Finish the Sci-Fi Story III - Murder Mystery

The room was dark as the area attendant opened it. Why the automatic lights didn’t come on caused no questions in the mind of the attendant. Just last week, he had attended to a species that didn’t have eyes as such, but were still sensitive to certain wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation because of their skin senses. So, he had disabled all the automatic lights in that area for their visit and just assumed he had missed resetting this room.

“Attendant override, lights on,” he verbalized to the control circuits.

“Jehoshophat!” he exclaimed (an odd expletive for a Thosti, but he was quite fond of Earther culture). For the sight that confronted him was, to say the least, unexpected.

The Sykoft that was supposed to have left for his extended personal leave was still there. Or, more precisely, his bodily remains were still there. Whatever soul the Sykofts believed in was quite evidently gone from this body.

The body was attached about ten feet up the wall of the common room, its leathery wings stretched out to their full expanse, almost eight feet across. A long pike pierced the body in its upper thorax, apparently holding most of the weight. The body had been slit open from just below the throat to just above the pelvic girdle it was still wearing, internal organs cascading down from the body to the floor. A puddle of semi congealed goo spread out from the wall on the floor.

“Alarm! Notify Security violent intruder in Sector 22gf-39, Area W5, Common Housings, Room 329,” the Thosti attendant instructed the control circuits according to protocol. He didn’t think any intruder was still there, based on the congealed blood on the floor, but he had to follow procedure on the Planet of Eternal Peace, otherwise known as Forsetti.

“I’m not gonna clean this up,” he added to himself.

In just moments, a Security droid made an appearance. “Area secure. No hostiles detected,” it droned. Its sensors probed the body, hovering above the mess on the floor. “Remain here, touch nothing,” it informed the attendant, “You will be interviewed by an attending investigator shortly.”

“Yeah, I figured as much,” answered the attendant, and sat down in the corridor to wait.

M’Artel was annoyed. Robert was late again and they were going to miss the show.

For a planet steeped in as much political, scientific, and religious administration as Forsetti is, it has a surprisingly active and varied nightlife. If you can actually call it nightlife, that is. The entire planet is one giant structure. Being geologically dead, it was long ago virtually hollowed out as more and more beings flocked to it in the ancient past.

In fact, even structure isn’t quite the best way to describe it, for it is a machine as well. It is completely self-sustaining and even self-propelled, traveling every thousand years or so to a new solar system, sometimes spending decades in interstellar space.

The show was a cross culture concert and recital, promising two of M’Artel’s favorite things, sexy females (of several different races) and loud music. It was sure to be fun and he didn’t want to miss any of it.

Robert burst into the room and shouts, “Come on! We don’t want to be late!”

“ROWRR!!” answers M’Artel. More or less anyways, to Human ears. It was actually a rather nasty Xavvian swear word. The literal meaning is quite, let’s say, disconcerting to any non-hunting species.

Squeezing into the nearest transport tube after him, M’Artel asks Robert, “Why don’t you ever wear your comm. link?”

“It chafes, okay!?” retorted Robert, mocking M’Artel with his hands held up as though they were cat’s paws and batting at the air in front of his face. “Actually, I just can’t get used to this place, and all the accoutrements therein.”

The last part, said in the voice of their Religions History professor, cracked them both up, as it was his pet phrase in class. They had barely composed themselves by the time the tube opened up at their destination.

Looking up, Robert was surprised to see a night sky, complete with two moons, one very irregular in shape. “Hologram,” explained a rather lovely Xavvian female who appeared at his side, “It’s the forest planet of Pral, colonized as a penal planet by the Sycroft Consortium. It’s part of the show. Come on!” she urged him.

Looking back at M’Artel, Robert saw him grinning at how Gr’Vinnia was so plainly coming on to Robert. They winked at each other and Robert left with the beautiful female to find a ‘good place’ to watch the show. She had been obviously interested in the handsome young Human from the first week in class, and he didn’t seem to mind at all. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, she was easily one of the smartest people either one of them had ever met, and that was saying something.

