Terkos sat in his spacious home on Glade. A year had passed since the harrowing days against the Borg. This lovely place had never really been threatened, but still he could feel the tension when he arrived, and although it was lessened, it was still there.
He looked out the window. An apartment building on the edge of Crystal had not been easy to get, but with diligence and determination he managed it. A little pull with the locals didn't hurt. Taraban had been as good as his word, he did everything in his power to get Terkos settled, and effectively vanished. His daughter Dania, adopted from wreckage of Wolf 359, played in the spacious, great room, with its breathtaking view of the plains and mountains beyond. After years in space Terkos now lived dirtside, even if he still worked in the great station complexes that orbited above.
A year of peace had relaxed him. After a few months of anxiety, and more than a few nightmares of the Praetor coming for him, he at last felt at ease.
Glade was a beautiful world, a pleasant climate, and an environment that had never been spoiled with industry. It was the only city in the El Nanth rosette. Six planets in a single orbit about the parent star. As he quickly learned, an artifact. The largest known artifact in the Galaxy. Captain Taraban had assured him that the Ane didn't build it. They had however, commissioned it. "Other races exist that have great technical capacity, but don't possess our sheer mass of intellect. We did some thinking for them, they moved a few planets for us. That was some 760,000 years ago. Who I can't tell you, it was part of the contract." That is what he told him. The six worlds housed 75% of the Ane population, and it wasn't concentrated.
His thoughts turned back to the day's events. A most unpleasant day indeed. The number five reprocessor was malfunctioning, and diagnostics indicated a jammed mass in the intake. It was a jammed mass all right, about 184 kilos worth, and caught up on its horns. He had called station security. It was no one he knew personally. Still it bothered him. Assassination might have been the way back on Romulus to get ahead, but it was not the way here, he had absorbed that much of the local culture. The male was a charcoal grey, with streaks of white in the black mane. Jewels glinted from insets in his horns, and the blue eyes looked lifelessly passed their long lashes. He had a neck pouch, but nothing therein held a clue to identity. For these people, identity was in the mind, but this mind was gone. Security called medical, and said they would check around. Someone would miss him. Medical took the beautiful creature away, and Terkos cleaned up the reprocessor, and got it back on line.
On the horizon a thunderhead was building in the hot summer air. Terkos felt the metaphor was a not an inappropriate one.
Work the next day seemed normal enough. It was clouded by the events of the day before, but the training he had been getting from a local Vulcan dance instructor proved useful. He steeled his mind against the unpleasant thoughts, and did what needed to be done.
He sensed rather than saw the person enter the maintainance bay. He had one of the large access panels open, and was fiddling with the controls. This particular air conditioner was troublesome. He figured to recommend its replacement at the monthly review.
"Don't toyn around." The voice had a strange accent, but his own standard was improving. The threat was plainly implied.
"Very well, I am not turning." He adjusted the access panel cover slightly, he now had a plain look at the man in the near mirrored finish.
"Dat dead deer, it, like had a neck pouch."
"That is possible."
"Don't mess wid me man, or I gonna drill ya. It had a neck pouch. What was in it?"
The man was of middle height and build, wore new station maintainance coveralls and carried a phaser. The small Starfleet personal type. His name patch said "Bud", Terkos had serious doubts as to the veracity of that statement, but noted it.
"I do not know, I did not open it."
"Yous is messing wid me man, everybody looks for da ID."
"Security opened the neck pouch. I was not informed of the contents."
"Yous Vulcans don't do no lies, man."
"Vulcans do not lie." Romulans on the other hand are quite capable of it Terkos thought.
"Yous just forget I was ever here, yous will live a lot longer pointy ears."
The man turned to leave, Terkos let him, one hand firmly on the phaser in his toolkit. The one he liberated from a wounded Starfleet officer a year ago. After the door closed Terkos moved swiftly to the exit, and weapon in hand went through. Nothing. The man was no where in sight. Terkos fixed the man's features firmly in his mind. He would inform station Security, but casually. He felt he was being watched.
The rest of the day passed without incident until near the end of his shift. He was called up to security substation 14. The place was a shambles. Medical personal tended two officers, they looked dead. A door had been blasted open. Security personal were everywhere. Since no one was paying him much mind he went to the obvious point of station damage, the door. The lock had been slaged by a thermal charge of some kind, and the door forced. Inside two Security officers worked. One went through a pile of miscellaneous objects, while the other checked them off on a PADD. Terkos busied himself with the door, but kept an eye on everything else as well. The security personal seemed at a loss. He found someone that looked in charge.
"Excuse me, but how quickly must that chamber be secured?"
The man turned to his question as if he did not understand it. His gaze was distant.
