“You are not the most ordinary of men, Mr. Graves,” was the first thing the guard said in the interrogation room. Sheldon Graves had begun to go bald in his teenage years and, now, by the age of twenty-seven he had only a few remaining hairs left on his head. To compensate for this he grew in a beard. The problem with it was that it was patchy-- incomplete. When they had strip-searched him they discovered that his chest was bare of hair besides the small spirals on his stomach.
They found nothing wrong—at first.
When the strip search was over he put back on his The Clash t-shirt. His skin was tanned by the sun. This occurred to people who went to the Delta-9 moon. The proximity to the sun was much closer to the moon than on Earth.
“I see here that you were commended for bravery on Gamma-5,” the guard with the name-tag entitled Riggs said. He had wisps of gray streaking his hair and a full goatee. “A medal of honor is not something I take lightly. My cousin was out there. He did not make it back. There were a lot of rookies out there... most of them just out of basic training. He was one of them.”
Sheldon nodded. “I was a few weeks out of basic. There were a lot of good men down there. We lost most of them.”
Riggs took his beret off and laid it down on the table that separated the two men from each other. He smoothed back his hair and took a deep breath and then let it out very abruptly. “You were an officer. I heard that they kept trying to pick the officers off with snipers in an effort to discourage organization.”
“Yes,” Sheldon said, scratching his beard. “The first day I was there three officers alone were taken out.”
“Those damned rebels,” Riggs said. His hair was concentrated in a V-line that made him look intimidating. His eyes were dark and focused. There was something about his face, and his manner, that was almost Roman. He poked at the beret that was on the table. “I myself saw action though not there. Quadrant Seven. I was in the second wave. My platoon went down like dominoes... one after the other. We had trained well and...damn it... we tried to fight the best that we could. It made no difference. I was wounded—” he tapped the side of his chest. “... right here and was lying on the battlefield waiting to die... praying for God to get me out of there... to just have one more day back home,” he said. “Lying there, I heard the sound of ships approaching... reinforcements had arrived. Some medic lugged me out of there.”
Sheldon looked down at the beret on the table with a blank expression.
“So,” Riggs said. “Are you going to tell me why you had military-grade electronics in your baggage?”
Sheldon turned pale. He did not look up at Riggs, who leaned forward on his chair and looked fiercely at Sheldon.
“I always keep afloat of the news that comes in and out of this colony. Yesterday a bomb went off in the capital. It killed many people... some of them women and children. The people who set that bomb off thought that they were revolutionaries... freedom fighters they like to call themselves. But they are not. They are cowards,” he said. Sheldon, with his one hand beneath the table, clenched and unclenched his hand. “And they were caught. They said that another attack was being planned. It was meant to broadcast the message that the underground movement would not cease its activities until the colony was liberated from the shackles that had been placed upon it by Earth.” He paused to let his words sink in. “Some of the members have already been detained and... I’ll share this with you... they sang....well...with a little bit of persuasion,” he said.
Sheldon looked up at Riggs.
“If you talk,” he continued, “We can work something out. You’re not like the rest of them. Maybe you got all caught up into something that you did not fully understand. Perhaps they are pressuring you... holding your friends and/or family as collateral. If you talk to me I’m sure we can come to some sort of understanding. We are both reasonable men.”
“I’m not going to talk about anything,” Sheldon said. “And you can go to hell.”
Riggs was quiet for a moment. Suddenly, he brought down his fist, hard, on the table. Even the beret moved. Sheldon’s eyes widened while Riggs’ narrowed.
“This is not a multiple choice exam,” Riggs said. “It’s going to get bad... real fast... if you don’t cooperate.”
“Well that’s rather unfortunate,” Sheldon said, looking up at him. “Because I don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.”
“Disappointing,” Riggs muttered. Without getting up he threw a punch that connected with Sheldon’s jaw. It sent him backwards by the force. Sheldon winced and then dabbed a finger on the inside of his mouth and brought it up to his face to reveal blood.
“Yeah?” Riggs asked.. “Is that how you want this to be? I can be the good guy or the bad guy. I don’t like playing the bad guy but... damn it... am I ever good at it,” he sneered.
“You are a real son of a bitch, you know that?” Sheldon said, smiling.
“Talk,” Riggs commanded.