Being currently unattached and not the least bit bothered by it, M’Artel wandered off, looking for new faces.

By the time the Security investigator actually made it down to Room 329, the attendant was quite irritated. Not only was it very disturbing to come across such a grisly scene, but also he had mountains of work to do. Besides which, Renallians are notoriously impatient.

The investigator was a Tharn of indeterminate sex named Hows. Gender was almost always indeterminate when dealing with Tharn, as they had, at last known count, about six hundred different genders. Some people on Forsetti believe even the Tharn get confused by this.

For all practical purposes, though, Hows came across as mostly male. He even resembled Humans, though a little shorter than average. The gender issue was very confusing and off putting to most species, which is why Tharns make such good investigators when they choose a career in Law.

Here on Forsetti, though, it hardly seemed to make any real difference, as most things were done with crystal readings or technology that mimicked crystal readings.

“You can go,” Hows said to the attendant, “I know where to find you.”

As the attendant walked of, muttering under his breath, Hows began setting up ‘his’ equipment. The droids were useful, but the Office of Investigative Specialties for Off Worlders (as his office was officially known) had some very efficient, even amazing, tools at their disposal. Being part of a culture that went back into the mists of ancient times had its advantages, one of them being that virtually everything that could possibly happen, has already happened to someone else and been explicitly covered in thousands of case studies.

One of his first machine readings showed thee to have been recent crystal activity in the area. Adjusting the settings and taking several different readings, he narrowed it down in time to within the last three days. Further reading narrowed the type of crystal to Xavvian.

“Great,” he sighed to no one in particular, “I get to interview 70,000 giant cats.”

Only then did he study the actual victim and the body’s odd placement.

Background and Discussion

His lips tightened in a display of vague distaste, the Tharn set about the task of examining the corpse before him. He noted briefly that the Sykofts’s left wing was partially obscuring an air-flow vent, causing the leathery material to billow slightly.

He leaned forward, neck craned, eyes moving from point to point on the corpse, hands folded loosely behind his back. He spoke softly, flatly, a small recording unit hanging from a chain around his neck taking his words.

“Body is suspended by a slender implement of some sort, about eight feet long. There is a vertical incision from pevlis to thorax. I would,” he added dryly, “rule out suicide.”

He triggered a small button on his belt and floated a few feet into the air. A loudish whine emanated from metal strips on his boots.

“The wings are attached to the wall by two sets of three thick spikes, perhaps 10 inches in diameter. Each has a round head of some sort of clear material. Glass, maybe.”

He lightly tapped one of the bulbs with a finger and turned his attention to the pike.

“The stabbing implement appears to be normal steel. Preliminary tests will confirm, I suspect. What I can see of the blade itsel-”

His attention was drawn away by a sound like a cigar being put out in a wet T-shirt. He turned his head in time to see a thin lattice of cracks spreading across one of the bulbs. His eyes widened, but only slightly. He noted with some satisfaction that it wasn’t the spike he had poked.

“One of the bulbs is cracking slightly. I can see something filling it. Gas, perhap- Oh. Oh, dear.”

He turned slowly, his motions impaired by the anti-grav boots, and kicked off the wall. The tread of one boot tore into the left wing and dislodged two of the spikes. He vaugly registered popping sounds behind him as each of the bulbs cracked and shattered. He fumbled inefficiently at a small pouch on his belt.

An hour later, the Thosti attendant found Hows hovering in the doorway, bumping intermittently against the top of the frame. He had a mask of some sort strapped around his head, and his skin was tinted an unhealthy purple. A light fog on the inside of the clear plastic mask indicated life.

With a mild curse, the attendant rang the alarm again. The Security droid rolled up again. The area was secured again.

“I think we need a new investigator,” he told the droid.

