Second Sun

Second Sun
#26
>Standard quarantine procedure, don't contaminate the crime scene
>Is the sailor responsible in custody yet? Leads?
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#27
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(03-08-2018, 09:53 PM)Akumu Wrote: »Get to the agent in charge and figure out why they want you, in particular, on the case. Get what they have on the primary.

You roll down your window and show your ID.

"What is that?" the officer asks.

"Canadian Forces National Investigation Service," you say, long since used to explaining your agency's initialism. "I'm a fed. Looking for the agent in charge."

"I think he's inside," the officer says, angling his head towards the house with a haunted look.

"How bad is it in there?" you ask.

"My partner was in there earlier and told me this is the worst he's ever seen, just the goddamned worst," he says, stale coffee on his breath. "Not much left of them, he says."

"Any reporters been around?"

"Not yet," he says. "We heard some news trucks were on their way up from Toronto. I don't think they know anything. Otherwise, pretty quiet. Come on through."

You drive up. A lace of police tape cordons off the lawn and driveway, stretching from a lamppost and looping around the iron-wrought railing on the porch. Some of the forensic techs huddle over by the garage, on a smoke break. They watch you approach without the casual chauvinism or stares you sometimes get at scenes - their eyes are hollow tonight, glancing your way like that pity you for what you're about to go through.

(03-09-2018, 02:31 PM)LoverIan Wrote: »>Standard quarantine procedure, don't contaminate the crime scene

You pull out a pair of plastic booties and slip them over your shoes. The doorway is draped with a plastic tarp, and the smell inside assaults you as soon as you duck through, the tang of blood and rot and shit intermingling with the chemical stench of whatever the techs' collection kits and ethanol. The odors feel like they seep into you, your saliva instantly coppery like you're sucking on pennies. Criminal analysts in Tyvek suits crowd the entryway, preserving evidence, taking photos. A nervous anticipation rolls over you, as it typically does in the moments before you witness a new crime scene for the first time; but once you turn the corner and see what you're dealing with, it dissipates, replaced with urgency and sorrow and a compulsion to put the broken pieces together as fast as possible.

A woman and a boy lie on the floor, their faces smeared away in a mince of blood and bone and brain. Cotton pants on the boy, a jersey for a pajama top - maybe ten or eleven years old, you're guessing. The woman's nightgown is dark with blood, her bare legs a gradient from flesh to plum where the fluids have discolored her. Both have voided their bowels, the floor so soaked that shit and standing blood are pooling in the uneven parts of the carpeting. You struggle not to gag. The smells degrade the boy and his mother, you think, their humanity debased by the sewage and formlessness.

Long ago, you learned how to dissociate yourself when viewing bodies by looking at them through different lenses, divorcing their mutilation as much as possible from the people they once were. Your colleagues around you, you view through the lens of humanity, and the bodies, you view through the lens of forensics. You objectify the corpses. The killing blow for the woman was one of two blows to the side of the head, either her left parietal or zygomatic. Her left pupil had dilated to a black saucer. You also note that every one of the boy's fingernails had been removed. His toenails too, it looks like. After checking the woman, you see the same has been done to her. Someone - likely a man - killed these people, then knelt in the gore and plucked their nails from them. Or was it before he killed them? Why?

One of the techs runs thread from the blood spatter on the ceiling and walls, creating a web that delineates an area of convergence - it looks like the victims were on their knees when they were killed. An execution.

You look around, the agent in charge momentarily forgotten. The room they died in is bland - nothing like the room you once knew, the comfortable, dim-lit rec room that your best friend's family lived in. Now it has oatmeal tones and track lighting. The walls are empty, no artwork, no photos. The room doesn't look like it's been lived in; it looks like it's been staged for resale.

"Jeanette Newmann?" One of the men in Tyvek has paused his work. Bloodshot eyes, dark skin ashen, Vicks dabbed under his nostrils in twin streaks.

"CFNIS," you say.

He crosses the living room on metal risers the investigators use like stepping stones to avoid disturbing the blood. Chewing gum, he says, "Rick Mason, Agent in Charge. Let's talk."

Mason leads you through the narrow kitchen, the few people gathered there no longer in Tyvek, shirts and ties wrinkled from hours of work, their faces gaunt with exhaustion. Mason, though, seems energized - like he's going to charge ahead until this killer is caught. He looks angry, almost scowling as he leads you, as if he's personally offended by the goings-on here. His voice is a resonant baritone in a room of quiet murmuring.

"Right through here, in this little den," he says, pulling aside a flimsy accordion door that separates a room that branches off from the kitchen.

As with the rec room, the rest of the house has been similarly soullessly updated over the years, but the den is seemingly untouched since you last saw it. It's unnerving - like this little patch has remained static while the rest of time has moved on. Fake wood paneling, a gaudy light that casts the room in amber. Even the particle-board desk and metal filing cabinets - if they're not the same pieces as before, they're very similar. Nancy once found a stash of letters in one of those cabinets that her parents wrote during their divorce. You and she had sat on the front porch and read them out loud to each other, and you remember being struck by how earnest, almost childish, an adult man's letters to his wife could be. No different than high school breakup letters, you had thought, no difference at all. Nothing changes. People's hearts stay the same.

"Have you had a chance to see the entire scene?" Mason asks you. "Upstairs?"

"Not yet," you say. "I'm curious, though - why exactly have I been brought in on this? I have some idea, but I'd like to hear it from you."

Mason folds the accordion door closed and takes a seat behind the particle-board desk. "The Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP called me in the middle of the night, pulled me out of bed. I don't get calls from him on a regular basis. He told me there's a federal crime scene in Beaverton, and told me to lock it down."

"But that's not all he told you," you say.

Mason bares his teeth - meant to be a smile, you think, an easing of the situation, but it looks pained. He wads his gum up into a silvery wrapper and replaces it with a fresh black stick. Licorice-smelling. You note tooth marks on his pencil - maybe he quit smoking, or is trying to. He's early forties, maybe mid, muscular - probably a regular at the gym.

"I'm struggling to understand what the deputy commissioner told me," says Mason. "To sort of wrap my head around what we've got here. He briefed me on a secret program called 'Distant Shores'." He speaks the words like a spell, a shade of fear moving over his eyes. "A naval program - black ops. He said our primary, a JTF2 sailor named Rodney Keating, is connected with the Distant Shores program, part of Naval Space Command. He said to include Jeanette Newmann in the investigation."

This man's idea of the world just exploded a few hours ago, you realize, seeing Mason struggle to believe the unbelievable. He'd been brought into the secrets of Distant Shores - but how far in? You remember your first dreamlike glimpse of dunlight glaring off the hulls of the NSC fleet in orbit, like diamonds spilling over black velvet - something few others have ever witnessed. You imagine Mason taking the phone call at home, sitting on the edge of his bed listening to his superior describe things that must have sounded like miracles.

