by Edward M. Erdelac
“You sure this is a good idea, Inspector?” Brendermeyer asked for the fourth time.
“The Peace Council is expecting me to arrive with a passenger, Brendermeyer. It’ll look fishy if the compliment scan only shows up one life form,” Considine explained for the fourth time.
The police shuttle rose through the upper atmosphere and shuddered as the fiery sky turned black and starry.
“Never been up to Avenir,” Brendermeyer muttered, his eyes wide and full of stars. “Never even been in space before. Is it true you used to work up there?”
“I did. A while ago.”
“Why the hell would you transfer down to Zirconia?”
“I liked the view better.”
“You can’t see a damn thing down there.”
“Precisely.” Considine said, angling the shuttle for the huge ship. “It’s not all stars up here, Brendermeyer. There’s all that blackness in between.”
“I hear the women are choice, though.”
Considine pursed his lips. Brendermeyer wasn’t listening. There was a hell of a lot of politics on Avenir. A lot of clean fingernails with dirty palms. It had got to him. He had been ordered to overlook one too many shady deals, ordered to let one too many cases cool. Avenir was a stagnant place, with its unchanging air, its never shifting castes.
He much preferred Zirconia. He saw the underwater city as a happy medium between Avenir’s static, festering rot, and the violent upheaval of the surface of Eclectica. He liked the leaky hallways and the shifting light that played on the floors, filtered through fathoms of ocean and the thick viewing ports, chilling the raging red skies far above until they were no more than a placid shimmer.
He liked the glimpses of sea life in all its forms, from the flitterfish to the ethereal angels themselves, going about their alien, inscrutable business on the edge of the Boatic Trench.
The dark waters. Dark waters. Croix had said he was sinking into the dark waters. Then something about the wardens, rising, and freedom.
He puzzled over this when the panel began to blink and Brandermeyer nudged his arm.
He keyed the receiver.
“Zirconia Peacekeeper Shuttle ZP-40, you are cleared to land in docking bay 882.”
“Understood, control,” Considine answered. “882.”
They’re certainly putting us in the proverbial boondocks. Why hadn’t they been directed to the police bay, or even the Peace Council?
“Keep sharp, Brendermeyer.”
Brendermeyer took his sidearm out from under the passenger’s chair and belted it on.
“You expecting trouble?”
“Just keep sharp.”