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"Killer Candy"


Prologue
Surprise Summons

By krprice

Serria Stripeclaw and Keur Matiason stood in front of the large window with the name Franz Henderson, Attorney at Law inscribed in big gold letters. The autumn breeze ruffled Serria’s short, black hair before twisting through Keur’s brown mop then danced off to find amusement among the litter and leaves dotting the streets of Kondreal.
 
“Have you figured out why we’ve been asked to come here?” Serria’s long brown fingers curled around the bronze door handle.
 
“Nope,” Keur said. “No idea.”
 
She opened the door, letting her partner enter first. At seven foot, Serria had to duck to get through the transom.
 
A yellow-skinned Alosian woman in her twenties jumped up from her chair. “Good. You’re finally here. They’re in his office waiting for you.”
 
“Who are they?” Serria asked, raising an eyebrow. “We only expected to see Mr. Henderson.”
 
The secretary opened the inner door, and the duo walked into a brown paneled office. 
 
A man a foot shorter than Serria with silvering hair at his temples stood and held out his yellow-skinned hand. “I’m Franz Henderson.”
 
Serria shook it, introduced herself, then Keur.
 
She gasped when she recognized his other guest.
 
What was she doing here? At fifty, Tandra Tyson owned the biggest sweet shop and distribution center in all of Alosia.
 
A bit over a foot shorter than Serria, Tandra’s usual bright green eyes were rimmed with red.
 
Serria strode over and immediately hugged Tandra. “What’s wrong?”
 
“If you’ll both fill up a cup of tea and sit,” Franz motioned to the blue cups and teapot on the silver tray, and then the beige pillows atop the dark brown wooden chairs. “We’ll get started.”
 
Keur filled both cups, and the two sat. Serria took a sip of the steaming crimson liquid. She didn’t recognize it and glanced over at her companion.
 
“Who makes this tea?” Keur asked.
 
“Lieu Kwan,” Franz’s booming voice said. “Wouldn’t drink anyone else’s.”
 
“Must be a new one,” Keur commented. “She’s my mother’s sister.”
“Thought there was some Kaskellian in you with the combined crimson and yellow coloring,” Franz said. “Now Tandra Tyson is being sued by Dieter Johannsen of Alosia, Lord Roman Ringskov of Jetahn, Lord Kwasame Chang of Kaskellia, Randolf McSullikan of Muswella, and Kraige Kolena of Crescenji because one of their children died after eating sweets from Tandra's shop.”
 
“Whatever they ate, it wasn’t one of my sweets,” Tandra said, pulled out a green handkerchief, and blew her nose. “Nothing I put in them is deadly.” Tears dripped down her oval face.
 
“I’d like to hire you to find out who is responsible for this travesty,” Franz said. “My family has been eating her sweets for decades.”
 
Serria immediately pulled her compad from her purse and started taking notes.
 
“I started making them in my teens, and people liked them.” Tandra wiped the tears away. “So I started selling them, and they became so popular my mother’s kitchen wasn’t large enough to accommodate such a large operation. My parents loaned me the money to start my own business. It took off right away. Now this suit is going to tear down what I’ve built over thirty years.”
 
Serria reached into her purse for a tissue to wipe her eyes, and her heartbeat slowed. She glanced over at Keur, even his eyes misted a bit.
 
Taking a deep breath and regaining her composure, Serria asked, “If the sweets weren’t yours, then whom did they belong to? Did these people actually come into your shop and buy them in person or were they given to these children by a stranger?”
 
“They ordered them and were shipped in my usual white box with Tandra’s Sweet Shop written in red,” Tandra explained. “But when I questioned them, they told me a white bag with my name on it arrived also. I don’t use them for shipping. Only the boxes.”
 
“Where do you keep your shipping schedule?” Keur finished off his tea and set the cup back on the silver tray.
 
“On my computer.”  Tandra took a deep breath.
 
“Then I will need access to your computer to see how someone got that information.” Keur dug his compad from his coat pocket and handed it to her.
 
A few minutes later, she returned it. “I entered my login and password information.”
 
“Thank you.” He stuck it back in his coat pocket. ”I’ll do the computer work while Serria does the leg work.”
 
“And I need the names and addresses of those suing her, so I can talk to them.” She had fished out her compad from her purse while Tandra was busy and handed it to the attorney. “And computer addresses to stay in contact with both of you.”
 
Once he gave it back, Serria returned hers to her purse. They all rose.
 
“I’ll send you a contract when I get back to my room,” Serria said and quoted their rates.
 
“I’ll be waiting for it,” Franz said.
 
Everyone shook hands, but Serria stepped over to Tandra and hugged her again.
 
“We’ll find the perp or perps,” she whispered. “And stop them.”
 
“I know you will,” Tandra managed to stammer.
 
As they walk from the office, Gwyn Prequin sashayed up.
 
“Certainly don’t need her around now,” Serria grumbled about her childhood tormentor.
 
Though eight inches shorter than Serria, they were both brown-skinned from Crescenji.
 
Gwyn’s brown eyes glared malevolently. “What’s agoing on? Why are you two and Tandra at an attorney’s office? Are you in trouble?”  She laughed as if the idea thrilled her. “Aheard kids are dying after eating Tandra's sweets. Is that true?”
 
Serria and Keur split up, trying to walk around her. When they could, they strode together,
picking up their pace. Gwyn pushed each aside and slithered like a snake between them.
 
Grinding her teeth, Serria shoved Gwyn backward. She stumbled on a crack in the sidewalk and fell. They sprinted for the shuttleport to return to the Alosian Space Station.
****
Keur and Serria separated at his room. After several break-ins, Ryck Sanderson upgraded the security system on all his properties.  She placed her right palm on the brown plate, fingers splayed, and typed her code in the pad above it with her left hand. Seconds later, the door clicked. She entered her room, turned on the main light, and let the door shut. Before she went further in, she repeated the procedure, though using opposite hands to lock the door.
 
Like all of Ryck’s Rooms, hers had a small kitchen, bathroom, and larger bedroom/living room. However, she had a tendency to decorate hers in recently worn clothing. A pale blue blouse hung from a seascape, knocking it askew. Serria tossed a bra and panties from a chair and plopped next to a brown table. She hit the green button on her comlink turning off the annoying buzzing and blinking red light indicating she had at least one message.
 
After taking a deep breath, she touched another button to start the messages.
 
“Children are adying here on Crescenji from Tandra’s sweets,” her mother’s frantic voice said.
“What’s going on?”
 
That’s a good question. Wish I knew the answer.
 
Touching the recording switch, she said, “I don’t know. However, I have been hired to find out who is doing this to Tandra and why.” She went on to explain about the meeting this morning before adding, “love to both you and Dad.” Then she turned the recording off and tapped a blue button to send the message.
 
How am I going to stop this monster from killing more children? Since Tandra is being sued by parents on multiple planets, no telling how many other worlds this is happening on. Her sweets are shipped galaxy-wide or at least at this end of the spiral arm.
 
Serria shook her head and wiped her hand across her forehead as if that would conjure up a solution. Before listening to the next message, she rose and strode over to her computer, pulling up her standard contract, filling in the blank spaces, and sending it to Franz Henderson.
 
 She walked back to her comlink and turned it on for the second of the two messages.
 
“This is Walter Langendorfer, assemblyman for the southwest district of Laurenz,” a deep male voice said. “I would like to hire your agency. Please come to my office in the assembly building in the morning.”
 
Again, she hit the recording switch, “This is Serria Stripeclaw. I will be down to see you then.” 
She shut the device off and sent the message before going over to her kitchen for some lunch.
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Franz Henderson—Alosian attorney
Tandra Tyson—Alosian, owner of Tandra’s Sweet Shop
Gwen Prequin—Crescenjian , reporter, Serria’s childhood nemesis
Walter Langerndorfer—assemblyman in Alosian Assembly
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This is the third book featuring Serria and Keur. It's rather short, so any suggestions lengthening it is appreciated.


Chapter 1
Surprise Summons, Part 2

By krprice

Once Keur was in his room, he spotted the blinking message light on his comlink. He’d turned off the buzzing sound before he had left so it wouldn’t have alerted anyone nearby his room was empty.
 
As soon as he sat in the soft, brown leather chair next to the brown table holding the comlink, Keur hit the green message button.
 
“Keur,” his aunt’s voice quivered. “The people of Kaskellia have finally had enough of the nobles living in luxury while they scratch and scramble for the few scrapes the nobles throw at them. Trouble has erupted in Mokar, Sierkas, and other big cities. Brawling, looting, and setting buildings afire. Access the news like you always do. I’m scared.”  As her message ended, her tone had become frantic.
 
Keur jumped up and dashed to his computer. He immediately tapped into the Kaskellian news.
Flames lit up the skyline as if someone had dropped a match into a barrel of fireworks, dancing on the gusty wind, and leaping from one building to another. With any kind of metal or wooden object, residents smacked the local police and nobles, anyone who represented authority. They even hit each other. Some tossed trash cans into store windows then sprinted into to see what they could find to loot while the largest ones turned over both police cars and any other vehicles which happen to be nearby. A dozen Kaskellians in patched clothing ignited the end of the world’s flag of deep red with Kaskellia written in black and a gold crown beneath it.
 
Several rocks hit the heads of the law enforcement personnel, leaving blood trailing down their already crimson skin. Crowds ran every which way with some running away and others dashing into the melee. Police in black riot gear tried to push a line of tall, muscular men away from the fires, showering them with tear gas and pepper spray. Two men pulled out blasters and began shooting. Unfortunately, Keur could only see what was happening but couldn’t hear anything though he spotted lips moving and realized the group was swearing.
 
He watched the events for a full hour before turning it off.
 
Aunt Lieu’s in danger and probably so is Skerry Royk, Vik’s mother. But what can I do from so far away?
****
The next morning Serria took the early shuttle from the space station to Kondreal. She glanced at her watch as she entered the Alosian assembly building. Nine thirty. Hope the assemblyman was in his office.
 
The Crescenji-trained warrior turned private investigator walked in the front door and stepped onto white marble flooring. A short Alosian woman sat behind the scanning machine. She wore a green blazer with a stylized A above the right breast pocket.
 
“Put your satchel on the slide and smaller items in one of the green baskets. Place that on it too, so I can scan it,” she said in a gutteral, northern dialect. “Then step through the screening arch.
After that, show me your ID and state why you are here and where you are going.” 
 
Serria did as commanded. On the other side, she picked up her wallet from the basket and displayed her private investigator’s license.
 
“I’m Serria Stripeclaw,” she said. “And I’m here to see Assemblyman Walter Langendorfer.”
 
The middle-aged woman nodded and handed her a visitor’s pass which Serria attached to the lapel of her black blazer.
 
“Assemblyman Langendorfer’s office is on the second floor.” She pointed to the bank of elevators down the hall.
 
“Thanks,” Serria said and strode to the elevators, pushed the up button. When it arrived, she walked in, and hit the switch for the second floor.
 
Once there, she checked the directory on the right and walked to the man’s office.
 
Inside, she paused in front of the brown desk with a computer atop it. Behind that sat a young woman with limp brown hair.
 
“I’m Serria Stripeclaw, and I would like to see Assemblyman Langendorfer,” she said. “And no, I don’t have an appointment, but I sent him a message saying I would come this morning.”
 
At that moment a short, balding, middle-aged Alosian man stepped from the inner office. His dark brown eyes raked over her.
 
His brown suit and midnight blue shirt stretched over his pot belly. A pale blue tie and black shoes completed his outfit.
 
“Walter Langendorfer,” he said.
                                                                                                                            
Serria introduced herself, and they shook hands.
 
He turned, and she followed him into his office with its jade green walls, brown wooden shelves filled with many books, and a painting of snow- capped mountains. He marched around a large brown desk and settled into a green leather chair and motioned for her to sit in one of the chairs in front of him. After she sat, she took her compad from her purse and began taking notes.
 
“Let me tell you a story,” Walter said. “Luken Bjornsohn, a constituent of mine, spent thirty years in the Alosian navy, getting injured twice. The second time he got a medical discharge and was awarded disability for a lost leg. However, he has not received any money. Every time he contacts the disability service office, he gets a different person, with different amounts of what the check should be. I have called a supervisor who is either busy or not in. I want you to find out the truth and have Keur check computer files.”
 
“That sounds like an easy job for us,” Serria said. She handed him her compad. “Please give me all the information you have on who has been contacted, when, and what was learned from them. I would also like Luken’s comlink number.”
 
She glanced around the office as she waited on him. A history of Alosia stood next to a copy of Laurenz’s constitution, the continent Kondreal was the capital of.
 
He finally finished and returned it to her, and she quoted their prices.
 
“I’ll send you a contract when I return to the station,” she said and rose.
 
He nodded, stood, and shook her hand.
 
She left his office, dropped off her visitor’s badge, and departed the building.
 
Two blocks from the spaceport, four Crescenji warriors topping her by almost a foot surrounded her.
 
“Stay away from Alosian assembly members. If not, you awill face serious consequences,” one of them warned as all four glared at her, daggers of malice blazing from their eyes. They each held a long, metal club.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Franz Henderson—Alosian attorney
Tandra Tyson—Alosian, owner of Tandra’s Sweet Shop
Gwen Prequin—Crescenjian , reporter, Serria’s childhood nemesis
Walter Langerndorfer—assemblyman in Alosian Assembly
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This book is too short. Any help in lengthening it is appreciated.


Chapter 2
Good News and Bad News, Part 1

By krprice

“Unknown ship. This is Alemic Space Control. Identify yourself and your reason for coming.”
 
“Vik Juleskova on the RAINBOW DREAMS, registry out of Kaskellia. I am trader and have come to pick up medicines for leader on Relonquin. He is sick,” Vik said. “I frequently bring herbs to Alemic Lab from Lady Surmenscova.”
 
“Land in bay two,” Alemic Space Control out.      
 
Vik’s ship had come out of hyperspace around a familiar planet.
 
“RAINBOW DREAMS out.”

After landing and shutting down the systems, Vik left the ship and at fast walk, jumping over hoses snaking along the stone floor. She wrinkled her nose at the acrid stench of ship’s fuel that hung in the air like a hazy curtain.
 
Alemic had neither someone checking immigration papers nor a customs inspector. Vik stopped at the same scratched, wooden counter she had on her first arrival.
 
“Please put fuel in my ship in bay two,” she asked. “I’ll pay for it on my way out.”
 
The Jetahni man in a dark blue uniform nodded. From there she strode to another counter, this one in the same condition as the one she had left.
 
 A middle-aged Jetahni woman asked, “How can I help you?”
 
“I’d like to rent small van for two hours,” Vik answered. Don’t know how big supply will be.
 
 “That will be twenty five Jetahni credits,” the man said.
 
“Your rates have jumped since I was here last summer,” Vik grumbled.
 
“Not of my doing,” the man told her as Vik dug into her stash of Jetahni cash and pulled out the required amount before handing it to the rental agent who counted it. He handed Vik the keys.
“Is in parking lot, slot four.”
 
Vik took them and dashed out. Since this was a mercy mission, she had no time to dawdle.
The trip out to the lab went quickly. She pulled up in front of a six story glass and white stone building. Trees with dark orange leaves dotted the manicured lawn with a myriad of red, yellow, purple, and blue flowers, a rainbow of flora, spread all over. She ran into the building and up to the white stone counter.
 
“I am Vik Juleskova,” she said. “I’m here to pick up herbal medicines for leader of Relonquin.”

The young Jetahni spun around to the dark black, metal shelves behind him and pulled out four small brown boxes then set them on the counter.
 
“You’ll have to sign for them,” he said, shoving a paper toward her.
 
Quickly she wrote her name, grabbed the boxes, and walked to the van. While her load wasn’t heavy, it would have been too difficult to run with them. Vik placed them in the van and returned to the spaceport.
 
Vik gave the keys to the agent, paid for her fuel, and hurried to her ship, dodging carts and hopping over hoses.
 
As she raced up the ramp, Dreamer asked, “Who are you running from now?”
 
“No one,” Vik told her as she set the boxes in a secure location. “Close up ramp and get us out of here. Once out of the gravity well, set a course for Relonquin.”
 
Vik settled down, strapped in, and intended to relax during the five day trip.
 
All of a sudden she sat up. “Dreamer, am I imagining things or is whole area around Alemic free of Kaskellian or Jetahni ships? Last time we came we encountered blockade of one or other?”
 
“Nothing unusual appeared on my scanners coming in nor are there any now.”
 
“Need to check on other worlds,” Vik lay back down. “Hopefully, those ships have found other places to harass.”
 
The voyage was uneventful, and they found the space around Relonquin free of any troublesome ships.
 
The sun glinted on a bright blue lake off to her right when Vik came over snow-capped mountains and landed in a green valley. 
 
At the bottom of the ramp, she found six furry, brown and white striped Relonquins though their six fingered hands and faces were bare of fur.
 
“I come with medicine for your leader,” Vik said, displaying the boxes.
 
“Please come quickly,” Brownie said. “He will not be with us much longer without help.”
 
He led her through a small village of huts. The aroma of some meat cooking over the communal fire made her stomach grumble. Don’t know what time it is here, but my stomach tells me its meal time for them.
 
They walked into a thatched hut. Vik’s stomach changed from hungry to nauseous at the stink that permeated the place.
 
A short, rotund female with gray around her muzzle turned around. “Hope you have something to cure him or make his passing easier.”
 
Vik set the boxes on the dirt floor. She opened one. Fortunately, typed instructions lay on the top. Wonder if any of them can read trade or at least trade mixed with medical mumbo jumbo.
 
The young trader began to read it out loud. “In these four boxes, you will find medicine you need. Mix two pinches of powder in from blue box with water. Give this to patient four times a day. The green vial has a top on it you can fill with liquid. Mix that with a pinch of powder from green box. Have patient drink it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You should have enough medicine for three months. The patient should be fully recovered by then. If not, bring him to our medical facilities on Alemic. Signed Dr. Viana Melsicova.” Vik paused then added, “If for some reason you need ride there, let me know. I’ll take you.”
 
“We thank you for your help,” Brownie said. He walked over to a table and opened a blue silk pouch and then extracted something. When he came closer to Vik, he handed her three pieces of a round silverish metal about two inches in diameter and an inch thick. “This is something new we’ve started mining. However, we don’t have any idea of what to do with it. We call it ketone.”
 
“I’ll find out for you,” she said. “Thank you. I hope medicine helps.” This is as light as empty cup.
 
“So do we,” Brownie told her as they left the hut. “And I have one other thing for you.”
 
A slight breeze brought the aroma of the roasting meat again, and Vik’s stomach growled.
 
Brownie laughed. “That meat won’t be ready until this evening. However, I just made a pot of stew this morning. You can have some of that. We’re headed to my hut anyway.”
 
Smaller than the leader’s dwelling, it was immaculate. Vik took a seat on a brown pillow, and then Brownie handed her a gray metal tray with a steaming bowl, spoon, slice of thick brown bread, and a mug of something yellow.
 
She started eating immediately. The stew contained chunks of meat, tubers, and other veggies she couldn’t even start to figure out what they were other than it was all delicious including the bread and drink. They chatted until they were finished.
 
Once she stood, Brownie gave her a package wrapped in green leaves. “There’s six smoked fish for you as thanks for your help.”
 
“Again thank you,” she said, and they strolled to her ship.
 
“I’ll keep in touch to see how your leader is doing and let you know about metal pieces,” she said.
 
“We always look forward to your visits.”
 
She strode up the ramp and closed it up.
 
“What are you bringing on me now?” Dreamer growled.
 
“Six smoked fish. Part of my payment for the med,” she said and took them to the galley, setting them in her small ice box. “Let’s head over to Barsella then Eckot and see if they’ve got unwanted company.”
 
She strapped her, and they took off.
 
It took them several days to reach each one, but there were no ships at either.
 
“Where are they? What are they up to now?”
 
Dreamer stayed silent as if she didn’t have any idea either.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Franz Henderson—Alosian attorney
Tandra Tyson—Alosian, owner of Tandra’s Sweet Shop
Gwen Prequin—Crescenjian , reporter, Serria’s childhood nemesis
Walter Langerndorfer—assemblyman in Alosian Assembly
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Brownie
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions to lengthen this would be appreciated.


Chapter 3
Good News and Bad News, Part 2

By krprice

Serria put her hands on her hips and glared back at the Crescenji men. “You don’t scare me. Tell whoever hired you to back off whether it’s a Jetahni or Kaskellian noble, the Syndicate, or someone else. I have resources you don’t want to tangle with.”
 
“Just stay away from Tonwyc Elwin,” they said, swinging their clubs around like they knew how to use them.
 
Serria spun around and left, growling like a fanghorn all the way to the space station. Hope Mel’s still here. I could certainly use the Fanghorn Brothers as backup. Funny how a year ago the brothers and I were on different sides and now we’re working together. Mel might be the largest crime boss in the galaxy, but at least we’re not enemies.
 
She wended her way through the smelly air, stepping over hoses, and around workers and carts until she read the EVYANNE, her cousin’s ship named after his older sister he worshipped but gone fifteen years now. The EVYANNE was a huge, round, silver ship. Fortunately, the ramp was down, so she strode up to the opening and stepped through. All around her was a large console with lots of buttons and levers of various sizes and colors.
 
“Move,” a male voice growled behind her.
 
As she stepped to the side, the Crescenji pushed a cart full of boxes into the ship. He grunted as he did. Must be heavy if a man of my race has trouble pushing such a load.
 
Stevos Fanghorn walked into the bridge. Seven inches taller than Serria, he was all muscle. He was mostly bald except for the long, black braid. At least his hair was clean. His sharp, ebony eyes stared at her.
 
“What brings you here?” he asked.
 
“I’d like to see Mel,” she said.
 
“We’re kind of busy, but I’m sure he’ll see you,” Stevos said. “Come.”
 
She followed him down the stark beige hallway until he opened a door on the left.
Serria entered and gasped at her cousin, eleven years her elder. Like Stevos, he had shaved off most of his short, curly black hair but wore the traditional Crescenji warrior black braid. He smiled, and it actually reached his hazel eyes.
 
“I see Dr. Slitherspit’s diet has actually worked.” She strolled up to the chair in front of the kekkrikat desk and sat.
 
“Yes,” Mel said. “He’s still a tyrant, but I’ve lost one hundred and forty pounds.”
 
“Not enough,” a deep male voice said.
 
Serria turned and recognized the doctor they had been speaking off.
 
His hazel eyes glared at her as a lock of black hair fell into his face like an errant, misbehaving child. “And what forbidden sweets did you bring this time?”
 
“None,” she answered, smiling at the physician. “I didn’t know Mel was on a diet last time. Now I know not to bring him sweets.”
 
The doctor grunted before leaving and shutting the door.
“So what brings you here?” Mel asked, picking up a steaming cup and drinking its contents. As he put it down, he stuck out his tongue. “Foul tasting stuff, but it controls my appetite.”
 
Serria told him about her new cases then added, “I was threatened by four Crescenji warriors as I
left the assembly building. They warned me to stay away from Tyk Arenson.”                                                                                                      
 
“Describe them.” Mel took another sip and had the same reaction. “And I’ve heard about those deaths. I know Tandra’s not responsible. Glad you’re on the case. That way the real perp or perps will be found.” Mel pushed a blue button on his chair.
 
“All were a foot or more taller than I with brown or black braids,” she said.
 
Before she could continue, the door opened, and both Fanghorn brothers marched in, shutting the door. Gerrik was twin to his brother, Stevos.
 
“I summoned them,” Mel said. “I might not know who they are, but they might.” He indicated the brothers and nodded at Serria.
 
“The two with brown hair had green eyes with a two inch scar on the left cheek,” she said.
 
“Got to be the Kolena brothers,” Stevos said.
 
“And that means the two others were probably Tetrin Whitehawk and Peltrin Silverbeak,” Gerrik commented. “Those four are always seen together. Nasty bunch too.”
 
As if either of the Fanghorns should criticize people for being repugnant, considering the vile things I’ve heard they have done.
 
“Probably should warn them to stay away from Serria before we leave,” Mel said. “I’ve found a new home which is why we’re loading up on goods. I will contact you when we are settled. I do want to stay in touch with you.”
 
“Any chance you’re reforming like Torlon?” she asked.
 
“Some,” he said. “I have started a foundation to help bring those from FLOP get adjusted to their new worlds and begin to make use of their assets.”
 
“Several of my friends trade with them.” Serria smiled. “They’ll appreciate that. And you might add Myetta on your list. It’s in Alosian space. Keur’s partner, Neu Knotts, discovered it and trades with them.”
 
“I’ll do that.”
 

She rose, walked over to Mel, and hugged him. “Thank you for all the help you’ve given me. I hope you continue to lose weight and find happiness somewhere.” She did give him a peck on the cheek and left the ship, taking the shuttle back home.
 
Serria strode to her room once she had returned to the space station.
 
The first thing she did was to sit by her comlink and make a call.       
 
“Pretentious Purple Prequin, Caris speaking.” He was a distant Silverscales relative on her mother’s side.
 
“This is Serria,” she said. “I’d like to reserve the meeting room for nine in the morning two days from now.”
 
“Done,” he said. “Those new pastries I’ve been getting from Cliny have been jumping off the shelves. In fact, she said she had to expand and hire more people to keep up with the demand. And I have you to thank for it.”
 
“Always glad to help,” Serria said then added, “Serria out.”
 
“Caris out.”
 
Serria shut off the link and walked over to her computer. She typed in a message about the meeting and sent it to Keur, Vik, Neu, Rogel, and the Brimsens.”
 
By then, her message light was blinking, so she returned to her comlink and hit the green button.
“Mak Redtail here. I’ve accepted a position on the Alosian Space Station. I look forward to seeing you and getting to know you. Mak out.”
 
Lightness built in her chest as adrenaline rushed through her like water tumbling over rocks. She had met him at the Crescenji hospital a year ago when Pris, a youngster in her care, had been attacked by a fanghorn. Now maybe I have a real chance at a relationship with someone special.
 
While Serria was down on Alosia gathering information, Keur checked on the news feed on Kaskellia. His stomach churned as he watched the chaos taking place in Sierkas where Vik’s mother lived.
 
Fires sprang up like weeds after a spring rain. One man picked up a rock and tossed it into the glass door, reached in, and unlocked it. Then he and two others ran in and began breaking counters and stuffing various items into their pockets. Police followed them in, but before they could do anything, three men began shooting through the bars on the large window, hitting those who had invaded the store. They sprinted away, but Keur recognized the red letters on the back of their black jackets—RAV. They were gang members and had probably shot rivals.
A block down the street, another man broke into a furniture store. With two dozen others, they started a line with some getting chairs and others passing them down. The one at the far end each person took the chair and ran to another store, using it to smash the window and jumping inside to loot it.
 
Shaking his head and shuddering, Keur had seen enough. He shut it off. His heartbeat raced, and his throat constricted. Maybe it was time for Vik’s mom and his aunt to leave Kaskellia.
He took several breaths to calm himself and then, using Tandra’s information, he delved into her computer. His first stop was her delivery schedule. He realized it had been hacked. But by whom and why?

 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Franz Henderson—Alosian attorney
Tandra Tyson—Alosian, owner of Tandra’s Sweet Shop
Gwen Prequin—Crescenjian , reporter, Serria’s childhood nemesis
Walter Langerndorfer—assemblyman in Alosian Assembly
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Mel Silverscales—Serria’s cousin, crime boss
Stevos Fanghorn—twin to Gerrik, Serria put him in prison for theft, he broke out
Gerrik Fanghorn—twin to Stevos,  (see comment above)
Doctor Slitherspit—Mel’s doctor
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions to lengthen this book would be appreciated.

Karlene


Chapter 4
Group meeting

By krprice

Once Serria came out of her dreams of Mak, she walked over to the computer and pulled up a copy of their contract. She filled in all the blanks, signed it, and sent it to Walter Langendorfer.
Then she got down to researching disabilities allowed by the Veteran’s Disability Service Office.
Assemblyman Langendorfer had told her Luken had lost a leg. When she reached the list of disabilities, she found he was eligible for full disability benefits of one thousand credits a month.
Now, she returned to her comlink and dialed Luken’s number.
 
“Luken here,” a deep male voice said.
 
“This is Serria Stripclaw,” she said. “I am a private investigator. Walter Langendorfer has hired me to find out about your disability claims.”
 
“I certainly don’t have the money to pay you,” Luken said. “So don’t expect anything from me.”
“The contract is between the assemblyman and me,” she said. “So it is up to him to pay me. Would you be willing to answer my questions?”
 
“Guess so,” he grumbled.
 
“Walter told me you lost a leg,” she said. “When and where did this happen?”
 
“I lost my left leg below the knee and my middle and index fingers of left hand due to a bomb in Tambolen War,” he said.
 
Serria tried to remember that war. It happened before she had even finished the Warrior’s Academy and come to the Alosian Space Station. And she never did know who the Tambolen’s were or why Alosia fought them. She shook her head.
 
“Are you still there?” he asked.
 
“Yes,” she answered.
 
“I’ve been trying to get benefits for five years. Calling the office every week, getting different people, getting information, different amounts of how much I should be getting” he explained. “To say the least, I am frustrated.  I’m thirty six and my aging, widowed mother is caring for me, supporting me. Veteran’s Health is paying for my medical care. But I can't work. Contact Jane Kristensohn or Willis Morgenstern.”
 
Serria scanned through the names Walter had given her and found both names. “Evidently Walter has tried to call both of them with no luck.”
 
“That’s about the same run around I’ve gotten,” he growled. “Hope you have more luck.”
“Oh, I have means you don’t know about,” she said. “Thank you for the information, and I’ll be in touch with you or Walter.”
 
“Yeah,” he said and cut the comlink.
 
Serria shrugged. If he’s been trying to get help for five years, he’s got to be more than frustrated. He’s got to be angry too. I need to visit the disability office. If no luck with them, I’ll see what Keur can discover.
****
At a quarter to nine, Serria strode into the Pretentious Purple meeting room as Caris was setting out the pastries and teapots.
 
“Good morning,” Serria said as she reached the chair at the head of the large kekkrikat table with a dozen matching chairs surrounding it and took up most of the kekkrikat paneled room.
 
Keur entered next with his trading partner, Neu Knotts, right behind him. They co-owned the BRIGHT STAR.
 
Only a couple inches taller than Keur’s five foot two, Neu was pure Alosian and heir to the wealthy Knotts family who owned the Knotts Shipyard, the only one in Alosian space, and the oldest and largest in known space.
 
Half Jetahni and half Kaskellian, Vik Juleskova was also trader. She and Rogel walked in next followed by Shaylyne and Mike Brimsen.
 
Everyone found a seat and filled their plates with pastries and their cups with steaming tea.
Serria started the conversation. “Keur and I were hired to find out who is using Tandra’s good name to make children sick or kill them. I’m sure you’ve heard of what is happening.”
 
Heads nodded around the table.
 
“Tandra is being sued,” Serria told them.
 
Gasps echoed from all but Keur who no longer was shocked.
 
“I want to visit all the families who lost a child,” Serria said. “I need to travel to Jetahn,
 
Kaskellia, Crescenji, and Muswella. Obviously, I can get to Alosia by shuttle.”
 
“I can take you to Jetahn and Kaskellia,” Vik offered. “I want to visit Mom and Aunt Lieu and try to convince them to leave. Kaskellia is not safe.”
 
“Mike and I can take you to Muswella and Crescenji.” Shaylyne bit into a pastry.
 
“I’d like to hire you two,” Rogel said directly to the Brimsens. “We’ll speak more after the meeting.” As owner of Irriksohn Corporation, Rogel was rich.
 
“I’ll take you everywhere you need to go,” Vik said. “There are places on those planets that always need the special items I handle.”
 
“If you remember, I’ve been excavating on Osanic Four and found signs of former occupants,” Rogel said. “And I’ve been mining and located a number of different types of gems. In fact, instead of trading what I’ve found, I will give trading rights to Vik and the Brimsens.” He paused and drank some tea. “No news on the Syndicate.”
 
“I visited number of planets and found no Kaskellian ships blockading planets anymore,” Vik said. “They probably have enough to do keeping peace on Kaskellia.”
 
“That’s certainly true,” Keur said. “I’ve been monitoring the situation, and I agree with you on getting my aunt and your mother to safety as soon as possible.”
 
They discussed various issues until the meeting broke up.
 
After everyone left, Keur and Neu approached Serria.
 
“We need your help, financial help,” Keur said. “To buy a new ship. The BRIGHT STAR seems to be on her last legs. After all, she’s seventy five years old.”
 
Serria clutched her chest as her heartbeat sped up, and she dropped into the nearest chair.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Neu Knotts, Alosian, trader, partner with Keur, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Luken—Alosian, Needs help in disability
Caris Silverscales, Crescenji, owner of Pretentious Purple Prequin, related to Serria
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This book is too short. Any help in lengthening it is appreciated.


Chapter 5
New Directions

By krprice

Once out of the meeting room, Rogel cornered the Brimsens. “I’d like you to transport noted xenoarcheaologists, Julene and Sven Himmelsohn, and their sons, Rudolph, a xenoanthropologist, and Kristofer, a photographer, to Osanic Four, deliver supplies, and help wherever needed.”
 
“Neither of us are educated enough to help the Himmelsohns,” Mike said.
 
“But we’re willing to learn.” Shay frowned at her brother.
 
“You’re both smart,” Rogel said. “I’ll pay you a thousand Alosian credits a week plus fuel, and you’ll have food and lodging while on site.”
 
Shay glanced and her brother. He nodded.
 
Even though they had inherited a great deal of credits recently, Shay still watched their funds as Mike had a tendency to gamble. Any money would be helpful.
 
“I agree,” Shay said.
 
“Me too,” her brother added, a big smile on his face.
 
“You need to pick them up tomorrow morning at ten at the Kondreal spaceport,” Rogel said.
 
“Your ship will be full with them plus their equipment.”
 
“We’ll be there,” Shay said as the Brimsens left the promenade together.
 
****
“Why can’t you take the money from Neu’s trust fund?” Serria asked once she had taken a few deep breaths and recovered from the shock.
 
“I don't want to draw on principal, only interest,” Neu said. “We will get a family discount.  We want top of the line systems particularly AI, weapons, electronics, speed. But it will still cost one hundred and fifty thousand Alosian credits. The BRIGHT STAR is not worth trading, though we can sell the parts. We want to pay for it in full. That means fifty thousand credits from each of us.” He pointed first to himself and then to Keur and Serria.
 
“Does that mean I’m a full trading partner, share in profits?” Serria crossed her arms over her abundant bosom.
 
Neu and Keur look at each other.
 
“Yes,” Neu said. “But you will have to contribute goods for trade.”
 
She mentioned the first thing that came to mind. “Cliny’s pastries.”
 
“Excellent idea,” Neu said. “This here trading partnership should be real successful.”
 
“I must evaluate finances,” Serria said. “And think about it. Come up with ideas for other things to trade.”
 
“Keur contributes tea. Everyone loves it,” Neu said. “And I add assorted items.”
 
“I’ll let you know after our cases are solved,” Serria told them and walked off.
****
Serria returned to her room to find Vik sitting in the chair by the comlink examining her own compad.
 
“How did you get in?” Serria raised an eyebrow.
 
“Guess you don’t remember giving me your room code a few weeks ago,” Vik said.
 
“No I don’t,” Serria said.
 
“We need to stop at Tirellia first,” Vik said. “I have items to deliver.”
 
They chatted while Serria packed, and the private investigator told her about Keur and Neu’s request as they left her room and walked to Vik’s ship.
 
“It’s not bad idea,” Vik said. “If you can come up with your share of the credits and places besides Cliny’s to trade goods. Bet Havrin on Tirellia would be interested. I deliver wine and sweets to him. He owns Weary Traveler.”
 
“Do you mind if we go to Alif so I can talk to Cliny about it?” Serria asked.
 
“Nope,” Vik answered.                  
 
By that time, they had arrived at her ship and strapped in.
 
“Alosian Space Station control, this is the RAINBOW DREAMS requesting permission to take off,” Vik said.
 
“Leave when ready. Alosian Space Station control out.”
 
“Take us to Alif, Dreamer,” Vik told her AI.
 
The trip was nothing more than a short hop. Once they landed, they held their noses as they walked through the foul smelling spaceport. Only a generous breeze helped dispel the odors of rotten food and rills of urine that dotted the streets.
 
“I’ve warned you once,” the same prostitute Serria had encountered on a previous trip growled.
 
“We’re not in your type of business,” Serria said as the light changed. She and Vik crossed the street.
 
“Nice people and scents you find here,” Vik said.
 
“Yeah, I know.”
 
“Youse bringing a new one for Torlon?” the same man she’d seen before asked.
 
“No, and I’m not coming to see him.” Serria opened the door to Cliny’s Café.
 
Entering, Vik and Serria deeply inhaled the aromas of citrus, berries, and various spices that filled the air.
 
“Much improved fragrances than what is out there.” Vik pointed toward the outer window.
 
Short and plump, Cliny bustled up to the glass counter filled with voringas, citrus sweetness, and other pastries, cakes, and cookies Serria couldn’t begin to identify.
 
“I understand I have you to thank for orders from Tandra,” Cliny said, rearranging her flour-filled green apron.
 
“Glad you and Tandra could do business together,” Serria said. “Now I have another business proposition for you.”
 
“Why don’t you and your friend grab a table?” Clingy suggested. “I’ll bring out some tea I get from Lieu Kwan and some of my newest pastries.”
 
“Always ready for Kwan’s teas,” Serria commented, and Vik nodded.
 
After they were settled with food and tea, Serria explained the situation involving her, Keur, and Neu.
 
“Of course, I’ll supply you with pastries, cakes, and cookies,” Cliny said. “In fact, I’m a bit overstocked with everything. It seems my new hires tripled the recipes I gave them.”
 
Vik tried to hide a smile behind her hand.
 
“I’ll buy everything you are willing to sell me,” Serria offered, wondering what this would do to her personal bank account.
 
 “Let me do some figuring, and I’ll get back to you,” Cliny said. “By the way, the tea and those pastries. . . ´She motioned to the drinks and food on the table. “Are on the house.” She rose and walked to the back of the shop.
 
“If you need any help with amount Cliny comes up with, let me know,” Vik said. “In fact, I know of several places besides Weary Traveler who would appreciate any of these if Havrin isn’t interested in all of them.”
 
“Thanks.” Serria smiled and finished her tea. “I think I can manage it.”
 
A short time later, Cliny returned. She and four helpers set twelve green boxes on the tables.
“We’re going to need cab to get back to spaceport,” Vik said, pulling her comlink from her purse and hunting for a local company.
 
“Exactly five hundred Alosian credits,” Cliny said.  “All at cost.’
 
“But at cost isn’t fair too you,” Serria said.
 
“Right now, it is enough,” Cliny answered.
 
Vik rose and moved away to ask for transportation.
 
Serria fished her debit card from her wallet and handed it to Cliny who took it to her machine and deducted the amount.
 