“Remain here, touch nothing,” the droid replied. “You will be interviewed by an attending investigator shortly.”

“Yeah, yeah. Shut up.”

M’Artel’s blood was pounding as the last thunderous chords of music began to die, and the concert hall became, not exactly light, but less dim. It was supposed to be night on Pral, after all. Other concert goers begain streaming toward the transport tubes, which were no less active now than any other time. Forsetti mostly operating underground, “night” or “day” has less significance, and many service industries operated “around the clock”

For once M’Artel hadn’t hooked up with anyone for after concert fun, either clubbing or more private activity. He’d seen Robert and Gr’Vinnia heading off somewhere together, Robert’s arm around her shoulders, and her tail curled up around Robert’s waste. M’Artel grinned inwardly. Longterm, or committed interspecies relationships were extremely rare, but that didn’t mean that adventuresome couples(triples or whatever) didn’t do some branching out.

He decided to simply return to the rooms he shared with Robert, glad to have his friend around again. Years earlier they had been students together on Laxis Prime, and had shared adventure and danger in the period that had come to be called the Vorpal Incident. But the two had drifted apart when, after that, Martel, as he was then known, had become an instructor himself on Valis 5, as the Swanson-Kenezr Institute. Then, along with friends and his pouch cousin M’Kayla Martel had been swept up in a conflict with the creature known as Tag. Along the way he had become more interested in his own Xavvian religion, but instead of studying on Sevastol as he’d planned, he’d wound up with a new name and a new assignment, given to him by the Council of Forsetti.

M’Artel sighed as he entered the door of their quarters. Off time from school was nearly over, the latest study term was about to start, and he still hadn’t read…What in the Name of the Mother was that smell? He waved the lights on and stood in total surprise, his hackles rising, at the sight of what appeared to be thick brown syrup splashed in thin streams on the walls of the room.


The figure in the bunk rose and fell as it breathed. With each exhale, it let out a snore; with each inhale, its comm unit singaled there was an incoming message.


The figure awoke to the sensation of being shaken. “This better be good,” he uttered sleepily.

“Sorry, Kark; I tried your commlink but you didn’t answer. There’s been a murder.”

The mention of “murder” got Kark’s attention. He sat up. “Who? Where?”

“One of the Skysofts, in his quarters.”

Kark rose slowly. “I’m gettin’ too old for this.” He went into an antechamber to change. “Why wake me up, anyway? Don’t we have Tharns for this?”

“One was already killed while investigating. Some sort of booby trap, it sounds like.”

Kark, now changed into working clothes, came back around the corner. “Who discovered the body?”

“A Thosti attendant,” Kark’s assistant scanned through some notes, “named Skonnistopal.”

Kark headed for his door. “Let’s get to work.”

At first glance, Kark’s quarters appears to be sparsely decorated. Being a widower - his wife died in the Great Kintala Disaster - he doesn’t need much in the way of furniture. He does keep some extra pieces around in case of visitors. Much of what he has out permanently are mementos of one sort or another, reminders of his various duty stations. One in particular is an old-fashioned style photograph from he was a raw recruit on Riqaska, six men clad in Tevondale uniforms. He saluted it as he walked out. “Best frelling team in the league,” Kark often claimed and he was probably right.

As he neared the tubes, Kark was listening to the audio feed of the interview between the Tharn and the Thosti. It amused him somewhat to hear what was obviously open hostility between the two creatures, as though he were listening to a comedy fiction, but then he caught himself as he remembered the Tharn had died soon afterwards. As soon as he got into the tube, he would view the room’s visual records and see if there was anything the droids missed.

Tharn were excellent in law enforcement and investigations, but when it when it came to booby traps, someone with military experience was needed. Having retired from the Space Rangers merely one year before his wife’s death, the former Captain made a small name for himself in private industry. After the event which claimed his wife, he accepted the invitation to work with the Tharn on the mysterious planet of Forsetti.

