Trick of the Tail, Part 1

Characters: Tomás Darquin, Terry Hale

(With thanks to Ali for her input)

Human and Minbari Rangers were preparing a shuttle for its return flight to the Phoenix when Tomás Darquin stepped out of a shadow cast by the oncoming sunset. They glanced over their shoulders at him, but didn’t turn in surprise. He had announced his presence with a subtle stirring, as he had often done.

He greeted them with a short familiar nod. “Heya.” He pointed to the shuttle. “Mind if I go in?”

“It will be some time before we complete the checklist, but–”

“No sweat.” With a seemingly vague gesture, Darquin stepped onto the boarding ramp. The other Rangers spread out around the shuttle with the apparent ease that normally came with consulting datapads and doing maintenance checks, acting on his unspoken command to secure the area.

Darquin took a seat in the cockpit and opened a comm channel with his encryption key, adding a code to flag the channel for the Captain or XO only. Then he sat back and waited for the reply on the comlink.

“Hale. Go.”

“Cap, I think I got something I oughta run by you.”

“This is a new sensation.” As if she could see him roll his eyes, Captain Hale interrupted a chuckle that seemed out of character for her. “Joking aside, go ahead. You found something, Chief?”

“I think so. Ever before we arrived, we suspected there was some kind of criminal syndicate running the Abbai homeworld. But we’ve only seen parts of it. I think I have the missing link.”

“You think,” Hale said carefully. “So we’re discussing a lead.”

“Right, I need clearance to pursue it. It’s gonna require some unlawful entry.”

“Where?”

“Lord Cheys’ private digs. He’s our missing link, I know it. His name is popping up in the weirdest places.”

“Cheys…is some kind of Centauri merchant baron, isn’t he? He’s funded a few small charities on the Abbai homeworld, but as I remember, he’s not entirely popular.”

Darquin nodded, paying no attention to the fact the channel was audio only. “Real connected all right. And some of his connections are under the table. Four months after he showed up in the Abbai system, he started squeezing cargo ships for protection money. Suddenly raiders didn’t show up as often.”

“Which is all circumstantial. Potential victims put two and two together–”

“And Cheys ends up with four.”

“Clever.”

“With a little work, I think we can link him to the Brakiri crime gangs, but most of the money and materials going back and forth is going through front organizations. Small businesses and charities. And when I–” He sighed. “When broke into Dolak’s computer system and nearly fragged myself, I stumbled on some financial records. Itemized transactions.”

“Between who?”

“Dolak of course, some less than savory people, and several people who normally seem more…reputable. Including Cheys. Lots of credits changing hands, but what it was all for, it didn’t say. I needed something that’ll tie him directly to a crime.”

“And this is where your new lead comes in,” Hale said with meaning. “What is this beginning to look like?”

“A chance to get in on the ground floor. I just got word from an inside source that Cheys shook hands on a deal with a Hurr official for Abbai slaves. That’s all the reason we need to go in and go over his place. If I’m right, the proof we need is in there somewhere.”

“If we’re wrong, the slightest misstep could cost the Interstellar Alliance some political footing.”

“We’d be in and out,” Darquin said. “Just enough people to cover the house real fast. Then we’re gone before they know we were there. Even if it’s a trap.”

A pause. “How long will it take you to file a recon plan?”

“An hour.” Darquin pulled a data crystal out of his pocket. “Half that if I can get some of our people down here to case the joint. I’ve already gone over the exterior and the grounds of his house. I can send what I got.”

The shuttle’s comm system chirped. The Phoenix was sending a ping to make sure the subchannels on his frequency were still secure.

“Get names, figures, dates, and times,” Hale said. “I want to show this syndicate what the Rangers are capable of.”

With his thumb, Darquin pushed the crystal into the data port on the shuttle control board as if loading a gun. “Ready to transmit.”


Phoenix–“Trick of the Tail” © 2001 Joseph Medina

Babylon 5 TM and © 2001 Warner Bros.