Alivea Krimb and the Mystery of the Ominous Obstructive - Prologue & Chapter 1 Preview
22 Dec 2018 - by: Jamie
Some nights never let you rest. It's not the important things that keep you up though, right? Or is that just me? For example... I'm sure you've heard of the Ominous Obstructive? If you haven't, take anything smaller than a Class II past the Homesphere, and you, to the great dismay of your valuables, will learn very quickly. Anyway, there I was in a small trade skipper on my way to Stix from Rebecca when I found out why sixteen of the twenty-compliment crew were muscles. The O.O. were merciless in their pillaging of the cargo hold, leaving behind no assorted exotic fruits to tell the tale.
It is known of the Obstructive that they have a similar policy with human folk, so I wasted no time getting my butt into a lifeboat. That's the short version, anyway; I'll tell you the whole story later. My point is, the thoughts keeping me awake are not important things, like those folks I left behind who are corpses now, or the note one of them gave to me before giving me directions to the lifeboat, or even the Magi I spotted giving orders to an O.O. goon. No, good reader. The thoughts which keep the Sandman at bay tonight are the rescue ship's Captain sleeping to my left, his adorable husband asleep to my right, and how in the heavens I'm going to get the stains off my blouse for the debriefing tomorrow morning.
Now that you've seen me naked, and in the order these things usually go, I might as well introduce myself. My name is Alivea Caxes Krimb, and I am the best damned Private Investigator in the Galaxy.
Chapter 1 – Who is Varnibal Braow?
I considered the note in my pocket. It was a long shot, of course. A crumpled paper note with a name, address, and time. But what a juicy steak for a private eye like myself to sink my curious teeth into! And the Magi! What was one of the King’s enigmatic judiciaries doing on a small trade route outside Imperial borders? A Magi working with the Ominous Obstructive was enough to make my breath cold. I had no client, of course, but the rewards for exposing a traitor to the crown could be beyond my dreams. I decided I would pay a visit to this Varnibal Braow. But getting there by noon tomorrow? If you calculated the distance, add my lack of a ship, multiplied by the fact that the ship I was on was going in the opposite direction, back to Rebecca, you might say it was impossible. Well, maths was never my strong suit. Blackmail, on the other hand…
“Blackmail is not your strong suit, my dear.” Captain Roman Pisces of the HMAS Victory growled, as I paused in the act of retreiving the recorder I had placed – just so – the night before, “Tales of sexual escapades are as common on an Aethership as actual escapades of said nature. News of our intercourse would only serve as a short lasted joke for the crew, and would be seen as precarious, at best, by the brass.”
“Well... damn.” There goes that idea. Gone are the days when a good old fashioned scandal could topple a leader. I was paralysed in thought. Desperate. And he saw it.
“Perhaps, instead of taking advantage of my position, you could instead take advantage of my generosity. And, I’ll admit, my curiosity.” He stood up from the desk, turning his back to admire the view from the window. The Captain’s Office was ornate; rich with the trappings of Imperial Conquest. Gold framing sided the walls, flaring out in the corners. The floor and ceiling were carved hardwood; the floor being lined generously with exotic furs, and the ceiling dominated by an intricate web of electric lights. The wall to the right of his desk was home to a rather large wooden shelf of books, while the wall across from it proudly displayed all the merits and medals of both Captain and ship. One side of the forward wall contained the mounted heads of beasts, and on the other side of the door, paintings and photographs of various individuals surrounded a large portrait of the King. The old furnishings and brass décor almost seemed to purposely fail at hiding the iron of the ship itself; instead somehow accentuating it. Along with the massive window that composed the entire rear wall, it made for a very impressive room. The kind that makes you feel welcome and ill-at-ease at the same time. In fact, most of the large ship gave the same effect. The Captain himself was a jolly sort with a commanding presence, big, but more with muscle than with gluton. His height, about average for a man, and at eye level with myself, attracted me to him, as did his eyes, which seem to see beneath the skin and into your thoughts. He had known who I was, which could either be pretty good or very bad, and he seemed to judge me by some incorporeal standard too just for this universe.
“From the urgency apparent about you, I might guess you are on a case? I have always been fascinated by a good mystery, miss Krimb, and your reputation precedes you in this matter. The Aether is treatcherous, and all manner of confounding phenomenon might set our rudders adrift. Not to mention that our navigator is feeling very poorly at the moment. Isn't that right, darling?"
The captain's husband Albacore rolled over in bed, groggily pushing aside the great heap of goose down blankets. "Yeah. Too sick to navigate good." he yawned.
"Well? What do you say?"
An Aethership at my beck and call, with a delicious two-course rendezvous on the side? I paused, feining consideration, and then slyly snapped my suspenders. "What could go wrong?"
And so, it came to pass that my morning was less trouble than my tirelessness had been worth. Clean civilian clothes were waiting for me when I finally found my assigned quarters, not quite my style, but fit enough for any shipboard occasion; and in my size. I thought about what I had seen the previous day as I showered, and then ate by myself in the galley. I didn’t have much time though, for soon someone found me, and I had to take care of the business of the rescue. I had only been drifting for about an hour before the HMAS Victory responded to my distress call. Drifting, yes, because I haven't a clue how to pilot an aether vessel.
It's all just paperwork and semantics on these Imperial Naval ships. You have to debrief the Captain (Not necessarily in bed, but then, I've always been thorough, if not interpretive, when it comes to the law), and sign your life away on a thousand legal documents. Once you've answered all the questions: What happened to your ship? Were there any other survivors? Was the ship destroyed? etc. they check your profile for security, and then you're generally given guest quarters where you can eat oatmeal and watch recorded feeds until they reach a place they can safely drop you off. The fact that I inform you of this so casually should indicate to you that I have been around this block before. I've been around it a few times, in fact, and I know all the loose bricks.
Incidentally, my favourite feed is a weekly called Lost in the Aether, in which the lone pilot, Bruce Stargaze, travels to distant worlds in search for home, kicking butt and making love along the way. Stargaze is probably the most aptly named character on the feeds. Johan Stiles has the most beautiful eyes in the universe. You probably haven't heard of either feed or actor; it's pretty obscure and low budget, but they had it on the Victory, so I spent some time pretending I was the green Amazon Queen of Zektar VII, all six of my silky arms wrapped around that lean torso.
I didn't tell anyone about the note or the Magi, not even Roman and Albacore. Besides, there is always press on Imperial ships; freelance reporters waiting like parasites to feed off of the myriad anomalies and dangers that fill the aether. They are useful, but must be controlled. Tamed. Fed the right information at the right time, the media will make you famous. Give them everything at once, and they feed on you like carnal lions upon a bleeding husk. There's another block I've been around. The reporter on this ship, one Giles Ducete, is such a creature. I gave him my account of the incident, sans intrigue, in as dull a monotone as I could muster. He was disappointed, but glad, at least, to go home with a story. I wrote his name down anyway, in case something came of all this.
Wandering the corridors of the Victory, I took the note out of my pocket, and considered whether to show it to the Captain. I supposed I would have to, if they were going to take me to Stix, they would want to know why. The note itself didn't exactly seem very intriguing, apart from the circumstances of my receiving it.
1636 Factory Avenue
Noon, this Thursday
Who was Varnibal Braow? What was he going to do at noon on Thursday? What kind of tacos do they eat on Stix? And why did that guy I shot to take his escape pod have this note in his hand?
Oops, I told you. Well, let's just keep that tidbit between us, okay? Everyone needs a secret, after all.