Of course, now neither the Tharn nor Frosetti were all that mysterious to him anymore. The description he was hearing, though, was.

Kark suddenly snapped to attention when an idea hit him. “Do we still have any Voss on-world?”

“A few.” Pelas then flashed a concerned look. “Surely you’re not suggesting…”

“What? Oh!” Kark he relaxed and let out a little chuckle. “Of course not! I just thought that it might help to have a different…perspective.”

Voss are small, snake-like creatures which had once been used for slave labor. They’re very adept at climing and can quickly determine the mechanics of nearly any situtation. Many had fled the region after the Council had granted them emancipation. Pelas keyed his commlink and inquired about having one meet them at the Skysoft’s quarters.

M’Artel stood stock still, all his senses on high alert. Did he dare move further into the room, to more closely examine what he was seeing? Glancing upward he noticed that whatever it was was not on the cieling. Furnishings against the wall were also splashed, so he turned slightly to his right to look at a small chair. Leaning closer, without touching he saw that the smelly stuff seemed somewhat fresh, but was congealing slightly on it’s surface.

“Oh frell” he muttered to himself, “it looks like some kind of blood” The sight of blood was not exactly off putting to M’Artel, but he didn’t like the implications of why something elses ichor was doing in his place. And what kind of pouchless character had been able to enter in the first place?

M’Artel backed out of the room and snapped on his personal comm unit, intending to call Security, and was startled to see a Security droid already approaching. Droids were programmed to respond only to reported crime, not to seek crimes out. So why was this one here now?

This was not a good way to end the evening.

“You will submit to a reading,” droned the droid.

There was nothing M’Artel could do about, he knew. Part of the agreement for his even being here was that he was subject to Forsetti Local Law, a complex set of rights and duties that diplomats were immune from, visitors were held to some, and residents were subject to all. Laws were even species specific where they needed to be.

After the crystal reading, the drone informed him, “Remain where you are. An investigator will be here shortly.”

Great, thought M’Artel, those freaky Tharn are coming, and shuddered involuntarily. He reached up to close the close door circuits because the smell was getting to him whne the droid zipped to him, loudly announcing, “YOU WILL BE IN STASIS IF YOU MOVE AGAIN”

Wow! How in the Great Mother’s pouch did I get introuble? But, he didn’t try any other movements. Using his adept training, he stilled himself for a long, uncomfortable wait.

On the way to the Sykoft’s room, Kark had familiarised himself with everything the automatics and the droids had recorded. He also noted that the Tharn had done a crystal energies reading first off. Good thing, because the blast had non space signatures in it which would have erased or distorted any readings afterwards.

Based on these readings, Kark had droids sent to every known Xavvian courrier on planet to take supplemental readings. despite there being over 70,000 Xavvians on planet, only about 2700 of them were courriers, narrowing the search. He had already decided to send a Tharn to whoever came close to the readings, since the Tharn realy disturbed the big cats for some reason. Not as much as the Thosti, but still.

An automatic signal was coming in, concerning a possible match. Wow, that was fast he thought. The tube had stopped though, so he stuck to his original plan. A Tharn would interview the Xavvian. And he would see what else he could glean from the crime scene.

Kark and Pelas had spent some time examining the crime scene. The body of the Skysoft had been carefully removed from the wall, where it had been spiked, and Pelas was aiding in lifting it into a secure container for it’s trip to the morgue. Something didn’t seem quite right, however.

Pelas spoke to the aide who was helping him move the body. “How much is the typical Skysoft supposed to weigh?” he asked. “This thing seems kind of light for it’s size.” After putting the body down the aide did a brief research calc. “That’s odd,” he said “an adult Skysoft male should weigh at least seventeen or eighteen drani. You hefted this, it doesn’t weigh anywhere near that, wouldn’t you say?”