Terkos tried again. "Must that chamber be secured soon? Are the contents sensitive?"
"No, no." The fellow found his voice at last. "Its the lost and found. We use it as a evidence locker as well. As soon as inventory is taken, I'll have everything moved to substation 15. You can work on it then."
Terkos thought it over, this was the substation nearest to reprocessor five. He turned to the fellow once again. "Is this where the Ane that was killed was brought?"
"No, they took the body to medical, his effects where brought here."
"I can tell you what is missing in that case."
The officer looked at him as if stunned. He motioned over his shoulder.
"The Chief is in my office. Come on, I'll introduce you."
The Chief was a middle-aged human tending to a pot belly and with a stocky body and a balding head. When the officer and Terkos entered he was in the intercom, with seeming urgent matters. Once he had finished, the officer spoke.
"Chief Williams, this is Terkos, from station maintenance, he seems to think he knows what was taken."
The chief looked Terkos over with an "oh really" look.
"OK, lets hear it."
Terkos spoke, "I was accosted this morning by an armed man wearing maintenance coveralls. He demanded of me to reveal the contents of the dead Ane's neck pouch. He was threatening, but took no overtly violent action. I assured him I did not know what was in that neck pouch. It would be my conclusion, that you will find that neck pouch missing."
"Can you describe him?"
"Yes sir, I had a panel door open, and the inner surface was well polished. He was human in appearance, 1.8 meters tall, of average weight. His hair was black, I could not make out his eye color. He was possessed of a remarkably long and sharp nose, and a clef chin. He was wearing a coverall such as I am now with the name 'Bud' on the left hand side. I would assume this garment has been discarded. He was armed with a small Starfleet issue hand phaser."
"I have a few questions of my own."
"Why does this situation have you so perplexed? Did not security surveillance pickup spot the murder? And how did they possibility break into this substation?"
Williams rubbed his temples in a gesture Terkos had come to associate with frustration and fatigue.
"This station has been here for nearly 200 years. The worse crime we usually have to deal with are petty theft and bar brawls, once in a while we get smugglers, not that there is much to smuggle. We haven't had a serious 'crime' on this station in over 50 years. Frankly, we are a bunch of bar bouncers and tenders of the lost and found. If any of us had skills in crime solving they would have wasted away by now. Second, there is no 'security surveillance' except in the military and customs areas of the station. This entire situation is beyond me."
"I was trained as a proctor before my assignment as station maintenance."
"In the vernacular I believe that was, I trained as a military policeman before I was resigned."
Williams looked like a drowning man that had just found a life raft. "Can you help us with this?"
"Who in the government must I see for permission and authority? These persons have disturbed my life and peace."
"How long have you lived here?"
"A year, is this a matter of importance?"
"You don't get it yet, do you?"
'What am I to get Officer Williams?"
"There is no government! No one to ask permission or authority of!"
Terkos sat a moment, and thought this one over. He spoke slowly. "If there is no government, who maintains order?"
"The Ane hire people like me to administer civil matters with outlanders. Outlanders only live on stations, and the city of Crystal below. Outlanders are any sentient that is not Ane. We have a law code to follow and we follow it. No oversight, at least no oppressive oversight, or any oversight I have noticed. I know it is there. The Ane have no government."
"Among themselves. Nothing you or I would call a government. No leaders you can point to, no structure you can chart. So, if you wish to investigate this matter, I will not stop you, and will help you."
"What of this oversight you do not see, but speak of?"
"My predecessor was ridden out on a rail for trying to turn the station into a petty dictatorship. He didn't even get a chance to profit. I have also had orders from the Seala in Law to release certain prisoners."
"Who is this Seala in Law, and what prisoners?"
"A Seala is a specialist of some kind, a mix between professor and tribal elder."
"A government then."
"No, no authority outside of the All, but respected for his or her knowledge. I really don't know how it works. The prisoners where both men that killed another in brawls. In both cases I was told, not asked, but told that, `No natural crime was committed, release him.' I'm hired, I listen to the boss."
"And if a crime is committed, a murder is decreed?"
"There was one two years ago, dirtside. I understand a court was appointed of local outlanders, he was convicted, and the Ane took him out, and kicked him to death. Left his body to the scavengers and elements. I don't understand them. On one hand they seem kind to a fault, then they do something like that. One killing isn't murder, another is. Here, have a security comm-badge, I'll tell your boss your transferred for the duration."
Terkos caught the tossed object.
"Get a weapon on the way out. And another piece of advice, don't go anywhere on this place without one."
Terkos left slightly confused, and a little worried.
