It was the first time in two months that Darmus walked through the doors of the Coruscant ranger office and he did so with a heavy heart. A lot of things had happened in the meantime, including a devastating attack on the prison on Corellia, but Darmus was determined to focus on the future now. He'd spend the last few months drinking himself into depressions in between bacta treatments and he was in a desperate need to change his own outlook. Solving a case would be a good start.
When he arrived at his station, however, Darmus showed a first crack. Ofcourse, he though, he didn't have any open cases right now. When he was injured he had to return all of them to the pool so other rangers could pick them up if they had the time and most leads would've gone ice cold by now anyway. Already craving a stiff drink, the forty-something ranger sat himself down in his chair with a sigh and grabbed the datapad from the table.
It was dead. His work-datapad had been idle for so long he needed to plug it for it to start up and only then did the bright red notification flash up.
"Damnit, Captain-" Darmus growled, "-couldn't you have just signed it for me?" Another, even deeper, sigh later and the ranger leaned back in his chair and began reading the report that the young Corran Velt had written while Darmus was lowered into a bacta tank three districts away.
"Assigned to protect Dr. Zafina Strop. Key witness."
So far so good, kid. Smart of you to keep out the part about my suggesting you sleep with her. Appreciate you looking out for your elder, Darmus thought with an amused grin. Reading the report might just be the thing he was needing..
"Guards spotted three gunmen, but were unable to confirm due to network breach."
Darmus was beginning to remember the details of their mission. He'd been too busy with current events to really bother looking back at the mission that got him shot, but now that he need the change in scenery he started to recall his slice-off with a criminal slicer they gunmen called "Kal".
"Ranger Onn got shot and needed immediate repatriation. I took all three gunmen into custody."
"Good work, kid-" Darmus smiled and tried to scroll down to the recordings of their interrogations when he spotted there weren't any. "-maybe not. Rookie mistake, I'm sure." This not being the first time a ranger forgot to add links for convenience's sake, Darmus knew his way around the network and after a minute scrolled down the interrogation files of two months ago. "Huh?" there was a gap on the morning after their mission. "They never interrogated them?" he looked further into the archives to find at least any reservations of interrogation rooms and there he did find one, but only the one.
By now he was getting the distinct feeling that something was really kriffing wrong and he dialled up Lieutenant Titch only to find that his number was disconnected. Rising up from his chair and looking around to the other present rangers, Darmus raised his voice "Anyone know if Lieutenant Titch is around?"
A ranger three desks over looked up and over to Darmus, recognizing him and then, suddenly saddened, shook his head. "Kriff, Darmus, I guess you don't know. Titch got in an accident a month ago. He's dead."
Darmus' shoulders dropped and he fell back into his chair. What the kriff was going on here? Feeling utterly confused, he decided to ask the rookie if he could shed some light.
<<Corran, if you can spare the time come meet me at my desk at your earliest convenience.>>
While he waited, Darmus decided to continue his search for the missing files.
It had been a few months since the TAU case. As official work in the Core worlds went, the operation did not go “by the book.” An office floor shot to pieces. TAU paying out life insurance policies for several of their corporate security staff. An entire corporate network breached. A Sector Ranger brought to the drink of death by his wounds.
Despite it all, however, the mission was to protect an innocent life and Dr. Strop had survived unscathed. Her testimony a dangerous weapon in a war between corporations. That seemed so long ago now. Corran had been assigned to small, even pointless, details since then. Some minor dust-up on Jakku and correctly filing away cold cases. It felt like a punishment, even if it wasn’t. There were some rumors about some big operation in the Outer Rim, but the rookie Ranger felt he wouldn’t play some big part in that.
It had been the first time Corran had been stationed in the Coruscant Sector Ranger HQ. He didn’t even bother adding any personal touches to the desk he occupied. A Ranger’s work was out there, boots on the ground. Not….well, this. That’s when a message appeared on his terminal. It was from Ranger Darmus Onn.
<<Corran, if you can spare the time come meet me at my desk at your earliest convenience.>>
“Huh. Didn’t even know Onn was back from medical leave,” The novice Ranger said to himself. Regardless, time was the one thing Corran had plenty to spend. Getting up from the desk and putting the terminal to sleep, as well as grabbing his badge and blaster from the drawer, the young Ranger made his way up to Darmus Onn’s floor. The more-experienced Sector Ranger didn’t look any worse for wear. The bacta had done its job from the look of things. Though, Onn couldn’t ever seem to escape that melancholic look.
“Good to see you out of the tank, sir. What can I do for you?” Corran leaned against the desk and folded his arms.
