Authors: Gregg Vann
Copyright © 2012
by Gregg Vann
All rights reserved. No part of this
work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic
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my mother, Jan
for pushing me out into the light.
more importantly, for pushing even harder every day since.
They always call me in on the tough ones.
Missing persons cases where only fragments of evidence exist,
sometimes at the subatomic level; disasters in space where a ship has been lost
in a black hole or completely vaporized by a sun; and then there’s my personal
favorite, the suspicious death where the victim was eaten and partially
digested by his own unique
—an exotic alien carnivore.
That one was…messy.
Throw in the occasional assassination, cross border piracy, and the
growing problem of inter-Sector human trafficking, and I’d amassed an extensive
history of cases and experiences to draw from. At this point in my career I’d
been a Special Inquisitor for more than a hundred years, and I was convinced
that I’d seen it all, but this new assignment took the proverbial cake.
kidnapping case was special indeed…as was the victim.
Val Evans was famous, unquestionably one the most prominent women
in the galaxy. As the inventor of the Permalife treatment, she was wealthy beyond
anyone’s practical measurement of possession (or
that matter). Her genetic discoveries allowed people to live as long as they wished,
simply by restructuring their DNA to prevent aging.
Well maybe it wasn’t
simple. But it worked.
But unlike most of her wealthy contemporaries, everyone who knew her
liked her. Hell, everyone
her. Even the God’s Plan zealots respected
Evans as a unique child of god, even if they did strongly disagree with her
work. They believed her genetic manipulations infringed on the purview of a
much higher power.
As far as anyone knew she didn’t have a single enemy in the
universe, yet her small starship was discovered abandoned on the airless moon
where she made her home—found in the middle of one of the large, open plains that
dotted the private satellite bearing her name. It had crashed less than two
kilometers from the pressure dome housing her expansive residence.
The pilot’s frozen corpse was the only thing left inside the small
vessel, and the pin-point laze burn through the center of his forehead told the
story clearly enough; Val Evans had been taken. The local Sector authorities
began an immediate search for her tracking signal but found nothing.
Like most wealthy, high profile people, Evans had a locator chip implanted
featuring redundant tracking systems—its signal was kept on file and constantly
updated with Sector Security. The device’s primary function was to act as a
deterrent to kidnapping, but they’d also proven very effective at locating victims
when abductions did occur.
Evan’s particular model featured an embedded broadlink system
spanning several wavelengths—complete with galaxy wide positioning. It was even
equipped with a locking mechanism based on a secure DNA sequence. The program periodically
generated a random access code that could only be defeated if you knew the
identity of the donor.
Her tracker couldn’t be turned off without access to its
the proper code. Most importantly, the signal
was impossible to mask or disrupt. Well apparently not
because Val Evans had vanished without a trace.
That’s when I’d been contacted by the Regent to take over the
investigation, and how I found myself in this remote system on the outskirts of
I glanced out of the small window of my commandeered spacecraft, watching
the planet outside revolve beneath us. We’d used its gravity well to bleed off excess
speed after exiting transit, and were now crossing the terminator of the
enormous gas giant. It was the largest planet in this small and sparsely
populated system, our destination was one of its smaller moons.
I was forced to squint as a flash of light glared off the faux glass
surface, but before the material automatically polarized—muting the natural
view—I caught a glimpse of Evan’s Moon, barely visible as a large point of
light in the distance of space. Moving as it had for millennia in its fixed yet
somewhat eccentric orbit around the massive planet.
The Sector destroyer
was slowly swinging its
bow around, straightening out in a direct path toward our final destination—preparing
to leave the colorful planet’s clouds of swirling helium and hydrogen in its
The door opened behind me, followed by the sound of footsteps.
“Have you been here before?” I asked Captain Stinson, my eyes
still focused on the view outside the window. We’d barely had an opportunity to
speak since his ship picked me up at the Sector transfer station on Halus.
“Only once,” he replied, “when I was a junior officer. One of Miss
Evan’s servants was killed in an unfortunate accident. I was only there to formalize
the paperwork, you see, no real investigation was necessary. The cause of death
was obvious. I’d say it was probably 50 years or so ago”
I turned to face him as he slid into the chair at his desk,
leaning back and cupping his hands behind his head. Stinson was trim and fit in
his black, Sector Security uniform, his dark brown hair grey at the temples. A few
medals sparkled on his lapel, but from reading his file I knew he had earned
many, many more. And despite his smallish stature, he projected absolute confidence
This was no simple soldier; he was in charge of protecting this system
and two substantially larger ones with greater populations. He was a competent
captain, sharp and experienced.