Kark overheard this and grunted, “so what’s missing? I can’t keep up on every fracking species we get in here.” The aide, a young Tharn, did some more checking. “Sir, bodily organs are all present, but not, of course, in their original state. Skeletal structure seems normal, and no obvious chunks of flesh are missing. Hard to tell with a Skysoft, but his(I think) health seemed normal. That leaves bodily fluids. Now that I look at it, I think it’s blood, or a lot of it, is gone.”

“Messy job” commented Pelas. “How could that be done without having made even more of a mess than there was?”

Just then there was a tapping at the door, and a diffident looking Voss entered. “You sent for me, gracious sirs?” it piped.

“Silas?” Pelas spoke the name Voss-style with drawn out esses. “When did they let you out?” he jokingly inquired while Kark glanced between the two.

Silas’s already narrow eyes became slits as he dropped the gracious act. “I was never in. You should know that.”

Kark asked, “You two know each other?”

“Given their natural talents,” Pelas replied, “a Voss could make a healthy living at burglary. Fortunately for us, most of them follow a code of ethics which prevented them from doing so. Silas here found that line of work didn’t agree with him; prior to your coming aboard, he helped me break a smuggling ring.”

Silas added, “In exchange for my freedom.” His eyes widened again as he looked around. “Looks like someone’s been busy.”

Silas’ casual tone stopped abruptly. His body stiffened and his smooth skin creased in spasms as he took in the scene. Kark and Pelas expected a shocked reaction, but not what came next.

Silas let out a short cry and prostrated himself on the floor throwing his appendages wide. He began chanting and doing what looked like push-ups. Kark and Pelas stepped closer. The push-ups slowly began to wiggle Silas backward toward the door. Kark called out over the droning, “Silas, what are you doing?” He stopped momentarily and mumbled into the floor, “The Binding Liturgy of the V’meer’tikh! The Words are all around! We must not Be One!” Silas then resumed chanting and backing out of the room.

He backed through the door and coiled supine on the floor. His chanting quieted to whispers as he began motioning toward the door frame and continuing the ritual. Kark and Pelas followed him to the door.

Kark let out an annoyed sigh. “Why does everything have to invoke someone’s religion!” he said as he turned back to the room. Then he saw hte room as Silas must have. What didn’t seem right was the organ parts spread around the room. They weren’t thrown or dropped. They were placed. He couldn’t read it, but someone had taken the time to spell out something using the Sykoft’s entrails. And Silas knew what it was.

(Heads up, gang, due to Hurricane Frances I may be offline for a while. I’ll contribute what I can.)

Robert banging into the room where M’Artel sat motionless. “Dude, you will not believe the night I had!” When he stopped up short. His eyes widened as he took in his frozen friend and the splattered room. “What the frell happened?”

Fortunately, a security droid entered, followed by a Tharn. “I am Darson,” “he” said, nodding at M’Artel. “You may relax. Tell me what happened.”

M’Artel stretched, taking his time, because he was very annoyed. “I don’t know what happened. I came home and my place was like this,” he said waving his hand at the walls. Robert let out a low whistle.

“Who are you?” Darson asked. Robert backed up, hands held up. “I’m a friend. I just got here.”

“Confirmed,” intoned the droid after a few of its lights flashed. “No one has entered this room since I left.”

“You are dismissed,” Darson said, and the droid spun around and left. Darson pulled out his investigative kit and began collecting samples. Robert moved over closer to M’Artel and whispered, “Are you all right?”

M’Artel rotated his head on his neck. “I’m a little stiff, but I’ll live.”

Darson ran the samples through his computer and frowned as the results flashed on the screen. “What does it say?” M’Artel asked.

Darson stared at him thoughtfully for a few seconds, then decided that the Xavvian was probably blameless. Besides, he was at a complete loss and he needed help.

“It says there’s nothing there.”

Robert moved over to the computer. “What, that there’s no poison?”

“No,” Darson said. “It does not recognize the existence of the sample. It’s like I put in an empty chip.”

