The Saturn Conundrum

 

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Prologue

 Dana woke in a cold sweat, it hadn't been the first time this week either. Every time the same dream, lightning splitting a great oak tree, the flames causing wooden figures in the likeness of gods of old to catch alight, their ash scattering in the winds that followed.

"What is it?" her husband asked drowsily, rolling onto his side to look at her, "the dreams again?" he offered when she didn't reply.

"Yes" she replied quietly, she would've put the nightmares down to her recent round of rejuvenation treatment, but her husband Jacob seemed unfazed.

"What do you think it means?" she asked, slipping out of bed and pulling on a dressing gown over her naked body, the sleeve catching on her magnetic gauntlet.

"Who knows, this is the second time you've had these episodes, perhaps it's an adverse reaction to the treatments," he ventured, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

Dana poured herself a little wine from a bottle left over after their evening meal, downing the liquid in one. Life in the colonies was hard, but they could afford life's luxuries on Jacob's salary... like the rejuvenation treatment, few ninety-five-year-olds looked to be in their twenties.

"It'll pass, just like last time" Jacob reassured her, hugging her from behind and kissing her neck gently.

She put her glass down knowing what this would lead to as he untied her gown, then the early morning alarm sounded breaking the mood completely.

"Duty calls" he sighed, kissing her as the shutters rose up.

The sight always took her breath away, the swirling clouds around Saturn as beautiful as they were dangerous. By the time her husband had dressed the space station had already completed a full rotation as it orbited the gas giant, sporadic blue flashes prickled against the force field as meteors impacted against it.

"How do I look?" Jacob asked. She sauntered over to him, tucking his navy blue tie under his collar.

"Like the most handsome Earth Ambassador in the galaxy," she smiled, kissing him.

"And after today's deal, we can finally go home," he smiled.

"Truly?" she asked with scepticism, squeezing him tightly.

"Truly, the Prime Minister wants me for Minister of New Anglica".

Dana couldn't believe it, three decades away from Earth had made her long for home, though she had become rather fond of Saturn's odd and dangerous beauty.

Jacob went over to their large window as she leaned happily against a supporting beam... she was going home.

Suddenly someone dropped in front of her husband, raising a pistol quickly, "For the colonies!" they shouted, cast out from a suit radio, distorting their voice. Then came a piercing sound of a laser, a clean hole burning through Jacob's head, she screamed and several of her husband's bodyguards ran in weapons drawn. The murderer turned their pistol on the window and fired, within seconds the reinforced glass broke apart, pulling the assailant out with the atmosphere. Dana grabbed hold of the support beam as tightly as she could before her magnetic gauntlet clamped her to the beam, the bodyguards gauntlets also activated, locking them to the floor before they could fire. She looked out to see a ship catch the murderer, her husband's body locked to the counter. Then after that brief second the emergency shutters slammed shut, her aide ran in a moment later, panicked, and justifiably so.

"Dana what happened?".

"He's dead Jack, dear God he's dead...It was the colonies, Jack, they killed him made sure we knew!" She cried, only one thing was certain now she knew, war was coming.

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Chapter1

 Telamon looked over the scene, nearly everything not bolted to the floor had been sucked out into space. There were teams looking, sure, but any evidence would be so brittle it would shatter, even under the stations  advanced instruments. Murders were so hard to get away with these days he mused, made sense that the first one in ten years would be so elaborate, what puzzled him more was that the ship Dana Pierce had mentioned was nowhere to be found, and hadn't shown up on station sensors. If her husband's bodyguards hadn't also mentioned it he'd have thought her hysterical, though five minutes with her told him she was as tough as old boots.

"What you make of it gaffer?" Matt asked him expectantly. 

Matt Helm was from Earth, wasn't sure which area and didn't particularly care, the lad seemed competent enough in the few weeks they'd worked together... though he still had a bad habit of asking the stupid questions you normally kept to yourself.

"Well," he replied, rolling over Jacob Pierce's body, "I'd say he was shot in the head with a point twelve laser pistol and died almost instantaneously."

Telamon had seen all sorts of laser weapon damage during his years in drug enforcement in Eurasia on Earth.  The great thing about lasers was that every one of them carried a unique burn pattern logged on construction. That said, certain weapons had a common pattern and the point twelve was a personal favourite of contract killers due to it's size and power, anything bigger and there'd have been no head left.

