Beckett crouched down over the body with a frown, ignoring the space station manager hovering nervously in the background. She narrowed in on the neat round hole in the dead marshal's chest, eyeing it thoughtfully. Behind her, Castle whistled.
"That's from a PA-13," he said. "Military grade. You don't see too many of those back home."
She didn't ask how he knew what weapon had been used. She'd seen the holo-novel where he'd used that particular detail. "We're out in the borderlands now," she said. "Anything goes. At least when it comes to weapons."
"I know." Castle bounced on his feet. "It's exciting, isn't it?"
Beckett raised a skeptical eyebrow and straightened up, having gotten what she could from the dead man. "Exciting," she repeated.
"Sure!" he said enthusiastically. "I grew up on stories of the borderlands. Desperate men and women, driven here by desperate circumstances, seeking second chances, building new lives for themselves. Space races and gunfights and brave marshals keeping order."
"More like a lot of miners with too much time on their hands and not enough to fill it," Beckett said dryly. "The mining companies do criminal background checks before they ship people out here."
"Mostly we get fights over gambling and women," the station manager confirmed. "Knives, generally. Not guns."
"Yeah, but that doesn't make for every exciting holo-novels," Castle said. "Anyway, don't forget the independents who moved here after the war to escape government oppression." He inserted verbal quotation marks around the last words
"Well, somebody killed this marshal," Beckett said. "Whether it was a miner, an independent, or a desperate criminal. Now we just need to find out who."
"PA-13s can't be that common even out here," Castle said. "They may not be against the law, but the military still prefers to keep tight control on them."
Beckett nodded. "We'll talk with the local military liaison and see what she has to say. And then we'll talk to the other marshal and found out who might have been carrying a grudge. And by then, hopefully the local coroner will be able to provide us with more information about the marshal."
The military liaison stared at them glumly. "You're sure it was a PA-13?"
"It's a pretty distinctive mark," Beckett said.
The liaison sighed. "We lost a full shipment two weeks ago. We were hoping it was FTL drive failure, but if the weapons have started turning up now--"
"Wait, you're saying someone managed to hijack a military transport vessel?" Castle said.
The liaison sank deeper into her chair, looking even more glum. "There have been reports of a new technology that can pull ships out of FTL mid-flight," she said.
"But that's impossible!" Castle said. "FTL technology--"
"We thought so too," the liaison said. "Until a paper last annum that said otherwise. We suppressed it immediately, of course, but the team that wrote it is still working. One of them could have sold the information."
"If that's true, it's going to change everything," Beckett said. The whole federation was built on safe, uninterruptible FTL travel. The military simply wasn't big enough to protect every ship travelling between worlds. They got around that by keeping strong military presences at the start and end points, knowing that ships were safe once they were underway. If it turned out that wasn't true...
"You know, it still seems kind of extreme to hope that your ship suffered an FTL drive failure," Castle said.
An odd expression flickered across the liaison's face. Concern, Beckett identified. Castle had hit something there. And why would the military hope for a horrible death for their crew? Not that death under fire by pirates was much better, but.... Realization hit.
"What else was that ship carrying?" she asked.
"I don't know what you're talking about," the liaison said, but her expression said otherwise. "I'm sorry, but I've given you all of the information I can."
Beckett would have liked to press further, but she'd had enough experience with the military to recognize an exercise in futility when she saw one. Although if their other leads didn't pan out, she thought she might come back to try again.
"Thank you for your time," she said, standing up.
"But--" Castle protested.
"We'll be in touch if we find out anything about who hijacked your ship," Beckett continued firmly. Beside her, Castle subsided.
"I'd appreciate it," the liaison said, sounding sincere.
"Of course," Beckett said.
The other marshal was even less forthcoming, something Beckett attributed to his obvious resentment that outsiders had been called in to investigate his partner's death. No number of reassurances that his skills were not in question, or reminders that it was standard procedure to call in Special Investigations when a law enforcement officer was killed soothed him. The only things they managed to get out of him was the location of the local poker game, and grudging acknowledgement that piracy had been a bit of an issue lately, albeit one that the military hadn't seemed particularly concerned about addressing.
"That was useless," Castle said.
"Let's go get some dinner," Beckett said. "We'll check out the poker game after."
"I really don't think the marshal was killed because he won too much at poker."
"Maybe he lost," Beckett suggested, not really believing it. "Borrowed from the wrong people."
"Not if you listen to his partner."
"Then maybe someone there will know something," she said. "Come on. I'm starving."
The small restaurant was packed, which Beckett took to be a good sign. Of course, that might also have been because it was the only place on this station. Fortunately, the food proved edible, though most of it was reconstituted.
"How do people live out here?" Castle asked, poking at his plate. "Look, this apple is the only thing that wasn't freeze dried."
"It's going to get a lot worse if FTL travel turns out not to be safe," Beckett said.
"Then we'd better catch those pirates."
She shook her head. "Even if we do, chances are the technology's already spread." She started to say something else, then her attention was captured by a new group of diners entering the restaurant. Her eyes narrowed as she studied the man in the lead. "Castle..."
Puzzled, he turned in his seat to see what she was looking at. His eyes widened in surprise. "That guy in the brown coat looks kind of familiar."
"Well, they say everyone had a doppelganger," she said. "Unless you were involved in a cloning experiment."
"Definitely not," he said, turning back. "So about those pirates..."
This entry was originally posted at http://skieswideopen.dreamwidth.org/162861.html, where it has comments. Comments are equally welcome on either entry.