Just when the rookie ranger arrived on Darmus' floor, the latter had given up on trying to find anything on the archives and was instead checking out Corran's file, most notably his most recent assignments and once again the ranger's brow furrowed. It was this look that Corran first noticed and Darmus couldn't fault him for thinking he was melancholic for he was, but he also felt slighted, wronged and the victim of a conspiracy.
"Ah, ranger Velt-" Darmus replied as Corran leaned against his desk, "-just read they send you off to Jakku after our last assignment together." Suspicious as he was by nature, Darmus tried to read Corran's face as well as he could and refused to show the rookie his cards until he was sure he could trust him. "Guess you weren't senior enough to handle the interrogations eh?"
It was proper procedure that the lieutenant took over if the senior ranger was unable to do the interrogations himself. The rookie could sit in, sometimes, but perhaps they didn't want to cause a scene seeing as this particular rookie could have some beef with the men that shot his partner. Sending Corran off to Jakku, though, that was a strange glitch. Rookies didn't get jobs like that on worlds like that, but the order seemed to have come down through the net. Jakku requested Corran.
Things weren't adding up and Darmus hoped Corran would have some kriffing answers.
Ranger Onn’s question caused a similar melancholic appearance on Corran’s face. It was apparent the young man had some conflicted feelings on the whole thing.
“I received assignment to investigate a low-level spice dealer by the name of Meeno,” Corran said, carefully phrasing his words not to sound insubordinate, “No one spoke to me about interrogations. I received orders and got off world to Jakku. Everything else regarding the TAU case went… to someone else. I think.” It was apparent that the rookie didn’t know much and maybe that was intentional.
A few moments went by as the cogs in Corran’s brain spun until an idea formed in his head about where this was going. The Ranger stood up from the desk and replacing his casual lean with a serious stance. In a barely hushed tone, Corran began tapping the desk with his index finger, “Wait, did something happen? Did those assailants walk? We had them dead to rights! My written testimony was like a video recording of the whole thing! With words!”
Darmus was watching the rookie closely and was convinced that the latter's indignation wasn't fake, which allowed him to be taken into confidence. "Not sure," he replied, "I think they're locked up, but-" he turned his datapad around to show Corran the missing files, "-everything they might've said in interrogation has been thoroughly scrubbed from our records."
Taking the datapad back to show Corran the one reference he found: the reservation made by Lieutenant Titch, "Titch did at least one of them, I'm sure." He voiced with dissatisfaction, banking on the belief that Corran had already been aware of the lieutenant's fatal speeder crash. "Can't ask him and can't keep looking for crumbs on the net. You got any ideas?"
Corran’s eyes glanced over the datapad and his brow furrowed at seeing the reservation for Lt. Titch and no further records. No interrogation notes. No further logs. It was if the case had just… vanished. Sure, the Sector Rangers in the field could play fast-and-loose with how things got done and how laws were enforced, but Chief Hudson made a point that Rangers in the field who put their lives on the line didn’t sacrifice for naught. The office and legal work were expected to be thorough and concrete. To see a gap like this was beyond worrisome.
The young Ranger folded his arms again, deep in thought. “You’re… uh, the technical type, aren’t you?” Corran mused, “Can we check if any of the datafiles had been deleted or moved to new server storage or something? Are there any time-stamp changes?”
Darmus had proven to be confident in his abilities during the TAU operation. Though Corran never saw him in action at the terminal, Ranger Onn had likely saved his skin more than once during the whole thing. If there was someone who could fish out technical bread-crumbs to follow, wouldn't Darmus be the one to do it?
A quick sigh of dissatisfaction was followed by a hail-mary, “At worst, we can go interrogate those criminals ourselves. Even if they are locked up in a Coruscant jail somewhere. Maybe they can recall meeting with Lt. Titch.”
At first Darmus felt annoyed at the rookie's suggestion and he let it show in his facial expression. Who did he think he was talking to? Ofcourse he had done his due-diligence, he wasn't a rookie. "There's nothing, kid-" he growled and he hadn't realized he had disliked the comment so much, because the growl wasn't at all voluntary, "-whoever did this had months to cover his or her tracks." He was reminded of the many slicers he had encountered during his long career ranging from those that delayed stock markets, rigged podrace betting or provided back-up for the more violent type of criminal associate. Kriff, he suddenly realized the obvious and he couldn't hide his sudden enthusiasm. "They never did arrest that slicer, did they?" Rising from his chair, the old ranger nudged Corran in the direction of the speeder pool.
