Episode 33 – Vacation Investigations
Friday, March 26, 2094:
The “Jeekies” Battlebot Competition is today. There will be three rounds of elimination. Sakagi (Nip), Nikou, Delruba and Hao Duyi each easily defeat their first round opponents with no damage to their Battle-Bots. Most of the competitors are very standard wheeled robots. Sakagi’s, however, resembles a miniature knight on horseback with a small chainsaw lance, which she calls her “Pretty Pink Pony”. Sakagi faces Nikou in the second round and easily shreds the young Iranian’s bot. The little knight doesn’t even take a hit. Both Delruba and Hao Duyi win their second rounds. In the third round Delruba falls to Hao Duyi and Sakagi faces one of the club’s top students, Wang Chan. Chan is more of a challenge, but still Sakagi comes out on top.
The final round pits Hao Duyi versus Sakagi. When Hao Duyi’s machine enters the ring with its miniature chainsaw roaring, everyone sees he has painted two phrases in Chinese characters on it: “Listen up, you primitive screw heads!” and “Shop smart, shop S-Mart!” However, within the first 30 seconds Sakagi destroys Hao Duyi’s battle-bot’s weapon. The transfer student resorts to ramming and gets in a damaging hit.
“You dinged my pony!” Sakagi cries out.
Hao Duyi replies, “That’s not all I’m going to ding!”
This battle goes on for over five full minutes as the two pound each other. The crowd roars its approval. Finally, the larger size of Hao Duyi’s machine drops the smaller four legged automaton. The transfer student takes his machine on a victory lap around the small combat area, or rather a victory wobble. His battle-bot is barely functional.
Sakagi goes up and congratulates Hao Duyi, “That was one of the best robot battles I have ever had.”
“Nicely fought, young lady,” Hao Duyi replies, “but what can I say, I’m just ….”
“Lucky?” Sakagi quickly offers.
“Really good,” the transfer student corrects. He then turns to Nikou and adds, “You are avenged, my love.”
Hao Duyi then turns to Sakagi and says, “Well, I guess good genes win out.”
Professor Gau is very impressed by the fight and both Sakagi and Hao Duyi get “A’s”. All head out for a celebratory drink, but the Team heads in early as they have a trip tomorrow.
Saturday, March 27, 2094:
At 6 am, the Team in the guises of Claire (Natty), Professor Ben Chang (Khan), John Marshall (Owen) as the diplomatic security officer and Sakagi in her guise of the “Mousey Librarian” from the Baratarian Diplomatic Security Service take the high speed sleeper train to the coastal city of New Shanghai at the end of the Line. They arrive there at 3 pm and within the hour catch a four hour flight to the capital of New Beijing.
Sunday, March 28, 2094:
At 12 am, they depart on spaceplane for de Kamp orbital transfer station, which is a giant torus wheel operated by UN, but owned by colonial planetary government. Three hours later they arrive and wait for another three hours to catch the shuttle to Ukwu, Biafra capital. By 8 am they arrive in the capital city and head to their hotel to prepare for the first of their prearranged interviews.
At 3 pm, Claire has a meeting with Mukoso Chioma, Homicide Detective, who was the Senior Homicide Detective in Ukwu. At the time of the massacre, he was 48 years old. Mukoso is now 70 years old and retired in Ukwu. Claire explains that she is doing a paper on the Sons of Wotan Massacre that led to their destruction.
The retired detective tells her, “We got there in just over 6 hours. The King himself lent us his personal AV, a British Aerospace FAB. The scene was a mess. Tochukwu (the local police officer) meant well, but . . . he was young. These were his friends, family even. And sure, there was only one of him and dozens of relatives wanting to know about the victims. But even so . . . this should not have happened. An officer’s first responsibility is to secure the crime scene.”
“He allowed folks to go inside, move the people. So of course there were bloody footprints all over the place that belonged to the villagers, not the perps.”
“We collected the casings, took what evidence we could. There were tire tracks from the bikes heading out of town. We took plaster casts. The treads were consistent with several tire-makers for dirt bikes that can travel off-road, which they did. Afterwards they headed straight leftward for the badlands. They were seen arriving from there as well.”
“I reported my findings to the King. But the forensic evidence was not very useful. It was impossible to pinpoint who was responsible. We got no cooperation from the Sons colony in identifying the group responsible. Mr. Rolfsen kept insisting the Sons were not responsible, but clearly they were. One of the survivors saw the cuts on all the men, and the cameras captured the evidence clearly.”
“I don’t know what more I can tell you.”
Claire asks if any shell casings from the massacre are still in evidence. He tells her that Akudinobi Jideofor, the current chief homicide detective and the man who went with him to the massacre site all those years ago might have those. He offers to make a call to him for her about that.
