The Voyages of the PS Nones
Chapter 22, The Sword is found under a body.
When last we left our heroes, they'd just returned from a shopping expedition to find two small gray Aerna leaving a tub filled with fizzing liquid by the entrance to the Nones. Salimar watch an Aerna coalesce out of a tub just like this in Elias' Place, just as Dafnord reported that Umbra, the Sword of Twilight Chaos had been stolen.
As the small Aernas run off, Dafnord picks up the tub to move it away from the gangtube to the Nones. Before he can get far, the tub suddenly gets very heavy, even in the 1/4 G of the station. Dafnord puts the tub down, steps back and draws his blaster. Morniesul casually draws his glamour blaster. A figure starts to emerge from the tub. It molds itself into an Aerna and quickly steps out of the tub. The Aerna looks the group over, constantly changing the angle of its head. We watch silently. It focuses on Dafnord, and says, "We require your presence."
After a pause, Dafnord asks, "Who are you?
"I am the Investigator." Even in KaiSenese, we can hear the capitals applied to the title.
Salimar, ever the liaison, asks, "Of what?"
Dafnord adds, "For whom?"
The Aerna replies, "I will not answer questions now."
Dafnord responds, "Then I don't go anywhere."
The Aerna regards Dafnord as if he were a particularly tasty insect. It says, "I require you to come with me."
Dafnord asks, "By who's authority?"
The Aerna repeats, "I will not answer questions now." Behind it, the tub is boiling again. Morniesul shifts his aim from the Aerna to the tub. "You may bring companions if you wish," it says.
"Where are we going?"
"To the Aerna encampment."
Salimar asks, "How long do you anticipate needing him?"
"That is consequent upon developments. Possibly 8 periods."
Dafnord comes to a decision, and says, "I'll be there in 2 periods, with companions."
"Very good." Unfortunately, the Aerna doesn't move to leave. It simply waits. Meanwhile, the tub has produced another Aerna. Unlike the Investigator, this one is clearly armed.
Dafnord points at the second Aerna. "Who is that?"
Salimar asks, "Do you have a name?"
The Aerna turns to regard her. "You may refer to me as the Investigator."
Dafnord goes into the ship and changes into his Kevlar armor. He then palms open the weapons cabinet and takes out a blaster rifle.
As a third Aerna forms from the tub, Morniesul says, "We require more privacy." He fires his glamour blaster above the newly arrived Aerna's head. It jumps out of the tub.
Sensing the commotion, Dafnord sends, <What happened?>
Morniesul calmly replies, <I told it that we need more privacy.>
Salimar asks, "How many more do you intend to bring here?"
The Investigator replies, "No more, since you have agreed to come."
Salimar has Robbie contact Officer Kwaf through the communication net. "Officer Kwaf, there are a bunch of Aerna here demanding that we come to their encampment."
Kwaf replies, "Do you feel threatened?"
Salimar replies, "Yes."
"Would it suffice if I met you at their encampment?"
As Officer Kwaf promises to meet us there and breaks the connection, Dafnord emerges from the airlock dressed for battle. "I'm ready to go now."
Salimar walks towards the ship, twirls around and comes back. She's different somehow. "Before we go, may I ask one more question?"
The Investigator replies, "Yes."
"What guarantees do you give for our safety?"
"I promise you that there will be no condign action taken at this time." It then heads off. None of us move. When the Investigator stops and looks back at us, Dafnord says, "After you and the bookends."
It looks puzzled for a moment, then it gestures, and they fall in with it. Dafnord (and the rest of us, excluding Katrina) follow.
Gannar turns to Salimar and says, "I picked up a visual from one of the platforms as I left the ship. There's a rectangular hole in the control room."
While they discuss whether to leave additional folks behind to investigate, Robbie pings the Nones and asks it if it knows about the hole. It replies that it's gone shopping. Nothing to worry about, and it's on its way back now. Robbie asks it to tell us if it goes walkies again.
Salimar and Gannar hurry after the rest.
As we go through the market, we hear a high-pitched voice pipe up, "Sentient Salimar? Sentient Dafnord!" We see Keefkeef, who comes up to Salimar. "I hear from Kwaf that there seems to be a difficulty with the Aerna."
Salimar relates the events of the past few minutes.
"This is very unusual. They're usually very aloof. Would you like me to accompany you as well?"
"As long as you don't feel that you're endangering yourself."
Keefkeef looks around and realizes what it's just walked into. Somehow it's not comforted. It says, "Kwaf will meet us there."