“Cab on way,” Vik said.
 
“Thanks for selling everything to me at cost,” Serria said.
 
“You’re dong me a favor by taking so much,” Cliny told her as a red aircab drove up.
 
They all loaded the goodies into the cab. When they arrived at the shuttleport, Vik ran for a cart while Serria paid the driver. They loaded the boxes onto the cart, wended their way around the hoses, people, and other obstacles, and then put them on the ship.
 
“What are you filling me up with now?” Dreamer grumbled.
 
“Goodies for Havrin,” Vik said as the duo strapped in.
 
“I’ll get us clearance and head for Tirellia,” Dreamer said in a nicer tone.
 
They lifted shortly and once they were in hyperspace, Serria leaned back and relaxed, trying to come up with ideas for other things she could contribute to the partnership. Guess I’ve already decided to join them.
 
Serria popped up in her seat about midflight.
 
“Firejewels,” Serria exclaimed. “I be I can get a deal with the tribes on the Plepownae Islands on Crescenji since I am from that world.”
 
“Bet you could,” Vik said. “And Neu could get good prices for them on Jetahn and Kaskellia, not to mention rich on Muswella. Jero could probably recommend some people.”

“Yes, he could.” That settled, Serria lay back again and relaxed.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Cliny—Owner of bakeshop in Alif
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This book is too short and could use suggestions to lengthen it.


Chapter 6
New Directions, Part 2

By krprice

After Vik delivered goods to Arryson Imports on Tirellia, the duo returned to the RAINBOW DREAMS with two empty carts. They filled them with wine, sweets, and pastries.
They approached the customs counter and stacked only the sweets on it.
“These and the wine. . . “She pointed to the cases still on the cart. “Are mine.”
He quoted her a price, and she paid it.
“And what do we have here?” the white man asked, starting to open the top box.
“Pastries, small cakes, and cookies for Havrin,” Serria answered and placed her hand on the box. “Eight boxes of twelve pastries apiece, two with six small cakes, and two with six dozen cookies each.”
“I need to see them, maybe sample one or two,” he said and began to lift her hand.
“Touch my hand, and you might be lucky if I only break one finger.” She glared at him as her body tensed, her other hand hovering over his.
“She’s trained Crescenji warrior,” Vik said with a straight face.
His face flushed, and he swallowed as he removed his hand from the box.
“Three hundred Jetahni credits,” he finally said.
Serria took a deep breath before handing him her debit card. My account’s going to need some serious additions before this venture is over with.
He took it, ran it through his machine, and gave it back, his hand shaking.
Serria and Vik put the boxes back on the cart before taking an aircab to the Weary Traveler. They were jammed into the vehicle since it and the trunk were filled with wine, sweets, and the twelve boxes from Cliny.
“Thief,” Serria growled.
“These people, even government workers, get paid so little they have to find another way to make enough to live on,” Vik explained. “Havrin gets a lot of travelers from spaceport, so he does rather well. And he pays his people good money.”
“Someone like Rogel should come in here and give life to this and other planets the Jetahni have abandoned,” Serria said.
 Vik nodded and then said, “Stop behind inn, in the alley. It is lunch time, and place will be very busy.”
They halted. Vik climbed out and slipped through the back door. A few minutes later a bear of a man followed her out.
“Let’s get these into the kitchen,” he said. “By the way, I’m Havrin.”
“Serria Stripeclaw,” she said as she handed him six boxes. “Vik and I can manage the boxes, but we’ll need help with everything else.”
“I’ll send some of my people out to get other items,” he said.
She gave three to Vik while the driver climbed out and opened the overflowing trunk.
Six white men exited the inn and began emptying the trunk and the rest of the cab.
 When the aircab was empty, Serria turned to the white driver.
“How much and in what currency?” Serria asked.
“Anything but Kaskellian,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to be worth much. Five in Alosian if you’ve got it.”
She reached into her wallet, pulled out an Alosian five credit bill, and handed it to him.
“Thanks,” he said.
Serria climbed out, grabbed the three remaining boxes, shut the door, and entered the back of the Weary Traveler.
The kitchen resembled controlled chaos with people stirring steaming pots of something that made her stomach growl, others chopping vegetables or cutting meat from the large animal roasting in the huge fireplace.
Serving women shouted orders while men and women in white aprons dished up food.
“Come in here,” Havrin invited and motioned to a smaller room. Vik and Havrin carried in nine of the boxes.
Serria followed Vik in, still carrying the boxes. She set them on the huge brown desk. Havrin walked in, closing the door. The sound diminished, but the smell of food still lingered. Serria’s stomach growled again, and this time Vik’s did also.
 “I’ll feed you two after we get business conducted.” Havrin glanced at the large black C stenciled on the top box.
“Those twelve boxes are from Cliny’s Café in Alif on Alosia,” Serria said and explained her situation about the partnership and her deal with Cliny.
“Oh, I’ll gladly take all pastries and cakes you will ship to me,” Havrin said. “A friend of mine owns small, and I do mean small, bakery—a one man operation. I bet he’d appreciate some cookies. He can bake anything else but his cookies never come out right.” He turned to Vik. “What do I owe you for wine and sweets?”
After they finished their business, he asked Serria, “What do I owe you for goodies?”
“Six hundred Alosian credits, if you have that much,” she said.
“Are you sure that’s enough?” Havrin asked as Serria handed him her card.
“Yes,” she said. With Alosian currency being so strong, I’ll come out even after paying that crook of a customs man.
He loaded that amount onto her card. “Now let’s eat.”
The dining area had emptied except for the trio and his workers when a white woman in a green dress stomped in and headed directly to Havrin.
“Why are you giving deadly sweets to kids?” she growled and shook her index finger at him.
Serria and Vik gasped. Maybe I can find out something important.
“Not deadly,” he said. “Vik picks up and delivers them right to me.” He pointed at Vik.
The woman shoved a red-wrapped sweet to him. “My son got this from friend.”
“Well, it doesn’t come from Tandra’s Sweet Shop,” Vik said. “She doesn’t use that colored wrapper.”
“What is the friend’s name?” Serria asked. “And can I have that?”
She thrust the sweet at Serria who managed to grab it.
“Tomily Kornikov,” she said. “Lives next to me. I show you.”
Serria and Vik stood.
“Thank you for the lunch,” they said.
“And my partner, Neu Knotts, will be delivering the pastries from now on,” Serria said.
Havrin rose and shook her hand.
“Have him introduce himself,” Havrin said.
Serria nodded. She and Vik followed the woman from the inn.
“I’m Miri Jolesky,” the woman said.
“Serria Stripeclaw, and Vik Juleskova,” Serria said, taking the lead since this was her investigation.
The Weary Traveler was one of the newer buildings in the city with the top being half-timbered and the bottom brown stone. It took up one block. They crossed a small street and passed a leather shop. Serria’s gaze darted to the window and spotted a black leather belt with a shiny metal clasp. However, fragrances of flowers flowed from the florist next door.
As they left that part of town, buildings had their roofs caved in or had open windows staring out like eyes, empty of life. The trio wrinkled their noses at the foul stenches coming from those places. Only a slight breeze brought a better scent. After crossing the main street, half torn down structures, some resembling hovels, changed to small houses on a small lot.
It was to one of these Miri led them.
She knocked on the brown wooden door. A few moments later, a small, gaunt white boy about ten answered the door.
“Tomily, this is Mistress Stripeclaw and Mistress Juleskova,” Miri said. “They want to ask you about red-wrapped sweets.”
“Didn’ steal them,” he cringed as he looked up at Serria.
“We know you didn’t,” Vik said, her voice soothing, flowing like a river of sweetness.
“I’ll be on my way,” Miri said.
“Thank you for your help,” Serria said and reached into her wallet. After what Vik had told her, she decided to be gracious to this woman. Serria handed her a fifty Jetahni bill.
“You don’t have to pay me,” Miri said but snatched the bill and scrambled next door before anyone could speak more to her.
“Momma’s not home,” Tomily said. “So I guess we have to sit out here on stoop. Won’ allow strangers in when she’s not here.”
They sat on the recently swept steps. Tomily huddled close to Vik, his lips and chin trembling as his dark green eyes focused on Serria.
“Where and when did you get those sweets?” Serria asked.
He looked up at Vik.
She wrapped her arm around his thin shoulders. “Just answer her questions. She doesn’t mean you any harm.”
“She so big,” he whined. Then said, “A white man, well white with a crimson tinge, like Mistress Juleskova, gave me sack of ‘em. Tol’ me to pass ‘em ‘round to my friends. ‘bout two weeks ago. I haven’t eaten any.”
“And don’t. You might get real sick,” Serria said. “Will you give them to me?”
“Yep.” He jumped up and dashed into the house.
A woman almost as tall as Vik walked up to the steps.
“Who are you and what are you selling?” she asked, carrying two brown grocery bags.
“Not selling anything,” Serria said. “We’re here to talk to Tomily.”
“He ain’t done nothing wrong,” she growled.
“No, he hasn’t.” Vik answered.
The youngster rushed from the house then, skidding to a stop when he spotted the woman.
“They trying to help, Momma,” he said.
Serria quickly explained the situation as Tomily thrust the sweets at her.
“Who’s givin’ kids those nasty treats?” she asked, setting her bags down.
“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” Serria answered.
“Tomily, why don’t you take me to visit your friends who have sweets?” Vik suggested. “Serria can go to spaceport and find out about ship man came on.”
Thanks, Serria mouthed silently.
“I’ll meet you back at the ship in an hour or so,” Serria said and strode off.
****
Serria returned to the main street and followed it back to the spaceport. There she followed the signs to the dock master’s office.
A burly white man sat behind a scratched desk.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I understand a part Jetahni, part Kaskellian man was giving out sweets a couple of weeks ago,” Serria told him then explained about the deaths.
“Yeah,” he said. “I remember him. Got couple for my nephews.” He reached into the middle drawer and grabbed three. “You can have them if they’re killing kids.”
She took them. “You must have a record of his arrival. Who was he, where was the ship registered from?”
He pulled a large red book from the nearby shelves and thumbed through it. “Here it is. Domik Shau, from Kaskellia.”
“Thank you,” she said and walked through the spaceport to Dreamer.
Vik was just walking up the ramp.
“Hey, Vik,” Serria called.
“Good timing,” Vik said as they entered the ship and strapped in.
“Dreamer, get us clearance and take us to Jetahn,” Vik said.
Moments later they left Tirellia and went to lightspeed.
Serria told Vik what she had learned.
“I gathered six pieces from only two friends,” Vik said. “That’s all we could find. But Tomily said he’d warn others.”
“What is someone from Kaskellia doing handing out those sweets, and where did he get them?” Serria asked.
Vik shook her head. “No idea.”
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Havrin—owner of The Weary Traveler on Tirellia
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions in lengthening this would be appreciated.


Chapter 7
Interviews, part 1

By krprice

They arrived on Jetahn around mid-morning. While Vik went to take care of having her ship serviced, Serria dialed Lord Ringskov to set up an appointment. Even she knew better than to just drop in on a noble.
 
“Anoli,” a female voice said in Jetahni. “Norka Ringskov retardai.”
 
In trade, Serria said, “This is Serria Stripeclaw from the Alosian Space Station Detective Agency. I would like to speak to Lord Ringskov on his suit against Tandra Tyson.”
 
The female voice began speaking rapidly off the comlink in Jetahni, a language Serria only knew a few words of. Serria did catch the word Alosian. Maybe I should have waited until Vik got back and have her make the call for me!
 
“This is Lord Ringskov,” a baritone voice said in heavily accented trade. “Matti doesn’t speak or understand trade very well. She said you’re Aloisan. Why are you here? Are you woman selling deadly sweets?”
 
“No, I’m not,” Serria said. “I’ve been hired by her attorney to talk to you about the situation. I’m on the planet and would like to make an appointment to see you at your convenience.”

“I will be home all day, but two this afternoon will be best time,” he said.
 
“Mr. Henderson gave me your address,” Serria said. “And I will have a friend with me who is half Jetahni and half Kaskellian. She can translate if necessary.”
 
“I will see you then,” he said and cut the comlink.
 
Serria did the same as Vik walked into the ship, a big grin on her face.
 
“I have an appointment at two to see Lord Ringskov at his home,” Serria announced. “And why the big smile?”
 
“I talked to Pavel Eskavovich, owner of Pavel’s Inn.” Vik plopped in the pilot’s chair. “And he wants mead, smoked fish, and sauce I have in hold.”
 
“Where did you get those?” Serria asked.
 
“The mead came from Uraptia while I received other two from Relonquin,” Vik answered and stood. “If I showed you where they are on ship, would you please bring them to doorway?  I’ll get cart.”

“Sure,” Serria said and rose. “Maybe Pavel would be interested in some of Cliny’s pastries.”

“Probably would.” Vik led her down the short hallway to a storage room. “Those two black cartons are mead while two green ones hold fish and sauce.”
 
Vik dashed away, and Serria began hauling the boxes, two at a time, to the ramp. By the time she had made the second trip, Vik met her at the bottom with the cart already holding the mead.
 
After stopping by the customs counter, they took an aircab through Marinka, the Jetahni capital city.
 
“Pavel’s Inn, and please go to alley at rear of it,” Vik told the driver.
 
Brightly colored onion domes of green, red, purple, and yellow stretched like pointed fingers toward a late fall sun. A stiff breeze knocked the vehicle around like it was a toy.
 
A crimson onion dome crowned the three-story, dark green stone building where the driver halted. He climbed from the aircab and unlocked the trunk.
 
A white man only a few inches shorter than Serria exited the inn. He opened the door and began to enter into a high speed, spirited conversation with Vik in Jetahni. Two other men walked out and picked up the boxes from the trunk and carried them inside.
 
In trade, Serria asked, “How much?”
 
“Twenty Jetahni credits.”
 
She pulled two Jetahni credit bills from her wallet. “Receipt, please.”
 
He scribbled something on a paper pad he pulled from his pocket and handed it to her.
 
“Thanks,” she said and climbed out.
 
He nodded, got into his cab, and drove off.
 
Serria stared at the receipt. For all she knew, he could have written some kind of vulgar message on it.
 
That same stiff breeze blew by, making Serria shiver as Vik grabbed her arm and motioned to the inn.
 
“Warmer in there,” her friend said.
 
And so it was. Serria noticed a fire blazed in the hearth, sending out tendrils of heat to the few people occupying the dark brown tables.  She glanced around at the matching paneled walls dotted with photographs of various land and seascapes.
 
“Serria Stripeclaw, this is Pavel Eskavovich,” Vik said and before Serria got to say anything, Vik added, “Pavel, this is good friend, Serria Stripeclaw.”
 
“Nice to meet tall woman,” he said in accented trade. “Very few around here. You are from Crescenji?”
 
“Yes, I am,” Serria answered. “Nice to meet you.” She decided not to tell him she had trained at the Crescenji Warrior Academy where both her parents work.
 
“Come with me,” Pavel invited. “I will feed you some kesta soup and warm black bread to chase the chill away.” He yelled something at two of the kitchen workers.
 
They followed him into a large room with a kekkrikat desk and matching chairs. Books filled the shelves.  After they sat, a couple of men set up a table in front of the ladies, and then two women brought in steaming bowls of soup, bread, silverware, a crock of butter, and glasses of something blue, the latter of which they gave to Pavel also. Then they disappeared and closed the door.
 
“Eat,” Pavel said. “I have broken my fast.”
 
Serria thought it was rather early for lunch, but she dipped her spoon into the bowl and barely touched it to her tongue. It was hot but also delicious with a nutty flavoring. Assorted pieces floated in the broth, none she could identify.
 
Serria buttered some bread while the soup cooled and sipped the blue liquid. A berry juice, she decided.
 
“That is made from roka berries,” Pavel said.
 
Serria mind swirled. This might be something Neu could acquire and take to Aunt Lieu for tea.
 
“You have gleam in your eyes,” Vik said. “You’re thinking about Aunt Lieu and tea.”
“Yes.”
 
Pavel raised an eyebrow, and Vik explained about Lieu Kwan’s teas.
 
“For some reason, they have not been available on Jetahn,” Pavel told them.
 
“Neu, Keur, and I will have to correct that.” Serria enlightened about the possible arrangement. “In fact, maybe you’d be interested in delectable pastries from Cliny’s Café on Alosia.”

“Always looking for something new to add to menu,” Pavel said. “Many tourists and travelers stay here. If I get you berries, would you bring me tea?”
 
“Yes,” Serria said. “Though Neu Knotts will be our representative. But do you have something for Vik to trade?”
 
“I make jam from berries,” Pavel said.  “In fact, I have twelve boxes that need to find homes with people who love something sweet on good bread.”
 
“I know lots of people who would appreciate your jam,” Vik said. “And maybe I could drop some off with Cliny. Bet she could put them in pastries.”
 
“And I would want some,” he said.
 
While they ate, they talked about the events going on around Kaskellia.
 
As Pavel and Vik dickered about her delivery and his jam, Serria spotted a dark purple jewel in a pendant hanging around Pavel’s neck on a silver chain, particularly the twisting silver filigree crisscrossing it.
 
When they had agreed on payment, Serria said, “That’s a beautiful pendant. Where did you get it?”
 
“My sister, Zohreen,” he said. “She owns Zohreen’s Jewelry Emporium and is very gifted.”
“She certainly is,” Vik said, studying the piece in question. Then she turned to Serria. “You’ve got that gleam in your eyes again.”
 
“Firejewels,” Serria said. “Bet she could make magnificent necklaces, bracelets, and earrings from them.” She continued to tell him of her hope to obtain them from her homeworld. “Where is Zohreen’s shop?”
 
“Turn left when you leave here,” Pavel said. “Go down two streets, left again. Shop is on far corner.”
 
“We’ll go there now,” Vik said. “And come back with aircab for jam.”
 
They said their goodbyes and followed his instructions to her shop.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Lord Ringskov—Jetahni, lost child when she ate deadly candy
Roman—Lord Ringskov son
Pavel Eskavovich—Owner of Pavel’s Inn
Zohreen Eskavovish—Owner of Zohreen’s  Jewelry Emporium
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This book is short. Any help in lengthening it is appreciated.
People on Jetahn do no use articles like a, an, and the.


Chapter 8
Busy in two places, Part 2

By krprice

The RAINBOW DREAMS landed on the Alosian Space Station.
“Thanks for the ride,” Serria said as she and Vik walked down the ramp.
 
“You’re more than welcome,” Vik said. “I’ll see you about seven for trip to Crescenji.”
 
“See you then.” They went their separate ways.
 
By the time Serria got to her room, it was early afternoon. She took and shower then gathered up her dirty clothes and headed to the laundry room to get that started.
 
After checking her messages and finding none, Serria sat at the computer and between typing up her notes and making trips to the switch her clothes around, it was nearly five when her door chimed.
 
Fortunately, she had just saved her work for the final time, rose, and answered the door.
 
Her heart skipped a beat. She hadn’t felt this attracted to a man for five years. Mak Red Tail stood before her. All seven feet of him. He was slim and smiled that reached his deep violet eyes. Serria had to hold her hands into fists to keep from reaching up and run her fingers into his short, wavy, brown hair.
 
“Come in,” she invited, moving out of the way, glad she had picked up her dirty clothes earlier today.
 
He entered and only had eyes for her as they raked over her, beginning with her head and down to her feet.
 
“You’re just as beautiful now as when I saw you at the hospital on Crescenji about a year ago,” he said, in a sexy baritone.
 
Her pulse quickened, and she laughed. “I was a mess when I brought Pris in back when I was hunting the Charbessa Jewels.”
 
“Not to me you weren’t,” he said. “Is there any place on the station to get a decent meal? I’d like to take you to dinner to celebrate my first job after graduating and becoming a doctor.”
 
“The best place is the Pretentious Purple Prequin,” she said. “Owned by Caris Silverscales, some relative of my mother. However, they serve food from all over the galaxy.”
 
“Good,” he said. “I wanted something besides food from home.”
 
“Then let’s go about seven,” she said, and he left.
 
 Once she had finished the laundry, she had put on a dark green blouse and slacks so she was dressed decently to eat out.
 
He returned about seven. They remained quiet as they strode along the gray metal walls, not passing anyone until they reached the promenade. Chatter of various languages echoed around them. Caris stood at the entrance to his restaurant.
 
“Well, now Serria, it’s nice to see you’re bringing one of our people to my eatery,” Caris said.
 
“Caris Silverscales, this is Mak Red Tail,” Serria said. “Mak. Caris Silverscales. Mak is joining our medical staff.”

The men shook hands and exchanged the usual pleasantries when meeting someone new.
 
“I have just the table for you two,” Caris said.
 
With Caris in the lead, they wound their way around people sitting on pillows of dark purple and light pink mixed in with pale green, crimson, and midnight blue, a veritable rainbow of softness until they reached a table of kekkrikat wood like the paneling on the walls.
 
Aromas of grilled redtail, Mak’s surname namesake, baked silverscales, and one Serria couldn’t identify permeated the place.
 
“Are you cooking something new?” Serria sat as Mak pulled out her chair. “I can’t identify the smell.”

“Several new items.” Caris grinned.  “Threndiff from Driffadodd, barbequed jornic, and fried galatys, a large, sweet fish from Myetta.”
 
“Where did you get something from Driffy?” Serria raised her left eyebrow. “From what Vik said, it was dangerous to try to get on that planet, if not impossible.”

“I’ve found a friendly source on the space station above the world,” Caris said. “Some nephew of one of the Gang of Nineties. The jornic comes from various sources, but the galatys came from Neu Knotts. Seems he has a trading agreement with Myetta.”
 
“Along with a girlfriend.” Serria laughed.
 
“No wonder he’s been in an exceptionally happy mood when he brings the galayta here.” Caris handed each a compad. “This contains our entire menu. Adalie will be your server.” He turned and left.
 
Serria and Mak began scrutinizing the list.
 
“Are you going to have any drink?” Mak asked.
 
“Yes,” she said. “My usual. A Creselious Sunset.”
 
“That’s a great choice, but I think I’ll have a glass of Kaldicott wine.”
 
“They’re all good,” Serria said. “The best is Khavae Mint, but that’s a dessert wine. We can have that after we eat.”
 
An Alosian woman walked up. “I’m Adalie, and I’ll be your server. What can I get you?”
 
“I’ll have a Creselious Sunset,” Serria said.
 
“A Kaldicott rose`, ’16,” Mak said. “Hope that’s a good year.”
 
“Jero doesn’t make a bad wine,” Serria commented. “I don’t want an appetizer.”
 
“Neither do I,” Mak added. “But I think we’ll order when you bring our drinks.” He glanced over at Serria who nodded, and Adalie spun around and walked away.
 
“I have four brothers and two sisters, and a shipload full of nieces and nephews,” Mak said. “What about you?”
 
“Only child,” Serria told him. “I always wanted a sibling, but it never happened.”
 
“Kids like you wished you had a number of sibs,” Mak said. “And I wanted less sibs.” He hung his head. “Not that I don’t love them, but the house was kind of crowded most of the time. No privacy or quiet.” Then his tone changed. “So what do you like to read or do you?”
 
“I love mysteries, but I don’t get enough time to read them.”
 
“I do too, and I’d like to write them like my father.”
 
Serria gasped. “Is your Dad Oltari Redtail?”
 
“Yep.”
 
“Oh my God,” Serria said. “My dad has every one of his books. I’ve been reading his kid’s mysteries since I was six.”
 
“Six?” Mak raised an eyebrow. “Dad’s books are aimed for nine to twelve year olds.”
 
“Mom always read to me.” Serria said. “And I started reading at age three, so by the time I was in first grade, my reading level was well above that of my class.”
 
Adalie brought their drinks.
 
“I’d like the galatys, baked orange tubers, kochins with cheese sauce, and house salad with house dressing,” Mak said.
 
“Threndiff, mashed tubers, and the same thing he ordered.”
 
Adalie took their compads and left.
 
“By the time I turned twelve, I was ready to start reading your dad’s adult books,” Serria said. “But he wouldn’t let me touch his precious first editions. So I got them from the library.”
 
Mak laughed. “Twelve? Didn’t you find them a little, uh, grown-up?”
 
“You mean the sex?” Serria grinned.
 
“Uh, yes.”
 
“Mom read romantic suspense, so I filched some of them,” she explained. “I got a good education from them and other books I read on the subject. Mom finally told me about sex when I was ten.”
 
Their salads came then, so that stopped that discussion.
 
During the meal, they found they each liked classical music but not opera nor the latest pop music. Neither was much into art nor sports. They both loved action adventure movies
 
Serria told him as much as she could about her case.
 
After they drank their Khavae Mint wine, he walked her to her room.
 
“I’d invite you in but I’m exhausted from all the traveling,” Serria said. “And I’ve got a lot more to do. But I had a great time. Thank you for a wonderful dinner.”
 
“And I will be very busy getting settled in my apartment and my new job.” He gave her a peck on the cheek. “And I had an enjoyable time too.”
 
 He squeezed her hand and strode away.
 
Serria entered her room to find Keur sitting by her comlink. “Where have you been?” He glared at her, his eyes blazing like lasers from a ship.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any help in lengthening this book would be appreciated.


Chapter 9
Interviews, part 2

By krprice

Zohreen’s Jewelry Emporium was a dark green stone, two-story building on a corner. Serria and Vik stood in front of the glass windows gazing at the display of silver jewelry with gems of various shades of red, green, purple, and blue. 
 
Vik opened the door, and they entered. Serria inhaled a sweet fragrance that reminded her of marista, a favorite of her mother’s.
 
“What kind of flower does that lovely smell come from?” Serria asked Vik.
 
“Beliria,” Vik answered. “It’s pale lavender and is favorite of non-nobles.”
 
Before they got to explore the array of jewelry in the glass counters, a six foot woman with curly, shoulder-length, auburn hair walked through the multi-colored bead dividing the front and back.
 
“I’m Zohreen,” she said in trade.
 
Serria could tell she and Pavel were related with the same oval face and pale blue eyes, though his short hair had been bright red and as straight as the columns in her ledger.
 
“I’m Vik, and this is Serria,” the trader said. “We just came from your brother’s inn and couldn’t help but admire pendant he wore.”
 
Zohreen laughed, sort of a giggly one you’d expect from a young girl not a mature woman who owned a business. “Most men wouldn’t wear such thing, but my brother isn’t most men.”

“No, he’s not,” Vik said but didn’t elaborate.
 
“I am entering into a partnership with two friends,” Serria said. There I admitted what I’ve been thinking about. “One of the men, Keur Matiason, and I own the Alosian Space Station Detective Agency, but the other is Neu Knotts, a trader.” Then she explained about her connection to Crescenji. “I’m hoping I can make a deal with the tribes on the Plepownae Islands for firejewels. Would you be interested in them if I could?”
 
“Absolutely,” she exclaimed. “But only as exclusive jeweler on Jetahn.”

“I don’t see any problem with that,” Serria said.
 
“I have these.” Vik stuck her hand in her purse and pulled out a blue gem and a gold gem, both about the size of her fingernail.
 
“Oh my,” Zohreen said. “Where did you get them? And can you get me more?”
 
“Hanorik,” Vik told her. “And yes, I could get you more. In fact, a couple of my friends have some different ones from Osanic. A jeweler on Alosia suggested we auction them off. But I’d rather sell mine to you.” She glanced over at Serria. “In fact, Neu was at shop too with gems, but he wouldn’t say where he got them.”
 
“I think he’s got a girlfriend on Myetta, a small planet in Alosian space.” Serria smiled. “Maybe he got them there.”
 
“Strange, though, he wouldn’t tell us,” Vik said. “It’s not like either Brimsens, or I will poach on planet.”
 
Serria shook her head. She didn’t know the answer either.
 
While Vik and Zohreen discussed a price, Serria wandered around the store, admiring everything. A pair of earrings caught her eye. They had a letter in silver filigree with a green gem below it. Mother would certainly like something like that with an E and a firejewel below it.
 
“Serria, Serria,” Vik said. “Where were you?”
 
“Thinking about a pair of earrings with a firejewel in it for Mom like that one.” She pointed to the ones in question. “But with an E for Erisa.”
 
“You give me firejewel, and I make you earrings,” Zohreen said. “We exchange no credits.”
 
“Deal,” Serria said and glanced at her watch.
 
“Yes, I thought same thing,” Vik said. “We have appointment at two and must go.”

“Make sure your friend introduces himself,” Zohreen said.
 
“He’s Alosian, so I doubt you’ll mistake him for someone else.”
 
They bid goodbye and grabbed a passing aircab for their trip to Lord Ringskov’s house.
****
The vehicle stopped in front of a large, dark blue stone house with a landscaped lawn. Red, lavender, and silver flowers, the latter with pink tips, nodded their heads in the breeze while yellow bark trees dotted the area.
 
Precisely at two, Serria rang the doorbell. The bronze door opened to reveal a lanky Jetahni man with short blond hair and dark blue eyes.
 
“I am Lord Roman Ringskov,” he said. “Come in and welcome to my home.”
 
He moved aside, and they stepped onto red and yellow tiles. After he closed the door, they followed him into a room which carried the same color scheme with kekkrikat furniture.
Serria sat on a nearby chair while Vik settled into the loveseat. The lord seated himself on the sofa.
 
“Serria Stripeclaw,” she introduced. “Vik Juleskova.”
 
Moments later, a maid brought in a tray filled with steaming cups of tea, spoons, a platter of cookies, and three small plates.
 
Once they had taken a cup and filled a plate with cookies, Serria spoke, repeating what she had told him over the comlink
 
Serria pulled out one of the sweets wrapped in red. “Is this what your child ate?”
 
The lord leaned over and took it. He held it away from himself as if it were a creature that might bite him.
 
“No,” he said. “It was wrapped in green.” He threw the candy back at her.
 
“It’s not something Tandra sells,” Serria said.
 
Lord Ringskov glanced down at his expensive gold watch.
 
“Where did your child get it?” Serria sipped her tea. It had a citusy flavor but nothing she could identify. As they talked, she removed her compad from her purse and wrote down what he said.
 
“I think you should talk to my son, Roman,” Lord Ringskov. “He found sweets on our doorstep.”
 
As if he was waiting for a summons, a young man about twelve walked in and slipped in next to the lord. He looked like a younger version of his father.
 
“Does he speak trade?” Serria asked.
 
“Quite well,” the young man said. “Besides Jetahni, I also speak Alosian and Kaskellian.”
 
“Well educated, I see,” Serria complimented.  Before asking, “Who ordered the sweets from Tandra?”
 
“I did,” Roman said. “With Father’s permission, of course.”
 
“And you found them on your doorstep?” Serria bit into a cookie that had a blue berry in the middle.
 
“Yes,” the boy said. “There was box with her name on it with sweets I had ordered. But we also got white bag with her name on it also. That held ones with green wrappers like you’re holding. I didn’t order anything like that.” 
 
Tears dripped down his check, and his father handed him a dark pink handkerchief.
 
After he wiped his cheek and eyes, he continued, “My little brother rushed up and grabbed sweet from bag, unwrapped it, and stuck it in his mouth. He was barely seven. Two hours later he was dead. That was two weeks ago.”
 
Again, he started crying.
 
“My wife, Jessina, was devastated,” the lord said, looking at his watch for the second time. “She collapsed at funeral.”
 
This time he started crying. Serria rose, hugged Roman, and then the lord. As she turned, Vik scowled at her.
 
“My partner and I will do everything to find and punish the culprits.” Serria reached into her purse, extracted her card, and gave it to him. “Please feel free to contact me if you need help or just need to talk.”
 
He nodded.
 
“Thank you for your time and refreshments.” Serria turned, and she and Vik left.
They called for an aircab.
 
“You should not have hugged them,” Vik chastised. “There are rules against that on Jetahn.”
 
“They needed it,” Serria said as the aircab drove up, not having regretted it at all.
 

After picking up the jam, the duo headed to the spaceport and departed.
 
Red and gold streaked the dawn sky as the RAINBOW DREAMS landed in Sierkas, the capital city of Kaskellia. Since it was too early to call Lord Chang, Serria and Vik watched the chaotic news as they ate breakfast.
 
Vik opened a bottle of jam, and they smeared it on their toast.
 
“Excellent,” Serria said. “Are you going to sell some here in Sierkas?”
 
Her friend shook her head as her mouth was full. She swallowed and said, “Too dangerous to venture farther than we have to.”
 
“Which means only going to Lord Chang’s house and seeing your mother.” Serria washed a mouth full of bread and jam with one of Aunt Lieu’s tea.
 
“Dreamer, turn off the vid,” Vik said. “I’ve seen enough to make me want to find a hole and crawl into it.”

“Glad we don’t live here or even have to stay here long.”
 
By the time they had cleaned up the small galley and taken showers with real water, the duo settled in front of the comlink since it was nine o’clock.
 
With Vik doing any translating, this call went easier.
 
“Can you come right now?” Lord Chang asked.
 
“As soon as we can grab aircab,” Vik said.
 
“Then I’ll see you soon,” he said. “And we’ll speak in trade. Chang out.”
 
“Vik out.” She turned to Serria. “Let’s go.”

They wound their way through the acrid odor of ship’s fuel, hanging over the ships like a dirty gray curtain, stepping over hoses twisting their way across the gray stone floor, and dodging carts filled with tools or people maneuvering them.
 
After pausing to pay for ships services, they exited the shuttleport and were lucky when an aircab pulled up and disgorged its passengers. Vik and Serria jumped in before anyone else could beat them to it.
 
Vik gave the driver Lord Chang’s address as they whizzed away from the noisy ships getting ready for takeoff.
 
Serria noticed Vik wipe away tears.
 
“I grew up in Sierkas,” she said, her chin trembling as they watched building after building either starting to collapsed or were already a pile of rubble.
 
Flames licked the outside of other structures as firefighters had to push the mobs and looters away to douse the fires. 
 
They left the downtown area, and everything still stood without any damage, stopping at Lord Chang’s house.
 
The gray stone house stood on a small lawn with gray slate roof started at a point, sloped down to four points, and then tipped upward like a wave starting to crest. Oblong, midnight blue flowers with gold trim surrounded the front.
 
The door opened as they walked up the steps. A slim Kaskellian man just an inch or so taller than Keur opened the door. His slanted eyes were hooded, and he had curly black hair. He wore a dark green polo shirt, black slacks, shoes, and socks.
 
“Come in,” he said in crisp, deep trade with little accent.
 
The midnight blue and yellow tiling followed them until they reached a plush, blue rug on which sat a roomful of kekkrikat furniture.
 
He tapped his teeth with his left index finger as he motioned for them to sit. The women sat on a loveseat while Lord Chang perched on a chair.
 
Serria began to explain the situation the same way she had the day before on Jetahn.
 
“I understand your six-year-old daughter died after eating the sweet,” Serria said. “When, where, and how did she get it?” She fished her compad from her purse and wrote notes.
 
“Chellie died two weeks ago after getting sweet in green wrapper from friend who received it in a separate white bag from Tandra's,” he told her, his eyes tearing up. “They had ordered sweets and small cakes from Tandra.”
 
“Sounds like the same thing that happened to Lord Ringskov,” Vik said.
 
He raised an eyebrow, and Serria described to him what they had learned on Jetahn.
 
All of a sudden his eyes dried up like a river that had been dammed up.
 
“My wife is on bedrest as she is expecting our second child in six weeks.”
 
His black eyes grew stormy. He jumped up. “Who’s giving this deadly stuff to kids?” He demanded and thrust his right fist at Serria.
 
 “That's what I’ve been hired to find out,” she said.
 
She and Vik quickly rose and dashed from the house before he assaulted them. They ran to the corner of the block before Vik called an aircab.
 
“Wish we could have found out who gave the girl the candy,” Serria said.
 
“Me too,” Vik commented. “But I thought he was going to smack you.”
 
“I think he might have if I hadn’t towered over him by a good foot and a half.”
 
Moments later, an aircab stopped in front, and they climbed in. Vik gave the man her mother’s address and off they went.
 
The house they pulled up to was blue stone which was quarried well south of Sierkas and very expensive, something close to a room full of furniture made of kekkrikat, the highly prized and highly priced wood from Crescenji.
 
A crimson skinned woman flung open the door and ran out onto the porch. Vik’s mother was closer to five foot three with not a sliver of silver in her short, curly black hair though she was in her early fifties. Pale green eyes raked over her daughter as if she hadn’t seen her in years and grabbed her in almost bone crushing embrace.
 
“I’ve been so worried about you two,” Skerry said in trade, not a hint of an accent. “Let’s get inside.”
 
Blue and yellow tiles filled the entryway and hallway and appeared to be her color scheme on the first floor. Not only was her furniture made of kekkrikat, but it was antique, at least a hundred years old, if Serria was to guess. Must be making all kinds of money.
 
“Mon, this is Serria Stripeclaw,” Vik introduced. “Serria, my mother, Skerry Royk.”
 
Skerry hugged Serria too. “Nice to meet Vik’s friends.”
 
“And she’s the oldest I have on the space station,” Serria said.
 
Skerry led them to the kitchen where steam rose from a teapot. Skerry brought it to the table while Vik got down cups, saucers, silverware, and small plates. Vik grabbed the blue platter of pastries.
 
They sat at an older table of kekkrikat wood. Skerry filled the cups, and the ladies chose pastries for their plates.
 Once they were settled, they caught each other up on what was going on in their lives and their last few stops.
 
Vik dug into her purse and brought out a half a dozen silver, red, and gold gems.
 
“Rogel gave these to me from his mining on Osanic Four,” she said. “They are thanks for rescuing him a few months ago.”
 
“Yes,” Skerry said. “I remember your telling me about that adventure. You live very dangerously.
 
“Not as dangerous as Kaskellia has gotten,” Vik said. “You need to leave.”
 
“Where would I go? What about a job?” Skerry’s lips trembled, and her face turned pallid.
 
“Alosia,” Serria said. “I understand you have a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. There are all sorts of companies in that field there. And you have lots of experience out of the lab.”
 
“Is Lieu Kwan going?”
 
“I don’t know?” Serria answered.
 
“If she goes, I will go.”
 
Sirens blared, cutting through the quiet of the neighborhood.
 
“What is going on now?” All three asked.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Lord Ringskov—Child died after eating candy
Roman—Son of Lord Ringskov
Zohreen—Owner of Zohreen’s Jewelry Emporium
Lord Chang—Child died after eating candy
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Author Notes I'm sorry this is out of sequence. I should have posted it yesterday.

Any help in lengthening this book is appreciated.

Karlene


Chapter 10
Busy in two places, Part 1

By krprice

With Serria off planet, Keur sat at his computer, put his mindjack in, and using Tandra’s information, gained access to her computer. He located the exact spot where someone had hacked into the site. The perp’s trail, like purposely dropped pebbles, was easy to follow for someone with his skills. Keur slipped from one ‘pebble’ to another, finally ending at the Alosian Assembly website. He been in there before, so he used the same backdoor he’d created, sneaking through it as easily as a skater glided on ice. The trace ended in Tyk Arensen’s office.
 