By the time Terkos had left the security area he decided that a visit to Mike was in order. He stopped by a public comm, called his concierge, he ordered dinner planed for Dania, called the baby-sitting service he used, explained he would be late, and headed for the Sky Room. The Sky Room was the best restaurant and bar on the station. It was the only one with a 360 degree view. It also boasted Mike Carter, the bartender. It was the only establishment on the staion that had a living bartender.
Terkos breezed in and took a seat. Mike was a tall human with a long face, and easy manner. He either had, or affected an accent Terkos had heard called "British".
"Good evening Terkos, how might I be of service?" Mike had a way with words.
"Lemonade, light on the sugar, and your ear."
"We are speaking of the murder, are we not?"
"We are. The entire station knows?"
"And everyone aware in the parsec without a doubt. Ask, and it shall be given unto you."
"I seek the murder."
"I have serious doubts you seek only one."
"What is your reasoning here?"
"Observe the facts if you will. Have you ever attempted to sneak up on a Telepath?"
"No, I have tried fighting one." He ruefully rubbed just under his ribs.
"Then you know they are difficult to surprise at best."
"Not impossible, I have done it."
"You are still alive, I must assume a happy resolution for you."
"I am not displeased."
"Very well, Ane are as wary a people as you will come across. They come from prey stock. The are possessed of good vision, excellent hearing and olfactory senses, plus telepathy. You must be innocent as a rose to get close enough to engage one, and strong or skilled enough to kill on the first blow. Fail, and either they shall turn on you with a vengeance, or they depart in the proverbial puff of smoke. The killers must have acted without witnesses. And without the victim being aware of the danger. Second, a dead Ane would be a difficult mass to shift. It would take two men to get an Ane into a reprocessor chute, and it would require some time."
"I do not know the Ane was `engaged'. This will matter."
"Yes, cause of death is an important thing."
"I was threatened by a human this morning that wished the contents of the Ane's neck pouch. He possessed an unusual accent I have not heard before."
"Can you duplicate it?"
Terkos thought a moment, "Yous better not toyn around, ors I drill ya."
Mike leaned back on the bar a moment rubbing his chin. "Most curious, I would say that if your simulation is accurate you are dealing with an Iotian. Certain parts of their culture are based on Chicago gangs of the 1920s."
"Where is this Chicago?"
"Oh, a city of Earth, in the North American continent. It doesn't exist any more, at least the original city does not. New Chi-town is some miles to the north of the old location."
"Would study of this culture be useful?"
"Certainly, knowing what they sought, and if they have it would be even more useful."
"Indeed. What ever it was, it must be able to fit in an Ane's neck pouch, and if it was indeed in the pouch, they likely have it."
"It would also have to be valuable enough to murder for."
Terkos leaned back and sipped his lemonade. "And this is where the quandary exists. We have no idea what they seek."
"I have certain connections with the low end of station life. I can keep an ear open. If the sought item is still sought, I may hear about it."
"I for my part will find out how the unfortunate died." Terkos knocked back the rest of the lemonade. "Mike, where do you get this lemonade, it doesn't taste replicated."
"It isn't. Did you think I could get away with serving replicated lemon perched above the garden spot of the Federation?"
"I suppose not, I just never thought of it that way."
"Six worlds ideally suited for agriculture, even with the mere fraction the Ane allow for cultivation, they export megatons of produce a year."
Terkos mused this over as he left. It might be important, it might not.
Terkos soon reached the medical complex of the station. A consultation with the front desk sent him to the station morgue Once there the doctor in charge, a human woman of middle years, opened the drawer the Ane was kept in. The body was intact.
"Have you performed the autopsy?"
"Yes, invasive measures where not required."
"What was the cause of death?"
The woman pointed to a spot on the back of the Ane's head.
"Severe blow to the rear cranium. A small object of high speed. However, of insufficient mass to penetrate the bone or flesh. It hit just the right spot With him in the right position. He had to have his head fully back, a threat or defensive display. Any other circumstance and a blow to that part of the neck would hit only flesh. It didn't have time to bruise much even. Secondary blows across the top of the head where administered, but unnecessary." She pointed out the indicated areas.
"Has identity been established?"
"No, the Ane are seeking that now. In any case they have no ceremony where the dead body is concerned."
"It seems that they should find this quickly."
"Not necessarily. The All is not every Ane at every moment, so I was told. It might take days to find who is missing, unless the family finds out sooner. Two things I can tell you. He was an adult male over 5 years of age, and he had no close emotional ties."
"How do you know the latter?"
"The fact they are telepaths. If he had close emotional ties, that person, or persons would have known of his death at once."
"And if they had reason to hide the fact?"