The two muse about the UN’s apparent inability to stop the continuing raids. Claire and John Marshall scan him during the interview and he is being open and helpful. The biogen thanks him and the Team heads back to the hotel.
That night everyone gets dressed up and goes out dancing. They attract a bit of attention as they are some of the few white (and Chinese) people in the city. Claire knocks out a 51 on her dance and even Ben cranks out a 28. They all have a good time interacting with the very friendly locals before heading back to the hotel.
Monday, March 29, 2094:
At 8 am, they head out to the home of Ikenna Amadi, former Chief Coroner. The man lives with his family in a small farming town outside the capital. He is now 72 and suffering from Alzheimer’s. Claire is hoping the former coroner is having a good day. He conducted 12 of the autopsies on the murdered villagers. The Team is led out to a garden where the old man is enjoying the morning. Claire starts slowly, talking about the flowers and the garden. John shakes his hand, introduces himself and tries to focus the old man’s mind on the massacre. As he is reading the old man’s mind, he gets flashes of like “strobe light” effect of moments from autopsies on:
A boy, age 5. A girl, age 7. A girl, age 8. A boy, age 10. A teenage boy, age 15. A teenage girl, age 17. A man, age 22. A woman, age 25. A man, age 26. A woman, age 36. A man, age 39. A man, age 52
All are shot; most at least twice if not more. Half were shot in the back of the torso or head. Six were shot again in the head or through the heart after they were dead (he can tell because no bleeding). The oldest man had arthritis. Most had stomach contents consisting of “ice cream plus something”.
Since John is reading his memories: these “coup de grace” shots indicate expert marksmanship. Lack of stippling around those wounds plus your knowledge of the weapon indicate those shots were fired from more than a couple of feet away yet were highly accurate.
That’s all he really can remember so Claire just moves the conversation back to gardens and flowers. They thank the family and head back to the city.
At 1 pm they have lunch with Emeka Oluchukwu, the former High Council Representative. He is now a highly respected dibia (mediator between human and spirit realms). Emeka was 34 then, is 56 now. He lives in Ukwu, the Biafran capital. Claire opens the conversation with a little bit about her (cover identity) and they both agree on the importance of learning from history. Emeka Oluchukwu also finds it curious that the UN hasn’t been able to stamp out bandit activity. He believes that part of the problem is that the New Confederacy may be giving shelter to the bandits.
When the High Council was debating whom to appoint as the Special Investigator, Emeka took offense when the Commonwealth of Liberty Council Representative made remarks about Pabral’s religion making him an inappropriate choice for Special Investigator. The Commonwealth of Liberty person said it was like appointing apples (Sharia law) to investigate oranges (criminal offenses). Emeka took offense because his own religion has been disparaged. Besides, “Evidence is evidence. Your religion has no bearing on collecting evidence.”
He does not know who did the massacre, but was satisfied with Prabal’s report that the Sons were indeed responsible. He has never revisited that conclusion.
While ‘reading’ Emeka Oluchukwu during this conversation it is clear that he is most vehement about his views on religion.
In the afternoon both Claire and Sakagi head to the library and research all the local news stories about the massacre. By the afternoon they have put together an impressive file:
[Daily: Monday, 19 September 2072]
Massacre at Onwa Owuwe
Yesterday, thirty-two citizens living in the border town of Onwa Owuwe were murdered. It appears that ten members of the Sons of Wotan, a motorcycle club and colony, invaded this community from the neighboring badlands and slaughtered innocent men, women and children. The victims were enjoying ice cream and other treats at the time they were shot. Evidence comes from eyewitness testimony—two children survived the attack—and a security camera that caught the entire incident on video tape. Several residents also claimed to have seen the perpetrators arrive on their motorcycles. Local authorities attempted to follow the killers, but were not successful. “They just disappeared into their cloud of dust,” according to one of the police officers. “By the time we got to the next ridge, even that was dissipating in the winds.”
King Uzochi Ginikandu lent investigators his personal AV so that the coroner and two homicide detectives could get to the scene as quickly as possible. Ukwu Assistant Coroner Nkiruka Chikeri took charge of the bodies and supervised their transport back to Ukwu for autopsies. Ukwu homicide detectives Mukoso Chioma and Akudinobi Jideofor also investigated, interviewing residents and collecting shell casings, tire tread casts, and other forensics at the scene. This morning, Prime Minister Chikere Balonwu addressed the High Council by video conference. He said, “The Sons of Wotan should be declared outlaws and their lands confiscated. I respectfully request that the Council authorize the UN to eliminate the colony and their members.”
[Daily: Tuesday, 20 September 2072]
Sons Deny Involvement, High Council Debates Action
Inger Rolfsen, Bossman of the Sons of Wotan colony, today insisted that the Sons did not participate in the massacre at Onwa Owuwe. “We are a motorcycle culture, yes, but just as anyone can put on a uniform and claim to be a policeman, anyone can wear a ‘cut’ that looks like one of ours. Aside from those vests, there is no evidence that the Sons are responsible.”