“Not again,” Keur growled. This had been the second or third time in the last several months he’d found evidence Tyk or someone in his office was meddling where they shouldn’t have.
What does the assemblyman have to do with this?
 
Keur returned to his own computer and typed Syreme Corporation into his search engine. Maybe I’ll get lucky this time and actually find out something about this mysterious company.
 
The result came up with the words ‘did not find.” Keur shook his head, typed in Biotech, and used a number of curse words in various languages.
 
Again, the same phrase appeared. He yanked the mindjack from the node in his head and banged on his desk. His heart raced faster than a ship pushing his hyperdrive to its limits.
 
They’ve disappeared. Who were they, and why are they gone?
 
****
The ground trembled as if a superhuman picked the house up and shook it.
 
“Earthquake?” Serria raised an eyebrow.
 
“Never had one before,” Skerry said. “Not in all the decades I’ve been living here. Nor have I ever heard of one in Sierkas.”
 
An explosion rocked the house. The trio grabbed the cups and plates on the table, jumped up, and ran to the front window. Red and gold flames shot out of a dark gray cloud of smoke. Sirens sounded through the city.
 
Skerry gasped and sank into a midnight blue chair. She clutched the edge of the kekkrikat table until her crimson hand turned as white as a Jetahni’s skin.
 
Vik’s eyes widened, and she stammered, “What’s wrong, Mother?”
 
The tea and pastries knotted in Serria’s stomach.
 
Before Skerry got to answer her daughter, the lights flickered and then went out.
 
“That-that was Liralik Manufacturing Corporation that blew up,” Skerry managed to say. “They make missiles for the Kaskellian Navy.” She took several deep breaths trying to calm herself.
 
Skerry rose, turned, and stared out the window as the blaze leaped up as if joyful in its freedom.
 
“You two had better leave,” she said. “While it’s safe, while the sky is clear enough for you to get into hyperspace. I’ll get my affairs in order and start packing so I’ll be ready to leave.”
 
Serria embraced Skerry then Vik hugged and kissed her mother. They grabbed their purses and slipped out the back door, racing through the grass. The duo dashed through the yard of the house behind Skerry’s and continued to run once they hit the sidewalk.
 
They were six blocks away from Vik’s mother’s house when they literally ran into trouble.
“Watch where you’re going,” Serria growled as she steadied the young man who had run into her. He gripped a blue and red gem-filled necklace and bracelet in each hand. She gasped when she realized the items were stolen from the brown-stone store on her right.
 
“Looky what we found,” muscular adolescent said as he and a companion held Vik’s arms behind her back.
 
“Let her go.” Serria marched over to them.
 
Vik’s face was turning red as her captors. “You’d better do as she says.” Vik struggled in their grip. “She’s trained Crescenji warrior.”
 
“Well, she is brown, so she is Crescenji.” The muscular laughed. “But my Crescenji uncle says females can’t attend the Cresecnji Warrior Academy, can’t be a Crescenji Warrior.” He smirked.
 
“Your uncle is wrong.” Serria stomped her left foot for emphasis. “Just because I chose not to cut off most of my hair and wear only a braid doesn’t mean I didn’t complete the training.” She glared at the looters.
 
The tea and pastries in her stomach began to brawl. Am I going to have to fight these youngsters?
 
His brown eyes widened, and he gulped. At first, Serria thought it was because of what she had said, but the hair lifted on the nape of her neck and arms.
 
She spun around and stared at the two dozen Kaskellian men all in black.
 
“Serria,” Vik said. “They’re Kaskellian Knights, a gang feared all over the planet.”
 
“You can have her,” another of the looters said, pointing to Serria.
 
“I see you’ve been looting again,” the tallest Kaskellian Knight said.
 
“We need some way to survive in the revolution,” the muscular man holding onto Vik said.
 
“So how does that have to do with holding that woman against her will?” the same Knight asked.
“Spoils of war,” the same man answered.
 
Two things happened at once. The earth trembled like it was scared, and flames shot into the air from another explosion, this one only a block away.
 
Vik twisted one arm free, used her hand to stick all five fingers in the eyes of the other guy holding her. He let her loose and grabbed his eyes.
 
With Vik free and in the lead, she and Serria sprinted away from the two gangs, weaving their way for six blocks, heading toward the spaceport.
 
Using her compad, Vik called an aircob. Then said to Dreamer via their link, “Get clearance and lower the ramp.”
 
Moments later, a bright blue aircab pulled up. The duo jumped in.
 
“Spaceport,” Vik said.                        
 
The vehicle rose and whizzed off. Old buildings had tumbled, and the sky glowed with red and yellow flares. The driver was forced to weave his way through the conflagrations, barely missing several other aircabs, aircars, and even a firetruck.
 
They came to a stop in front of the spaceport.
 
“Twenty Kaskellian credits,” he said.
 
Serria pulled out a fifty Alosia credit bill which was worth far more than what he asked. “Here. And thanks for the thrilling ride.” She smiled.
 
“And thank you.” He took the bill, staring at it momentarily before giving her an incredulous look.
 
Vik and Serria jumped from the aircab and darted through the spaceport to the RAINBOW DREAMS.
 
Once they were safely on the ship, Dreamer closed up the ramp. “Strap in. We can lift anytime. Where are we going now?”
 
“Suborbital run to Mokar,” Vik said. “We need to talk to Aunt Lieu.”
 
Now strapped in they left Sierkas and headed to Mokar, another city on the planet.
 
                                                                 ****
They landed safely in at the spaceport. As they wrinkled their noses at the acid fuel stench and wound their way through the spaceport, Serria glanced over to a blinking red light above a door.
“What is that?” The private detective pointed to it.
 
“Emergency entrance and exit,” Vik said. “For the authorities to enter in case someone or several someones get unruly or downright dangerous in here.” 
 
Serria nodded as they finished their jaunt to the exit and grabbed a waiting aircab.
 
Vik gave the driver Aunt Lieu’s address, and he drove off.
 
The driver pulled up in front of a green stone house with gold trim that perched on a cliff. Small green statues of the planet's main god, Shutoni, squatted on two of the multi-peaked roof tops.
 
Vik paid the aircab, and they alighted. Curled up dead leaves decorated the large, brown lawn as fall marched into winter.
 
The door opened, and a crimson woman almost two feet short than Serria stood in the middle. Keur had told her his aunt was fifty three, but she didn’t look it with short black hair framing her face. She smiled that reached her sharp, emerald eyes.
 
“Need some more tea, Vik?” Aunt Lieu asked.
 
“No,” she said. “This is Serria Stripeclaw, Keur’s partner. We’re here on a more important mission.”
 
“Come in then,” Aunt Lieu invited, moving out of the way so they could come in.
 
“Is that malonee buns I smell?” Vik asked.
 
“Just out of the oven.”
 
She led them past windows with gold drapes that gently accented the green carpet to her kitchen, and an old, scratched table that stood by the window, overlooking the city.
 
 Vik and Serria sat while Aunt Lieu bustled around setting small plates, cups, silverware, a platter of buns, and a steaming teapot on the table. Then she settled into a chair, and they all got down to the business of filling their cups with tea, and their plates with Aunt Lieu’s famous buns.
 
Vik started with explaining the problems in Sierkas. “Mom plans are leaving. I’ll help her move. I’m sure Neu will help Keur, and we can probably get others to help. Will you come to Alosia?”
 
“I am more than willing to go, but I need to take my tea -making equipment and supplies,” Aunt Lieu said. “I’ll also need a place to buy supplies on Alosia. I’ll get my affairs in order her on Kaskellia. I will need a place to bank.”
 
“Alosia National Bank is the best to use,” Serria said. “Everyone I know uses it.”
 
They continued their conversation as they ate. Vik contacted the aircab company, and in fifteen short minutes, they were on their way to the spaceport after hugging Aunt Lieu goodbye.
 
Mobs of people blocked the entrance yelling, “free us from the tyranny of nobles.”                                                                                                              
 
Vik shook her head. “They don’t know what tyranny is here. Life on Kaskellia is nothing compared to that on Jetahn.”
 
“Go around to the side,” Serria said. “Vik, does the emergency door have a light on the outside?”
“Never been on that side to know,” Vik answered.
 
As they rounded the building, that door opened and members of the police force ran in.
 
“Land,” Vik ordered as she pulled money from her wallet.
 
Once he did, she thrust it at him. The duo jumped out and dashed inside before it closed.
 
They darted around the ships until they reached the RAINBOW DREAMS. Dreamer must have been looking for them as they ramp came down. They darted inside.
 
“Get clearance. We’re going to the Alosian Space Station,” Vik said.
 

Vik and Serria barely had time to get seated and strapped in when they lifted and headed away from Kaskellia.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes This is out of sequence too. Sorry.


Chapter 11
Sorting things out, part 1

By krprice

Vik stepped away from the counter where she’d just made arrangements and called Rogel.
“Rogel Irriksohn,” he answered.
 
“Vik here,” she said. “Are you still on station? Would you be interested in dinner at the PPP, my treat since I’m inviting you. We need to talk.”
 
“I’ll meet you there in ten minutes,” he said.
 
“I’ll see you then,” she said. “Vik out.”
 
“Rogel out.”

Vik left the spaceport and walked to the promenade. While the noise level didn’t match that of the spaceport, the chatter of various languages made her want to put her hands over her ears. Rogel stood in front of the PPP, dressed in a suit and tie.
 
 
Vik glanced down at herself. She had showered in the facilities available on the Alosian Space Station for travelers, but she wore a red blouse and slacks. The clothes were fine for dinner. However, they didn’t match his attire.
 
“Sorry, I didn’t expect to have to dress for you,” she said.
 
“You didn’t have to,” Rogel said. “I had just finished a business meeting when you called. “
Her stomach growled and was answered by his.
 
They laughed.
 
“Something tells me it’s time to eat.” Vik laughed as they entered.
 
Winding their way around the colorful pillows, Vik happened to glance to her left. Serria sat with a strange man, a Crescenji, in a private little nook. Who is he? Well, none of my business.
They were seated and handed compads before the Alosian hostess left.
 
“Caris has some new items,” Rogel said. “I think I’ll try the barbeque jornic. Haven’t had barbeque in years.”
 
“Not for me,” Vik said. “I’d have it all over me in seconds. Sometimes I have a tendency to share my food with my clothes or anything else near me. I’ll have a baked redtail. Haven’t had that since Serria cooked some up a couple of months ago and invited me and Alyci.”
 
Rogel looked down at his suit. “I’ll ask for a bib.”
 
They both ordered Kaldicott wine then their food.
 
“Do you have any bibs available for those of us who order the barbeque?” Rogel asked.
 
“Yes.” The willowy Kaskellian woman laughed. “As a matter of fact, their quite popular since they can be rather messy to eat. I’ll make sure you get one.”
 
“Thanks,” Rogel said then their server left.
 
“So what do we need to talk about?” Rogel leaned back in the kekkrikat chair.
 
“You’re aware of the situation on Kaskellia, I presume?”
 
“I always keep up with current events on all the major planets in this end of the galaxy,” he said.
 
“Mother and Aunt Lieu want to leave,” she said. “It’s not safe for two middle-aged women living alone anymore.”
 
“Aunt Lieu?” he asked. “Is that Keur’s aunt?”
 
“Yes,” Vik answered. “She’s told, no ordered, all of us who are friends with Keur to call her that. Anyway, Aunt Lieu will continue her tea making, and hopefully, those malonee buns which are as wonderful as anything Cliny makes. However, Mother will have to quit her job.”
 
Their drinks and salads arrived then, and they worked on quieting their noisy stomachs.
 
By the time the salad bowls were empty their dinner came along with a huge white bib with a purple prequin on the front. Their server helped Rogel get it on.
 
“A refill on the wine,” Rogel said. “And thanks for the assistance.”
 
She smiled and left, promising to return with more wine.
 
They started eating and remained quiet at first.
 
“You know Mother’s degree and experience in bioengineering,” Vik sad.
 
Rogel nodded since his mouth was full of the jornic.
 
“She has been working on a project in her spare time,” Vik continued between bites. “I have no idea what it is.”
 
“She can work for me,” he said. “I’ll finance the project. I’m always looking for intelligent people.”
 
“Mom will be glad to hear that,” Vik said. She remained quiet as she continued to polish off her slices of redtail. “I’ll also need ships to move them to Alosia.”
 
“I can help with that,” he said as a glob of sauce plopped on his bib.
 
The duo laughed.
 
“Glad I asked for the bib,” he said. “And I’ll make sure the Brimsens are available too.”
 
“I’d appreciate that.”
 
Once they finished dinner and were enjoying a glass of Khavae Mint wine, Vik opened her purse and pulled out three silverish, metal disks and handed them to him.
 
“Ever see anything like those before?”
 
Rogel took them and turned them over and over several times. “Never. Where did you get them?”
 
“On Relonquin.” She sipped her wine. “As payment for delivery of meds for their leader. The male I trade with gave them to me. Said they’ve started mining it. I told him I’d find out what they were worth.”
 
“Do they come out of the ground like this or do the Relonquins pound them into this shape?” Rogel drank some Khavae Mint.
 
“I have no idea,” Vik answered. “He didn’t say.”

“You might ask next time you visit,” he suggested as his comlink buzzed.
 
“Go ahead and take that,” Vik said as the server brought another compad for payment. “I’ll take that.”
 
Vik took out her debit card and ran it through, figuring out the tip before she handed it back to the server. She pulled enough cash out and gave that to the woman.
 
“Thank you,” the Kaskellian said, her eyes widening at the amount. She turned and left.
Rogel finished his call. “I have to run.” He removed his bib. “Do you mind if I take one of these? I’ll have it analyzed but won’t damage it.”
 
“No,” she said accepting the other two and putting them back in her purse. “Let me know what you find out.”
 
“Sure will,” he said. He rose and pulled out her chair.
 
She got up. They walked from the PPP and went their separate ways.
 
****
Serria gritted her teeth and had to swallow a retort. “I went out to dinner with a friend, not that I have to explain my behavior to you. We’re partners in a business. You don’t own me.”
 
“Why haven’t you told me about your trip to Jetahn and Kaskellia?” he demanded and smacked her desk with his hand.
 
“Take several breaths, Keur,” she said, taking her own advice. “I was going to do that tonight until Mak called and asked me out. I met him on Crescenji when I took Pris to the hospital. He’d taken a position with med lab here.”
 
He sat back, and his shoulders slumped.
 
She pulled another chair up and brought him up-to-date on her findings then told him about the plans to move Skerry and his aunt here.
 
“Neu will help,” he said. “That is, if he’s not busy elsewhere.” Keur frowned.
“Now what have you learned?” Serria asked.
 
Keur told her about his excursion from Tandra’s computer to Tyk’s computer.
“What is he up to now?” she asked.
 
“I don’t know, but I doubt it’s good.” He changed the subject. “Sorry to hear about those children. Seems like someone is using Tandra’s delivery schedule to distribute these deadly sweets.”
 
“And something we need to stop quickly,” Serria said.
 
“Tandra and I will work to set up a secure system for her computer,” Keur said.
 
“And I’m off to Crescenji tomorrow,” she said. “And besides the interview, I’ll visit the islands and see about firejewels.”

“Sorry about getting angry.” He rose and left.
 
Once he departed, she added Keur’s information to her report.
 
As she was getting ready for bed, a thought struck. Was Keur jealous? Neu has a girlfriend on Myetta. I’m seeing Mak. Does Keur need one? If so, where can I find one for him?

Those thoughts swirled around in her brain as she climbed into bed and settled down for the night.
 
 
While showering the next morning, Serria mind was active again. What do I have to offer the Plep Islanders besides cash? And just how much do they charge for a firejewel? Guess that depends on its size. One the size of the Charbessa Jewels would cost more than I can afford, though maybe I can manage small ones. That would be what Zohreen would want anyway. Aunt Lieu’s teas? What do I have and what can I get from Keur? Wonder if Vik has any Khavae Mint Wine? Khavae from Tandra’s? Maybe some of her other goodies or Cliny’s? Hm. . .
 
She finished, dressed, packed, and transferred a large amount of Alosian credits from her savings account to her checking account.  She left her room for the RAINBOW DREAMS, forgetting all about the tea.
 
“I thought we’d fly down to Tandra’s for some sweets,” Vik suggested as Serria boarded the ship.
 
“Good,” she said and told Vik what she had been thinking about earlier as they strapped in.
 
 “I do have two bottles,” Vik said. “We can make some kind of a deal.” She paused then continued, “Dreamer, get us clearance and take us to Kondreal.”
 
“Oh,” Serria growled. “I forgot to ask Keur for some tea.”
 
“Doubt he has more than his personal stash,” Vik said. “I have a box of aroikla. We can offer that for them to try. If they want more, we can get it from Aunt Lieu.”
 
At Tandra’s Sweet Shop, Serria and Vik each had a cart.
 
“Don’t take all khavae,” Vik chastised her friend. “I need some too.”

“We’ll divide it then.” Serria began counting out pieces for each one when Vik pulled her cart up next to Serria’s.
 
“I thought I heard you two squabbling out here.” Tandra grinned. A far cry from the face Serria had seen when they met at the attorney’s office a few days ago.
 
“You seem happier,” Serria complimented.
 
“For the moment both Lord Ringskov and Lord Chang have told Mr. Henderson to put their suits on hold until you find out the truth,” Tandra said and glanced down at the empty container that had been filled with khavae a few minutes ago. She frowned. “Where are you going that you need so much khavae?”
 
Serria explained about needing something to trade for firejewels, but Vik stayed quiet.
“I thought Jero’s idea of Khavae Mint wine was an excellent idea, so I’ve made khavae mint sweets,” Tandra said.
 
“We’ll take all of it,” Serria said.
 
“And split it,” Vik added as she smiled at Serria. “I want some of your other sweets too.”
“Voringas, and a couple other types of Cliny’s pastries,” Serria said.
 
They paid for everything. Then they took an aircab to the spaceport and loaded the goodies onto Vik’s ship.
 
“What are you filling me with now?” Dreamer snarled. A few seconds later, her tone changed.
 
“Khavae. I’ll forgive you for now.”
 
With the ship filled with edibles, they lifted for Crescenji, enjoying a couple of the pastries once they were in hyperspace.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 

Author Notes Any help in lengthening this book would be appreciated.S


Chapter 12
Sorting things out, part 2

By krprice

Around noon the next day the RAINBOW DREAMS landed on Crescenji.
 
As Vik unstrapped, she asked, “Do you plan on calling your parents while we’re here?”
 
“No sense in it,” Serria explained. “During the day they’ll be teaching classes, and it’ll go to a message system. But I do need to contact Kraige Kolena and see about visiting him.”
 
“Use Dreamer’s com system,” Vik offered as she unstrapped. “I need to see exactly what I have we can offer Islanders for their firejewels.”
 
Serria nodded as she unbuckled the belt and rose. “Dreamer, would you please dial CR 26374 for me?”
 
Moments later a com was ringing.
 
“Kolena Residence, Kraige speaking,” a deep male voice said.
 
“Mr. Kolena, this is Serria Stripeclaw.” She explained in her native language why she was on planet.
 
“Why don’t you acome right now?” He asked.
 
“That’s fine,” she said. “I’m bringing a friend of mine. We’ll bring lunch. Any suggestions of food or a favorite place to get it?”
 
“Only if you’ll alet me order and apay for it,” he said.
 
“That will be fine,” she said. “Where do we go?”
 
 “Astop at Tillikahn’s Deli at two thirty eight First Street,” he said. “I’ll acall in my order as soon as we ahang up. Is your friend Crescenji?”
 
“No, half Jetahni and half Kaskellian, but she’s a trader and travels widely,” Serria said.
 
“I’ll asee you soon. Kraige out.”
 
“Serria out.”
 
Vik walked back onto the main deck.
 
“Let’s go grab an aircab,” Serria said.
 
As they left the ship, Serria told Vik about the conversation.
 
“Good,” Vik said. “I’m hungry.”
 
They stopped to make arrangements for ship’s services, grabbed an aircab, picked up lunch, and ended up at a large, five story house of dark blue stone. The landscaped yard had purple square flowers and round yellow flowers around the steps. Trees with black bark dotted the grass.
 
Delicious aromas rose from the two bags each of them carried as they rang they chime.
The muscular man who answered the door stood over a foot taller than Serria with long black hair down to shoulders and deep brown, wide-set eyes that held a sadness that made Serria’s heart ache. He wore a red shirt, blue pants, and black shoes.
 
“Awelcome to my home,” he said in trade. “Though under rather depressing circumstances.”
 
Vik and Serria stepped onto dark green tiles in the entry way.
 
Serria and held out their hands. “Serria Stripeclaw and Vik Juleskova.”
 
“Kraige Kolena.” He shook their hands then led them to a dining room filled with a large kekkrikat table and chairs.
 
The rest of the room held a part glass, part kekkrikat cabinet holding dolls from everything nation of every world in their native costumes.
 
Vik and Serria set the food on the table and began unloading it.
 
“What would you alike to drink?” Mr. Kolena asked.
 
“Iced tea if you have it,” Serria said.
 
“Same for me also.” Vik removed a large sandwich from a bag.
 
Mr. Kolena nodded and left the dining room, returned shortly with glasses of tea, silverware, and plates.
 
With the host’s help, the ladies distributed the food. After everyone was seated, they ate in silence. Serria sipped the tea, savoring the sweet tang with a citrusy flavor of Kowac tea, one she liked very much.
 
Mr. Kolena fidgeted like a child having to go to the bathroom.
 
Finally they finished and cleared the table except for fresh glasses of tea. Serria prepared for his story.
 
Serria told him about the other interviews but didn’t mention anything about Tyk Arensen’s involvement. Better none of them know about his involvement.
 
“Where did your child get the sweets?” Serria asked.
 
“I afound a white bag with Tandra’s name on it next to our front door,” he said. “Usually my daughter atells me when she orders from there. I aput it on the kitchen counter, aplanning to ask her about it.” Tears welled in his eyes like a lake about to overflow its banks. “My ten-year-old daughter afound them, ate a couple, and adied within two hours.” Those tears flowed down his cheeks as if a cloud had burst. “Worse, Jessina, my wife, awas killed in an aircar accident a year ago. I’m aleft with a six-year-old son, Kraige Junior.”
 
Serria wiped her owns eyes and glanced over at Vik, who was doing the same thing. She stood, walked over, and hugged him.
 
 “My partner and I will do all we can to find who’s doing this and why,” Serria promised.
 
A younger version of Mr. Kolena bounded into the dining room. He stared at his father then at Serria who had backed off.
 
“What adid you do to my daddy to make him acry?” He glared at Serria.
 
Mr. Kolena took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes. “She’s agoing to find out who amade Willa asick and adie.” He opened his arms to the boy who ran into them.
“We’ll leave now,” Serria said. “And will keep in touch.”
 
He nodded, and they left his house.
****
Back on the ship, Vik asked, “When do you want to head to islands and exactly where do you want to go?”
 
“The island of Erizu,” Serria answered. “I don’t know the name of the village, and that’s all there are on the islands.  It’s on the south side of the mountains, near a lake. I’m sure Dreamer can easily find it. I’d like to wait until morning. Meanwhile, we can inventory what we’ve got to trade.” She laughed. “I only have the sweets, so it won’t take me long.”
 
“I am willing to offer what I have for you to establish trading relationship with these people,” Vik said.
 
“You don’t have to do that,” Serria commented. “After all, you’re a trader and need to make a living. You’ve been hauling me all over the place, taking up the time you can be earning a living. You said at the meeting these planets always need the things you trade in. However, you haven’t been doing any selling or trading.”
 
“I did with Pavel,” Vik said. “When you get firejewels, I only ask for little one. Sell to Zohreen. Make more than I have been spending. Besides, I don’t want Tandra to go out of business. I buy a lot of sweets from her.”
 
“Then let’s get to inventorying,” Serria said as they left the front of the ship and walked to where they have stowed everything.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions to lengthening the book would be appreciated.


Chapter 12
Sorting things out, part 2

By krprice

Around noon the next day the RAINBOW DREAMS landed on Crescenji.
 
As Vik unstrapped, she asked, “Do you plan on calling your parents while we’re here?”
 
“No sense in it,” Serria explained. “During the day they’ll be teaching classes, and it’ll go to a message system. But I do need to contact Kraige Kolena and see about visiting him.”
 
“Use Dreamer’s com system,” Vik offered as she unstrapped. “I need to see exactly what I have we can offer Islanders for their firejewels.”
 
Serria nodded as she unbuckled the belt and rose. “Dreamer, would you please dial CR 26374 for me?”
 
Moments later a com was ringing.
 
“Kolena Residence, Kraige speaking,” a deep male voice said.
 
“Mr. Kolena, this is Serria Stripeclaw.” She explained in her native language why she was on planet.
 
“Why don’t you acome right now?” He asked.
 
“That’s fine,” she said. “I’m bringing a friend of mine. We’ll bring lunch. Any suggestions of food or a favorite place to get it?”
 
“Only if you’ll alet me order and apay for it,” he said.
 
“That will be fine,” she said. “Where do we go?”
 
 “Astop at Tillikahn’s Deli at two thirty eight First Street,” he said. “I’ll acall in my order as soon as we ahang up. Is your friend Crescenji?”
 
“No, half Jetahni and half Kaskellian, but she’s a trader and travels widely,” Serria said.
 
“I’ll asee you soon. Kraige out.”
 
“Serria out.”
 
Vik walked back onto the main deck.
 
“Let’s go grab an aircab,” Serria said.
 
As they left the ship, Serria told Vik about the conversation.
 
“Good,” Vik said. “I’m hungry.”
 
They stopped to make arrangements for ship’s services, grabbed an aircab, picked up lunch, and ended up at a large, five story house of dark blue stone. The landscaped yard had purple square flowers and round yellow flowers around the steps. Trees with black bark dotted the grass.
 
Delicious aromas rose from the two bags each of them carried as they rang they chime.
The muscular man who answered the door stood over a foot taller than Serria with long black hair down to shoulders and deep brown, wide-set eyes that held a sadness that made Serria’s heart ache. He wore a red shirt, blue pants, and black shoes.
 
“Awelcome to my home,” he said in trade. “Though under rather depressing circumstances.”
 
Vik and Serria stepped onto dark green tiles in the entry way.
 
Serria and held out their hands. “Serria Stripeclaw and Vik Juleskova.”
 
“Kraige Kolena.” He shook their hands then led them to a dining room filled with a large kekkrikat table and chairs.
 
The rest of the room held a part glass, part kekkrikat cabinet holding dolls from everything nation of every world in their native costumes.
 
Vik and Serria set the food on the table and began unloading it.
 
“What would you alike to drink?” Mr. Kolena asked.
 
“Iced tea if you have it,” Serria said.
 
“Same for me also.” Vik removed a large sandwich from a bag.
 
Mr. Kolena nodded and left the dining room, returned shortly with glasses of tea, silverware, and plates.
 
With the host’s help, the ladies distributed the food. After everyone was seated, they ate in silence. Serria sipped the tea, savoring the sweet tang with a citrusy flavor of Kowac tea, one she liked very much.
 
Mr. Kolena fidgeted like a child having to go to the bathroom.
 
Finally they finished and cleared the table except for fresh glasses of tea. Serria prepared for his story.
 
Serria told him about the other interviews but didn’t mention anything about Tyk Arensen’s involvement. Better none of them know about his involvement.
 
“Where did your child get the sweets?” Serria asked.
 
“I afound a white bag with Tandra’s name on it next to our front door,” he said. “Usually my daughter atells me when she orders from there. I aput it on the kitchen counter, aplanning to ask her about it.” Tears welled in his eyes like a lake about to overflow its banks. “My ten-year-old daughter afound them, ate a couple, and adied within two hours.” Those tears flowed down his cheeks as if a cloud had burst. “Worse, Jessina, my wife, awas killed in an aircar accident a year ago. I’m aleft with a six-year-old son, Kraige Junior.”
 
Serria wiped her owns eyes and glanced over at Vik, who was doing the same thing. She stood, walked over, and hugged him.
 
 “My partner and I will do all we can to find who’s doing this and why,” Serria promised.
 
A younger version of Mr. Kolena bounded into the dining room. He stared at his father then at Serria who had backed off.
 
“What adid you do to my daddy to make him acry?” He glared at Serria.
 
Mr. Kolena took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his eyes. “She’s agoing to find out who amade Willa asick and adie.” He opened his arms to the boy who ran into them.
“We’ll leave now,” Serria said. “And will keep in touch.”
 
He nodded, and they left his house.
****
Back on the ship, Vik asked, “When do you want to head to islands and exactly where do you want to go?”
 
“The island of Erizu,” Serria answered. “I don’t know the name of the village, and that’s all there are on the islands.  It’s on the south side of the mountains, near a lake. I’m sure Dreamer can easily find it. I’d like to wait until morning. Meanwhile, we can inventory what we’ve got to trade.” She laughed. “I only have the sweets, so it won’t take me long.”
 
“I am willing to offer what I have for you to establish trading relationship with these people,” Vik said.
 
“You don’t have to do that,” Serria commented. “After all, you’re a trader and need to make a living. You’ve been hauling me all over the place, taking up the time you can be earning a living. You said at the meeting these planets always need the things you trade in. However, you haven’t been doing any selling or trading.”
 
“I did with Pavel,” Vik said. “When you get firejewels, I only ask for little one. Sell to Zohreen. Make more than I have been spending. Besides, I don’t want Tandra to go out of business. I buy a lot of sweets from her.”
 
“Then let’s get to inventorying,” Serria said as they left the front of the ship and walked to where they have stowed everything.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions to lengthening the book would be appreciated.


Chapter 13
Sorting things out, part 3

By krprice

 “Let’s shower and get dressed,” Vik said. “And eat out somewhere. My treat.” The RAINBOW DREAMS came in over peaks with melting snow running into rushing rivers tumbling over rocks then dropping over steep waterfalls, mist rising from them and coating everything.  A large lake glittered in the mid- morning sun like the firejewels mined from the nearby mountains. The ship landed in a grassy area a short distance from the village next to the water.
 
Serria emerged from the spacecraft first with a box of sweets, mostly filled with khavae, beloved all over the known universe.
 
Two very dark brown men, both a foot and a half taller than her, met her at the bottom on the ramp.
 
She spoke in Crescenji. “I am Serria Stripeclaw. Your people know me from my last visit over a year ago when I caught the Fanghorn Brothers stealing your gems.”
 
The older one with graying hair smiled. “I am Renotay, and my companion is Kaolis. Yes, we aremember you and owe you a big debt of thanks for recovering our property.” He couldn’t take his golden eyes, purple flecks dotting them off the box she held, Tandra’s name prominently displayed. Even in these remote islands her reputation for sweets was known. “Why ahave you come? And what ahave you brought us?” 
 
 He inhaled deeply, the sweet scent of khavae perfuming the air.
 
“Khavae and other sweets,” she said. “I have other items you might be interested in trading.”
 
At the moment, Vik left the ship carrying four bottles of wine, two of which were Khavae Mint.
 
“My friend, Vik Juleskova, and I have a number of other items,” Serria said. “May we borrow a wagon to take them to your council? I have a proposition for them.”
 
Renotay shouted to some younger men staring at Vik. They scurried away and all but one returned a few minutes later with a sizeable wagon. With the help of those same men, Vik and Serria unloaded the ship. Renotay, Serria, and Vik led the procession to the middle of a cluster of wooden huts with thatched roofs of straw.
 
Renotay motioned to the longest one on the right. “The council will ameet in here. So abring everything in.”
 
Serria and Vik followed him in. A kekkrikat table the size of the one in the PPP meeting room dominated the place with seven matching chairs on the far side. In between the young men unloading the cart, five men, all with short gray hair, walked in.
 
They sat in the chairs. When everything was set on the table, Renotay and Kaolis joined them, with Renotay in the middle.
 
Evidently, he is chairman of the council.
 
With Vik beside her and a flutter in her stomach, Serria stepped forward, reintroducing herself.
 
“My partner, Keur Matiason, and his partner, Neu Knotts, and I would like to form a trading partnership with you. We have access to numerous things. On the table are sweets from Tandra’s Sweet Shop on Alosia, pastries from Cliny’s Café also on Alosia, wine from Jero Kaldicott’s winery on Muswella, and tea made by Lieu Kwan of Kaskellia.”
 
“While I am trader, separate from Serria’s group, I can get you sauce for your fish, sponges, coral, seaweed, silk, baskets in which you can put items in and do not leak, honey, and mead,” Vik said in trade.
 
 Several females rushed in and began speaking in the musical, lilting accent of Plepo, the islander’s native language.
 
 Vik and Serria glanced at each other, a hand in front of the mouths. Serria figured Vik hid a grin like she did.
 
“It aseems like our women folk are interested in everything Vik mentioned,” Renotay said. “I adidn’t know they understood trade.”
 
“We are smarter than you athink, old man,” one woman with a long braid of gray hair said.
 
Renotay laughed and looked at her. “I aguess we underestimated you.” He turned his attention back to Serria and Vik. “I would imagine you awant firejewels? They are expensive as it is hard work agetting them from the earth which doesn’t alike to want to give up its treasure.”
 
“We know that,” Serria said. “And we don’t want big ones. Only small ones that can be set in jewelry.”

“Those we are awilling to trade for various things,” Renotay said. “We have aheard of Lieu Kwan’s teas. Do you ahave any we can atry?”
 
“Yes,” Serria said. “We have four boxes of Aroikla, one of her newest teas. Each box has twenty four tea bags, so we can make ninety six cups of tea which can be shared.”
 
“Only seven cups awill be necessary,” Renotay said. “For the council.”
 
“We need boiling water, cups, spoons, a sweetener, and something to dip the hot water into the cups,” Serria said.
 
“We akeep water boiling all day,” the same older woman said. “I am Pralis, sister of Remotay.”
 
She turned to the other ladies. “Come. We will aget what your suggested. You get the tea.”
Serria nodded as a half a dozen women left.
 
Vik and Serria sorted through the boxes on the table until they came to the one labeled tea. The duo pulled one box out and removed seven bags.
 
“So what exactly do you ahave here?” Remotay asked.
 
After setting the bags on the table, Vik and Serria began opening boxes and showing the men what they had. By the time those on the council had sampled the khavae and started nibbling on the pastries, the women walked in with a black pot full of steaming water, cups, spoons, three clay pots of something green, and a dipper.
 
Pralis began filling the cups and putting them on the table. Vik dropped a teabag into each while Serria set a cup before each councilor. Another younger woman gave a spoon and distributed them among the men, who chatted and ate while the tea stepped.
 
Once Serria had deemed it ready, they removed the bags and sipped, adding sweetener.
The members shared their drinks with the women, all talking in their own tongue.
“We awant more of everything—sweets, pastries, and tea,” Remotay said. “And now we atry the wine. Only a small drink, directly from the bottle.”
 
Since these bottles had tops on them and not corks, Serria opened a bottle and handed it to Remotay who took a bit more than the one he had suggested.
 
“Excellent wine,” he said. “What kind is this?”
 
“Khavae mint,” Vik said. “A dessert wine. That was all I had, but there are plenty other kinds of Kaldicott wine. Every one of them delicious.”
 
“Do you ahappen to have drawings of those other things you amentioned?” Pralis asked.
 
Vik reached into a pocket and pulled out her compad.
 
The men and women made a collective gasp.
 
“What is that?” Remotay asked.
 
While Vik was searching for pictures, Serria explained about the compad and its uses.
The women gathered around Vik as she showed them what was available to them. Nor to be left out, the men demanded to see everything also.
 
By the time all the orders were made, they had shared a meal of baked fish, silver tubers, a type of greens from the sea finishing it off with sweets and wine.
 
“You asaid you ahave partners,” Remotay said. “Awill either of them be coming or awill you always come?”
 
“Neu Knotts, an Alosian, will be representing us,” Serria said. “I am a full time private investigator and am working a job now.”
 
Remotay nodded and handed her a cloth bag. “For everything you ahave brought us today. These firejewels are yours.” He turned to Vik, giving her one too. “And these are for you.”
 
“Thank you,” they both chorused.
 
“Now we must say goodbye,” Serria said. “As I have to continue my work elsewhere.”
 
“Farewell,” the Islanders said.
 
The duo returned to the ship and took off, setting a course for Muswella.
 
They sat on Vik’s small bed and examined their payment.
 
Serria counted the small jewels. “Twelve green ones, four red ones, and two blue ones.  I have no idea if we got a fair deal or were cheated.”
 
“Neither do I,” Vik said. “I have ten green ones, six red ones, and four blue ones. Twenty in all to your eighteen.”
 
“You had the wine and tea,” Serria said. “I have no complaints.”
 
They yawned, gathered their treasures, and went to bed.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions in lengthening this is appreciated.

Karlene


Chapter 14
Sorting things out, part 4

By krprice

The late afternoon sun shone on Bragu, the capital city on Muswella as they landed.
 
“It’s too late to do anything but call Mr. McSullivan and make an appointment for tomorrow morning.” Serria unstrapped from the couch.
 
“Why don’t you make that while I schedule ship’s services?” Vik suggested.
 
Serria nodded as Vik left.
 
“Dreamer, please call MU 32528 for me.”
 
A moment later, a female voice answered, “Hello.”
 
“I’d like to speak to Randolf McSullivan,” Serria asked.
 
“Moment.”
 
Several moments later, a tenor voice said, “Randolf McSullivan.”
 
Serria went into her short explanation and her reason for being there.
 
“Tomorrow morning at ten,” he said. “Do you have my address?”
 
“Yes,” she said. “Mr. Henderson gave it to me.”
 
“Will you be alone?”
 
“No. I’ll have a friend with me,” she said. “She brought me here on her ship.”
 
“See you tomorrow. McSullivan out.”
 
“Serria out.”
 
When Vik returned, Serria brought her up on their appointment tomorrow.
 
“Where and when are we going to get the firejewels appraised?” Serria asked.
 
“Best place is Kondreal Jewelry Shop.  I know I can trust Reynold to give honest assessment,” Vik explained. “You should probably give those firejewels to Neu. He uses Reynold also. Neu and I can visit Jetahn, and I will introduce him to Zohreen.”
 
“That’s an excellent idea.”
 
“Another excellent idea is to visit Jero while we’re here,” Vik said. “I’m out of wine, and you should get some for your friends on Crescenji.”
 
“Certainly right about that.”  I certainly am running through credits quickly.           

Serria nodded.
 
The next morning they took an aircab to Randolf McSullivan’s home. After paying for the ride, they climbed out in front of a large three story, white stone house with columns on the front. The grass was knee high on Serria, and a bed of orange and yellow flowers swayed in the gentle briny breeze.
 
They rang the doorbell. A moment later, a black-skinned man with short black hair answered the door.
 
“I’m Serria Stripeclaw,” she said. “We’re here to see Randolf McSullivan.”
 
