ESS Endeavour – The Brig
Anderson Bell was not claustrophobic. He had spent time in some very tight spaces during his military career. He’d once had to crawl through a narrow tunnel on Mars that would have given the average person nightmares. It hadn’t bothered him. His mission objective – a terrorist stronghold – had been at the other end of that tunnel. That goal had kept him focussed. Today Anderson felt claustrophobic. This brig was much more spacious than a lot of places he’d found himself in, but his confinement here represented hopelessness. There was no mission to drive him forward. The mission was out of his hands now. He was a prisoner of his own people and there was nothing he could do.
Anderson had never felt this type of hopelessness before and he couldn’t find a way to express it. Anger was not an option – there was nothing to throw – there was nobody to scream at. Crying tears might have helped but he just couldn’t summon them. For the last fifty-five years he’d been the strong tough stereotypical male who didn’t cry. Even as a child he’d not allowed tears to wet his face. Little Andy Bell was the strong one. He was the kid everybody looked up to. If you needed somebody to lean on it was Andy Bell.
Now there was nobody to lean on him – and there was nobody for him to lean on either.
The door opened, snapping Anderson out of his self-imposed reverie. Cameron Boyd’s cheerful demeanour was somewhat subdued. He looked more like the man that Bell had met at the military academy all those years ago.
“Hey old boy.”
Anderson allowed a small smile to lift the corners of his mouth.
“I’d ask how yer doing’ but that seems painfully obvious.”
“I’ve had better days old friend.”
“Yes. Trust me, I do understand what you’re going through right now.”
Bell nodded. “You’re talking about Titan. You know I really should have been inside with you back then. I deserved it at least as much as you did. Maybe this is some kind of cosmic payback.”
Boyd shook his head. “The past is no matter Anderson. We’re in a new part of the galaxy. We’re at the very beginning of history. Our pasts are behind us. What’s important is who we are from this day forward.”
“You’re starting to sound like a Chaplain old friend. “ Anderson stopped pacing the confines of his cell and stepped closer to the bars.
”So you wanna know how I ended up in here?”
“Oh I heard. Something about sabotaging the ship and the murder of Commander Murphy.” Cameron gave a mock laugh. “Ya should’a covered yer tracks a little better Anderson.”
Bell laughed too – it was the bitter laugh of irony.
Cameron looked directly into his eyes.
“So, did you do it?” There was no pretence or accusation in the question, just a request for absolute honesty.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, how are we gonna prove it then old boy?”
“That’s just the problem Cameron, I can’t prove it. I can’t do anything. I’m stuck in the brig. I’m useless. I might as well be dead in here.”
“Ah we won’t have any of that talk. I Can’t have ya dying till you’ve made peace with yer maker now can I?” Boyd chuckled.
“You’d better work fast Chaplain Boyd. Tareen might just decide I’m not worth incarcerating and bring back the death penalty. You think my predicament will make me more receptive to your gospel?”
“Ya never know old friend. Ya never know.”
Bell had a strong to desire to hug his old friend. They’d rarely been tactile in their long friendship, but right now he was yearning for some personal contact from somebody who understood him.”
“I’m really glad you ended up on this ship with me Cameron. I’m not sure I could face this great new challenge without your counsel, or your friendship.” Bell sighed. “Not that it really matters now. I think the great challenge is in Commander Lin’s hands. She’s got more responsibility that she bargained for as second officer. It’s not fair – but I think she’ll manage.”
“You’ll get out of here Cameron. I won’t let you rot for crimes you didn’t commit.”
Now Bell laughed – genuinely. “You might have to break me out of here. Are you sure there isn’t a commandment against that?”
“I’m serious Anderson. I’ll do some digging, or I’ll talk to Tareen. I’ll think of something.”
“I appreciate that.”
“Hey, it’s not just for you old boy. If you’re innocent, it means that the real killer is still out there somewhere. I won’t sleep well until I know he’s been caught.”
Bell nodded. “Or she.”
“Whatever you do, you’d better do it soon Cameron. I’m going insane in here.”
“You’ll make it. You’re strong remember?”
“Yeah. Strong Anderson Bell, the one everybody can rely on to defeat the problem. Only that’s not true anymore is it? I can’t do anything. I can only rely on others.”
“Is that such a bad thing Anderson? You’ve always been strong – but you’re not the only one who is. Sometimes leaning on another isn’t the end of the world.”
Bell smiled. “Maybe you’re right.”
Tareen was not satisfied. He had his man but no real answers. He could not rest until he had a motive. He was planning to interview the Captain, to see what facts he could bring to the surface, but the young pilot who had rescued Colonel Millwood had interrupted him in his office. She’d told him that Millwood had information for him regarding Bell.
Talking to the injured CAG would be a welcome distraction and the walk to the medical bay would help him gather his thoughts.
Tareen had been studying records, looking at the history of Bell’s relationship with Murphy. There were no documented instances of aggravated conflict between the two. The only real point of conflict that Tareen could see had related to Murphy’s strong feelings regarding the colonial lottery, and even on that, Bell wasn’t outspoken against Murphy’s position, he just seemed concerned about the effect that the XO’s rash decisions could have on his life and future.
In order for a decorated captain to sabotage his own ship and murder his second in command, there had to be a pretty strong motive. Tareen needed that motive, and he wanted to have it long before this case went to court-martial. Without it they had a pretty weak case, and only one real peace of evidence.
For the hundredth time since the arrest, Tareen wondered to himself if he might have got it wrong. Could Bell be innocent? He was willing to concede that it was possible. Until he had the motive – there would always be doubts – even in his own mind.
Upon entering the medical bay, he was greeted by a nurse who was speaking forcefully to somebody on the phone. As he approached, she put the receiver down and looked at him.
“I’m here to see Colonel Millwood.”
“Another visitor for the Colonel? He’s supposed to be resting.”
“This is official business as chief of security. I’m conducting a murder investigation.”
“Well that’s strange because the way I heard it, you’d arrested the Captain. Surely your investigation is over.”
Tareen didn’t answer, but he maintained eye contact with the nurse.
“The colonel is in room three. Try to make it quick.”
Tareen strode into room three and found Millwood staring at the ceiling.
“Colonel, I was told you had some information for me.”
“Oh yes, Lieutenant Tareen isn’t it?”
“Look, I can’t tell you everything, not that there’s much to say really. You see I was ordered not to talk about my mission, but then again the man who gave that order is now in the brig for murder.”
“Colonel, you’re rambling.”
Millwood grimace, whether from pain or because of his inability to get his message across clearly, Tareen wasn’t sure.
“I was attacked out there in the asteroid field.”
“Attacked? By whom?”
“Or what? I’m not sure, but there was something out there, and I think Captain Bell knows about it.”
“How do you know this?”
“He sent me out there specifically. Look there’s more here in this solar system than any of us know. I think there are grave dangers here and the Captain knows a lot more than he’s letting on. He’s holding things back from all of us. He’s not just here to establish the colony – he has a hidden agenda. I don’t know what it is, but we’re all in more peril than we realise.”
Tareen nodded silently, taking in the CAG’s words.
“That’s all I have to say really, I just thought you should know.”