Syndicate Files: The Box - Part 1

I was just minding my own business, leafing through a case file in my office, when trouble walked in and asked in a breathy voice, "You're Rordon Tarva? The detective?"

I knew she would be trouble. Maybe it was the curve of her lips, maybe it was the flight suit that fit a little too well. Who am I kidding, it was the podder implants. I stood and waved to a seat. Podder or not, a client's a client, and rent was due, "Call me Rory, Ms...?"

"Kaitane Ihonoka. You can call me Kaita." She sat with a nervous smile and a flip of her short, black hair. There wasn't any smile in those pretty gray eyes though, and I'd bet dirt against Exile that I'd never see nerves in them. Gray as a Raven's soul and dangerous, so much so I near missed what she said next, "I've been told you find things. Something of mine has disappeared."

I flipped open a notepad, "Can you describe the item?"

"A metal crate. Two meters tall, by one, by one. It has an on-board power source. It disappeared from my hangar floor. I have some diagrams."

She passed them over. Hardcopy, and there was pages of stuff. And lots of pages missing: The ones that showed the insides. For the rest, well, it was a metal box. I'm a simple guy, so I asked the obvious, "What's in it?"

"Nothing illegal." She laid it on thick, wide eyed, and even a little tremble around the mouth, "And I want it back badly Rory."

I wasn't falling for it. Not much, anyway. This is Syndicate, where "not illegal" means your bribes are all up to date. Still, a podder, she should be able to pay, "I'll look for the box for you. Now, I charge five hundred a day, plus expenses. Two days in advance is your deposit. That's whether I find it or not."

"The money is in your account." I thought she had been laying it on before, until she smiled. Cut through a man like a laser, that smile. "And if there is anything else I can do for you..."

I have rules, about relationships with clients and with people who give a bulk discount on massacres. Those kinda relationships get messy. So I got a few answers about dates, times, who might have access, things like that, scheduled a talk with her Hangar Chief and shooed her outta the office quick as I could.

The whole thing had gone colder than a priest's soul before she'd even got into my office, the box had been gone two days before she was desperate enough to bring in an outsider. I needed to get moving, but first thing's first. I brought out my neocom and checked my account balance. And nearly choked. She'd paid in isk, not syns - Syndicate Credits. I did a quick bit of math: With current exchange rate I could live like one of Quafe's pet senators for a year on that. Maybe even afford to hire a secretary.

Money like that, normally I'd say it stunk like three weeks on a shuttle full of cattle, but podders, right? She probably didn't even notice. That's what I told myself anyway. Money has a blinding charm all its own.

I squared things at the office and caught a ride down to Dockland. The bar nearest Kaita's hangar was a run down affair wedged into what was supposed to be the clear space between two internal bulkheads. If it had any kind of operating license, it was the cash-in-an-envelope sort, and the place didn't even have a name. Longshoremen who looked like they hardly needed help from a loader to move a few tons of ore around were lounging at rickety tables outside. I sidestepped as a man and a woman rolled out of the dimly lit interior. I'm not positive what they were doing, but the man spit out two teeth. I took the opportunity to slip inside.

The interior was crowded with a restless, shadowy mass of shapes. I pulled my coat a bit closer and tried to blend in, but I felt like the furrier in the slaver pen as I moved to the bar. The bar tender had a Caldari look to her, and seemed hard enough to do her own bouncing. I motioned her over and flashed fifty syns, "Anyone been showing a lotta credits round here lately? Last week or so? And a brew for me."

She pulled me a beer and gave me the usual: a hard look, a sneer, and a "Maybe."

I held out three fifties, "Got a name for me sweetheart?"

"For these, yeah, Gellique." She jerked her head at someone behind me, "And for calling me 'sweetheart,' this. You come back sometime honeycheeks."

I was grabbed from behind, and I got a look at the bouncer as I flew out the door. He looked like he might be a cargo loader. At least I didn't have to try the beer.

I dusted myself off to the laughter of the patrons at the tables outside, rallied my dignity like the Amarr at Atioth, and headed out. I sent a query to a friend in what passes as the station's government about the name 'Gellique' and whether the station's internals had a chance of detecting the power plant attached to the box.

It'd take a while for her to get back to me, so I set my sights on Kaita's hangar. I gave my authentication to her security there and got passed through. The guys manning the checkpoint looked tougher than the top shelf body armor they were wearing, and had a look I remembered from the days when I was drawing a corporate salary. Not amateurs, so how did someone sneak a man-sized box past them?

Well, that's why I was getting paid. I met Kaita's hangar chief, Oiman Mastako, in his office adjoining the main hangar. He had a face like a Veld 'roid: Lumpy, grayish, and begging for a laser hole. He radiated smugness like an antimatter charge radiated hurt. I wondered how well he knew someone named Gellique.

I took a seat without being asked and started right in. "Just got a couple questions for you. Tell me what happened."

He twisted his mouth like I walked in with a fedo conga line, but I knew my authorization from his boss was there flashing at him, "It was Tuesday, when myself and most of the rest of the regular hangar staff have the day off. We came back Wednesday, and the box was gone. There are no cameras or sensors on the hangar floor, for obvious reasons."

'Obvious' because a little run of the mill pilferage by hangar staff was nothing compared to creating a record of the things that transpire in your average podder's hangar, "What about security? The checkpoint on the way in didn't seem half-assed."

Mastako had the grace to look embarrassed at least, "Those are new, ex-Home Guard, mostly. At the time of the, um, incident we had contracted out to a local company. Ashte Security and Consulting. They came very highly recommended by the local contacts."

I'll bet they did. I knew of them. "And the box, you know what was in it?"

He hemmed and hawed and all I could get out of him was, "It's a bio-preservation unit, so something biological I guess."

Something 'biological.' Great. I pressed for a bit longer but didn't get anything useful until I was half out the door, "Last question, I wanted to talk to one of your guys..." I pretended to flip through my notes, "Gellique?"

His answer wasn't much of a surprise, "Henri Gellique hasn't shown up for work since Tuesday. You see him, tell him he's fired."

((Part 2))


  1. Thanks to Ciarente for invaluable editing help, though I take the credit for any terrible mistakes.

  2. Outstanding. (Tarva 'sounds' like a nod to both Chandler and Michael Garibaldi, which I appreciate. :P)

  3. *recalls adding a comma or two*...

    Thanks for the credit, but you deserve 100% of the praise.