Aria Bekit always went to bed with the curtains open so that the first rays of early morning sun could stream through into her room. She didn’t consider it to limit her privacy, because nobody could see in during the dark of the night, and she got up earlier than anyone else in Moreau Town. She had always been a morning person, but nothing on Earth could ever have competed with the glorious mornings on Xinju.
She climbed out of bed, walked down the small hallway, let her night dress fall to the floor and jumped straight into the shower. It was a luxury to have her very own solar shower. The people who lived in the dormintory had to use shared bathroom facilities. When Aria had drawn up the plans for her little hut the first thing she had put down was a bathroom.
As the warm water washed over her skin, she let her thoughts go over her plans for the day. She would spend most of her time managing the construction of the hospital. Before that though, she planned to treat herself to a long walk on the beach. She didn’t do it every day – but the times she did were always the best days.
After drying, she put on a light summer dress and headed out the door. Her dress standards had changed dramatically since arriving on Xinju. Back on Earth she’d taken great pride in wearing her formal business wear. It made her feel powerful. Here on Xinju she didn’t need to feel powerful. She was in awe of the power of the place. She just wanted to feel free and easy-going.
On her way toward the beach, she picked fresh fruit from tree that grew along the river bank of the Tigris. Some of these fruits didn’t even have names yet, but all had been certified by Doctor Spearwood as safe for human consumption.
The increasing sound of the waterfall signified that she was nearing the place where the Tigris met another river, the Euphrates, and together they spilled out into the ocean. A few more minutes of brisk walking found Aria standing on the sand. She kicked off her sandles and headed along the shore line. The sun was warm on her face. It was going to be a beautiful day. Here on Xinju, ultra-violet radiation was less of a problem as it had been on Earth. Consequently, people could enjoy the sun with a much reduced risk of burning.
She continued on for several minutes. The beach was so much more peaceful than it had been during the party two days ago. The waves crashed in a steady rhythm that almost sounded musical to Aria’s ears. She rounded a corner, stepping around a small outcropping of rocks to arrive at a fresh stretch of beach. As she did – her heart stopped for a minute at what she saw. Off in the distance, lying on the sand was a creature. It was about the size of a person – maybe slightly smaller. It didn’t seem to be moving.
Aria broke into a run. She covered the ground quickly, her bare feet beating against the hard wet sand.
When she arrived at the place where the creature was lying, she knelt down to examine it. The being had a humanoid face – there was no doubt about that. The eyes were a little further apart and curved outward which must have given it the ability to see a much wider angle than a human. There was no hair on top of the creature’s slightly ridged head. Shiny green scales covered the face. In fact, the scales covered the entire body. Even the creature’s breasts were covered by thick hard scales – which gave her a very modest appearance, despite the lack of clothing. At the lower end of the creature’s body was a long muscular tail with fins at the tip. Aira could well imagine that this being could move through the water at incredible speeds. She was a far cry from the fairy-tale mermaids that Aira had read about as a child – but the term seemed to fit.
Aria had been so consumed by taking in the alien’s appearance that she only just now noticed the faint gasping groaning sounds that was coming from its mouth. Her tail was jittering about. She almost looked like she was in some kind of spasm. Aria placed a comforting hand on the mermaid’s cheek.
“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll help you all I can.”
It seemed obvious to Aria that the mermaid had beached herself and needed to get back into the water. Bending low, she braced herself and tried to roll the creature toward the water. She succeeded in moving the mermaid onto her stomach. It was then that Aria noticed the big gash on her back. It was seeping dark red blood which had gathered into a small puddle on the white sand where she’d been laying.
Aria gasped. The mermaid must have been attacked by a wild animal. She couldn’t just let it go back out to see – her wounds might be fatal. The only option that Aria could see was to take the mermaid back to Moreau town and get some medical care for her. Aria rolled the creature onto her back again. Then gathering one arm under her shoulders, and the other under her tail, she lifted the mermaid and began to walk. Fortunately, it was much lighter than an average human.
“I certainly hope that you can breath air without problem Girl,” she said calmly – her voice failing to betray the worry that was already coursing through her.
* * *Constable Morgan Gill hated mornings. He didn’t know why his superior officer, Lieutenant Tareen, insisted on holding these security briefings in the morning. Mid-afternoon would have been much more civilised. Gill was in the unique situation of being security chief in Moreau Town, but under the authority of Tareen, who still operated from on board the Ark ship ESS Endeavour. Gill had been surprised when the Lieutenant had given him the job. Why Tareen didn’t push for the role himself he would never know. Life seemed pretty quiet and dull up there on the ship compared to the busyness of this new young colony. Then again, Tareen had investigated both sabotage and murder during his first few days on board the Endeavour, so maybe that ship wasn’t as dull as it appeared.
Gill sat at his desk, a mug of coffee which was still too hot to drink in his hand. The computer terminal was already showing the blinking notification that he had an incoming call. He pressed the accept control. Hasama Tareen’s face appeared on screen.
“Constable, how are you this morning?”
“I’m well thank you Sir. I’ve just gotta get that morning coffee into my and I’ll be ready for action.”
“I’m sure. So what is your report? Has there been any increase in crime in the last two days?”
“Nothing too bad really Lieutenant. A few brawlers late at night but it’s generally not been too difficult to keep the peace.” Gill paused to risk a sip of his coffee. The aroma wafting out of the mug was too good to resist. The rich liquid burned his tongue, but he took another sip anyway. The taste was worth a little heat-induced pain. “There was one strange thing though Sir. Yesterday some seeds were stolen from the garden stores. Isn’t that odd.”
“Seeds? What kind of seeds?” Tareen furrowed his brow.
“Vegetables mostly, maybe some grains. The gardening staff couldn’t give me an exact inventory. Who would bother to steal seeds? All the food that is currently grown is shared fairly amongst the colonists. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Maybe somebody is wanting more than their fair share.”
“But to go to the effort of growing it from seed, just to have seconds at dinner time? I don’t think so.”
“Look into it Constable. It may seen a low priority, but food supplies are very important. We don’t want people treating those garden stores lightly.”
“I’ll see it to Lieutenant.”
“Now there’s something that I wanted to talk to you about. I notice on the latest passenger manifest from the most recent batch of newly awakened colonists, that you have a rather unsavoury character just moved in.”
“Who would that be Sir?”
“I can’t say I’ve heard of him.”
“He was a political activist back on earth – a real trouble maker.”
“In a good way or bad?”
Tareen shrugged. “Everybody is entitled to their political views, but Reed’s main value seems to be opposing whoever is in power. I think he just likes the attention. He was arrested for several acts of terrorism a while back but they could never get a conviction. He’s slippery.”
“What do you want me to do Sir?”
“Just pay him a visit. Let him know you’ve got your eye on him. Beyond that – nothing for now. Keep a close eye on him Constable. He’ll make a move sooner or later.”