By R.T. –G.





When he looked over the edge, the first thing he saw were the white bones of the Dazon soldiers. It was strange how human they looked when all you could see were their bones. Almost like there were dead people or something down there. Shape, shadow, and light were in complex contrast near the center of the mass — where their diamond shaped rib cages had slipped together as the bodies lost flesh to the organics in the atmosphere.

"I would like to take this opportunity to remind you, Dr. King, that none of this . . . insane mess would have occurred if the Dazon had simply followed Hakol Procedure."

Paul glanced to his left where Dazon Controller, Kitu Danesfield, stood; not looking at the tangled skeletons below, but rather, averting his eyes from them and watching a transport lift to the orbital platform. He reached to retrieve his equipment pack from where he’d set it in the thick soil, surprised a bit at the deep impression it had left there.

"I can only tell you, Controller Danesfield, that Hakol Admin is extremely concerned about this matter. Concerned enough, in fact, to have sent me with a full complement of security forces." He looked at the steep edge of the gully, wondering just how he might retrieve the Dazon remains when his initial survey was done. Likely that wouldn’t be necessary though, he’d probably just have a security crew encase the whole scene and store it in the event he lost data and needed backup. On a normal investigation, he’d have simply given the remains back to the families when he’d finished his mapping and scanning, but this was a different type of case — every move he made was being closely watched and judged. Probably by more people than he cared to think about.

"For now," he said, "I’d like my people to put up a hard perimeter and hold the area while I get settled in." Danesfield’s dark eyes studied him closely. "It has been a long trip and I’d like some down time before I start."

"Perfectly understandable doctor. I’ve reserved a room for you at our best travelers lodge, The Flyer." He sealed his jacket, nervously it seemed to Paul, higher up his throat. "Shall we be going then Dr. King?"

Paul took one last look into the gully before pressing his beltcom and sightlessly entering commands that would bring down twelve of the security troops from orbit, where they likely sat itching for a fight. At the end of his entry, he punched in a civilian response code — which would indicate a lack of armed resistance — and then his Company ID Code — verifying through photonic encryption that he, in fact, had issued the order.

* * * * * *

According to local time he should have been waking to greet a bright new day, tinged in purple, but at present, he felt more like sleeping through the next week. The Flyer seemed a typical colony lodge: proud of its service, embracing the newest technology, and rated as the premier lodge on the planet by the locals — who were almost in awe of it. Paul, however, was immediately irritated by the inability to plug into the spatial data net from his room on the third floor.

He sighed and tried to dismiss the frustration; he’d become too addicted to the net lately anyway. But it was hard to stay away from something that offered an almost godlike awareness of the universe, and transported the user anywhere at his will. He’d simply been ignoring the pain the skull socket on the back of his wrist had been causing him, likely from tapping too frequently into the high transfer web.

After spending a peace-filled night on the floatation mattress, he awoke in a surprisingly good mood, and was linked up to his computer before room service had even arrived with coffee. The waiter, a local, could not keep his eyes from flickering down to the data socket attached to Paul’s wrist as Paul put his thumbprint on the bill.

In seconds he logged past the security protocols and set up the computer for the scans he would take later that day. At this point, it was simply a matter of filling in the preliminary data, but soon he would have to begin the deep scans that would, in the end, help justify his expense to his employers.

For Paul, it really boiled down to simple questions: had the local controller gone too far in ordering the extermination of the Dazon workers who had rioted? Or had the actions been legal, conforming to the laws set down by the Alliance and the contract signed for Hakol by the leaders of the Dazon? He was here, a doctor of atomic computing, and a qualified forensic investigator, to provide one simple answer to these two simple questions. He could only hope that it would actually be that easy.

As he finished entering the preliminary site data, he received a message from the Alpha contingent commander, who remained in orbit — directing the security troops through their neural implants. Although not vocal, the message reeked of complacency, simply informing him that the troops had encircled the site, erected a perimeter, and awaited further orders.

King was not a young investigator. In point of fact, he was the oldest investigator Hakol had ever kept on past the age when most went to nothing but a terminal, and controlled every action from a distant location . . . never leaving. King was proud that he had retained such an active status, and reluctant to leave it. It wouldn’t be long before they asked him to retire to his homeworld and work only through the net. This, he would not do.

A virtubell suddenly intruded on his thoughts, dinging insistently on his mind screen. He unhooked from his computer, done anyway, and packed to meet Controller Danesfield downstairs.

* * * * * *


Colony planets were different from the rest, but he’d known that since he was in school. Here, though, it was even more obvious. As Danesfield drove through town in the Hakol Interceptor — taking corners so fast that dust spit sideways onto shop windows — he realized that much of what he saw was a facade; that in the background, behind the modern shopfronts, people were worse off than most of the colonized worlds. The clues were few, but they were significant.

One: He saw no central power source, these people were living on their own power generation, as others had probably done in the exodus after Earth had fallen .

Two: The Dazon natives did not seem to have integrated with the local population. He watched two refused entry to a store, and wondered at the anger he saw on the owner’s face.

He had hoped, beyond hope it seemed, that humanity had moved beyond such isolationist tendencies, but it seemed that they were only doomed to repeat their mistakes.

"I hear from old friends, doctor, that you’ve been with Hakol for quite a while," Danesfield simultaneously stated and asked as they rounded a corner. "I hope you don’t let past experiences influence your judgment here. The Dazon were good partners from the start. They agreed to work for Hakol, but only after lengthy deliberation." He laughed as he spun the Interceptor toward the edge of town. "After all, these things hadn’t even seen fire before we arrived. And they ended up with much more than they could have ever imagined."



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