"Keating was... some sort of astronaut," Mason says, his jaw grinding the licorice. "Sidereal Space - I understand space, but I had to look up "sidereal". I can understand that we've been further out into the solar system, had more activities in space than is public knowledge, but I don't get how. Quantum foam-"

So he knows about Sidereal Space but not Ulterior Time. Naval Space Command does have a public face, though most of its real contributions are under the guise of the American wing. Nobody really expects Canada to have much of an active space program, and the NSC likes it that way. You've traveled to Sidereal Space, but you've also traveled to Ulterior Time - time-traveled to versions of the future, not just to see the Demarcation but for criminal investigations as well. FPT's, these futures were called - fluctuating prospective timelines. "Fluctuating" because the future can cahnge - the futures that NSC travels to are only possibilities branching off the conditions of the present. Any evidenced gathered from a future is inadmissible in court in the present, because the future being observed might not ever occur.

"I see," you say. "Think of me like a resource. That's why I'm here, that's why you were asked to call me. My division in CFNIS investigates crimes relating to the Distant Shores program."

"I don't know what to think," says Mason. "I don't know what to believe about Keating, about a black-ops Canadian space program - it all sounds... I don't know how much of this I'm even getting."

(03-08-2018, 09:53 PM)Akumu Wrote: »Get to the agent in charge and figure out why they want you, in particular, on the case. Get what they have on the primary.

"There's a missing girl," you say. "She's the top priority."

The reminder of the missing girl focuses him, something actionable. "Nicole Keating," he says. "Seventeen..."

(03-09-2018, 02:31 PM)LoverIan Wrote: »>Is the sailor responsible in custody yet? Leads?

"Nicole," you say. "We'll track her down. To do that, though, we need to start with tonight. I need details. Tell me what we know about Rodney Keating."

"Locals were first on the scene," says Mason, his fog of bewilderment dissipated now. "They called out our person of interest immediately as Rodney Keating - figured he killed his own family. He's not here, of course - likely fled the scene. Once the police found paperwork suggesting he was a sailor, they called the Naval Reserve, to keep them in the loop. They found his records - he was on the Kootenay, back in '69... that ship that exploded? He must have been just a kid."

"What else have you learned?"

"Your supervisor faxed me some more records on him," says Mason. "Broad strokes. A lot of redactions. Special Forces in the late seventies. Served with Naval Space Command since the early eighties. Petty officer first class, but his records stop in 1983. Turns out, Keating's been living off the grid, everything under his wife's name. His official status is 'missing in action'."

A sailor living off the grid - an NSC sailor missing in action, no less. A sailor lost to Distant Shores is a tragedy, but a sailor presumed lost suddenly showing up like this, living in secret off the grid... that's a national security threat.

Any further lines of inquiry you'd like to pursue?

Any more information you'd like to gather?

How would you like to proceed?
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#28
>Check for signs of a struggle. Any bruising on the arms or wrists?
>Ask if any traces of communication between the suspect and the victims has been found.
>Signs of forced entry?
>Has the murder weapon been located?
>Motive?
>Triple homicide. Seen bodies 1&2, check upstairs for body #3.
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
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#29
Some understanding of the couple's relationship would be good. How much did she know of her husband's past?
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#30
Some things aren't adding up here. Keating's been MIA for 14 years. If he's not here, how is he the primary suspect? How do we know he's back? Also, whatever mission he was on at Distant Shores (SS or UT) is definitely not something you crawl back from after missing your transport. If he were truly MIA, how could he possibly be here?

Options:

Keating was never missing. He was listed that way and allowed by the NSC / person(s) at the NSC to go dark. Not great as far as integrity of the NSC and your ability to do your job are concerned.

Keating somehow stowed away on the return transport without the knowledge of the NSC and then went on living with his family for 14 years, again without the knowledge of the NSC or CFNIS. Seems vanishingly unlikely.

Keating returned from Distant Shores on his own, mentally compromised from however long he spent lost, found his wife with a child that wasn't his (victim was born after Keating went MIA). Suggests motive for murder as well as for kidnapping his own child. Deeply disturbing, as it means there is some non-NSC controlled link between here and Distant Shores. However, Morris stated he had been living off the grid, meaning there is some evidence that he didn't just turn up.

Some kind of time fuckery, where timelines where Keating returned and where he didn't merged. Locus at Keating, so nearby it seems like he's been here the whole time but further out it seems like he's MIA. Mental strain of reconciling the two simultaneous pasts makes him snap, same motives as above. Same troubling aspects as above. Suggests perhaps some kind of meta-time, where the timelines merged "recently." Could this be related to the apparent time/time correlation of the Demarcation, how time passing for us seems to bring the Demarcation temporally closer?

Or maybe I just have too much confidence in the NCS to think they couldn't possibly not realize an MIA sailor had just been living with his own family for fourteen years.

In any case, get more detail on this "living off the grid" thing. According to who?
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#31
If I'm reading this correctly, the Kootenay exploded while Keating was on it, presumably near enough to Earth to survive and his body wasn't found, rendering him MIA. We might want to investigate the explosion--I doubt anyone unprepared for it can survive an exploding rocket, and Keating may have done that intentionally to fake his death.

We know Keating is here because his neighbors say so.

EDIT: oh it's a boat ship, not a rocket ship. That's much easier to survive without the massive fuel tank sitting next to you. Still worth looking into.
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#32
Quote:If I'm reading this correctly, the Kootenay exploded while Keating was on it, presumably near enough to Earth to survive and his body wasn't found, rendering him MIA. We might want to investigate the explosion--I doubt anyone unprepared for it can survive an exploding rocket, and Keating may have done that intentionally to fake his death.

I don't think that's right, the Kootenay incident was back in '69, when Keating was a kid. Keating was lost in '83. I suppose I've assumed that he was lost during a mission to Distant Shores, though that hasn't been stated directly, and Morris probably doesn't have the clearance to actually know. That could be something to check on: what was Keating's final mission? Probably have to call back to HQ for that.

(03-09-2018, 10:03 PM)Smurfton Wrote: »We know Keating is here because his neighbors say so.

It seems that way, but that's sort of my point. How could his neighbors (and the local police?) know, but not the NSC?
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#33
>Ask for any previous criminal records of Rodney Keating. Perhaps we can identify a pattern.
>What is the weapon murder?
>Check for any surveillance device that might have captured the suspect or the act.
[Image: DGBpqSL.png]
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#34
are there any other suspects or persons of interest, at all? what about persons NOT of interest, like what if this is just the first strike of some unrelated serial killer?

we know how the woman died, but the boy?
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#35
Quote:...dreamlike glimpse of dunlight glaring...
Quote: "Fluctuating" because the future can cahnge
Vivian Quest
Tale of a small lizard, crime, and weird biology!
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#36
(03-09-2018, 09:47 PM)Akumu Wrote: »In any case, get more detail on this "living off the grid" thing. According to who?
This is a good one to pursue. There's more than what we know right now and probing is the way to go.