"I can't see it. I can't think of a single reason the Ane would hide when one of their own is cut down. They are very direct about retribution.
"That in itself may be the reason."
"Was any murder weapon or trace found?"
"No, none. The object was very small however, and would have to be propelled at great speed. Some manner of projectile weapon. No hand could have made the blow."
"One more thing Doctor, are there devices that block telepathy?"
"Yes, several, variations on devices the Ane themselves invented."
Terkos took his thoughts home. He doubted Mike would find anything as soon as the same night. He feared he would find nothing. The thing sought would have been in the neck pouch and taken, the criminals flown. Such was often the case in the few investigations he did undertake before his transfer.
Leathalan and her humanoid bio where waiting when he got home. Dania was crawling all over her as usual. The Ane looked concerned when he came in.
**You are troubled Terkos.**
"Yes, I am. Will you stay a moment? Dania it is time for bed."
"Daddy." The child looked petulant. "You where gone all day."
"Yes sweet one, there where matters of concern. Now, come to bed and I might have a surprise for you in the morning."
Dania went, not entirely willing. After the nightly rituals where finished Terkos returned to the great room, Leathalan was still waiting.
She spoke first. **You have matters you wish me to attend to?**
"Yes, I am investigating the murder on the station. I have been accosted once today, and fear my family might be threatened as well."
Leathalan darkened. **I see, you have decided then to concern yourself?**
"It is accomplished, 'they' who ever they may be have concerned me when they threatened me. I will make war upon them as they have made threats against me."
**What did you have in mind?**
"For Dania, a holiday elsewhere. What ever elsewhere you consider safe."
**You are concerned for the child?**
"My address is a matter of public record. To coerce me, Dania would be the perfect tool. I do not intend she should be a tool, even if they have not contemplated the move as of yet." Terkos was feeling the Romulan in him rise. "The good warrior anticipates his foes moves, and thwarts them before they are made."
Terkos stopped, his face in deep thought. "I have yet another idea, that might flush the quarry. I have noted how little is known about Ane even among those that live and work among them. Are you adverse to a deception."
**That would depend on the nature of the deception.**
"The plan is this. Have a number of Ane go and claim the body. Let rumor rise that you have taken the name of the murderer from the dead one's mind, and now seek them."
**You know well that is not possible.**
"I know, but I wager the murderer does not."
**Would not this knowledge made public cause the murderer to flee?**
"Yes, the chase could be difficult if they have their own ship."
**We could make to learn the knowledge. This might draw them out to prevent it.**
Terkos said. "This is true, and their flight is not what we want." He sat a moment longer. "How much do you know of the Vulcan Fal-tor-pan ceremony?"
**What I myself do not know, others will.**
"Make it that. You must finish severing the soul's ties to the body, and in the process you will learn all. May the murderer come forth to stop this, and we shall be ready for him."
Laughter, a biting laughter welled in her thoughts. **Terkos, we will make an Ane of you yet. I shall see Dania to a safe spot tomorrow, and I will stay in her room tonight. Meanwhile, plans will be made, and rumors started.**
Terkos spent the night in the great room. The light and shadows of the moons played across the floor and walls, some curious, some threatening in their non-substance. Meditation passed for sleep as he thought over the implications. What secret did they seek, and did they have it? What was worth the risk of becoming an anonymous pile of bones in a place unknown, and unmarked by your family.
Morning was busy. Dania was thrilled to see more of the system, but disappointed that Terkos was not coming. He promised her he would join her later, in a few days he hoped. He promised himself that he would be careful so to keep that promise.
Once Leathalan and Dania had left he called the station on the comm-badge he had been given and got direct transport. It seems security had some advantages.
Terkos had always keep his ear to the ground. Rumor told much to he that listened with a careful ear. By the time he reached his "office" in maintainance he had heard a number of "interesting rumors". That the Ane where questioning everyone on the station by telepathy was a common tale. Another was that they had "sniffer" teams that would find the murderer by scent. This was even plausible. Had he not known the source, he might accept this one himself. Also and most important, that the Ane where to perform some ceremony that would lay the ghost to rest, and reveal his last moments of life to them.
His first order of business was to see Mike. Terkos slid onto a stool.
"So, have you learned anything?"
"What ever they seek, they are still looking for it. However, I have learned a little more as to what is being looked for. It would not fit into the neck pouch most Ane wear."
"So my 'friend' was either on the side of the operation, or ill informed."
"That would seem to be the case, but again, it might not be. Exactly what is being sought is still being kept close to the chest. The most I could learn was 'a ball'."
"A ball, they are willing to kill for a ball?"
"It would not be a wild stretch of the imagination to say it was not just a ball, but a ball with properties that are most desirable."
