Mission Born of Sorrow
Characters: Margaret Morgan, Daanike
Morgan ran at once in the direction of the cry. The young Huka was standing over the body of an adult, sprawled awkwardly across the planking of the shop’s floor. The glossy shell that covered the center of her back had an ugly scorch and crack through it, and her head also looked to be cracked. Dark blood was soaking the grey fur.
The young Huka turned toward Morgan, ears pressed back toward her head, chattering madly in her own language.
Morgan could understand the problem – there were days she had trouble with Interlac. Unfortunately, she couldn’t understand the young Huka. “Did you see what happened?”
The young Huka shook her head hard, taking a deep, shuddering breath. When she spoke again, she had managed to remember her Interlac, a little. “I … I found her like this … just now.”
Beside them, Daanike had hurried up, and was kneeling beside the body, looking it over carefully. She looked up at Morgan. “I think she’s dead,” she said, speaking in Adronato. “But I don’t know her species well enough to be certain. We need a Huka healer.”
Morgan nodded. Gently, she asked in Interlac. “Can you go find a healer, one of your people?”
The young Huka nodded and took off at top speed.
Morgan shook her head and looked around for any sign of what might have led to this.
Daanike remained where she was, kneeling at the head of the fallen Huka. She began to chant softly in Adronato as Morgan looked around the room. The space behind the counter seemed undisturbed, no sign of anything having been taken, nor a struggle.
Near the body was another of the brightly lit cases, containing a variety of plants. The door had been wrenched open, Morgan realized — it looked like one of the hinges was broken. And the display of plants inside appeared as if a tornado had blown through it.
She frowned. Who would be interested in destroying plants — or stealing plants — to the point of murdering to do it?
A moment later, the door to the shop burst open again, and four Huka entered — the young one who had been their guide, two adult females right behind her. The fourth, who followed a few steps behind, stood head and shoulders above the rest, thin fur and a thinner body accentuating the difference in height.
As the two adult females hurried over to the fallen Huka, the fourth approached Morgan, speaking in English. “Greetings, Anla’shok. What has happened here? I fear young Kimi has not been able to explain much, and no wonder.”
“We don’t know ourselves, yet. She led us here, searching for a particular plant, and discovered this.”
One of the adult females called over, a few words in the Huka language. The tall ears of the Huka Morgan was speaking to drooped. “Their sister is dead. This is a terrible sorrow. I am hukapanepane, a father of fathers, having seen nearly my second full cycle of the suns. Yet in all my memory, such a thing has happened to us only once before.”
He looked at Morgan, and over to Daanike, who was speaking in low tones with the two adult females. “The two of you — you are both Anla’shok, are you not?”
“We are. She is a healer too.” She gestured to Daanike.
“We have heard of the Anla’shok. You seek for truths that are hidden, in dangerous places. Will you help us seek out the truth of this horror?”
“We will,” Morgan said immediately. “It is our duty.”
“Good, and you have our thanks.” The Huka called over the two females, and spoke a few words in their language. They turned to face Morgan. “This is Gahara, of the colony of Guardians. She and her people are what you would call police, or law enforcement.”
Gahara, who was nearly as tall as the elderly male, bared her teeth and bowed. Her fur was long and sleek, with far more black than brown. Her eyes were a luminous grey, almost like silver.
Morgan returned the bow. “Greetings. What can we do to help?”
Gahara looked toward the other female Huka, who spoke a few words. “This is Heialani, of the Colony of Growers,” Gahara said, speaking in Interlac. “She is a healer of our people, and Kiluloa who is dead was her sister. She wishes to know if your healer has experience in studying the dead for information. Such experience, as our father of fathers has told you, is so rarely needed among our people.”
She looked at Daanike. “I believe so. It is in our duties more often than I care to say.”
Daanike nodded, and said, “My skills are at your disposal, of course.”
Gahara said, “Then if you will assist Heialani, we will find someone to translate for you. I will send someone to bring Kiluloa’s body to the Growers’ House, and until then, perhaps we should see if there is anything we can learn in her shop.”
Morgan points out the show case. “I saw this almost immediately. Of course, I don’t know if anything is missing.”
Gahara nodded and spoke to the male Huka, who acknowledged her and left the building, with the young Kimi in tow. “When Kiluloa’s sisters come for her, he will see to it that at least one knows the shop, so we may learn.”
She rubbed behind her ears with one short fingered hand. “I will have to ask you many questions about how off-worlders do things,” she admitted to Morgan. “But I do not rule out the possibility that one of our own has killed Kiluloa.”
“I understand. I regret this is how I shall learn about your people.”
“It will, perhaps, be a more accurate picture than might otherwise have been,” Gahara said. “I hope that at least I shall have the opportunity to learn more about your people, and the Anla’shok. My Colony in particular has heard much of you.”
“I am honored. We likely have many duties in common.”
“Where should be begin, in looking about and documenting this … scene?” Gahara asked.
Morgan had to consider – this was more Darquin’s territory than hers, though she had some idea how to do it. “We’ve disturbed some things inadvertently, but we should take some pictures, to preserve how things looked.”
“I have an imager with me,” Gahara said. She went to a small satchel she had brought with her, and began taking pictures with a camera that seemed much like the Huka’s other technology — elaborately designed, with an almost organic feel to it.
As Gahara began taking pictures of the body, Daanike came over to Morgan, speaking quietly in Adronato. “Even on our own business, a mission seems to have come to us,” she said.
“Yes. That seems to be how it always is.”
“Should we report back to the Shok’na?”
“For certain. You do that, as you are waiting. I think Gahara will be finished in a moment.”
Daanike nodded and stepped toward the front of the shop, as three Huka entered. The general color and pattern of their fur suggested they belonged to the Colony of Growers, related to the healer and the dead shopkeeper.
After a brief conference with Gahara, two of them loaded the dead Huka onto a stretcher and carried her away, with the healer following. Pausing at the doorway, they waited for Daanike. She offered a nod to Morgan, a quick, “I believe you and Gahara are to join us later,” and then was gone.
Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.