“I’m Randolf,” he said, his wide-set brown eyes looked up eight inches to meet Serria’s. “Come in.”
 
They entered onto bright green tiling.
 
“This is Vik Juleskova.”
 
“Nice to meet you both,” he said. “I wish it was under better circumstances.”
 
“So do we,” Serria added.
 
The slim man in a dark green shirt, matching pants and brown shoes led them to a room with red and yellow furniture, nothing expensive, nothing like what they had seen in the other homes they’ve visited.
 
He ran his right hand through his short black hair as they sat.
 
A moment later, a slight woman entered with frosty glasses and set them on a brown table in front of everyone. Serria took her compad from her purse to write down his tale.
 
“As I said,” Serria spoke. “I was hired to find out the truth of where those deadly sweets came from. Tandra didn’t make them.” She sipped her tea and realized it was aroikla.
 
His eyes started leaking before he had even started his story. “My four-year-old, Randy Jr., died a month ago after eating green wrapped sweets from his grandfather, who had a heart attack. He blames himself, but I assured him it wasn’t his fault.”
 
“Where and when did his grandfather get the sweets?”
 
“He discovered it on his doorstep that morning and thought his sister had ordered sweets from Tandra’s for him as she had done before.” He drank some tea and wiped his eyes.
 
“I bet all those other times the sweets had come in a box not a white bag,” Serria said.
“Yes,” Randolf said. “We weren’t suspicious until Randy died. But I filed suit anyway.”
 
“The other parents have suspended their suits until I finish my investigation,” Serria said. “Would you be willing to do the same?” She enjoyed more tea.
 
“Most certainly,” he said.  “I’ll contact my attorney after you leave and tell him to do that.”
 
“Thank you for your time.” Serria and Vik finished their tea and stood. “My partner and I will find the person responsible and have them punished.”
 
“I hope so.” He stood also, escorted them to the door, and they left.
****
 Back at the ship, they ate lunch, called Jero, removed the firejewels from the safe, and grabbed a shuttle to Ona where Terras picked them up and drove them to Jero’s estate.  A short time passed before Serria spotted grapevines climbing up slopes, straight rows of them like soldiers in formation. Once they landed, Terras led them to a large, white house, opulent with large white pillars. Three floors, wings on each side, extended a good half mile each way.
A black man, with masculine features as opposed to Alyci's feminine ones, strode up.  Almost Vik’s height, he had dark blue, almost purple eyes and long black hair.
 
“Glad to see you back again.” He glanced around. “Didn’t you bring any sweets, any pastries?”
 
“We ran out of them on Crescenji,” Vik said. “You remember Serria Stripeclaw.”
 
“Yes,” he said. “We meet when she was here looking for the Charbessa Jewels.”
 
“Nice to see you again,” Serria said. At least I don’t long to run my hands through his silky hair like I did that last time.
 
“And you probably ran out of wine too.” He smiled as they followed him into the house
Serria and Vik stepped onto pale yellow tile. It extended down a hallway with rooms on both sides. They swung their gaze to the room on the left. A velvet crimson sofa, four chairs, and a love seat sat in a conversational grouping on gray carpeting. Several light brown tables surrounded them.
 
They entered the one on the right. A kekkrikat table large enough to feed at least twenty people dominated the room. Chairs of kekkrikat surrounded it. Sideboards of marble lined the far wall below a window framed with sheer white curtains. On both sides, matching cabinets stood on a dark gray carpet.
 
They sat, and Milly brought them glasses of wine.
 
“Khavae Mint,” Jero said.
 
Serria sipped hers. She wasn’t used to drinking in the middle of the day.
 
A few minutes later, both Milly and Terras began bringing in plates, silverware, and platters of meat, cheese, bread, and condiments.
 
“Dig in,” Jero said. “Then maybe you’ll explain to me what you traded all the wine, sweets, and pastries for.”

They chatted during the meal. When everyone was finished, the table were cleared and wiped down, the ladies withdrew the small bags from the purses and poured the firejewels on the table.
Jero, Milly, and Terras gasped.
 
“Firejewels,” Jero finally exclaimed. “No wonder you didn’t bring us anything. Those must have cost you a fortune.”
 
“We emptied my ship of everything I had to trade, including my personal supply of aroikla tea.” Vik grinned.
 
“But they did order a lot of things,” Serria said then went on to tell him about the partnership with Keur and Neu. “I haven’t given them a definitive answer yet as I wanted to have something for Neu to trade.”
 
“Understood,” Jero said, reaching out and examining the gems.
 
“We need to get them appraised,” Vik said. “For all we know, they got best of deal.”
 
“I don’t think so,” Jero commented.  “If anything, you two got the better trade.” He paused then asked, “So what kinds of wine do you want and how many bottles?”
 
Terras handed the two ladies a list of the wines, and they scrutinized them. When they were finished, they made their order which Terras went off to get.
 
“So what do you plan to do with the firejewels after you get them assessed?” Jero asked.
 
Between the duo, they told him about the deal made with Zohreen on Jetahn.
 
“But that is only one planet, what about here, Kaskellia, Crescenji, and Alosia?”
 
“Crescenji can get them at any time,” Serria said. “And Kaskellia is in such turmoil, I don’t want to get involved with anyone there. Can you recommend a jeweler here?”
 
“Montgomery Kaldicott,” Jero said. “He’s a distant cousin, but as honest as they come. He goes by Monty. And I’m not suggesting him because we’re related.”
 
“I didn’t think you would,” Vik said.
 
While Jero totaled up what they owed him for the wine, the ladies gathered up the gems and put them in the bag, then into their purses.
 
After they paid for the wine, Jero said, “Make sure next time you come back, you bring some sweets and pastries.”
 
“I will,” Vik said.
 
“And Neu Knotts will be our representative since he’s a trader,” Serria said.
 
“The wine is in the airvan,” Terras said. “I’ll take you all the way to the spaceport and help you load it onto you ship.”
 
“We certainly appreciate that,” Vik said.
 
They bid goodbye, climbed into the airvan, and flew to the main city.
 
Vik secured a cart. Between the trio, they offloaded the wine quickly, then reloaded it onto the RAINBOW DREAMS.
 
Terras left, and Vik took the cart back to its stall while Serria marked up her boxes so they would know which ones belonged to whom.
 
“Vik,” Serria called. “Ready to leave?”
 
“I think you’d better come out here.” The tone of Vik’s voice caused Serria to freeze for a moment.
 
What’s happened now?  He exited the ship to find Vik surrounded by a dozen Nutmeigs, one with a blaster to Vik’s head.
 
Too dangerous to take them on. But what do they want?
 
“You will come with us,” one of the said in heavily accented trade.
 
“Guess we have no choice,” Serria said. At least, we’ll find out their reason for apprehending us.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any suggestions to lengthen this book is appreciated.


Chapter 15
Travel and Trouble

By krprice

Skerry just finished zipping up her blue duffel bag and clasping the last buckle when blaster fire echoed throughout her neighborhood. She yanked up the bag and dashed for the backdoor, dropping it next to her matching backpack and large black purse.
 
From there, she hurried into the living room as something flew through her window. Glass broke and scattered around. As soon as it hit the blue rug, it burst into flame. Skerry ran to the kitchen, grabbed the fire extinguisher, and returned to the living room. She turned it on and foam rushed onto the fire dousing it in seconds. Taking a deep breath, she dropped it, turned on a flashlight on an end table, strode over to the security pad and tapped in several numbers. Metal shutters slammed into place, covering up all the windows in the house. Not even the bright midday
sunlight, which had been pooling on the carpet, was able to penetrate the shields.
In the darkness, Skerry walked back to the table, picked up the flashlight, and returned to the security pad. She hit a few more buttons. Metal bars slid into place across her front door.
She took several more deep breaths before going back into the kitchen, holding the flashlight. Skerry checked her refrigerator, making sure it was empty.
 
Thank Shotoni I began planning for this ever since I talked to Vik and Serria a few days ago.
She put on her backpack, picked up her purse and duffel bag, and then walked out the back door.
Will I ever see this lovely home I built again? She wiped tears from her eyes and shut the door. Extracting her compad from her purse, she stuck a few numbers on it, and another set of metal bars banged shut inside her house. She slipped the compad back where it was safe.
An explosion rocked the ground next door. Moving at a fast walk, she crossed the backyard, rushing through the silver gate, and into her neighbor’s yard. Something else detonated, and a blaze erupted from the front of the house on the other side.
 
Taking in as much air as she could, she sprinted to the front of the house, crossed the street, and down four blocks before turning right. Skerry stopped, gasped for air, and speed walked to Shizu Boulevard where she ended her flight at the bus stop. After dropping her duffel bag, she plopped on the brown wooden bench. Hope the bus comes soon!
 
She dug into her purse for a few coins, hoping they were enough to get her to the spaceport.
The blue and silver airbus settled down to the ground a few minutes later. The door opened.
As Skerry hauled her bag in front of her, the driver climbed from his seat and said, “Let me help you with that.” He grabbed it and hauled onto the bus.
 
She scrambled on. “How much to the spaceport?”
 
“Going to have a rough time getting off Kaskellia,” he said. “Seems like everyone has the same idea. Eight credits.”
 
Skerry dropped the money into the slot, picked up her bag, and walked a couple paces to a seat, before dropping into it.
 
The airbus lifted and sped through what resembled a war torn landscaped. Having been on a planet decades ago when the Jetahni invaded it, she knew what one looked like. Skerry shuddered, worrying her homeworld was headed into chaos, not from an invasion, but from a stupid revolution. She shook her head.
 
As they closed in on downtown Sierkas, formerly towering buildings tumbled to the ground like some gigantic creature throwing toys around in a tantrum. Bonfires spread across the city, devastating everything in its path.
 
The airbus approached the spaceport but couldn’t get close enough to land as not only Kaskellians, but Jetahni, Alosians, and other races thronged the streets, pushing and shoving each other in an effort to get inside, to get a ticket on a ship leaving, to get to safety.
 
“Never going to find a way in there,” the driver said.
 
Remembering something Vik told her years ago, Skerry said, “Glide over the crowd to the left side of the building. I’ll show you where to come down and stop.”

Shrugging, he did as she asked.
 
“By that orange door.” Skerry pointed to an entry those out front didn’t know about. While he did that, she pulled out her wallet and extracted a ten credit bill.
 
Once the airbus landed and the door opened, Skerry descended the steps and accepted her bag. She handed him a bill.
 
“You don’t have to do that,” he said. “But thank you.”
 
“You’re going to need it and you went out of your way to help me.”
 
He closed the door and flew away.
 
Skerry walked over to the door and pulled on the metal handle. She almost yelped when it opened. Quickly, she entered, letting it close behind her.
 
Gray metal walls surrounded her with only a little light. However, it was enough to see, so she slowly strode toward the center of the spaceport. Besides needing a quiet place to send a message to Vik and Lieu, her stomach grumbled and pressure mounted around her bladder.
Turning right, she walked down another corridor. On the left, a sign featuring a woman hung on the door. Skerry shoved it open and glanced around at the green covered sofas. Beyond them were the sinks and toilets.
 
She rushed to the last one in the far back, dropped her bag, and sat. After taking care of business, she walked back to the front, took off the backpack, and settled on one of the couches.
Skerry opened her backpack and removed a sandwich and a bottle of water. She had used up all of her sliced meat, cheese, and bread, making sandwiches as she figured she’d be stuck here until Vik could come.
 
After taking a bite and swallowing, she used her compad to call Lieu Kwan.
 
“Hile,” Lieu said.
 
“Skerry Royk here,” she said, and then she explained what had happened and where she was.
 
“Please send a message to Keur. You need to get off planet too. I’ll contact Vik.”

“I will do that,” Lieu said. “I won’t leave here without my tea making equipment and supplies.”
“I understand that,” Skerry said.
 
“Hope to see you soon. Lieu out.”
 
“Skerry out.”
 
Taking another bite, she sent a message to her daughter. Hope she isn’t on the far end of known space. She put the compad back in her purse.
 
She finished her food, drank some water, lay down to rest and relax for a short time. Then she returned to front, slipped through a side door to the shuttleport. Skerry bought a ticket to Mokar, found a seat on the shuttle readying to leave, and settled down.
 
Fortunately, the trip was uneventful, so after arrival, she grabbed a seat in the spaceport waiting room to wait on Vik and the others. .
 
****
With blasters pointed at their backs, Vik and Serria marched to the front of the spaceport and herded onto an airvan. They all found seats, and the airvan rose, flying over the spaceport into the Muswellan desert.
 
Serria glanced at her watch. Three thirty it said. Would they even be able to get off Muswella tonight? I must return to Alosia to finish my interviews. She sighed.
 
The ride wasn’t long as they descended over dun colored tents which sprawled across the sand.  They stopped outside the camp, climbed out, and were led to a large tent. The stench of smelly bodies was offset some by the aroma of something roasting on the communal fire.
 
Inside six brown-skinned men all with white eyebrows sat on woven reed pallets in a half circle. Twelve pairs of eyes stared at them as the first man who commanded them to march spoke rapidly in a language neither Vik nor Serria understood. The man in the middle with a dark red tassel on his turban spoke in the same language and then nodded to one of their captors.
 
 “Who are you?” he asked. “Why are you here?  Are you distributing the sweets that are killing kids?”
 
Serria took a deep breath. “I am Serria Stripeclaw, private investigator, hired to find out who is handing out the deadly sweets. My friend is Vik Juleskova. She is a trader and has come here to buy wine from Jero Kaldicott. We are certainly not responsible for the children’s deaths.” She paused then added, “In fact, another reason for coming here was to interview the parent of one of the children who died.”
 
Her words were translated. The leader spoke again.
 
“He believes you as a white man was seen trying to give the sweets out,” he said. “Several of our people saw him and chased him off. Now we take you back to your ship.”

When they settled back on the RAINBOW DREAMS, Dreamer got clearance, and they left Muswella.
 
“If they already knew a Jetahni was giving out sweets, why did they question us?” Serria asked.
 
“Don’t ask me why Nutmeigs do some things,” Vik said and shrugged.
 
“Where are we going?” Dreamer asked.
 

“Alosian Space Station,” Vik said.
Three days later in late afternoon, they landed.
 
“Thanks for the transportation,” Serria said. “Especially the sightseeing venture on Muswella.”
 
Vik started at her friend a moment then smiled. “Always willing to accommodate those willing to enjoy adventure.” Then they both laughed. “You’re welcome.”

Serria strode to her room and showered before sitting at her comlink. She called Dieter Johannsen.
 
“Hello, Johannsen residence,” a female voice said.
 
“This is Serria Stripeclaw,” she said. “I’d like to speak to Dieter Johannsen.”

“One moment.”

Minutes later, a deep male voice said, “Dieter speaking.”

She reintroduced herself and told why she wanted to speak to him.
 
“Ten in the morning,” he said. “Do you need my address?”
 
“No. Mr. Henderson gave it to me.”
 
“See you then. Dieter out.”
 
“Serria out.”

The next morning Serria took an early shuttle to Kondreal then grabbed an aircab to the Johannsen’s place, a one story, black stone building with a small lawn and no flowers or trees.
The door opened as soon as Serria climbed the first step. She walked up two more before entering onto a brown wooden floor.
 
“Dieter Johannsen,” he said and held out his hand.
 
Serria shook it. “Serria Stripeclaw.”
 
He was a foot shorter than she was and rather overweight with short, curly auburn hair. She followed him into a room with black furniture which had green coverings. She sat on a chair while he settled onto a couch. His round, sapphire eyes examined her.
 
Serria pulled her compad from her purse and began her questioning. “Who received the sweets, when did the child die, and how did they get them?”
 
A dark-haired woman in a green housedress walked in and sat next to the man. Her dark blue eyes were rimmed red.
 
“My wife, Helga.”
 
“Inga was nine and got the sweets from an Alosian man who was handing them to the kids outside the school grounds,” he said. He squeezed his wife’s hand. ‘She died two hours later.”
 
Basically, the same story I’ve been getting. She added it to her growing size of information.
 
“Was Inga able to give a description?” Serria asked. “Maybe one of her school mates?”
 
“No, Inga couldn’t,” he answered. “But we contacted the police. Two men came out and took our statement. They said other children who hadn’t eaten the sweets told them he was somewhere between five and six feet, Alosian, short brown hair and dark green eyes.” He continued to give her a description of his clothes before he started weeping.
 
Deciding she wouldn’t find out anything more, she made her usual promise and left. She called an aircab which came quickly, went to the shuttleport, and took a shuttle up to the station.
                                                                          ****        
 
After lunch, Serria settled down by her computer to get caught up on entering her notes. An hour later, her chime sounded.
 
“Come in,” she invited, spinning around to see who disturbed her work.
 
Vik and Keur walked in with both wrinkling their brows.
 
They sat, and Vik spoke first. “Mother sent message.” She went into more detail. “We need to get her off planet.
 
“And Aunt Lieu called. She needs to leave too.” Keur fidgeted.
 
“I must call Shay, Mike, and Rogel to help,” Vik said.
 
“And I’ll call Neu,” Keur added.
 
“I’ll help with the move when they get here or settle on Alosia,” Serria offered.
 
“Thanks,” Vik and Keur said before leaving.
 
Serria’s comlink buzzed. She walked over to answer it.
 
“This is Walter Langendorfer. Come immediately to my office,” he demanded.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Walter Langendofer--assemblyman
 
 
 

Author Notes Any help in lengthening this is appreciated.


Chapter 16
Doing some planning

By krprice

Serria stomped around her room, growling like an angry fanghorn. “Who does he think he is?
 
Ordering me around like some underling. Well, I visit him tomorrow and set him straight!!”
 
She took several deep breaths and called Alyci.
 
“Thair and Thatt Travel Agency, Alyci speaking,” her friend said.
 
“Serria here,” she said. “It’s gotten too dangerous on Kaskellia for Vik’s Mom and Keur’s aunt to stay there. They’ve arranged for help in moving them to Alosia. Can they stay with you until they find a place to live on the planet? Neither of us have room for them.”
 
“Certainly,” Alyci said. “As long as Vik doesn’t want to board some wine or other items with me.” She laughed.
 
Serria laughed also. “I think Vik will have to find another location for the time being.”
 
“Haven’t talked to you in a while,” Alyci said. “What are you working on now?”
 
The private detective brought her up to date on the Tandra Tyson case.
 
“She’s not guilty,” Alyci said. “And we certainly don’t want to lose her sweets. I’d miss her scherai.”
 
“Everyone would miss out on lots of things,” Serria said.
 
“I heard you were spotted at the PPP with a date,” Alyci commented. “Who is he and where did you meet him?”
 
“Dr. Mak Redtail,” Serria said then told of their meeting back on Crescenji a number of months ago. “He’s joining the med staff here.”
 
“Good,” she said. “You need a man in your life.”
 
“And you don’t?” Serria teased.
 
“When I meet the right one. Alyci out.”
 

Serria out.” She laughed again.
****
The next morning Serria took a shuttle down to Kondreal. After passing through security at the assembly building, she stormed into the man’s office.
 
“I want to see Assemblyman Langendorfer’s now,” she snarled and crossed her arms over her breasts, planning on letting him know she doesn't like to be ordered around.
 
“He’ll be with you soon,” his secretary said.
 
Serria glanced at her watch. Nine-thirty. She perched on a couch, glaring at the assemblyman’s door, eyes blazing like lasers that would have burned a hole in it if they were such.
 
Almost an hour passed before he opened the door and stepped out.
 
Serria jumped up and stalked up to him, almost shoving him into his office, slamming the door.
Heat flushed through her body.
 
He hurried out of her way, around his desk, and sat.
 
“I don’t take kindly to being ordered around,” she roared loud enough to be heard around the entire assembly building. “Then you had the nerve to make me wait. Now what do you want?”
 
She stood in front of his desk, arms over her chest again.
 
“I want to know how the investigation is going on Luken?” He took a deep breath.
 
“Keur hasn't found anything yet” she reported, but she didn't tell him he hasn't tried since he's been busy with Tandra's case and problems on Kaskellia.
 
“This came this morning, delivered with Tandra’s sweets.” He offered her some red-foiled candy.
 
Serria accepted the sweet, unwrapped it, and tasted it. It had a tangy taste. This could be addictive. Could this be what is killing those kids?
 
“Do you mind if I take a couple with me?” She asked.
 
“No, I have plenty.”
 
His inner office door slammed open. Gwyn Prequin barged in. “What is agoing on?” She grabbed at the sweets in Serria’s hand, but Serria moved her hand well out of Gwyn’s reach.
 
The reporter’s face turned red, and she howled, “Agive me some.” She reached for Serria’s hand again, but it remained too far away.
 
Gwyn balled up her fist, ready to smack Serria when two security men rushed in, grasped Gwyn’s arms, and restrained her. They spun her around. As they marched her from the office, she glowered and spat, “One day, I’ll aget you.”
 
The trio departed the office.
 
“Who is she?” Mr. Langendorfer asked, his hands shaking.
 
“A childhood enemy who has always been envious of me,” Serria explained.
 
“Please keep me up on any information,” he said.
 
She nodded and left the building.
****
Outside the building, the Fanghorn Brothers hooked their arms in hers on either side.
 
“Mel wants to see you,” Stevos said.
 
“About what?” she asked, her muscles still quivering from Gwyn’s attack, adrenaline speeding through her veins like an out of control aircar.
 
When they arrive, she found Mel shaking and sweaty.
 
“Been four hours since I last ate one of red-foiled candy,” he managed to tell her.
 
She gasped before yelling, “Someone get Dr. Slitherspit now.”
 
Then she rushed over and began wiping off her cousin’s forehead. Moments later the doctor entered.
 
“What’s going on here?” he asked.
 
“Not sure,” Serria said then repeated what Mel had told her. “I think those sweets are what are killing kids.”
 
“Get out,” the doctor ordered, and Serria left Mel’s bedroom.
 
She chatted with the Fanghorn Brothers until the doctor stepped out.
 
“He’s stable,” Dr. Slitherspit said.
 
“Do you have a lab onboard to test one of those sweets he’s been eating?” Serria asked
 
“Yes,” he said, and she handed him what she had.
 
Both brothers wrinkled their brows. They’re worried. What will happen to them if Mel’s died?
 
“Do you know where he got those sweets?” She asked the Fanghorn Brothers.
 
“A short man gave them to me,” Gerrik answered.
 
Serria couldn’t help but grin. “Considering how tall you are, everyone is short to you.”
The trio laughed.
 
“An Alosian man about five six with short brown hair and eyes were handing them out to everyone at the spaceport,” Stevos said. “Told everything they were something new, something to make them happy.”
 
She shook her head. “And you didn’t get suspicious? Haven’t you heard about sweets killing kids”
 
“Mel doesn’t follow the news very much.” Stevos shrugged.
 
“Doesn’t surprise me,” Serria said.
 
Only a short time passed before the doctor returned. “I found an unknown substance in them.”
“May I have the rest?” she asked. “I want to take them to Detective Danforth.”
 
“I gathered up all I could find,” Doctor Slitherspit said. “You can have all of them.” He handed her a bag.
 
“Thank you,” she took them and turned to leave.
 
“We’ll escort you to the police station,” Stevos said.
 
They left the ship. Serria stopped in front of the custom’s counter.
 
The balding man a foot shorter than Serria glanced up from what he had been sketching and asked, “What do you have to claim?”
 
“I’m not here for that,” Serria said. “I’m Serria Stripeclaw and am investigating the sweets killing children, I understand a man was here giving them out. Did you see him? Can you describe him?” She noticed his name was Wilkerson.
 
Someone tapped Serria on the shoulder. She spun her gaze around and found Gerrik pointing upward. She followed his finger. Two rows of colorful paintings lined the wall. She identified one as the crimson dome on Kaskellia, another as a fanghorn. Again, another tap, and her gaze landed on the painting.  They were all small squares and framed.
 
“A stripeclaw. My namesake,” she exclaimed and jumped up and down like a child wining a prize. “Are those yours?”
 
“Yes,” he answered. “Been painting for thirty years. Would love to make a living at it but can’t seem to sell enough to do that.”
 
“How much do you want for the stripeclaw?” Serria asked.
 
“Twenty credits,” he said. “If you can spare that much.”
 
“Twenty credits?” she shouted.
 
“I’ll take whatever you can afford.” He hung his head as if ashamed.
 
“Why the frame probably cost that much,” she said. “I can’t take it with me at the moment since I have another errand to do, but if you will mark it sold, I’ll pay you fifty credits and pick it up when I leave Alosia.”
 
He flung his head up and gasped. “Sold.”
 
“I’d like a receipt,” she asked.
 
As he pulled a pad from his drawer, Serria noticed what he had been sketching. “Who is that you were drawing when we arrived?” She reached into her wallet and pulled out a fifty credit bill.
He wrote the receipt, tore it off, and gave it to her after she handed him the bill which he stuck in his pocket. Since the picture was on the lower row, he grabbed a small sold sign and put it over it.
 
He turned around and answered her question. “That is the man who was giving away the sweets.”
 
She spun it around and asked her escorts, “Does this match what you saw?”
 
“Dead on match,” Gerrik said, and his brother nodded.
 
“What do you want for this sketch?” she asked.
 
“What-what do you want it for?” He stammered, seeming to have lost his composure, his confidence.
 
“Take it to the police,” she told him. “I’m headed there with information about the deaths.”
 
He tipped it off the pad. “You can have it then. Maybe it’ll find him.” He also reached into a drawer to the right. “Take these.” Mr. Wilkerson added, shoving five green wrapped sweets at her. “I was going to give them to my kids but never did. Now I’m glad I procrastinated.”
 
“Probably saved their lives.” Serria took and slid them in with the others in her purse. “I don’t know exactly what time I’ll return.”
 
“It’ll be here when you come.” He smiled.
 
“And we’ll come back for the rest of the paintings,” Gerrik said. “Mel will need something to decorate his new home, and these certainly will brighten any place up.”
 
Mr. Wilkerson beamed a smile so bright it would have blinded anyone who looked directly into the sun.
 
Stevos counted the rest of the paintings. “Twenty four.” He opened his wallet and removed a five hundred credit bill. “A down payment. The total is twelve hundred. My brother and I will come by later and pick them up. Can you pack them up for us?” He pointed to a stack of boxes?”
“Yes,” Mr. Wilkerson said.
 
Serria picked up the sketch, and they walked toward the shuttleport entrance. She called the detective. “I have samples of those deadly sweets. I’ll bring them by.”
 
“Good. That way we can test them,” he said. “Danforth out.”
 
“Serria out.”
 
Two blocks away, the trio were surrounded by six Crescenji Warriors.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any help in lengthening the book is appreciated.


Chapter 17
Tackling both cases

By krprice

“I’m on my way to the police station.” Serria said with a confidence she didn’t feel, her gaze darting around like an injured fanghorn. “Detective Danforth is expecting me.” After taking a deep breath, she glared at them, her confidence returning.
 
“Stop your investigation of the sweets distribution,” one Crescenji Warrior said, his face covered with scars. “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. They’re important, influential nobles.”

“Probably the Syndicate, maybe someone on Jetahn or Kaskellia.” Serria told them,
 
 Before she got to answer, a half dozen police dashed up, and the warriors separated, sprinting away, disappearing like fog on a sunny day.
 
The Fanghorn Brothers vanished too.
 
“How did you know I was being threatened?” She asked.
 
“An anonymous call came in telling us you needed help,” one of the men said as they entered the building.
 
“I understand you had a bit of trouble.” Detective Dansforth motioned for her to sit.
 
“Yes,” she said then explained what happened with both Mel, the warriors, and her suspicions.
 
 “I closed Tandra’s Sweet Shop, had it searched, but found nothing, so I let her reopen.”
 
“Here are the sweets I got from those who lost children but some from Mel also.” Serria opened her purse, removed red and green wrapped sweets she had in a bag, and handed him all but one.
 
Seeing a magnifying glass on his desk, she grabbed it and scrutinized the wrapping.
 
She spotted a tiny hole. “Look.” Serria held the glass over the sweet. “I think something was injected into these after they were wrapped.”
 
“Sergeant Ottosohn,” the detective called. He added the one to the bag.
 
Moments later, a lanky Alosian entered.
 
“Take these to the lab and have them tested,” the detective ordered. “And don’t sample them. I suspect they are very dangerous.”
 
The man nodded, accepted them, and left.
 
As they waited for the results, she removed the sketch from her purse and slid it across his desk.
 
“I got this from Mr. Wilkerson, the custom’s officer who had seen the man giving away the sweets.”
The detective studied it. “This should help in catching whoever is doing this on Alosia.” He paused then added, “I don’t know what these people are up to, but it’s making parents very nervous.”
 
They continued to talk until a willowy Alosian woman walked in wearing a white coat.
 
“This is Doctor Wallingham, She is our lab specialist.”
 
“Serria Stripeclaw,” the private investigator said.
 
“I found korital in the sweets. Very addictive and illegal on all planets in Republic, Kaskellia, and Jetahn. Large dose can kill adults. No wonder kids dying,” the doctor said.
 
“Even if the Syndicate is responsible, I wonder why, and how do we prove it?” Serria asked.
 
“Who's making candy, and where is the Syndicate getting it?”
 
“That’s all a good question,” Detective Danforth said. “By the way, could you please get a list of suppliers from Tandra? If she won’t give it to you, I’ll have to issue a warrant.”

“I don’t expect any problem.” Serria said, stood and left.
 
****
Serria grabbed an aircab and rode to Tandra’s. A flush of adrenaline tingled through her as a line formed outside the door.
 
“What’s going on?” Serria asked.
 
“It’s so crowded Tandra and her helpers are limiting the number of customers in at a time,” one short, plump Alosian woman said. “You’ll have to get in line like everyone else.”
 
“I don’t think so,” Serria said, walking up to the open door. “Have someone call for Tandra. I think she’ll let me in.”
 
The ladies grumbled, but one lady did shout for Tandra, who came immediately.
 
“Serria,” Tandra said. “Come in. I hope you have good news.”
 
“Yes,” the private investigator said.
 
“Why does she get in without standing in line?” The same Alosian woman who answered Serria’s question inquired.
 
“Because she’s trying to find out who is responsible for those deadly sweets.” Tandra folded her arms across her chest.
 
“Oh,” the woman said.
 
Serria slipped inside and glanced around at the crowded aisles. “I’m glad to see your customers don’t believe you’re responsible for the deaths.”
 
“Nope,” she said. “Come back to my office where we can talk in peace and quiet. It’s hectic out here.”
 
Tandra led her to the back and closed the door.
 
After they sat, Serria brought her up to date on the investigation.
 
“I’m glad they’re willing to put their suits on hold.” Tandra leaned back in her chair and took a deep breath.
 
“Detective Dansforth asked me to get a list of your suppliers,” Serria said. “If you don’t comply he’ll have to shut you down again.”
 
“Why didn’t he just call me or send me a message?” Tandra clenched her jaw and started tapping into her computer on her desk. “I’ve have done it without any questions.”
 
Moments later, the printer began spitting out page after page of the requested information.
Someone knocked on the door.
 
“Come in,” Tandra invited.
 
One of her new, young assistants entered. “We’re running out of everything.”
 
“Put a sign out saying we need to make more and lock the door,” Tandra ordered.
 
“Yes, ma’am.” She turned around and departed.
 
As Tandra gathered up the papers and stuffed them in an envelope, she said, “You can slip out the back door.”
 
Serria nodded. “Do you happen to have any of Cliny’s pastries in reserve or scherai? I like to bring some of the latter up for Alyci.”
 
Tandra smiled. “Yes.” She guided Serria to a door the private investigator hadn’t noticed and led her into the kitchen where everyone was busily making sweets and pastries. Aromas of khavae and berries made Serria’s stomach growl.
 
She glanced at her watch. No wonder. It was well past lunchtime.
 
Tandra made up a box of voringas and scherai and then handed it to her.
 
“How much do I owe you?”
 
“Nothing,” Tandra said. “Considering you and Keur are saving my business.”
 
“Yes, but we’re being paid for that.”
 
“Call it an extra perk.”
 
Serria shook her head and sneaked out the back door.
 
****
After dropping the paperwork off with the detective and grabbing a bite at her favorite diner, she took an airbus to the disability office, a dark brown stone building which sprawled across a whole block.
 
Serria stepped onto a dirty brown tile and marched up to the first desk.
 
“I’d like to see Mistress Jane Kristensohn or Mr. Willis Morgenstern,” Serria said as nice and polite as she could.
 
“Do you have an appointment?” The middle-aged woman asked.
 
“No.”
 
“Let me see when either of them have an opening:” She opened a large, green leather bound book.
 
“I’ll see them now,” Serria demanded, crossing her arms over her chest.
 
“Nonsense,” she said. “You’ll wait for an appointment like everyone else.” Her nametag read Magret Kullison.
 
Serria uncrossed her arms and dug into her purse, extracting her PI license, thrusting it at the gatekeeper. “I am Serria Stripeclaw and have been hired to find out why Luken Bjornsohn cannot get a consistent answer on what his disability checks should be.”
 
The woman ignored her and continued to scan the book.
 
“Then I want to see whoever is in charge of this facility,” Serria demanded and glared at Mistress Kullison.
 
“He’s in a meeting.” Her brown eyes returned the glare.
 
Serria spun around, read the listing on the wall and marched through the maze of desks. People stared at her.
 
 Another younger woman sat behind a desk. “You can’t go in there. He’s in a meeting,” she reiterated.
 
“I don’t care if he’s hosting the entire pantheon of gods in the known universe.” She yanked open a light brown door and stomped in.
 
“I’m here on behalf of Luken Bjornsohn,” she said. “I want to know why he’s getting such poor treatment by your office.” Again, she crossed her arms.
 
Before he got to say anything two men in blue security uniforms entered.
 
“I’ll leave now, but next time I come, I’ll bring a warrant for your books and the police.”
 
Again she caught an airbus to the shuttleport. At the entrance, four Crescenji Warriors encircled her, blocking her way into it.
 
“If we find you at the assembly office again, you’ll find yourself beat up or dead,” a warrior warned.
 
”We’ll see about that.” She assumed a warrior stance.
 
He shoved her; she shoved him back.
 
“If you continue to bother me, I’ll have you arrested.”
 
 They backed away.
 
Serria picked up her painting and returned to the space station.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Author Notes Any help in lengthening this would be appreciated.


Chapter 18
Kaskellian Rescue Run

By krprice

After the shuttle landed, Serria wrinkled her nose as she wound her way through the acerbic stench of the ship’s fuel. She closed in on the promenade but only the floral scents and aromas coming from the restaurants offset that of unwashed people of various races whose chatter made her want to hold her hands up to her ears. Unfortunately, they were occupied with the boxes from Tandra and her painting.
 
She walked into the maze of desks at Thair and Thatt Travel Agency owned by Ben Thair and Dunn Thatt. Black-skinned, Alyci McCready sat at her desk tapping her epen on her teeth.
 
“Hey, gal, what’s got you so deep in thought?” Serria asked.
 
Alyci glanced up, set her pen down, and smiled. “Just trying to figure out some strange transfers people want.  Donnae know how I’m going to do it.”
 
Serria set the small box on the desk. “I brought you something.”
 
Alyci’s small black eyes gleamed as she opened the box. “Scherzai,” she exclaimed. “You’ve been to Tandra’s.”
 
“Obviously.” Serria grinned as she opened the larger box. “And you can have one of these voringas.”
 
Her friend grabbed a tissue from a nearby box on her desk and picked one out. “I’ll save it for breakfast. Thank you.” She moved the sweets aside and set it in with them then closed it.
 
“I bought this too.” Serria unwrapped the painting and showed it to Alyci.
 
“Oh my,” she cried. “What a gorgeous picture! And of a stripclaw too. Where did you get it?”
 
Serria told her what had happened and how she had acquired it.
 
“If those Fanghorn Brothers buy up all the others for Mel, there won’t be any left for the rest of us,” Alyci said.
 
“But Mr. Wilkerson said he’d been painting for three decades,” Serria said. “Bet he has more stashed away.”

“I’ll make a concerted effort to get down there soon,” Alyci said.
 
“I need to get to my room and hang this up,” Serria said.
 
“Thanks again.”
 
Serria waved as she worked her way back to the promenade, picked up her supper and eventually arrived at her room.
 
 She put the voringas in her fridge, wet a sponge, and wiped off the place in the wall where she could see it when she sat up in the morning. Once she dried it, she stuck the picture hanger on the wall and hung her stripeclaw. Then she walked back to her bed and lay down momentarily before sitting up. She grinned at the sight.
 
With that done, she ate, typed up her notes, and sent a report to Franz Henderson.
 
Serria plucked two voringas from the box and stuck them in a wrapper for such things. Then she left her room and strolled to Keur’s room, hitting the chime.
 
“Come,” he said.
 
She walked in and found him sitting as his computer. “I brought some goodies if you’ll make some tea.”
 
He rose. “Already was heating some water. Are those voringas?”
 
“Yes,”
 
Keur strode to the kitchen and returned shortly with a tray of steaming cups of tea.
 
“Don’t recognize that one,” Serria commented.
 
“It’s new,” he said. “From some berries she got from one of my cousins. She calls it genika.”
 
“Has a sweet taste,” Serria said.
 
As they drank their tea and ate the pastries, Serria told him of her adventures on Alosia.
 
“I’ll certainly snoop into the files of the disability office,” Keur promised.
 
They talked a while longer before Serria returned to her room and went to bed.
 
****
 Keur spent the next morning hacking into the disability files. Might as well as not had any firewall. He shook his head as he slipped in, creating a back door and password since he figured he’d have to get in there again.
 
Once he found one hundred and fifty thousand names of those receiving disability, the reason, and the amount they received each month, he copied it to his own machine before leaving the file.
 
He sat back and thought about what do to next. Those who served in the Alosian Armed Forces had to either have been born on Alosia, born to Alosian parents, or were naturalized citizens.
His next step was to gain illegal entry into the Bureau of Vital Statistics to find out who were born here or to Alosian citizens.
 
Chuckling at how easy it was to get access to that information, Keur compared the two lists and realized one hundred and forty thousand were citizens. He transferred the names of those not on the first list to another and visited the record of those who had died.
 
Keur gasped, widening his eyes. Two thousand people receiving disability were deceased. He made another file with only their names.
 
After leaving there, he checked the naturalization file and found five thousand had been naturalized.
 
With the file now whittled down to three thousand people, Keur sat back again. The main file of those deceased still could be a mistake, someone in the office didn’t get notified of someone’s death. However, three thousand names who were not on file as citizens sounds a bit add, if not downright illegal.
 
Every person who worked on the planet or paid taxes would be listed with the Tax Service Division. That one would not be so easy to get into.
 
Keur rose and walked over to his comlink and sent an innocuous message to an old friend who now worked in that division.
 
Before he could return to his computer, his comlink buzzed, and the red light flashed four times, indicating it was an emergency message.
 
Keur hit the button to hear it. “Keur, life has gotten intolerable here. Skerry and I must leave. Send help. Love, Aunt Lieu.”
 