“What is she like in person?” I asked, taking another look around
the sparsely decorated room. Other than a picture of his family on the desk,
and two simple chairs in front of it, the room was empty. I had a feeling he
spent very little time in here.
“She is brilliant,” he said without hesitation, his British accent
characteristic of his home world of Britannia Novus. “Very genuine and
approachable, but I got the impression she has to work at it. Despite her
attempts to appear normal, she has a rather overwhelming presence. Even in simple
conversations it’s blindingly obvious how smart she is. She tries to compensate
by acting...well....regular I suppose.”
“Hmm...that’s how she comes across on the Vidnet as well, brainy
but somewhat awkward.”
“Well, I shouldn’t say
,” Stinson clarified hastily.
“She really is a nice woman; it’s just that dealing with people can sometimes
be uncomfortable for her.” He leaned forward in his seat, “I’m afraid she is a
bit of a stereotype when it comes to scientists, you know, smart and somewhat
“That would explain why she doesn’t appear in public that often.”
“I believe so,” he agreed.
Stinson used the back of his hand to brush loose hair off the
front of his uniform. “This damn black shows everything.”
“I recall,” I replied, remembering a time when I wore the same uniform.
“Imagine the fun I had with this blonde mop…of course my hair wasn’t quite this
long back then.”
“I imagine a Special Inquisitor can wear what they wish eh?”
I looked down at my civilian style attire; black slacks over boots
and a form-fitting grey, turtle-neck shirt. All covered by a black, wide
collared trench coat designed to conceal my very large, yet very necessary TAC
pistol. “Well it does help when we go undercover.”
“I’ll bet,” he said, a tinge of jealousy coloring in his voice.
, I thought?
I knew from his file that Stinson had earned a larger command and
a more strategic posting, but until someone decided to step down, he was stuck
out here on the fringes of civilization. Most of the larger ships and best
assignments went to war veterans, and with perpetual youth at their disposal,
many were unwilling to step aside and let others move up through the ranks. It
was one of the numerous unforeseen consequences of Miss Evan’s remarkable discovery.
Stinson’s voice broke in, derailing my train of thought. “I have
to admit, Commander; you are not at all what I imagined an SI to be.”
“Well….if I’m being honest, you carry yourself like someone who’s
no stranger to violence, but I wouldn’t call you overly serious for a man in
your position.” He looked a bit uncomfortable—searching my face for
was extremely high level, as were the assignments
I undertook. The rank of commander was merely a courtesy, a convenient fiction that
belied my true influence. Stinson was a man who worshiped the chain of command,
and my status was unnatural in his eyes.
I chuckled, setting him at ease. "I spent over 90 years being
serious, now I just concentrate on the job. Don't worry; when the
shit hits the fan, I'm all business.” My smile faded and I lowered my voice. “With
luck, this mission will go smoothly and you won’t get to meet
of me, Captain.”
“My crew and I will do our best, Commander Malik,” he replied
tartly. “This is a good ship.”
I couldn’t help but notice the pride in his voice. “So I’ve heard.
Have you ever worked with a SI before, Captain Stinson?”
I knew it was unlikely, especially if he’d been stationed in this
backwater region of Prima Sector for any real length of time. Besides, this was
Sector—if he had met one of us it probably would have been me.
“Actually…no. But I’d imagined you all just sat back in comfy
offices directing your minions—calling the shots from the shadows as it were.”
“Few have that privilege I’m afraid. Most of us prefer to be more
hands on. In my case, after almost one hundred and fifty years of traipsing
about the galaxy, I’ve become a bit of a micromanager.”
“150 years?” Stinson said. “So you
in the war?” His
tone was more accusation than acknowledgment. He leaned further forward, giving
me his full attention—waiting for the answer.
“I was,” I confirmed, then stopped pacing about long enough to
face him directly. “But the Diaspora War was a long time ago, Captain, and some
things are better left in the past.”
I made certain that my tone and facial expression discouraged any
further questioning. I’d spent a long time trying to forget that hell, and
certainly didn’t feel like talking about it now.
“I understand,” he said reluctantly, but he got the hint and moved
onto something I would talk about—with high level Sector personnel anyway. He
shifted uncomfortably in his chair, uncertain how to proceed. “Are you allowed
to discuss…might I ask, Commander…oh hell, I’ll just come out and say it. Did they
really put an electronic chip in your head to keep an eye on you?”
“Oh that,” I replied. “It’s tied directly to my visual cortex. Recording
everything I see. It only makes sense; when you give someone this much
authority, you need to observe how that power is used and take precautions.” I
smiled, “The video feed also frees me from having to fill out so many reports.”