Salimar replies, "As he said."
Keefkeef falls in with us, but it doesn't seem happy about it.
The Aerna leads us to a relatively abandoned portion of the station. There's only six isolated groups in the one of the large concourses. We can see Officer Kwaf coming towards us from another entrance. Salimar recognizes five of the six encampments; groups that are known to like their privacy. The one that we're approaching is walled in with high white curtains. Officer Kwaf meets us at the entrance, and then the Investigator leads us through the curtain.
Morniesul lingers a bit to talk with Officer Kwaf, "I thought before we got too close to their encampment that I should remind you that the fight among the Blenari was instigated by an outside agency. Also, our sword was stolen by the 8th member of a race which only has 7 members on a the station."
"You are being, as you'd put it, 'set up.'"
The whole parade straggles into the Aerna encampment. As she approaches the curtain, Salimar launches a second sight. She can see a number of Aernas, which vary in size and coloration. There are some red ones, some blues ones. In all, there are eight Aerna. In the middle there's a whirlwind of brightly colored specks, too thick to see into. There are also other creatures; a white cylinder hovering in the air, a bright orange humanoid figure that she recognizes as a sim, a male Melior, and two Eo-human women. All are looking ill at ease.
There's a bit of stir among the Aernas as we arrive. The Investigator curls at Dafnord as it walks towards the whirlwind -- a gesture of beckoning? Gannar turns to Kate and says, "The second woman is an android."
The Investigator looks at the assembled crowd, waves a tendril at Dafnord. It then waves a tendril at the whirlwind, and it shrinks down to the floor. There's a dead Aerna on the floor. Under it is Umbra. Dafnord grunts in surprise at finding Umbra. He looks back at the Investigator.
Robbie asks the Nones to contact Elias and ask him to join us.
The investigator is looking at the crowd. The crowd is looking at Dafnord. The woman that Gannar identified as an android walks up to the inspector and says, "No." Then walks out the door. Each of the other members of the crowd follow and say variations on "No". The Melior says "No guilt sense at all."
The Aerna makes a curly gesture with its tendrils, but makes no other gesture. When they're all gone, the Inspector turns to Dafnord and asks, "Can you identify the weapon underneath the corpse.?"
"Not without touching it."
The Aerna waves at the circle, and it dims. "Please approach the circle until you can tell."
Dafnord walks up to the circle and crosses it without any apparent ill effect. Avoiding the pool of liquid pooled under the alien corpse, he squats down and grasps the swords' hilt. It's Umbra. He stands up, leaving it in place. "That's Umbra. I regret the loss of life. The sword was stolen from me 15 periods ago."
Salimar says, "The records are with the Consulate."
The Investigator looks at the Officer Kwaf and asks, "Is this the case?" The Naza confirms Salimar's statement. The Aerna continues, "The commercial verifiers testify that you have no guilt reaction at the sight of the victim and murder weapon."
Dafnord asks, "How long ago was it killed?"
The Investigator replies, "Four periods ago."
Salimar asks, "Is this a member of your clan?"
"This individual was known to all of us. I was unable to give you any details without possibly prejudicing the verifiers testimony."
Dafnord offers, "We'd be willing to help you in your investigation."
The Investigator gives him one of those insectoid stares, considering him from different vantage points. Finally, it replies, "I appreciate that."
Dafnord endures the examination, then continues, "One of my associates is skilled in retrocognition. If you'd let her touch Umbra, she may be able to determine what happened."
The Investigator agrees. Salimar crosses the circle and retrocogs on Umbra. She discovers that it was in some sort of heavy cloak from the time it was taken from Dafnord. At the near end of the gap, we see Umbra lying under the victim.
She then tries retrocoging on the victim. We see the creature walking alone across the sparsely occupied bay we're currently in. As we watch, a hole appears in the octarine glow, stalking the Aerna. The sword comes flashing out of the hole from behind the victim, swings around and slices the victim's throat. The sword is then dropped. The hole hangs around next to the victim until it's dead. Apparently simultaneously, the hole whisks away at high speed and the victim and sword vanish. We're left with an image of the empty hold. After an interval, the body and sword reappear. Salimar rolls back to the point where the sword appeared, Where the sword disappears into the hole, we can see a thick pink, organic-looking tentacle. The tentacle is much too thick to have belonged to a Threenaleen.
As Salimar lets the octarine glow face, The Investigator turns to an attenuated blue Aerna. The two of them speak in what we assume is the Aernan language. The Investigator then congratulates Salimar on her excellent skills at retrocognition. "You have at least revealed a portion of the killer. This is more than we had been able to penetrate."
