ultracosmicrays: (the riviera)
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Cosmic!Rays, Part 15

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14



What with feeding, watering and hosing down the prisoners, turning over every inch of Subura and organizing the impounding of the ship as evidence, Ray had no time to feel awkward around Kowalski. And Kowalski, he seemed ... focused, relaxed, which should have pleased Ray but didn't because it made him feel like he was spooking at things that weren't there.

The search of the ship had turned up enough explosives to take out a small town and blueprints of both the hospital in Lysander and central Contingency offices in Nuorlayon, the biggest city on Titania. They'd have no problem securing a conviction off the back of that. What they didn't find was anything proving that these guys were anything more than an isolated cell, acting on their own. No propaganda, no Links, no records of incoming or outgoing Coms. No nothing.

Ray had forwarded the ship's details to the stilo-pushers over at COPS Central Command. Let them follow the trail, see if they could find who was financing this. He and Kowalski had another job to do.

"I don't know any names. I don't know how many more times you want me to tell you. I don't know."

Ray let his head bang back on the door in frustration. They'd been at this for hours, him and Kowalski switching off on the prisoners, taking it in turns to play good COPS and bad COPS. Thing was, Ray was getting so tired now that he was forgetting who he was supposed to be with which kid. This was the one in the holding cell so he was playing the tough guy right now, was that right? His stomach rumbled. Mother, he was starving. He'd wolfed down something vaguely edible before they searched Subura but he'd had nothing since. It must already be dinner time. At least. Well, there was one way to find out what kind of guy he was supposed to be.

"You hungry?" he asked, all friendly.

The kid looked shocked.

Yeah, bad guy.

"I'm just asking, you hungry?"

The kid nodded. He had his sleeves pulled over his hands and was hunched into himself as if he was trying to occupy the smallest amount of space possible. His dark eyes were ringed with darker circles and he looked sallow. Ray had to remind himself that this, this child was at least partly responsible for the deaths of tens of kids just like him and not just some runaway from his neighborhood.

He opened the Com.

"Frannie?"

"Yes, Ray? Is everything all right?"

"Sure. You wanna fix the prisoners some food?"

"Anything special?"

"Yeah. Whip 'em up a six course banquet, will you? Show these boys a good time before they go up for Punishment."

"There's no need to be like that. Sarcasm is not your friend."

"Just make 'em some food."

Ray returned his attention to the prisoner.

"Give me a name. Yours will do. Or, I don't know, tell me about how a sweet guy like yourself gets himself involved in a cause that ends up with him blowing the heads off fucking babies!"

Ray was right in the boy's face now and he scooted as far back on the bed as he could go, cowering in a corner, head buried against his knees.

"Just. One. Name. Tell me who set you up with the ship. Tell me who set you up with the goddamn ship. Tell me who the fuck set you up with the motherfucking ship!"

The boy said something, but it was muffled and Ray couldn't catch it.

"What was that?"

Raising his head, the boy looked at Ray, lips trembling but somehow still defiant.

"My dad. Gave it to me. To tool around in."

Ray threw up his hands and turned, pounding his palm into the wall.

"Do not give me that crap. Just don't." He pushed against the wall, arms stretched, head drooping. He needed a break. It must be nearly time for him to switch and be the good guy again. Pretty soon they were going to have to reassess either their tactics or whether they believed the boys knew anything useful at all.

"Look at you," he said, pushing himself upright, gesturing vaguely at the kid's clothes, a sneer curving his lips. "You want me to believe you got a rich daddy? Unless there's some new trend for hand-me-downs and mismatching that all the cool kids are into these days – 'hobo chic', maybe – the only way you're gonna have a rich daddy is if some entitled scumbag impregnated the maid and shirked his parental responsibilities."

The door opened and Frannie stepped into the room, carrying a sealed bag and a cup. Ray held out an arm in front of her to prevent her from giving it straight to the boy.

"You want this food?"

The boy's eyes lit up and he nodded vigorously.

"Then give me a name."

There was a definite tremble as the boy clamped his lips shut.

"It's easy, just open your lips and give me a name!"

The boy burst into tears and in a flash Frannie had pushed Ray away and was on the bed, arm around the kid, soothing him and shooting venomous glares at her brother.

"There, there, don't mind him; he can't help being an insensitive pig."

"Frannie!"

"Well, you are. Look at him! Poor baby. All hell has broken loose around his ears and he's lost his brother and you're getting at him. You should understand. I do."

Ray opened his mouth to protest but Frannie shushed him. He stored that away for future reference.

"Oh, honey," she said, pulling the boy's head onto her shoulder and patting his hair gently, "I'm so sorry you're having such a bad time. You must be so scared right now, I know I would be. And you didn't mean to hurt anyone, not really. They told you that no one would be in the building, didn't they? You were only trying to be heard."

The boy wriggled his cheek against Frannie's shoulder, snot and drool soaking into her shirt. Ray pretended this didn't please him.

"If you would just tell us who made you do it, sweetie. We could help you then."

The boy sat up straight and looked at Frannie with red-rimmed eyes. She gazed back steadily, lips pressed together in a sympathetic smile. At that moment the door opened.

"Hey, you wanna switch, I've-"

Ray raised his finger to his lips and Kowalski shrugged, sidling in and lounging by the door.

"You can trust me." Frannie reached out and tucked a strand of the boy's lank hair behind his ear. "Really you can."

"I don't know much. We were meeting this guy. He was supposed to tell us what to do. He was supposed to help us."

"Who?"

"Zuko."

Ray froze. No. This was not happening. He looked at Frannie who had turned large, astonished eyes on him.

"You did good, kid," he said, not looking at the boy. He felt a little light-headed. Must be the lack of sugar. Ma always swore by regular meals.

"Ray," said Frannie, in the same gentling tone she'd used with the kid.

And then there were too many people in the room, Ray couldn't breathe. He pushed past Kowalski and stumbled to his cabin, ignoring Kowalski's demands for an explanation. Closing the door behind him, he slumped to the floor, head in hands.

Zuko.

If he believed in Fate this would be about the time he declared himself its bitch.






Part 16
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August 2007

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