(03-09-2018, 10:10 PM)Akumu Wrote: »when Keating was a kid.
It seems that way, but that's sort of my point. How could his neighbors (and the local police?) know, but not the NSC?
Important to mention that military often call someone a kid when they're fresh into military.
However given how long it's been he's likely just 40's unless we can get his official age.
Towns gossip, but I entirely agree. The NSC probably has better intel on the matter, but the past is the past for now.

(03-09-2018, 10:19 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>previous criminal records
>What is the weapon murder?
>Check for any surveillance device that might have captured the suspect or the act.
The point of living off the grid is so that nobody knows. Not everyone who commits a crime has it on their record, and he's likely done everything he can to avoid being found out, if he'd done anything prior.
Furthermore the description seemed blunt trauma or gunshot, and that needs further investigation. Time of death, method, if any fingernails have been found.
Surveillance wasn't uncommon, but you aren't going to find anything for a house that's on sale like this. The best we can hope for is CCTV from nearby convenience stores, but that takes time to analyze, and he's likely avoided them religiously if he's been off the grid.

(03-09-2018, 09:18 PM)Schazer Wrote: »Some understanding of the couple's relationship would be good. How much did she know of her husband's past?
Agreed.

(03-09-2018, 08:55 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »>Check for signs of a struggle. Any bruising on the arms or wrists?
>Ask if any traces of communication between the suspect and the victims has been found.
>Signs of forced entry?
>Triple homicide. Seen bodies 1&2, check upstairs for body #3.
It went like an execution. They likely didn't struggle. There's potential that this killing was to silence them. Motive likely goes along the same lines as to: ('execution', positioning of the bodies, how they were left that way, fingernails)
Agreed
Unlikely, but we should ask.
>Sounds like a nuclear family, so #3 is either the other spouse.

-
My theory is that if this is Keating's family he likely killed them to cover things up. If this isn't his family and just one that got the unlucky draw, then there's still more to this we don't know.
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#37
(03-09-2018, 09:47 PM)Akumu Wrote: »In any case, get more detail on this "living off the grid" thing. According to who?

You unleash a barrage of questions on Mason. "What do you mean by living off the grid? According to who?"

"According to my best guess based on the information available. Records stopped in 1983, listed as MIA... but here he is, with a wife and kids, a whole life, looks like. To me, that says he wasn't missing in action... maybe a deserter, maybe something else. All I can tell is that he apparently stopped existing 14 years ago, and stayed off of anybody's radar until tonight."

(03-09-2018, 08:55 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »>Check for signs of a struggle. Any bruising on the arms or wrists?
>Ask if any traces of communication between the suspect and the victims has been found.
>Signs of forced entry?
>Has the murder weapon been located?
>Motive?

(03-09-2018, 09:18 PM)Schazer Wrote: »Some understanding of the couple's relationship would be good. How much did she know of her husband's past?

(03-09-2018, 10:19 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>Ask for any previous criminal records of Rodney Keating. Perhaps we can identify a pattern.

"Any signs of forced entry? A struggle? Bruises on the wrists or ankles?"

"No, none of that."

"Motive?"

"We're working on it, but Keating doesn't seem to have left much of himself here. There's nothing particular that indicates his wife knew of his activities - no Navy documents lying around, anything like that. It's difficult to reconstruct the man with so much redacted from his records, though. He's got no criminal record, nothing like that we can pull. Aside from his time in the Navy, he's a ghost. Can we find out anything more definitive about him?"

"I'll be working with my director, but CFNIS is a civilian agency," you say. "I have top-secret clearance, like you, but information about Distant Shores is on a need-to-know basis. Pretty compartmentalized. We can only work with what the Navy tells us."

Mason purses his lips, disappointed.

(03-09-2018, 10:19 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>Check for any surveillance device that might have captured the suspect or the act.

"Any chance of any surveillance getting any of this?"

"Not in this neighbourhood, that's for sure."

You sigh. "Okay, let's just focus on what we know."

Mason spits his licorice gum into its wrapper and flicks it into the wastebasket. "Alright. The actor woke his victims, gathered them together in the family room before attacking them."

(03-09-2018, 10:19 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>What is the weapon murder?

"With what?" you ask.

"An ax," says Mason.

You imagine the woman and boy kneeling - the wet thwack, pulling the ax free and swinging again. The demolition of the family as simple as splitting wood.

"Do we have the ax?" you ask.

"No, but we're looking."

(03-10-2018, 12:29 AM)☆ C.H.W.O.K.A ☆ Wrote: »are there any other suspects or persons of interest, at all? what about persons NOT of interest, like what if this is just the first strike of some unrelated serial killer?

"Any reason to doubt Rodney Keating did this?" you ask.

"None," says Mason. "But he might have had someone with him. The neighbour that called 911 mentioned a guy who drives a red pickup truck, a friend of Keating's. We're focusing on the truck, trying to find this individual. The neighbour described him as a nuisance, blocking her driveway all the time. The truck's covered in bumper stickers."

(03-09-2018, 08:55 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »>Triple homicide. Seen bodies 1&2, check upstairs for body #3.

"Okay. Can we take a look upstairs?"

Mason gets up, slowly. "Follow me."

You follow him out of the den. He ducks a line of police tape, leads you upstairs, a climb you made countless times trailing Nancy, whose room was the first on the right. The metal railing seems to spin against your palm, a familiar feeling. You're self-conscious climbing stairs now though, the movement of your prostethis sort of stop-motion, motorized. Mason pauses at the top, watching you climb - like he's spotting you, almost ready to try and catch you if you were to fall. You've gotten tired of these moments of awkwardness, when people first realize they're working with an amputee, trying to figure out how they should treat you.

"What happened up here?" you ask.

"His seven-year-old daughter, Jennifer, escaped the initial attack," says Mason. "Ran in here."

Nancy's room. Mason puts his hand on the doorknob. "I have two daughters," he says. "Two beautiful girls..."

He opens the door, lets you through - returning to this room feels like curling back into a cocoon. You remember coating these walls in bubblegum pink in sixth grade, slopping the roller from the tray, Nancy yelping whenever paint from the ceiling fell into her black curls. You remember puffing cigarette smoke through the screen window in the summer, AC/DC on the turntable, Powerage until the record was scratched and couldn't get through the first few seconds. The room is lavender now, with a white dresser and bunk bed - the Keating girls must have shared this room. Van Halen and Zeppelin are replaced by DiCaprio, but the room feels the same. Jennifer Keating's body is in the corner, near where Nancy's bed had been. Her nightshirt is shredded, her back gouged with a deep cut between her shoulder blades.

