Chapter Six
A Terrible Conspiracy

I

“You’re back!” Elaine said happily.  She had come into the kitchen to find me having a cup of coffee at the snack bar.  She was dressed to go riding.  I had arisen with the rising sun, showered shaved and put on a fresh uniform.  It was an older one and I had to change the rank badges but I was proud that it still fit perfectly.

“We are going to take a skimmer ride,” I told her earnestly, severely, without the hint of a smile.  There is something I want to see.”

“We could take the horses…”

“No, what I want to see is too far away.”

“Okay, let me get some coffee.”

“Get a cup and bring it with you, we are leaving now.”  I stood up and headed for the door leaving my cup on the table.

I sat down in the left seat of the skimmer and dropped my omni into the slot that connected it to the skimmer’s rudimentary AI.  I had entered the coordinates for the Y-cat field; the skimmer would take us directly there with no input from me.

There was a joystick outboard of either of the two seats that could be used to assert manual control if necessary but the machine was capable of full autonomy.  This was a ranch skimmer; open topped with a rudimentary windshield, two seats and a bed that would haul four bales of hay.

I was sitting waiting impatiently when Elaine walked down the steps carrying a steaming cup.  The skimmer was quivering balanced on its twin anti-gravs, as if anxious to get underway.  Elaine climbed in, sat her cup in a cup holder and slid over to grasp my arm with both her hands.  She looked up at me adoringly.

“I’m so glad you came back.  I missed you last night!”

I pulled my arm back rudely staring straight out across the hood of the skimmer.  I could not bring myself to look at her.

“That is over Elaine!” I told her emphatically.  “Please don’t touch me!”

“Well okay then,” she whimpered and scooted to her side like a smacked puppy.  I felt like an ogre.  I regretted ever starting this leave.  Life was so much simpler out in the fleet.

“Where are we going?” Elaine murmured as the skimmer turned and followed the lane out to the main road.

“Elaine, why are there no old people in the villages?” I asked her, ignoring her query.  She didn’t answer right away.  When I risked a glance in her direction she was staring out across the windscreen as if she was looking at something I could not see.

“When they retire we move them to retirement homes.  Only people who are productive are allowed to live on the estate.”

That sounded reasonable in a cold-hearted sort of way.  I knew there was some underlying secret associated with this because of her body language and discomfort with the question.  I decided to pull on the string a bit.

“So these people are born and raised in a house their parents ‘own,’ go to work for the estate and live their entire productive lives here, but when they retire you throw them out.  Is that about the jist of it?”

“It’s not like that,” she objected.  “They are given a comfortable retirement home.”

“Do they have a choice?  Can they retire where they lived their entire lives, among friends and family?”

“Only productive citizens are allowed on the estate.  There is no room for idlers.”

“You’re a cold-hearted bitch, Elaine.  Do you know that?”

“I did not make the rules or the law.”

“This thing about only productive people being on the estate is Spartan law?” I asked in amazement.  I could hardly believe it.

“It is,” she replied definitively.  “I have no control.  The family has no control.”

“That is so much horseshit, Elaine.  The estate is private property.  Who is going to tell you who can live there and who cannot?”

“It’s the law,” she said with finality cutting off the conversation.  “Where are we going?” she asked again with a trace of alarm as the skimmer turned off the road and started for the foothills in the distance.  We were flying across a broad meadow.

“We are going to Cotter Creek,” I told her the name of the stream abutting the drug field.

“Oh No!” Elaine exclaimed and grabbed for the joystick next to her seat.  She needn’t have bothered; I had disabled it before she sat down.   When she discovered her effort was fruitless she grabbed my arm again, this time in alarm.  “We cannot go there!  There are armed guards, if they see your uniform they will fire on us!”

“Armed guards on a Sinclair estate firing on a Sinclair, come on Elaine!” I exclaimed.  “Get real!”

“I’m serious as a heart attack, you must turn back, we will be in real danger!”

“Okay Elaine, start talking.  I want the entire story, start to finish.”  I made no adjustment to the skimmer’s trip plan.  The hills loomed up just ahead.  Elaine started talking fast and furious.  She was evidently seriously frightened.

“Emil doesn’t know, you must believe me, he would be furious,” she said convincingly.  I couldn’t imagine Emil doing something so stupid, even if he was desperate.  “All the families near the coast are doing it.  There is so much money and Emil told me we were in trouble after our colony was captured by the raiders…”

“So you got into this on your own?” I asked skeptically.  It seemed a bit too pat.

