Am Wochenende bekam ich die englische Übersetzung von “Eobal”, erstellt von Brian M. Scott. Der Roman dürfte irgendwann demnächst erscheinen, aber ich präsentiere Euch schon einmal exklusiv das erste Kapitel:
Henzschcot Dhloma was normally a pretty cheerful octopoid. Daxxel valued his humor, his almost instinctive good manners, and the fact that he kept his cool even in the diplomatic nightmare of Eobal.
Unfortunately, in his present condition Dhloma was not as cheerful as usual, and that would probably not change. Daxxel stared at his friend’s broken skull. He felt sick.
It was early in the morning. Daxxel had just opened the electronic lock of his little consulate – his job as the only organic member of the staff – and found Dhloma’s lifeless body in the foyer, covered with blood and stinking like a dead fish, which in a sense it indeed was.
Daxxel had never seen anything like it, and his stomach revolted as violently as his head. His emotions were a chaos of panic and helplessness, and for a bit the voice of reason on which the young diplomat had so prided himself tried in vain to reach the surface of his mind. After a few minutes, however, it asserted itself with a few clear words that released him from his trancelike state and restored some of his usual pragmatism.
Taking a deep breath despite the stench, he turned away, went into the office, and activated Nero, the mechanical member of the consular staff. This was a conical metal body topped by an almost human head that was made of elastoplast and was able to adapt its expression to the customs of different species. Nero acted primarily as receptionist, so this ability often came in handy, for all that business had been far from brisk.
No one on Eobal liked the Terrans.
The robot hummed, turned its head, and said in its pleasant voice, ‘Good morning, Consul. I hope you slept well.’
‘Fair to middling,’ grunted Daxxel. ‘But this morning’s done me in.’
Nero blinked his almost human eyes. ‘Sir?’
‘Go out to the foyer. Don’t touch anything. Record everything. Call Eobal Security and tell them that there’s been a murder.’
‘Murder?’ Daxxel had always had an aversion to these protocol robots – above all to their mannerisms. Instead of carrying out a clear order, they occasionally had to show off their quasi-intelligence with unnecessary questions.
‘Just do it!’
Daxxel sat down and buried his face in his hands. For a moment a feeling of loss once more overpowered him, and he threatened to sink into immobility again. Since he had assumed office six months earlier, Dhloma had been the only being in this generally hostile environment with whom he could converse more or less normally and without mistrust. That was not just because Turulia and the Galactic Act had for years been close allies: rather, it was due above all to the situation on this planet, which was more than a bit frustrating for both diplomats. Eobal was a distant rim world and a trading centre for goods and services that were considered illegal both on Earth, the capital of the Act, and on Turulia, so they were continually faced with suspicion, dislike, mistrust, and ignorance. To make matters worse, the Caliphate enjoyed markedly greater sympathy, which contrasted nicely with the fact that sooner or later it would go to war with Terra. It was just a matter of time. Not a matter of days or weeks, but most certainly not of years, either.
Now Dhloma was dead. Murdered. He certainly hadn’t smashed his own skull; you didn’t have to be a criminal investigator to determine that. Found in the foyer of Daxxel’s consulate. That gave the incident a special character. Daxxel was thoroughly shattered. It did not help that Nero came humming back into the office and declared, ‘He is dead, Consul!’
‘Oh, right, didn’t I say so?’ Daxxel sighed. ‘The Security Service?’
‘They will send someone shortly.’
Eobal’s police forces were known for the same virtues as the local government: corruption, sloth, incompetence, and arrogance. Crime was a part of everyday life on Eobal, and no one cared. The fact that they even bothered to dispatch someone had more to do with fundamentally political considerations than with any serious interest in the solution of a murder and the hunt for a culprit. This was, after all, the consulate of the Act. On no account would anyone here pass up an opportunity to wash a bit of dirty laundry at Terra’s expense. Some were already rubbing their hands.
‘Did you kill him?’ asked Nero.