Poor girl. Poor girl...

"Are you alright?" asks Mason.

"Where are their nails?" you ask, your focus murky but noticing that the girl's fingernails and toenails have been removed like the others.

"We're not sure," he says. "You've gone pale. Do you need to sit down?"

"I'm alright-" You waver, and Mason steadies you. "Thank you," you say, though still unmoored. A heat of embarassment flashes through you. Pull it together, you think. "I'm... I don't know what's wrong," you say. "I'm sorry."

Mason takes you from the bedroom into the hall. "Listen," he says, shutting the bedroom door, "scenes like these are hard for anyone to take, let alone if you're not used to it. It's okay if you're a little weak in the knees."

"This is..." you start. "I'm having some trouble tonight, this is uncanny. I know this house."

"Go on."

"I grew up around here," you say. "I practically lived in this house when I was a kid. My best friend lived here. Her name was Nancy. Nancy Wright. This was her room. I spent a lot of time here. Her bed was right there."

"No shit," says Mason.

"I'm unnerved by this, but I'm okay," you say. "When Whicker called and said the crime scene was on Colyer Road..."

You steady yourself on the wall - touching the wall, you feel like you could tear the present away and see your friend again, be with her like no time has passed, as if you could step back into the old bedroom. Slap bracelets, jelly shoes, colored braces.

"We used to hang out in the woods behind these houses," you say. "Shared cigarettes back there." You zone out for a moment, remembering sunbathing on lawn chairs, Nancy scoring pot and staying up late with you watching TV, going to school with bloodshot eyes the next morning, before you snap back. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have told you that."

"Let's get some fresh air," says Mason. "Can you make it down the stairs?"

"I'll be fine. Let's go." You follow Mason outside. The lawns of Colyer Road are sprinkled with frost, crystals dancing on the windshields of parked cars. An upstairs light in a neighbouring house has flipped on.

Mason has his walkie ready. "I'm thinking we should put out an Amber alert for the missing girl, if you're okay with that. You can probably head back and get some sleep while my team handles things here, unless there's something else? Either way, there'll be a progress meeting at 9 AM with everyone involved, and then we'll do the press conference."
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#38
An Amber Alert seems prudent. See if you can get transcripts or tapes of the neighbor interviews and 911 calls to review tonight.
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#39
>Red pickup you say. What's the license plate number?
>How did you know the weapon was an axe?
>Check the places in the house where an axe would be stowed. Either the axe is from this house or from outside the house.
[Image: DGBpqSL.png]
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#40
>Check with the neighbor on if they can remember any exact bumper stickers, and check with others about the vehicle
>Then report it as stolen or put some of the details (but leave out 1-2 stickers) in the amber alert
>See if you can get it out first to those working at rest stops and gas stations before it goes properly public.
>We're looking to make Keating think he's ahead of us, like he can escape this.

>Setup checkpoints around the province borders, park entrances. They likely are either going as far as they can, or to a pre-selected location.
>If we're lucky they've only got short term supplies, and if we're not they've prepared for this for a while now
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#41
(03-12-2018, 08:07 PM)Akumu Wrote: »An Amber Alert seems prudent. See if you can get transcripts or tapes of the neighbor interviews and 911 calls to review tonight.

(03-13-2018, 10:52 AM)LoverIan Wrote: »>Check with the neighbor on if they can remember any exact bumper stickers, and check with others about the vehicle
>Then report it as stolen or put some of the details (but leave out 1-2 stickers) in the amber alert
>See if you can get it out first to those working at rest stops and gas stations before it goes properly public.
>We're looking to make Keating think he's ahead of us, like he can escape this.

>Setup checkpoints around the province borders, park entrances. They likely are either going as far as they can, or to a pre-selected location.
>If we're lucky they've only got short term supplies, and if we're not they've prepared for this for a while now

(03-12-2018, 09:29 PM)FlanDab Wrote: »>Red pickup you say. What's the license plate number?
>How did you know the weapon was an axe?
>Check the places in the house where an axe would be stowed. Either the axe is from this house or from outside the house.

"An Amber alert sounds like a good idea, yes," you say. "Put some details about the pickup truck in the alert, see if that helps. Did we get any descriptions of the bumper stickers, license plate, anything like that?"

"Conservative slogans, stuff about guns, that kind of thing. Neighbours think one said 'The South Will Rise'."

"In Canada?"

"Yeah, Ontario plates too. You know the type. Fetish for the American Confederacy and all that."

"Huh. The murder weapon, by the way - how do you know it was an axe?"

"Forensics called it. Wound shape and size match an ax head. No axe in the house, the shed in the back, but split wood. So there's that."

"Okay. Any chance I can get transcripts or tapes of the neighbour interviews or 911 calls to review tonight?"

"I can get you transcripts, but those will take time to compile," Mason says.

Digitized data isn't really around yet, you remind yourself, not like it will be eventually. Things move slower in 1997. "Thanks. Alright, get that Amber alert out, set up checkpoints at border crossings."

Mason checks the illuminated dial of his watch. "Newmann, your office is at CFB Borden, is that right?" CFB Borden is a military base where the Border Region CFNIS office is housed - the nerve center for CFNIS in the western half of Ontario. "You live out that way? Out near Barrie?"

"That's right."

"My wife Dorothy's at Borden, in the print lab. Maybe you've crossed paths."

"You're Dorothy Mason's husband?" you say. There's a lot of people at the Borden facility, but Dorothy Mason is well known, the deputy assistant director of the Laboratory Division. Your office is near Borden's day care, so although you've never met Mason's wife, you see Dorothy drop her daughters off most mornings in a flurry of kisses and hugs. "I think I've seen some of your kids' paintings," you say. "Katherine and Caroline, right? Their name tags are hanging on a corkboard near my office. Purple dinosaurs-"

"Barney," says Mason, smiling now, chuckling. "Everything's Barney - Katherine's room is swamped with him. So you drove in from Barrie, thereabouts? That's what... and hour, an hour and a half from here?" he says, fishing a ket card out of an envelope in his jacket pocket. He offers it to you. "We rented a block of rooms close by - don't make the trip back to Barrie tonight. You'll need to be right back here for the presser tomorrow morning."

"I'll crash for a night," you say, noting the change in Mason's demeanor. He's softened since noticing your prosthesis, since mentioning his wife.

"Distant Shores," he says, glancing skyward, though cloud cover occludes any chance of stars. "My dream as a kid was to be an astronaut. I watched a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral on TV once. It was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen until my daughters were born."

You've seen the flares of firelight streak across the dawn sky, rockets lifting and vanishing from view. "It's always beautiful. Every time," you say.