"Is anything about the ball being said?"
"A silverly ball, covered in jewels.' Right now 10,000 FC is being offered for its, 'return'. All on the hush-hush you understand. Any open offer would attract official attention."
"It would be desirable to say we have the item. However, proof will be sought, and proof I do not have. A fake would be detectable, I would think. If they are still seeking it. It has to be where they cannot easily find it."
"If we had an identity, we could search the gent's quarters."
"It is not in anyone's quarters Mike."
"How can you know that?"
"We do not know identity, I have every reason to think the killers did. Quarters, if they exist have been searched fruitlessly. They still seek the item."
"Have you other ideas?"
"A few. I will discuss them later."
Terkos got up from the bar. "I have a few inquiries to make, after that I might have something to discuss."
Terkos made his way to station security. The idea was still a faint glimmer in his mind, but he had a feeling the "ball" was still at the murder site. Either it had gone into the reprocessor, and was gone for good, or it was somewhere else in that area. That somewhere else could be almost anywhere in the section. Terkos walked into security.
"I am hear to see the Chief." He announced.
A few moments later he was in Chief Williams' office.
"Good morning sir. I have a few requests as per the running investigation."
"Within reason, what can I do for you?"
"I want heavy security patrols in the area of the murder. Do anything reasonable. Sweep for clues, fingerprints, auras, what ever you can do to close the area to normal traffic."
"There is a reason I assume?"
"Yes, I believe the item that is sought is still in that area. I wish to deny safe access to that area to whomever is seeking the item."
"Why don't we just look?"
"We shall, but we shall look for everything but what we seek. As we will find nothing of value, no matter what we find. Our prey is clever, but desperate, we must foster that desperation and draw him out, force him to abandon his goal, or risk the open to obtain it. Send your best crews and most important, closed mouthed crews into the area. Use all the techniques, let them speak of how little they know or have found, and question their Chief's wisdom at, 'fishing expeditions' I believe that is the term. Let them spend all day at this, and I shall act as the maintenance liaison."
"You think anything will be found?"
"Perhaps, but the main purpose is to deny access, and allow other plans to come to fruition."
As he expected, Terkos spent the balance of the day opening panels, and guarding switches from curious hands. The only fruitful clue found by the team was the apparent murder weapon, or at least the projectile. A small deformed wad of plastic and metal. It showed signs of cordite, a primitive propulsive used in projectile weapons.
Terkos did however take the time to examine the upper accesses of the ventilation system. He did indeed find something interesting. What he found there, he told no one.
Ibbos the Hawk, moved carefully. Even on the gamma shift medical was not empty. He had no plans for being seen. The fewer that saw him, the less he had to deal with.
The morgue was manned by a single orderly. A phaser stun took him out without a sound, or more importantly seeing anything. A quick examination of the database found the drawer that the right body was in. He had better make this quick. He checked the function of his getaway button, everything was working.
He moved quickly and quietly to the right drawer. "Gads," he thought "death houses made me nervous. Best get this over and done." He opened the drawer. The creature was laid out. It was the right one, that he remembered. He checked the setting on his phaser and aimed.
It moved. Ibbos stood rooted to the floor. The head came up, the eyes opened a livid electric glowing blue. The mouth gaped, a fetid stench issued forth.
**Have you come to kill me again?**
The voice grated, it hurt to hear.
"NO" Ibbos shouted, "I didn't kill no ones. Rikki did it, Rikki puled the trigger man!"
**You where there, I remember you.** The thing was getting up from the slab.
"NOOOO! Be dead, yous DEAD, Rikki did it, RIKKI!!"
Ibbos suddenly found action in his fear. He fired the phaser, it went clean through the rising body. Alarms shrilled in the background, and went unheard.
"DIE DAMIT, YOUS DEAD, BE DEAD!!!"
Something grabbed his arm with a strength that could not be denied, the phaser was knocked from his grasp and skittered across the floor. Ibbos turned toward it, suddenly aware of the alarms. A hand ripped the transport button from his jacket. It was the Vulcan from maintenance. The room was full of Ane, and the table before him was empty and blasted, still warm from the phaser.
Terkos spoke. "I think you have much to answer for."
Ibbos looked around, confused. "Where did all des people come from?"
"We have been present from the beginning. You have received a unique demonstration of telepathic illusion. Now, unless you are willing to talk truthfully and swiftly, you will receive a demonstration of telepathic mind ripping."
Ibbos saw no mercy, and no humor in the Vulcan's eyes. "Alright, I'll talk."
