An Old-fashion Detective Story

Samsara Galaxy Chronicles
By A. A. Wolfner

Chapter 1
Standard Galactic Date: Mar of Vidi 43, 1908 A.E.

The calamity of the Great Meteorite Strike had turned corporate space exploration into an escape program for the survival of humanity. Survivors established colonies on Earth-like worlds throughout the galaxy. Subsequent generations adapted to some of the environmental challenges, and genetic selection took care of the rest.

What was it they call them? I scanned the sky. O, yes…Birds.
A persona on our four-seat shuttle pushed me. “Can YOU please move?”
Another groaned, “Off Worlders.”
I ignored them. It had been more than 10 galactic years since I had last seen flying bioforms. “Ackh!” I covered my eyes with my goggles and lost the birds in the bright Vidlight.
Capital Plaza was my destination after I left the shuttle. Still, as an Off-Worlder, I found it impossible not to sightsee. The star of Vidi, the extra pull of gravity, and the red and blue-green foliage were nothing like the stark Vault where I kept my cramped office. After gawking at the ornate Palace of Ivory Justice, I eventually strode into the new Prefecture of Police in the Grand March Quadrangle. At the information desk, one officer and two computer technicians were grunting their way through a GPP worksheet for their late-model communication processer.
Another officer popped up from the lower work dais. “Can I help you?”
I glanced at hirz nametag, trying to ignore hirz curves. “I hope so, Nancy. I’m Officer Bronko Drakon of the Federal Ring System, Planet Vidi 3. I have orders to report to Captain Dupont – Henri Dupont.”
“Yes, I thought you looked like an Off-Worlder. I would page hirz, but you can see that our new COM system is not functional.” The COM officer gave a soured smile. “I’ll bring you to hirz office.” As the young female walked in front of me, I remembered one of the reasons I did not want this assignment. This overcrowded World of Vidi used sexuality-inhibitors to avoid concerns over fetal destruction. I had zero interest in adjusting my vitabonemix formulae.
We entered a third-level room. It smelled of new paint and un-wrapped furniture. Henri stood in front of a pile of desks and computers, hirz back toward me, but I would know that body frame anywhere. I pre-empted Nancy’s introduction. “Captain Dupont, Sir. Officer Bronko Drakon reporting as ordered, SIR!” Hirz hulking form wheeled with unlikely agility.
“Bronko! You finally made it.” Dupont’s round, ruddy face, and twinkling blue eyes had grown a mustache to frame hirz big toothy smile.
“Yes, I got in on the Planetary Express yesterday. So what’s so important that you had to get me sent off my nice, comfortable Off-World Police Base for an entire World of Vidi star-orbit? I’ve barely been at the OWPB that long.” I pointed at the desks. “Did you need someone to move furniture?”
The Captain raised hirz hand. “Look, with the formation of the United Planets of Vidi, the UPV established this Federal Police Force. I’ve won the toss. I’m its first head, and I need experienced officers. Right now I have a staff of two, both right out of training. One you have in tow. Meet Officer N. Leperrie, Jr.” It paused to allow Nancy and me to nod toward each other. “I assume Officer J. Rodeberrier was downstairs getting the COM system functional. Now…”
“By the Messengers, hold it right there. I told you half an orbit ago, and again several mars ago! I do not want to be part of any new FPF! Still, Sir, you get them to launch me out and dump me here. Why…”
Henri put up both hands. “Azazel! One milli-tick here, Officer Drakon! I requested that they send me one experienced officer from each Colonial District and they...” Henri tapped my stomach; it would have been awkward for it to reach higher. “…selected you – not me. Granted, I wasn’t unhappy– but I didn’t ask for you. If you have a problem, talk to them, Officer Drakon. For now, I have your Azazel butt for one standard galactic year! Any questions?” Captain Henri Dupont looked up into my eyes. Hirz lips shut tight. Hirz hands jammed themselves firmly onto hirz hips.
I glared at the short rock-like Captain. It could be the most stubborn of all the fabled “immovable objects” living on this average-gravity planet. I let out a heavy sigh and stuck out my hand. “I am glad to come aboard, SIR. I will enjoy every centi-tick while I'm here. So, where is my desk? I hope not at the bottom of that…”
“I’m glad you feel that way, Bronko. Your desk is in that pile – over there.” Henri re-focused hirz thoughts. “Nancy, get me the Chirlog P. D’odgerria files.”
“Sir – that is my case,” Nancy insisted.
Henri rolled hirz eyes. “Yes, Nancy, it is. Now meet your senior partner – Officer Drakon. Obey hirz, and maybe you can stay alive. This case is a death-trap for a rookie officer – D’odegerria will have no Azazel vacillation about trying to eliminate you.”

TO BE CONTINUED................................