Sheldon flipped over the table and then grabbed the chair he had been sitting on and dashed over to a corner of the room.
“Don’t want to play ball eh?” Riggs said. “That is unfortunate.”
Sheldon threw, with all his force, the chair that he had been holding directly at Riggs. The interrogator ducked and the chair sailed past him and hit the wall. “You didn’t throw it right,” he said.
The P.A system and alarm sounded at the same time. “This is central command. The outpost is under attack. All hands to battle stations. I repeat this is Central Command. All hands to battle stations.”
“I play for keeps,” Sheldon said. Riggs grabbed the chair that had been thrown off the floor. He held it with both hands.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Sheldon said. “I’m not going anywhere,” Riggs said. He slowly began to advance towards Sheldon.
The interrogee tore into his wrist and pulled something out. It was small knife. “I read in your file that you don’t carry a gun into your interrogations,” Sheldon said. “Yes. We have files on you like you have them on us.”
Riggs paused for a moment and then kept advancing. Sheldon started to slink into the other corner of the room. “That was your biggest mistake and the one that made infiltrating this facility possible,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?’ Riggs said. He was close now.
“The transmitter is inside of me. While we have been here it’s been broadcasting to our forces.” Riggs raced at him with the chair and Sheldon darted away.
“You’re never going to win,” Riggs said.
"Oh really?” Sheldon replied. “This place is going to fall... and then the next... and then the next. There will be no end until negotiations open up. Colonies don’t work anymore. They did not work on Earth and do not work here either. The shackles of imperialism will be breached."
Riggs watched him gesticulate with his hands wildly and took it as his cue. He rushed in with the chair and hit Sheldon square in the face. Sheldon slashed viciously with his knife and cut one of Riggs’ arms flicker that sent an X trickling up the top of his wrist to his bicep. Riggs blocked out the pain while Sheldon staggered back both bruised and bleeding.
“This is not going to be pleasant,” Sheldon said. “We do not need to do it this way. I could make it easy on you. I have... in my other wrist... a cyanide-pill. If you take it they’ll be no interrogation. I’ll say that you fought until the end. No one will have to know that you took the easy way out.”
“I never take the easy way out,” Riggs said. He shifted the chair in his hands and charged again.
The siren wailed in Riggs' ears and he remembered his wife back home. It was people like her who made the world fighting for. I may die, he thought. If anyone is listening out there: thanks for the ride.
The chair connected with the side of Sheldon’s arm and the knife skirted off to the side. Riggs head-butted Sheldon and knew he had hit his mark when he heard the man’s nose break. Sheldon moaned in pain and Riggs hit the arm that was holding the knife with his chair again, trying to make him drop it. Yet, Sheldon held on. The knife came closer and closer to Riggs until it seeped into his shoulder and Riggs involuntarily dropped the chair, grunting. Riggs put a hand onto Sheldon’s broken nose and pushed forward. The interrogee emitted a monstrous sound and the blade slid, slowly, downward from Riggs’ shoulder. He punched Sheldon in the throat and the man buckled onto the ground. Riggs took the knife out of his shoulder with one hand while his other picked back up the chair.
Sheldon looked up at him, eyes glazing over, with an expression of surprise and mild shock. “So,” Sheldon coughed. “You’ve got me. What am I supposed to say?” Even his breathing looked painful. “Do as you will. Kill me.”
“No. I’m not going to kill you. I’m taking you in alive.” “How are you going to do that?” Sheldon wheezed. “We’re attacking the facility with our troops even as we speak.”
Riggs was silent.
“We’ll never make it through alive,” Sheldon said. “Hey... come on... let’s cut a deal. You let me go and I tell them to leave you alone. Sound fair?”
“No deal,” Riggs said. “I’m taking you in even if it means I die trying.”
“Then you’re a damn fool. But I’ve still got one last trick up my sleeve...” Riggs made to rush him but before he knew it Sheldon had pierced his other wrist and swallowed the cyanide capsule. “I’ll be gone in less than two minutes. I suspect that you won’t be following me too far behind. Well–” Sheldon croaked. “Adios Riggs. It’s been swell.”
In less than a minute Sheldon was dead.
The alarm was still raging as Riggs went over and closed Sheldon’s eyes.
After that, he went out the door and prepared for what was next.