Terkos turned the man over to the security mechs, and retrieved the phaser. He placed the button on the floor, and fired his own phaser at it. It left a nice burn mark on the floor. "Killed in the line of duty, a pity. Come, Security will want to investigate the matter. We should clear the scene." With that he suited actions to words.
"Name?" Terkos paced before the prisoner.
"Ibbos da Hawk." Said the sharp faced man seated in the chair.
"Where is Rikki?"
"I don nos."
"I suggest, that you do know, and I believe that you do know. And if you do not tell me willingly, my impatient to know friend here is going to rip it out of your brain."
The Ane also at the interrogation tried to look as menacing as possible. She wasn't succeeding very well.
"What kind of Vulcan is yous anyway?"
"Oh" replied Terkos, "I am not a Vulcan at all." He leaned over the prisoner. "I am Romulan."
Ibbos looked afraid for the first time since the revenant illusion in the mourge.
Terkos put on his sweetest voice. "Now, once again, where is Rikki?"
"Rikki is on da SS Bloodmoney."
"And what are you looking for?"
"Dat ball ting."
"And what is the 'ball thing'?"
"I don't nos, it's a ball ting." The man was all but sobbing.
Terkos turned to the Ane.
**He is telling the truth, he has no idea what it is other than it is a ball.**
Terkos turned back to Ibbos. "And where you present when the Ane was shot?"
**He is lying**, from the Ane.
"Once again please, it would be much simpler for you to tell us all about it, and truthfully. Patience is wearing thin. You time as a sentient creature is rapidly reaching an end."
"Don't I get counsel or somtin, I want a mouthpiece."
Terkos looked at his fellow interrogator, then back at Ibbos.
"I can see you do not understand the gravity of the situation. There are no courts, or lawyers, or any such governmental bodies here. Robbery, murder and like crimes are matters of private concern. Ane are a just people, and mostly fair. If you where truthfully not responsible for the killing, they will not punish you. If you hide your responsibility they might do you permanent injury seeking that truth. You only armor is in the truth Ibbos. I am a private citizen in this matter. My concern is only that you involved me. I am as close to counsel as you will get. Now, the truth, or I leave the room, and leave you to your fate."
"Yous means they woulds rip my brain up to find me innocent."
"And deeply regret the loss."
"And if I talk?"
"The truth can set you free, or condemn you. Lies will only condemn you."
Ibbos looked at the choices. "I was talking to da guy."
"He said he was Galerban."
"What where you talking about?"
"Dat ting, he didn't say what it was."
"Did you know at the time."
"No, I didn't nos anyting."
"Wes talked, da boss wanted da ball ting, but I didn't nos it was a ball den. He had a ball, I remembers it kinda hung between 'is horns, but it went somewhers, I don't remember, we couldn't find it. Wells we argue, me and the deerguy. I said what da boss wanted, he refused to sell. I move at him and he kinda sat back and pulled his head up. Den Rikki got, like impatient. He shot 'im. Dumb bastish coudda hit me. Said, wes take him to da boss, and talk. But dem safety bullets de killed 'im. De wasn't so safe. I thot I hear someone commin. Rikki told me help dump 'im in da trash, dat would get rid of da body."
"Who is the boss?"
"Rabba da Brow, he owns da ship."
"That would be the SS Bloodmoney?"
"Yea, dats the ship."
"What was it the Boss told you to say?"
"He said asy, 'I has the money, yous give me da ting." The Boss didn say what da ting was. You guy givven me immunity? Das kill me fo talkin."
"That will be up to the Ane, they will decide your fate. Security, lock him up."
Terkos turned to the observers. "I believe you have the names you need. The SS Bloodmoney is at dock 57."
Calsialan, his fellow interrogator spoke up. **I believe the ship is being secured at this very time.**
An alarm rang, the chilling sound of the stationers worst fear, air breach, followed by the intercom.
"Security to dock 57, maintenance to dock 57. Breakaway and hull breach at dock 57."
Terkos was out the door.
They arrived at the dock in time to catch the clean up crew. The entire area was under pressure lock down. A team was in pressure suits working to place a force field outside the broken lock so pressure could be restored.
Chief Williams was present. "The SS Bloodmoney was ordered to power down, and prepare to be boarded. They broke the lock and took off. System Defense is on their tail right now."
"Is their a view screen?"
"Yes over here."
The lot of them retreated to an alcove with a few controls for the lock, and a view screen. Williams tuned in the opps channel. A good sized freighter was being persued by one of the small System Defense ships. A cutter with more than enough speed and firepower. They listened to the comm traffic;
"SS Bloodmoney, this is System Defense ship Vigilance, you will surrender your ship or be fired on."
"Stick it in your craw copper, yous never take us alive."