Immediately he called Neu.
 
“Neu here.”
 
“Get the ship ready to go to Kaskellia to rescue Aunt Lieu,” Keur said.
 
“Be ready to leave in thirty minutes at bay thirteen. Neu out.”
 
“Keur out.”
 
He wrote up a message to Vik, Rogel, Shay, and Mike and sent it.
 
Before he could do anything else, his comlink buzzed again.
 
“On station. Meet in fifteen minutes at PPP. Bring list. Hugo out.”
 
Keur jumped up and dashed to his computer, made sure he had paper in his printer, and set about printing off the requested information. Once it was finished, he folded it up and stuck it in a satchel. He left his room and knocked on Serria’s door.
 
“Come in,” she invited, and the door slid open.
 
Keur entered and announced, “Aunt Lieu called. She and Skerry need to get off Kaskellia. I’ve sent off messages for help. Will you contact Alyci and help her get a bedroom set up for them? I’ve got another errand to run before Neu and I leave.”
 
“I’ll take care of that,” Serria said. “You do what you have to do.”
 
“Thanks,” Keur said and left.
 
Being half Alosian and half Crescenji, Hugo stood a foot and a half talker than Keur.
 
“Still haven’t grown up yet?” His friend grinned.
 
“Nor will I,” Keur said and smiled. “Check this list against your records. I think there’s something shady going on at Disability Services. Don’t have time to explain now. Got to rescue my aunt on Kaskellia.” He handed the papers to Hugo.
 
“Go,” Hugo said and accepted them. “I’ll send you the results when I get them.”
“Thanks,” Keur said and ran back to his room.
 
He quickly packed his travel bag and sprinted to the BRIGHT STAR.
 
Once they were strapped in, Keur and Neu took off for Kaskellia.
****
That evening Serria joined Alyci for supper.
 
“I don’t know how so few ships are going to bring all of Skerry and Aunt Lieu’s belongings here, not to mention where they’re going to put them,” Alyci said as she cut off a piece of redtail steak.
 
“I don’t expect them to bring much more than some clothes, important papers, valuables, and Aunt Lieu’s tea making equipment and supplies.” Serria drank some tea.
 
They continued talking until their finished eating and cleaned up the kitchen.
 
In the biggest spare bedroom, Serria handed Alyci box and box, and she left the room, returning with two sets of green sheets, blankets, pillows, and pillow cases. With nothing more than twin beds, a dresser, chair and desk, the duo made up the beds in silence.
 
Alyci left again and came back with yellow towels and washcloths which they set on the dresser.
“This move is really going to disrupt their lives, particularly Aunt Lieu’s business,” Serria said.
 
“We’ll all work together to get that restarted,” Alyci commented as they walked back into the living room.  “How about some Khavae Mint wine?”
 
“Sounds good.” Serria  dropped into a chair.
 
After having two glasses, Serria bid goodnight and left.
 
The red light on her comlink was blinking when she entered her room. She sat beside it and hit the green button to hear the message.
 
“Serria, this is Mel.”
 
As if I need him to identify himself with that booming voice.
 
“First, I’d like to thank you for saving my life,” he said in a humble tone, one Serria had rarely heard him use. “If you haven’t called Dr. Siltherspit and recognized the sweets, I would surely be dead or at least addicted to the stuff. Next, I want to thank you for realizing Mr. Wilkerson’s talents. The brothers bought everything he had displayed. They’ll do nicely decorating my new home.” He paused to take a breath. “I’m leaving Alosia since I believe I have outstayed my welcome. I bet Keur and Vik are going over to Kaskellia to rescue their families, so I’m going over to see what kind of mischief I can get into. My sources tell me security is tight, and they might need my help. I will contact you when I’m settled. I owe you a life debt. Mel out.”
While she changed for bed, Serria remembered what a life debt meant to Crescenji Warriors. Her cousin wouldn’t have made that comment without meaning it. And I certainly won’t take advantage of it either.
 
As soon as her head hit the pillow, she fell fast asleep.
 
****
The BRIGHT STAR and the RAINBOW DREAMS met up with Rogel in the LEGAL LMIT and the Brimsens in the SILVER MOON in orbit around Kaskellia. The quartet landed in bay right next to each other and met at Vik’s ship.
 
“Mom will be in the waiting room at the spaceport,” Vik said, her voice shaky, and she frowned.
 
They wound their way through the snaking hoses and gray metal carts until they reached the brown tile of the aforementioned place.
 
As soon as Skerry spotted them, she rushed up to her daughter, hugging her. “I’m so worried about Lieu. I barely got out alive,” she said in a shrill tone.
 
A loud boom erupted from outside the spaceport. Skerry jumped, her gaze darting around, as skittish as a newborn animal.
 
Skerry took a deep breath. “Lieu said she had almost a hundred boxes of tea making and supplies to be shipped. “So I reserved two airtrucks and an aircar. We won’t all be able to fit in the trucks.”
 
“And I’ll pay for it,” Rogel offered. “We need to get you two ladies to safety before this place blows apart.”
 
“They are in my name,” Skerry said. “But I won’t turn down your offer.”
 
As they exited the spaceport and walked to the vehicle rental, Keur said, “I’ll drive one airtruck since I know where Aunt Lieu lives. Neu can ride with me.”
 
“I’ll drive the other one,” Vik said. “For the same reason. Mom comes with me.”
 
“Shay and I know where she lives,” Mike said. “But, Rogel, you can drive.”
 
With that decided, they claimed the vehicles and headed for Lieu Kwan’s house.
 
Downtown Mokar resembled a war zone with roofs caved in or tumbled to the ground to keep company with other debris scattered over the streets like forgotten toys.
 
They wove their way around troubled spots until they reached the residential district.
 
“This here area doesn’t look too bad,” Neu said.
 
“At lease, none of the homes are on fire or blown up,” Keur said. “Let’s hope it stays that way.”

As soon as they pulled up in front of his aunt’s house, she opened the door.
 
Keur jumped from the truck and ran up to her, enveloping his favorite aunt in his arms.
 
“You’re squeezing me too much,” she said and laughed.
 
He let go. “I was afraid for you.”
 
“There’s a lot to load,” she said. “Who was the smart one to bring two trucks?”
 
“Skerry, but Rogel is paying for them,” Keur told her.
 
By now, both trucks were open, and they had formed a line to one.
 
Aunt Lieu handed a box to Keur, who passed it on to Neu until it reached Rogel who loaded it.
They kept at it until both airtrucks were full.
 
Aunt Lieu went back into the house and returned shortly with her purse. Keur and Neu climbed into the first airtruck, Vik and Skerry into the second, and the others got into the aircar.
 
The ride back was shorter than the one to his aunt’s house. Neu, Vik, Rogel, and Mike each grabbed a cart and pushed it to the first airtruck. They managed to fill up all four.
 
“Shay and I will take this to our ship,” Mike said. “Though we don’t know if all will fit.”
 
“Then I’ll go with you,” Neu said. “If it doesn’t, we can start loading my ship.”
 
“There is three of you and four carts,” Aunt Lieu said. “I’ll push the other one.”

“Then let’s go,” Mike said.
 
“Mom and I will hunt for more carts,” Vik said. “Keur and Rogel can move the other boxes to the front of the airtruck.”
 
“Keur can start that,” Rogel said. “I’ll turn in the empty airtruck then the aircar.”
 
With that all agreed, they split up.
 
Keur had just set the tenth box in the front when Vik and Skerry showed up each pushing two carts.
 
The trio filled one cart before Rogel came back for the aircar.
 
Shaylyne brought an empty cart back. “Our ship’s full. We managed to get thirty boxes on it.”
 
After Rogel returned, Mike and Neu arrived. The truck was emptied, and Rogel left with it.
 
“We’re full,” Neu told Keur.
 
“Hope we can get everything on Vik and Rogel’s ship,” Keur said as they pushed the heavy carts to the ships.
 
By the time the RAINBOW DREAMS was stuffed to capacity, Rogel popped up, and they managed to fit everything in his ship.
 
Everyone went to the respective ships, with Aunt Lieu joining her nephew and Neu. They all strapped in while Neu asked for clearance.
 
“This is Kaskellian Spaceport Security,” a male voice said. “Nobody will be allowed to leave until their ships are searched.”
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 


Chapter 19
Request for help, Part 1

By krprice

Busy between doing laundry and cleaning, Serria’s comlink buzzed the next morning.
 
“Serria here.”
 
“Mak here. How about dinner tonight at the PPP and a tridee movie?” he asked. “I heard they have a good one here.”

“And a comedic mystery is playing,” Serria said. “The Sorenson House. Yes, I’d certainly enjoy another evening with you.”
 
“With the movie starting at seven, I’ll pick you up at five,” he said. “That will give us more than enough time to eat and get to the fourth level. And dress up.”
 
 “I’ll see you then. Serria out.”
 
“Mak out.”
 
Now the question was what to wear? My wardrobe doesn’t exactly contain a number of dresses, and I know that’s what he wants me to wear.
 
Serria walked over to her closet. She began at one end and continued to the other, finding mostly slacks and blouses, her usual attire. The only real dress was the dark green gown she had worn to the party on Alosia a few months ago.
 
“That is too fancy,” she muttered. “And Onri Arenson’s Dress Shop wouldn’t have my size. He owns the only place on the promenade who sells clothes. Hm.. . . .:
 
She walked over to her comlink and called Alyci at her apartment. If anyone on the station knew of another place to shop for clothes, it would be her.
 
“Alyci here.”
 
“Serria here. I have a date with Mak tonight and need a dress,” she explained.
 
“Well, mine certainly won’t fit you.” Alyci laughed.
 
Serria laughed too. “No, I suppose not. However, I was hoping you knew of someplace besides Onri’s who sold clothes on station.”

“No, but you might call Charly Olafson,” Alyci suggested. “She prowls around up here all the time. If there is someplace that would carry your size, she would know.”
 
“Thanks. Serria out.”
 
“Alyci out.”
 
Next call went to Charly, Keur’s young helper.
 
“Charly Olafson here.”
 
“Serria here. Do you know of a dress shop on station who sells clothes for someone my size?”
“Yes,” the youngster answered. “Dorie Slitherspit opened one on the third floor. It has clothes for all sizes. Nice ones too. Possibly a bit pricey.”
 
“Where exactly on the third floor?” Serria grabbed her compad to write down the directions.
 
“Take the elevator by the promenade, get off on the third floor. Turn right. It’s about five shops on your left.”
 
Serria wrote down the instructions. “Anything I can do for you as thanks?”
 
“If you’re going down to Kondreal anytime soon, you might visit Tandra’s and bring me a box of sweets, particularly khavae, but I’ll take anything. I also like those pastries from Cliny’s.”
 
“Done,” Serria said. “And thanks. Serria out.”
 
“Charly out.”
 
After switching her laundry, Serria followed the directions and easily found Dorie’s Dress Shop.
It took only three tries to find what she wanted, paid for it, and went back to her room.
 
****
That late afternoon Serria walked into her bathroom and closed the door. She started checking her hair and makeup in the full length mirror. Her dark blue dress had been created by the Mandibus, an insectoid race who wove fibers from cocoons, now located on Barsella. The sleeves puffed out from the shoulders, slimmed down at the elbow, ending in scalloped cuffs.
The front dove down to reveal a valley between her breasts which were nestled in cups sewn into the material. It hugged her waist but flared out to end at her knees again with a scalloped hem. Her four inch heels matched the dress.
 
She had just left the bathroom when her doorbell chimed. Serria grabbed her silver evening bag, turned off the alarm, and opened the door. Mak’s eyes widened when he saw her.
 
“What a picture of loveliness you are!”
 
“You’re not so bad yourself.” She examined his dark gray suit with a pale gray shirt and red tie along with black shoes.
 
He extended his arm. She exited her room, locked her door, and slipped her arm through his. They strode along the hallway to the promenade which was strangely quiet. It would get noisy as the afternoon progressed into evening.
 
Caris showed them to the same table they had occupied last time. “We have liver, tongue, and kidneys of the adelis on special tonight.”
 
Serria shook her head and frowned. “Do not eat animal innards. That’s enough to make me lose my appetite.”
 
“Me to,” Mak said.
 
“Just thought I’d tell you about them.”  He handed them the compad with the menus. “Delia will serve you tonight.” He spun around and ambled off.
 
“I see they have Kaldicott ice wine, from ’14,” Mak said.
 
“Never tried ice wine,” Serria admitted.
 
Their server arrived, and they both ordered the ice wine, no appetizer, house salad, baked retail, mashed tubers, and eldosin, a large green, Alosian vegetable.
 
They continued to get acquainted while they waited on their meal and during it, ending with a glass of Khavae Mint wine.
 
The duo enjoyed the comedic mystery in the tridee theater and strolled back to her room hand in hand.
 
At her door, Mak placed his hands on each side of her head, and his’s lips descended onto hers, soft and malleable. Her lips tingled at the tender, partially open mouth kiss. He lifted his mouth, gave her a peck on the forehead.
 
“I had a wonderful evening,” Mak said.
 
“So did I.”
 
He squeezed her hand and walked away.
 
Serria unlocked her door and entered her room. The lights came on as she undressed and hung up her dress. Slipping into bed and turning off the lights, she ran her finger over her still tingling lips.
 
I really like him, not to mention he’s a fantastic kisser. And I want to get to know him better.
 
She turned over and fell asleep.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 20
Request for help, Part 2

By krprice

Keur unstrapped himself and began pacing the deck of the BRIGHT STAR.
 
How are we going to be able to convince them not to search us, to let us leave?
 
A fast, deep lilting voice came over the comlink, but it echoed all through the bays.
 
“This is Mel Silverscales,” he said. “I demand you let the BRIGHT STAR, RAINBOW DREAMS, SILVER MOON, and any others with them go. If you do not, I will blast a hole in your crimson done.”

Aunt Lieu gasped. “Would he really do that?” She gripped the armrests until her hands turned white.
 
“Yes, Aunt Lieu,” Keur said as he stopped in front of her, his stomach starting to churn. “He really would.”

The comlink on the BRIGHT STAR lit up like a chandelier in a place like Jero’s house.
Neu hit the button.
 
“What is going on?” Vik asked.
 
Keur walked to the console. “Seems like Serria’s cousin has come to our rescue. Sure didn’t know he was in the area.”
 
“Last I knew he was on Alosia,” Rogel said. “At this point, I’ll take all the help I can get.”
“This is Kaskellia Spaceport Security,” a male voice said. “BRIGHT STAR is cleared to leave, followed by RAINBOW DREAMS, SILVER MOON, and LEGAL LIMIT.”
 
Keur dashed back to his seat, buckled himself in as Neu got settled, and they lifted. As each reached the upper atmosphere, they waited on the others. Then beginning with the BRIGHT STAR, they jumped to hyperspace with the Alosian Space Station as their next stop.
 
“Where will Skerry and I be staying?”
 
“With Serria’s friend, Alyci McCready,” Keur answered.
 
.”But what about my belongings?”
 
“I’ve already taken care of that,” Neu said. “There’s an empty warehouse my folks own near the spaceport. You can use that. And maybe so after we arrive, I might have a place for you to rent.”
 
“Thank you,” Aunt Lieu said.
 
They landed on Alosia a couple days later, unloaded the ships, and the BRIGHT STAR took off for the station while the others left on missions of their own.
 
After Alyci helped the ladies get settled, she gave each a compad with a copy of the Alosian driver’s manual, so they could eventually get their licenses.
 
****
The next morning after the breakfast dishes were cleared, Skerry, Lieu, and Alyci sat at the table. The trio had the compads in front of them.
 
“First thing we need to do is open a bank account and deposit our money.” Skerry frowned and shuddered. “And I dread hearing how bad the exchange rate is with the Kaskellian government in turmoil.”
 
“The best bank is the Aloisan National Bank,” Alyci said. “We all have our money there.” She tapped a few buttons on her compad. “Uh-oh. Until this revolution the rate had been one Alosian credit to two Kaskellian ones. However, in the last week, that has changed from one to four. Better get you to a bank before that gets worse.”
 
Both older ladies shuddered as the doorbell chimed.
 
Alyci rose and left the kitchen.
 
“I brought all my money with me,” Skerry admitted.
 
“So did I,” Lieu said. “Unless things calm down a lot, I’m not going back to my homeworld.”
Alyci returned with Neu Knott who dropped into a chair, and Alyci slipped into hers.
 
“What brings you here, Neu?” Lieu asked.
 
“My parents own some property on Alosia and have a house on it,” he said. “It needs cleaning and painting. There’s no furniture in it, but it does have appliances. If you ladies will clean it and paint it, you can live there rent free.”
 
“That sounds like a great deal,” Skerry said.
 
“We still need furniture,” Lieu commented.
 
“I know of a store with excellent second hand stuff,” Neu said. “My folks will supply all the cleaning supplies, paints, and painting supplies. They’ll order the paints and let me know which color for which room.”
 
Skerry and Lieu glanced at each other and nodded.
 
“We’d like to look at it first,” Skerry said.
 
“Figured you would,” Neu said. “I’ll take you down there.”
 
“We need to go to a bank first,” Skerry said.
 
“I would’ve suggested that,” Neu told them. “Then we can arrange for aircar service until you get your licenses.”
 
“I’ll do the dishes,” Alyci said. “You three get going.”

Skerry and Lieu changed into old clothes fit for cleaning chores, retrieved their purses and travel money, and followed Neu to the ship. Once strapped in, they got clearance and flew to Kondreal.
After Neu rented an aircar, they walked over to the aircar service.
 
The tall Alosian man did a double-take when he spotted the two Kaskellian women with Neu. “What can I do for you, Mr. Knotts?”
 
“It’s not for me, it’s for these ladies,” Neu said.
 
Used to being underestimated because of her small stature and her race, Skerry said. “I am Skerry Royk. Lieu Kwan and I would like to make arrangements for aircar service.”
 
He swung his head to Lieu. “We love your tea. Are you moving to Alosia?”
 
“Yes,” Lieu said. “And as soon as we can get settled, I’ll get back to making more of the same, not to mention some new ones.”
 
“Set the account up in the ladies’ names, but I’ll pay for the first month until they can set up accounts to take care of everything,” Neu said.
 
“We have the money, just not in Alosian currency,” Skerry said and turned to Neu. “And we’ll pay you back.”
 
He nodded as the man handed them the paperwork.
 
Once it was filled out and the money exchanged, they strode from the spaceport, down three blocks to the large brown stone building with a big gold sign on top with Alosian National Bank.
They entered onto a silver tiled floor and marched over to the new accounts desk.
 
“We’d like to open accounts here,” Skerry said.
 
The woman with streaks of gray in her hair said, “Sit.”
 
Skerry did so and accepted the paperwork. 
 
After she filled it out and handed over all her money, the woman whose tag read Wilma, left to do whatever she needed to do.
 
Neu moved off to the side, took out his mobile comlink, and made a call.
 
When Wilma returned, she said, “Our usual exchange rate today is one Alosian credit for four Kaskellian ones. However, considering the amount you’re switching, we’re willing to do two Kaskellian credits for one Alosian one. Now do you want any in cash?”
 
“Three hundred in cash,” Skerry said. “Six thousand in a checking account and the rest in a savings account. Do you have online banking?”
 
“Yes,” she said. “I’ll sign you up for that too.”
 
Skerry and Wilma finished their work, and then Lieu replaced Skerry in the chair.
 
After her account was set up, they left the bank and claimed the aircar.
 
Their first stop was the paint store where they picked up the paints and supplies. From there, they went to a grocery store for cleaning supplies, food, and all the necessary items needed when setting up a new household. The furniture store was next where they chose decent furniture for each room, paid for it then made arranged for delivery when the house was ready.
 
As they rode out to the house, Neu said, “I guess you ladies have already decided to accept my parent’s offer.”
 
Skerry looked over at Lieu. “Neither one of us are afraid of hard work.”
 
“I believe it after what I’ve heard about you two from Vik and Keur.”
 
The city vanished quickly, and trees and bushes lined both sides of the road. About an hour later, Neu settled the aircar in front of a large, one story, red brick house.
 
“This here property has been in the family ever since the Knotts family started about five hundred years ago,” Neu said and climbed out.
 
“Been around a while,” Lieu said as she and Skerry alighted.
 
“I’ll give you two a tour, and then we can haul everything in,” Neu produced a key, marched over to the door, unlocked it, and the trio entered.
 
They immediately held their noses at the dust and odors of dead animals and droppings.
“Dad had the exterminator in last week,” Neu said. “Nothing should be alive.”
 
Dust and dirt plumed into the air, and they all coughed.
 
Neu strode over windows and began opening them. “Get that breeze blowing and clean up the dust and stink.”
 
 “This here is the living room,” Neu said.
 
The walls were so coated with webs and dirt Skerry couldn’t tell what color the walls were.
“They want the living room to be a calming cool gray,” Neu said. “And the hallways to be the same color.”
 
“Good choice,” Lieu said.
 
He led down the short hallway to the kitchen.
 
Again, everything was filthy, and some kind of rodent lay dead in the sink. However, the stove, quick cook oven, fridge, dishwasher appeared to be only a couple of years old.
 
“Good to see lots of cabinets,” Skerry said as she glanced around.
 
“Can never have enough of them.” Lieu laughed.
 
“This here kitchen and the nook are to be pale green,” Neu told them.
 
“Goes with the brown,” Skerry said. “At least, I think they’re light brown cabinets.”
 
“I think so too,” Lieu commented.
 
They turned left at the far end of the kitchen and found a nook ten feet long and six foot wide.
Lieu hurried to the window, yanked a cloth from her purse, and began rubbing it.
 
“Can’t see much,” she grumbled. She turned around to Neu. “Would your parents mind if I planted a garden for my herbs?”
 
“Or vegetables for us?”
 
“Nope,” Neu answered. “There are all kinds of berry bushes on this here property which extends beyond the tree line. You’re free to use whatever you like for your teas. In fact, there are probably different than what you had on Kaskellia.”

“And I’ll help you gather them.” Skerry offered.
 
“Thanks,” Lieu said.
 
They turned right, walked down a dozen stone steps to two doors.
 
“The backdoor to the house,” Neu pointed to the one directly ahead of them.
 
 He opened the one to their left, and they walked into a long room of gray stone blocks.
 
“Storage,” he said. “Though Lieu will probably want to use half this for storage and the other half for making tea. No need to paint this.”
 
“Yes,” Lieu said. “After it gets a thorough cleaning.”
 
They returned to the hallway and walked to the main bathroom on the left. Another two rodents had died in the white tub.
 
“Mom wants a pale pink for this room,” Neu said
 
The ladies nodded as Neu let them to the bedroom across the hall.
 
“This here bedroom is to be painted teal blue.”
 
“Nice compliment to the pink bathroom,” Lieu said.
 
They turned left again to go into another room.
 
“Could be a bedroom or a study,” Neu said. “Dark brown.”
 
Skerry gazed around. “Yes, this would make a good place for me to work on my project.”
 
They spun around, walked out into the hallway, and into the master bedroom.
 
“Ocean blue for both the bedroom and the bathroom,” Neu told them.
 
Lieu strolled into the bathroom. “Oh, Skerry,” she exclaimed. “A whirlpool tub.”
 
Skerry scurried in and almost ran into Lieu. “Nice way to relax after a long work day. Get rid of tired, achy muscles.”
 
On their way back to the front, they passed two more bedrooms.
 
“My folks want this here bedroom to be yellow, and the other to be forest green,” Neu said.
 
At they the front, they began unloading the aircar. Once that was done, Neu brought out the lease for the ladies to sign, which day did.
 
Two vans arrived and four men tumbled from each. They marched up to Neu.
 
“We’ve been hired by Keur Matiason and Vik Juleskova to help clean and paint this house,” the driver of one truck said. “And we brought lunch.”
 
The other driver and another man hefted two large baskets with the rider of the other truck carrying a cooler, another basket, and a big blanket.
 
Skerry and Lieu stared at each other and shook their heads.
 
“How long are you hired for?” Lieu asked as the men began spreading out the blanket and opening the baskets and cooler.
 
“However long you need us,” he answered.
 
Once they were seated with plates of sandwiches, salads, drinks, and deserts, everyone introduced themselves.
 
They talked about the supplies they had and what the men had brought, and then Neu told them about the colors for each room.
 
After eating, Neu asked. “Could these ladies ride back to Kondreal this evening to take the shuttle back to the space station?”
 
“Most certainly,” Olaf said. He seemed to be the leader of the group.
 
“Then I’ll leave you two here,” Neu said. “And don’t forget to download the driver’s license manual.”
 
“No, we won’t and thank you for everything,” Skerry and Lieu chorused.
 
“You’re welcome,” Neu answered and left.
 
Skerry began issuing jobs as the men unloaded their equipment and supplies. Then they all got to work.
 
Skerry and Lieu went back to the station at night and returned to the house along with the men to clean and paint it.
****
After Vik had made arrangements for help for her mother and Aunt Lieu, she showered, ate, and slumped in the pilot’s seat, not knowing where to go or what to do next.
 
Her comlink chimed, and she hit the button to hear the message.
 
“Vik, I need your help.”  Lady Natalia said in a frantic voice. “Gather all the ships you can and meet me at the Ice Maiden on Kollic as soon as possible. Natalia out.”
 
“I’ll get who I can,” Vik said. “Vik out.”
 
Neu was busy helping her mom and Aunt Lieu. Rogel and the Brimsens left on their adventure in the Osanic system. She combed through a contact list of all the traders and sent the following message. “Lady Surmenscova asks for anyone in the vicinity to come to the Ice Maiden on Kollic. She didn’t explain the reason, but I know she wouldn’t ask for help to come as soon as possible if it wasn’t a dire situation. Vik out.”

“We’re headed to Kollic,” Vik said and strapped in.
 
As soon as clearance was granted, the RAINBOW DREAMS departed the station and went to light speed when they could.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
           
 


Chapter 21
Mercy Mission

By krprice

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Keur stuck the mindjack into the node in his head and slipped into the file of people receiving disability checks. He started with the first name on his printout, Benji Abeson, and continued going through it, making a check mark by each name that went to a post office box and not a real address. Half of the names were those who had died or were on the printout he had given to Hugo.
 
Something strange was going on.
 
He wondered if anyone else besides Luken had complained about not receiving their checks or had gotten different answers from different people. After hunting for ten minutes, he came across a document with a long list, maybe one thousand names, of those annoyed with their services. Keur randomly jotted down four names along with their comlink numbers. He called the first name of Aames Himmelberg.
 
“Hello, Aames here.”
 
“Keur Matiason. I am investigating a grievance by a former soldier injured in the Tambolen War,” he said. “I noticed you made several complaints about not getting checks. Would be willing to tell me about yourself and your problems?”
 
“I, too, was hurt in the same war,” Aames said. “Lost an eye and my left arm about six years ago. I filled out all their paperwork, documenting everything they wanted. It took four years before I received any money and then only half of what I was told I should expect. I continued to call the office and got switched from one person to another. One actually told me to be glad I was getting anything at all because we should have never gotten involved in that situation.” He growled the last sentence. “As if I had a choice.”
 
 “Someone like that shouldn’t be working with Disability Services,” Keur said, ready to pound on his desk. “Could you give me the names of those you spoke to?”
 
“Katherine Morgenstern was the main one,” he said. “Will Patterson was the nasty one.”
 
“Thank you for your information,” Keur said. “I can’t promise you any help, but I’ll see what I can do.”
 
“Any help would be appreciated,” Aames said.
 
“Keur out.”
 
 
Aames just cut the link.
The next one on the list was Dieter Jamesen.
 
“Dieter here.”
 
Keur told him the same thing he had said earlier.
 
“Ja, I have problems too,” Dieter said in an old Alosian dialect.
 
“Would you care to tell me about them?”
 
“Two fingers on my right hand and three toes on left foot,” he explained. ‘Was told I would only get small amount, and I shouldn’t bother them with such injury.”
 
 “Who did you speak to?” Keur began to wonder about the lack of compassion of those who worked at Disability Services.
 
“About seven people,” Dieter said. “Not one bothered to ask how I was.”
 
“I don’t think they cared,” Keur said. “Thank you for your help.”
 
“Dieter out.”
 
“Keur out.”
 
The young private investigator contacted Karl Marrisohn and Joshil Pierson and got the same type of answers. These who fought and were hurt were treated like they should be tossed to the side like garbage or unusable any more.
 
Keur rose, ready to return to his computer to make notes on his conversation when his comlink buzzed. He sat and pressed a button.
 
“Hugo here. No one on that list you gave me is in the tax data base,” Hugo said. “Suspect they are not real, and someone is stealing tax payer’s money. Suggest you look into it.”
 
“I certainly will,” Keur said. “And thanks. Keur out.”
 
“Hugo out.”
 
Keur sat back and thought about it. That would certainly explain a lot. Either that or those people at Disability Services are just incompetent.
 
****
Kollic had changed since Vik’s first arrival on the planet a year or so ago when she had been drafted by members of the Gang of Nineties to rescue the Brimsens. They had been jailed for smuggling jewels. However, it was learned they had been framed.
 
Those same new and stately buildings she had seen on her first visit were still there, but instead of ones next to them resembling hovels with their roofs caved in, stood high rises, windows gleaming in the sun. All the streets were now paved, no cobblestones on which to turn one’s ankle.
 
Lady Natalia’s been busy. She’s turning this once backwater empire world into place for industries and business not only survive but thrive.
 
Vik easily located the huge inn made of kekkrikat wood. Lady Natalia owned the Ice Maiden, Vik learned last time as well was both lady and lord owned most of the planet.
 
She entered the building. It had the same wooden beams stretched across the top, accented by darker ones along the side. A fireplace stood empty. All the kekkrikat tables and chairs shone like a supernova and gleamed if just polished. However, unlike last time where the place had been empty, people crowded around tables as if they held piles of credits.
 
Vik recognized many of them as they were fellow traders she had sent messages to. Adeky, as tall as she was though an Alosian, sat next to Pete, even taller still since he was Crescenji. They chatted like the old friends they were. These two had helped her on previous occasions on various missions.
 
However, almost half of those present were either white-skinned, crimson-skinned, or some of each, like she was.
 
She wound her way over to Adeky and Pete. “Happen to have place for old friend?”
 
Pete scooted his chair away from Adeky and grabbed a vacant one from the table behind him.
Vik sat and pulled it closer to the table.
 
A white-skinned barmaid brought a flagon of something foamy to each of the men.
 
“A glass of Kaldicott wine, any year, if you have it,” Vik asked.
 
The young woman nodded and left.
 
“Know what this is about?” Adeky asked then sipped his drink.
 
“Only that Lady Natalia asked for help to assemble small fleet of ships here as soon as possible,” Vik told them. Her drink came then. “Run me tab.”
 
“Yes,” the barmaid said and left.
 
“Any idea how many are here?” Vik asked her companions.
 
“About forty five,” Adeky answered.
 
As she swallowed a bit of wine, the front door opened Lady Natalia entered followed by two dozen men each carrying three large boxes. They set them down near the fireplace. Lady Natalia strode over to the bar and hopped up onto it like she was a young woman not one in her nineties.
 
Everyone gasped, including Vik.
 
“Rather agile for having such white hair,” Pete whispered.
 
Vik laughed. “I guess we’d better not underestimate her.”
 
In a loud voice, she spoke. “”I’m sure you’re all familiar with revolution happening on Kaskellia.” Her gaze scanned the crowd before speaking again. “Many of you are Kaskellian or related to someone who is. If you choose not to undertake this mission once I explain it to you, I won’t think less of you since I don’t recognize good many of you anyway.”
 
She picked up a glass of water, downed it, and motioned for more.
 
“As you might expect from all fighting, there has been numerous injuries. The hospitals are overwhelmed and are in desperate need of some kind of relief. I have number of friends on world and wish to bring them here where I have set up hospital on outskirts of town. In those boxes are medical supplies, not only for you to use on your return, but to give to staff there.”
 
The group erupted with questions, most of which could not be heard in the uproar.
 
“Please be quiet,” Lady Natalia shouted.
 
 
The throng quieted.
“Now I know you’re traders and do not have any medical training,” she said. “That is why I have asked those who are skilled in that field to accompany those who are not.”
 
She pointed to those white and crimsoned-skinned people Vik had noticed earlier.
 
“Since all of you have AI’s with extensive data bases, the medics who come with you can use that if they come across something they can’t handle. They’ll only be assessing problem, not surgery. That will have to wait until they get here.” She paused and drank more water. “For starters, Vik Juleskova is in charge of this mission. Please form line in front of me. There are vehicles outside to take you, medic, and supplies to spaceport. From there, you can get cart and load your ship. Once you get on Kaskellia, Vik, I want you to contact Grace Buell. I’ll send her comlink number to your ship as soon as all is distributed. She will know who needs transport most and where they are located.”
 
Vik nodded as she, Adeky, and Pete finished their drinks and took their place in line.
 
“Did you get count of how many familiar faces were in room?” Vik asked.
 
“About two dozen,” Pete said. ”
 
“Yeah,” Adeky said. “That’s about right. And of initial forty five, twenty just left.”

Vik shook her head. “Wonder what their reason is? This is mercy mission.”
 
“Not everyone can afford these types of trips,” Pete said. “We three do quite well, but others live on the edge of survival.”
 
“Like Brimsen’s were before inheritance,” Vik commented.
 
“But they were always willing to lend a hand,” Adeky added.
 
Vik approached Lady Natalia.
 
“Thank you for coming and bringing in such good crowd,” the Lady said. 
 
“Just happy to see so many came,” Vik told her.
 
“Celia, this is Vik,” Lady Natalia introduced. “Vik, this is Celia. She will be your medic.”
 
As tall as Vik, she was from Jetahn and close to Vik’s age with short brown hair and deep green eyes. She wore a white medic coat over a jade blouse and slacks.
 
After they exchanged pleasantries, they followed a man with three boxes out to an aircab. It was loaded, and they left for the shuttleport, introducing themselves to each other.
 
Upon arrival, Vik grabbed an empty cart nearby. She and Celia put the boxes on and wove their way through the spaceport, easily bringing them onto the RAINBOW DREAMS.
 
Celia carried a travel bag and a carrier of some sort from which chirping came.
 
“What’s in there?” Vik pointed.
 
“Help in case we run into trouble,” Celia said.
 
“Can I see?”
 
“You really don’t want to. I don’t want to risk them getting out. They’re from desert world called Dajorn, near CEMAR.”
 
“Oh.” Vik shook her head, deciding maybe she didn’t want to see the creatures.
 
Celia shifted her bag and the carrier to a vacant room. Then she returned and buckled herself in.
Vik strapped in. “Dreamer, this is Celia. We’re headed for Kaskellia.”
 
“I received the contact information and already have clearance,” Dreamer said.
 
Moments later, they lifted and headed for Kaskellia.
 
****
With her wet hair wrapped in a towel and dripping clothes hanging from her arm, Shaylyne kicked up dust on the trail that led from the bathing pond to the main camp on Osanic four. She wrinkled her nose as she passed the latrine pits and the middens. With a bright blue sky and warm sun overhead, she figured her clothes would dry quickly as she stopped at the rope tied at each end to a metal post. She flung each piece of clothing over it then straightening them out so they were spread out enough to catch the rays.
 
She skirted the grid of twelve squares each ten feet in width and length. Around the side of each square was two feet of earth for wheelbarrows to carry the dirt away. Those like Mike and others who were getting on-the-job training knelt beside either one of the Himmelsohns or their assistants learning how to use a trowel and dig in layers.
 
 Shaylyne marched past the brown tents and the firepirt, dodging members of Rogel’s xenoarcheaological team who scurried about on their assigned tasks. Shaylyne pulled her comlink from her pants pocket as she approached her ship.
 
“Silver,” she said into it. “Lower the ramp and open the door.”
 
Six steps away from the ramp, she halted and screamed.

 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 


Chapter 22
Strange discoveries

By krprice

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Keur collected and organized all the information on not only Luken’s case but what he had learned from the other men he had interviewed, his snooping, and Hugo’s note. Next he dialed Detective Dansforth’s number.
 
“Dansforth here.”
 
“Keur Matiason here,” he said. “I have been investigating a disability claim for a client who hired Serria. The information I have acquired points to possible fraud at Disability Services. Who do I report that to?”
 
“Contact the Office of the Alosian Inspector General,” the detective said. “They have a form you will need to fill out. However, you can do it anonymously. Make sure your data is solid.”
 
“It is,” Keur said. “I wouldn’t make the accusation without proof.”
 
“I believe you,” Detective Dansforth said. “You and Serria are gaining quite a reputation for solving crimes with honesty and integrity.” He gave him the location to go to.
 
“Thank you,” Keur said. “And thanks for the information. Keur out.”
 
“Dansforth out.”
 
Keur immediately typed in the address, and it quickly went to the IG office. He clicked his way to the document and typed in the evidence he had collected, even leaving his name and comlink number in case they had any questions.
 
After reading over it, he hit the ‘submit’ button and left the site, hoping they would find the perps who were stealing the taxpayer’s money.
 
****
Mike sprinted to his sister followed by Rogel and the Himmelsohns. When they arrived, Shaylyne pointed to the indentation of a web foot print in the dust.
 
“What is that?” Rogel asked, his chest tingling, and he had difficulty swallowing.
 
“A footprint of some kind,” Sven said. “My minor was in xenozoology.”
 
“There is a trail of them,” Rudy told them, rapidly taking pictures before someone destroyed them.
 
“Go back to your assigned jobs.” Rogel turned to the crowd.
 
When Shaylyne and Mike started to join the rest, Rogel added. “Not you two.”
 
They nodded and followed the Himmelsohns through the dust for about two miles where the tracks stopped. In their place were four holes in the ground.
 
“Something heavy left those.” Sven pointed to each as he circled around them.
 
“I’ve seem ships leave hole on other planets,” Mike said.
 
“But not that big.” Shaylyne shivered despite the warmth of the day. Mike put his arm around her.
 
“It looks like we haven’t been alone,” Sven said.
 
Rogel shook his head. “My people surveyed this place before we decided to dig here. If there had been any sign of life, they would have told me.”
 
“Unless these web-foots were here between the survey and our arrival,” Sven said.
 
“I’ll have my ship go up into orbit and search for any signs again,” Rogel said. “If we find any or actually meet any web-foots, we’ll have to abandon the dig,”
 
Everyone gasped and stared at Rogel. His stomach roiled at the thought, but the safety of this crew came first.
****
Once they were all in orbit around Kaskellia, Vik sent out a message to the first group. “Adeky will guide you to Kwintos.” The next went out to nine more. “Pete is in charge of you.” To the final ten, the message read, “And I’ll head up the rest of you.”
 
She had just cut her comlink when it sounded.
 
“This is Kaskellian Spaceport Control,” a male voice said in heavily accented trade. “We have you registered to Vik Juleskova on the RAINBOW DREAMS. Is that you, and if so, why have you brought such a large force with you?”
 