"Get some sleep," says Mason. "We'll put out what you said. Meeting at 9 AM, then the presser."

---

A desire to put distance between yourself and that house pricks at your shoulders and spine as you pull away from Colyer Road, from Beaverton. The hotel Mason booked is a Comfort Inn, but before going there you loop through the parking lot of the local Wendy's. Nancy had been killed here, November of your Grade 10 year.

The Wendy's is as it ever was, unchanged since the last time you swung through here - a beige brick building with a drab brown metal roof, two dumpsters around back, blue, illuminated by your headlights. Nancy's body had been left between those dumpsters. You count the hours - thirty-three now, since Nicole Keating had last been seen. Nicole is seventeen, Nancy was sixteen when she died.

You drive to the hotel, thinking of your dead friend, thinking of the missing girl. Fingernails and toenails missing from the bodies of the dead. Had Rodney Keating really killed his family? Where is he now?

You keep your go bag in the trunk, two changes of clothes and a toiletries kit, ready to travel at a moment's notice. You undress in your hotel room, remove your prosthesis, remove your liner. The shower is tricky without safety bars, but once the water warms, you sit on the edge of the tub and swing your leg in, sliding down the porcelain to sit on the non-slip mat. Hot water streams over you. You wash your hair, using the full allotment of shampoo, trying to wash away the smells of decay and blood.

Without your crutches or wheelchair, you hop across the hotel carpet before slipping between the bedsheets, bundling into the comforter. With the blinds drawn and lights out, the room is pitch black. Cold. You turn over to sleep but see the bodies of women and children unspooling in bloody arcs and flowering wounds. A rising hopelessness and disgust burns acidic in your throat. You think of Nicole - still alive, please still be alive - but you don't know what Nicole looks like, so your imagination fills with the image of Nancy Wright and your mind races to axe blades biting through bone and wounds opening like mouths.

Clammy, you toss against the mattress, tangled in your sheets. You sit up and fumble in the dark for the remote control. The local channels are all reporting about the family kills in Durham County. You squint as the growing brightness of the television stabs your eyes - aerial shots of the neighbourhood roofs and footage of the blockade.

The Amber Alert was broadcast close to 5 AM. Nicole Patricia Keating, seventeen, of Beaverton, Ontario. A photo of the girl is displayed, sun-kissed and freckled, tank top and cutoffs, her straight hair the color of coal. Your breath catches at the similarities between your friend and the missing girl - casually beautiful, each with long, dark hair. You've been trained in time travel - used to reliving future events as they play out in the terra firma of the present, but this is something else, like you've caught reality repeating itself, the house, the girls, like you've seen something you're not supposed to see, the circular gears of cyclical time. Or maybe this similarity is something more rare... like a second chance. You lost Nancy, but you can still save Nicole.

You relax into bed, comforted by the knowledge that people are looking for the girl, that already someone may have seen her, might know where she is, safe, safe - but as you drift off for the scant hours of sleep that you can, you almost feel the girl's body getting cold.

---

The Past

---

Nancy Wright is dead.

You're just shy of sixteen. The Wrights invite you to stay with them at the funeral home, an exhausting honor - awkward in the reception line, Nancy lily white from concealer, laid out like she's sleeping. Nancy had always said she'd want to be buried in jeans, but they dressed her in some sort of velvet dress with a high lace collar. The collar is necessary to cover what the makeup can't of the slash across her neck. The body's stillness is so complete, so unnatural, that you almost expect your friend to sit up, to stir somehow or breathe.

Coming from the funeral home, you feel like a version of you died and is going to be buried alongside Nancy. You feel despondent, isolated, not interested in the new version of you, the you that survived. You live alone with your mom; your dad abandoned you when you were five. You're friendly enough with your mom, but she's never around, either at work or at the bar for happy hours that melt into long drunk nights.

Over time, you grow inward, escaping to your room every night alone with your expanding collection of records: the Pixies, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Misfits, punk albums from bargain bins. Just lying in bed with your headphones in the dark. Lost in soundscapes.

Your remaining years of high school are utterly wasted. Drunk on Jack and Cherry Coke or whatever someone snuck into the parking lot at lunch. You feel absent in your own skin, almost flunking out of school but not quite - ready to just live at home if you have to, ready to work for the same telemarketing company as your mom - but your track-and-field coach takes notice, pulls some strings, gets you a partial scholarship to attend the University of Ottawa.

Three years after Nancy died, you're called to testify against her killer. You sit in the Durham County Courthouse wearing your mom's work clothes, answering questions about the night your friend died - Nancy's parents listening to your testimony, Nancy's mom weeping, Nancy's killer listening stone-faced.

You never question your lack of empathy for the man who killed your best friend - a junkie, a vagrant. You want him to die, horrifically, or serve life without parole, some sort of revenge, some sort of justice. You find out about the sentencing later, the killer given twenty-eight to life, but it doesn't feel like enough. Your rage at the thought of this man living and someday perhaps gaining freedom slices through the fog of grief that suffocates you. The first semester of your second year of university, drunken weekends and dorm-room dime bags melt away to study. You declare your major as criminology, and secure an internship at the Durham County Coroner's Office per your course requirements.

At first, you're intimidated by the internship, but the coroner's office is, surprisingly, a nice place to spend an afternoon - the women there are grateful for the help and eager to spoil you, chatting with you about birth control and music as you crawl around reorganizing their filing cabinets. Dr. Minkowski, the coroner, greets you every morning but keeps a polite distance - an alcoholic, the clerks tell you, a homosexual, it's generally known, and while Minkowski's face is often glowing pink when coming back from longer lunch hours, he is always very kind. Some of your roommates had been disgusted by what you're up to, squeamish at the idea of cadavers, but you eagerly schedule your classes around your internship and find that you look forward to Thursday afternoons, when you'd drive the distance to the Durham County coroner's office.

The first time Minkowski lets you assist in an autopsy, you're nervous, but not afraid. Dressed in a lab coat and goggles and gloves like a kid playing scientist, you watch from only a few feet away as Minkowski preps the body, the deceased a sixty-three year old woman who had been found only when the family in the apartment next door began to complain about a smell. Your first whiff of human decay had taken root in you, a sickly-sweet aroma, but your curiosity overtakes your disgust. The procedure is surgical at times, scalpel incisions and dissections, and is unexpectedly brutal when Minkowski uses hedge clippers to break the rib cage open and an industrial saw to cut through the skull, the bone squealing as the room is powdered with dust. Minkowski's assistant irrigates the woman's viscera with water, running through armfuls of colon at the sink, filling the room with the smell of feces. The assistant finds a partially digested Twinkie is the woman's stomach and says "This baby would have lasted for eternity."

Minkowski lets you hold the woman's heart. You cup it in your hands carefully, like you're holding a bird with a broken wing, rather than a dead muscle. You're surprised by how heavy it is - a lot heavier than you would have thought.

