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Established Alibi?

Posted on Thu May 2nd, 2019 @ 8:52am by Jordan Gunning & Lieutenant Erin Whitlam PhD
Edited on on Thu May 2nd, 2019 @ 8:53am

Mission: Starbase 332, Where Are You?
Location: Peluu, Archa IV

[Months Ago]

Jordan Gunning turned onto the promenade and stopped to admire the strings of lamps which were strung along the seawall. The wall plunged seven or eight feet down to the white sand beach and was, at its source, an entirely unnecessary addition to a seafront where the tide was controlled to never come in too far. It was a fairly balmy evening on Peluu and the sun was just setting beyond the horizon as hundreds of revellers sat in the cafes and bars along the promenade, absorbing the buzz of the city.

Gunning's purpose wasn't pleasure - he couldn't really remember the last time he'd had fun - and he felt a sense of foreboding as he walked up to the ornate alloy facade of The Bakery and joined the queue. Something, or someone, was pushing him toward Kal Eck and that didn't sit well with him. He barely noticed himself reach the front of the queue.

"Where you been tonight buddy?"

"Huh?" Gunning responded to the question in almost the worst way possible. The Great Wall of Bouncer looked down at him through steely-grey eyes. "Oh, I just made planetfall. Came straight down here."

"Starfleet?" The bouncer asked, trying to work out if Jordan was drunk or stupid. Jordan nodded hopefully, like someone who hadn't seen a bar in weeks. "You poor bastard - better go on in."

The bouncer stepped back and Gunning climbed the stairs into the body of the club. It was early and not half as busy as he had been expecting. There were a few occupied tables, clearly those who were prepared had come to reserve their spaces early and the tempo of the music was slower than it had been at the door. He took a look around and saw a live band playing some kind of electronic oddity. It wasn't his kind of place. Not that he was writing a review.

Approaching the bar he placed his palms flat on the surface, arms spread wide apart. The bar... alien... seemed to appear out of nowhere. "What can I get you sir?"

Jordan looked into its eyes, or at least as many as he could at the one time. They barely flickered any response and he lifted his hand to wave it in front of its face. No reaction. "I'm a hologram, sir." The alien said in perfect Federation Standard, a sarcastic lilt to its voice having been triggered by Jordan's gesturing. "Latest in holo technology from Jenmarc Industries."

"I'm looking for the owner." Gunning replied, ignoring the sales pitch. "Kal Eck." He could feel the hologram's eyes flicker slightly, almost as if the mention started some kind of recording.

Above the growing crowd of devoted patrons, curious newcomers and assorted oddballs, a hulking shadow kept a careful eye on every detail. At the beginning of any night, this is where he would perch; the master of all he surveyed. Where he could keep a steely eye on his staff, survey potential opportunities among the patronage and assess would-be threats.

The quiet observer spied one such would-be threat as soon as he walked in the door. It was easy to differentiate the ones who came for the booze or the entertainment from the ones who were looking for something. Those nosey characters were the threats. And like gildfish who wander too deep into the waters of the razorfin they needed to be taken care of.

One of the wait staff approached the shadow, vanishing momentarily into the darkness as she passed on a message. He nodded and with a gesture gave the girl her instructions. As she walked away, the hulk stood from his lounge, his head rising out of the shadow and into a streak of cool blue light. The skin of his hairless scalp shone, and the rings in his brow twinkled above dark, seemingly bottomless pits that were his eyes, still shaded from the light. He stared down into the club for a moment, his gaze lingering on the gildfish at the bar for a long moment before he turned and left the balcony.

Down below, an Archan waitress skipped up to Gunning with an enthusiastic smile and in a lyrical voice said, “Hey there, handsome. Would you come with me? My boss wants to say hello.”

Gunning turned and followed the woman through the growing crowd. He was getting exactly what he'd come for but still felt like more 'deer in headlights' than he might have liked. "So what's this boss of yours like?" He asked as he eventually drew level with her. "Good to work for?"

She didn't respond, only turned her head to him and smiled as if the question amused her. She led him through a side door to the main area, which led into a well lit corridor that was starkly different to the club they'd just left; more sterile, even fussy. Without warning, the waitress stopped, spun around like a dancer and gestured to the door they'd stopped before.

"He's in here," she said, sizing Gunning up as she spoke. "Watch the corners." With that, she walked off back down the hall the way they came.

Gunning didn't enjoy the suggestion of dangerous corners but the hulk in the centre of the room was plenty concerning. "Kal Eck? Nice to meet you, I'm Jordan Gunning. Got a quick couple of questions for you if you've got a moment?"

There was a pregnant pause as Kal Eck seemed to consider his answer. It lingered, stretched on for some time before a low, gravelly voice said, “How can I be of assistance … Commander?”

"Just Jordan's fine." Gunning beamed back, trying not to let the inescapable air of menace wash over him. "I understand you recently attended a party thrown by," he checked his notebook. He didn't need to but it bought him a second of illumination as the screen of the pad lit up. They weren't alone. Great. "Cha Ep. Is that correct?"

"I know Cha Ep and, yes, I've been to some of his functions in recent times," Kal Eck replied, pleasantly enough.

"I see. Are you aware that Mr Ep has recently passed away?"

"Oh yes, such a tragedy," the big man replied, sounding almost devastated.

"Yes, as you say." Jordan fixed him with the hardest stare he could. "I assume you're aware that he was murdered. I'm just trying to establish the movements of the party guests. I understand it was on the same day as Mr Ep's death."

"Is that so?" he replied, his surprise at the revelation almost theatrical. He shook his head and clicked his tongue. "A murder. Such a terrible thing."

Jordan didn't break his gaze but heard someone shuffle in the corner. "As you say. Murder."

[Then]

Kal Eck clearly wasn't one for the niceties of beating seven shades out of someone. Politeness would have you grab someone, give them a chance to fling you over their shoulder or get a little swing in before you got them on the ground and punctured a lung. The energy blast that had knocked Gunning off his feet hadn't had any of that etiquette.

The light streamed in through his eyelashes as the morning sun pried its way in. It took him a minute - a second ago he'd been on a boat in the middle of a Venice canal singing La Dolce Vita at the top of his voice. He couldn't move his head. He couldn't move anything in fact.

Someone in a white tunic stood over him. "Good morning Mister Gunning - we were starting to worry we wouldn't see you again."

Gunning went to reply but no words came out. "You were in a pretty bad way when we got you. Someone clearly did a number on you! So many broken bones I thought we were going to have to hire a knitting club to put you back together!"

This chirpy character wasn't ticking any of Gunning's boxes. "Now don't try to move or speak - you're still plastered up pretty good. You'll be another couple of days before you're good to go. So try to relax for a bit."

The face was familiar - it kept going round and round in his head. He tried to look down but his neck muscles wouldn't do anything. He stared straight ahead - looking at her was making him upset. Why?

Why why why? "Rightoh Commander Gunning." She chirruped, leaning over him and flashing a bright light in his eyes. "You'd better grit those teeth, 'cause this is going to hurt!"

Something deep down inside told him to shut his eyes. He tried to summon that image of the gondola and the sound of La Dolce Vita but it didn't drown out the high-pitched scream of the drill.

That's where he knew the face from. She was the one that had been torturing him.
_____________________

Jordan Gunning

NPCs played by Lieutenant Erin Whitlam

 

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