“I was having an affair.  One of my girlfriend’s families was involved in the Y-cat.  They blackmailed me.  If I didn’t allow them to grow the stuff on the estate they would expose me.”

“So the money had nothing to do with it.”

“Well…”

“So they forced you into it, but the money helped salve your conscience.  Is that about it?”

“I never had money of my own before.  I liked the feeling and the independence.”

“You were going to bail on Emil, weren’t you?”

Her silence answered the question in the affirmative.

“You’re some piece of work, Elaine,” I said into the long silence as we topped the hill and the forest marked on the map appeared before us.  Y-cat was synthesized from the spoors of native lichen.  When the lichen was mature it produced long pods of white spoors.  The forest floor looked as if it had been carpeted in a white blanket.

“Elaine, you have put the family in a world of shit!”  I told her.  Seconds later the windscreen exploded in a shower of plasteel!

“Kaping! Kaping!” the ricochets screamed off of the hood.  “Bam! Bam! the sound of the gunshots followed almost immediately.  I grabbed the joystick and whirled the skimmer around in a hard bank lifting its bottom to shield us from the gunfire.  In seconds the lip of the hill protected us from the incoming fire.

“Are you okay?!!” I asked Elaine as I gunned the skimmer full speed back across the meadow in the direction from where we had just come.  She didn’t reply.  When I looked over she was clutching her right side.  A large pool of blood was forming on her blouse beneath her fingers.

I made a decision right there.  I would never, ever, as long as I lived, put in for leave again.

II

“Here is the guilty party,” the young intern told me holding out a tray containing a bloody splinter of plasteel the size of my thumb.  “What happened?” he asked disinterestedly and routinely, clearly not interested in any details.

“There was an explosion,” I told him truthfully.

“Well, your sister in law lost a lot of blood, but luckily we have gallons of her own here to be used in rejuvenation therapy so she will be fine.  We sedated her for the surgery and I suggest we let her rest for a while.  The baby was not harmed.”

Through a tremendous exercise of self-discipline, I feigned lack of surprise.  “That is good, how many weeks again?  I think I’ve lost track…”

“She is well into her first trimester, eight or nine weeks.”

“Oh yes, I think that is correct.”  Breaking the commandments for the first time is the most difficult, after that it is a breeze, I was finding.  “Say, Doctor, when can you determine the DNA of the father?”

“Whoa Sir, what are you asking?”

I said nothing but looked at the doctor with my best “officer of the deck” expression I used when facing a young ensign that had just screwed the pooch.

“Well Sir, we could do it now, but are you sure?  Do you even have the authority to ask such a thing?”

“Check the clinic records.  I have the power of attorney when my brother is absent.”

“Yes Sir, you are correct.  You do have power of attorney,” he said, looking up a full minute later from his omni.   “Are you sure, Sir?” The young man’s tone turned pleading.  “You might get information you would just as soon not have.”

“Do the tests, keep no records.  Tell me the results verbally and make sure no other records are retained,” I told him in my best command voice.  “Do you understand?”

“Yes Sir,” he said as he spun around and fled the room.  Thirty minutes later he returned.

“Sir, I have the results,” he looked both ways down the hall where we were standing.  “The father is a Kennedy, Sir.”

“Of course he is,” I said with disgust.  A damn Kennedy, the black sheep of the founding families.  Oh Elaine, how could you?

I felt the color rise in my face as my anger and embarrassment came to the surface.  This whole thing was an exercise to cover Elaine’s infidelity.  My sacrificing my honor and taking on a load of angst and guilt was all just an elaborate stupid, pointless scheme.

I wanted desperately to kill someone; just who exactly was yet to be determined.  In my current state of mind, almost any Kennedy would do.

“Thank you Son,” I told the doctor and walked straight out of the clinic.  The skimmer was still sitting in the entrance of the emergency room where I left it.  I climbed into the seat and discovered my omni was still plugged in.  I retrieved it and discovered I had six missed calls and a dozen messages.

The omni had prioritized the missed calls.  The one on top was from the governor.  Suddenly he was the last person on the planet I wanted to talk to.  Until I discovered how high this drug running activity ran I had nothing to say to him and wanted even less to hear anything he might have to say.

The second was from the executive officer of the Hadrian.  I didn’t bother to listen to his voicemail.  I just called him direct.  It rang twice.

“Hello Captain, I hope this isn’t an inconvenient time…”

“No Bruce, what is up?”

