Dust on a Whole Species
Characters: Margaret Morgan
One of the names from the shop’s purchase records matched one the Rangers knew. Baz’hak, a Drazi who generally worked as hired muscle.
She sniffed, tapped the screen for Gahara to see. “This one is trouble.”
The Huka looked over the entry carefully. “I can’t read all of this,” she confessed, “but I can tell my sisters to look for him, to ask some questions.”
“He is often… The term we use is ‘hired muscle’. Someone pays him, for protection, or to silence someone.”
“So if it was he who killed Kilaloa, it was likely at someone else’s request. That someone, we would also have to find.” She looked at the entry, flattening her ears back against her head for a moment. “Does your information have anything about his … associates? Employers?”
“A number of them. However, that doesn’t tell us much – he isn’t very… particular about who he works for.”
“Then we must find him. And gather the other information we are waiting on.”
“Yes. It may only be coincidence, but we cannot overlook it.”
Gahara nodded, washing down her last flat cake with a mouthful of lapono brew as she reached for the communications box, on the table next to the computer.
While Gahara was doing that, Morgan finished eating, flipping through the names again, in case something had been missed. None of them seemed to have any real significance, so she noted the details on Baz’hak again. The Rangers had seen him last on Abbai, working for a Gaim who was dealing in designer drugs.
Small universe, she thought, drumming her fingers on the table, thinking and waiting.
Gahara had made several short calls, speaking rapidly in the purrs and clicks of her native language. Finally she put the comm box away and looked back at Morgan. “The rest of the Guardians of Uvew will be on the watch for this Baz’hak,” she said. “If they see him, they will detain him and bring him to us. Through the Speakers, the Guardians of our other spaceport will also be told of this.
“Heialani and your companion Daanike are still examining Kilaloa’s body. They will contact me as soon as they have some conclusions for us. But the inventory of Kilaloa’s shop is done, so if you wish, we can return there and find out exactly what was missing — for I am told that something was indeed taken.”
“Yes, I am quite interested in that – the last time the Rangers met this one, he was working for a pharmaceutical maker.”
Gahara paused in repacking her satchel. “Pharmaceuticals?”
“Illegal ones, I am afraid to say.”
The fur across the back of Gahara’s neck stood up, and her ears flattened against her head. She spat out several words in her own language before she regained control of herself. “Forgive me,” she said. “You must understand — the idea of some sort of drugs being introduced into our society — it is one of the Guardians’ worst nightmares.”
“Do not apologize to me, Guardian. It is a frightening thing.”
Gahara nodded, finishing her packing quickly. “Come, let us see what has been taken from Kilaloa’s shop.”
Morgan stood to follow. Gahara moved quickly, downstairs and through the colony’s house, back out to where her scooter was waiting. Barely waiting for Morgan to catch up and jump aboard, she fired the controls and zipped out of the courtyard.
Morgan bared her teeth, understanding the sentiment, and half-enjoying the challenge as well, in spite of the situation.
“I have read about the effects of drugs in human societies,” Gahara said, shouting over her shoulder. “The Opium Wars, crack cocaine, Dust … the effects are devastating enough for your people. But imagine the effect on us, who are so tightly knit genetically, physiologically and socially.”
She slowed the scooter a little as they entered the Marketplace, and approached the plant shop. “It could wipe us out as a civilized species.”
“Dust on a whole species,” Morgan murmured. Aloud, she said, seriously, “That is a tragedy we cannot permit to occur.”
They entered the shop, where they found a Huka kneeling on the floor near the counter, wielding a heavy brush on the wooden planking. She gracefully leapt to her feet as Morgan and Gahara entered, and spoke quickly to Gahara in the Huka language. Morgan held back, listening, even though she didn’t understand the language.
Soon, Gahara turned back toward Morgan, a data crystal in her hand. “Kilumura has given me Kiluloa’s last inventory, the inventory she did just now, and the sales records for today,” she said. “She believes there are several specimens of a Markab-origin plant missing. They are quite rare these days, she says.”
“They would be, yes. Which one?”
Gahara put the crystal into her data tablet and worked the controls, consulting the lists, then showed Morgan a picture. “The Markab name for it is something like ‘prophet’s flower,'” she said.
She turned to Kilumara, having a brief exchange. “She doesn’t know much more than that — apparently Kiluloa was the expert on off-world plants,” Gahara reported to Morgan. “Kilumara knows all about our native plants, and perhaps some Minbari ones.”
“I can find out more from our science officers, I’m sure. It may take some time, however – most, if not all were looking forward to exploring your planet.” She smiled faintly.
Gahara nodded, baring her teeth in a smile. “Any information you can find, we would be grateful for,” she said. “I think I should go to the other shops in the marketplace that sell plants, and see if any of them have this prophet’s flower,” she said. “If so, they could be a target … or worse.”
“Please do. Where should we meet, and when?”
“At the Colony of Growers’ House, as soon as Heialani and Daanike have news for us,” Gahara said. “If I may have the frequency of your communications device, I can contact you if they do not.”
Morgan gave it to her gladly, then added. “Or call the Phoenix, if necessary. They can patch you through to me.”
Gahara nodded. “Thank you. I will see you again soon.” She turned and left the shop, moving quickly.
Copyright (c) 2004 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.