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Authors: A. G. Claymore

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Genetic Engineering, #Hard Science Fiction, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Post-Apocalyptic, #Science Fiction

Orbital Decay

BOOK: Orbital Decay
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ORBITAL DECAY

 

Published by A.G. Claymore

Edited by Beryl MacFadyen

Copyright 2012 A.G. Claymore

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, Characters, Places, Incidents and Brands are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of any products referenced in this work of fiction which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

Other Titles By Andrew Glen Claymore:

http://agclaymore.blogspot.ca/p/available-titles.html/

 

Last Chance

From
:
[email protected]

 

To
:
Oversight23@(withheld).gov
;

 

CC
:
Steering23@(withheld).com

 

Subject
: Progress of Project Chronos - CN223 sample study

 

            Infection progress on CN223 tissue samples has exceeded all expectations. Retroviral uptake of the targeted sequences has allowed the samples to pass all green line levels for protein generation. It is believed that the phase II Mg phage will now be viable in the host tissues. We strongly recommend that the phase II phage be deployed first on the CN223 samples before moving to live testing.

 

Our best estimate is for three months to complete the CN223 stage as originally planned. Data from this study will be invaluable as a baseline for the live trials. We cannot stress enough how important it is to complete the full program on the tissue samples before moving to animal testing.

 

Dr. Sam Mortensen

Gaia Bio Design

23345 W. Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL

Wild Geese

Humboldt Park, Chicago

B
en pulled into his parking spot, easing ahead until the chain-link wall of his storage unit moved. He killed the ignition just as his favorite talk-radio program was being interrupted with an announcement.
Must be another ‘wash your hands’ advisory,
he thought. He opened the door, just clearing the concrete column, and stepped out with his case files in hand. He sighed. Even a year after the breakup, his loft was still the last place he wanted to be.

He stood there, frowning down at his files. It hadn’t been a very productive afternoon, but there was a lot of that going around lately. Dr. Mortensen’s death was fast turning into a dead end. Turning into – but it had been a mess of contradictions from the start.

His stomach grumbled. He ignored the elevator, heading instead for the fire exit stairs at the back of the subterranean parking structure. He had an empty refrigerator and a massive craving for
pollo chon
.
He jogged up the stairs, shoving the door open with a grin. None of the residents complained about the alarm being broken because it was too convenient.

It had also seemed a little convenient that he had been pulled off the Mortensen case. He had started with a decent list of subjects to interview but had only managed to speak to the first one before the rest began to disappear. It was as if they were dropping off the face of the earth entirely.

He had been sitting at his desk, scratching his head when Captain Walker suddenly dropped into the seat in front of him.

“FBI’s got their shorts in a knot.” The captain belched, holding a fist to his upper chest with a grimace.

“So, tell them to switch to thongs,” Ben said irritably, regretting it almost immediately. It wasn’t Walker’s fault that Ben had spent three days chasing ghosts and he certainly wasn’t responsible for the FBI. He grabbed a bottle of antacids from his desk and offered it to his captain.

“So let me guess.” Ben spoke into the silence as Walker downed a couple of tablets. “They’ve got a high-priority op going on and they need us to provide foot soldiers, no questions asked and no back-talk?”

“Ooh…” A few taps to the chest, before Walker snagged Ben’s coffee mug and washed the taste out of his mouth. “Something like that.” He set the mug down and leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “Our unit got tasked and I’m making you our point man.”

“Cap, I’m in the middle of the case from hell,” Ben said, looking over at the case board, “and Garcia just cleared that floater they pulled out of the lake…”

“Garcia never worked for the NSA,” Walker cut him off calmly. “The bureau always holds their ‘need to know’ bullshit over our heads and I want our guy to be someone with a stronger background than theirs.” He stifled another belch, smaller this time. “They say an NSA decryption indicated a terrorist cell operating in Chicago.”

“I haven’t kept up with anyone from Fort Meade.” Ben had been let go for looking into intercepts from the Caribbean. Codename stuff, but a codename nobody had ever heard of. It was mundane – resupply requisitions, mostly. The simple fact that the transmissions had even been picked up in the first place was an embarrassment to the government. Ben had ignored orders to file it and leave it alone. Now he was a cop with a sword hanging permanently over his head.