"SS Bloodmoney, surrender your ship."
"Up yours four legs."
The Vigilance reached out with phasers and cut into the Bloodmoney's warp nacelles. Explosions rocked the large ship, it began to slow and the Cutter was catching up quickly.
"SS Bloodmoney, surrender your ship and prepare to be boarded."
The hull of the Bloodmoney suddenly bloated, and burst in a cataclysm of fire. The Vigilance took an evasive dive and just missed being engulfed as well. Williams turned from the screen, Terkos stood, and watched the fading embers of the dead ship. A long silence reigned.
Terkos spoke first. "Only one of those was wanted for murder."
"Two security officers where pulled off the station when they broke free."
"Unnecessary deaths." Terkos turned away. "In any case, I have some answers and a few questions, for anyone that wishes to hear them."
Two hours later they where in Chief Williams' office in main security. Several Ane had joined them including Falan, a striking female with a white coat, except for her black markings. She wore a curious jeweled ornament over her head and neck. Terkos felt as if he was holding court.
Falan spoke. **So, what have you learned?**
"The true motivations are beyond me, I cannot conclude the business totally because a good many answers were on the Bloodmoney, when she self destructed."
**Are you sure it was self destruction?**
"Yes, fairly sure. That was not a warp core breach, nor did the explosion begin in engineering.
In any case, my conclusions." Terkos brought a 16cm sphere out of a box, it was silvery metal covered in spots that where jewel-like facets. Curiously he was holding it down.
"This seems to be the cause of all the commotion. I found it among the air conditioning duct work above the reprocessor dump. This is the item sought, unless I am far wrong. Unfortunately I haven't found a way to turn it off. If I let go, it dives for the ceiling."
The ball suddenly dropped out from under his hand, floated briefly a foot off the floor, and then glided over to the desk, and came to rest. Terkos raised an eyebrow.
Falan spoke. **What you have there is a rare piece of technology. A set of 'hands'. It is new, very new, and as of yet very expensive to make. The circuits are too fine for replication. As to date, each is hand made. It is a number of light tractor/pressor units with a sophisticated mental interface. It allows objects of up to twenty kilos to be moved or manipulated by the Ane that controls it. We have tested the device on worlds where our more humanoid bios are less than welcome, humanoid robots bother some people. This bit of machinery seems to be more acceptable. The problem has been getting it to the point of mass production. Its former owner was my son, and the developer of the device.**
"My condolences. My only regret is we did not bring the murderer to trial. My questions is to why you did not identify him sooner?"
**To answer your regrets and questions, you drove the killer to kill himself, that is enough. My regret is he took others with him, compounding the murder. As to your question, this son of mine went his own way 120 years ago, our ties where not close.**
Terkos cleaned his throat and continued. "Near as I can tell, the murder was an accident. This Rabba the Brow wished to buy the device, but didn't want his goons to know what it was. They killed your son trying to take him prisoner. Criminal activity in any case. I believe that Ibbos the Hawk is to be turned over to you for punishment?"
**We have decided to make him walk.**
**We drop him a thousand kicks from Crystal with a knife, a compass, a guide on local poisonous plants, and his wits. If these get him back to Crystal, he gets a free ticket out system, and a warning to never return.**
"A most unusual punishment. Is it common?"
**Its difficulty makes its use mostly unnecessary.**
Terkos continued. "Not knowing it was that device they sought, the men where interrupted before they could search the body, and dumped him in the processor chute, from there we know the tale."
**What made you think they would risk discovery to gain the hands?**
"There where willing to kill, and after they killed, willing to keep looking. An item highly valued. Valued above life itself it seems. I consider it a poor trade. They acted as I suspected they would act. Their behavior before me demonstrated a poor understanding of Ane, therefore clever tales of any customs or abilities would be believed. We were fortunate that a degree of superstition was also present. It worked in our favor."
Chief Williams spoke up. "I have one question. If you are so good at this, why did you leave the proctors for station maintenance?"
"I did not leave Chief. I was transferred. I seems I possessed an unfortunate zeal for justice, and an under appreciation for politics. I caught a Senator's son doing things he should not have been doing. I would seek to press charges. I was transferred so I could not. As too many others knew of my actions, it was not safe to kill me. Indeed, my vanishing from the Empire could have unpleasant consequences for the young man. I left certain instructions as to my personal belongings should I vanish. Those belongings where in the care of my Parents, and I have vanished."
Chief Williams cleared his throat. He looked uncomfortable. At last he spoke again.
"Falan, I hate to do this, but I have had enough. I have an offer to organize corporate security for a firm earthside. I will be taking that job. I have lost three people in three days. Failed to get anywhere close to a murderer, and ended up blowing him up without trial. Even then I required outside help. You can consider my resignation tendered."