Council Representative Emeka Oluchukwu today reported that the Council is debating what to do. Given Rolfsen’s denials, members are reluctant to declare the Sons outlaw unless additional proof is supplied. The UN said our homicide detectives were unfamiliar with terrorism and therefore unsuited to the task of investigating this crime. Oluchukwu insisted that was a ludicrous charge, and cited the 28 years of experience of Senior Homicide Detective Chioma, nearly 18 of those years in Homicide. “Murder is murder,” Oluchukwu said, “whether it’s one person or dozens. I have total faith in Chioma’s judgment and expertise.”
[Daily: Wednesday, 21 September 2072]
Autopsies Begin on Massacre Victims
Chief Coroner Ikenna Amadi and Assistant Coroner Nkiruka Chikeri have begun the arduous task of conducting autopsies on the massacre victims from Onwa Owuwe. “Preliminary findings are disturbing,” Amadi said. “Several of the victims were shot again after they were dead. We shall know more in a few days.”
Was Evidence Forged?
NetNews reporter Hank Wallace interviewed Inger Rolfsen from his hiding place in an unknown locale. Rolfsen claims that the Sons of Wotan ‘cuts’ on the video were not right, and he can prove they were forgeries. He said, “Someone obviously wants us wiped off the face of the planet.” Wallace said that sounded paranoid and pressed for more details, but Rolfsen said, “If I knew who that was, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I would be talking directly with him—or her—and that conversation would be short; really short.”
UN High Council Representative Welat Bashur ridiculed Rolfsen’s claims. “It’s easy for him to say after they were caught that the cuts were forgeries. But video tape doesn’t lie. Those images clearly show the men were wearing Sons of Wotan vests. And of course they would paint swirly patterns on their faces. They are murderers who don’t want to be identified. Any villager might have snapped a photo as those men were arriving or leaving town. For all they knew, the village might have had traffic cams. It was just their bad luck the shop had a fancy new security camera that captured every action they took.” Yesterday, the UN posted on its NET a version of the video in which the faces of the victims were blurred.
Onwa Owuwe News
[Weekly: Wednesday, 21 September 2072]
We grieve with our brothers and sisters the loss of [names], slaughtered by the Sons of Wotan in a vile and contemptible attack on innocents this past Sunday, the 18th. The two survivors, Vuyisa and Dahati, are being raised by their surviving parent, aunts and uncles. Spirits of the fallen will be remembered and celebrated on Sunday, the 25th. The Sweet Emeso (Treats) Shop will reopen on Monday, the 26th. Family of Arinze and Chidinma, the deceased owners, has had the shop cleaned and repainted.
[Daily: Thursday, 22 September 2072]
Council Appoints Special Investigator
After a heated debate, the High Council yesterday appointed Prabal Nasiri Kahn as Special Investigator to determine the guilt or innocence of the Sons of Wotan in the Onwa Owuwe massacre. Both Biafra and the Sons insisted that any investigator “must be truly independent and impartial” and have no ties to either side of this controversy. UN Representative Welat Bashur insisted that a Baratarian might be too sympathetic to the Sons because “the Star-Runners have ties with pirates everywhere.”
The Baratarian representative indignantly replied that the UN was obviously biased and thus could not offer an appropriate candidate themselves. The Outer Bengali representative told the Council that Sheik Ali Nasiri Kahn had offered his cousin Prabal, a lawyer with undergraduate and master’s degrees in law from highly respected universities in Bangladesh. The Commonwealth of Liberty’s representative commented, “Sharia law is not the same as regular law. It would be like hiring an apple to investigate an orange.”
Oluchukwu retorted that “Crimes are crimes, regardless of the perpetrator’s ethnic or religious background. Prabal Nasiri Kahn has a Masters in law and is clearly qualified to look into this matter. Would it matter if he were a Jew or a Hindu?”
Margarita Hardy, who was there in video conference, proposed her own High Judge as an alternative—but the council voted to approve Prabal Nasiri Kahn. Prabal Kahn today announced that he has selected two assistants to help him with the case. Tsaru Sikdar, a member of his own legal staff, will go immediately to Onwa Owuwe to interview residents and collect evidence. Floyd Osbourne, recommended by Margarita Hardy, will be based in Kahn’s office to organize the evidence and follow up on all leads uncovered by other investigators.
