Today on the Carina Press blog we feature two Science Fiction authors: T.D. Wilson (The Epherium Chronicles: Echoes) and Timothy S. Johnston (The Void). To reveal a bit about each book, they have decided to put a central character “on trial.” Readers are encouraged to ask their own questions below, and Captain James Hood and Homicide Investigator Kyle Tanner will try their best to answer!
And now … on to the trial!
“MY NAME IS Lieutenant Kyle Tanner. I hunt killers for a living.”
As I said it the person sitting across from me snorted. Disbelief flashed across his features. His face was angular, his eyes dark pits. There were deep lines in his forehead. “But you are a killer,” he growled. “Why look any farther than the nearest mirror?”
It was a common attitude; I’d faced it all my professional life. But because I worked for a military dictatorship, and there was little freedom in this society of 2403 AD, I’d had to endure civilian scorn on a daily basis. It was numbing.
“Look,” I sighed, glancing around. The room we were in was dark, the only illumination a spotlight directly above my chair. It was blinding. Where the hell am I right now? “I know the CCF is difficult at times. But—”
“They are killers! They arrest people for expressing their beliefs. You call that—that—difficult?”
It was hard to argue the point; he was absolutely correct. “I catch murderers,” I mumbled. “Not innocent people.”
“You execute anyone you want!”
I sat up straighter. “Not true. I sift through the evidence and punish the guilty.”
My inquisitor shook his head. His look was one of pure derision. “The CCF kills people they deem dissidents. They destroy families. They torture and murder to maintain control. Every dictatorship does that.”
I studied him in silence for a long minute. His assessment was spot on, however not every CCF officer did those things. I hunted killers and gave families closure. I wielded incredible powers to question and detain and arrest without due process, but I didn’t abuse that power. Instead I used it to heal those in pain. To capture psychopaths. “There are those in the military who enforce the dictatorship, without question. But I am not one.” I looked down and considered my next words. My voice was a rasp. “I don’t agree with the society we live in…but I…I manage.”
His voice softened. “You seem conflicted.”
It was hard to admit, because in the real world such a thing could get me killed. But here, in this place answering these questions, I was isolated and alone.
“But why do you work for them?” he asked.
“It’s my life. But—”
“Yes?” the inquisitor prodded.
“I won’t work for them forever.”
He frowned. “What do you mean? How long have you been a Homicide Investigator?”
“I’ve traveled the solar system catching killers for fourteen years now.”
“But you are thinking of leaving?”
I fixed my eyes on his cold, dark pupils. “My girlfriend and I are talking about it.”
For the first time, he seemed lost for words. His eyes had widened. “But then you’ll be hunted, won’t you? You’re an officer in the military. If you run, they’ll kill you.”
I hesitated. To verbalize these thoughts was the hardest thing I’d had to do. I’d lived in this society my entire life. You never questioned it, and you definitely didn’t try to escape. “I can’t handle this existence anymore. It’s a chance we’ll have to take. And to answer your question, yes, if we run, they’ll try to kill us.”
He paused and stared at me for long heartbeats. “Good luck to you then. I hope you can escape this life.”
If I survive this last mission, I wanted to say. Then I’d decide what to do.
Do you have a question for Inspector Kyle Tanner? Are you curious what it’s like to live in a repressive society with little freedom? Why he’s done it for so long? Why he chooses to interact with psychotic killers? Or, how finding the love of his life changed his outlook on society? Ask below, and Lieutenant Kyle Tanner will be happy to answer.
Thanks for spending time with Homicide Investigator Kyle Tanner today.
I regarded the man sitting across the table from me in the cramped office aboard the Armstrong. He was young, not more than twenty-five, but he had a level of seriousness that went far beyond his age. It was the same for all of the EDF’s investigators.
“Well Captain,” he began while reading the displayed information on his data pad, “you’ve had a rather full and decorated career. Your list of accolades goes on and on.” He focused his dark brown eyes on my face. “I guess we’re going to have to add conspiring with the enemy to that list.” The EDF had a standard protocol to conduct a follow up with an investigator after a major engagement. The idea was to present a new perspective to commanders in the field, but a small percentage of them turned the process into a witch hunt. This guy was one of them.
“Excuse me?” I challenged, but my kept my temper under control. What the investigator had insinuated was treason plain and simple. He wanted to provoke me and I wasn’t biting. “You’ve obviously read my report from the battle. What gives you the impression I would ever do anything to comprise my ship, the lives of the colonists or my crew?”
“It’s simple. Upon discovery of the Cilik’ti…Kree was its name I believe, you chose not bring in more seasoned personnel to conduct a proper interrogation. Instead, you had an inexperience junior officer take the lead with help from one of the colonists, who may have already been compromised by behavioural modification during her time in the Embrace sleeper chambers aboard the Magellan.”
He leaned forward onto the table. “A proper interrogation could have gained the knowledge that an imminent attack was coming against the colony and the EDF could’ve been better prepared. In short, you let that thing play you, Captain. Now, after the dust has settled, you’ve taken the lead to develop a diplomatic exchange with the alien and his “rogue” Cilik’ti friends. A role that clearly doesn’t fit you. Tell me where I’m wrong?”
I snarled at first, but drew it back. I could see from a high level where he might find that a believable scenario, but his conclusions were based on the lack of details. Fortunately for me, I had them. “First of all, I find your charge of conspiracy and treason ludicrous. I have the full trust of Admiral Grant and Admiral Tramp. Both have agreed with every action I have made since I took command of this ship.”
The man just stared at me. I decided to take it a step further and leaned toward him. “As for you incompetence charge with handling Kree’s interrogation, let me dissect your overall assessment. First, we’ve never had a Cilik’ti held captive for interrogation before. Any of them captured during the war just expired without warning, like turning off a switch. Based on all our intelligence and the research of my junior officer, Lieutenant Wells, the Cilik’ti use telepathic communication. We knew that Kree was in contact with his people the entire time. Any harsh act of coercion to force him into revealing military secrets would have resulted in his quick death, quite possibly followed by ours at the colony. Second, Kree is a worker among the Cilik’ti, not a soldier. He was sent there to study and managed to provide a way for humans to communicate with his species.”
I leaned back into my chair. “Kree and the N’lan are not rogues. The Cilik’ti are far more complicated than we ever realized, and the N’lan hold a critical place of power amongst their people. Frankly, without their help, I wouldn’t be sitting across this table talking to you right now.”
The man frowned. “I wonder about that too, Captain. Perhaps your actions are justified, but I fear for our future. Another war could be disastrous for us all.”
I snorted. “For once we agree. But I think you need to spend more time investigating who is behind the theft of Epherium’s data on the colonists. The stealth frigate that attacked us in that asteroid field and left with an agent that was planted in my crew is still out there. That’s the real threat.”
The man closed the cover on his data pad and stood. “Thank you for time, Captain. I think you’ve provided me with valuable insight for my investigation. I’ll contact you if I have any more questions.”
Do you have a question for Captain James Hood? Are you curious about what he feels about his crew? What does he think of his new alien “friends”? What does think about Epherium and their use of sleeper chambers to reprogram criminals into colonists? Ask below, and Captain Hood will be happy to answer.
Thanks for spending time with Captain James Hood today.