"Place the muscle here, please, so I can weigh it," Minkowski instructs.

You do as he asks, setting the heart in a drip pan to drain.

"Take a look here," Minkowski says, some time later, lifting an organ from the cadaver for you to see. "This is what amounts to the cause of death. The liver. See the deeper purple color, the crushed charcoal texture. A healthy liver looks like meat you might pick up from the supermarket, smooth and pinkish. This is called cirrhosis. Basically, she drank herself to death."

The science of the morgue provides you with a center of calm. Sometimes you think about how death is an unshared intimacy. Death and loss are close companions for you, your best friend dead and your father gone. The autopsy procedures you sit in on help bring closure to your experiences with mortality. Death might still be a mystery, but people's entire existences can be summed up in file folders, in weights, in measurements.

In the summers, you work in downtown Ottawa to support yourself. One of dozens in the secretarial pool at a law office, your desk is cluttered with a boxy computer monitor and an electric typewriter, the steel shelves behind you an ocean of alphabetized manila folders. On lunches, you exchange your surroundings for the park, and criminology and forensics textbooks. A waxed-paper basket of poutine also joins you on this particular afternoon.

A man approaches you, in a sports coat and paisley tie. He takes the chair opposite you, without asking permission to join. He lifts the cover of your book, Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior, 2nd Edition.

"Have you learned why people do what they do?" he asks.
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#42
Pick his set and hiss attention words at him
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#43
"I have no idea why you've just interrupted my lunch, so it seems I haven't."
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#44
SpoilerShow
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
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#45
SpoilerShow


(03-14-2018, 08:37 PM)Arcanuse Wrote: »
SpoilerShow

You're used to businessmen and lawyers insinuating themselves into your company, men who think the downtown secretaries exist only to serve at their pleasure, so you lay into him. "People are complicated. Pinning actions on a single cause, say emotion or needs, works but is terribly shallow. In turn, asking why they felt that way leads us on a merry chase of cause and effect going long past the persons original reasoning and or awareness for acting." You take a breath, theatrically staring into the distance as if ponering a universal truth. "I suppose then, in a sense, causality also works, but suffers from going too deep. Of course, the actor at one end of the web is unlikely to know the full extent of the web of reasons leading up to their action. So from a final perspective, human actions are caused by various factors adding together to outweigh the incentive towards inaction." You refocus into the man's eyes. "Like I said, life is complicated. Why do you think people do what they do?"

The man smirks and flashes a badge - CANADIAN FORCES NATIONAL INVESTIGATION SERVICE, something you've never heard of. Your first thought is that something's happened with your mother on one of her benders. "We're recruiting," he says.

You wonder what that has to do with you. "Okay," you say. "Yeah?"

He introduces himself as Agent Thurman. "One of your professors put your name forward as a possible candidate for federal law enforcement," he says. "She's been impressed with your work."

"Okay," you say, wondering which professor, wondering if this was some kind of scam. "Don't you have pamphlets you mail out or something?"

"I have you in mind for a specific division within CFNIS," Thurman says. "I wanted to meet you myself before I made the pitch. I don't usually recruit like this, but I already have reason to believe you'll make an exemplary agent - still, I have to make sure I actually recruit you."

Maybe some sort of sales scheme - give out your name and address and then get slammed with junk mail and cold calls. Any second now he's going to ask for twenty bucks to "hold your spot in the program" or ask for some kind of donation. "My record can't look that great to you," you say, calling his bluff. "I almost didn't make it out of high school."

"Your past plays a part. I'm interested in your renewed focus and dedication now. Some people wilt in high school, then bloom in post-secondary - that's what I look for. I don't want brilliant kids who'll burn out within a couple of years. I read a paper you wrote about the responsibility of a strong society to defend the rights of the vulnerable - some of the most vulnerable being the victims of violent crime. Was that copied from somewhere or was that you?"

"I didn't copy anything."

"I found it moving," says Thurman. "Passionate. That's what I'm interested in, Jeanette - that articulate passion. I think it might help you through what I have in mind."

"I had a friend," you say. "She's the reason I'm interested in criminal justice."

"Well, Jeanette, as it happens, I do have a pamphlet for you," says Thurman. "You've got - what, another year before graduation? If you're still as passionate then as you are now, and decide to apply, send your application directly to me." He writes down his mailing address on the back of the glossy advertisement.

A year later, you mail your CNFIS packet to the address, along with other applications to local police departments. Thurman calls within the week and asks you to report to the Ottawa HQ to begin the interview process. "Clear your schedule," he says.

Thurman's recruited a class of twelve, you one of only three women, and within a few days, two of the men have dropped out rather than endure the physical regimen the instructors demand. You realize that this isn't really an interview; more of a culling. Hours swimming in a tank wearing scuba gear. Rounds of spinning in a g-force simulator until your eyes roll backwards and you black out, only to wake up and spin again. The recruits are given small meals and bunk together in a dorm with room enough only for six - one toilet to share and a carton of wet wipes instead of a shower.

The spartan conditions fray some nerves, but you adapt well enough, your track-and-field experience preparing you for endurance, conditioning strength of mind over body. At the end of five weeks, only seven recruits remain, you the last woman. In a ceremony in one of your classrooms, Thurman presents you each with a choice: "Report to the main office and be welcomed with open arms to begin a fulfilling career as a federal law-enforcement agent," he tells you, "or stay seated."

One of the men does stand and leave, but the rest of you stay at your desks, confused and excited as Thurman hands out forest green T-shirts and certificates with your names printed on them.

A reception with coffee and cake in the hallway is followed by instructions to change into your flight suits within the hour. After nightfall, you board a jet called Ogopogo, a sea monster painted along its triangular body - the jet is called a Bolt, long and sleek, wingtips pointed downwards, the size of a small airliner.

You strap into your seat and the Ogopogo lifts off from the runway. You're utterly delirious when it enters an accelerated climb and pulls away from the tug of gravity. A crescent shine of earthlight frames scattered diamonds of city lights on the distant globe. You feel the dizzy bliss of weightlessness in your chest, your hair rising around you like a blond dandelion puff until you pull it into a bun.

Thurman is the first to unfasten his harness and float freely, his aged features suddenly childlike, the others following his example, whooping up the free fall like children on a trampoline. You rise from your seat and weep openly, gleeful, but your tears adhere like sticky balls over your eyes and sting until you wipe them with your sleeve and laugh.

