Conspiracy City (46.2)


Rangda — Ocean Road Police Station

Through the speakers mounted in the ceiling, the interpreter’s voice filled the room.

“His favorite food is something called Pierogi.” He said.

Across the interrogation table, Bercik shot a skeptical look at a gently smiling Kirsten.

Minardo sat opposite the two guests of the Ocean Road Police Station. She rubbed her fingers across the smooth and shiny surface of the table, thinking about these Pierogi. She concluded she had never heard of that dish. She was also not sure that she could procure it in Rangda. Minardo thought she was quite worldly compared to most people that she knew — if she had no idea what something was then it was likely that a kitchen worker at a canteen would not know either. Despite this she resolved to be accommodating.

“Ask him what that dish is and how to make it.” Minardo called out.

Beyond the one-way glass, the military interpreter spoke through the intercom.

Was ist Pierogi? Wie wollen sie kochen Pierogi?”

Again the system on the ceiling broadcast his voice clearly into the room.

Bercik sighed openly. Kirsten smiled and lit up and started to speak energetically.

After a few minutes of what sounded mostly like utter gibberish to Minardo, Kirsten quieted and sat smilingly waiting for further response. Once more the interpreter explained.

“They are dumplings, Sergeant; he likes them filled with mashed potato filling and cheese. He shared a long recipe and instructions which I have written down.” He said.

“Well, I suppose you can pass that along to the canteen when you can.” Minardo said.

Können wir jetzt gehen?” Bercik said, holding his head up by the palms of his hands.

Minardo caught some of the words and shook her head at him.

After the scare last night, Minardo hardly slept, seated uncomfortably in a hard metal chair in the interrogator’s room. In the morning she tried to perform her usual routine. She drank some hot, honeyed tea and picked up the paper, more for comics and games than for the actual news. Soon as she was done with her morning crosswords and the funny pages, Minardo discarded the paper into the recycling box and fetched the interpreter.

She was of a mind to have a chat with Bercik and Kirsten herself before lunch.

Everyone gathered in Bercik’s interrogation room, save the interpreter who remained safely behind the bulletproof glass. Because the interpreter was drawn from the 1st Regiment, Minardo could trust him more than the civil police. Feeling secure with an agent of hers in the interrogator’s side, Minardo started the session. She brought out a high-tech spool recorder, set it on the table, started it going, and introduced everyone.

Words then came and went rapidly across the table, alien to each party. Communication became possible through the military interpreter, who recognized the guest’s Lachy accents and could easily digest the Nochtish and Ayvartan in a way each party found palatable.

Minardo thought to break the ice with food. Kirsten, the younger, and most delicate of the two Nochtish youth, seemed delighted to talk about food, but the topic failed to penetrate his coarser companion. Bercik insisted that he should be released, that his work with them was done. All he wanted was to return to the road and think of what to do next. Minardo had the interpreter remind him that he had nowhere to go if he did not know the language — Nochtish speech and literacy in Ayvarta was very low outside of the military.

Faced with this, Bercik resigned himself to sighing with frustration every so often.

Pierogi promises only seemed to go so far with him.

Minardo then asked what they knew about Nochtish military capability.

Kirsten said he tried to read Generalplan Suden but it was too complicated for him.

Bercik grumbled inaudibly.

Minardo asked about the Nochtish home front. What did people think of the war?

Bercik claimed to have left the country before the war, and therefore did not know.

Kirsten assumed everyone would be against the war, because war was bad.

Nobody dissuaded him from his naive hopes.

To establish trust, Minardo explained some of her own duties in the military. She told Bercik simple, non-confidential things about the 1st Regiment, about procurement, setting work schedules, delegating tasks, and caring for the soldiers under her command, in this case usually Padmaja. She tried to sing one of Padmaja’s songs for levity, but it made no sense to anyone, even the interpreter, because it was all Kitanese, butchered by Minardo.

Kirsten sang a little song of his own in Nochtish, “Der treue Hussar.” He burst into song so quickly and spontaneously that the interpreter had a difficult time keeping up with it.

He had a rather pretty voice though, very sweet and pleasantly high-pitched.

After the interlude Bercik made vague statements about his journalistic past. Though he got his start in tabloids, he said his best work was publishing articles about sex scandals, fraud, corruption in what he called the “party machines” that existed at local levels. He railed against these party machines and their iron grip on neighborhoods for close to fifteen minutes, repeating himself and the same few sentiments several times as he did.

For a moment there was a confusing translation issue, where Minardo thought he meant “party” as a form of revelry. Bercik was non-specific enough that she thought Nocht was devolving into some monstrous bacchanalia nation-wide, especially because he seemed oddly focused on the topic of political sex scandals and divorces. It was quickly cleared up by the interpreter that he meant a political party and specific verbiage was used from then on. Upon learning of this, Bercik pointed and laughed at Minardo for it as if she was stupid.

Before Minardo could get the interpreter to ask him what his problem was, she heard a commotion building up outside. Heavy footsteps and shouting led to banging on the door.

Minardo stood. As soon as she did the door swung open. Behind it was a man in a suit and tie accompanied by a distraught front guard who was holding his hands plaintively out to him. Minardo stared between the two of them, but the man in the suit seemed to ignore her, while the guard seemed to have nothing to communicate save for a pathetic look in his eyes. It seemed the suited man was the authority here, and it seemed that he was exercising that authority. He was sweating and red in the face and out of breath.

His every movement was carried out with an obvious and off-putting violence.

Swinging his arms as if ready to throw punches, he stomped right into the room.

Minardo stepped forward to block his path. She was half a head taller than he.

Grinding his teeth, he raised his hand with an accusing finger pointed her way.

“I demand an audience with the foreigners this instant!” He shouted.

“I demand you use your indoor voice.” Minardo snapped back. “Who are you?”

“You’ve no business making demands of me, soldier! I’m part of the Council and I’m taking these men into our custody. The Colonel has no right to hold them here and extract information without consulting us. Solstice has imposed on us enough!”

Again the man jabbed his finger, in a way that was growing irritating to Minardo.

He was getting too close to her. She felt his arm brush against her and bristled.

“Invasion of our borders by foreign agents is a military matter.” She replied. “We cooperated with police and are merely following proper security procedure right now.”

“Since demilitarization it is also a civilian matter! You act under our orders!”

“We received no orders from you or anybody. There was no objection until now.”

Up and down went the man’s finger, as if he was undecided as to how to hold it most threateningly in the air. He was shaking. He fidgeted with his tie as he continued to growl.

“Nocht is at our doorstep, and if these men hold any information that would be of diplomatic or defensive value to us, we demand to hear it from their mouths.” He said.

“We’ve already interrogated these men, Councilor. They are not threats and have no value to you. We will write you a report when we have fully vetted them.” Minardo said.

“Fine; then you will stay in this room until they are fully vetted, Sergeant. Guard!”

Almost shoving her, the councilman turned sharply around and walked out of the room.

He gestured to the guard outside.

At once the guard gave Minardo a regretful glance before stepping forward, shutting the door almost in her face and locking it shut. Interrogation room doors locked from the outside to prevent the people within from escaping — Minardo had no lock mechanism on her side. She had, in the blink of an eye, been detained by the police in the station.

It dawned upon her what had happened, and she turned sharply around herself.

“Lock yourself in the room and call the Colonel right now!” She shouted.

Behind the glass, the interpreter acknowledged with a quiver in his voice.

Bercik and Kirsten stared in disbelief.

Minardo herself could hardly believe it, but she was a prisoner of Rangda now.


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