“Yes, this is Vik Juleskova,” she said. “Those with me have come on mercy mission. Lady Natalia Surmenscova has asked us to evacuate certain individuals from your hospitals which are overwhelmed, understaffed, and undersupplied. We also bring medical supplies.”
 
“Where are you going?” he asked.
 
“Ten will be going to Kwintos Hospital, another ten to Mokar, and I will lead another nine to Sierkas Hospital.”
 
“Those going to Kwintos and Mokar can land at those spaceports. And you are free to land here in Sierkas in bays ten through nineteen. Stay together. This world is dangerous. Kaskellian Space Control out.”
 
“I’m already aware of situation. Vik out.” Then she passed the news to Pete and Adeky who were instructed to tell their teams, and she directed her team which bay to land in, what to do, and where to meet her. “Dreamer, take us to bay ten.”
 
After they landed, Vik strapped on her blaster and hid a few knives about her person. “I’ll bring cart to you. Please load it up. I’ll meet you at customs. Creel will get one airtruck while I will drive the other. They will be out front.  Lady Natalia told me they are already reserved in my name.”
 
“And I’ll make sure and bring my pets,” Celia said.
 
“You expect trouble?” Vik raised an eyebrow.
 
“Yes.”
 
 “So do I.” With that last comment, she left the ship, met up with Creel.
 
They wended their way around the metal carts, people, and hoses, crinkling her nose at the stench of fuels and other foul odors.  From there, they arranged for services on all ten ships and paid for them.
 
They easily retrieved the airtrucks but met with trouble at the customs counter.
 
“What is problem?” Vik asked the Kaskellian customs officer. She noticed his name was Shen.
“You’re bringing in items for sale,” he said. “You must pay import taxes.”
 
“But they are not for sale,” Vik growled. “They are donations from Lady Surmenscova for your hospital.”
 
“That’s what you say.” He folded his arms over his puny chest. “For all I know they are weapons for the rebels.”
 
“Take a look.” Vik opened the first box, taking out gauze bandages, syringes in their original wrappings, antiseptic wipes, and vials of pain medication all written in trade and Kaskellian.
“I don’t care what you have,” he said. “You will pay taxes. Now let me figure it up.”
 
She showed him each item before returning it to the box.
 
“I need to see the others,” he told her.     
 
Vik’s body tensed as she repeated the procedure with the other two boxes Celia had piled on the cart. However, Vik noticed Celia kept her little carrier hidden.
 
“Sixty Kaskellian credits for all three boxes.”
 
“You might as well figure all boxes.” Vik pointed to the line of the nine other carts, traders, and medics behind her. “I’ll pay for all of them.”
 
“No,” he demanded. “The one in charge of each box or boxes will pay for them.”
 
Vik turned away momentarily and took several deep breaths, trying to calm herself down, trying to keep from smacking him.
 
“It’s all right, Vik,” Creel said. He was half Kaskellian and half Alosian. “We know Lady Natalia will pay us back.”
 
Vik nodded, pulled her wallet from her pants, withdrew her debit card, and handed it to the man.
He ran it through his machine and gave it back to her.
 
After they had all paid, Vik led them to the airtruck, loaded it, and put the carts back.
“Johann is with Creel, and Celia will come with me,” Vik announced.
 
“And if we happened to get stopped,” Celia said. “Don’t get out of airtruck.”
 
Everyone stared at Vik.
 
“Do as she said.” Vik told them before everyone climbed into their respective places.
 
With Vik in the lead, they headed down the main street of Sierkas. Glass buildings that had stood for centuries now resembled piles of rubble, sharp shards sticking out like knives ready to slice through anything that neared them. Vik clutched the steering wheel, her hands turning whiter as her chest ached for what had been.
 
Get ahold of yourself.
 
Spotting a tower of black stone about to topple down, she hit the brakes and turned left to avoid getting it.
 
Celia pushed several buttons on the dashboard’s routing system, “New route coming up.”
 
Fifteen minutes later, Celia said, “Turn right at next intersection. That street will take us directly to hospital. I expect trouble before we get there. I’ll hide with pets.”
 
One moment she was there, the next the seat was empty.
 
Vik shrugged, and she turned right. A block later, an airtruck twice the size of the one she drove pulled out in front of her. She slammed on the brakes, letting her vehicle settle to the ground.
 
Two men pointed their high-powered guns at her.
 
“Get out of the airtruck,” one shouted through the closed window. “And open the back.”

 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 


Chapter 23
Serria, Vik, and Neu, Part 1

By krprice

Not knowing what to do next, Serria showered, dressed, and ate breakfast. She had barely finished when her comlink chimed.
 
“Serria here.”
 
“Keur here,” he said. Then he told her what he had discovered and what he had done.
 
“Thanks,” she said. “I’ll get an appointment with the assemblyman, write up his report, and go down there. Hopefully, that’s all he’ll ask from us.”
 
“And pay us.”
 
“You’ll get most of it since you did the work.”
 
“Keur out.”
 
“Serria out.”
 
After making a two o’clock appointment, she added Keur’s information to her file, printed it out, and figured out the bill. Serria took the next shuttle to Kondreal.
 
Though it wasn’t raining, clouds scudded overhead. A brisk wind ruffled through her black curls, sending them every which way before scattering empty paper tea cups and other dexterous along its path.
 
She lunched at her favorite diner before arriving at Walter Langendorfer’s office.
He lounged against the outer doorframe and glanced at his watch. “Punctual as usual. What do you have for me today?”
 
“Some good news, some bad news,” she said as she followed him through the reception room to his office.
 
He closed the door before striding to his desk and sat. She pulled out her report, handed it to him then slipped into a chair.
 
“Give me the short version,” he asked after reading the first page.
 
“Keur found a number of people receiving disability checks either didn’t exist, were dead, or weren’t on the tax rolls,” she told him.
 
He banged his hand on his desk. “Fraud.”
 
“That’s what we suspect.” She stared him straight in the eyes. “And he reported it to the Alosian Inspector General. I don’t know what else we can do.”
 
“I’ll make sure they follow up on that.” He set the papers on his desk and opened his top drawer, extracting a checkbook. “How much do I owe you, and who do I make it out to?”
 
“Your bill is the last two pages, explaining how much was charged when,” she said. “And make it out to the Alosian Space Station Detective Agency.”
 
The assemblyman flipped to the last page of the papers, examined the last to pages, and wrote the check before giving it to her.
 
“Your office did an exceptional job for me.” He stood. “I’ll surely recommend them to anyone who needs your services.”
 
She rose. “Thank you.”
 
They shook hands, and she left, depositing it in her bank before grabbing a nearby empty aircab to visit Tandra.
 
Aromas of baking pastries and sweets filled Tandra’s Sweet Shop. Serria’s stomach growled like an angry fanghorn.
 
How could you be hungry? I just fed you a good meal a couple of hours ago?
 
She stood still, for a moment, enjoying the various scents. Khavae, berries, citrus and an assortment of other flavors. Her mouth watered.
 
Tandra walked out to meet her, shaking her head and pinching her lips together.
 
Serria enveloped the woman in her arms. “What’s wrong? Have the families pushed forward with their suits when they told me they wouldn’t? Have your orders or customers dropped off so much because of the bad news?”
 
Tandra hugged her back and pushed away, laughing. “Oh my, no. The suits are on hold until you finish your investigation. Which, by the way, how is it going? As for orders and customers, look around. The shelves are almost empty because we’ve been flooded with buyers, not just in here but orders have been coming in so fast, we can’t keep up with them.”
 
Serria laughed too, her tense muscles changing from knots to soft tissue. Smiling, she said, “So glad to hear that news.”
 
“Tandra,” a female voice called.
 
Tandra turned around. “Yes, Myris?”
 
“A dozen more boxes ready to go out,” Myris said, standing in the doorway to the back. “I’ve notified Reynolf Shipping Service. They said a truck will be here in ten minutes. We may have more boxes ready to go by then.”
 
“Bring what’s ready out here,” Tandra told her.
 
“Let me help,” Serria offered. “I can carry a number of boxes, and that will free up your people to keep working.”
 
“Offer accepted,” Tandra said. “Thank you.”
 
They strode through the shop into the kitchen. Serria easily picked up five while Tandra and Myris carried the rest to the front door. Myris returned to the kitchen.
 
“You need a shipping department,” Serria suggested as they waited for the freight service.
 
“If this deluge of orders and customers continue, I will need to expand and hire more workers,” Tandra said. “Not that I’m complaining. . . “ Her voice trailed off.
 
“Where would you expand to?” Serria inquired.
 
“That building directly behind me is vacant and for sale,” Tandra said, pointing toward the kitchen. “You know my folks loaned me the money to get started. Not six months after I paid them off, they died in an aircar crash.” She took a handkerchief from her apron pocket, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. “I never realized how wealthy they were. With the money I received from their will, I paid off this warehouse. I had some left and invested it in solid stocks. That was six years ago. That portfolio grew from a hundred thousand credits to over a million. The building is in pretty decent shape. They want six hundred thousand credits for it. I’d love to buy it outright, but I don’t want to use up that many credits.”
 
The door opened, and a brown-skinned man six inches taller than Serria in a dark green uniform entered.
 
“You ahave box for me to pick up?” He asked.
 
“Yes,” Tandra said. “Right there.” She indicated the stack off to their right.
 
He counted the boxes, filled out a slip, and handed it to Tandra before hauling five out first and the rest.
 
The duo strolled through the shop to Tandra’s office and sat.
 
“I would be willing to put down at least a third, maybe half that,” Tandra said. “Because I’ll certainly need a lot more credits to turn that place into a kitchen and expand the shop.”
 
“Look into it but don’t do anything yet,” Serria said. “Any bank will charge you a high interest rate. Maybe I can arrange for you to get a lower rate or none at all.” Serria wondered if Rogel would be interested or even Neu.
 
“You have that gleam in your eyes.” Tandra grinned.
 
“Just a few ideas,” Serria admitted and glanced at her watch. “Better call an aircab, so I can make it to the shuttleport for the five o’clock flight home.”
 
“I have one on speed dial,” Tandra said and made the call. “He’s only a block away. So we’d better get outside.”
 
After hugging again, Serria climbed into the aircab and took the shuttle up to the space station.
She fixed some supper and pondered Tandra’s situation.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 


Chapter 24
Serria, Vik, and Neu, Part 2

By krprice

Vik glared at the man, smacking the steering wheel. “No.”
 
As he turned the rifle around to smash the window with the butt, he screamed. “Something’s biting me.”
 
He dropped the gun and reached down to his left pants leg, yanking it up. Six holes, about an inch across from each other oozed blood and something green.
 
Vik gasped and started to shake. What was happening to him?
 
 He dropped the pants leg and looked up. His blue iris rolled upward and out of sight. The rest of the eye turned as black as the vacuum of space. His back arched. He shrieked before collapsing.
 
Vik’s adrenaline spiked and a lance of pain shot through her chest. Still shaking, she fumbled for the button to open the window. When she located it, she pushed it. It opened. She looked down to find his empty clothes topped with dust.
 
Another scream tore through the air like someone ripping up cloths. More followed.
 
A breeze snaked around the truck. She quickly shut the window as it picked up the dust that was once human and whipped it away like it was just a pile of sand.
 
She swallowed and gulped some air as Celia pushed up her seat and climbed back up.
 
“All done.” The young medic had grease and dirt on her clothes and hands.
 
Vik called Creel, using her link through Dreamer. “Are you all right?”
 
“A bit shaken,” his voice a bit unsteady. “But we’re alive.”
 
“Good,” she said. “Back up. Let’s find a cross street and head to the hospital before we need their help as much as the patients we’re supposed to pick up.”
 
He chuckled. “Lead the way.”
 
He did back up and so did she until they found a way around the big airtruck. With only a few blocks to their destination, they smoothly pulled up and settled to the ground.
 
“Be ready to come in when I whistle and bring boxes,” Vik said into her comlink to Creel through Dreamer.
 
Vik and Ceila jumped from the airtruck and entered the yellow tiled floor of the hospital. Off to their right Kaskellians sat on beige couches or chairs. Some wept, others stared out, their eyes glazed or in a daze. Five men paced around.
 
The duo walked up to the information desk on the left.
 
“I’m looking for Grace Buell,” Vik asked and then introduced herself.
 
A middle-aged nurse standing off to her left marched up to her. “Grace Buell no longer works here.” She crossed her arms over her ample bosom, but her nametag read Nari.
 
Vik gasped. Could she have gotten the name wrong? Or had Lady Natalia have received the wrong information?
 
 A young nurse dashed up to her. “Grace is on the third floor waiting for someone named Vik.”
 
“That’s me.” Her nametag read Chiana.
 
“You’re fired,” the older woman said to the younger one
 
Chiana just laughed. “You can’t fire me. I’m a volunteer and can leave whenever I want. I’ll take you to Grace.”
 
Nari grabbed Vik’s left arm, but Vik shoved her to the floor.
 
“Security,” Nari screamed.
 
Vik whistled, and all the men ran into the hospital.
 
“Third floor,” Vik said.
 
With Chiana, Vik, and Celia in the lead, the men followed them to a bank of elevators, crammed themselves in, and hit the button for the door to close.
 
On the third floor, Vik walked up to a dark-haired woman who had a mantle of authority wrapped around her like a shawl. The nametag read Grace.
 
“I’m Vik Juleskova,” she said.
 
“Grace Buell,” the other woman said. “Come with me.”
 
They headed down the hall to a large room.
 
“Lady Natalia sent me a list of names,” Grace said and immediately started pointed them out.
 
Since those people were already on movable beds, Vik’s men began transporting them from that room to put into the airtrucks.
 
When they were half-finished, six policemen swarmed the room.
 
“Get out,” Grace demanded. “This is a hospital not a barroom.”
 
“We only want to speak to Vik Juleskova,” the lead man asked.
 
“I’m Vik,” she said and walked from the room, down the hallway, hoping to give her men time to get the injured to safely.
 
Nari exited an elevator and led them to an empty storeroom.
 
Only Vik, Nari, and three police officers could fit in there.
 
“Mistress Juleskova, Mistress Jin told us you stomped into the hospital and demanded to see Mistress Buell, not even bothering with the courtesy of introducing yourself,” the lead man said. “When she wouldn’t tell you, you gave her a black eye and shoved her to the floor.”

“That’s biggest load of jornic poop I’ve ever heard,” Vik said and gave him the correct sequence of events.
 
“I am Lady Nari Mews,” Nari said. “A volunteer here. The account Vik gave you is the truth. While most of the people in the waiting area downstairs probably weren’t paying attention, I believe a few could corroborate Vik’s story.”

Vik raised her left eyebrow when Nari put the noble honorific in front of her name.
 
“We’ll ask them,” he said.
 
“There was medic with me named Celia,” Vik said. “She’s probably busy with moving injured patients to airtrucks. Lady Natalia Surmenscova  knows hospitals here are overwhelmed and asked me to bring help in moving them to her medical facility on Kollic. We also brought medical supplies.”
 
“And we appreciate that,” Lady Nari said.
 
“Thank you for your help,” the police officer said, and they left.
 
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a noble?” Vik asked as they walked to the large room again.
Nari laughed. “I try not to use my rank unless necessary.”
 
As they entered, Grace said, “Everyone has been taken to the airtrucks. Thanks so much for the supplies.”
 
“You’re welcome,” Vik said. “I’ll pass on that message to Lady Natalia.”

Leaving Grace and Lady Nari to tend the others, Vik took the elevator down to the first floor.
 
As she walked to the door, Mistress Jin screamed, “There she is. Arrest her.”

Several security guards ran toward her. She sprinted out the door, to the airtruck, climbed in, and sped off. Vik checked behind her. Creel followed but so did police, siren’s blaring.
 
At the spaceport, Creel said. “Get on your ship. I’ll take care of everything else.”
 
Vik raced to her ship, jumping over hoses, tearing around carts and people.
 
“Stop in the name of Kaskellian police,” a man yelled.
 
Vik ignored him.
 
As she neared the RAINBOW DREAMS, she said, “Dreamer, lower the ramp. Close it when I get onboard, but you’ll have to lower it again so the injured can be put aboard. Don’t let any police near you.”
 
Vik hurried up the ramp. When on the ship, the ramp vanished, the door closed.
 
“What have you done now?” Dreamer asked.
 
“Just keep me hidden.” Vik scurried to the head, shut the door, locked it, and plopped on the toilet. She took several deep breaths.
 
The men’s boots made noise as they brought the patients aboard.
 
Vik’s shoulders slumped, and she yawned. She turned around and arranged her arms on the tank. Using them as pillows, she laid her head on them.
 
Vik roused when someone called her name
 
“Yes,” Vik answered, shaking the sleep from her head and wiping it from her eyes.
 
“Everyone is safely on board,” Celia said. “Dreamer has clearance.”
 
Vik turned around, stood, and unlocked the door. She strode to the cockpit and noticed all the couches were filled. Celia strapped herself into what would have been the co-pilot’s seat had Vik had one. Vik buckled herself in.
 
“Let’s get out of here,” Vik said. “Kollic is next stop.”
 
Dreamer lifted, followed by the other ships.
 
However, once they got in orbit and were ready to go to hyperspace, they were surrounded by six Kaskellian Space Navy Patrol Ships and could not get out of Kaskellia’s gravity well to safely fire their hyperdrive engines.
****.
Neu entered CEMAR space and headed for the third planet in the system twenty five light years from the usual spot he usually visited.
 
“Nellyn, scan the third planet,” Neu ordered. He figured if he was going to find any flora or fauna it would have to be in the habitable zone.
 
“There are numerous waterways,” Nellyn said. “The world is rich in oxygen. I’ll set down near a river.”
 
With the ship safely on the ground, Neu left it, carrying flashlight, a canteen with a cup and four brown cloth bags with him in case he found something worthwhile to collect.
 
He inhaled the clean air, devoid of noxious odors of civilization. It was also silent. No chirps of birds or scrambling of animals. Neu knelt at the river and scoped up some water. He took a small sip.
 
“That’s fresh and fit to drink,” he said and drank the rest.
 
He stood and followed the river until he came to a cave.
 
“Nellyn, how far am I from you?” He asked his AI, using his comlink.
 
“About a mile.”
 
“I’m headed into a cave. The river has gone underground,” Neu said. “I don’t know if I will be able to contact you, but try to track me.”
 
“Yes, sir.”
 
Neu flipped on the flashlight as soon as he entered, counting his steps. Rills ran down the dark black walls. Gray stones stuck up from the floor, the tops as sharp as broken glass.  
 
He had gone about thirty steps when something glittered on the walls and the ground. Neu walked closer and aimed his flashlight at it.
 
The young trader gasped. Crimson, dark green. and dark blue gems gleamed in the light. Most were stuck in the walls and would have to be dug out. However, three crimson, two green, and four dark blue ones lay on the ground for anyone to retrieve.
 
Neu squatted, carefully picked up each and put them in one bag. As he stood, his beam touched another wall further in. Neu squealed like a young girl.
 
Slowly weaving his way through the jagged rocks stuck in the ground, he crept closer. There was some sort of writing on the wall. He grabbed his comlink and took pictures. A few feet away he spotted a dirty purple vase and a matching bowl. Neu removed them and added them to his collection.
 
That’s enough for now.
 
As he headed to the cave exit, something roared, and then people screamed. Nellyn’s scan hadn’t shown any human habitation. Slowly, he crept toward the opening. The ground shook as if a herd of large animals stampeded. Neu waited until it was quiet again. After a few more steps, he dropped on all fours and crawled from the cave. All was silent around him.
 
Then he stood. His gaze darted warily around. A round silver object glinted in the sunlight. Neu picked it up, examining first one side then the other. About the size of an Alosian gold, there was some squiggles on it which he figured was writing along with a head of some creature.
 
Deciding not to spend any more time on this world, he took two more steps before he spotted several more of the same thing he had just looked over. Neu snatched them up as another beast roared.  He ran to the ship, stowed his treasures, and left that planet.
 
Traveling to another world in another system, he has Nellyn scan the third planet.
 
“There’s a large ocean,” Nellyn said. “The tide is out, and there are tidal pools filled with animal life.”

“Set down near it,” Neu said.
 
This time he had to walk barefoot across the warm sand. Again, the air was clean and quiet.
Instead of his bags, he brought a large bowl and filled it with shellfish. Back in the ship, he stuck it in his small refrigerator.
 
“There’s another world in the habitable zone in this system,” Nellyn said.
 
“Let’s go there.” Neu strapped in.
 
The BRIGHT STAR set down near a lake. With several small cloth bags in a large bag in hand, Neu stepped onto the world.
 
Dark green leaves abounded on trees with bushes covered with pink and golden berries.
Several somethings scrambled through another bush, and out came two furry white and brown burrowers with floppy ears. They looked up at Neu with dark violet eyes and hopped back from where they had come from.
 
Two squeaks echoed above him. He glanced up. Four red and silver birds flew overhead. His gaze followed them until they vanished.
 
Another noise caught his attention. Neu looked out over the lake to see fish jumping out of it.
He strode closer. In the clear water, multitudes of fish swam around.
 
His heartbeat raced, and his skin tingled at all the surprises he’d viewed in this place. Neu followed a river until he came to a cave. Using his flashlight, he entered it. He found writing on the wall and took pictures of it. Only a few feet later, he spotted a large niche. Neu knelt and aimed his light at it. A rolled up item in see through bag lay inside. He grabbed it, and slipped it into his bag. Then he went back to his ship and left for the Alosia Space Station.
 
He had to find someone who could handle this scroll gently and figure out what it contained. 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 


Chapter 25
Lots of Action

By krprice

Keur had just settled at his computer when his comlink buzzed. He rose, walked over to it, and hit the green button.
 
“Keur here.”
 
“Aunt Lieu here,” she said. “The cleaning and painting are finished. The furniture has been delivered. We are ready to move from the space station, not to mention get our belongings from storage.”
 
Keur frowned. “None of the ships who helped you move are available. Neu has gone exploring. Vik is helping evacuate the injured from Kaskellia, and the Brimsens are out on Osanic Four with Rogel. But I think I know of someone to ask for help. I’ll let you know when we’ll be there. Keur out.”
 
“Thanks. Aunt Lieu out.”
 
He immediately dialed Neu’s grandfather, Ruff Knotts, at the Knotts shipyard.
 
“Ruff here.”
 
“Mr. Knotts, this is Keur Matiason, Neu’s partner,” he said.
 
“For starters, call me Grandpappy like Neu does,” he said. “Now what can I do for you?”
 
“My aunt and Vik’s mom moved from Kaskellia to Alosian Space Station where it was safer,” he explained. “Now they are ready to move to the house on Alosia. Neither Neu nor my friends are nearby to help. I’d like to rent a five space trucks and pilots to help out.”
 
“Isn’t your aunt Lieu Kwan?”
 
“Yes.”
 
“You can have them for five boxes of Aroikla tea. They’ll be at the station at seven in the morning.”
 
“Thank you. Keur out.”
 
“Ruff out.”
 
He called his aunt.
 
“Lieu here.”

“Keur here. Ruff Knotts will give me five spacetrucks and pilots to move everything from the space station to the spaceport. I’ll rent airtrucks from there, get the goods from storage, and hope they’ll help with not only that but who unload everything. Grandpappy Knotts, as he asked me to call him, only wants five boxes of Aroikla tea as payment.”
 
Aunt Lieu laughed. “I’ll certainly give me more than that when I get up and running. See you tomorrow. Aunt Lieu out”
 
“Keur out.”
 
Next, he contacted Serria and explained the situation.
 
“I’ll gladly help and so will Alyci,” she said. “At least, on this end. See you tomorrow. Serria out.”
 
“Keur out.”

He glanced around his room and decided he needed to laundry and cleaning. He set about those tasks.
****.
Vik growled like an angry jornic. “Do you people realize we have injured people on board our ships?”
 
“We only want Vik Juleskova,” the same male voice said. “I am Captain Bret Yan. I have been ordered to bring in her in to the Sierkas Force for questioning.”
 
“I am Vik,” she said. “And they have already questioned me. Why not let everyone else go?”
 
“Only if you are willing to return to Sierkas,” he said.
 
Vik cut the link to the captain and opened one to Pete and Adeky and then told them of the situation.
 
“There’s only six of them and thirty of us,” Adeky said. “We can out shoot them.”
 
“But we risk hurting injured more,” Pete said.
 
Where was Mel when we need him?
 
“I can’t risk hurting these people anymore. Anybody know what kind of weaponry these patrol ships have?” Vik asked.
 
“It has four lasers. Two are front-mounted and two are rear-mounted with front aimed torpedo tube,” Pete said. “Remember my brother-in-law is in Jetahni Navy.”

“The two in the rear won’t help,” Vik said.
 
“Unless they turn around,” Adeky pointed out.
 
“This is not my area of expertise,” Vik admitted.
 
“If you will order attack,” Pete said. “I’ll direct it. We shoot enough only to get far enough out to go to lightspeed.”

“Agreed,” Vik said.
 
“Agreed,” Adeky said.
 
Vik cut the comlink and told the nine other ships under her command to listen to Pete’s orders.
 
 She rose from her seat and walked back to Celia. “We’re going to have to shoot our way out. Make sure everyone is secured. Then we’ll make run for Kollic.”

“Vik, you Creel, Arnie, Reese, and Hors, aim at ship closest to you,” Pete said. “Try to aim only for lasers. I’m sending you schematic of ships. I’ll give orders when all are informed.”
 
“Understood.”
 
While waiting, she helped Ceila fasten down everyone, so if they were shot at, everyone will be safe.
 
“Dreamer, have you studied the information Pete sent?”
 
“Yes,” the AI said. “And my lasers are pointed at one of the enemies front weapons systems.”
 
“Mistress Juleskova, what are you up to?” Captain Yan asked.     
 
“Fire,” Pete said.
 
Beams from thirty ships lanced toward the weapons systems of the six ships. The navy vessels spread out, leaving room for Vik’s group to leave the gravity well and go to hyperspace.
 
However, as they were departing, Captain Yan warned. “You will never be allowed on Kaskellia again.”
 
“Don’t plan to go there anyway,” Vik snarled. She turned off the comlink. “Neu and other traders can have it, that is, if it’s even safe to visit there again.”

Several days later they arrived at Kollic.
 
Vik contacted Lady Natalia. “We’re in orbit. We will need transports to take people to hospital.”
 
“All arranged. No need to contact Spaceport Control. Start landing in bay one. We don’t have room at spaceport for all at same time. You and six others come first. When those five finish unloading onto air ambulances, they can leave and another five can set down. Any trouble?”
 
“All kinds, but I’ll tell you about it when I see you,” Vik said. “Vik out.”
 
“Natalia out.”

As soon as Vik landed and the ramp came down, a dozen men swarmed the ship.
 
With it empty, Celia said, “I’ll clean it up. You go talk to Lady Natalia.”

“Thanks,” Vik said.
 
She arranged to have her ship serviced and grabbed an aircab.
 
“The hospital Lady Natalia built.”

He zoomed off and soon came to rest at the hospital.
 
“How much do I owe you and in what currency?” Vik asked.
 
“Anything but Kaskellian,” he said. “Five in Alosian, ten in Jetahni.”
 
She handed him a five Alosia credit bill and climbed out.
 
Lady Natalia met her at the front door. Vik stepped onto a white tile floor.
 
“Come with me,” Lady Natalia commanded.
 
Vik followed her through the beige hallway to a room paneled in kekkrikat along with a matching desk and chairs.
 
As the duo sat, another white woman brought in a silver tray with a streaming yellow pot of tea, matching cups, sweetener, and silver.
 
The woman left, and starting with the trouble at the custom’s desk and ending with their arrival, Vik told her everything.
 
“Twenty credits per box.” Lady Natalia pulled up a calculator and started inputing numbers.
 
“Three boxes per ship, That’s sixty credits per ship times thirty ships equal eighteen hundred credits. Who paid that?”
 
“He demanded we each pay our own.” Vik sipped the delicious, berry-flavored tea. “What kind of tea is this?”
 
“Some black berry Roze found somewhere,” Lady Natalia said. “I’ll reimburse you, and you can divvy the credits out.”
 
“I certainly will do that,” Vik said. “May I suggest Roze take some of those berries to Lieu Kwan who is now on Alosian Space Station? She should be moving to house on Alosia soon along with my mother.”
 
“Glad to see you got them off safely,” Lady Natalia said, as Vik handed the noble her debit card.
When that business was concluded, Lady Natalia added. “I certainly will tell Roze. Lieu makes such wonderful teas, combining flavors I didn’t think possible.”
 
They chatted until all the injured were taken care of, and then Vik returned to the spaceport, paid for her services, and left Kollic for the Alosian Space Station.
 
****
 
“That footprint was not there six months ago when the ship surveyed the planet,” Rogel repeated. “Though I admit maybe they didn’t come down. Nor was it here five months ago when my initial team arrived. We…” He motioned to the whole group. “Came a month ago. “So these creatures got here two or three months ago.”

Rudy began taking pictures while his father pulled a tape measure from his pocket and started measuring the prints.
 
“They are one huge race,” Sven said. “The footprint is two feet long and six inches wide”
 
“We need to see if we can get more information on them,” Rogel said.
 
“We know where to do that,” Mike said. “The Gang of Nineties have a huge datebase on the Haldorf. Why don’t Shay and I take copies of the pictures there? See what we can find out.”

“I’ll download them to the SILVER MOON,” Rudy said.
 
“Never seen anything like that in all my years,” Sven said, shaking his head.
 
When they returned to the camp, Shay and Mike packed up their belongings, headed for the ship, and took off.
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 


Chapter 26
Serria, Aunt Lieu, and the Gang

By krprice

Two days later at seven thirty in the morning, Serria locked her room door and strode down the quiet hallway. The smell of various races and the aromas of frying sausages and pastries assaulted her senses as she got closer to the promenade. Her stomach growled.

Be quiet. Aunt Lieu promised us some of her malonee buns, and I can't wait to eat some again.

The noise changed from talking to the rumbling of space ships, and the smells switched to that of fuel. The chatter of wrinkled her nose as she entered the shuttleport and walked over to Keur. He held out a ticket.

"I can afford to buy my own," Serria said.

"I know, but since this is trip is for Aunt Lieu, I felt I should pay for your ticket," he said. "I've reserved an aircar in Kondreal. We can pick it up as soon as we land."

Serria accepted the piece of paper. "Thank you."

A line began to form at the gate to where the shuttle would arrive, disgorge its passengers, and let the others on.

"I sure hope Aunt Lieu and Skerry have been cramming for the test," Keur said. "Aunt Lieu was never much for studying unless it had to do with her teas."

"Skerry will push her," Serria said over the roar of the landing of the shuttle. "She has a degree in bioengineering and wouldn't be tops in her field without be willing to read and learn so much."

Keur nodded as the line began to move. They walked across the gray stone platform and entered the blue and silver shuttle. Once inside, they sat on yellow leather seats by the door, absorbed in their own thoughts.

The trip to Kondreal was short. Once it settled, they rose, exited the ship first, and hurried through the rest of the port. Outside, aircars zoomed past, so the duo walked up to a crossing walk and stop light. When the traffic halted, they walked over to the aircar rental company, picked up their aircar, and with Keur driving, headed out of town.

It was close to nine when they reached the red brick house. Keur brought the car to the ground, and they both climbed out. Aunt Lieu dashed out, ran over to Keur, and hugged him.

Skerry followed her out and did the same to Serria who widened her eyes. The tall Crescenji returned the embrace. They exchanged partners and did the same.

"I have some new tea for you to try along with my malonee buns," Aunt Lieu said.

"She wouldn't even let me try the tea until you two got here." Skerry laughed.

The quartet trouped into the house and settled at the table which was already set.

Aunt Lieu poured the tea into bright green cups. "Try it before you put anything sweet in it."

Serria picked up her cup and took a sip. The wild berry flavor had a bit of tang to it like you'd find in a citrus fruit.

"Excellent," Serria said. "Very unusual."

"It certainly is, Aunt Lieu," Keur said.

"Nothing like I've had before," Skerry said. "And I've been around the galaxy a time or two."

They laughed.

After eating the malonee buns and washing them down with tea, they cleared the table.

"Make sure you have your driver's licenses from Kaskellia," Keur reminded them. "Or they'll make you take more than just the written test."

"Got it," the two older women chorused.

"I'm getting a business license also," Aunt Lieu said.

"You'll need it if you want to sell tea here," Keur said.

They parked and entered a nondescript building with several lines leading up to a long counter which was divided by pieces of bronze stone.

"That's the one you want," Serria said, pointing to a short line. Being taller than the other three, she could see above everyone else.

The ladies stepped up behind the others. Keur and Serria sat on dark beige wooden seats along the far wall.

"What have you learned from the interviews so far?" Keur asked his companion.

"Basically the same thing," Serria said. "All the candies are wrapped in either red or green paper. Those delivered come in a white box. However, a white man has been handing them out not only randomly to children but at the spaceport. Even Mel got hold of some. It made him quite sick. Gerrik Fanghorn said he got some from an Alosian man, about five six with brown hair. Told him the sweets would keep him happy." She paused then ended with, "That's all I've come up with so far."

Keur shook his head. "I followed a trail from Tandra's computer to Tonwyk Arenson's office."

"Wonder what he's got to do with it?" Serria commented. "Several Crescenji warriors threatened me. Warned me to stay away from him."

"I also searched for the Syrene Company website," Keur said. "It had disappeared." He took a deep breath. "What do we do next?"

Before Serria could answer, Aunt Lieu and Skerry marched up, smiles on both their faces.
"We passed," they chorused.

"And I got my business license," Aunt Lieu announced.

After Serria and Keur hugged the duo, they walked over to the car rental office where Keur
turned in the aircar, and Aunt Lieu rented one.
With Serria's instructions, Aunt Lieu drove them to Tandra's shop. People jostled each other as if the shelves would empty before they could get to them.

Breaking a trail through the crowd, Serria led them to Tandra, helping to load up a cart with more goodies.

"Can you spare a minute?" Serria asked. "We'll help when we finish our introduction."

Tandra waved them back into her office where everyone found a seat.

"Tandra, this is my aunt, Lieu Kwan, and Vik's mother, Skerry," Keur said. "Aunt Lieu, Skerry, this is the mistress of sweets, Tandra Tyson."

Tandra blushed. "Thank you for the compliment."

"Aunt Lieu has a business deal to discuss with you." He stood as did two of his companions. "Serria, Skerry, and I will help your assistants put out the sweets."

"Thanks."
****
After the trio left the office, Lieu said, "As my nephew said, I have a proposal for you. One I think would be lucrative for both of us."

"I am very familiar with your teas," Tandra commented. "I would guess it involved them."

"Yes," Lieu said. "I am willing to make teas and bring them here for you to sell. I noticed you already offer pastries. Do you bake them here or off site?"

Tandra laughed. "We don't make them at all. A baker named Cliny--I don't know her last name--in Alif makes them and ships them here. Serria made the deal."

"Since you already have the pastries, why not offer hot tea to go along with them, not to mention having boxes of my tea on your shelves for them to buy?" Lieu said. "Maybe have a special of tasting and tea, so your customers can sample before they purchase."

"Excellent idea." Tandra sat back in her chair.

"I think a seventy to thirty percent split is fair."

Tandra shook her head. "Not enough for you and too much for me. Eighty twenty."

"Deal," Lieu said.

"If you can wait minute, I'll type in the details and print out a contract." Tandra moved over to her computer and began setting things up.

"Gladly."

They chatted until the contract was finished and signed, shook hands, and Lieu left.
****
Keur led them out into the bustling crowd. The trio spent the next hour assisting Tandra's workers. When Aunt Lieu appeared, she told the others about the deal, drove Serria and Keur back to the shuttleport, hugged and thanked them before driving off.

Serria and Keur went back to the space station.
****
When the Silver Moon docked at Haldorf, Mike noticed another ship pulled in too.

"Silver, swing the right exterior camera around," Mike asked. "We're not the only visitors here."

Once the AI did as requested, Mike stared at the name. "Evyanne I," he stammered and widened his eyes.

"What's wrong?" his sister asked.

"Isn't Mel Silverscales's ship named Evyanne?"

"Yes," she answered. "After his sister who tragically died years ago because the Silverscales couldn't afford the drug at that time to save her."

"Bet the Evyanne I is one of his shuttles," Mike groused. "What's Mel or one of his shuttles doing here?"

"Let's go and find out," she said. "Silver, open the door and let down the ramp."

Once it was down, Mike grabbed their tablet, and the duo strode to the bottom to find Stevos and Gerrik Fanghorn standing on the deck in front of three members of the Gang of Nineties.

Elliseen's green eyes glared at the Fanghorn brothers. Being Crescenji, she toward over the two white Jetahni ladies.

She flanked Roze, their leader's, right side with Briana on the left. The tiny ladies glowered at the Fanghorn Brothers.

"What are you doing here?" Briana's sapphire eyes narrowed as she stared at the two men.
Holding out an electronic tablet, Gerrik stepped forward.

"Stop." Roze held out her right hand. "What do you have?"

"A tablet of pictures of large footprints on a planet Mel wants to live on." He showed them to the ladies in the gang and to the Brimsens.

Shaylyne gasped.

"We found those same types of tracks on Osanic Three," Mike said, holding out his tablet.

Stevos gulped. "Osanic solar system must be five hundred lights years from where Mel wants to settle."

"We need to investigate this matter further," Roze said. "Come."

The trio of ladies spun around and strode from the gray stone dock into beige plasticrete building with the quartet following.

Called the Gang of Nineties because they were all at ninety years or older, the white haired ladies led them down a beige hallway into a large room.

An enormous dark screen dominated the main wall. Five stations with a screen, keyboard, and microphone flanked it on each side.

Roze took the tablets and pointed to the kekkrikat chairs with teal pillows on them in front of each station. "Sit."

Once they did, Roze walked to a flat screen on another entry port and set a tablet on it.
"Scan," she said. Minutes later, it beeped. She removed it and repeated the procedure. When it finished, she ordered, "Search."

Roze returned the tablets to the Brimsens and the Fanghorn Brothers. "This might take a while." She sat in another chair.

"Roze, who started the Gang of Nineties and why?" Shaylyne asked. "Or is that a secret?"

The leader laughed. "The only secret is no one knows. We are all over ninety and are wealthy widows from all races. That information has been lost in antiquity. We had asked everyone to share information about the galaxy, and we offer it to anyone who inquires politely."

She stared at the Fanghorn Brothers who hung their heads.

The machine hooted. Roze stared at the screen and shook her head. "Nothing found."

She stood. "I was afraid of that."

The others rose and thanked her before going back to their ships.

Inside the Silver Moon, Mike said, "Silver, take us to the Alosian Space Station."

When they were belted in and outside the gravity well, it went to light speed.

****
As Serria had requested, she, Keur, Neu, the Brimsens, and Vik gathered around the kekkrikat table and chairs in the Pretentious Purple Prequin's meeting room. Sweet smelling pasties and variety of teas filled up the table. With stomach's growling this morning like angry beasts, they quickly placed pastries on white plates and poured tea from steaming green teapots into matching cups.