---

The moon below is a lake of darkness. You approach the Twilight Vale station, the lunar outpost like a secret city built into the Daedalus crater, a crater a hundred kilometers wide and right in the middle of the hemisphere that never faces Earth. The slopes down from the crater's raised ridges are terraced, like huge stairs falling two miles to the wide floor of the basin. Nobody speaks as they catch their first glimpse of the lunar launching sites. The Twilight Vale is outlined with lights, the buildings and runways, the layout reminding you of oil rigs, the air control tower a spire of steel and lights. Seven ships are docked at the Twilight Vale, wide and strange-looking vessels the size of Victoria-class submarines.

"Those are the Spades," says Thurman, pointing out each of the seven ships. "Look there - the engines are Novikov Quantum Foam Generators", he explains, "the technology that allows the military to travel to Sidereal Space and Ulterior Time."

A cloverleaf of launch and landing pads spreads out from the tower, arteries of roads and taxiways between them that lead to hangars and a scattering of white domes, dormitories, machine shops, offices and labs. Thurman explains that the designs for the Naval Space Command ships - the Skimmers, the Bolts, the Spades - were brought back from a point nearly six hundred years in the future, retrofitted for the comparatively lackluster industrial capabilities of the 70s and 80s, when most of the fleet was built - skunkworks engineering projects carried out by the team that developed the Avro Arrow. The Bolts used enhanced gas turbine engines to control the vessel by thrust vectoring, with large rotors acting like gyroscopes to balance it. The Ogopogo settles on Pad 4 like an insect landing on a leaf.

The views from every portal are vast plains of grey dust lit up by floodlights. Everything falls slowly on the moon; in the weaker gravity, it feels like you've been dropped through water. You're twenty-two years old, overwhelmed by the secrecy and miracles of the military, the Naval Space Command operating just outside the realm of public knowledge.

The first few weeks of continued training are dreamlike, lectures in the sunlamp solarium, bunking in the dormitories, finding your way through the greenhouses and corridors and learing about the ships of the fleet. You're assigned to Thurman's Spade battle group aboard the HMCS Alexander Mackenzie and launch to Distant Shores. Within two months of your first arrival at Ottawa HQ, you've time-traveled to the Demarcation of humanity and sailed the farthest regions of the Andromeda Galaxy, bathed in starlight that won't touch Earth for two and a half million years.

---

1997

---

The media jams the Beaverton Police Station's central hallway, reporters begging for quotes about the triple homicide and the missing girl. The local police seem unprepared for the sheer amount of interest, you think, pushing past a throng of photographers. You show your credentials to an officer and sign your name on a printout list of authorized personnel before you're allowed through to the conference room. Still a few minutes before nine. Several of the task force have already taken seats around a horseshoe of a half dozen banquet tables. You recognize faces from the night before, RCMP men mostly, but their demeanors are different, the pallor of the Keating deaths dissipated in the light of day, replaced by fresh hair gel and changed clothes, brown coffee cups, Tim Hortons doughnuts on the back table.

Someone waves to catch your attention, a man with sandy blond hair, his jaw shaded by stubble that foreshadows a beard. He has a warm smile, you think, a smile that softens his otherwise rugged features. Bright blue eyes - hooded eyes, thoughtful.

"Are you Agent Newmann?" he asks. "Ken Whicker. We spoke on the phone last night."

"Oh, of course," you say. "Jeanette."

"I have a seat for you," he says. "Mason asked me to take care of you."

You bristle at being taken care of and you're unwilling to negotiate the gaps between chair legs. "I don't want to fight my way up front."

"Oh, alright - sure," says Whicker, leaning against the wall beside you. "And not like that, not 'taking care of you', more like a liaison," he says, quick to read your tone. You remember his voice from the call - disturbed, tinged with sorrow. "Mason says you should have full access, but since he has a lot to juggle," he says, gesturing at the room, "I'll be your conduit."

An outdoorsman, you think - he has an easy athleticism, not like a gym rat with their muscled bodies. He's wearing brown corduroys, contrasting the grey or beige slacks his colleagues are wearing - shirtsleeves rolled to his forearms, a sweater-vest, and a tie, professorial despite the lanyard with FBI tags on them.

"I don't remember seeing you last night," you say.

"I was there, I saw you when you came in," he says, "but I was" - gesturing to indicate a Tyvek suit - "taking photos. You wouldn't have noticed me. I have to ask you, though, if it's true, what Mason told me."

Fuck. You wonder what's gotten around. "That depends on what he told you."

"That you knew the family over on Colyer Road."

"The family that used to live there," you say. "My best friend lived there, years ago. I was over there almost every day."

Whicker sighs. "I'm sorry. That must have been a shock."

"What else did he tell you?"

Whicker raises his hand, a gentle conciliation. "Only to be respectful, said you were taking it hard."

The clamor of conversation dulls when Mason makes his way to the lectern. His clothes are the same from last night, rumpled - he might have splashed water in his face before this meeting, cologne, but he hasn't showered, hasn't rested. A film of exhaustion clings to him, his eyes underscored by bags. He dims the room to half-light.

"Good morning," he says, switching on the overhead projector, a block of light appearing on the whiteboard behind him. "I'll keep this brief. Agent in Charge, Rick Mason, RCMP. My team will be working closely with the local police in the murder investigation of the Keating family and in the search for Nicole Keating. Our lead investigator is Agent Ken Whicker."

Mason's first transparency shows the image from the Amber Alert.

"Nicole Keating," he says. "Know her face. Thirty-eight hours gone."

Keating sips from a water bottle, pauses his speech until he registers all eyes on the image of the young woman. Silence, except for the whirring fan of the projector.

"We already have significant media interest in this young woman, probably on a national scale. She was last seen on Friday afternoon leaving her shift at the local Valu-Mart, where she's a cashier. Clocked out at seven PM, and that was the last confirmed sighting we have. We've recovered her car from the parking lot - so she left with someone, or was taken. Her shift supervisor and her coworkers don't recall anything unusual about that afternoon. She has no regular boyfriend that we know about. Ontario police are following up with her extended network of friends."

He switches the transparency. A cropped photograph of a man wearing a zippered blue sweatshirt, his hair dusty grey. He's smiling, squinting against the sunlight.

"This is the most recent photograph we have of her father, Rodney Keating. Petty Officer First Class, Royal Canadian Navy. Born 1949, August 3rd. Rodney Keating is on the board as our primary subject both for the abduction of Nicole and for the murder of his family. An arrest warrant has been issued. We do not have any solid information as to his whereabouts, but we've placed checkpoints at all major border crossings."

Another transparency. A Polaroid, the deck of a ship. Keating in drab green, his skin tanned - he looks like a child, you think, despite the cigarette and rifle slung casually over his shoulder.

"Triple homicide," says Mason, showing a transparency of the woman's blood-slathered face.

A close-up of a hand covered in blood.

"The actor removed the fingernails and toenails from the woman and children," says Mason. "That information is not to be given to the media. Understood? In case we're wrong about Keating, we're holding this piece back to weed out false confessions that come through the tip line."

