ESS Endeavour – Commander Murphy’s Quarters
Commander Murphy’s quarters were pretty tidy. They had not really been used – the bed never slept in. The crew had stowed what personal effects they wanted into their rooms shortly before entering their stasis pods. Now that he had arrived, Tareen wasn’t sure if he would have any luck or not. Perhaps this search was a long-shot, but if Murphy’s encryption key existed anywhere on this ship it would be here in this room.
Tareen started by looking over the small desk. It had a few books – some technical references and a novel or two. The drawers were empty. Next to the commander’s bed was a small chest of drawers. A lamp sat on top of the drawers. Inside, he found nothing but underwear and socks.
Starting to loose heart, Tareen turned his attention to the wardrobe. Murphy’s uniforms were hung in neat order, along with a couple of civilian outfits. On the top shelf, in the darkness of shadow, he noticed a small cardboard box. Tareen lifted the box down and sat on the bed to examine the contents.
Inside he found a large photo album – the bound paper kind. The first few pages held printed images of Murphy and his family. As Tareen leafed through the book he found childhood images of Murphy’s home. Later were graduation shots from the military academy. Finally, the last third of the album contained pictures of Murphy’s wife and their children. Tareen felt a touch of sadness come over him. This man really loved his family. He went through a lot to try to be with them. Life seemed unfair sometimes.
He had reached the end of the photo album but still had found no sign of the encryption key. There was nowhere else to look but he was not willing to give up. His instinct told him that the album was a perfect place for a forgetful man to write his secrets. He began pulling out significant photos and looking at the back. A portrait of his with his family – nothing. Baby photo – nothing. Graduation photo – nothing. Wedding photo – success! On the back of Murphy’s wedding photo there were hand written notes. Several strings of numbers and several lines of alphanumeric characters. At least two of these appeared to be phone numbers, but the others were unfamiliar. One of these had to be the key he was looking for. Tareen ran for the door, photo in hand.
Tareen arrived at his office in record time and fell into his chair. He located the encrypted video transmission. A small dialogue box on the screen waited for the code. Tareen placed the photo upside down on his desk and looked at the various strings of characters.
The phone numbers were unlikely candidates but he tried them first to rule them out. None of them worked. There were three remaining options. Tareen tried the first. It was rejected.
Nervously, he typed the second, knowing that if it failed there would only be one chance left.
The code was accepted. Tareen lept to his feet in excitement. There was nobody nearby to see his childish display of victory, but he wouldn’t have cared if there were.
He waiting with anxious anticipation as the file decoded. After about 30 seconds it was finished. Tareen pressed the control to play back the video. As he watched, he felt a sickness in the pit of his stomach. He had another difficult duty to perform.
Anderson Bell heaved a sigh of relief when the door to his cell opened and Commander Lin stepped in.
“You wanted to see me Captain?”
“Yes, thankyou for coming.”
“How was your night?”
“It was terrible Commander. I don’t think I slept a minute.”
“If there is anything I can do…”
“Yes there is. I have some things I need to tell you Commander – things you’ll need to know to command this ship.”
“Sir, there will be plenty of time for that later. You should not get ahead of yourself.”
“I’m serious Lin. You need to know about this. You need to understand our orders. You need to know your mission.”
“I’m well aware of our mission Captain.”
“No, you’re not. Our mission goes beyond just establishing a colony on Xinju. There are other concerns.”
Lin raised to hand to silence the captain. “Just a minute Sir. If you’re about to tell me something I need to know about as XO of this ship then go ahead, but if you’re going to divulge secrets because you think you’re never going to get out of that cell then I am not going to listen.”
“No. I will not let you give up. If you are innocent then we will find a way to prove it.”
Bell stormed around the cell breathing heavily. He was seriously tempted to kick his bed – but that would just result in a sore foot.
“I can’t just sit here Commander.”
“You won’t have to Sir. Lieutenent Tareen will find the truth.”
“Lieuenant Tareen is the one who put me in here.”
“I know that, and I believe he was premature in arresting you, but I also know that he won’t rest until he has all the facts.”
At that moment, the door opened again. It was Tareen. His face was difficult for Bell to read.
“Ah, do you need me to go Lieutenant?” Lin asked.
“No.” Tareen placed his hands in his pockets and then pulled them back out – something Bell had only seen the man do when he was nervous or troubled. “This concerns you as well Commander. I think you need to hear this.”
Bell stepped forward until his face was almost touching the bars.
“What do you want Lieutenant?”
“Captain Bell, I wish to formally apologise for wrongfully arresting you. The charges against you have been dropped and you are free to leave the brig.”
Tareen pressed his thumb to a keypad and entered a code. The heavy brig door unlatched with a loud clank. He then slide the door open so that Bell could walk through.
“Just like that huh? So what happened? Did you find some more evidence?”
“Better than that Captain, I have discovered the identity of the killer.”