’s get after him, then,” Jeremy said.

Tamara went into the tunnel first, followed by Mike, with Jeremy bringing up the rear. In short order they came to an intersection and stopped. Mike produced his hand scanner, waved it left and right. “Left,” he whispered.

The two detectives and the Navy captain jogged down the tunnel until they came to another intersection. Mike held out his scanner again and motioned to the left. Moments later they were greeted with a blank duracrete wall. Tamara pushed against the wall section, was gratified when it slipped out the way to reveal another tunnel. The three jogged through the tunnel, came through the door on the other side and emerged in the middle of the passenger terminal of the spaceport.

“Now where the hell did he go?” Jeremy demanded.

Mike didn’t even bother to produce his scanner. There were hundreds of people in the passenger terminal. The close proximity of that many other biosigns would invalidate whatever readings he would be able to get, which probably wouldn’t be much. He pocketed the scanner and brought his wrist communicator to his lips. “Rising Star, Commanding Officer.” he said.

A voice came back a moment later. “Rising Star, XO Kyle here.”

“Matt, one of the dissidents got away from us,” Mike explained. “Scan the Acheron City Spaceport and tell me if there’s anything launching. Also, I want you to sample the spaceport’s comm channels and tell me if there’s anything lifting that doesn’t have clearance.”

There was a short pause. “Got him, Skipper,” Matt said. “There’s a civilian runabout lifting from docking bay twenty-one. Traffic control is more than a little miffed because she didn’t bother to ask for clearance. They’re calling for fighters from the garrison to chase her down.”

“Signal the garrison to belay that request,” Mike ordered. “Then get on the comm with the spaceport and tell them that we’ll take care of the runabout. We’re coming back to the ship. I want you ready to break orbit the moment we dock.”

“Roger that. We’ll be waiting for you.”

Mike holstered his sidearm. Tamara and Jeremy followed suit. “Come on,” Mike said. “The shuttle is this way.”

Proceed to part 8...

Copyright © 2005 by Michael J A Tyzuk

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