An air of unease simmers in the room - the missing nails bother the people gathered here, pushing the deaths from common brutality to something more bizarre, with unfathomable intention.

"You alright?" asks Whicker, his eyes troubled.

You ask, "Are you?"

Mason holds his press conference half an hour later, the conference room's whiteboard screened with an RCMP backdrop. He focuses on the only substantive lead you have, the neighbour statements about Keating's unidentified associate, a white male, bearded, driving a red Dodge Ram with Ontario plates. Mason describes the truck covered in bumper stickers, but holds back on their exact nature. You join a few cops watching on the break-room TV. You fill a mug with oily dregs from the pot while reporters from Toronto pepper Mason with questions about Nicole Keating and her family's murder.

You drift from the break room, find a vacant office in the downstairs bullpen. You dial your supervisor's direct line at CFNIS HQ. Thurman had recruited you to CFNIS, had mentored you during the following training, had sailed Distant Shores with you aboard the Alexander Mackenzie - he had accompanied you on your first space walk, the two of you floating far from your ship, tethered to the hull like spiders on silken threads. Thurman was born only a decade before you, but he was well traveled in Distant Shores and FPTs, had already aged while the rest of the world stood still. His head is a thicket of white curls, his face deeply wrinkled, but his deadpan stare breaks easily into the crooked smile of a mischievous child.

"Thurman," he answers.

"This is Newmann. I need information about Keating, if you can get it for me. The info I have was redacted. He's listed as missing in action."

"I have something for you," says Thurman. "I've been meeting with NSC over the night. Keating showing up is a huge problem, Jean."

"What do you have?"

"Rodney Keating was a major player when NSC was working with Reagan's Star Wars initiative," says Thurman. "The early days, part of the broader joint Canadian and American space program, before Challenger and the American consolidations. Keating participated in joint exercises with the US Air Force's Manned Spaceflight Engineers program in Los Angeles, and had his hand in the military floor at Johnson Space Center. But, Jean, his record ends with the Olympus missions. Are you familiar?"

"Twelve ships, deployed through the late seventies until about 1989. Before my time. Three of the ships are still in service."

"Ares, Demeter, Poseidon," says Thurman. "The other nine ships never returned, hundreds of lives presumed lost. Catastrophic. And the Apollo-"

"The Apollo discovered the Demarcation," you say. "They were the first." You've studied crime-scene photographs of the HMCS Apollo. The ship launched in late 1986 but returned from a far future FPT with a depleted crew, only a few survivors, the inside of their ship covered in crude pictures of dead men and warnings written in their own blood.

"Rodney Keating is listed as missing in action because he was a sailor aboard the HMCS Hermes," says Thurman. "Jean, the Hermes is assumed lost."

Lost to Distant Shores, but appearing now. "How is that possible?" you ask. You've observed NSC launches, seen ships launch to Distant Shores and return within a second, nearly instantaneous - the ships just shimmer even though the crew might have sailed galaxies and lived for several years within that time. It's an uncanny sensation to see a man board a ship one moment as a young man and disembark the next moment grown to retirement age. Occasionally, though, an NSC ship launches but never returns - it simply blinks out of existence altogether. The ships that blink are assumed lost, irretrievably. They're either torn apart by debris or cast into a burning sun or devoured by a black hole, or, most likely, suffered a mechanical failure that proved catastrophic or one of any number of potential ruins - but the ships never return and they never appear somewhere else. If a ship blinks out, the ship is lost and the crew dead, listed as missing in action only because their bodies will never be recovered. "If Hermes was lost, then Rodney Keating shouldn't exist," you say. "Or he was never on Hermes. Maybe he's a deserter? Or never amde his assignment?"

"We need to account for Hermes, we need to account for Keating," says Thurman. "That's why you were called in. We need to apprehend Rodney Keating, find out his story."

"Mason says the guy's been living off the grid, everything in his wife's name," you say. "We have witnesses who know Keating personally - I don't think we're dealing with a false identity, or anything like that. He's been living here in Beaverton, right out in plain sight."

"Nobody's been looking for him," says Thurman. "As far as anyone knew, Rodney Keating blinked out along with everyone else on Hermes. You can hide a long time when no one's looking."

"We have a lot of people looking for him now."

"Jean," says Thurman, "Agent Mason mentioned you have a personal connection to the crime scene-"

"Fine - I'm fine," you say. "A childhood friend lived there. And the crime scene was horrific last night, but I'm fine."

"I can offer you more agents, if you think you'll need the help," says Thurman.

"I'm handling it," you say, thinking of Jennifer Keating, the body gouged. Nancy Wright's bedroom, where you'd dreamed of ditching Beaverton. No one will ever leave that room. "I'm fine," you say again. "I'm focused on Rodney Keating."

"Okay. Given what you know now, what's your take on everything? Motive? The fingernails? What do you think happened?"
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#46
Hrm.
The motive might be a misguided sense of mercy. Seeing something horrific or outright apocalyptic with little chance of prevention, if any, could be enough.
But, that leaves two questions. Why now of all times, and what does it have to do with the nails?
Feels like I'm missing something here...
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
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#47
Mind being more specific about which Distant Shores Hermes went to? Ulterior Time does go backwards, after all. It'd be insane, but the notion of coming back from not that far into the past isn't unthinkable.
Though it would be strange to not send the Hermes the furthest, given that it's the only one named after a god of travelers.
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#48
This is a bit of a wild concept, but who all else was marked as MIA on the Hermes? What if everyone on the ship just ended up, scattered through time in various places, and Keating's the only one who landed in the present day?

His motives almost certainly tie to what happened on that ship, so figuring out what happened to it is as good a course of action as any to understand Keating (though finding the missing girl and making sure she's safe obviously has a more practical priority)
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#49
What if whatever came back wasn't Keating? It wore his skin, lived his life, until it got found out and had to make witnesses disappear?
Vivian Quest
Tale of a small lizard, crime, and weird biology!
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#50
>I think we should be looking at this case as a result of the Hermes in addition to him being a deserter
>The other option is that the killing was an operation by foreign intelligence that discovered Keating before we did, and assumed the former outcome. The killings were done in an execution style, and the nails were removed in a torturous fashion. The outcome there is that Keating escaped with his daughter and friend alive
>I also have a theory regarding similar from him having been onboard the Hermes, that the nail plucking is related to HUPs, but given the probabilities I agree with you that we're missing too much information
>Another theory was that Keating thought he was close to being discovered, and he executed his family to prevent them from having to live through interrogation while also making it look like they'd been tortured.
>I'd like to see the toxicology report at some point to see if there's any credence to this, but that's the closest I can get to a motive on Keating. Paranoia induced killing in fear, HUP related episode that had lied dormant, or foreign intelligence trying to get us to flush Keating out
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