Daxxel looked up into the utterly innocent face of his mechanical colleague, shook his head, and said in a thin voice, ‘No. I did not. Damn it, Nero, I am certainly the last person who would have killed poor Dhloma.’
‘Eobal Security might have a different opinion.’
The robot, whose quasi-intelligence enabled it to construct certain causal chains on the basis of its own experience, was not wrong. The local government might come to the conclusion that this incident could be exploited political to drive a wedge between old friends. And if Eobal didn’t think of it, Meran certainly would. Suddenly Daxxel felt even worse. The sequence of events that might follow was as terrifying as it was depressing.
He did not want to go back into the foyer, but when the electronic chiming announced a visitor, he swallowed his revulsion. He took pains not to look at the floor.
When he was past the octopoid’s corpse, he reached for the button to open the door and asked himself how Dhloma – or his murderer – could possibly have got inside the consulate without breaking open the door. So far as Daxxel knew, he was the only one with the entry code – he and perhaps also the Foreign Office way back on Earth. He hadn’t noticed any signs of forceful entry.
Daxxel summoned up a smile to greet the expected police – Eobalians were of human origin and understood the expression – and froze in place when the door slid open.
He was looking not into the face of a policeman, but at an impeccably uniformed young woman. She came to attention and saluted. It took Daxxel a moment to realize that he was well-acquainted with the uniform. If he was not mistaken, the young woman was a sergeant in the Terran Marines.
‘Oh, no – I completely forgot about you!’ he exclaimed before the woman could say anything. ‘You’re my bodyguard!’
The marine seemed to be thrown off balance for a moment, but she immediately pulled herself together and replied in a clear voice, ‘Sergeant Josefine Zant, Marine Detachment to the Terran Consulate on Eobal, reporting for duty, sir.’
Daxxel nodded. The increasing tension between Meran and the Earth had led to the decision to provide diplomatic missions with more effective protection, even his insignificant little consulate. He had actually forgotten about it, especially the arrival time. Mind you, it had been two months since the notification. Nero should have reminded him.
‘Come on in. You’re too late.’
‘Too late? I was to arrive today –’
‘Too late to prevent this.’
Daxxel stepped aside to reveal the corpse. The sergeant stared at the lifeless body.
Real self-control, thought Daxxel, watching the soldier’s attractive oval face.
‘He’s dead,’ she said decidedly.
Daxxel sighed again. ‘It’s always nice to work with competent people.’
Sergeant Zant was obviously not much impressed by sarcasm.
‘I passed the exobiology course at the Diplomatic Academy with distinction, Consul. This Turulian died of suffocation.’
‘He died of a massive skull fracture.’
‘No, he was already dead when the trauma was inflicted.’
Daxxel’s interest was now aroused.
‘Yes, sir. May I?’
Zant knelt without waiting for an answer. She pointed to one of the corpse’s eight tentacles. ‘Do you see the greenish discoloration at the tip?’
‘Indeed,’ he murmured. Dhloma’s skin was normally various shades of blue. Daxxel’s unwillingness to take a good look at the corpse had kept him from noticing the change. Never mind that it wouldn’t have told him anything anyway.
‘An indication of death by suffocation,’ the soldier explained. ‘The tentacles change color when hypoxia sets in.’
‘As for example after a skull fracture.’
‘No. Had he died of the skull fracture, the tentacles would not have changed color. The brain must remain physically intact in order to cause the change of color. It is the result of a chemical process in the frontal region of the brain. This brain here has suffered considerable damage.’
She pointed to the pulped grey mass mixed with bone and blood.
‘He was already dead before this occurred.’
Daxxel nodded. This woman was clever. He believed every word. She exuded the self-assurance that he currently lacked.
‘I apologize for my remarks,’ he said finally. ‘I just found him. He was a friend.’
Zant stood up again, sympathy in her grey eyes. And a bit of concern.
‘I’m sorry, Consul. Should I withdraw?’
