The shape-shifting robot could be aboard the platinum spaceship. If it is, Detective Brin must find the ship and capture his fugitive. The only beings on Wacev, the Dooyen, fishermen, and fisherwomen, spend most of their time at sea. Because Brin doesn’t know any of them, getting these strangers to help him find the platinum ship will be a challenge.
It was the year 4021. As the ITC, the interplanetary transport craft, I was in started orbiting the planet Cirok, preparing to land on it, Tesk’s face appeared in my contact lenses. He frowned. “A few minutes ago, an SP satellite that was in Wacev’s outer atmosphere detected the platinum ship.”
I said, “Is it an ITC, a PTC or a combination?” PTC, planetary transport carriers, always ferried passengers to and from a moon or planet’s surface. Below his face, text indicated that an ocean called the Veld covered ninety percent of Wacev, one of Cirok’s moons. SP, scan and probe satellite’s RGB, visible light, cameras, UV, ultraviolet, instruments, and MS—motion sensitive—software detected movement and specific shapes, then stored that information on forty trillion databases.
“The platinum ship’s model type isn’t on any of our databases. At any rate, it uncloaked for twenty seconds, sixty miles above the Veld before the SP detected it. We named this spacecraft the Hode. Then it vanished, cloaked. This mission will be called Hode.”
I nodded. On many missions, Tesk told me to use code names because suspects might be intercepting our messages. In my lenses, a map of Wacev—a celestial body with twenty-five islands—along with text, and videos, enlarged. The only humanoid race on it, the Dooyen, short fishermen, and fisherwomen with mauve skin, most of it partly covered by green streaks, spent most of their time at sea. “Understood.”
“You’ll leave for Wacev in forty minutes.”
I glowered. “Will any of the Dooyen know who I am?”
“No. In order to make you less conspicuous, you’ll wear a suit made of palm tree bark and eel skin, an outfit that is similar to theirs. There are three devices in this suit. One is in its sleeve. The next, in your collar. The last, in its back. The first, a laser, cuts holes in walls. To activate it, say, open five.”
I paused, curious.
“The second ejects a bomb. It explodes two minutes after being launched. To use it, say activate six. If you jump out of an airborne craft, the third, a parachute will come out of the back of your suit. When you land in any body of water, the parachute will change into a raft and inflate. All three devices are cloaked, hard for most scanners to detect.”
I clenched my teeth, upset by this dangerous mission. “Why don’t you send UA’s?” In many cases, Utility Androids assisted me. On four murder cases, where a moon’s air was filled with foot-long wasps—insects with venom that would kill any detective—they sent in UA’s.
“We did, two months ago. They broke down six hours after landing on Raos, an island that is two thousand miles south of your next destination, Eoh Island.”
“Was that a reconnaissance mission?”
“Why did they break down?”
“Cenn, your pilot, will answer that.”
“Do whatever you can to find the Hode. Then figure out what its crew is doing. If the nanites or the shape-shifting robot are aboard, and you can’t arrest them, contact a PTC, and we’ll send EB’s to help you.”
“What if I can’t find the Hode?”
He scowled. “Then we’ll replace you.”
My stomach muscles tightened, an irritated response. “Do you have any more information regarding the Hode?” When necessary, EB’s, enforcement back up teams used fast spacecraft, drones, software and weapons, expensive equipment, to arrest and detain murderers, drug dealers, and other fugitives.
“No. Its cloaking is so effective that this SP satellite can’t provide any more information.”
I bit my lip, irritated. “Are its engines leaving any heat trails?”
“It’s a sophisticated ship.” Why didn’t it leave any? Every spacecraft I knew about did.
I put on the suit that Tesk mentioned. The Stea, an oblong ITC, docked on the Syme, a triangular PTC. Its hatch clicked open. I stepped inside the Syme and sat next to the pilot, an Aito humanoid with blue skin. Within seconds, our ship, one in Wacev’s outer atmosphere dropped, bound for the Veld.
He announced, stony-faced, “They call me Cenn.”
He spoke in a monotone, “Far too often, humans are upset, don’t think enough. When they act, this accident-prone race makes too many mistakes.”
I winced, annoyed by his cynical attitude. “Do you have any updates regarding the Hode or its crew?”
“No. However, I just exported a database into your lenses. According to it, five different spacecraft have explored Wacev. I don’t know what they did during their expeditions. However, SP’s archives will provide some answers.”
“Are you going to land on the Veld?”
“No. When we’re three miles above it, you’ll parachute down. After reaching the surface, your motorized raft will inflate, and you’ll head for Eoh, where most of the Dooyen live.”
“Why won’t you take me to Eoh?”
“Two hours ago, viroids in this moon’s atmosphere mutated. At this point in time, they would destroy Syme’s engines long before we reached Eoh.”
I took a deep breath, trying to relax. “Did the other ships make it to Wacev’s surface without any problems?”
“They made it. However, because of my busy schedule, I don’t know what happened after they arrived. Archive Eight will provide that information.”
I nodded, blinking as I worried.
“Unfortunately, in the last nine years, viroids in many parts of this moon’s atmosphere have mutated. According to an SP computer simulation, eight months ago, sixteen minutes after three PTC’s entered Wacev’s atmosphere, the mutated microorganism destroyed their engines, and all three crashed in the Veld.”
I flinched. “Why didn’t any PTC’s help them?”
“Because all three were too far away from any spacecraft.”
My stomach muscles tightened, an angry response. “You’re telling me that the captains of all three tried their best and failed.”
“Yes. Denig’s captain sent out fifteen s.o.s. messages. Two hours after the Denig crashed in the Veld, killing all aboard, Bou’s captain responded to the s.o.s.”