[Weekly: Sunday, 25 September 2072]
Last Sunday, the 18th of September, thirty-two residents of Onwa Owuwe were slaughtered by ten raiders from the Sons of Wotan, according to eye witness accounts and confirmed by video recording. The raiders were identified by the “cuts” they wore, sleeveless leather vests with patches showing the name of the motorcycle club and its home location: Roskilde. This massacre has been condemned throughout the world. Prime Minister Chikere Balonwu has protested this most recent raid to the High Council and demanded that action be taken: in particular, that the Sons be declared outlaws and that the UN be authorized to “eliminate” the Sons colony and their members. Sons’ Bossman Inger Rolfsen claimed the Sons are innocent and that the evidence was forged. The UN denounced his denial, and posted the security camera footage on its NET. After much debate, the High Council voted to authorize Prabal Kahn, a cousin of Sheik Ali Nasiri Kahn of Outer Bengal, as Special Investigator to uncover the truth of these events.
[Daily: Monday, 17 October 2072]
Sons’ Bossman Found Murdered
Inger Rolfsen, Bossman of the Sons of Wotan, was found murdered yesterday in his home in their capital city of Kaupangen. He had been strangled with a garrote. Police said there was no sign of forced entry, indicating that Rolfsen probably knew his attacker. However, one detective speculated that “It could have been someone from Biafra, looking for revenge. Or whoever it was who framed the Sons. Rolfsen was pretty vocal about insisting the Sons were innocent. Maybe someone decided to shut him up.”
His widow, Maren Gaiadottir, was at work when her husband was slain and says she will “leave no stone unturned in seeking his killer.” Inger leaves both his wife, Maren, and a son, Damien, who is nine years old.
[Daily: Wednesday, 2 November 2072]
Prabal Reports to Council
Special Investigator Prabal Nasiri Kahn today delivered his 128 page report on the Onwa Owuwe massacre. In short, it finds the Sons of Wotan guilty of mass murder and recommends that they be outlawed and eliminated.
[Daily: Tuesday, 15 November 2072]
Council Outlaws Sons of Wotan
Yesterday, following nearly two weeks of fierce debate, and by a vote of 6 to 5, the High Council voted to outlaw the Sons of Wotan and strip them of their colony and lands. The UN was further authorized to use military force to “eliminate any threat” posed by this biker gang. The Sons of Wotan Council Representative present at that meeting, Sven Melkersen, was immediately arrested and led out in chains.
Voting for the resolution was Biafra, the Family, the Fellowship of Zion, the New Confederacy, Outer Bengal, and the Sunni Caliphate. Opposed were Barataria (with two votes), the Chinese People’s Republic, the Commonwealth of Liberty, and the Sons of Wotan.
This morning, Biafra Council Representative Oluchukwu proposed giving the Sons’ now-defunct vote to the UN, saying, “Our King is grateful for the action the UN is taking to protect our people.” China protested vigorously; Barataria agreed the UN did not have “a true colony” here. The island assigned to them was merely to support their troops and other personnel supervising the Gate. The Outer Bengali representative then pointed out, “The Sons’ land is now available for other uses. Is there any reason why the UN should not have a ‘true’ colony here — and thus have both land and a vote?” The Council is currently debating this issue.
[Daily: Wednesday, 16 November 2072]
Council Awards Sons’ Vote and Land to UN
Late yesterday evening, the High Council voted to give the Sons’ colonial land and vote to the UN. Borders were also shifted so that both the Fellowship of Zion and the Commonwealth of Liberty have access to the sea at the sunward tip of the long fjord. Each colony took over two of the Wotan coastal towns, renaming one of them Hardyport, and the other New Shiloh.
Initial voting was tied 5 to 5. Those in favor of the resolution were Biafra, the Family, the Fellowship of Zion, Outer Bengal, and the Sunni Caliphate. Those opposed were Barataria (with two votes), the Chinese People’s Republic, the Commonwealth of Liberty, and the New Confederacy. The UN broke the tie and cast the deciding vote in favor of itself.
The Chinese delegation walked out of the meeting in protest. Speaking with reporters immediately afterward, the High Council representative stated, “This is a travesty of justice. The UN was never intended to be a colony. But Chinese citizens arrived in our colony here both through the Gate and on a ship—just as Barataria has. Any reasonable person would agree that China should have two votes just as Barataria does. But now the Council still insists that China have only one vote—and the UN has conveniently cast a tie-breaking vote to award itself what constitutes a second vote: one as a colony and one as the tie-breaker.”
[Daily: Friday, 18 November 2072]
Sons of Wotan Representative Executed
The Sons of Wotan High Council Representative Sven Melkersen was executed today at the UN Headquarters in New Brussels. Deputy Secretary Dolf Asplund and UN Commander Kostya Yovenko issued a joint communique stating, “Any member of the outlawed Sons of Wotan colony is subject to arrest, imprisonment, and summary execution. We will not recognize any appeals for amnesty, clemency or sanctuary within other, legitimate colonies here on de Kamp.”
Special Assistant Investigator Dies in Mountain Springs
Floyd Osbourne, special assistant investigator of the Onwa Owuwe massacre, suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident yesterday afternoon. He is survived by his sister, Nancy Osbourne, who is employed as a nurse in Mountain Springs.
