9 – Meris
Alazar looked her in the eye. “Ready?”
Meris glanced back at her vid-phone screen once more before looking at him. “Ready when you are.” She had him perfectly framed in the camera, his wounds unmistakably visible in the natural light of flooding the dining area of the little cottage’s kitchen. The white plaster wall behind him provided a neutral backdrop, though the wooden corner nook bench on which he sat provided him with very little comfort.
He nodded and cleared his throat, then straightened his posture as much as possible. Meris tapped the icon to start recording, then gave him a nod. He took a deep breath. “My name is Darius Alazar. As you all must know by now, I am being accused of the terrible crimes – the atrocities – that occurred at my company, Stell-Ore Mining. The first of these atrocities was the senseless and brutal killing of the crew of Cartage 15, one of the best crews I had in my employ.”
He paused for a moment as Meris’ hand started to shake. A tear fell down her face, but she wiped it away, steadied her hand and nodded for him to continue. “In the aftermath of that tragedy, a very brave young women took it upon herself to infiltrate my headquarters with the intent to accuse me of the crime. I will ever be grateful to this young woman, the fiancee of my crew chief, Ellias Gammet, one of the casualties of the Cartage 15 massacre. Her name is Meris Brand, and she is filming this video. Say hello, Miss Brand.”
She didn’t know he was going to do that, but she saw immediately his plan. She wiped her tears some more and turned the vid-phone camera toward herself. She looked directly into the camera. “Hello. As you can see, I am alive and well and in no danger from my companions. I further verify that everything Mr. Alazar is telling you today is the truth.” She glanced back to see him smiling. He nodded that he was ready to resume. She gave a small wave to the camera and switched it back to him.
“Thank you, Miss Brand. I am grateful to her for uncovering the truth behind the Cartage 15 massacre. She confronted me with footage immortalized by the same vid-phone with which this message is being recorded. In this footage, I saw members of my own elite security staff purposely putting a bullet into Ellias Gammet’s skull, murdering him in front of Miss Brand’s very eyes. I cannot imagine the horror and grief this act has caused her.” He looked past the camera to her, his eyes soft and full of empathy. She felt more tears falling.
“However, this footage proved that the deaths of this crew was not the result of an accident, an equipment malfunction, nor the result of the crew chief’s own actions, as some suggested. Ellias Gammet did not get a brain-bug and go mad; he and his crew were not infected by any pathogen picked up on Thalassa. This is what the young Lieutenant who led the attack on this crew was told. He was made to believe that he was carrying out a security protocol in place to ensure that no off-world diseases ever make it back to Sindria, or any of the other colony-planets. This Lieutenant is Wyll Meirig. He received this order from Commander Hauher, who is the commanding officer over all soldiers on my security staff.”
“Lieutenant Meirig, Meris Brand and other members of my staff supported me when the real culprit was revealed to be Berent Gaehts, who usurped my position as Head of Operations of Stell-Ore Mining. Berent Gaehts framed me for these crimes, attacked me and imprisoned me in what is not-so-affectionately known as The Hole – one of the many training facilities within the Stell-Ore Securities Compound that was not under my direct supervision.” He paused, his gaze going inward. “Had I known what that place was, how it was used, I would have seen to it personally that it was demolished. This is a place of isolation, where I was beaten and tortured by Commander Hauher, several of his soldiers and even Berent Gaehts himself.”
“Many of you will say that this message is simply a delaying tactic, an attempt to muddy the waters in order to save my own skin from the Chamber. I understand why you will think this. I can only hope to change your mind with the truth.”
This was the part Meris was dreading most. He had refused to tell her in advance what he was about to reveal, and her mind raced with the possibilities. All he would say was that she would see why it really was his fault after all, even if he never pulled the trigger.
“Miss Brand does not know what I am about to tell you. None of my companions do. When I have finished, Miss Brand will accompany me to the nearest police station, where she will turn me over to the authorities so that this whole story will be forced to be aired in open court. I will stand before the Council and answer for the part I did play in this tragedy, but I will also defend my innocence of the deeds themselves. Berent Gaehts and Commander Hauher are the ones who are guilty of these crimes. I was merely the one unwittingly incited them.”
He took another deep, steadying – or perhaps cleansing? – breath. He then looked her dead in the eye and said: “I had served Berent Gaehts with his termination papers two days before he murdered the crew of Cartage 15. I was giving command of his crew, Cartage16, to Ellias Gammet and reassigning both 15 and 16 to the refinery to increase refined Bolidium production in the wake of the retirement of several loyal refinery employees. It was also going to serve as my wedding gift to Ellias Gammet and Meris Brand, as it would mean he would be staying on Sindria instead of traveling to mine the Bolidium.”
She couldn’t hold back the tears, and a sob wracked her body, making her nearly drop the vid-phone. He reached across the table and took her hand in his, gently steadying the camera and offering solace in one gesture. She would have had her wish, she would have had Ellias with her always. It would have been perfect.
And it had been taken from her. Berent had robbed Ellias and her of their future.
Because he got fired.
“Did you tell him?”
Alazar winced. “Yes. He was going to tell you when he got home from Thalassa. He wanted to marry you as soon as he came back.”
She was shaking so hard she could barely keep the camera on him. “No, I meant Berent. Did you tell Berent your plan for his crew? For Ellias?”
He looked down at the top of the table. “I don’t know how he put it together, but no, I didn’t tell Berent.”
“They were friends… for over ten years. They shared an apartment for five years. How could he have just… murdered him so coldly like this? All over a job?”
He looked away. “I should have seen something like this coming.”
“How? How could you have predicted this?”
“The reason I was firing him, it was because of the rumors.”
She furrowed her brow. “What rumors?”
Chapter 8 Chapter 10