"We're not gonna find out anything from here anyways," he said after a minute. 

He waved in the cleaning crew and they carefully put the victim into a body bag before sealing it up with a vacuum pump. Telamon left the room with Matt, turning away from the gathered press waiting down the hall.

"This is the last thing we need," he muttered.

"Investigator Wei" he heard his name called, Telamon despised people using his surname.

"Captain Gillard, what a pleasant surprise," he said with as much sarcasm as could be mustered.

"I'm sure, follow me, now... both of you!".

They followed along down bland, plated corridors and several reinforced glass windows. After the previous few hours events the sight of so much glass made him nervous, bad way to die in the depths of space... alone. After nearly twenty minutes the three of them passed by a team of armed officers, each carrying a laser rifle with a suppression prism. The prism, in theory, should weaken the beam and stop any breaches in the station bulkheads. Both he and Matt were disarmed a little further on, though they had point fives, which could barely wound anyone at more than four meters, a byproduct of overzealous officers years back that abused the colonists. Captain Gillard ushered them into his office quickly and locked the door with a slide of his key-card.

"I'll cut to the chase gentlemen, do you know who was just murdered?" He asked, eyeing both men suspiciously.

"Some rich suit I'm guessing," Matt said without thinking.

The captain sighed and folded his arms, he glowered at the young man fiercely.

"He was the Earth ambassador, maybe only a few days from concluding negotiations for gas collection rights on Saturn. And according to his wife he was to be the minister of New Anglica. So a real big deal Matt," Telamon explained, his understanding easing the captain's frustration with Matt.

"That's all true, the part we're currently trying to suppress is that the killer shouted out 'for the colonies' before escaping capture,"

Telamon sat back in his chair, he knew what the captain knew.

"What does that matter?" Matt asked, though he could be excused on this account, the gas deal had been thirty years in the making and Matt would know little of previous events. 

"Because young man, thirty years ago a ceasefire was reached between the New Earth Confederation and the colonies... part of that ceasefire was the negotiation of gas rights on Saturn. Therefore, the colonies attacking the lead negotiator is an act of war," the captain explained slowly but strongly.

"So basically, once the cat's out of the bag we have maybe a week until we're totally fucked," Telamon finished, 'sometimes you regret waking up' he thought.

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Chapter 2

 Telamon left the captain's office alone. Matt was being given a hard briefing on what would be expected of him on this case and he felt bad for the kid. Failure to deliver the culprit would be disastrous for everyone. Even if he could produce the murderer there was a good chance that a high up colonist paid for the hit, war had been profitable back in the day after all. He passed by the armed officers again who handed him back his pistol that he slid back into the holster at his hip. He made his way through the investigators bullpen and sat heavily at his desk, the bolted chair creaking under his weight. Telamon's data screen lit up as he gazed at it, scanning his eyes to decrypt it. 

"Good evening officer Wei, there are currently six messages awaiting your attention," the screen informed him as the display threw up the messages in sequence. Several were from his wife Hannah on Mars, it was the same as always, when would he be home next, had he gotten a transfer out yet. He took a deep breath before replying, Telamon wanted to be home desperately, but posts on Mars were rare. Though perhaps solving this case would earn him merit enough to leave. The next message caused him to lean forward intently, his original deduction of the laser pistol had been wrong. The signature was an unregistered one, that meant the pistol was home made and twice as powerful as the next message from ballistics confirmed.

"Shit," he muttered under his breath.

The weapon had such an intensity it had hard fused the victims brains to his skull, not a single cell could be recovered and a toxicology impossible without samples being sent to Earth.

"Anything helpful come through?" Matt asked as he took a seat beside him.

"Nothing yet, I have a couple messages left though, hopefully something will come up good for us."

And for once it did, he stared intently at the screen making sure he wasn't misreading.

"Seems we caught a break, a sales representative from Earth Core Industries has a DNA re-sequencer, seems the lab requested a test and just happened to use our victims sample. Kenneth requires us down there A.S.A.P. though," Telamon explained as he read through the last of the message. He logged out and got up, that last message would have to wait he thought as they rushed down to toxicology.

Leaving the elevator, Telamon slid his key-card through the reader and the door slid up with a hiss. He recoiled violently as a smell of burning hit him.

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