by Stephen G Parks
“ ‘The wind wasn’t right’ … that’s all I could get out of him.” Flannigan flipped his notebook lid closed, smiling as the click of locks protected his data.
What could a fry cook in Hong Kong possibly know about the deep black? It was a weird assignment for crash investigators anyway.
“You said he’s an after-burner?”
“Yeah, he showed me the jacks in his neck. He’s definitely hauled in deep space.”
McCormack wasn’t too happy with Flannigan’s attitude. There was a reason that Jurgens, the fry cook, was living in the free territory of Hong Kong. McCormack needed to find out if Flannigan had discovered it.
“A deep hauler, and now he’s a fry cook? That’s a hell of a step down in pay grade and lifestyle.” McCormack didn’t add ‘especially here.’ That might be suspicious.
“He’s got sunken eyes. He’s skittish. I tell you, he’s using nethan vapour or some equivalent.”
“Did you ask what happened?”
“ ‘The wind wasn’t right.’ I’m not kidding, it’s like a mantra with him. Every question got that answer. Look, he’s a textbook after-burner, couldn’t handle the jacks, used something to compensate, failed.” Flannigan tapped his temple. “Not much left upstairs now.”
“Yeah, but what burned him out? Did you pull his passage log?”
“Two round trips to Jupiter, one to Minerva.” Flannigan spoke from memory without any need to look into his notes. McCormack willed himself not to look at Flannigan’s notepad carefully shifted behind his back. “Never left the solar system. How does he know anything about the deep black?”
“He posted four comments on social media. Two contained unreleased details of the wreckage. How’d he know that?”
“Scuttlebutt? Maybe he keeps tabs with his old shipmates? Want me to explore that angle?”
McCormack nodded his dismissal. There was no point in drawing out this meeting. McCormack had gotten what he wanted from it.
He watched casually as Flannigan left his office. Then he started a surreptitious bug sweep. Couldn’t be too careful. He found two mics, neutralized them both, then repeated his scan just in case. It came out all clear.
Only then did McCormack place his call to OpSec. It went straight to the General.
“He’s one. Guaranteed.”
“Jurgens smelt him?”
“The wind wasn’t right. Repeatedly.”
“Excellent, thanks. We’ll have Flannigan picked up immediately. You keep Jurgens safe. He’s the best alien detector we have.”