“You asked about a landing party,” he said in response to a message I had sent him on my way to the clinic.  “We have four platoons of marines and a good number of sailors trained in armed intervention.  We can put close to a full company on the ground at your order.”

“What is the exact number?”

“Sixty-four shooters supported by three medics, plus six drone operators and heavy weapons techs.

“Who is the marine commander?”

“Captain Raleigh Sir,” the executive officer answered.  “He is a good man, Captain; solid as a brick.”

“Get him down here with his CSM and his best six shooters, right now.  Have them meet me at the Sinclair Ranch landing pad with long guns, and a heavy machine gun — full combat load with grenades and mines.”

“Aye aye Sir, full combat load.”

“I’m on my way to the ranch now.  I’ll be there in fifteen to twenty minutes.”

“The landing party should be there very shortly after you arrive, Sir.”

I was getting ready to kick somebody’s ass.  I just wasn’t entirely sure whose at the moment.

I sat undecided for a moment because something was bothering me from earlier this morning.  After a moment’s indecision, I climbed out of the skimmer and reentered the clinic. The intern I had dealt with earlier was standing at the other end of the hall talking to two nurses over a counter.  When he saw me come in he started walking in my direction.  I met him halfway.

“Doctor, could you show me where the retirement center is?”

“Sure Captain, it’s very close.  Let’s just walk outside.  I can point it out to you.”

We walked out the door and past the edge of the portico in front of the emergency entrance.

“Right over there, you see those buildings and those houses?  That is it.  The office where the manager stays is in the larger of the multistoried buildings.”

“Do you know him?”

“Of course Sir, we interact almost daily.  We provide medical care for all of the residents.”

“Would you have time to ride over and introduce me?”

“Sure, you want to go right now?”

“I do,” I told him and climbed into the skimmer.  He hopped in beside me and we slipped across the broad empty parking lot to the center’s main building.  Closer to the building there were perhaps a dozen cars parked.

“Sir, may I ask why you want to visit this facility?” The doctor asked guardedly as if he might not want to hear the answer.  Before I could answer he continued.  “Sir if you really don’t know how the retirement center is run and what its actual function is, for the sake of your family, you might want to reconsider.”

“That is a strange thing to say, doctor.”

“What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”  He had stopped looking at me and was taking on the characteristics of someone with something to hide.

I pulled the skimmer up beside one of the cars the locals used for transportation and stopped.

“Spit it out, Doctor,” I told him.  “Why are there only …eleven, twelve, thirteen – thirteen cars parked out here?”  While I was waiting for an answer I pulled up my omni and accessed the financial records for the estate.  After the omni transmitted my retina proof it gave me access, I opened the report for the last quarter for the retirement center.  The estate was paying for three hundred employees.  A further check revealed a guest list in excess of seven hundred fifty.  Something was not right.  The place looked almost deserted.

“Captain Sinclair, you’re the senior naval officer in the system at the moment.  Per Imperial law, you will be forced to take some action once you discover the truth about this place.  There is a dark evil secret here that involves the entire Spartan government right up to and including the governor himself,” he told me earnestly lifting his hand to grasp my arm as if to hold me back. “Sir, are you sure you want to look under this rock?”

“Is my family involved?”

That caused him to drop eye contact for a moment as if he was reluctant to tell me the answer.  Then he looked back as if making up his mind.

“Sir, I don’t think so, directly.  But certain members of your family,” he glanced back at the clinic.  “…have been,” he hesitated groping for words then changed his mind, “…are averting their eyes, so to speak.”

“So you think I should let it go?”  I wanted to find out which side of the fence this young man was sitting.  He seemed sincere and open; it didn’t follow that he would be involved in some nefarious scheme.

“Oh Sir, I’ve been hoping and praying for the Navy to find out about this, but I wanted you to know what it might mean for your family.  It’s going to put you in a terribly compromised position.”

“So, you were afraid I might not do anything about it because of my family, is that what I’m hearing?”

“Sir, think about it.  If you became aware of this situation and decided to go along with the cover-up, where would that leave me?”

I got it.  The doctor could very well find himself expendable.  This was a nasty business indeed.

“Son, I’m a Navy officer, a Templar.  I’ve been Navy since I was fifteen.  I’ll do what needs to be done and the chips will have to fall where they may.”  I started to move the skimmer and the doctor reached up to restrain me.

“Sir, are you armed?” he asked me with some actual fear on his face.  “There could be some danger.”

