The only sound on the Jester's bridge was the constant subliminal hissing of the ship's life support system. Cameron sat in his command chair staring at the comm officer's console from where Alex had done her job. It was impossible to understand the sheer randomness of the events of the last several hours, and as he sat there he wanted nothing more than to just give up, go back to his quarters and pretend that nothing was wrong. His gaze swept across the rest of the bridge stations, and twin pangs of profound sadness and shocked anger threatened to overcome him.
He didn't hear Gandu come through the hatch onto the bridge until he heard the XO's voice behind him.
"The shuttle has been cleared for departure, Captain. Are you certain that you want to go groundside?" He asked, waiting patiently when an immediate response did not seem to be forthcoming.
"Not much choice; the locals took everyone into 'protective' custody, and I need to check on Alex and Jinx, then make arrangements for Hicks, Bao-jian, and the other crew members who died in the shooting." Cameron replied, wiping his hands over his face before continuing. "And as if that wasn't enough, I will likely be interviewed by the Níngjìng Bay Police Department's investigating officer in charge. Probably at considerable length."
He pushed himself up out of his chair, and looked squarely at his executive officer before speaking anew. "I swore to Alex's parents that I would keep her safe, and I need to be sure that she's going to be okay."
Gandu reached out and placed a hand on his captain's shoulder in a silent gesture of reassurance as he passed by, then turned to follow his friend.
"Has there been any update on the whereabouts of crewman Sinclair?" He asked, falling in step beside the Captain.
"No, and that worries me. By all accounts, he took out the three shooters - with what eyewitnesses described as 'superhuman' speed. One witness apparently claimed that he thought DJ was shooting a machine pistol, he was firing so fast." He paused, suddenly finding himself deep in thought.
He decided not to mention that the investigating officer who had called him a few hours ago had also revealed that witnesses claimed DJ had questioned one of the men he'd shot, and once he'd gotten an answer, simply executed him on the spot. He had always known DJ was capable of doing something like this, but he couldn't really bring himself to believe that it would actually happen. But then, he had never in his worst nightmares imagined Alex being nearly killed in a gunfight either, and that would certainly have been enough to push DJ over that precipice.
"What do you suppose he was thinking, running off like that? If ever there was a clear-cut case of self-defense, this was it. It makes no sense; the worst that might happen would be mandatory counseling, but that could be handled by Doctor Morishita, I cannot see them jailing him." Gandu said, clearly at a loss as to what his fellow crewmate could have been running from.
"I hope that the police will have more to tell by the time I meet the chief investigator assigned to the case." Cameron replied, somewhat noncommittally.
The two men walked in silence the rest of the way to the portside personnel airlock where the commercial shuttle contracted to take him down to the planet's surface was docked, each lost in his own private thoughts.
The Captain of the Jester found himself caught in a mental rut, trying to get a handle on his gunner's seemingly erratic behavior, but his past experiences watching DJ under extreme pressure made it difficult, to say the least. Dirk was as calm under fire as anyone he'd ever met, but by all accounts, he'd bolted like a startled neofelynx after killing the last of the attackers. It was possible that he had simply panicked, not terribly likely, but possible. Eventually, he would have to slow down, and then he'd realise that running wasn't going to get him out of this. With any luck, he would turn himself over to the local authorities, and then this whole situation could be resolved without having to go before a justice of the peace.
The Captain arrived at the airlock, where Doctor Morishita and his second assistant Carla Ustinov were waiting, the former with a security cased data card in his hand, the latter carrying the shoulder bag from his personal quarters.
"As you requested, I have downloaded copies of the medical files for the crew members onplanet; although I wish you would allow me to go with you. I have a responsibility to see that the people under my care receive the best possible treatment." The doctor said, in a tone of mild reproach, as he handed over the data.
"Believe me, if I hadn't been expressly forbidden to bring anyone else with me, you'd be coming. If it's any consolation, I was informed that Alex is being treated by the personal doctor to the Darkaellan ambassador, at his own expense, no less. And before you ask why, understand that it's just as much a mystery to me, because that bit of news makes no sense whatsoever." Cameron replied, while pocketing the card, and reaching out to Ustinov for his bag.
Ujio Morishita said nothing more, and punctuated his silence with a polite bow. Cameron nodded his own quiet thanks to the doctor and his assistant, and stepped into the airlock that connected his ship to the shuttle that had been sent by the NBPD.
After he had been passed through the shuttle's airlock, he found himself facing a woman in the working uniform of a member of the Níngjìng Bay Police, whose face was a mask of studied indifference.
"Captain Marshall?" She inquired, in an oddly accented voice that nonetheless suggested that she knew perfectly well who he was.
"Yes." He replied, knowing what was expected of him.
"Officer Sutedja. I am to escort you to the USPF building once we have cleared you through customs and immigration. Please follow me." She told him, quickly turning towards the passenger cabin.
He was thoroughly confused by her mention of the USPF, but she had turned and left him so abruptly that he was unable to ask her what she meant, and had to hurry to catch up.
"Excuse me, Officer, but I don't understand; why would I need to go to the USPF building?" He asked her.
The officer said nothing, but instead gave him a look that could normally be interpreted any number of ways, although this one seemed to convey a sort of thinly veiled contempt, mixed with what could have charitably been called pity.
He got the impression, as he stowed his baggage and took a seat, that something had happened which had run him, and maybe his crew, afoul of the UniSys Police Force, and he thought about little else for much of the flight down to the planet's surface.
He heard the shuttle crew announce that they were on final approach when a horrifying thought occurred to him:
What if the gunfight had involved someone from Darkael?
It would explain why the USPF was involved, and while it didn't exactly explain why the Darkaellan ambassador would be taking care of a member of his crew, he figured that it was related somehow. The number of unanswered questions had just expanded dramatically, and he got the feeling that, even if he did find answers to all of them, then he wouldn't like what they revealed.
Their arrival pushed any other thoughts away, and he prepared himself for the rigors of passing through immigration.