**I would be sorry to see you go Paul. However, I will not attempt to keep you in a job you feel uncomfortable in. I don't consider any of this your fault, I want you to understand this. I will accept your resignation, if you allow me to tender a severance in line with you excelent past service.**
"I won't refuse."
**How long will you stay? I need someone to break the new man in.**
"Two weeks is standard, I'll give you that."
Falan turned to Terkos. **It seems I need a chief of security that is flexible, and knows the job. Are you interested?**
Terkos thought a moment. "Are you this Seala in Law I have heard a little of?"
**No, I am... There is no word for it. A combination of Elder, keeper of tradition, and 'holder of the sacred flame'. Call me the First Speaker of the All.**
Terkos' eyes widened, he bowed low. "Excuse me madam, I had no idea of your station."
He felt her laughter. **Please, no royal honors, I am hardly worthy of that. Every network needs a coordinator, I am it. It is more work than honor, it might be said the work consumes me. I really have no profession or hobbies that are metally consuming. Talking to non-Telepaths is a tiring task.**
Terkos stood and spoke. "Yes, madam, I will take the job. Until this came up I did not realize how much I missed my chosen profession. First however, I wish to join my daughter. I promised I would do so, I like to keep my promises."
The Price -- Garry Stahl, November 1997
A first look at the El Nanth system, and what passes for government there. Ane possess 2,000,000 years of recorded history. What planet they originate from is not known. It was however noted that they occupied several worlds, including a "native" Earth population long before the rise of historic human cultures. (The writer reserves the possibility of sophisticated human cultures long before the rise of civilization as we know it. Because it was not preserved, does not mean it didn't exist.) At the time of Earth's discovery of the Warp drive, no Ane world possessed a star drive of any kind. However, all of them seem to know about the other Ane worlds. The All is not limited by space.
The El-Nanth system was the largest artifact known in the Federation until the discovery of the Dyson Sphere by the Enterprise D (the Jenolen never reported her find 75 years earlier.) The six worlds orbit the sun in the same orbit equidistant from each other. Five of the worlds are teraformed, only the largest, Savanna, is not teraformed. It is also recorded as the only world in the rosette that was originally in this orbit. Common names for the six worlds are Clockwise from Savanna looking down from the Solar north; Savanna, Veldt, Aurora, Meadow, Eliyssum, and Glade.
According to the Ane the Rosette was a work commissioned 760,000 years before the 24th century. They will not reveal the makers, as that would break the contract. One might assume that the makers are still around, or the Ane have an extremely well developed sense of honor.
A brief over view of the rosette worlds:
Savanna, Home world of record for the Ane
Gravity; 1.02 G
Diameter; 8500 miles
Sentient Species; Ane
Veldt, Nothing special
Gravity; 9.88 G
Diameter; 6900 miles
Sentient Species; Ane
Aurora, Major industrial mineral producer including Dilithium, gold, and Aruroa power crystals. These are not sold.
Gravity; 1.1 G
Diameter; 7050 miles
Sentient; Species; Ane
Meadow, Nothing special
Gravity; 1.005 G
Diameter; 7200 miles
Sentient Species; Ane
Eliyssum, Nothing special
Gravity; 1.06 G
Diameter; 7300 miles
Sentient Species; Ane
Glade, Capitol of Record for the Ane Confederation. All outworlder contact is done through this planet.
Gravity; 1 G
Diameter; 7150 miles
Sentient Species; Ane
El Nanth is also known as a producer of Fresh Produce, Information systems, (Nanotech Crystalmind Computer Systems), light space craft, and industrial and medical waldos of exacting precision.
El Nanth has three space stations of note. High Crystal, the main traffic and trade station is the second largest. El Nanth Space Dock is the largest, it is in solar orbit outside the rosette. This serves as a Starbase for Starfleet and a home port for all Ane military and exploration craft. The smallest is the Aurora industrial station in orbit around Aurora. All mining is strictly underground with zero emissions permitted. Yield is transported to the station. Form there is goes to High Crystal.
The El Nanth system contains no other major planets. An extensive asteroid belt, called "the grinder", at the equivalent of Neptune's orbit are the only other bodies in the system. None of them is larger than 200 km in diameter. Astrophysicists believe the rest of the system was cleared to prevent any perturbation of the delicate balance of the rosette. The debris were dumped in the grinder.
There is an old space dog legend that somewhere in the grinder are the massive tractor ships used to move the planets. It is however, just a legend.
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Epiphany Trek: The Stories
The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
Copyright Garry Stahl: November 1997. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.