This was Sparta; it was the one place in the Empire where I felt no need to go armed.  Since I was in uniform I had my ceremonial dagger on my belt and I had a pen-like device that expanded into a truncheon, but no firearms.  I shifted my attention to my Omni.

“Ahoy Hadrian, this is the Captain.”

“Aye Sir, go ahead this is Hadrian,” the executive officer’s voice replied immediately.

“Is the landing party en route?”

“Aye Sir, five minutes out.”

“COP Commander, have them come to me, there is a landing spot right here.”  There was a tracking device in my omni that would allow the AI piloting the shuttle to home in on my location.

“Aye Sir,” the exec paused for a moment then continued, “seven minutes Sir, the shuttle should be in sight shortly approaching from the north.  Is there a problem, Captain?”

“Nothing I can’t handle with a couple of marines.”

“Aye Sir, Hadrian standing by.”  It was no small comfort to have an Imperial warship at one’s beck and call.

True to his word a silver flash appeared on the horizon two minutes later.

“Marty, do you read?” The intermediate sized shuttle’s nickname was Marty.

“Aye Sir,” Marty sounded like an adolescent youth, evidently the work of another gamer.

“Marty, tell the captain to bring me a sidearm from your armory when he comes to meet me.”

“Aye Sir, sidearm,” he paused for a brief moment.  “The captain is aware, Sir.”

Marty made a low-level pass to clear the parking lot then came back around to touch down gently as a butterfly near its center.  The intermediate shuttle could transport an entire armed and equipped squad plus their gear.  In appearance, it was a larger version of the gig but featured blisters fore and aft on either side with laser cannon protruding from each.  The rail gun turret on the top of the fuselage was cycling side to side in jerky spurts as if looking for some danger.  The shuttles much larger wings folded up when he touched down and a ramp appeared just aft of the port nacelle.

Four fully equipped marines quick-stepped down the ramp.  Two took station at the bottom on either side at port arms.  The other two trotted fore and aft to set up a perimeter on the far side of the parked vessel.  Moments later the captain and his CSM appeared at the door followed by two more combat troops.  They looked like they were prepared to re-assault Mount Suribachi.  I remembered I had ordered full combat load thinking we would perhaps assault the field where the Ycat was being grown.

The Marines were a bit overdressed to call on the retirement center manager.

Each one of the shooters was carrying a standard assault rifle.  The rifle had evolved over the years to a particularly deadly piece of gear.  It had two over and under barrels.  The bottom was a forty millimeter grenade launcher; the top barrel was a fifty caliber ceramic that fired three different sized caseless munitions.

The magazine contained ninety rounds of .50, .223, and 7mm.  The smaller rounds were discarding sabot.  The shooter could select which he desired for a particular target by focusing on a specific color-coded reticle in his sighting device.  The computer controlled sight meant they seldom missed what they were aiming for.

Where the six troopers were dressed for combat, including armor and full-face helmets, the captain and command sergeant major were dressed in fatigues and beanies.  Each carried a holstered sidearm but no long guns.  Evidently, there had been a quick uniform change en route as the mission changed.  That was the Marine Corps, always prepared.

“I brought you a 1911, if that is okay?” the captain said as he marched up and saluted.  I had stepped out of the skimmer to stand and return his salute.

“Of course you did, Captain.”  I didn’t know this captain of marines well since he was assigned to the command vessel.  Checking my Omni I had learned he was a mustang having worked his way up from buck private.  His entire life was the corps.  He was sixty-four years old and looked forty.  The edges of his shaved head glistened in the morning light beneath the burgundy beanie he was wearing.  There was no one in the Empire I would have preferred to have my back.

The CSM handed me the holstered weapon.  “There is one in the pipe Sir, cocked and locked.”  I slid the weapon out of the holster and pulled the slide back an eighth of an inch in an automatic response to receiving a weapon from another person.  It was an officer’s weapon, a third smaller than a standard 1911, manufactured from modern ceramics, light and efficient.  It was chambered in 9MM with an 18 round magazine.  In all the centuries there had never been developed a finer handgun than John Browning’s combat pistol.

I strapped the holster’s belt around my waist and adjusted it to the uniform standard.

“Well gentlemen, now that we are properly attired, let us go pay our respects to the neighbors.”

“No wait!” the doctor exclaimed.  “You will go in there and waste a lot of time.  The manager will lie to you through his teeth, stall and deny any knowledge of anything.  I’ll tell you everything you need to know and show you the one thing you need to see.”

“Okay doctor, I’m listening.”

