Slowly, deliberately, a light scalpel moved over cold flesh. “Tell me, do you fear death?” Mitholie, a brilliant Cresta renowned throughout the interplanetary scientific community, fixed his companion with a hard gaze as they stood in the bright-lit Crestar laboratory.
Taug, an up-and-coming apprentice, let a tentacle drift through the warm salt water of his bio-suit. His large, golden, watery eyes gazed coolly at the specimen lying suspended in the examination tube. “No. Why should I fear a void?” His eyes slowly rose to meet the elder’s scrutiny.
“Well—” Sensitive tentacles curled about the delicate equipment as Mitholie’s green eyes returned to the subject of their examination. “—your sociological profile says you…dislike death.” The light scalpel cut deeper, revealing bone. Mitholie’s mouth orifice lit up with a pleased smile.
Taug moved his bio-suit slightly nearer, bending over the examination tube. His eyes, lit by the dim, icy-blue lighting, flickered over the specimen. “I don’t fear death. I see it as a waste.”
“Yes. I calculate waste on how hard it is to retrieve lost data.” Taug sucked in water letting it drift slowly over his gills. “A brain sack once destroyed is gone, forever beyond our reach.”
Mitholie scanned each of the specimen’s organs carefully, individually. “But what if I no longer need that mind?”
“It’s hard to tell when and how something might be useful, or even worse, necessary.”
“You have an…intriguing mind.” Mitholie turned a lump of flesh in his tentacles.
Taug watched intently. “Beyond that, there is practical reality. I’m neither a trained soldier nor an assassin.” He gestured with waving tentacles, “Like you, science is my passion.”
“Your father’s pet project has been identified—alive.” Mitholie’s eyes remained fixed on his work, ignoring Taug.
Taug slowly exhaled water. “I would say that was impossible, but I know the High Tribunal must be certain or else you wouldn’t have told me.” His mouth orifice remained in a fixed smile. “Is this a favor? Am I being offered a chance to commit suicide before the messy business of torture, trial, and execution?”
Mitholie spasmed, his long body wiggling with glee, “No such dramatics, no.” His tentacles released the delicate equipment; he looked Taug in the eye. “The High Tribunal simply wishes you to…purge your father’s unfortunate experiment. That done, I’m sure this messy business can be consigned to the dark waters.”
Taug’s tentacles curled thoughtfully. “Forgotten?”
“I’ll need its location.”
With a flick of a tentacle to his bio-suit, Mitholie effected a transaction. “I’m transferring the data now. By the way, hiring another Cresta to kill it is…unadvised. The High Tribunal wishes the waves of the ‘humons’ to be kept tranquil, at least for now. Besides, you have contacts? Yes?”
Taug’s eyes moved swiftly, scanning the long streams of data crossing before his eyes. “Yes….”
Mitholie laid down his knife and stepped back. “Very good. I’ll go with you to the harbor dock.”
Taug stepped aside. “Thank you.”
Together they moved down the sterile, rounded, white hallway, deep in secretive conversation. Plugging their bio-suits into the wall jacks, they shed them, and came out on the other side of the wall free, gliding through dark water.
The human specimen floated in the examination tube, alone…
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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The premise is bold and daring, a promise of an equally bold tale — and the author does not disappoint in living up to that promise, introducing plot points that are robust and characters with depth. ~Cristina Prescott, The Book Commentary