C’therax entered the small silver cylindrical habitation. It was nothing luxurious, but for good reason. It was expensive to transport anything across Jupiter’s gravity field. For those who loved gravity diving or wanted to be away from the busier planets though, this moon was the place to be. Through the shimmer of the gravity shield above, C’therax could see Jupiter’s famous red spot swirling in all its fury.
Gorg, an elderly Martian, was inside scrolling through his HoloMail. He fell into the category of those who wanted to live away from crowds, C’therax presumed.
C’therax sat down.
“You look glum C’therax. Long time no see…what was it oh yes…”
“The Military Tribunal Corruption case….” C’therax finished for him.
“Those were the days eh?”
“Yeah Gorg. They were.”
“What’s got you down my boy?”
“Another Martian was killed today. In El’rich Crater.”
“Shit…so sorry to hear that… would you like some tea? Got your favorite comet dust seas-”
“More and more Oquarian military-grade mutagens are getting smuggled past Mars’ defenses. I wanted to ask if you knew any way to find out who is letting them through.”
“It’s a tough one by boy…studied the black market for years…never found a good way to shut all the Oquarian smugglers out…”
“You have no clue? None at all? Nothing you would like to tell me?”
“Been busy on other cases C’th-”
“Because the staff of the Muckraker found a few leads. In the Department of Space Travel Regulation and Security no less…”
“You know…the office you ran before retiring to become a pundit for the Milky Way Gazette?”
“You…you seem angry C’thera…”
“We spoke to a certain technician by the name of Redri’ck…he claims…”
“Oh that fool… he is a firm supporter of General Vikiper and his scum…”
“That is true…”
“So don’t listen to him…don’t get sucked into their lies and filth…You know what kind of men these people are.”
“He has documents Gorg…claims that people you hired helped place certain…deficiencies in the Space Scanners…”
“I won’t dignify this with a…”
“Tell me Gorg.”
“Tell you what, C’therax?”
C’therax paused and looked down at the tea Gorg had given him. He took a few sips.
“I always bragged about the cases we did together Gorg. You helped give me my leg up and into the business,” C’therax finally said.
“And people like you…and me…C’therax, we’re needed more than ever to stand up to Vikiper and his scum. So maybe…maybe if you jog my memory…it may…just may be…that I could have failed to follow up on certain leads I should have…but had one of Vikiper’s people been in my place…oye! It would have been a lot worse! And the dream of a free and open space lane? Gone. I won that for the Martian people,” Gorg said.
“So you knew…”
“I didn’t say that…”
“What did you know Gorg? And what did they give you in return? Martians have been killed as a result of this for over a year now…”
“You are losing the big picture here C’therax. This is politics. You can’t always be sure of who has a clean clos…”
“Did you know?”
“I don’t have to answer…”
C’therax slammed his cup down. It shattered. “WHAT DID YOU KNOW GORG?!”
“I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING C’THERAX! Nothing accept this: almost everyone up past a certain level is corrupt. But I had no proof. And I was busy keeping Mars free from the grips of the real villains here-the C’rululian capital.”
C’therax gave a cold bitter laugh.
“There is no way you didn’t know. This was more than your run-of-the-mill political sleaziness. This was treason. This was Martians DEAD! But I guess it’s OK as long as you are the ‘good guys’ by comparison,” C’therax seethed.
“C’therax, General Vikiper, and the Regime and all of those people will use this story to discredit the Martian people, to discredit the Martian Muckraker, and by association to discredit you. Calls to ‘regulate’ the press will come in swift and hard.”
“You’re right. If there is…trouble…around you on these issues it could spell hard times for the Muckraker. Any association, no matter how tangential, is enough to make us guilty in Vikiper’s eyes.”
“So we understand each other?”
C’therax looked at Gorg. “There is a girl on Earth, Gorg. Her name is Sarah Debattista. She risks her life everyday to speak out for the Martians stuck behind Earth’s Great Barricade. And I have been trying to get her story out to the stars. I have been struggling to convince the Planetary Councils to not write Earth off…in hopes that maybe..just maybe…diplomacy could prevail, the Barricade could drop…and all this before she gets killed for sticking up for our people, the people we left behind. And if Vikiper has any ammunition on anyone even tangentially related to the Muckraker…pursuing that goal gets a lot harder.”
“So…so we understand each other….right C’therax?”
“Did you know that people under your command were creating holes in the Martian defense system?
“C’therax that is not what… !”
“I’ve already told Sp’Rark to notify the Martian Peace Keepers and a preliminary report is already being broadcast by the Muckraker. I’m first author in the byline. The authorities will be here any moment now.”
Gorg stood up and raged towards C’therax. C’therax stood up and Gorg stopped in his tracks. C’therax was younger, taller, and stronger.
“Why did you come here if you had already made up your mind?” Gorg asked.
“Because in a distant, professional sort of way, we were friends, Gorg. You gave me my first break. I was always grateful to you for that. So…I wanted to give you one more opportunity to look me in the eyes and come clean.”
“In Vikiper’s eyes, if I gave you your first job, you are in on anything I am involved with.”
“I know. But Martians are dead, and I need to look myself in the mirror at night.”
A swarm of Martian Peacekeepers stormed in and tackled Gorg. C’therax turned and walked out. Behind him he heard Gorg’s curses and ahead he saw the grim faces of his most trusted reporters, Sp’Rark and Dr. Vyryn.
C’therax looked up and mentally calculated Earth’s direction. I am sorry I can’t do more for you Sarah…and now I can do even less, he thought.
To Be Continued…
From the Earthling Press: “He was just a humble Bible salesman, he claimed, who wanted to spread the good word to the laborers inside. What Lewis Hine actually wanted was to take photos of those laborers — and show the world what it looked like when children were put to work.” Read More, From the Washington Post
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