“You see all of those duplexes?” he asked rhetorically pointing them out.  “There are one hundred twenty-five units.”  I looked across the parking lot at perfectly manicured grounds and clean neat apartments.  There was nothing obviously amiss.  A robo-mower was moving slowly across the golf course on the far side of the village of apartments, but there were no players. “There are three units occupied.  The others are vacant.”

“That makes no sense,” I told him.  I had seen all of the money the estate was paying to keep those units maintained for their residents.  According to the financial records, they should be almost fully occupied.

“It’s the same for the assisted care facilities in the big buildings.  There are eight hundred suites but only ten or fifteen occupied.”

“Where are all of the retirees?”

“Most are dead, there are fifty or so that are in the process.  Come with me, I’ll show you.”

“Just a minute Doctor,” I slowed him down.  “You said ‘danger,’ are we likely to face armed opposition?”

“No more than two or three orderlies armed with handguns.  Nothing you can’t handle now,” he said glancing at the two armored marines.

“Where are we going?” I asked pulling up a map of the facility on my omni and projecting it into the air between us.

“Right here,” he replied pointing to a long single story building on the other side of the main building in front of us.  I glanced up at the captain and nodded.

“Secure the area.  Simpson here, Broderick here,” the captain ordered pointing at the map.  The two shooters sprinted out ahead of us to take up station.  One went to the far corner of the main building, the other to the entrance of the structure we would enter.  The CSM shrugged his right shoulder and brought the compact 9MM assault pistol from under his left arm to a ready arm position.  He took three steps ahead of us and led off on point.

The doctor relaxed and smiled.  I love Marines.

The squat, ugly single-story building looked like it had been an afterthought.  It had few windows and looked dramatically out of place among all of the other architecturally similar structures.  It had been built over what had been a three-hole pitch and putt golf course.  They hadn’t bothered to landscape the remains.  A single green remained at one corner of the building with a weathered flag drooping from a pole stuck in its hole.

The exterior of the building was raw concrete.  The large door vault-like door at one end was unpainted steel and locked securely.  The Marine dispatched to watch this station was standing with his back to the door scanning the area to our backs as we walked up.  The CSM looked at me with a questioning glance and I nodded.  He tried the door, found it locked and banged on it with the butt of his weapon.

“Royal Marines, open this door in the name of the Emperor or we will force entry,” he roared in his best parade ground voice.  The door practically rattled on its hinges.  When nothing happened immediately he turned to the armor-clad soldier and held out his hand.  The soldier was handing him a small explosive charge from his vest when the door swung open a small crack.

“This is a secure facility, you are not allowed…”

The CSM took one step and placed his number thirteen boot near the crack and kicked – hard.  The door snapped open knocking the burly orderly who had been standing behind it back three steps.  He regained his balance and started to object but when the CSM leveled the barrel of his machine pistol at the orderly’s midsection he had a change of heart, as did the two truncheon-armed orderlies who had come running up the hall to come to his assistance.  They stopped dead and looked at us with open mouths.

“Who is in charge here?” I asked the red-faced orderly.  I had come up to the CSM’s left elbow.

“I am!” a portly woman coming up the hall behind the two stalled orderlies shouted.  She was wearing a plain hospital green shift and was carrying a clipboard.  She looked like she would have been perfectly cast as a Nazi prison matron.  “Who are you?  How dare you break into this…”  She finally saw my uniform and the realization that she was facing a Navy officer struck her like a blow.  She dropped her clipboard.  “Oh, no…!”

Her eyes rolled up in her head and she collapsed to the floor, fainted dead away.

“The ladies really fall for you Captain,” the CSM murmured.  I forced back a chuckle.  Marine humor was an acquired taste.

“You’re in a world of shit,” the orderly growled at the doctor who had come up behind me.  “You have no idea what is going to come down on you.”

“I suggest you talk to me, Mister Powell,” I said reading the orderlies name off his name tag.  “And I suggest you be polite and be careful who you threaten if you care to remain living past the next few minutes.”

The orderly moved his eyes in my direction but retained his belligerent attitude, he opened his mouth to speak, but the CSM drove the barrel of his weapon into the orderly’s stomach bending him forward and bringing him to his knees.

“The captain said, ‘be polite,’ Powell, I suggest you listen,” the CSM growled.  Marine sergeants major are very impatient people.

“Ooh ugh,” the orderly grunted.

“That is ‘Ooh ugh Sir – to you, shit stick!” the CSM pulled back his boot to give the orderly a gentle manners-reminding persuader, but I touched his arm and dissuaded him.

