Syndicate Files: The Relic - Part 2

I didn't lower the gun. He looked like an Obelisk-load of bad news.

"Think you're lost, Officer Simaaka. This is my office."

"I'm in the right place. You are Rordon Tarva." It wasn't a question. I gave him a slight nod anyway, and got a little closer, eyeballed the ID. It showed a younger version of the guy in front of me. Hair a little less iron and a little more black, fewer lines around the eyes. Looked legit, but then I could get some pretty convincing papers saying I was the Empress herself, down below-decks.

Course, even if he was DED, he was probably still bent as a paper clip. Cops.

"You know this is Syndicate, right? Surprised you haven't ended up outside, or slaver hound food, yet." There were some that held a grudge against CONCORD: for some of Syndicate's lovable quirks, or just for being cops. I lowered the gun. Didn't feel like I'd need it, or it'd help if I did. Wasn't that kind of bad, not yet. I circled around him and took a seat behind my desk, made a show of turning my back on him and getting a coffee on the way.

"It's Lieutenant-Inspector, and I've managed to keep my head down. Contrary to popular belief, there are matters where the DED has jurisdiction outside of the Empires." He folded his tall frame into one of the chairs in front of the desk. Lonetrek was still heavy on his tongue, "Ever hear of Directive omega-one-five?"

I shook my head.

"Well, it's the directive that says that strong AIs are a big no-no for anyone with any empire ties whatsoever - which is everyone. No matter where you are. I'm here investigating reports of an AI on this station."

"And they sent you alone?"

His expression was impassive as a Tovil-Toba temple statue (yeah, he has worshipers too), and he didn't say anything, but he had that air. DED weren't real popular in Syndicate, but I had a feeling he'd fit in okay.

He just kept looking with flinty eyes, and I found myself talking again, filling the space. Old trick, but not many could pull it on me, "I'm afraid there isn't much I can tell you. Don't know anything about any AI. I know they're prohibited tech, and that's about all."

"Well." he tossed a business card on my desk and stood, "You find anything out, you gimme a call. Sometimes a local perspective can be a real help."

"Always eager to cooperate with the DED. We're known for that, here in Syndicate."

"Of course. Fortune smile on you, Mr Tarva."

As soon as the door shut behind him, I was comming Auvy. No answer so I left a message, "Hey kiddo, need to see what you can get on a Leiutenant-Inspector Tybak Simaaka, DED."

I told her voicemail the rest of what happened, flipping Simaaka's business card back and forth. There was something written on the back in neat, square letters, "And Auvy, anything you can find on a group called the..." I squinted, "Order of the Squirrel?"

I cut the connection. It wasn't an accident he'd given me this card. 'Local perspective.' I don't think 'Fortune smile on you' is a real common way of saying bye, for a Caldari, either. He knew a lot more than that there might be an AI (Was it possible the Minders really did get their hands on one?) and he was hoping I'd get some of the footwork done for him.

Course, position I was in, I'd do it. If this 'Order of the Squirrel' was a tip, I'd be happy to take it, too.

I'd sort out what to do with him, the Minders, and maybe the Dronies and this 'Order of the Squirrel' all wanting the 'AI' once I found it. What's a squirrel, anyway? Sounds like a sort of fish.


It didn't take Auvy long to com me back. She wanted a meet.

She's got a favorite cafe on the edge of one of the big, open markets. She beat me there, as usual. Her hair was darker this week, with a hint of deep blue where the light hit it, a hint matched by the subtly reflective thread woven through the fabric of her blue suit. She looked like she was running her own personal shield booster, although I knew Auvy didn't need any high-tech assistance to make unwanted admirers keep their distance. She waved when she saw me, "Rory!"

"Hey kiddo. What've you got?"

She indicated two steaming cups in front of her, "Alusen's Tea of the Week. It's good, he knows his tea."

"Not really what I was asking about." I took a seat, "I'm more of a coffee man, anyway." She threatened me with a frown, so I sipped.

"Keep on this way, Rory, might make a girl think you only call when there's something you need," She put a slender hand protectively over the folder she'd brought with her, "And not in a good way. Anyway, I thought you didn't do religious."

"They aren't leaving me a lotta options, this time. I like my brain where it is."

"Really?" She arched an eyebrow, "Even with all the trouble it gets you into?"

"Luckily I have looks to get me out of trouble."

She snorted and slid the folder over to me, "Simaaka is really DED. Arrived there by way of NOH. Pretty decorated, not into the heavy stuff - no disappearing people or anything, at least in the files I saw. He is assigned to the division that enforces the laws about prohibited tech, including AIs. It is unusual he would be here by himself, but that's the way it looks. Doesn't even look like he bothered contacting the CONCORD already on the station - couldn't guarantee that one though."

I nodded, "So we might have a real AI, here. What about the Minders?"

"Usual wackos. Think that man will create the gods - AIs. Rumor is that they're gonna hit the Dronies for stealing this 'Mind'. Another tiny below-decks religious war. I guess where them and the Dronies don't see eye to eye is the Dronies think that the intelligence has to leave man and evolve - like drones - and the Minders think it'll be created directly.

"Couldn't get anything on where the Minders coulda got something heavy-weight enough to draw a DED Lieutenant-Inspector, though. Dronies have been going around trying to get people to steal the thing, by the way. When that priest tried to hire you, he didn't know the thing had already been stolen."

"So, I probably don't need to worry too much about the Dronies." I took another sip of tea. Alusen really did know his tea. "Just the Minders and the DED, and maybe this 'Order of the Squirrel'."

"Well, that's where it gets weird."

"That's where it gets weird?"

"Yeah." She tapped the folder with one immaculately painted nail, "It's all in there, but there's nothing unusual about these Squirrel people: Anti-technology, but strictly peaceful. Not much money, not really popular." Yeah, the anti-tech types usually weren't, on space stations - like Ardishapur speaking at a Brutor Tribe rally. Auvy went on, "Nothing like those Dronie and Minder crazies. Then, about a month ago, they do a bunch of fund raising, and then all that money goes through a lawyer hired by a shell corporation and disappears. When I heard you visited Ydet, I did a little checking."

She sniffed with disapproval. She and Ydet don't get along, "Turns out it is pretty likely the money went to her fee."

"So, at least that tells me who hired her to steal the thing. Just need to find out why."

"About that..." Auvy bit her lip, but looked at me with steel in her eyes, "The Squirrels hold open services. I thought a couple of curious new-comers wouldn't raise too much suspicion."


She patted a package on the chair next to her, "I brought robes."

"Auvy, I really don't think-"

"I know you don't, Rory, but that's why you have me. For thinking. For example, I think I know where the place is and you don't. I did the research, I know what we're walking into. I'm going, you can come with me."

"Fine. Just a look around, Auvy."

"Course Rory." She stood up, the movement doing complicated things to the shimmer of her suit and uncomplicated things to me. "You forget I'm not a little girl anymore."

Not much chance of that.

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