Chapter 2

Within the Tick, my desk was set up and Officer Nancy Leperrie, Jr. had dropped off D’odgerria’s file. It offered neither a word of good-bye nor an expression of good wishes. That was fine; I did not want to train a space-dust-behind-the-ear rookie. Unaccustomed to working with paper files, I glanced at my useless ERD screen and pushed the bulky folder to the center of my desk. I then grabbed several different chairs until I found one willing to conform to my 2.05 meters frame. Resigned to a long tour, I set down my only picture cube of my civ-contract mate with hirz six kids. Then I began to read.
Escaped convict Chirlog P. D’odgerria’s file read like a What’s Who of the criminal world. D’odgerria’s influential partner, Ham Utrillo, had allowed it to break out of prison. Utrillo was a legend. It was rumor that one whisper from Utrillo was enough to make a law officer foul hirz spacesuit. Utrillo had the connections to arrange D’odgerria’s escape. I had to get D’odgerria into the less corruptible hands of the new UVP government.
While I swore over the Azazel file, Officer Leperrie came in and grabbed a chair for hirz new desk. “Well, Officer Drakon! So you think I could not handle the case?”
“Please, Nancy, let’s start out better. First, call me Bronko. Second, I did not ask to be your partner, or to take your case. Our Captain insists we work together, so let’s just get it done so I can go home.”
“Sorry, am I sounding like a little kid?” Nancy’s tone was a mixture of contrition and petulance.
“It’s understandable,” I said, without denying the premise. “Now, how do you propose…?”
“Well, D’odgerria was once a low-grade dispatcher for the Space Authority of Vidi.” Nancy had chosen professionalism in lieu of childishness. “One – It is alleged that D’odgerria committed perjury. It testified that persona D’odgerria did not know one of the brightest, least scrupulous lawyers of the planet. Persona D’odgerria further testified that it had not passed information regarding schedules or manifests of freighters traveling to the Imperial star systems. That allegedly stolen information had allegedly allowed Utrillo to contact hirz gang, who murdered the hibernating crews while space-jacking cargo in deep space.”
Nancy frowned at hirz notes on hirz tightly gripped PDA. “It’s a plain case of piracy and conspiracy. If D’odgerria had testified to passing those manifests, they would have convicted Utrillo for stealing and murder. More important, Utrillo would have been forced to cut a deal, turning in those corrupt officials and hirz pirate band.” Nancy sighed, but Hirz expression tenaciously maintained the blank-eyed glare of a dispassionate bureaucrat. The PDA’s litany continued. “Two – it is alleged that D’odgerria escaped from prison with Utrillo’s help.
“Three, based on – my investigations, it is reported that the persona D’odgerria left Utrillo’s protection and is now on the jog within the World of Vidi.
“Four – it seems that Utrillo is also looking for D’odgerria. The only thing between hirz and the cold cells in Blackwell's Meteor Belt is old Chirlog F. D’odgerria – Utrillo should prefer C. F. D. dead rather than old.” Nancy looked at me as though the persona had already solved the case. “Oh yes, fifth… Utrillo has mustered all hirz resources.”
Nancy looked up from the PDA and spoke for hirzelf. “I have searched D’odgerria’s neighborhoods, and every cheap hotel in the city, but nobody has found hirz yet. Maybe Utrillo has already eliminated D’odgerria?”
“No. Not yet.”
“Oh? And Why not, as they say?”
“Because Utrillo did not have hirz killed in detention. They allowed hirz to get out. They could have easily had hirz killed at the front door. D’odgerria has something and they want it; they kept hirz alive to get it. Sure, the persona got away from Utrillo when it could. Whatever D’odgerria has, it’s hirz life insurance policy, not just hirz ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ chip.”
“What do you think it is? And where is D’odgerria – boss?”
I ignored hirz attempt to rile me. “I don’t know what the insurance policy is, Nancy, but it must ensure the destruction of the pirate band. Now, as to D’odgerria – hnmnmnm – For one thing, I don’t think D’odgerria is on this planet anymore, like everyone seems to believe.”
Nancy looked at my eyes, squinting hirz doubt, then “So you think…?”
“Well, look,” I instructed, revealing no response to hirz lurking respect. “D’odgerria was a dispatcher for the port authority. We are in the main rocket port for the interplanetary spaceport of the Planet of Vidi. I bet D’odgerria has found a way to board a freighter, and is now about halfway to the interstellar spaceport. Let’s check the manifests and find an extra passenger.”
“Roger that,” Nancy said with enthusiasm. “Um… first, let’s see if the computers are working…”
Nancy’s fingers and eyes flew with graceful fury across the sensitive input-output pads. “Sorry, no last-minute plan to leave anyone off at the interstellar spaceport. There were some group bookings, and several to various Vidi Colonial Districts.”
“Hmnmnm – Those could be Utrillo’s people, looking for our jogger. Better search all the freighters and passenger ships.”
Hirz eyes flew across the search fields. “No, just doubles and triples.”
“Did you check if a double was booked but…?”
“Yes, and I checked out the gender of all the bookings and…” Nancy’s face lighted up and fingers flew again. “Hold the oxygen. A spacer reported sick for the energy run to Lava, and a replacement named Manly Airregdod was at the Spacer Guild waiting for an open flight. That ship, umm… EC-201 is slated to return in…three days. I guess we need to wait for the ship to return – I…we might have found our persona.”
“No… why would the persona go through an interplanetary spaceport and then come back? What ships are slated to pick up energy from Lava, and from where?”
“Well, tanker EC-407 is slated to leave when EC-201 arrives. They miss each other by two ticks… ahh, but another tanker is expected six ticks later. Both tankers will return to their points of origin.”
“Officer, do you want to go on a little trip?”
“Yes! But do I get to pick which spaceship to meet?”
“Umm…Yes,” I said, thinking I knew which would be hirz first choice.
“Good – I take the EC-316; it has a six-tick crossover with EC-201. It’s traveling to Green Vidi.” Nancy sat there with a big “gotcha” smile.

TO BE CONTINUED................................

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