Greetings everyone and happy Friday to you all!
To celebrate the weekend rolling round with a cheeky little Bank Holiday attached, here’s an excerpt from a current WIP. This short story, currently titled ‘New Tricks’, is hopefully destined for an exciting anthology planned for relase later in the year. The collection is in its early stages at the moment but if it comes together as planned, it promises to be a strong gathering of tales.
Alas, I can share no more, but please do cast your eyes over this little teaser that is currently the opening of my contribution.
I did promise myself a while ago that I would try writing Space Crime. Here is my first attempt.
“You know you didn’t have to come.”
“Are you kidding?” Helga smiled and Felix could tell she almost meant it. “I can’t wait to be let loose in that lab.”
Felix managed a half-smile of his own. “It’s good of you. I know it’s not exactly the honeymoon you were expecting.”
Helga laughed and accepted the bottled water off the steward with too-white teeth. “If I told you this is a dream holiday to me, you would never have married me.”
“What, you’d prefer to be bent over a microscope in a labour camp gene lab than a resort on a pacific island somewhere?”
“I don’t think they like you to call it a labour camp, darling,” Helga said, sipping her water. “I’m pretty sure the politically correct term Major Raleigh would like you to use is Correctional Facility.”
She patted his leg then leant to peer at the blue swirl of Earth falling away in the distance out of the porthole. Felix felt something warm inside him as he watched the easy way she was swept away with wonder by her first space trip. He himself was having trouble deciding if he’d rather have flunked the physical and been quarantined to Earth for the next six months, pollution, overcrowding and all, than be in the reclining seat on the luxury moon-bound shuttle.
He sipped his own water and looked away from the black curtain of nothing out the window. The shuttle’s environment controls heated the cabin to the perfect temperature but he still had the chill of sweat on his forehead. The passengers around him were all well-dressed and well-off, murmuring amongst themselves, reading or playing on game or book panels. There was a school party taking up the first three rows, a teacher moving amongst them to make sure they didn’t crush each other as they clambered to try and to see out their portholes. He remembered doing a similar trip to the Tranquillity Research and Recreation Centres on the moon at their age. The highlight had been riding the moon buggies through the fine dust of the boarder of wasteland inside the atmosphere shield.
He swallowed, rubbing damp palms on his trousers, wishing that he and Helga were heading no further than the Rec Centre spas and tours. He wondered if the holiday makers really knew what they would find if they got the connecting shuttle to the end of the line.
They might have a better idea now, he thought bitterly, what with the Correctional Facility Lunar Alpha making the headline news the last six weeks.
He pulled out his own data panel and booted it up. The first file that loaded was the image file of Arcadias Cole. This picture always caught him off guard. The boy’s expensive haircut, good posture, the way he managed to look down at the camera and the obvious disdain with which he wore the grey Detention Centre overalls were proof enough of his privileged background even without the attached profile data. Felix could tell just looking at him this was someone who had never been denied anything. But his eyes were the colour of ice and looked right through him, even in this poor-quality digicam image taken in some Detention Centre Processing Lounge.
Cole was only twenty one years old according to the profile. He didn’t seem to have been alive long enough to have developed a taste for destruction. But what did Felix know? He had been in the Ground Corps for three years by that age. He hadn’t killed anyone, then, though. But that was before the war.
Still, it seemed incredible that this boy – who may have easily been an upstart…possibly a rebel, even – to have done the things they said he did. But then Felix looked into those eyes and he wondered.
Helga’s warm hand on his leg made him jump. He skipped the image file and the screen switched to Cole’s bio stats, but Helga wasn’t looking at the screen. Concern ghosted in her eyes and she gave his leg a squeeze.
“You’re going to do great,” she said. “It’s just another job.”
Felix sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I told Major Raleigh I don’t do this anymore.”
“Serves you right for being too good at it.”
“I never wanted to be good at it. I couldn’t help that people like to tell me things.”
“They trust you, Felix. You have this…quality.”
“My Father’s the priest. I’m just a soldier.”
“Well they must get something from you. People speak to you…admit things to you. And you can read them. Honestly, they should have had you assigned to the Investigative Service from day one.”
“I’m too old for this.”
Helga chuckled and kissed him on the cheek. “If you’re not too old for a whirlwind romance you’re not too old for a bit of action and intrigue.”
“That was different.”
Her teasing smile melted into something more affectionate. “I’m not angry we’ve had to move to the moon for a few weeks, Felix, if that’s what’s bothering you.”
“This wasn’t how I was planning our life to start, it’s true. But I told them I was done with it,” he dogged on. “I’m supposed to be retired. Major Raleigh signed the release herself.”
“She wouldn’t have asked if it weren’t important, love. And after what that boy did…” Her eyes flicked towards his panel and he turned the screen downward so neither of them had to look at the report. “Well, she’s just keen to be sure he can’t hurt anyone else. And the clock’s ticking.”
Felix nodded, glancing at the overhead chrono display. It was three hours before their connection time on the moon. Five hours before he was due to report in at the Admin Centre of Lunar Alpha. Three weeks to get enough together to formally charge and sentence Cole before his family lawyers could demand his release due to insufficient evidence and slap them with several damaging lawsuits along the way for wrongful arrest.
And then the boy would walk, and with him whatever ability or device he had that enabled him to kill seventeen people in one instant leaving no marks, no destruction, no evidence and no blood.
He shivered again and Helga took his hand. “This will be the last one,” she said. “I’ll help you make sure. I’ve got my solicitor looking into the contracts already. I guarantee, whether you get Cole to talk or not, this will be the last time Raleigh and the IS can call you up. Ok?”
He squeezed her hand. “Thank you.”
Neither of them mentioned that failing to convict Cole wasn’t really an option.