After the research session most of the Team go out and buy some local clothing.
Tuesday, March 30, 2094:
At 8 am, they meet with Nkiruka Chikeri, Coroner. She is now Chief Coroner at Ukwu. The doctor supervised the transport of 32 bodies from Onwa Owuwe to the capital. She also conducted 20 of the autopsies. Nkiruka got her medical degree from the University of Edinburg then returned to Nigeria. King Uzochi Ginikandu inspired her, and she came to Biafra with the original settlers. She was 31 years old when the massacre took place. Nkiruka is now 53 now, living in the Biafran capital of Ukwu, is now Chief Coroner. She supervised the transport of bodies to capital of Ukwu for autopsies. She did 20 of them. The then Chief Coroner, Ikenna Amadi, Biafra, did the other 12.
Nkiruka Chikeri tells the Team she got there as quickly as she could (6 ½ hours from being notified—and on the King’s AV). She supervised the removal of corpses to the capital, and photographed the bodies where they had fallen. Most were in the main room, but several had gotten farther away. Blood was everywhere. Flesh on the bodies was badly damaged from the bullets. These people had no armor to protect them or absorb damage. The memory is etched into her brain. About half of the bodies were shot in the back—making it obvious they were fleeing when they were shot. Roughly a third had single gunshot wounds to the head—both the back and the front—as well. It’s a wonder that those two children survived. They had already been taken away from the scene by the time she arrived.
Claire asks if she has copies of the photos she took. Dr. Chikeri gives her a flash drive with all the photos. Claire asks if she had noticed the accuracy of the coup de grace shots. The doctor now, after years of experience, realizes that they were very accurate. Both Claire’s and John’s scanning of her during the interview confirms that she is a dedicated person looking to bring justice to the victims of crime that cross her table. They thank her and leave.
At 12 noon, they meet with Akudinobi Jideofor, a homicide detective in Ukwu. At the time of the massacre he was 34 years old. He was sent to Onwa Owuwe to investigate. He is now 56 years old and Chief of Homicide Division in Ukwu. Claire explains where she is from and about the paper she is doing. She also opines that the condemnation of the Sons of Wotan is starting to look like a rush to judgement. Detective Jideofor found the whole scene puzzling. First of all was the extremely high quality security camera out in a low tech farming village that took continuous footage instead of flash frames. Claire asks where the camera came from, but the detective didn’t know. He says, “It’s always bothered me; there is a lot of evidence but nothing really makes sense.”
Claire asks, “What do you mean?”
The detective replies as he ticks off the reasons on his fingers, “One, cameras, yes, but no faces. Painted like that, they must have known there were cameras. The only reason to have swirly patterns on your face—you want to avoid facial recognition. Two, those bikes; that shows planning, not impulse. They came in knowing what they were going to do. But what did they get? A couple of women, the cash register money, ice cream and two dirt bikes. So that was their plan? It doesn’t make sense. Three, the bike treads. Those particular treads come standard on the Kundalini Roadworks GSR1200 Tetsuo when outfitted as a dirt bike. Sure, the tires could have been mounted on cheaper bikes, but if you’re planning a massacre, you want to move out fast and go as far as you can get . . . 204 mph, range 533 mi . . . that’s definitely both fast and far. Four, the overkill; why use assault rifles? These are defenseless civilians. They’re not going to fight back. Half a dozen pistols would have been just as effective for a robbery. Instead, they not only spray the place with automatic weapons fire, they administer a coup-de-grace on everyone—even the ones who weren’t moving. The coroners found eight bodies that were already dead when a second fatal wound was administered.”
Claire looks at him curiously and asks, “How do you know that?
He asked Ikenna Amadi for more information about the wounds and was told, “No bleeding from those second wounds, which were either a head shot or through the heart, but the autopsies on those bodies said only “multiple fatal wounds”.
Akudinobi Jideofor pauses for a moment before continuing, “So why the overkill? Again, they must have known going in what they were going to do—which implies that the purpose of the raid was the massacre. But . . . why? There’s no motive for that. No religious mottos painted on the walls. No terrorist group claiming credit for the kill. No rival businesses to speak of.
So the whole thing never made sense to me, and I was never satisfied that it was really the Sons who did it. I talked to Chioma about my doubts, but he said to let it rest. Once the Special Investigator for the UN submitted his report, there was no point in continuing, and besides, at that time we were told to stop investigating. Politicians . . .” [he shakes his head] “Never interested in the truth. They just want the case closed, and if it’s all tied up in a fancy little bow, that’s even better.
“When I got to be Head of Homicide, I looked through the Book again. The murder book we’d kept. Well, 32 of them, really. I thought maybe one of the victims might have crossed someone powerful, someone with a motive to kill. But that didn’t make sense either. If that was the motive, why all the collateral damage? So nothing stood out. I put it all back in the basement, where we keep the old unsolved cases.”
