The Company (Excerpt), Part 3Mature

“I see,” the officer said icily.

He fiddled with the documents on his end of the table, and a moment later an image flicked into being under Dmitri’s fingertips. For the first time since he’d been handed the dossier, the pilot simply stared at the image wordlessly for several seconds before he spoke.

“Why are you showing me this?”

“Because if we can’t locate Mr. Haller, we need you to find her for us.”

“But…” Dmitri said, struggling to pull his thoughts into a coherent expression, “why? She’s a kid.”

“A minor, yes, but a minor who, along with her possibly-deceased father, is also being charged with multiple felonies, including trafficking and homicide.”

“No, wait a second,” Dmitri said. “This is fucked up. Kit helped out around the ship, sure, but she never actually did anything. I mean, Haller was the one who—”

“Well, we cannot prove her innocence until we have her in custody and are able to conduct a proper trial,” the officer said, once again reshuffling files on the tabletop. “And if you would like a reduction in your sentence, I’d say that cooperating with us and locating Kathryn Haller is probably your best option.”

“And why can’t you…uh, capable gentlemen handle this situation on your own?” Dmitri said, with an attempt at his customarily insolent grin. “You’re the ones with retprints and bioscanners; I’m just lowly pilot. What do you want my help for?”

“Given your background and mutual history, I’d say there’s a much better chance that Kit would talk to you than to a marshal or a stranger.”

“I…” Dmitri said, staring down at the image of Kit on the screen. It was several years out of date—she looked to be about nine or ten, and she was smiling shyly at the camera, an expression that he’d barely ever seen on her face in real life. The officer at the the far end of the table tapped his screen and the image of Kit’s face rose up off the table, projecting itself as a holo into the air in front of Dmitri’s face.

“Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?” Dmitri muttered, staring at it.

“She is innocent until proven guilty,” the officer said. “We just need proof one way or the other, and we can’t get that if we can’t talk to her.” He nodded to his partner, who strode to the door and opened it as the two other officers at the back of the room strode forward to take Dmitri by the shoulders again. “So what will it be?”

Dmitri hesitated, chewing his lower lip as he considered the holo of Kit’s face. Finally, he did his best to give what he hoped was a careless shrug.

“Where do we start looking?”

The End

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