“Frell,” M’Artel said. “Non-space.”

Darson stared at him, terrified.

Kark keyed his commlink. “Central depository.”

“Depository. Vix here.”

“Vix? Kark.”

“Ah, yes, the security adjutant. What can I do for you?”

“What do you have on a Binding Liturgy of the V’meer’tikh?”

After a moment of silence, “Not much I’m afraid. We’ve been working on establishing a cultural history of the Voss but it’s slow going. I can tell you that it’s from a legend and pertains to some sort of warning.”

Warning? What the frell kind of warning is this? “I’m not sure it is a legend. Seems I’m looking at one right now.”

“A non space physical manifestation?” said the Tharn Darson in hushed tones. “Hey! Wait a minute. You were involved in that kel incident of last year, weren’t you?”

'Involved is an interesting way to phrase it. But, yeah. Why?" responded M’Artel.

“Because there are very few species that interact in both realms, that’s why,” replied the Tharn, testily. “Of all people, you should know that, Mr. Fat Cat.”

“Look!” bellowed M’Artel, “I ain’t no cat, you sexed up pervert!”

As the Tharn was about to add even more fuel to the fire, Robert interjected, “Hey, hey… we’re all adults here. No need to get all riled up about stuff, right?”

Just then, a beeping sound eminated from Darson’s comm device. He answered and listened in silence, a smirk growing into a wide open smile on his face. “Well,” he said, “Seems I get to arrest you, M’Artel. You will have to accompany me too, Robert. As a material witness. Don’t either of you try anything.”

As he finished, the doors to the room opened and two more armed Tharn motioned them out. Five droids hovered at slightly different hieghts, their weaponry activated.

Looking at M’Artel, Robert said, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Pelas shot an inquisitive look at Kark.

“Frell if I know,” Kark replied in repsonse, “this is beyond me. I’m just a retired Space Ranger; I think we need a specialist.”

“I’ll put in the request. You have someone in mind?”

Kark nodded. “Laxis Prime. See if the Teacher’s Union can track down the whereabouts of a Dr. Jade Innison.”

Before entering a Security transport M’Artel was searched for concealed weapons or comm devices, and Darson, obviously enjoying this too much, personally applied wrist restraints. “I wouldn’t try anything tricky, if I were you. You don’t have your big friends around now.” Robert was not restrained, but he was placed in a seat behind, not next to, M’Artel. He leaned forward to try and speak to his friend, but the effort only got him a “Shut up!” from Darson, who sat beside M’Artel, on his left.

M’Artel was beginning to be as worried as he was angry. What had Darson meant by that reference to “big friends”? Sure, Robert knew some very important figures, but he didn’t have any way to call on them now. And how had Darson known about them in the first place? And he didn’t even know what he was charged with! He turned in a furious motion to Darson, his mouth open…

Darson was looking directly at him, with what could best be described as a shit-eating grin. “Suspicion of murder”

The slit pupils of M’Artels eyes widened in shock. He definitely had a bad feeling now. He leaned back in his seat, wondering how he should handle this, when he felt a tingling on n his spine that settled in his mid section. “Oh no!” not now!

“Sir!” another Tharn rapped out. "My scanner says there’s crystal activity going on!


“Can’t get a fix, it appears to be long distance though. It’s the prisoner sir!”

Robert immediately jumped up and delivered a flying kick to Darson’s assistant, who fell to the ground, stunned and bleeding. Darson jumped on Robert’s back, but Robert turned and slammed him against the wall. Unfortunately, it was only a glancing blow, and Darson began choking Robert. The two rolled around on the floor as M’Artel stared in amazement.

“Focus on the crystal!” Robert gasped, taking a punch to his cheekbone before jamming his thumbs into Darson’s eyes. Darson screamed and pulled back, giving Robert time to join his hands together into one fist and drive it into Darson’s stomach. Then, the most remarkable thing happened.