Claire asks if she can have some of the expended shells and bullets. Detective Jideofor agrees and gives her some from each of the rifles. Emboldened she asks if she can have copies of all of the reports from the case. He quickly agrees and provides everything she asks for and provides ‘chain of evidence’. As to Tsaru Sikdar, he thought she was a bit young and inexperienced.
From her and John’s scan of him during the interview it is clear he doesn’t buy the official story. She thanks him and heads out to prepare for the state dinner tonight.
At 6 pm, the Team goes to an official dinner with Baratarian Ambassador and Kamani Chakarabasi, Prime Minister of Biafra. He has been Prime Minister for 18 years following the death of the former Prime Minister, Chikere Balonwu, who was a close friend of the late King. Kamani is admired as a wise and just leader. His speeches often focus on spiritual needs of people and on ecological needs of the planet, which he sees as two sides of the same coin. He has complained to UN about the raiders on multiple occasions. He has expressed frustration that they are still “a plague on the face of our planet, but the UN seems to arrive late to the scene. It’s almost as if they don’t really want to help! Perhaps that is because we (Biafra) are reluctant to allow the UN to station any of its army here.”
Claire and the Team don’t make fools of themselves and have a nice evening before heading to the space/airport.
Wednesday, March 31, 2094:
At 12 am, the Team boards a Zeppelin and leaves for a southern coastal city closest to the old massacre site. Today is also the Hindu Hanuman Jayanti. Claire can’t be at the Temple, but does spend some time meditating before joining the others in the pool on their lighter than air craft.
Thursday, April 1, 2094:
At 12 am, they arrive at their destination and leave for the massacre village at 3 am on a solar powered bus. It is a 25 hour trip plus a 5 hour stop to recharge.
Friday, April 2, 2094:
At 9 am, the Team’s vehicle arrives at the massacre village of Onwa Owuwe (Ibo for ‘Green Harvest’). After settling into a small house that has been made available to them, they begin the interviews with Vuyisa, who was a 10 year old girl at the time and is now 32 years old, the mother of 4 and soon to be a grandmother. She was raised by her father, who remarried 5 years later.
“It was horrible. My mom and me, we were sitting with friends when the gunfire started from those open doorways to the outside. Everybody ran, but nobody could get away. I got just a flash of a look at them. It still haunts my dreams.” She gestures around her eyes, “Like painted on masks with swirly splotches. But you could tell they were white men, pointy noses and their hair; white man hair.” She stares at Claire for a moment.
“My mom fell on top of me. I don’t know if it was deliberate, or if she was already gone. I felt her body thud when another bullet struck her. But I knew—I had to pretend I was dead too. So I kept my eyes shut and breathed really shallow, so they couldn’t see it.” She pauses, her eyes shut. “When it got quiet, I counted to a hundred; then another hundred. Then—I opened my eyes, and pushed my way out.”
After the girl they speak to Dahati, who was an 8 year old boy, now 30 years and the local policeman. He went to university in Ukwu to become a cop, came back here.
“I’ll never forget it. My dad and me, we were at the last table next to the back door. When the shooting started, he grabbed me and we tried to run, but they were fast; so very fast. They must’ve planned it. To make sure nobody got out, I mean. The one farthest in, he raised that rifle and just sprayed across the back where we were. They got my dad and me both in the leg. He stumbled and went down; pulled me against his chest. Then I felt him jerk as they shot him again. I made myself go limp, like they’d gotten me too. They must have thought so, ’cause they didn’t shoot me again like they did the others.”
He pauses. “I was facing the front and saw them come in, just before the shooting started. I was thinking how weird it was, what they’d done to their faces, and wondering what those long things were in their hands. The detective from Ukwu, he asked me why I was sure it was the Sons. I’d seen those jackets before. About 20 guys and maybe half as many women, doing ‘a wander’ they said. I’d been fascinated by their bikes and peppered them with questions.”
Claire asks the current policeman, “Who installed the security camera that recorded all of this?”
Officer Dahati didn’t know, but he says he will ask the family of the owners.
The biogen then asks the officer, “Now that you’re a trained officer, does it seem strange that you would wear colors that would identify who you were?”
“Well, you would if you were proud,” he replies. Then he thinks and adds, “But, if you were, then why would you hide your faces. I hadn’t thought about that.”
Officer Dahati walks the group down to the ice cream parlor where the massacre occurred. There Claire asks the owners how did such a state of the art (for its time) camera end up here. They tell her that the wife entered a sweepstakes and won it. As it is, the camera is still there, but no longer operational. The biogen buys it from them and makes sure she has a clear chain of evidence for the old device. She then asks who installed it? Claire is told that it was two white men who came with a logo (a half moon) of the company, Luna Enterprises about two to three weeks before the massacre. They all have some ice cream and as they talk, Tochukwu, who was the first policeman on the scene comes by. It is a small town and he heard people were here looking into the massacre. Claire asks if he would give her his recollections of that day.