"I don't admit this often-" he began as he lead the way, "-but you got something there. Let's go visit Telo and his friends in prison." Maybe the rookie wasn't all that bad, maybe he had.. what's that word? Potential. Telo was the only name Darmus remembered and it belonged to the man who shot the security guards and kissed a stun bolt in the control room of T.A.U. No doubt he'd be the one that got the hefty sentence. Double murder and an attempted one. He'd still be strolling up and down his cell fifty years from now, for sure.
Accessing the speeder garage, Darmus signed up for a patrol speeder and got the keys for a brand new CC-2 Avian Airspeeder. Since it was new there was a clause about getting docked pay if you crashed it or caused any other kind of damage to it, so the second they got the red avian in their sights he tossed the keys over to Corran. "You drive. Looks like you two joined the ranger service at the same time." He smiled, no way he would let his poor driving skills cost him tonight's su'shi order.
The older Ranger's expressions changed so quickly in such a short span of time that Corran had trouble deciding if he should be offended, disappointed, or elated. His mind was trying to connect the dots between missing interrogation files, the still-free slicer - his name was Kal if memory served - and visiting some convicts in jail. What passed for praise from Darmus was nice though, even if at the time Corran wasn't entirely sure what for. It wasn't until the pair got to the new police airspeeder that the younger Ranger had pieced it together.
Catching the keys out of the air, the rookie waved them back at Darmus, "Jokes on you. I drive like the elderly. This baby will arrive without a ding on my account." Corran buckled himself in and turned on the ignition before nodding at Ranger Onn, "Secure your seat-belt, sir. Don't want a fine from Coruscanti Security, now do we?" The tone was half in jest. The location of the prison was entered into the CC-2 Avian's navigation system. Hands gripping the wheel, Corran pressed on the lift and the acceleration and the airspeeder floated into the sky and merged into the crowded skyways of Coruscant.
After a few minutes had passed and the commute had settled into an easy flow of traffic, Corran finally asked, "So... what's the missing interrogation have to do with the slicer? I do distinctly recall him having a vendetta against you. At least, at the time."
He wasn't kidding, Darmus thought, Corran really did drive like an old weequay lady suffering from arthritis. "It adds up," the rookie should've figured that out, but Darmus let this one go as he was good enough to fly. "Three men could've told us who the fourth was, neither can be touched while in ranger custody-" he began, holding up the amount of fingers whenever he said a number and his eyes fixed, as usual, on his datapad. "-but they can talk, identify the fourth and get a reduced sentence."
Then Darmus went quiet for a moment while he angrily swiped away windows and tabs on his datapad, until finally he cried "Gotcha!" and showed Corran what was displayed. "Titch contacted our tech department a dozen times between those interrogations and his accident." Corran wouldn't be able to read the tiny letters and watch out for traffic, so Darmus returned the datapad to his lap. "He always was a stubborn goat," his worlds trailed off and he went quiet again. If Lieutenant Titch suspected something he wouldn't have let it rest.. did that mean his accident wasn't an accident at all?
Forty minutes later a security guard lead them to a drone-like transport that fit the three of them only barely before it set off up towards the 112th level. Darmus' right hand held on to the railing with such an intensity that it seemed he was trying to squeeze it and he generally seemed more tense than you'd expect from a veteran ranger. It wasn't so much that he was afraid of confronting Telo. He was scared of heights.
Corran listened intently to Darmus as he walked the rookie through his thoughts and intentions, only allowing a cursory glance from the wheel when Ranger Onn tried to show him something. For his part, Corran had never met Lt. Titch but Darmus seemed to have some respect for the man’s thoroughness and drive while on a case. If the Lieutenant had contacted the Ranger technical department several times before his untimely demise, didn’t that suggest Titch had found something of concern?
After Corran had gingerly docked the airspeeder, he felt satisfied that they had no near-accidents or possible scrapes to the new vehicle. It was Sector Ranger property, after all. The prison itself was pretty standard for this level of criminal on Coruscant; giant, foreboding, and dark. The drone-lift that carried the trio down into the convicts’ pit didn’t seem all that threatening to the rookie, though he did notice Ranger Onn’s vice-grip on the railings. Corran didn’t have the heart to tell him that if the craft did suddenly have issues flying, the hand-railing likely wouldn't save him.
“So you really think Telo will flip on his slicer friend?” Corran asked, leaning casually against the rail as if they were standing firmly on the ground, “and you think Kal, the slicer, is a serious enough threat to warrant this type of deal?” The questions didn’t sound combative. They were more inquisitive for the younger Ranger to understand the game between law enforcement and holonet slicers. To him, what harm could a slicer really do? Is it as bad as reducing Telo’s sentence? A man with two murders under his belt, at least? Only Darmus could say.