To:Cassius Sidonius Pertinax,
Prefect, Legion V Aerial,
Stellaportis.
From:Marcus Pollius Petrus
Centurion, Century I, Cohort II,
Legio V Aerial,
Via Astra.
Date:III Martis, MIM AUC.

SECRET

Sir,

I regret to report evidence of espionage, sabotage and assassination by the forces of the Han Empire on the Via Astra orbital fort.

In the early hours of the morning of I Martis, Julia Aquila Minervalis of the natural philosophy corps was instructed by Gaius Flavius Hibernicus, our chief engineer, to investigate an air filter that had become blocked and foul-smelling. Contamination with bull's blood was anticipated, following the dedication of the Mithraeum by our Pater the previous night. According to records she had authorised the transfer of the sacrificial bull, though she denies this vehemently, which is why she was assigned to this trivial filter change. As women are prohibited from our Cult, I see little to dispute her claims but that is irrelevant to the subsequent proceedings.

On opening the smelling filter, which led from the antechamber to airlock XXIV to the transit corridor, she discovered much blood and a human finger. On entry to the antechamber she discovered the bodies of Appius Claudius Drusus, Decurion of my Century, and Lucia Metella Talia, engineer from the lunar transfer vehicle team. Both had been killed by a single, expert blow from a gladius or similar blade. Drusus had lost his finger in a defensive gesture and Talia was bruised as if struck aside by their assailant or assailants. The finger must have floated in the weak air currents as things do in zero-G and been caught by the filter. The only other object found in the antechamber was a half-full flask of fine roman wine.

Minervalis immediately alerted me to the situation and I placed two of our most sturdy legionaries, Petrus Cicero Rapax and Marcus Cornelius Titanus, to keep the area secure. I assigned Numerus Vesuvius Complex of the administrative corps to keep track of the paper work. To the best of my knowledge, only Minervalis, Titanus, Complex and myself are fully aware of the detail recorded in this report. Rapax knows a fair amount of it and the men of Drusus' decade, which includes Titanus, will inevitably talk amongst themselves.

A straightforward search for bloodied clothes was, unfortunately, doomed by the dedication of the Mithraeum on the night of the murder. As you might imagine, a zero-G bull sacrifice does lead to a large amount of blood on the clothes of the congregation, despite the best efforts of the cup bearer and his vacuum cleaner. The camp Pater indicated that a special session in the laundry had been arranged. If the murderer or murderers had mixed with the worshippers then they would have had their clothes cleaned of blood with no suspicion at all.

The investigators determined the background of the two deceased.

Acording to Talia's roommate, Gaia Livia Sulia, the two had met two years previously during Drusus' leave on Stellaportis. She had then been stationed on Via Astra and this was their first chance to meet subsequently. In the intervening time Drusus had used a large sum of money to send gifts including wine from the Rome area and a hand-drawn sketch of Rome seen from the west. Talia was working on the rocket fuel for the moon mission and on a problem of part of the fuel supply getting clogged. Detailed analysis of her notes by Minervalis, assisted by Talia's number two, suggested that Talia was increasingly suspicious of deliberate sabotage through the addition of contaminant to the fuel.

Drusus had been a fine decurion and had been working towards promotion to centurion in a steady and appropriate fashion. As his commanding officer I state for the record that decurion Appius Claudius Drusus was a skillful and loyal soldier. Careful consideration of Drusus' salary and the amounts spent on gifts for Talia suggest that he was simply love struck and not that he was getting any second income from illegal sources.

The investigation also considered access to the airlock room where Drusus and Talia had been killed. The investigators followed two possible chains of events: bad luck, where the victims just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and planned assasination, where they were known in advance to be there.

Titanus questioned the gate guards on outside duty on the night of the murder and rapidly came to the conclusion that they would not have seen anyone who was skilled in EVA and who didn't want to be seen. I am reviewing the external security arrangements at the moment in the light of this. Titanus then searched for any signs of bloody tracks on the outside of the camp but was unable to find any trail to follow.

Minervalis returned to Sulia to determine who might have known of the lovers' meeting. Sulia did know of Talia's plans and shared almost everything she heard with her lover, Publius Justus Falco of the station's engineering crew and one of our finest EVA team.

Complex determined from personnel records that the other two men of the team consisted of Titus Rufus Victor, a soldier of Mithras, and Lucius Plinius Tacitus. Further investigation revealed that the trio working as a team for ten years since meeting in the submarine research station in Sicily. They had been working on the orbital work since the missions started. They were known to have a workshop with an airlock that was used primarily by themselves. Titanus investigated it from the outside and found tiny traces of blood on the airlock access wheel. On entering, he found a space tunic with similar freeze-dried blood in some of the creases around the collar. Examination of the content of their workshop revealed the presence of a radio suitable for covert transmission, though only over short distances.

The investigators requested permission to arrest from me and I granted it. In a relatively smooth operation on II Martis, Titanus and Rapax arrested the three as they entered their changing room from the airlock.

The subsequent interrogation revealed that the three had been spies for the Han court since their meeting in Sicily. They had been instructed to make themselves invaluable to the orbital missions and had done so well. Falco had been using Sulia to keep tabs on Talia while they experimented with contaminating the fuel stores, which are only accessible by EVA. Victor had committed the actual murders. All three had received extra training from the Han in espionage and combat. The radio was used to connect to the main camp transmitter and on passing over the Han capital they would transmit down their information. Detailed questioning of the station's radio operators has now told us what to listen for should similar happen again and recognising and reporting these signs has been added to the radio operators' duties. The principle function of their sabotage was to contaminate the fuel supply for the lunar mission so that the transport would fail halfway there, damning the crew to a slow, public death.

While no longer in good health, the prisoners are still alive and can be returned to earth on your request. If you have no further use for them, I will have them executed here.

Marcus Pollius Petrus


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