Tochukwu tells her, “First thing I heard was the gunfire—then the screaming. I ran towards the cafe, but it was over before I got there and the perps—they were on dirt bikes. All you could see was the dust headed into the badlands. Some of the other cops followed after them, but we didn’t have any air vehicles and our ground huggers weren’t fast enough. It was like—I’d heard this term ‘blitzkrieg’ but never thought I’d see one.”
“Then I went inside—and there were bodies everywhere. That coppery smell of blood; I’ll never forget it. It was obvious that everyone was dead—until one of the bodies moved and a kid crawled out. Odiche got there soon after me. He took care of the wounded girl then started checking everyone—looking for signs of life. But we found only one more survivor; another kid.”
“Many of the bodies, especially the ones who were fleeing, were face down and shot in the back, as well as in the back of the skull. I don’t know how those two children survived. Odiche gave them a sedative of some kind and sent them home with the other parent.”
“Once the perps were gone for sure, other people from the village came and started turning people over, looking for their friends, and the keening started. I had to stop folks from removing bodies—told them the coroner would be coming and we had to keep things the way they were. It took five hours for her to get there. Five hours I spent shooing irdioni away from the bodies. You’d think—six light years—we’d’ve left the flies behind, but no. There’s a niche for everything on this planet. Most days, I’m happy I’m here instead of back on Earth, but that day, not so much. That was a horrible day. I couldn’t go on as a cop. I became a carpenter.”
The biogen asks for one more favor. If anyone comes by and asks what she has been doing out here, please give her a call. The locals agree.
Claire speaks to one of the villagers who tried to pursue the raiders and gets the general direction that they fled. She then uses her encrypted satellite phone to call for a download of the terrain out to half of the range of the Kundalini Roadworks GSR1200 Tetsuo bikes. She takes those maps and the Team plans out how they would raid this town using an air/space approach. Most importantly is where they would land and with that in mind, where would be the best place to hide the bodies. They find three places that would be ideal for that type of plan.
They head out to check the three locations.
Saturday, April 3, 2094:
The Team spends the day checking out their three possible landing sites. The second one looks the most promising as it has the best location to hide a body. They decide not to try and dig it up as that would tip their hand on the investigation before they are ready. Claire decides that next time she will bring Duke and his biogenetic ‘sniffer’.
Sunday, April 4, 2094:
It is Easter Sunday. The Team arrives back in Onwa Owuwe and tells everyone they didn’t find anything at all. By 3 pm, they leave on the 30 hour trip back to the nearby southern coastal city to catch the zeppelin back to Ukwa.
Monday, April 5, 2094:
It is Chinese Quing Ming Je (Tomb Sweeping Day) in Naiasa, but the Team is rolling through the Biafran countryside. At 9 pm they arrive in southern coastal city, drop off their rented truck and head to the airport.
Tuesday, April 6, 2094:
At 12 am, the Team leaves aboard the coastal Zeppelin on the 24 hour trip to Ukwu, the capital of the Biafran Royal Republic.
Wednesday, April 7, 2094:
At 12 am the Team arrives at the Ukwu Spaceport and Transit Center. There they wait until 6 am to catch an orbital flight to the de Kamp Orbital Transfer Station to arrive at 11 am. They catch the 1 pm flight to Murshidabad, Outer Bengal capital, and arrive around 6 pm at their hotel in the capital. There they rest and prepare for the long series of interviews that await them in that city. The information on the movements and lifestyle of Tsaru Sikdar, the person they want to interrogate psionically is ready for them. Tsaru Sikdar is single, lives with a (female) roommate who is a defense attorney. She has a fairly simple routine. She gets coffee on way to her office, gets lunch in any of three local cafes, often shops for groceries on her way home (every other day) and makes dinner for herself and roommate. On Fridays, she goes to her local mosque. On Saturdays, she and her roommate often go out with a group of friends.
Thursday, April 8, 2094:
At 9 am, Claire and company have their meeting with Tsaru Sikdar, Assistant Special Investigator. She was a paralegal on Prabal’s staff. She has since gotten a Master’s degree in (Sharia) law and serves as an investigator for the defendant in the criminal courts. The biogen is so sure that she is involved in the plot to frame the Sons of Wotan. When they meet John reads her thought. Tsaru is wondering if they are really looking into this. Claire senses her mood is positive. The biogen goes on about why she is here looking into this. Tsaru Sikdar explains her concerns. The presence of the camera was a bit odd. The only security camera in town just happens to be in the cafe where the massacre took place? That seemed just a little too coincidental.