“That is sufficient, CSM I hate the smell of vomit,” I told him and surveyed the tableau in the hall.  The two standing orderlies had dropped their truncheons to their sides.  Their body language suggested all the fight had gone out of them when they witnessed their counterpart’s treatment by the CSM.  “Since the lady has decided to take a nap for the moment, who would be next in line to give me some answers here?”

“That would be me, Captain,” a man’s voice came from behind me.  When I turned I was confronted by a middle-aged, bald-headed, fat man in a rumpled suit.  He was standing in front of the marine who had been guarding the door.  The marine had his rifle pointed directly at the back of the man’s head.  “If you would call off your attack dog; please, there is no need for violence.  This is all a big misunderstanding.”

“He is the manager,” the doctor whispered to me.  “Now all the lies begin.”

“There is no need for lies, everything here is open and above board.  The governor will explain everything to you, Captain, as I said, this is just a misunderstanding.”

“Captain look,” the doctor murmured indicating the glass window to my right.  It opened into a large open room with three small windows to the outside.  The walls were unpainted concrete and the floor was a drab gray tile.  It had all the ambiance of a POW mess hall.  Around the room were scattered chairs and a few tables.

Shuffling around the room were perhaps twenty people.  They were older folks dressed in white hospital gowns wearing flip-flops or slippers.  They ignored us as if we weren’t there.  They either sat on a couch or in a chair with their eyes staring off into space with a silly grin spread across their face or sat at a table with one or two others.  The ones at tables were not interacting with each other they were acting the same as the ones seated alone.  They were grinning or smiling their eyes as vacant as department store manikins.

“What is going on Doctor?”

“Y-cat Captain, they are stoned to the gills.”

“There are perfectly good…” the manager started but was cut off midsentence by the Marine captain.

“Just shut up mister, if the Captain wants to hear from you he will ask!”

“I think you have seen what you need to see,” the doctor told me.  “I can fill in all the blanks later.”

“Rack’em and stack’em, Captain, we are out of here,” I told the Marine officer, agreeing with the doctor.  I had seen all I wanted to see in any case.  As I walked by the manager he was making mouth movements like a fish tank guppy but I shook my head.  I wanted to hear nothing from his fat face.  The doctor started filling me in as we walked back to the skimmer.

“It started out using the drug for folks who were at the end of their lives and in pain,” he began.  “Y-cat is a pleasure center stimulator; I understand the sense of euphoria makes a sexual orgasm seem like a finger smashed with a hammer.

The drug is one dose addictive, one hundred percent.  No one has ever been able to kick it.  Once they put the folks who were in extremis on the drug they seemed happy and free of pain.  Also, they didn’t live long after they started treatment.  Once on the drug they have no appetite, they stop eating and drinking.  Left to their own devices they die of dehydration.”

“So it saved a lot of money avoiding end of life medical issues,” I said seeing where this was going.  I didn’t even need to let the doctor finish.  “So it grew from there, giving the drug to less and less terminal patients.  Now they are giving it to perfectly healthy folks.”

“You got it.”

“Once you decide you are going to rid yourselves of the retirees, why bother with all the subterfuge, why not just shoot ’em?”

“They need the cover.  A lot of these folks have relatives who want to think their folks are being taken care of.  They come to visit.  When they do, the staff cleans them up and sticks them in a house or room for the family to come and see how wonderful everything is.”

“And the patients go along with it?”

“They are so desperate for their next fix, they will do or say anything.”

“What about the folks who are actually living in the facility?  Why do they keep quiet?”

“Fear, Captain.  They are terrified of being stuck in the general population.  They see and hear nothing.”

“And you?”

“Who would I tell Captain?  This goes all the way to and includes the governor.  You saw how much your estate pays to keep this facility running.  There are at least eight other estates where this is going on.  The amount of money is mind-boggling.”

“So you think the retirement center was kicking back money to my family?”

“Perhaps, there wasn’t any curiosity about what was going on here, now was there?”

“It’s a nasty business, Doctor.  Will you be okay?”

“The heavies are the constabulary.  If you would stop by the constable’s office and tell him there is a new sheriff in town, I should be fine.”

“That I can do; I think after they meet my Command Sergeant Major they will have an attitude adjustment,” I smiled ironically at the doctor.  “Captain, please have the skimmer loaded on the shuttle.  We have an errand to run in town and then I want to go to my grandmother’s estate.”

***

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