Serria stood. "I'm sure you all have news to pass on. First, I'll start."

She recounted what she and Keur had talked about while waiting for his aunt and Vik's mother to get their driver's licenses.

"So you still have no idea who is passing out the deadly candy," Vik said.

"No," Keur said. "But whoever they are they are hacking into Tandra's computer through a computer in Tonwyk Arensen's office at the assembly building."

"I hope we've managed to spread the word enough about who's handing them out, so people who get them toss them away," Serria commented. "Neu, give us an update on what you've been up to."

She sat, and Neu stood.

"I've been snooping around CEMAR space and found these here gems." He dug a yellow cloth from the right pocket of his green pants and laid it on the table. Then he reached into a black satchel, pulled out a brown cloth bag and upended it onto the cloth. Eight gems of various sizes and shapes tumbled out. Three were crimson, three dark green, and two almost a midnight blue.

Vik gasped as the others widened their eyes.

"I'm sorry, but I won't give you the exact location I found them," Neu said, his yellow skin turning a bit orange as he blushed.

"No need to be sorry," Serria said. "None of us would even consider poaching on your find."

They all nodded.

Neu scooped them up and put them back in the bag.

"I found these also." Gently, he extracted five rolled up pieces of paper from another bag and laid them on the table. "They had writing on them, but neither I nor Nellyn could read them."

"My mother is a linguist," Serria said. "You might take them to her or if she can't, try Haldorf."
Neu nodded and put them back in the bag before sitting.

"Shay and Mike," Serria said.

Shay started. "We were on Osanic Three helping Rogel and some xenoarcheaologists excavate a site when I discovered extremely large footprints." She went on tell of no one having an idea of where they came from, their trip to Haldorf, and the discovery that information was not in their database either."

Serria gazed around at the others. Mouths fell open, or they had an incredulous look on their faces.

"I suspect our galaxy is much larger than we know," Vik said. "And we have barely begun to explore it."

Before anyone got to say anything, Vik's com chimed. She began to read it, stopped, then read out loud. "It's from Lady Natalia. Jetahn has been attacked. The emperor and many nobles are dead."



Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets

Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian--canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji--brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn--white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia--red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella--black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture

Dramatis Personae

Serria Stripeclaw--Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason-- Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova--Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready--Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan--Kaskellian, Keur's aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk--Kaskellian, Vik's mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn--Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria's boyfriend
Neu Knotts--Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth--Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force







Chapter 27
Serria and Keur take action

By krprice

Everyone stared at Vik.
 
“Who-who would attack Jetahn and why?” Neu asked.
 
“I don’t have any idea,” Vik said, almost stumbling over the words. “Anyway, Lady Natalia asked me to gather as many ships as possible to go to Jetahn and bring the wounded to her hospital on Kollic as she figures those in capital will be swamped.” She looked down at her comlink and began to type.
 
Once she finished, she said, “I just sent out message to my contact list asking for help.”
 
“We’ll help,” Shay said.
 
 
“So will I,” Neu told her.
 
“Then we’d better go.” Vik stood.
 
“Meeting’s over.” Serria announced and rose along with the others.
 
Vik, Neu, and the Brimsens left the room.
****
Keur noticed his cup was empty and poured in some hot tea before snatching a red berry and khavae pastry from a nearby platter. Serria filled hers too before emptying the platter of the last two cheese ones before her partner got them.
 
“What do we do next?” Keur asked between bites.
 
“Visit Detective Danforth with your news on the hacking of Tandra’s computer though I doubt he’ll be thrilled with how you got the information,” Serria said.
 
“Tandra gave me her password and login data,” Keur growled and narrowed his eyes.
 
“That’s not the problem.” Serria glared at him. “You hacked into not just any computer but an assemblyman’s computer.”
 
Keur shrugged. “I only followed the trail starting at Tandra’s, and it ended up at Tonwyk’s place.”
 
Using her fingers, Serria picked up the last few crumbs of her pastries from her plate and stuck them in her mouth before wiping them on her napkin. She finished her tea and took her compad from the table. Then she typed in the shuttle schedule for its departure from the station to Kondreal. That information came up, and she shut it off.
 
Serria stood. “The shuttle leaves in twenty minutes. I have to stop by my room. I’ll meet you at the ticket counter. And I’ll buy my own ticket.”
 
Keur rose too. “See you then.”
 
The duo departed the dining area and separated when they came to their own rooms. Serria unlocked hers, checked her appearance before taking her purse, locking up, and heading for the shuttle terminal.
 
Traffic was light both on the shuttle and in Kondreal. Serria’s stomach growled at the aroma frying crustaceans from Hyleen’s, her favorite diner.  Quiet, she silently fussed at it. I just fed you.
 
The stench of vomit greeted them as they entered the police station Serria’s stomach did a turn-about face as Keur pinched his nose shut.
 
Detective Danforth walked from his office.
 
“We need to see you,” Serria said.
 
“Come,” he invited.
 
After taking the elevator to the second floor, they turned left and strode into the first room.
“Have a seat,” he said as he closed the door, went around his metal desk, and sat.
Serria was already in a wooden chair with enough scrapes on it to consider it a strange work of
 art.  Keur settled into a chair next to her.
“Sorry about the smell,” the detective apologized. “A couple of gang members got sick this morning. A crew did mop it up, but we’re waiting for a special service to do a thorough cleaning.” He paused. “So what do you have for me today?”
 
Serria nudged Keur. He cleared his throat and then explained what he had uncovered.
Detective Danforth scowled when Keur finished.
 
“Yes, I know I shouldn’t have hacked into an assemblyman’s computer, but I was following a trail,” he admitted. His eyes sparkled, and he didn’t look a bit contrite, more like he was proud of himself.
 
“Now we need your help,” Serria said. “I’m sure you’ll have to get a warrant to search Assemblyman Arenson’s computer.”
 
“Yes,” the detective said. “And I know just the judge to call to get it from. However, it will take a while.” He glanced at his watch. “Why not get lunch and come back at one?”
 
Serria and Keur stood.
 
“We’ll be back then,” she said, and they left.
****
Like most people of Alosia and the orbiting space station, Keur thought of a diner as a small, cozy place to gather with friends for a drink, a meal, and a chat. When he stepped into Hyleen’s place, he gasped. Serria had called the place a diner, but this was more the size of a restaurant with two dozen booths with red herd beast hide seats around the wall, another two dozen dark brown tables and chairs on red and white checked tiles, and a long counter at the far end with a dozen silver stools with the same red herd beasts hide seats as in the booths. 
 
Keur turned to Serria. “You said this was a diner. Looks more like a restaurant.”
 
“It started out as a diner,” a soprano voice said behind him. “Sandwiched between a toy store and a bakery.”
 
Keur spun around to find a stout Alosian woman with red tresses beginning in a bun at the top of her head and flowing out of it like a fountain down to her shoulders.
 
“Sorry about the pun. I’m Hyleen Donaldson.” She picked up two menus and motioned for them to follow her.
 
They trailed her through a maze of occupied tables buzzing with chatter and clinking with silverware.
 
Hyleen stopped in front of the last booth. It was the only one with a red privacy curtain in front of it. After the duo sat, Hyleen closed the curtain.
 
“Serria, it’s about time you brought your man in here,” Hyleen said.
 
“Partner,” Keur suggested.
 
Hyleen laughed. “Whatever you young people call your special friends these days.”
 
“Hyleen, this is Keur Matiason,” Serria added. “My business partner in the Alosian Detective Agency.”
 
“Oh.” Hyleen handed them a menu. “Alarsa will be your server.” She left, closing the curtain behind her.
 
They studied the menu. A few minutes later, the waitress opened the curtain.
 
“Hello. I’m Alarsa, and I’ll be serving you today,” she said.
 
Short and slim, she wore a dark red blouse with her name stitched in black across her left breast and a knee length black skirt with an apron for her order tablet. She turned to Serria first.
 
“I’d like sweetberry iced tea and a crustacean salad,” Serria said.
 
After entering that in her tablet, Alarsa glanced at Keur.
 
“Iced salora tea, if you have it, and a filet of blue fin sandwich with a salad and house dressing,” Keur told her.
 
“We most certainly have that tea,” she boasted. “Along with every tea Lieu Kwan makes.”
Keur smiled but decided not to say Lieu was his aunt.
 
“I’ll be right back with your teas,” she said and left, taking the menus with her.
 
“Since we have a tendency to travel a lot, I think we need an office,” Serria said.
 
“You mentioned that before,” Keur commented. “And I asked Charly about finding us one, but she never got back to me about it.”
 
“Maybe we should have been more specific about what we want,” Serria added.
 
The waitress returned with the drinks and left again.
 
After Serria took a sip, she said, “It needs to have two separate spaces, one for each of us and a large room to act as a reception area in the event we have visitors. And definitely a secretary who  knows how to use the various computer programs, do searches, quote prices for our services, examine the connections between multiple subjects on one report, write reports, and anything else we happen to think of.”
 
Their meals came then and neither spoke until half their meals were consumed.
 
“I see you’ve been thinking about this,” Keur finally spoke. “And I agree with you. Charly just completed all her required courses to graduate. She might be young at eighteen, but she certainly knows her way around a computer. Since she’s done work for us before, she’s more familiar with our way of doing things.” He paused and drank some tea. “As for examine connections and write reports, she’s intelligent enough to learn. We could help her too.”
 
“Doesn’t she plan on going to college?” Serria asked around a mouthful of crustacean. “What does she want to do? Alosia has some excellent schools for various fields.”
 
“I haven’t spoken to her about it,” Keur admitted, but I’m sure her father has talked to her about college. Money is no problem.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to continue online courses rather than go to a campus.”
 
“Are you telling me someone as independent as Charly isn’t ready to leave home yet?” Serria sipped some tea.
 
“If Steph or her mother had any siblings, I don’t know about them,” Keur said. “So her dad is all the family she has.”
 
“Well, we are certainly gathering people around us and becoming somewhat of a family,” Serria commented. “She would be welcome to join, and she’s only a few years younger than most of us.”
 
“I’ve always thought of her as little sister,” Keur admitted.
 
They finished their discussion, their lunch, paid their bill, and departed for Detective Danforth’s office.
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 


Chapter 28
Serria and Keur, part 2

By krprice

The detective was waiting for them. The trio marched over to the assembly building and right into Tyk Arenson's office which was paneled in kekkrikat.

Detective Danforth strode in front of the other two. "I'm Hans Danforth. I have a warrant to search the assemblyman's computer." He set it down before the middle-aged woman seated behind the desk.

She glanced at it and then narrowed her eyes directly to the officer. "Assemblyman Arenson is not here. I won't give you access without his presence. He's out of town. I must contact him. I will call you when he can be here."

Since she was ignoring Serria and Keur, he slipped a small recording device underneath the desk.

"I expect to hear from you within a day," Detective Danforth said.

The trio left and returned to the police station. Once there, they settled in the detective's office to listen in on the goings on in the assemblyman's place.

"Tyk," his secretary's voice came in loud and clear.

"I listened at the door," Tyk said. "I must call Rohn Gossen and tell him to stop coming here. He must delete not only his name from those who have access to this computer and all those who he contacted. I'll be in my office."

Only the sound of a door closing and papers rustling came from the recorder.

Detective banged on the table. "I don't like to be lied to. Maybe I should just march over and arrest his assistant." His face turned bright red.

"Calm down," Keur said. "Let Serria and I take care of him."

The detective frowned at them, raising an eyebrow. Keur grinned, and Dansforth shook his head.
"Don't let me have to rescue you from my people," he warned.

"We can take care of ourselves," Serria said.

They stood, and the PI's left, taking public transportation to Tandra's whose shop was crowded. There they filled a cart with scherai for Alyci, khavae, and other goodies for themselves and Charly. Once they gave Tandra their money, they took a cab to the shuttle because they both carried two large bags. With tickets in hand, they boarded the shuttle and returned to the space station.

They parted at Keur's room, and Serria walked to hers, turning of the alarm and unlocking it before going in. Then she reversed the order. Serria strode over to her bed and set the bags on it. From there, she retrieved several storage bags and placed them close before unloading everything.

Serria put several large bars of khavae plus assorted other candies in one for Charly. In the one for Alyci, she set two khavae bars, all of the scherzai, and various others. Vik would get a bar of khavae plus other goodies. The rest Serria placed in her fridge for herself.

After changing from her dress clothes to an old brown shirt, slacks, and shoes, Serria snatched the bag for Alyci and took it into the kitchen. Knowing her friend would share the sweets with her colleagues, she added more from her own stash to Alyci's.

With both bags and her purse, Serria locked her door and set the alarm. The hallway was quiet as would be expected in the middle of the afternoon, but the chatter from the promenade exploded around her as she reached it. She wrinkled her nose at the stenches of various races surrounded her. Fortunately, the aromas of roasting meats and exotic custards offset the smell.

Serria passed the law office of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe before entering Thair and Thatt Travel Agency owned by Ben Thair and Dunn Thatt. Posters of the large kekkrikat forest on her home planet, a snow-capped mountain range in western Alosia, and a sun-kissed beach with water so clear you could see the bottom hung on the walls.

Serria strode over to Alyci's dark gray metal desk. Her petite ebony skinned friend tapped her epen on her teeth, deep in thought as the sweet floral blend of alia from Muswella surrounded her like a cape.

"You look rather busy." Serria dropped one bag on Alyci's desk.

Alyci Kaldicott looked up. Her smile reached her small black eyes. Then she spotted the goodies and squealed. The travel agent set her epen down, opened the sack, and pulled out a round pale purple candy. She unwrapped it and stuck it in her mouth. Alyci shut and eyes and moaned with pleasure.

After swallowing it, she said, "I see you've been down to Tandra's. Any success on finding the perp who's been selling the deadly candy? And thanks for the scherzai."

"Not yet, but we have a lead on one aspect," Serria said. "Anyway, got another delivery to make." She held up the other bag.

"Bye," they chorused as Serria left for the Olafson apartment.

The sounds and smells of the promenade receded as Serria strode farther away. Silence filled the hallway when she entered the area where the station's permanent personnel's apartments were located. She stopped at the last one on the right and pressed the doorbell. Moments later Charly opened it.

Now eighteen, Charly's light brown eyes widened. "Serria, what brings you here?"

"This." Serria held up the bag of sweets.

The teen's gaze switched from Serria's eyes and riveted on the candy. She licked her lips.
"I promised it to you some time ago to help Keur and me to find an office," Serria said.

Charly snatched the bag away, ripped it open, and yanked out a blue and gold bar of khavae. She tore it part before breaking off a chunk of brown goodness. Then she shoved it into her mouth, closed her eyes, and moaned with pleasure as if savoring its deliciousness.

Serria grinned, thinking back to the many times she'd spent between eating khavae.

Charly finally opened her eyes and realize her friend was still there.

"Sorry," Charly apologized, remembering her manners. "Have a seat. Do you want something to drink? I just made a pitcher of Aunt Lieu's sweet red berry tea."

"Yes, thank you," Serria said as Charly dashed from the room.

Serria glanced around at the walls. A seascape and one of the kekkrikat forest hung next to each other. She focused on the portrait of a younger Stef Olafson in a black suit, pale green shirt, and dark green tie. He stood behind a gilded, red velvet chair. Seated on it was a woman with braided auburn hair wrapped around her head like a crown.

Her dark green dress with ruffles down the front and puffed out sleeves matched her daughter who sat on her lap. They all smiled, but mother and daughter's light brown eyes twinkled with
mischief.

Charly reentered then with two glasses and coasters on a silver tray.

"That was done eleven years ago, right before Mom died." Charly set all on the table, put the coasters down first and then the glasses atop them before sitting on a large yellow chair. "She died before the painting was completed. Tears welled from her eyes.

Serria sat on the pale yellow couch.

Both sipped some tea before Serria asked, "Exactly what happened to your mother?"

"She died in a shuttle accident." Charly grabbed a tissue and wiped her eyes. "Mom and Dad wanted more children, but Mom couldn't get pregnant. So she was on her way to a specialist in Kondreal to find out what if anything could be done."

Serria blinked away tears, and then proclaimed, "Excellent tea. One of her best."

"Definitely," Charly said. "I admit I haven't had the time to search for an office for you two as I've been busy finishing all my classes to graduate."

"That's all right," Serria said. "Keur and I finally decided on what we want. She went on to tell Charly what she and Keur had discussed, ending with taking her tablet from her purse and handing it to Charly. "We wandered if you would be interested in the job as receptionist, or do you plan to go to college?"

"I've been thing about it for years since I've been helping Keur." Charly drank some tea. "I want to be a private investors like you two, but with a twist. I want to get a degree in criminology focusing on computer forensics."

Serria laughed. "That doesn't surprise me considering you talents on a computer."

"At first, I'd like to take online courses from Kondreal Junior College," Charly said. She examined the list of requirements for the receptionist. "I can do everything except accounting, and I can take courses for that." Charly finished off her tea. "I'll start office hunting as soon as you leave." She handed the tablet back to Serria who put it in her purse, and then drank the last of her tea and stood.

"I'll let you know what I find out." Charly rose.

They walked to the door, bid goodbye, and Serria marched to her room, thinking about tonight's adventure.
****
Back in her room, Serria called Bethany.

"How can I help you?" The assemblywoman asked.

Quickly, Serria told of the earlier events in the office. "Need your help getting into the building tonight."

"Glad to help," Bethany said. "Anything to get back at that bastard ex-husband of mine." She gave Serria directions to the basement door. "Be there at eight. I'll bring Betsy."

They bid goodbye.

What or do did she mean by that, Serria wondered? She sent a text to Keur telling to meet her at the shuttle spaceport at seven and telling him about her conversation with Bethany.

Then she wrote out a message to her cousin asking if the Fanghorn Brothers could be lurking around the assembly building basement door around nine thirty with a promise of khavae bars.

With her stomach growling, she made a sandwich, ate it, drinking water, and fishing her dinner with four khavae squares.

After showering and dressing in all black, she checked her messages. Keur and Mel had responded with positive answers. So Serria ordered three dozen bars of khavae from Tandra to be delivered to Mel's ship with instructions for each Fanghorn brother and Mel to receive one dozen each.

With minutes to spare, Serria and Keur boarded the almost empty shuttle. They sat in the back, and she recounted what happened with Charly.

"Doesn't surprise me either she wants to go into computer forensics," Keur said. "Nor become a PI, but I'm shocked she wants to take criminology courses."

"So am I," Serria admitted.

Arriving thirty minutes early, the duo strolled around downtown Kondreal. With few trees and bushes, there weren't any birds. The streets were near empty as most people who dined this late visited restaurants outside the city. However, the aromas of frying fish and roast jornic along with red berry pies floated from a few open eateries.

Near eight, they wove their way past the now closed open air market, down several more streets, and around the back of the assembly building. After they descended five stone steps, Serria knocked on a metal door three times, paused, and knocked twice again. The door swung open, and they scurried in before it shut behind them.

About the same height as Keur, Bethany's large, penetrating brown eyes gleamed in the light of the lantern she held in one hand. In the other, her long, red nails were wrapped around a foot long piece of wood.

"Follow me," she said in a slow, soprano drawl.

She led them through a series of rooms of dark black stone piled high with boxes, old furniture, and assorted detritus that stank of vermin droppings. Serria and Keur followed her up two flights of stairs before taking an elevator to Tyk's office floor. They marched to his office. Keur put on a pair of gloves before he pulled out his lock and picks and began working while the other two stood in front of him, blocking his activities in case anyone came by.

The lock clicked. He opened the door, and they scurried in. shutting and locking the door behind them.

The two females put on gloves.

"Where can we hide before Rohn gets here? And why that?" Serria pointed to the wood Bethany held.

"You'll see," the assemblywoman said. "Keur can scoot between the desk and the heater. You'll have to go into Tyk's office, and I'll hide in the closet."

They were barely in place when a key slipped into the door. Moments later, it opened, and Rohn entered. He flipped on a light. In his early forties, his belly hung over his belt. His small brown gaze darted around as if he expected trouble, wary as if he wasn't alone. Once he figured he was by himself, he sat in the black chair, turned on the computer, and began typing.

Before he could start deleting any information, both Serria and Bethany slipped from their hiding places. Bethany smacked Rohn over the head, and he fell from the chair.

Keur jumped out, stuck a drive into a space, and downloaded Rohn's information.

Bethany slipped Rohn's wallet and tablet from his clothes. Serria picked up Rohn as Keur finished, so Bethany handed Keur the items.

They left the office and returned to the basement, Bethany opened the door, and the two others left. Once outside, Serria and Keur walked up the steps to find the Fanghorn brothers waiting for them. Serria gave Rohn to Stevos.

"We'll beat him up," Gerrik said as Keur handed the wallet and tablet to him. "And toss these in the gutter well away from him. All in a dangerous part of town."

"We already got our payment," Stevos said. "Thanks."

Serria and Keur parted ways with the brothers, strode back to the spaceport, and took a shuttle to the station.

On their way to their rooms, Serria said, "I'll bring the pastries in the morning if you'll make the tea. How about nine?"

"Sounds good to me," Keur said as they parted at his room.

Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets

Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian--canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji--brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn--white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia--red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella--black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture

Dramatis Personae

Serria Stripeclaw--Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason-- Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova--Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready--Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan--Kaskellian, Keur's aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk--Kaskellian, Vik's mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn--Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria's boyfriend
Neu Knotts--Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth--Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force


Chapter 29
New Information and a dinner dat

By krprice

Shortly before nine, Serria left her room for the promenade which was noisy with various aromas of frying sausages and baking bread. She remembered a new bakery had opened right on the corner where she went in. A sign above it read Pondrine’s Pastry Shop.
 
Serria entered the green and white flooring dotted with black chairs and tables, sparsely occupied. Smells of sweet and citrusy goodies delighted her nose. She marched up to the counter and surveyed the display case. Pies, cakes, round, square, and triangular morning pasties filled the shelves.
 
“May I help you?” A tall woman with black hair asked.
 
“Yes,” Serria said. “If I can make up my mind what I want. Everything looks and smells so fantastic.” She paused, and then began pointing at several morning goodies, ending up with over a dozen, certainly more than she and Keur would eat now.
 
Once she paid for them, Serria walked to Keur’s room and knocked on the door. He opened it immediately. The tang of an unfamiliar tea greeted her.
 
“Something new Aunt Lieu made?” She asked as she strode in.
 
Keur closed the door and took the box she handed him.
 
“Yes,” he said. “Some new berry she found on a roadside stand. This is mighty heavy. What did you do? Buy out Klingson’s Bakery?”
 
“Nope.” She followed him to a table with red cups, red saucers, silver, and red plates had been set out. “I found a new place.”
 
As he poured tea and they selected their breakfast, she told him about Pondrine’s place.
 
“If these taste as good as they smell, I’ll have to give it a try.”
 
Serria sipped her tea. “Excellent. She’s got another bestseller here.”  Then she bit into a round pastry with a blue cream atop it. “Wow. That blue cream tastes similar to khavae.”
 
“Gotta try that.” Keur grabbed one and took a bite. He closed his eyes. After swallowing, he exclaimed, “Yes, but with a twist I can’t describe or figure out what it is.”
 
“Me either,” she said. “Have you learned anything from the information we got last night?”
 
“Haven’t tried.” He slipped the drive into his computer, and they both switched directions to look at the screen.
 
A recording came up when a man said, “Hile.”
 
Serria stared at Keur. “What is Rohn doing contacting a Kaskellian?”
 
“And it’s obvious because the man answered the way people on Kaskellia do,” Keur said. He scrutinized the number Rohn had dialed. “The number is Alosian. Why is a Kaskellian on Alosia? Is he fleeing the disaster there?”
 
“Maybe,” Serria said. “But they seem to be speaking in a code of some sort. Could casda be candy, or tindrin be Tandra?” Serria shook her head.
 
“What is Rohn’s connection to this addictive candy killing kids?” Keur asked.
 
“Could the death of kids be only an accident? And it was only meant to addict adults?” Serria thought for a moment. “Or are they trying to put Tandra out of business? Those suing her are from Alosia, Crescenji, Kaskellia, Jetahn, and Muswella, and I found some on Tirelllia.” She stopped again. “We know Rohn hacked into Tandra’s delivery schedule. I bet it was to get the candy to as many people as possible. But where did he get the candy?”
 
“I don’t know, but Rohn and this Kaskellian are up to no good,” Keur added. “We need to keep an eye on them.”
 
Serria began dividing the rest of the goodies. They’d each eaten two, so she put five in the box for herself.
 
“Keep the rest,” she said and stood.
 
“Well, we didn’t learn much,” Keur said.
 
“No, but it’s more than we knew before,” Serria said and left.
****
She hadn’t been back in her room an hour before Detective Danforth called.
 
“Last night we found Rohn Gossen beaten, robbed, and left naked in gutter in Gettlesburg, a bad section of town,” the detective said. “Do you know anything about that?”
 
“Nope,” she said with a straight face. “Keur and I spent the past evening discussing the case. Rohn was probably drunk.”
 
“No, but he did have an ingredient we found in that candy in him,” Detective Dansforth said. “He also had a concussion. We questioned him, and he only remembers leaving his apartment. I told him about the candy and asked where he got it. He said Tandra’s, but I knew he was lying. We let him go, but I set a tail on him.”
 
“No telling what he’s up to,” Serria said. “Probably has gotten tied up with the wrong people.”
 
 “Probably so.” They cut the call.
 
Serria sent a quick note to Keur telling of the new information and making sure he backs her up about their discussing the case last night.
 
She decided to catch up on her notes and began that process.
 
****
Early that afternoon Serria received a call from Bethany.
 
“The authorities found Rohn,” Bethany said. “He was unconscious, had a concussion, and pretty well beaten up. What did you do to him?”
 
“I didn’t do anything,” Serria admitted. “But I gave him to some-uh-acquaintances to take care of.” She recounted what the detective had told her. “How did you find out about him?”
 
“As an assemblywoman, I need to stay informed,” Bethany explained. “I have eyes and ears everywhere.”
 
“Why was he using Tonwyc’s computer?” Serria asked. “Doesn’t he have one of his own?
 
Where does he live? Is he and Del together, and what is she up to?”
 
“Wondered all that myself. Not sure where he lives as the ID address was not right.”
 
“Guess you could check it out.”
 
 “Yes. I think he’s still with her, but I don’t know where she is or what’s she’s doing,” Bethany told her. “What did you learn from the information?”
 
Serria explained the contact with the Kaskellian and of her discussion with Keur.
 
“What kind of trouble is he in or gotten himself into?” Bethany asked.
 
“Something to do with the candy,” Serria commented. “But where is he getting it?”
 
“Is the reason he’s using Tonwyc’s computer because he doesn’t want Del to know what he’s up to?”
 
“Might explain that, but what secret is he hiding from her?”
 
“His involvement with the Kaskellian?”
 
“Or the Syndicate! Remember Lar’s motive?”
 
“What has Rohn done, and who is he doing it for?” Bethany asked. “The Kaskellians or the Syndicate.”
 
“Maybe if we can find Del or the Kaskellian on Alosia, we can find the answer to those questions!”
 
“You keep investigating, and I’ll see what I can learn,” the assemblywoman said.
 
They bid goodbye and cut the link.
 
Serria immediately called Keur and brought him up on her conversation with Bethany.
 
“I think he’s in more trouble than even is his ex-wife can get him out of even if she is a member of the Alosian assembly,” Keur said.
 
“Or if she even wants to,” Serria added.
 
They both laughed before dropping the link.
****
Serria grabbed her silver sequin purse from her tables the moment Mak knocked on the door promptly at five. She opened it to find him dressed in a dark blue suit, pale blue shirt, red tie, and black shoes. His gaze started at her curly black hair, but his eyes widened when he came to the plunging neckline. He lingered at the cleavage of her large female asset before scrutinizing the rest of her ending with her black flats peeking out the bottom of her royal blue gown.
 
“You’re gorgeous.” He smiled which reached his eyes.
 
“Thank you.” She walked out her room, locked the door, and set the alarm.
 
She took his offered arm, and they strolled to the shuttleport station. After buying their tickets, they sat at the back of the shuttle.
 
Mak continued to stare at her breasts. Hope he doesn’t expect to bed me tonight, she thought. If he does, he’ll be mighty disappointed with only a goodnight kiss.
 
Though she wasn’t a virgin, too many years had passed since she’d lain with a man. That had been once in the Crescenji Warrior School nine years ago. None of the males in the school were interested in a female who continually beat them in every contest. Of course, she had an advantage since her father was the senior instructor there, and she’d been training with him for over a decade before she started right after high school.
 
Upon landing, they departed the shuttle and grabbed an aircab to the Kondreal Dinner Theater. It was made of dark red brick and took up half a block. People streamed in wearing suits and gowns of red, green, yellow, not to mention every other color of the rainbow.
 
An Alosian in a black suit escorted them to a table near the stage and handed them two menus.
 
“I’m Mitch and will be your waiter tonight,” he said. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
 
“Water to start,” they both said.
 
“We have to examine the wine list first,” Mak said.
 
Mitch nodded and left.
 
Serria glanced down that list, and then said, “Kaldicott ‘46. It’s their best sweet rose.”
 
“Are you a wine connoisseur?” Mak asked.
 
“As a matter of fact I am,” Serria boasted. “My best friend is Alyci Kaldicott whose cousin is Jero Kaldicott. His wineries make the best in the galaxy. And I know him. Wouldn’t drink any wines from any place else.”
 
“Guess I’ve been put in my place,” Mak said and smiled.
 
They perused the menu.
 
Mitch returned with their water, and they ordered the wine.
 
When he came back with that, they approved and then ordered.
 
“So what is this play about?” Mak inquired.
 
“It’s set in two warring fantasy countries,” Serria explained. “One is all female ruled by a queen, and the other all male governed by king. The two abduct members of the opposite sex to keep their races going until the queen and king decided to wed and unite them.” Serria sipped some wine. “However, all kinds of hilarious events occur until the marriage takes place.”
 
“Sounds like we’re in for a fun evening,” Mak said. “I have been researching your case. I got hold of samples of the candy that’s causing trouble. One kind is green, and it contains asenophol which is very addictive. The other is red and has icherene in it. However, icherene is a very old heart medicine and could kill children quickly.”
 
“I only knew of the red one,” Serria said, deciding she needed to tell Doctor Slitherspit, Keur, Detective Danforth, and Tandra about this.
 
Their food came then. The discussion stopped as Mak dug into his seafood special, and Serria cut up her baked ground fowl.
 
They had barely finished when the curtain rose. Serria stuck Mak’s news in the back of her mind to enjoy the show. The performer’s antics had the crowd howling in laughter, particularly the one where the prince tried to climb a flowering thorn vine. He managed to tear his britches, baring his butt. Stinging insects landed on him, making him scream until he was rescued. The audience was beside itself with mirth. At the end, they applauded and gave the group a standing ovation.
 
Serria and Mak waited until the crowd thinned out before leaving the theater and grabbed transportation to the shuttle port where they waited to leave.
 
At the station, Mak walked her to her door.
 
“We’ll have to do this again,” he suggested. “Maybe for dinner and dancing.”
 
“Yes,” Serria said. “I’d like that.”
 
He leaned over and gave her a sweet kiss before striding off.
 
Inside, she locked up, changed into a nightgown, and climbed into bed. Her lips tingled from his kiss. Yes, she decided, we certainly have to do that again. Sleep came quickly.
 
 
 
                                                                                                                            
 


Chapter 30
Surprising Discoveries, Part 1

By krprice

Up early the next morning, Serria called Keur.
 
“Hey, Serria,” Keur said. “Have any more of those delicious pastries? I ate the last this morning.”
 
“Nope. Just some nasty news.”
 
“Not more kids dying, I hope.”
 
“No. Last night Mak told me he discovered there were not one but two candies. One is green and has an addictive substance it in called asenophol. The other is the red one. He found isherene in it, a very old heart medicine, which could kill kids.”
 
“Better alert Detective Danforth,” Keur said. “What is Rohn’s involvement in this?”
 
“Don’t know, but we’d better find out soon. And he is next on my list to call, and then Doctor Slitherspit.”
 
“Let me know what you find out.”
 
“Will do.” They cut the link.
 
She contacted Doctor Slitherspit next.
 
“Now I know what to look for,” she said. “Gerrik and Stevos have been finding these sweets in little baskets and bringing them to me for disposal. I’ll start testing them for those substances. Thanks for the information.”
 
Next Serria called Detective Danforth and told him what Mak had said and what the Fanghorn Brothers keep locating.
 
“I’ll send some people out immediately for some and have them analyzed. Thanks.”
 
Lastly, she rang up Tandra and passed on the information.
 
“That explains why several men have been coming in and demanding those green ones,” Tandra said. “I keep telling them I don’t make them. Now I know why they want them. I’ll pass word around they have to get them elsewhere.”
 
Tandra thanked her before they bid goodbye.
 
Serria spent the rest of the morning adding the new information to her notes.
 
****
When he finished helping Vik and Lady Natalia with the medical evacuations, Neu landed on Alosia since he had a chore to accomplish. After making arrangements for fuel, water, and food for the ship, he grabbed an aircab to Kondreal Jewelry Shop.
 
A bell jingled as he entered. Gems, necklaces, bracelets, and other assorted colored objects surrounded him in glasses cases, glittering in not only the sunlight but in the lights around the place. He wondered if this was what the inside of a rainbow looked like.
 
Moments later a short, stout Alosian with white hair bustled in.
 
“May I help you?” he asked, a loupe hanging around his neck.
 
Neu ambled up to the counter and pulled out the cloth bag from his pocket. “I found these and would like to get them appraised.” He upended the bag on the glass top.
 
The man’s dark green eyes widened and grew to the size of a small plate.
 
“Where did you get these, Mr. Knotts?” He paused then added, “I am Delmar Willowson.”
 
“I’d rather not say, but I didn’t steal them.” Neu bristled. “And how did you know my name?”
Delmar laughed. “That head of curly red hair. A distinct trait of the Knott family.” He surveyed three crimson jewels, then the three dark green ones, and finally the two midnight blue ones with his loupe. They varied in size and shape. “Guess you found them on some of the planets on the outer rim.”
 
“Something like that.”
 
“They are rare, priceless,” Delmar said and looked up, staring Neu right in the eyes. “You could get whatever you wanted for them. I know of an appraiser who would help you get lots of money for them, but he would ask for a generous cut.”
 
“Thank you,” Neu said as he returned the gems to the bag. He figured with his family and friends connections he wouldn’t have to share anything or not too much.
 
After leaving the store, he took an aircab back to the terminal, paid for those items he had ordered, and flew up to the Knotts Shipyard.
 
Lights twinkled amongst the array of docks that sprawled across the vacuum of space some four light years away from the space station. Neu parked his ship at the family area and took a tram to the inner circle of the facility. He walked down the blue tiled hallway to his grandfather’s office. The door was open,
 
He peaked in. “Grandpa?”
 
“Since when did you stop calling me grandpappy and started calling me Grandpa?” a baritone voice asked.
 
“Since I grew up,” Neu answered, dashed into the room, rounded the kekkrikat desk, and hugged the old man.
 
“Don’t squash me,” Odd Knotts grumbled.
 
Neu let go, walked back around, and sat in the dark blue chair opposite his grandfather.
 
“I’ve been doing a little exploring in CEMAR,” Neu said. “And I found these.” He emptied the bag in the middle of the desk. “I took them to an appraiser who said they were priceless, but I didn’t tell him where I got them. I’d like you to put them in your safe.”
 
His grandfather stared at the gems, then at Neu, and back at the gems. He picked each one up, examined it, and then put it down before doing the same to another one.
 
“I hope you’ve kept track of where you got them,” the elder man said. “Were there anymore?”
“Yes and yes,” Neu said. “Though any other gems would have to be dug out.”
 
“I can think of many who would buy these and not ask where you got them,” his grandpa said. “Put them back in the bag.”
 
Neu did as asked and then stood. Neu watched his grandfather rise, push the chair to the left, and move a blue rug aside. He opened a trapdoor, inserted key from his keyring in a lock. When it clicked, the old man opened the safe. Then he grabbed the bag with them gems and put it inside, closing and locking everything before covering it up.
 
Neu walked around and hugged his grandfather again. “Thank you.”
 
“Come around more,” Grandpa said.
 
“I hope to,” Neu said, left the shipyard, and returned to the space station,
 
In his room he called Serria.
 
“How did the rescue go?” Serria asked.
 
“We got a lot of people to safety,” Neu said. “If I flew you to Crescenji, would you introduce me to your mother and see if she can translate that scroll I found?”
 
“Of course,” Serria said. “When do you want to go?”
 
“Tomorrow morning, maybe around nine.  I’m in bay ten.”
 
“See you at the ship then.”
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 31
Surprising Discoveries, Part 2

By krprice

Before Serria left her room, she sent a message to her mother, telling of their visit and arrival around noon. With her tablet in her purse to do some reading, she strode to the BRIGHT STAR, It still resembled the same hunk of junk she had seen a year ago when she and Keur had teamed up to find the Charbessa Jewels. However, having traveled on it numerous times, she knew it was space worthy.
 
She and Neu chorused good morning as she entered and strapped. Neu got clearance, and they took off. Once they’d gone to light speed, she pulled her tablet from her purse, switched it on, and settled into the book she’d been reading for the last month.
 
“Coming up on Crescenji,” Neu announced.
                                                                                                                            
Serria gazed out the window. Her heart beat wildly like a herd of stampeding fanghorns at the sight of her home planet even though she’d visited it only a few weeks ago interviewing parents of a child killed by that nasty candy someone has been passing around.
 
Once they had landed, the duo walked down the ramp. Neu took care of having the ship serviced. They strode up to the immigration desk.
 
“Always good to see you, Serria” a brown-skinned Crescenji said.
 
“Only here for a short visit.” She handed him her passport.
 
He examined it, returned it, took Neu’s, and scrutinized it more closely before giving it back.
They left there and walked over to customs.
 
“I have nothing to report, but Neu is bringing in a scroll for Mom to translate,” she explained. “We’ll take it with us when we leave.”
 
The young man darted from Serria to Neu.         
 
“Let them through,” a graybeard growled.
 
“Go ahead,” the man said.
 
They hurried through the terminal and caught an aircab.
 
“Two twenty six Wengar Street,” Serria said and relaxed. At least, she didn’t have to worry about the fanghorn brothers attacking her. Hope Gwyn doesn’t pop up either. She was Serria’s nemesis in high school and was now a reporter.
 
On their way, they passed tall, black stone buildings downtown and homes made of the same material. He stopped at the deep brown house with dark orange trim, Serria paid the driver, and they climbed out. Bright yellow flowers with a tangy fragrance nestled next to those with red and silver petals which nodded a welcome in the breeze.
 
The door barely opened. “Get in before these tiny mausers get out,” her mother said.
 