She continues, “The evidence on the guns was completely circumstantial. This Thorsen character [whom the guns were shipped to and supposedly signed for them] could have been anybody. We never found out who that was.”
What Floyd told her also bothered her: First, he thought it would be easy to trace purchase of the weapons back to the Sons. He followed the trail all the way to the Post Office in Kaupangen (Wotan capital), and he did find a signature card for the crate in question. It was dated about 10 weeks before the massacre. Floyd said the signature was scrawled and rather illegible. He checked for fingerprints on the card, and all came back as employees of the post office. Floyd suspected that someone among these employees must be lying, but lying about a shipment was not sufficient cause to braindance anyone, despite the connection to the massacre.
Tsaru adds, “Those guns never appeared on any new ballistics reports. It’s like they went poof! They disappeared into thin air. You’d think—all the raids the Sons have done since then—some of the bullets on those raids would have matched those guns. But they don’t.
“I brought my concerns up to Prabal and told him he seems to have accepted the evidence on the face of it, which is . . . unusual. He hasn’t done it before, hasn’t done it since. The one time I tried to ask him about it, he got really gruff with me.”
Tsaru Sikdar interviewed several other residents who said that two dozen Sons of Wotan bikers, half with women on the seat behind them, came through the settlement about two months previously. They had stopped for a meal, and claimed to be headed for Ukwu, the Biafran capital. When asked why they were so far from their own colony, the bikers replied they were “on drive-about adventure.” All were relatively young, between early twenties and mid-thirties in age, and there were no children with them.
All throughout the interview both John and Claire read her thoughts and mood. She seems honest and concerned. When asked if she had a copy of her preliminary report, Sikdar says no. The former investigator has one final concern. The fact that Floyd died so soon after the Report was submitted to the Planetary High Council.
After the interview they decide to kidnap Tsaru Sikdar and brain drain her for information. Sakagi checks out the local security cameras. They get a layout of her apartment. John and Claire put on ‘new faces’ and head over to the target’s neighborhood and wait for the time when Tsaru Sikdar and her roommate are home. The two teleport into the living room and find the two women in bed together, asleep. John Marshall knocks out the pair, they drug the roommate and Tsaru Sikdar awakes, shackled to a table facing Thora. John goes through her mind and finds the former investigator is completely innocent of any wrongdoing in the matter of the destruction of the Sons of Wotan colony. Both Tsaru and her lover are then put back to sleep. The former investigator’s memory of the interrogation is erased and the two women are put back in their beds.
Friday, April 9, 2094:
Today is the Islamic day of prayer, and no business is generally conducted. The Team rests and reviews their research on Prabal Nasiri Kahn. He was the Special Investigator appointed by High Council and Cousin of Ali Kahn (father’s brother’s son). He was part of Ali’s inner-circle advisory council. The man was 33 at arrival on de Kamp, 36 at time of Wotan massacre and investigation, and is 58 now. He lives in the palace, and has a bodyguard escort to and from the Supreme Court building. He is married with 4 kids, and rarely goes outside the palace.
Prabal has an LL.B. degree in Law from the Northern University Bangladesh in Dhaka, and a Master’s in Islamic Sharia Law from the Islamic University of Bangladesh in Khulna. He is now the Chief Justice of the Outer Bengal Appeals Court.
The chief justice has a reputation for strict enforcement of following proper procedures in rules of evidence and restrictions on legal authority. This reputation began after the massacre. Before that, he made two statements to the effect that “we should not tie the hands of law enforcement” in the performance of their duties.
Saturday, April 10, 2094:
At 1 pm, they have their pro forma meeting with Prabal Nasiri Kahn, Chief Justice of the Emirate’s Supreme Court. Initially in the meeting, he is friendly and outgoing, albeit serious in tone, but when the topic of the massacre comes up, his demeanor changes. He seems tense and reserved. His lips tighten, as if he is keeping silent about something. Both Claire’s and John’s psionic reading confirm this. He pretty much repeats evidence the Team already has, and doesn’t offer anything new. Claire changes tactics and puts her questions in an anti-Sons tone. They thank him and return to their hotel. The Team considers the need for abducting the man for a psionic interrogation. That will have to wait.
At 11 pm, the Team leaves Murshidabad, the Outer Bengal capital, for de Kamp Station.
Sunday, April 11, 2094:
The orbital shuttle arrives at the de Kamp Orbital Station from Outer Bengal at about 2 am. They have a two hour wait before a shuttle can leave for the Chinese Colonial capital at New Beijing. The short flight from orbit is followed by a longer wait at the Spaceport for the flight to New Shanghai. After the flight to that coastal city there is another three hour wait for the high speed bullet train to Naiasa, which departs at 3 am.
Monday, April 12, 2094:
At 12 am, the travel weary Team arrives in Naiasa. They head home to their dorm to get a few hours sleep before their second term classes start.
Next: Episode 34 – The Bank Job