“Doesn’t matter. Don’t even mention your past.” Walker shrugged. “They’re bound to research whoever I give them. Hell, they’ll expect you already. If you go in bragging about your past, they’ll figure you for a bullshitter.” He chuckled. “If you keep quiet about it and insist you have no current connection with the NSA, they’re bound to wonder if you’re keeping tabs on them for someone.”

“So you’re putting me on this just to mess with them?” Ben aimed an exaggerated glance at the case board. “Like I said, Garcia’s free and I’m…”

“Wasting time on a suicide,” Walker cut him off again.

“Maybe.”

“Garden hose from the exhaust in the driver’s-side window, towels to keep the fumes in. What more do you need?”

“An answer that explains why his wrists and ankles were bound.”

“Peri-mortem bruising?” the captain asked.

“Yep, and no bindings at the scene.”

“So he had a kinky encounter and killed himself out of remorse.” Walker shrugged. “What’s more important, stopping a terrorist attack or navel gazing over a maybe murder?”    

For the last six days, as far as Walker was concerned, Ben had been officially free of the Mortensen case. In reality, he was working the case while pretending to help the FBI. He had spent enough time in the intelligence community to know an empty intercept when he saw one, and the coordination briefing run by the special agent in charge had left Ben with no doubt.

They were chasing wild geese.

He had been out the first day,
coordinating
with the various uniforms and detectives that were beating the bushes for terrorists that didn’t exist. His real intention had been to ambush the executive VP of Gaia Bio-Design, who had employed the late Dr. Mortensen.

It had been another dead end – Dr. Davis had walked in the front door of a downtown office building five minutes ahead of Ben, but he had left for a ‘surprise inspection’ of GBD’s orbital research platform before Ben had even stepped off the elevator on the thirtieth floor.

Rooftop heli-pads were convenient landing spots for small, mag-lift equipped craft, and orbit was definitely out of Ben’s jurisdiction. Technically, the FAA was supposed to crack down on unscheduled flights into orbit, but there were still far too many gaps between that agency and the new Orbital Control Consortium. After the narrow victory against the Dactarii, the cheap new
Anasazi
engines had led to an explosion in orbital use, and the various aviation agencies of Earth were in turmoil.

Orbit had become the new go-to place for a wide range of business models, from offshore banking to variable-G vacations. It was also a popular spot for conducting research that would never have been allowed on the surface.

Ben was starting to feel that Dr. Mortensen’s death had something to do with the work he had been doing on GBD’s platform, and the fact that he couldn’t find anyone who knew the man led him to believe that it was highly secretive – and less than ethical.

The kind of thing folks were willing to kill over.

He crossed the empty lot leading to Division Street, his breath misting in the comfortably cool, early-autumn evening. He took a right, heading for the patio at Papa’s. If there was a better place to get Puerto Rican food, he certainly hadn’t heard of it. Dropping the files on one of the small tables, he was halfway into his seat when a young woman with long dark hair bustled out the door carrying a platter loaded for the young couple sitting next to him.

Sure enough, his craving for
pollo chon
faded as he watched his neighbor’s food being laid out. He was unable to resist the smell of the dish sitting in front of the young man.

The server tucked the tray under her arm, turning to smile at him. “Hi, Ben. You still have three bottles of beer in the fridge; want me to bring one out?” Papa’s was a bring your own booze kind of place.

“Sure,” he answered. “And I’ll have a steak
jibarito
.” The plantain sandwich sizzling at the next table was just too alluring to resist. He leaned back in his chair, enjoying the light breeze as the crowds flowed past on the sidewalk. Four heavy green trucks rolled past. The two people next to him were exchanging the small news of the day as they ate. It all seemed so normal. You could even forget that humanity was fighting a war against an alien species thousands of light years away, if only the war-bond ads weren’t playing on the restaraunt’s ePaper menus.

Sometimes, if he tried really hard, he could forget about a case for an hour or two. He flipped the files over so the CPD logo wouldn’t keep reminding him.

The young woman returned, setting an open beer in front of him with a friendly nod before disappearing back into the restaurant.