‘I’m sorry, sergeant, but you’ll have to stay here. The local police will arrive at any moment, and you seem to have a brain in your head. I need you, even though I can’t give you a very friendly reception. The police here are …’
‘… completely incompetent,’ Zant finished. ‘I was comprehensively briefed. This is my first deployment in the Diplomatic Service. I wanted to be as well prepared as possible.’
‘Then we have something in common.’ Daxxel examined the young woman’s face more closely. Her eyes were ice-grey below a flawless forehead. Her dark brown hair was short but not too short, and gently brushed her ears. Her nose was thin and very slightly tip-tilted, but absolutely symmetric. Her shapely lips seemed almost to court a kiss. She had small laughter lines around her eyes and at the corners of her mouth. She likes to laugh, Daxxel realized in sudden delight. His experiences with marines had thus far been superficial; he didn’t think very highly of the military. At least they had sent him someone human.
‘Your Excellency!’ Zant began and was immediately interrupted.
Daxxel shook his head decidedly. ‘Don’t call me that. You can call me Excellency when I’m ambassador extraordinary to the Caliphate.’
‘As you wish, Consul,’ she replied with a smile that looked exceptionally good on her. She had perfect teeth. ‘What I wanted to say …’
Once more she was unable to finish.
The door chimed again. Daxxel grimaced, threw Zant a significant glance, and pressed the button.
This time it actually was Eobal Security. And it appeared, as Daxxel observed with little pleasure, in an all too familiar form. Commissioner Volgaan was not only the chief of the municipal police but also the nephew of the current President of Eobal. Unfortunately, that was the only qualification that he brought to the position of Commissioner of Eobal Security. To compensate for his lack of professional expertise, Volgaan had internalized the principles of Eobal’s police forces to perfection. Daxxel had encountered him twice before, just in passing at official receptions. But in his own estimation, backed up by what he had heard, the little man with the bald head and watery eyes was, to put it very diplomatically, a perfect prick.
Volgaan sketched a bow and smiled.
‘Your Excellency!’ he cried at the top of his voice. ‘I received the report and rushed over here at once. My best investigating team will arrive shortly, but I wanted to get my own impression.’
Daxxel forced himself to return the smile.
‘My sincere thanks, Commissioner.’
‘I’ve heard that the victim was a good friend of yours. My sympathy.’
‘Very kind,’ Daxxel replied. ‘Do you wish to examine the scene of the crime?’
Volgaan hesitated. Naturally he hadn’t the slightest intention of doing any serious work; he was just in search of amusement and newsworthy circumstances that his uncle could perhaps exploit politically. His glance fell upon Josephine Zant in her immaculate uniform. The nonchalant expression on his face disappeared, giving way to mistrust. Daxxel seized the opportunity.
‘May I present my recently arrived Marine Detachment, Sergeant Josefine Zant. Sergeant, this is Commissioner Theod Volgaan, Chief of the Capital Police.’
Zant nodded politely. ‘Pleased to meet you.’
‘Yes, Commissioner. From the Diplomatic Service Battalion.’
‘I’ve heard a lot about them. Tough and nasty, right?’
Zant maintained her polite bearing.
‘Only when necessary, Commissioner. We prefer to complete our term of service in peace. I am sure that that is also in your interest.’
Volgaan smiled greasily.
‘Absolutely; absolutely, sergeant. Your duties are not affected by this incident, I expect. You are more or less a bodyguard, are you not?’
The manner in which he used the term reflected his ‘high’ opinion of the soldier. Zant hesitated for the briefest moment.
‘I participate in all activities by which I can improve the consul’s security.’
‘I understand, sergeant. You have obviously enjoyed a little additional training – over and above the breaking of bones.’
‘The battalion is quite proud of the breadth of its training.’
