Elk River Investigation

An Olympus Union science fiction story by Gary Bloom

Through the man's bruised face, he could make those green eyes, like sunlight shining through seaglass. He felt them judging him, piercing his carefully crafted facade like tissue paper.

Jatro had tried hard to escape, but was tripped up by his own imagination. He'd crashed through the window, into the air outside the third floor. The flag pole he'd aimed for didn't break his fall, but maybe his hand. What worked in the movies certainly didn't in reality.

As he'd spun through empty space, the man hoped his landing would be soft, seeing the dumpster rush up towards him. Who knew how many bones had broken when he landed face down on the trash heap. When he heard the thump on the ground, feet away, he knew it was her. He'd seen her jump after him, but he knew she'd landed just fine. How could she have landed without shattering her feet?

"Mr. Ruck, you didn't answer my question," he heard her say, before he slipped into unconsciousness.

Now, he could make out her eyes, staring him down. The room's harsh light - was it a hospital room? - glinted off her black boots. No, not boots, legs. Her legs were metal from the knee down. That's how she'd landed.

"Mr. Ruck, I won't accept anyone causing injury to townsfolk for financial gain."

"I didn't do anything," Jatro mumbled through his swollen jaw and a haze of pain meds.

"Of course you didn't," she replied sarcastically. "Except, I spent a week tracing the trail back to you. You, sir, are the money."

"I'm no money man," he lied unconvincingly. "Who're you?"

"My name is Coraline Rikmer," she said, angrily, "Investigator for the Olympus Union Ministry of Peace."

"Oh, ah, Ministry of Peace?"

"You've heard of us, I take it." She stepped forward, metal feet clicking on the floor. "I have all the proof I need to lock you in Athena's Clutch for a long, long time. This is your last chance to tell me something, give me someone, worth trading your life for."

"If I tell you, he'll kill me," Jatro protested.

"If you don't tell me," Coraline said, her voice cold as ice, "I'll make sure you never see sunlight again. You paid for assaults on two dozen men, women and children, just in the last month. What kind of man orders assaults on children, Mr. Ruck? Locking you up might be too good for you. I should send you to Demeter's Clutch instead!"

"No, no, not Demeter's Clutch! I'm not a monster!"

"Who else but a monster would order children to be beaten the way you did? Unless someone else ordered it, and you just paid the tab."

Jatro was terrified. If they put him in Demeter's Clutch, he'd surely die. If he ratted out his boss, he'd surely die.

"C-can you protect me?"

"Give me something useful," she said, "and maybe, just maybe, I'll recommend you for incarceration on Luna, instead."

Jatro Ruck took a deep, shuddering breath, and let it out. If he left Elk River, left Earth altogether, even as a prisoner, it might not be so bad. He looked into those piercing green eyes and nodded. He'd tell her who ordered the assaults, who he worked for. And then, he'd pray the Olympus Union got him out of town fast enough.


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