Ben snagged the bottle, raising it to his lips just as his cell phone rang. After a momentary pause, he resolutely took a long pull on the bottle before setting it down and fishing his phone out of his jacket pocket. It was a call forward from his loft. “Detective Sergeant Marks.”

“We went to great lengths to get you off the Mortensen case, Marks,” a voice on the other end admonished. “Given your background, you should have had the sense to realize that and keep your nose out of trouble.”

The voice sounded disappointed. It was filled with regret and that caused the hairs on the back of Ben’s neck to stand on end. What did this man have to regret? “Who is this?” He was sitting on the edge of his seat now; the conversation next to him had ceased.

“We should have realized that a detective can’t just walk away from a mystery, even for a terrorist threat,” the voice continued. “And now, you’re asking me a question that you know you shouldn’t.” A sigh. A long pause. “I’m a sin eater,” he said quietly.

Ben shivered, wondering if he would feel the bullet as it crashed into his skull. A sin eater was an operator who carried out morally indefensible tasks. The kind of agent who slowly destroyed his own soul in the service of his country.

A killer.

You didn’t get a call like this as a warning. That meant this particular agent was fully prepared to end Ben’s life and he had Ben exactly where he wanted him – sitting out in the open. He looked up at the roofline on the opposite side of Division, trying to spot the sniper. “Why was I supposed to stay away from the Mortensen case?”

“I don’t know,” the voice answered. “I’m in the business of tying up loose ends, not becoming one.”

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do. Goodbye, Detective Sergeant Marks.”

Time seemed to slow as Ben’s muscles tensed, instincts demanding a flight that he knew was futile. He could feel the acid boiling up from his stomach, burning his throat.
He tipped his table over, toppling the huge umbrella that protruded through a hole in its center. He hoped the moment of cover would give him the time he needed to reach the door of the restaurant. He ignored the startled shouts from the young couple and, as he turned for the door, it happened.

A deep rumble sounded to his left, followed immediately by an explosion of fire and glass as the front of his loft was blasted out into the street. Ben stood in mute shock as he recognized his leather couch, sticking out of the second-storey window of the community law office on the north side of Division.

Legs shaking, he pushed against the crowd coming out the front door of Papa’s. He was alive; against all reason – he was alive.
He called my house number,
Ben thought as he stumbled past the few patrons who had remained inside, ignoring their questions as he headed for the kitchen. The agent must have watched for Ben’s car to arrive, then called to make sure he was in his loft.

Call forwarding was the best four dollars a month he had ever spent. Though he rarely talked with his ex, he still needed to be available in case something urgent came up with their three-year-old son. He never expected it to save his life.

He unsnapped the catch on his holster before pushing open the back door and stepping out into the empty back alley.
He just killed an empty apartment.
Ben crossed the alley and vaulted a low fence, jogging past the cars parked in the back yard. He trotted through the narrow alley between the two houses to come out on Haddon Avenue.

He had been out of the NSA for more than five years, but he still kept an alternate identity in a locker at Clemente Pool, just a few blocks to the east.
Get my alternate,
he thought, before coming to a stop at the intersection of Haddon and Rockwell.
And then what?
He couldn’t stay in Chicago and it was a dead cinch that he couldn’t keep coming in to work. Sooner or later – probably sooner – he would be killed again, and this time, they would make sure he stayed dead.

He looked up and down the street, but he saw only civilians, not the alert eyes of an operator.
What the hell do I do?

A city bus rolled by, one of the LED ad screens on the side showing a slow zoom of a large structure in low Earth orbit. A bright red logo splashed across the image –
‘Virgin Hotels – for a vacation that’s out of this world.’
 

He turned south. He would go as far as Cortez, then turn east until he could approach the pool complex from the south. He didn’t want to run the risk of being spotted by his killer.
Get into orbit,
he thought,
and find a way to get onto that research platform.
His life had been a mess for the last few years but it was all he had and he wanted it back. There was only one way to accomplish that.

Find out what they were willing to kill him for and then ‘out’ them. Splash it all over the press so there was no further need to silence him. The government didn’t waste revenge on a nobody like Ben Marks.

BOOK: Orbital Decay
13.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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