‘Of course,’ Daxxel finally intervened. ‘Commissioner, if you wish to satisfy yourself …’
Volgaan made no great effort. His actions showed very clearly that he hadn’t a clue about what he was pretending to do. He ‘took a close look’ for several minutes, until the arrival of his team relieved him of this heavy burden. Daxxel did not expect much from the three newcomers, either, but their procedure, even just in arranging their equipment, showed that they had at least a glimmer of a notion of detective work.
When the corpse transport crew showed up and collected the body, Daxxel was once again reminded that his only friend on this world was dead. Moreover, the unceremonious disposal of the octopoid reminded him of another painful duty.
Commissioner Volgaa finally disappeared, the last of his team to go. As expected, its investigation had been brief and superficial. Before he left, Volgaan promised to do everything in his power to catch the culprit. The significant glances that he cast in Daxxel’s direction did not escape the latter’s notice. The political games had already begun, just as he had feared.
Daxxel thanked him and waited at the door until he could close it behind the last visitor. He stared at the traces of blood on the floor. ‘Nero, please contact the Turulian Embassy. Invite Shali to meet with me here.’
He was hardly surprised that the second organic member of the staff of the Turulian Embassy had not already appeared of her own accord. The police chief had certainly already informed Dhloma’s personal secretary, but she was just an assistant – quite competent, to be sure, but not even authorized to conduct business for Dhloma. Which, incidentally, meant that as long as Turulia did not send a replacement … . Daxxel realized that his problems were multiplying exponentially; on the other hand, it could also prove to be helpful … . He expunged the thought.
Shali was alone and surely frightened. Daxxel felt obliged to do something for her. Besides, it was possible that she knew something that could help him with this mess.
Nero appeared in the doorway.
‘Consul, Shali acknowledges your message. She says that she will be here soon.’
Daxxel nodded and looked at Zant. ‘Any ideas about my security?’ he asked dryly.
Zant smiled mirthlessly. Then she opened her right hand. ‘Sir, I found this and decided to hide it from Volgaan’s people.’
Daxxel came forward and stared at the small box. He recognized it immediately. His forehead broke out in a cold sweat. ‘Zharani Pearls.’
‘Yes. They must have slipped out of Dhloma’s pocket when he fell or was set down. Perhaps you should ask the Turulian staff about them.
Daxxel made an inarticulate noise. ‘It could prove difficult to ask Shali why Dhloma was carrying a box of the strongest and most potent psychodrug in the known universe. This stuff is illegal even on Eobal! My God, if the police do anything at all here, they hunt Zharani dealers!’
Sergeant Zant shrugged. ‘Or they belong to the murderer.’
Daxxel regarded her calmly. A thought took shape in his head. He’d be at the mercy of events if did not manage to regain some initiative as quickly as possible. In this particular case that could mean only one thing, and for that he needed every bit of help that he could get. Then he said, ‘Sergeant, may I ask you something?’
‘Would it not be in the interest of the security of this consulate to find the ambassador’s murderer, especially since he was discovered on our extraterritorial grounds?’
Zant looked at him hesitantly. ‘There’s something to be said for that.’
‘Cut it out, sergeant. Will you help me? I will not leave the investigation to a jackass like Volgaan. Dhloma deserved better.’
‘He really was your friend.’
‘You can bet on it. And there’s more than that at stake: the reputation of the Act in this sector. A sloppy investigation could discredit us. They’ll spread rumors that they can exploit politically. I could extend this recital with several more points, but in the end it comes down to a single question: are you with me?’
Zant considered only briefly. If the question annoyed her, she did not let it show. ‘I think that potential dangers to the security of this mission can be recognized. It could perhaps become necessary to take appropriate preventive measures.’
Daxxel continued to regard her, this time shaking his head. ‘Did you learn diplomat-speak at the academy?’
‘I’m just trying to emulate you.’
Was that an adventurous sparkle in her eyes? Daxxel hardly dared believe it. But he would take what he got.
He smiled his first true smile of the morning. ‘Then let’s get to work. If we manage to do this, you’ll be ripe for a promotion.’
Zant raised her brows. ‘Or for a dishonorable discharge, Your Excellency.’