Fortunately, both Serria and Neu were slender and slipped inside. Mom closed the door.
Gray furry mausers, only babies from the look of them, miaued at them, demanding attention.
Erisa hugged her daughter.
 
“This is Neu Knotts.” Serria bent down to pet a little one. Others wobbled over for attention.
 
“Welcome, Neu.” Only a few inches shorter than her daughter, Erisa enveloped Neu, a good foot and a half shorter than the women. “I’m Erisa.” She had short gray hair and gray eyes.
 
When she let him go, he took several deep breaths then said, “Nice to meet you.”
 
“Come,” Erisa invited. “I have lunch for you including brazo nut bread and eisberry jam.”
She led them through her living room with brown and furnishings to a bright yellow kitchen with all the latest appliances. They sat at a dark brown table covered with a variety of meats, cheese, breads, eisberry jam, and salads along with green plates, silver, condiments, and glasses full of a brown beverage.
 
“Help yourselves,” Erisa said.
 
They chatted during the meal with Neu explaining what he had and where he had found it. Then Mom cleared the table, washed it down, and dried it before leaving the room. She returned with a roll of white paper, scissors, and some sticky tape.
 
Mom laid the paper on the table and handed her daughter the tape. “Serria, tape this down.”
 
While Serria did that, her mother pulled the paper across the table and cut it away from the roll.
Her mom set the roll down, taped up the other end before handing the tape to Neu.
 
She didn’t have to tell him what to do as he made sure the paper on both sides were secure. Then her mother left the room with what was left of the roll, the scissors, and the tape before coming back with a stack of books and gloves used to keep oils of fingers and fingerprints from staining something.
 
Her mother sat and put on the gloves. “Hand me the scroll.”
 
Neu removed it from his carrying case and gave it to her. She took it from the bag and laid it on the paper, unrolling it before scrutinizing it. Both he and Serria pulled out their tablets and set them to record.
 
“Oh my goodness,” Mom exclaimed as she reached for the top book in the stack. She began leafing through it.
 
“What is it?” Serria asked her mouth dry. She jumped up, dashed over to the sink, and picked up her half full glass and downed the rest of it before sitting back down.
 
“This is written in an ancient form of Cresel, though we have no idea of its origin,” she answered.
 
“Can you read it?” Neu inquired. “What does it say?” His hands trembled.
 
“Serria, Keur get out your tablet and record this,” her mother said.
 
Serria pulled her tablet from her purse and set it up to record. “Ready.” Neu did the same.
Often stumbling over the words, Serria’s mother read, “Written on the 25 of Asuda in the year 4930 by Creselida Fanghorn. I will start at the beginning. After one billion years of evolution, five dominant races arose to space faring prominence in the lower spiral arm of the Ekordian galaxy. At the height of their dominance, the Akilyn occupied 15 star systems, the Ezeldar 12, the Rujan 10, the Chikosee 6, and the Moshetel 2.” She stopped, rose, and got some water before continuing. “It is with heavy heart I write this though peace has finally come to our part of the galaxy again. Twenty years, twenty long years we fought. The stink of burned flesh and the skeletons of destroyed people and buildings dominate the landscape of all the planets. Hulks of ships hang in the vacuum of space. And what did we accomplish?
 
Those people fought for planets in the habitable zones, resources on those planets, and resources in the various solar systems for their burgeoning population.
 
However, they finally decided to end the vicious and horrific battling when they realized more of their people were dying than being born, not to mention the destruction of the needed planets and resources.
 
Someone is coming. I must roll this up and hide it. I will be killed if they find out I am writing this.” Mom paused and took a deep breath. “Could those of us of Crescenji be descendants of people of one of the planets of what we now call CEMAR? And if so, which one?” She gazed over at Neu and demanded, “You have to go back there. You have to find more of these. You can turn off your tablets.”
 
They both did as she asked.
 
“I plan to, Erisa,” Neu said. “When time allows.”
 
Mom nodded, rolled up the scroll, placed it back in the bag, and gave it to Neu. “Keep it safe.”
 
“I will,” he promised.
 
They cleaned off the table again as the mausies miaued at them.
 
“Now I know you both travel and have no place to keep a mausie, but do you know of anyone who has the room and the desire for one or two?” her mom asked,
 
Neu and Serria shook their heads.
 
Several seconds passed before Serria smacked the right side of head. “I am being such a dingdoodle.”
 
Neu stared at her. “What is a dingdoodle?”
 
Both mother and daughter laughed.
 
“A dingdoodle is stupid worm which has a tendency to cross the road and usually gets squashed,” Serria explained. “We Crescenjians call ourselves dingdoodles when we do something crazy or stupid.”
 
“Understood,” Neu said.
 
“Aunt Lieu and Skerry Royk live out in the country,” Serria said. “They have plenty of room for a couple of mausies, both indoor and outside.”
 
“They sure do,” Neu agreed.
 
“If you’re going to take them, you’ll need a carrier not to mention supplies,” Mom said. “And I bet by the time you get to Alosia, the pet stores will be closed.”
 
They made a list of what the two ladies would need.
 
“How old are they?” Serria asked.
 
“About six weeks,” her mother said. “Weaned and mostly potty box trained. Pick out which ones you want while I find a box to put them in until you get carrier. Then I’ll feed them and make sure they potty before you leave.” She scurried away only to return moments later dragging a playpen. “Put those you don’t want in here.”
 
“I’m sure Aunt Lieu and Skerry would only want girls,” Serria said. “And I can tell one from the other.”
 
“I can’t,” Neu said.
 
Serria picked up the closest and turned it over, showing its back end. “This is a girl because the birth canal is right below the poop hole on a girl.” She set it in the playpen but had to inspect several others before she found a male. “On a boy, the male parts are separated from the poop hole” Serria pointed each out before placing it in with the others.
 
By the time the duo half the mausies, her mother walked in with a foot long covered box with handles and holes poked into it.
 
“This is what they give you at shelters if you don’t have your own carrier,” she said.
 
“Finally,” Serria exclaimed as she grinned at a gold and gray little one. “Aunt Lieu will love this one.”
 
Neu held a black mausie with four white paws. “I think Skerry will take to this here one.”
 
“I’ll take care of them,” her mom said. “Take those out of the playpen. Once everyone is ready to go, I’ll text Krystin, owner of the pet store, with what you’ll need and have her bill me. When I get it, I’ll let you know and expect you to pay me back.” She stared directly at Serria.
 
“I will,” her daughter said.
 
“What bay are you in and what’s the name of your ship?” her mother asked. “I’ll have Krystin deliver everything there.”
 
“The BRIGHT STAR is in bay four,” Neu said.
 
Once they had called an aircab and were ready to leave, Neu bid farewell and strode to the vehicle. Mother and daughter hugged before Serria followed Neu.
 
As promised, a large, silver flatbed overflowing with goods had been parked by the ship. Serria placed the box on a couch and strapped it in before going back out and helping Neu load the ship. Once that was done, they settled in, got clearance, and headed to Alosia.
 
****
The trip went quickly though the mausies mewled as they were taken from the ship. Serria rented a truck, loaded it, and they headed out to the country house.
 
While Neu drove the truck, Serria called the two ladies.      
 
“Hile,” Aunt Lieu said.
 
“Good thing I know what you said,” Serria commented, and they both laughed. :”Anyway, Neu and I are headed your way with a surprise for each of you. We’ll be there in about forty minutes.”
 
“Have you eaten?” Aunt Lieu asked.
 
“No, but don’t go to any trouble for us,” Serria said. “We won’t stay long.”
 
“But we will still have food for you.”
 
“If you insist.” They said goodbye and told Neu about the conversation.
 
As soon as the truck stopped, Aunt Lieu and Skerry dashed out, their eyes widening to the sight of the box shaped like a small spaceship.
 
Serria stepped out with the box. “Be careful they’ve been traveling quite a while and probably have to pee.” She opened the box. First, she lifted the gold and gray one, set her on the ground, and then did the same with the black one.
 
The mausies sniffed around, squatted and peed.
 
“Mausies,” Skerry exclaimed as she gently picked up the black one, cuddling her.
 
Aunt Lieu followed her example with the otther.
 
“Both girls,” Serria said. “And I’d better help Neu unload the truck.”
 
Once everything was in the house, and the little ones fed, they were put in the playpen. Serria and Neu were given a meal of cold meats, bread, salad, and a large piece of khavae cake.
 
“I’m going to name mine Goldie,” Aunt Lieu announced.
 
“And my little sweetheart will be called White Paws,” Skerry said. “Paws for short.”
 
They chatted for a short time before the older ladies thanked them and hugged them before they drove back to Kondreal, returned the truck and flew to the space station.
 
When she got to her room, Serria shucked her clothes and flopped onto her bed, asleep within minutes.
****
The next morning after caring for themselves and the mausies, Lieu and Skerry head out for the forest behind the house to look for plants and berries for new teas. They carried baskets, and Skerry held onto the book with pictures of possibilities.
 
As they found a plant or berry matching one in the book, they put it in the basket.
 
“Look.” Skerry pointed upward. “Smoke.”
 
“Is the forest on fire?” Lieu asked as the duo rushed toward it only to find a wooden gray shed with something black covering the windows and the smoke coming from a chimney.
“Neu didn’t tell us about this.” Skerry frowned.
 
“Bet he didn’t know about it,” Lieu commented as they approached the door.
 
Skerry knocked.
 
Minutes later a man opened the door. He raised his left eyebrow, and his brown eyes stared at the two women. His filthy apron that might have been blue at one time bulged at his stomach.
“Lieu and Skerry,” Lieu introduced as the aroma of something sweet snaked from the place. “We live in the house. Thought we’d meet you since we’re neighbors.”
 
“Del,” he said, “I’m making candy. Have a couple of pieces.” He handed them each four pieces wrapped in green,
 
They took them and shoved them in their baskets.
 
“Nice to meet you, but we must get back to our berry picking,” Lieu said.
 
“Come back for more if you like,” he said. “And give them to your friends.”
 
The ladies turned around and continue their hunt for new tea possibilities.
 
Once back at the house, Skerry said, “I think Neu needs to know about him.”
 
“I agree,” Lieu said, setting her basket on the table.
 
Skerry dialed Neu’s number, but he didn’t answer. Next she called his parents,”
“Knotts residence. Ruff speaking.”
 
“This is Skerry Royk,” she said. “Lieu Kwan and I are renting your country house. We found a shed in the forest that was occupied.”
 
“Shouldn’t be no one in that thing,” he said. “Little more than a hovel. About to fall down.”
 
Skerry continued to tell him what they found. “Said his name was Del.”
 
“Well, it couldn’t be Del Charbessa since she’s a lady,”
 
“Yes.” Skerry knew the cops were looking for her.
 
“Keep me posted,” he said.
 
“I will.” They cut the call.
 
“Talk to Serria,” Lieu suggested.
 
Skerry did, but it went to a message, so she tried Keur.
 
“Keur here.”
 
Skerry repeated what she had said to Mr. Knotts.
 
“Don’t eat,” Keur warned. “Take the samples to Detective Danforth. I’ll tell him you’re coming.” He paused then asked, “What did the man look like?”
 
“About forty, brown eyes, filthy apron that strained around his belly,” Skerry said.
 
“I think I know who it is,” Keur said. “Stay away from him.”
 
“We will. We’re headed to town after lunch,” Skerry said. “We’ll hand over the candy then.”
 
They filled their stomachs and that of the furry ones before Skerry held open a see through bag. Using a tissue, Lieu plucked the candies from the baskets and dropped them into the bag. Then they left for Kondreal.
 
Lieu parked at the police station, and Skerry hopped out clutching the bag. Inside, she wrinkled her nose at the pungent smell of cheap tea. Skerry stopped at the desk.
 
“May I help you?” a young lady asked.
 
“I’m here to see Detective Danforth,” she said. “I’m Skerry Royk. He should be expecting me.”
 
“I’m Hans Danforth,” a man behind her said.
 
Skerry spun around. “Here’s the candy Neu told you about. We didn’t touch them.”
 
“Thank you.” He took it, and she left.
 
They did their shopping and went home.
 
 
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 32
New Surprises

By krprice

That evening Neu and Keur gathered in Serria's room with tea and a tray full of Cliny's cream and khavse filled pies.

"Skerry called me this morning and told me about meeting a man in the shed while they were collecting berries and leaves for Aunt Lieu's tea," Keur said. He went on to describe the man.

"And he gave them candy wrapped in green which I told her to turn over to Detective Danforth."

"Sounds like Rohn Gossen," Serria commented. "Bet that's where he's getting it. Making it himself."
"But what about the red ones, the ones killing kids?" Neu inquired.

"Could the Kaskellian be making those?" Serria asked.

"Wouldn't surprise me." Keur bit into a pie, chewed, swallowed, and washed it down with tea.

"Now what did you learn?"

Serria brought out her tablet. "Better for you to hear Mom's translation. She said the writing is in Cresel, an archaic form of Crescenjian." She hit the play button, and it started.

Keur's eyes widened, and he clutched the table until his hands turned white.

He swallowed once it finished. "Did we descend from those in CEMAR?"

"We don't know," Serria said. "I guess we'll just have to hope Neu finds more scrolls."

"I sure will hunt for them," Neu said.

The evening ended then. Neu and Keur left. Serria cleaned up everything and went to bed.

The next morning Serria answered her phone,

"Detective Dansforth here," he said. "That candy Skerry brought has the same additive substance in it we found in others."

"Now we know where Rohn gets it," Serria said. "Keur told me Rohn introduced himself as Del. Bet she doesn't know what he's up to. What do we do now?"

"I don't know," the detective said. "I'll have to think about it."

"Keep in touch," she said.

"And you too."
****
As Keur ate his breakfast, he couldn't get the question out of his mind. Why was Rohn using Tonwyc's computer? While that one still hung around, he wondered if Rohn was still together with Del Charbessa, and if so, does she know he was making addictive candy. With both having been scientists with her mother's companies, they would have the knowledge to create such a product. But maybe, she knew nothing of his illicit activities, and he was using Tonwyc's computer to keep it a secret from her.

In their last case, he and Serria leaned Jan Lindsohn and Mikel Gundersohn, two assemblymen who were investigating money coming from Kaskellia to Tonwyc several months ago. Was the Syndicate, that shadowy group of people, behind this? If so how and why or were they even involved?

Using the backdoor he had previously created to snoop into accounts in Alosian National Bank, he slipped in and located Tonwyc's account. Ten thousand universal credits had been recently deposited in there. Following the trail led him to a small bank on Kaskellia. Now why was someone on that war torn planet sending money to an Alosian assemblyman? Lots of questions but no answers,

Keur left his room, strode to Serria's room, and knocked on her door. She opened it immediately.
"We need to talk," he said as she stepped back to let him in and closed it.

They settled at the table, and Keur told her what he had learned.

"I think we need to talk to Del Charbessa," Serria said.

"So do I," Keur agreed. "But how do we get in touch with her?"

Serria stood, pulled her chair over to her comcenter, and sat. She typed in numbers and the link connected.

"Charbessa Industries," a familiar voice said. "Ellazan Charbessa here."

"This is Serria Stripeclaw," the PI said.

"Why are you calling?" the matriarch asked.

"I'd like to get in touch with your daughter," Serria explained. "I need her help in finding the makers and distributors of the deadly candy."

"She works at Stiverson Pharmaceuticals," Ellazan told her before reeling off a com number so fast Serria barely had time to jot it down.

"Thank you," Serria said and then realized Ellazan had cut the link. "Well, she was about as friendly as a hungry fanghorn."

"And about as dangerous," Keur commented. "You're lucky she even gave you that."

"You're right. Better contact Del and arrange to meet her and explain the situation."

"Good idea."

Serria sent Del a message. "Hope we hear back soon."

They had barely started a conversation when the bell on the comcenter chimed, indicating a message. She opened it.

"She's willing to meet at her place this evening at six," Serria said. "She gave me her address. Del will furnish all the food except desert."

"I think we can manage that," Keur said. "We can pick up some khavae cake on the way to the shuttle station and catch the four thirty shuttle to Kondreal."

"Be ready at four," Serria said as she and Keur rose, and he left.

She took out her laptop and got caught up on her notes.

After selecting a khavae cake, Serria and Keur caught the shuttle down to Kondreal and hired an aircab to take them to the address Del had given Serria. She paid the driver, and the duo climbed out.

"What a dump," Keur commented about the small, stone house. "The brown and yellow paint resembles something coming from a baby's bottom."

Serria laughed as they stepped over the cracked walkway, dodging the weeds growing out of it and taking over the yard. Hope the inside looks better than the outside, Serria thought. With all her education and experience, you would expect Del would be able to afford a better place.
At the top of the steps, Keur knocked on the peeling brown paint on the door.

Del opened immediately, stepped out of their way, and motioned them in, shutting it behind them. Yellow-skinned, Del had to be in her late thirties with short auburn hair. Keur handed her the cake.

"Thank you," Del said.

Scratched wooden floors greeted them. Nothing hung on the white walls, and only a green couch with springs hanging out sat in the living room. As with most people, Serria towered over her.
"Dinner is ready," Del announce and led them to a wooden brown table set with blue and white ceramic plates, silverware, and water in the glasses.

Serria and Keur sat, both glancing around the dark yellow kitchen walls.

"I got kelovia," Del said. "It's a spicy Jetahni dish served over noodles." She set it on the table.

"I remember Vik Juleskova making it once, saying her dad made it," Serria commented. "She never did tell me what kind of meat was in it. Said it was better not to know."

"That's why there's so much spice in it to hide the real flavor." Del sat.

They dished up the food and began eating, not quite ready to discuss the real reason for coming.

Once the meal was over, the table cleaned off, and cake served with tea, Del asked. "Your message was brief and said little only asked for my help in your latest case."

"You've heard about the candies killing children, haven't you?" Serria asked.

"Oh, yes," Del said. "It's been all over the news. I can't believe Tandra is involved."

"She isn't." Serria told her about the lawsuits, their being hired to find the truth, and their investigations. She ate more cake and washed it down with tea. "We managed to trace goings-on to Tonwyc's computer. When we, that is Keur, Detective Dansforth, and I, went to the assemblyman's office with a warrant, the assistant said Tonwyc was out of town and wouldn't let us touch it without his permission. Anyway, Keur hid a recorder in the office, and we left." She finished off her tea and drank water. "In the detective's office, we listened in and found Tonwyc was there and said to warn Rohn to get his materials off his computer. Better come in tonight at nine."

"What has Rohn got to do with this?" Del asked. "We broke up when Mom kicked us out. I haven't heard from him in months."

Without going into too much detail, Serria and Keur explained what happened and what they learned from the download. Then told her about what Aunt Lieu and Skerry discovered.

"So you want me to speak to Rohn and see what he's up to?" Del asked and widened her eyes.

"Yes," Keur said.

"I will help, but I'll have to think about what to do," the scientist said.

"Why don't you come up with an idea or two and meet us at Detective Dansforth's office at ten in the morning?" Serria suggested. She and Keur stood.

"Yes, I will," Del rose also. "I should apologize for this place. It was the only one available when I need somewhere to live. There are nice apartments coming up for rent next month. I've applied for one there."

They walked to the door, said their goodbyes, and the private investigators left after calling for an aircab. Back at the station, they split up and went to their rooms. Considering the time, Serria went to bed.
****
As soon as Del walked into Detective Dansforth's office, she pointed at Bethany and cried, "What is she doing here?"

"Assemblywoman Gossen has been very instrumental in our investigation," the detective said and then introduced himself.

"I am Del Charbessa," Del said. "I've come up with an idea."

She told them about it, and they all agreed it was a good idea. Before she left the police station, Detective Dansforth gave her a small phone to be used for Rohn to get in touch with her. With a small bag of red candies in her purse, she strode down six blocks before turning right into the parking lot of a red stone building and up to apartment number six. Del knocked on the bronze door.

A few minutes later, Rohn opened it. His hair was mussed, and he only wore green pants.

"Del," he said as his eyes widened. "What brings you here?"

"May I come in?" she asked. "I need help with a chemistry problem. You know I wasn't strong in that subject."

"Sure," he said, opening the door wider and moving away.

She walked in, and he closed the door.

While the place had pictures on the wall and pale green furniture, it was dotted with take-out boxes of food and half full cups of tea.

"I've been disturbed about the children who have been dying of eating these red candies." She sat on the couch and pulled out a bag of them. "Could you analyze them and get back to me on what is in them? Here's my phone number."

He wrote it down and took the bag. "It might be a few days."

"That's all right," she said. "Thank you." She rose and left.

On her way to the police station, she noted a bench in a covert area near his apartment where the others could sit and observe him.

Back in his office, Del noticed Bethany had left.

"He took the candy, and I found a place for you to watch him," she said, giving them directions. "I'll go now." She spun around and departed.

****
"Rather curt wasn't she?" Detective Dansforth said.

"She wasn't too thrilled with doing this task," Serria said. "Guess we'd better get to that bench."

They left the station, easily found the location, and sat.

Not an hour had passed before Rohn emerged from his apartment with a black cloth bag in hand. He hurried along the streets, now filled with pedestrians, dodging them. Six blocks later he turned left onto Embassy Row where all the representatives of the other planets had their consulates. Rohn walked right up to the Kaskellian Embassy and entered without having to show any identification.

"He's been there before," Serria said.

"Yes," the detective said. "And from what we know, he's well known there too."

"Now what do we do?" Keur asked.

Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets

Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian--canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji--brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn--white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia--red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella--black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture

Dramatis Personae

Serria Stripeclaw--Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason-- Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova--Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready--Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan--Kaskellian, Keur's aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk--Kaskellian, Vik's mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn--Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria's boyfriend
Neu Knotts--Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth--Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force


















Chapter 33
Meeting with Georg

By krprice

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

Note: Georg is pronounced Gayorg

"This is now an interplanetary issue," Serria said. "We need to talk to Bethany."

Both her companions nodded, and they hurried to the assembly building. Serria didn't even bother to stop at the reception desk which screened those entering, leading them to the elevator and pushing the button.

"Wait," the woman at the desk called. "Who are you and why are you here?"

Detective Danforth whipped out his badge as they passed her. "Come on official business."

The woman didn't have time to do more as the elevator came, and they walked in, the door closing quickly. Serria pressed the button to Bethany's floor, and they rose. Once there, Serria strode to Bethany's office, walked right past the secretary, and flung open the door.

"We need help," Serria said to Bethany who sat at her desk.

The assemblywoman looked up from her computer. "What's wrong?"

Serria explained the situation.

"I'll call President Ahlberg." Bethany dialed the comlink. When it connected, she demanded in an urgent tone, "This is Assemblywoman Gossen. I must talk with the president now. What do you mean he's busy?"

Bethany turned to the others. "She whispered help and cut the call."

The detective's phone rang. "Detective Dansforth." Moments later, giving the others no explanation, he ran from the office.

"Something's going on," Serria said. "Bethany, lead us to the president's office."

Bethany jumped up, scrambled around her desk, and the trio dashed to the stairs, down to the first floor, and from the building.

Serria spotted Gwyn Prequin, her old high school nemesis, lurking behind a tree. What's she up to know, she wondered?

They shoved their way through local police and green uniformed security guards. Bethany led them into the large, black stone building, up two flights of stairs, and into a red carpeted hallway.
Four doors down, Bethany pushed open two doors. Serria stepped in front of her to find Rohn and a Kaskellian man who held a laser to the president's head.

In broken trade, the Kaskellian threatened, "I will blow his head off, start war, if we do not get one hundred thousand Alosian gold bars and safe passage off planet!"

****
After retrieving his bag of gems from his grandfather's safe, Neu met Shaylyne, Mike, and Vik in front of a half a city block of a black stone building. Atop the entrance hung a three foot, dark red sign that read Rodolfo's, and under that Jewelry Store was written in red also but was a foot shorter. Ebony metal bars stretched across the windows to discourage thieves. However, blue, green, red, purple, and gems of various colors, shapes, and sizes glittered in the morning sun.
Upon entering, the quartet stepped on a white stone floor, and all around them gemstones, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and pendants sat in glass cases.

A heavyset, middle-aged man shoved aside strands of green and yellow beads and strutted into the front.

"Welcome to my humble shop" he boomed in a bass voice. "I am Rodolfo. And who do I have the pleasure of meeting?" His dark blue gaze landed on Vik.

"Vik Juleskova," she said and ambled up to the counter. "I have some gems I'd like to sell." She pulled a black cloth bag from her purse and dumped it on the counter. A dozen gems tumbled out. They were of various shapes, sizes, and colors--two pink squares, two yellow ovals, two dark green round ones, and six green and purple straight ones the size of a baby's finger.

The jeweler's eyes widened to the size of a dinner plate. "Where did you get these?"

"In secret location," Vik said.

"The same place we got ours," Mike said as he and his sister strode up next to Vik. "Mike and
Shaylyne Brimsen."

Mike emptied his bag on the counter, well away from Vik's. He and Shay only had three pale blue triangular stones and three purple squares.

Rodolfo examined each one with his loupe, making Vik and the Brimsens fair offers which they took.

"Neu Knotts," he said as the trio ambled around and gazing at the valuables. He poured his treasures onto the counter--one pink and round, three, crimson squares, three, dark green ovals, and two midnight blue triangles.

Again, Rodolfo scrutinized each

"I guess you won't tell me where you got them either,"

"Nope," he said.

"I can sell these easily, but I want a fifty percent commission,"

"Nope," Neu told him and scooped up his jewels. "Thanks for your time."

Before Rodolfo could protest, they marched from his shop.

Outside, Vik said, "I'll talk to mother and Lady Natalia. They each know ladies who would be interested. And probably the Gang of Nineties."

Neu's stomach growled.

"Let's go eat," Vik suggested and led them to Hyleen's Diner.

Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets

Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian--canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji--brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn--white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia--red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella--black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella--desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture

Dramatis Personae

Serria Stripeclaw--Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason-- Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova--Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen--Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready--Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan--Kaskellian, Keur's aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk--Kaskellian, Vik's mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn--Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria's boyfriend
Neu Knotts--Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth--Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force




Chapter 34
Dangerous People

By krprice

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

I need to call the bank to get that kind of money,” Georg said.
 
“Not you,” Rohn said. “Serria. She’s the only one I trust.” He grabbed Bethany by the neck, dragged her off to the corner, and pulled out a knife. Rohn pricked her neck, and blood trickled out.
 
How did they get into this building with a gun and a knife, Serria wondered. Maybe through a basement door or did they have a confederate, a mole, in the president’s office. That sent a chill through her if dozens of centipedes with icy feet danced down her spine, Bethany’s face turned ashen, and her lips trembled.
 
Rohn’s gaze darted around. Sweat dripped down his face. The Kaskellian neck corded, and his nostril flared. Keur’s hands turned white as he clutched the back of a chair.
 
“I need to make the call from the outer office,” Serria said. Mister President, do you have a code I can give the bank so they know I’m authorized to request the money?”
 
President Ahlberg snatched a piece of paper and pen before writing down a string of numbers and several words. “Ask for Tomas Milson. Those answering the phone will know what to do. When he comes on, read off this information. He’ll take care of everything.”
 
As he handed her the paper, the Kaskellian tried to grab it, but Serria seized it and ran from the inner office, shutting the door behind her.
 
“What’s your name?” Serria asked the secretary, huddling under her desk.
 
“Milly,” she said.
 
“Push your chair over to the door and sit in it, holding it closed,” Serria instructed.
 
Nodding her head, Milly did as told.
 
Serria’s first call was to Keur’s aunt and Vik’s mother.
 
“Hello,” Skerry said.
 
“This is Serria,” she said. “I have a situation at the president’s office. Do you know of someone I can call, someone I can trust, at the Kaskellian embassy here in Kondreal?”
 
Skerry was quiet for a moment, then said, “Ask for Gintus Chen. He’s the deputy head of the mission, economic and political agenda. Tell him Skerry Royk suggested him.” She gave Serria his comlink number.
 
“Thanks,” Serria said. After disconnecting, Serria dialed that recommended number.
 
“Hile,” a female voice said.
 
“This is Serria Stripelaw,” she said. “Please ask Deputy Chen if he will talk to me. Say I am a friend of Skerry Royk.”
 
“One moment,” the voice said.
 
Seconds later, a deep male came on the line. “Deputy Chen here. What is Skerry up to now?” He laughed.
 
“She lives outside of Kondreal,” Serria said, and then explained the situation.
 
“Do you know the name of the Kaskellian?”
 
“No,” she said and described him.
 
“Sounds like my cousin, Josin,” he said. “Always has been on the wrong side of the law. I’ll inform the ambassador of the problem. Get that money deal set up and call your local police force for help.”
 
“Thank you,” she said and cut the call.
 
Next, Serria tried to get a hold of Detective Dansforth. Since he didn’t answer, she had to leave a message.
 
Last, she got hold of the bank.
 
“This is Serria Stripeclaw calling on behalf of President Ahlberg,” she told him. “I’d like to speak to Tomas Milson.”
 
Seconds later, a man came on the line. “Tomas Milson.”
 
“The bridge over the Larinet River is broken and needs to be fixed,” the PI said, then read, “Six, eight, twelve, twenty nine, and sixty two.”
 
Tomas gasped. “Tell Georg the current on the Larinet is strong, and it is rising. Twelve, sixteen, twenty four, fifty eight, and one twenty four. Please write all that down and repeat.”
 
Serria did as commanded. Tomas broke the link.
 
She turned to Milly. “Get your purse and get out of here. Go home and lock your door.”
 
Milly jumped from the chair, grabbed her purse, and scurried from the room.
 
Serria tore up the first note in tiny pieces. She removed the chair, but before she could open the door, it was yanked open.
 
“Get it here,” Josin commanded, or I will shoot Bethany!”
 
With the new information in hand, Serria strode into the office. This time she found Bethany tied to one chair, her mouth taped shut. Keur was in another chair in the same situation, and the president had been imprisoned in his own chair.
 
Josin marched to the president and aimed the gun at his head.
 
President Ahlberg’s green gaze glared at Serria who read off the information. He nodded his head.
 
“Rohn, get that note,” Josin ordered.
 
Serria stuck it down her blouse.
 
Rohn hesitated, pressing his lips together in a slight grimace.
 
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Josin said. “Just rip her top open and snatch it.”
Rohn swallowed.
 
“He knows better than to try it,” Serria growled and narrowed her gaze on Josin.
Rohn swallowed again. “She’s a trained Crescenji warrior. I really don’t want to tangle with her.”
 
“Oh,” Josin said. “Didn’t know that.”
 
Serria leaned against the far wall. “Rohn, how did you get involved in this scheme?”
The man in question took a deep breath. “After losing my job at Charbessa Industries, I needed money, so I started stealing it from Bethany’s account.”
 
Bethany’s eyes shot him a blaze of anger.
 
“The Syndicate caught me.”
 
Josin gave him a poisonous look and threw a paperweight at Rohn’s head. He managed to dodge it.
 
“Shut up,” Josin spat. “Or I’ll shoot you first.”
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 35
Some strings hanging

By krprice

Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.

With three of them tied up, Josin had sidled his way around the desk and moved closer to Serria. He probably figured she was the greatest threat, she thought, and he was right. Time passed in silence until a Kaskellian man strode in, holding a satchel to his chest. A mantle of authority wrapped around him like a cloak.
 
“What kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into now?” the man asked.
 
“Shut up, Wilfur,” Josin growled, marched over, and tried to seize the satchel. “Just give me the money and tell me how we’re to get off planet.”
 
“I am Wilfur Renn,” he said to all. “Kaskellian Ambassador.” Then he turned to Josin. “I want an explanation of your actions before you get anything.”
 
Josin scowled and then shrugged. “The Syndicate got the idea to addict as many people as possible so they can sway them to their cause, whatever that is. They caught Rohn stealing from Bethany. So we decided to use his knowledge of chemistry to create candy with some addictive substance and wrap it in green paper. However, I decided to use this opportunity to get rid of kids since I hate the little brats.” He paused and took a breath.
 
Both Serria and Wilfur scowled at him, and Georg’s eyes widened.
 
“Anyway, I got help from another scientist, and he suggested putting some heart medicine into candy. That would surely kill a bunch of kids. We did that and shipped it through Tandra’s shop.”
 
Before anyone else got to say anything, someone flung open the door, and Gwyn Prequin barged in. “What’s agoing on?”
 
Josin’s gaze focused on the newcomer, so Serria kicked out and knocked the gun from his hand, and then wrapped her arm around his neck. He lifted his foot backward to try to hit her groin.
 
“Don’t even try it,” she snarled. “I could snap your neck before you could do anything about it.”
 
“I’ve got immunity,” Josin pleaded. “I work for the embassy.”
 
“Not anymore,” Wilfur said. “You’re fired.”
 
Rohn scrambled to the door just as Detective Danforth and his team entered.
 
“Rohn Gossen and Josin Chen, you’re both under arrest for murder not just on Alosia, but multiple other planets,” the detective said.
 
Serria let Josin go as two officers surround him, but he spun around to her. “You’d better watch your back all the time. The Syndicate will get you.”
 
“Not if we get them first,” Serria snapped.
While the duo was carted away, Wilfur released the president. Serria untied her partner and Bethany.
 
“So, Serria, what’s going on?” Gwyn asked, tablet in hand.
 
“Talk to Detective Dansforth,” Serria told her. “We have no comment here.”
 
Another officer pushed Gwyn from the office and shut the door.
 
President Ahlberg hugged everyone. “Thank you.”
 
“All right,” Detective Dansforth said and perched on the president’s desk. “I want to hear everyone’s statement.”
 
Once that was done, Serria, Keur, and Bethany left the building with the assemblywoman heading for her office.
 
On their way to the shuttle station, Serria’s comlink chimed.
 
“This is Walter Langendorfer,” he said. I just want you to know an investigation has been started into the Disability Services. It seems like someone has uncovered major fraud there and has been going on for five years. It seems like your looking into the situation prompted it.”
 
“Well, I wouldn’t have started it without your hiring of us,” she said. “And Keur deserves more of the credit than me.”
 
“Thank you to both of you.”
 
“You’re welcome.”
 
Once she hung up, she told Keur the news. By then they were seated on the shuttle.
 
“Good to know those men who served Alosia are taken care of.”
 
“Yes, I agree.”
****
Fourteen days later, Serria, Keur, Vik, Rogel, Shaylyne, Mike, Skerry, Aunt Lieu, Tandra, and her attorney, Franz Henderson gathered in the Pretentious Purple Prequin meeting room. Platters of pastries both from the Prequin’s kitchen and Clincy’s, which Tandra supplied, filled the table along with bright blue teapots full of tea, matching cups, saucers, plates, silver and other necessities for eating breakfast.
 
Once everyone had settled with their drinks and food, Serria stood. “This tale starts with grief of several parents suing Tandra over the deaths of their children. But it concludes with the perpetrators arrested. They still have to go to trial on several planets, but Rohn is telling his side to anyone who will listen.” She paused to sip some citrusy tea. “While he never made any of the deadly candy, he did help Josin by hacking into Tandra’s website and telling him of her delivery schedule. And he was making addictive goodies. With Jetahn and Kaskellia in chaos, I doubt those two will go to trial there. While Alosia and Muswella do not have the death penalty, Crescenji does. I expect Josin will get that, and Rohn will be spending the rest of his life in prison on some world, probably on my homeworld.” She finished off her tea, refilled her cup, and drank more. “If it wasn’t for Skerry’s and Aunt Lieu’s fortunate discovery of Rohn, I doubt Keur and I would have solved it. Thanks to all who helped.”
 
She sat but Tandra stood. “I also want to thank everyone. Because of their hard work and assistance, I am giving Serria, Keur, Skerry, and Lieu a lifetime of unlimited supply of products from my shop. Just don’t rob me blind, you two.” Tandra pointed to Serria and Keur then plopped.
 
Everyone laughed.
 
“No, we won’t,” Keur said. “If we did that, where would we get all our sweets?”
 
They laughed again and chatted as they enjoyed their morning meal.
 
****
  Rogel and Vik adjourned to her ship after their meal and relaxed on two chairs.                                                                                   
 
“I had several of my men examine those ketones you gave, me,” Rogel said. “They put them through every test they could think of short of destroying them.” He held out the three, round, silverish, metal disks. “They are very light, and they appear to be indestructible. I would bet Knotts Shipyard would be interested in a large quantity of them to build ships. Not to mention the military. They weighed them against the metals used to make aircars and anything else they could think of, and they came up half the weight.”
 
“Sounds like the Relonquins could become very rich from mining this stuff,” Vik said.
 
“They sure could,” Rogel said. “And I’m more than willing to help them.” He grinned.
“Oh, I’m sure you are.”
 
He handed her the ketones, and she rose, heading to the back and securing them.
 
Once she returned, they found something more pleasurable to occupy their time.
 
****
After everyone but Serria, Keur, and Neu had left, they sat closer together.
 
“I will buy into that new ship you want, and become a partner,” Serria announced.
 
“Thank you,” the two men said.
 
“You won’t be sorry,” Keur commented.
 
“This here new trading company needs a name,” Neu said. “But I don’t have any ideas.”
 
“We’ll have to think on that,” Serria said.
 
“Well, I’ll go talk to grandpappy and arrange to have one built,” Neu said, stood, and left.
 
“I have been jealous of you and Neu,” Keur said. “You both have companions, and I don’t. I was immature, and I apologize.”
 
“We need to find you a girlfriend,” Serria said. And I have someone in mind.
 
They stood, hugged, and strode from the room at peace with each other.
 
THE END
 
Dramatis Personae of Deadly Sweets
 
Cultures of Deadly Sweets
Alosian—canary yellow skinned, Nordic culture
Crescenji—brown-skinned, warrior culture
Jetahn—white-skinned, Russian culture
Kaskellia—red/crimson skinned, Chinese culture
Muswella—black-skinned, Scottish culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Meiglan, Islamic culture
Muswella—desert, brown-skinned, Nutmeigs, Radical Islamic culture
 
Dramatis Personae
 
Serria Stripeclaw—Crescenji Warrior, private investigator, partnered with Keur
Keur Matiason— Half Alosian, half Kaskellian, computer expert, private investigator, partnered with Serria
Vik Juleskova—Half Jetahni, half Kaskellian, trader, owner of RAINBOW DREAMS
Mike Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Shaylyne Brimsen—Alosian, trader, co-owns the SILVER MOON
Alyci McCready—Muswellan, black-skinned, agent at Thair and Thatt Agency
Lieu Kwan—Kaskellian, Keur’s aunt, famous for her teas
Skerry Royk—Kaskellian, Vik’s mother, bioengineering specialist
Rogel Irriksohn—Alosian, rich, owner of Irriksohn Corporation
Mak Redtail-- Crescenjian, doctor on Alosian Space Station, Serria’s boyfriend
Neu Knotts—Alosian, rich, trading partner with Keur Matiason, owner of BRIGHT STAR
Hans Dansforth—Alosian, detective on Kondreal Police Force
 
 
                                                                                                                            
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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