Saturday, April 25, 2015

Planet 014.666.2460 - Chapter One

STAR TRADER UPDATE
Planet 014.666.2460

Today we rejoin 3su, our Trader throughout the known verse.
She has received news of the worst kind and must unravel a mystery that threatens her future
as well as her life.


I stood before the columbarium pillar containing my parent’s cremation ashes. I arrived almost six months too late to attend their funeral. Leaning forward, I placed my hand on the carved surface of the pillar. The pillar was not new to me. Mom and Dad always thought ahead. They had the it carved years ago after seeing the Goe’ze pillars on Muldavia. They were both archeologists and appreciated beautiful, ancient ruins. The Goe’ze pillars are one of the wonders of the universe. Their surfaces reflect and refract the breathtaking sunsets of Muldavia. This pillar, my parent’s memorial tomb, was artificially enhanced to radiate the colors from within along with a holographic image of my parent’s, smiling lovely, out from just above their niche. The pillar was carved years ago and set in storage to await their needed time. That time came much too soon.
Marstead Grievus shifted his weight as he stood at my side. He was Mom and Dad’s solicitor. When I informed him I had arrived he offered to meet me here, at the cemetery on the site of the UOA. I accepted the offer with my heartfelt thanks. This was not easy. My parents were still young, just in their seventies. They hadn’t even talked about retirement. They were so happy doing what they did, being members of the Universal Order of Antiquities. My parents were experts in their field. If they did not discover it themselves, then they were called in to consult with whoever did make the discovery.

“I recorded the funeral,” Marstead offered. “You might want to watch it someday. There were an inordinate amount of testimonials given. Your parents were truly loved.”
A tear trickled down my cheek and I wiped at it with a thumb, but then another fell and yet another until Marstead pulled me back to the bench facing the columbarium, sat me down and handed me his handkerchief.
I wiped at my eyes with one hand as he held my other. He was an old friend of the family. In fact, when I was still young, should something have happened to my parents, he would have been my appointed guardian. He was of old military stock, but had retired on a disability pension when he lost a leg, arm and right eye in the Palloth Wars. They could heal and rebuild his body with modern medicine and technology, but they couldn’t heal his mind and soul. He took the disability and turned to fight courtroom battles instead. He was a famous trial attorney. He just did the estate planning for Mom and Dad because they were friends, old friends.
“I would have waited for your return,” he said comfortingly, “but you know how your mother was, she had such a fear of confined spaces that she couldn’t even think of having her body put in suspension to wait for you.”
“It’s all right,” I said between sniffles, and squeezed his very natural feeling artificial hand. “You did as they asked. That’s what’s important.”
“Captain Luchin is willing to see you whenever you are up to it.” Marstead put his arm around my shoulder. “No need to hurry, but I knew you would want to hear the details.”

My parents would have lived many more years if it were not for the fact that they were murdered. Killed at a distant dig site along with three other archeologists. All of whatever they dug up was stolen, even their notes. Not a clue as to what they found. No way to track the murdering thieves. No way to deal out justice for the dead. I really didn’t know what Captain Luchin could tell me that would help soothe the wounds of losing both my parents, with no hope of being able to deal out a little revenge against their killers. But, I would go. It was part of my duty as the last surviving member of my family.

*****

Marstead once more sat at my side, this time in Captain Luchin’s office. I’d had a troubled night’s sleep and a breakfast I couldn’t eat, but I was ready to see what I could glean from the Galactic Official in charge.
Captain Luchin was a large Quad, an alien with four arms. I was sure that came in handy in his line of work. He was professional and restrained. Both men were surprised when I asked to see the photos of the crime scene. I was no detective, but I did want to assure myself that nothing had been missed. No stone left unturned, as the saying went.
“It doesn’t look like a snatch and grab,” I said, as I slowly flipped over the photos one by one.
I was trying to stay objective as I looked over them despite the lump in my throat. My mother was lying in a heap against a wall, luckily with her face turned away and hands tied behind her back. My father was slumped forward from a kneeling position in the middle of the cavern floor, his face buried in the dirt at his knees. The other three archeologists were not tied and looked as though they were killed and just dumped to one side, piled like cord wood against the opposite wall. My parent’s attackers wanted some kind of information from them. They were questioned.
“You are correct,” Captain Luchin responded. “We believe your parents were held for some time perhaps in order to make sure the thieves had all the artifacts from the dig. Perhaps to question about who knew about the items, trying to determine how secretive they needed to be in selling them on the black market.” The Captain rocked back in his chair, one hand on the arm, one ran through his hair, and two stayed on the table in front of him to keep the photo evidence secure. “Unfortunately, the team had not reported their findings, as yet, to the UOA. There is no telling what the dig turned up since there was literally nothing left except the bodies of the dead.”
It was not unusual for a team to be delivered to a site and then left until called back for pick up.
“Nothing?” I asked.
There should have been shelters, supplies, equipment, maybe even a transport vehicle of some type.
“Nothing,” the Captain said. “They took everything. We have a notice posted in case someone spots the sled and some of the other marked UOA equipment, should it turn up on the black market. We are still hoping for a lead.”
At that point he leaned forward, pushing the photos into a neat pile and slipping them back into the folder. I didn’t object. I had seen enough. My parent’s death was not quick and painless. If nothing else, they had experienced pain and had time to think and worry about each other and me. As I sat there I realized I needed to get to a bathroom quick. I was going to throw up.

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