Darson turned an interesting shade of green and crumpled. He began weeping like a child. Robert stared at him in amazement. Darson seemed incapacitated, but it was more than just losing his breath. Robert took the opportunity to slide wrist restraints on Darson’s assistant, but he didn’t have the heart yet to restrain Darson, who had begun moaning in a most piteous way.

He glanced at M’Artel, who was frowning in concentration. After a few more seconds, he relaxed and looked around. “Been busy, haven’t you?” he asked his friend.

Robert removed the key from Darson waist, who didn’t even notice he was there, and unlocked M’Artel’s restraints. “Was that M’Kayla?”

“Yes. She due to empty her pouch any week now. She said she and Tobe are quite comfortable with each other, and Tobe’s instituted a lot of social and tax reforms on the planet.”

“Did you tell her what’s going on?”

“Yes. She can’t come, of course, but she’s going to ask Tobe’s sister to come.”

“Cori? Why?”

“She’s one of the most well-versed advocates in the quadrant. She’s licensed to practice law on more than two dozen worlds.”

Robert grinned. “Great. Hey,” he pointed at Darson, who was trying to sit up, and failing miserably. “What’s up with him? I only punched him in the stomach.”

M’Artel smiled. “You poor bastard,” he said to Darson. Then, he turned to Robert. “Not everyone keeps their genitals in the same place,” he explained. “Let’s go. Cori will be here in about four hours. We’ll meet her at the teleport.”

“But won’t he come get us?”

M’Artel shook his head. “He’ll be lucky if you didn’t sterilize him for life. Let’s go.”

It took some time for Darson to regain any sort of composure at all. When he did, he realised his shame, both in losing his charges and in being (hopefully) temporarily genderless. For Robert had indeed injured him severely. His sexual organs would atrophy, then change in yet another gender.

Very little was understood about this, even among the Tharn themselves. But, periodically, certain Tharns are known to spontaneously change gender. And any Tharn who had their sexual organs damaged would do so, too. The gender of the Changed Ones were never quite the same as any other previous, though they usually fell within the parameters of the five major genders. Not always, however. That is why there are now about 600 different subclasses of the genders, each one with unique characteristics. And, every few thousands or so, a totally new gender is created. Unfortunatly (for the new gender Tharn), they can’t reproduce this new gender. Tharn biologists are completely baffled by these odd gender changes amonst themselves, but the Tharn refuse to let any outsiders study their sexuality.

Darson typed in a message to Kark, instead of a vis or audio link, unlocked his cuffed help, and quickly shuffled off to find a private tube back to his housing.

Kark read the message several times before he realised his good fortune. They had found the killer. It had to be this Xavvian M’Artel. The crystal signature matched within 92%, his housing was filled evidence of Kel involvment, and (here was the clincher) he was on the run. Why would an innocent being run?

Reading the comm screen over his shoulder, Pelas offered, “It might not be as easy to find these two though, boss.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s a big planet. And even though there are only about 70,000 cats and even fewer Humans, there are well over a trillion creatures on Forsetti at any given time. Add to that the similarities between many species and the fact that these guys won’t want to be found… Plus, you do know about their abilities, right?”

Kark pursed his lips into annoyance. He was constantly forgetting just how big Forsetti really is. A hollowed out terrestial planet, roughly two and times the diameter of his home planet, which was settled as an almost exact duplicate of Earth. Yeah, these guys had a lot of room to hide.

“Well,” asnwered Kark, “Maybe we’ll get lucky. By the way, I’ve never seen Tharn so openly hostile to another species as I’ve seen today with you guys and both the Thosti and the Xavvians. What gives?”

Raising one eyebrow in a very Human gesture, Pelas replied, “Big frelling walking lizards and talking cats!? You have to ask?” And he walked away in a huff.

Dumbfounded, Kark sat stunned at the specism his partner and friend had just displayed. Wow. I’m going to have to find out more about this.