Salimar modestly replies, "It is my duty to help."
Officer Kwaf offers to call in a forensic analysis team to examine the crime scene. The Investigator accepts. Shortly, silver caterpillars arrive and take samples. They keep a very respectful distance from the sword. The Inspector suggests, "I recommend that all involved pool their data. To certain perceptions, the sword is conspicuous."
Morniesul replies, "To certain persons, it could be used to discredit other people."
"Yes. I propose that I give you our data, since it quickly given. This individual went missing about 90 periods ago. It was found dead 4 periods ago. Psi efforts to discover details discovered nothing other than the crime was committed undercover. Bio-chemical analysis of traces on the sword matched this individual." The Investigator points at Dafnord. "There are traces of other organic compounds that do not include cellular debris."
Salimar asks, "What is the history of this individual? What was their profession, background, stature in the community, anything that might cause someone to want to kill it?"
"The victim had no enemies among us. No enemies that any of us know of. Had not socialized with any of the aliens. It's work was in matters of social research, but this was done via data search, not field work."
"You say it worked on records. Do you have its last notes, so we can see if it had accessed information that might be sensitive to someone?"
"I will check." It talks to a squat green Aerna, which goes through a gangtube.
Salimar's retrocognition indicated that the murder occurred a day ago, about when the Aerna went missing, and shortly after Umbra was stolen from Dafnord. Yet tests on the corpse show that the murder occurred about an hour ago. Interesting.
Salimar pulls out the Map of Here. It has an interesting signature here. And a second signature going "that-a-way." They are different signatures. The second trail winds through the enclave from pod to pod. It ends on one of the business levels, pod 4 level 6. It's a public space. Both signatures are unknown to the map, and different from each other.
Morniesul pulls out his copy of the Map of Here and agrees to lead the Forensic Team along the dimensional wrinkle indicated on the map. The silver caterpillars aren't quite sure what we're doing, but Officer Kwaf told them to help us, so they go along.
Dafnord asks if he can take his sword. The caterpillars don't want it any more, and neither does the Aerna. He heads to the Nones. One of the tall, thin blue Aerna offers him a white cloth. Dafnord declines, saying he needs special equipment. Dafnord manages to get back to the Nones without impaling anyone, anything, or anybody. He cleans it with a sonic stunner, puts it in its scabbard and locks it in the weapons locker. Along with the rest of his armament, except for a hand stunner.
Salimar, Robbie, Kate, and Brunalf set out to follow the dimensional wrinkle through the station to the far end. At the end point is a narrow alley between 2 booths. About a half meter wide. This definitely rules out a large being like a Thrass or a Naza. One on side is a plastic tarp, the other is a plasterboard wall. Below is a snakes' nest of cables carrying power, light, and data.
Salimar tries a hex clairvoyance. She discovers that the path was traversed in seconds. She then tries another retrocog. A slightly splotchy octarine glow appears. In the glow we see the hole move through the glow at a normal pace. She tries again from the point of view of one of the wall. There's a whoosh, and then a Threenaleen with yellow tentacles appears and calmly walks out and turns left.
Robbie ask a nearby Rioli shopkeeper for access to its security camera records for 6-4 periods ago. After seeing the octarine glow, it's willing to do just about anything we ask. When we replay the records for the specified time period, we see yet anoher view of the yellow-tentacled Threenaleen coming out of the alley and down the corridor. At least we know that our suspect is still using the same disguise.
As we thank the Rioli, the forensic caterpillars arrive and take samples from the alley. Once they're done, they say that they'll get back to us as soon as they have any information and head back to their lab. We return to the Nones.
Dafnord contacts Dame Abrahams and tells her that Umbra has been found
"Under a dead Aerna."
This doesn't get much of a reaction from the Private Investigator. "Oh. Did the Aerna accidentally kill itself?"
"We believe that the yellow-tentacled Threenaleen killed it."
"Oh. Do you wish any other professional services in regard to this case?"
"No, not at this time."
"Well, I will certainly follow it with interest."
Dafnord thanks her for her efforts and pays her double -- 64 lucre points. We'll never notice it.
Just moments after the connection is broken, Dafnord calls Dame Abrahams back. "I've changed my mind. I wish to continue to retain your services."
"OK. In what capacity?"
"I will wire you 2^10th lucre points. I want to know where the yellow-tentacled Threenaleen is. I'll have additional information sent to you. Please let me know if you need any additional information or money."
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved