19. TROUBLE ON NAXI 17*

A valuable load of food, seesa nuts, has been stolen on Naxi 17.
Tony and Bea are sent to investigate.

From their first questions, they suspect trouble.  Seesa nuts are not the innocent food that the leader pretends.  They discover who stole them, but they know the leader won’t believe them.  And they soon find out that others have even more trouble with stolen seesa nuts.

Length : 31 500 words.

1

A FLASH OF PANIC.

 

A flash of panic. Where? It disappeared before I could find out where it came from.

The Bean and I were in the headquarters of the Galactic Federation, on the planet Yband 4, at the entrance to the transporter corridor – a long passage with twenty-four bays on the right, containing the doors to transporters that could take you to other planets.

“Bean!” I grabbed her arm, but she looked blank: she hadn’t sensed the panic.

“Come on!” I started along the transporter corridor, pushing through the crowds of travellers.

Opposite the third transporter door, I found them – three men. They were human-like, tall and broad, but their skin was black with a blue shine, like a bluebottle. They wore sleeveless tunics of black leather. One held an unconscious girl, like a baby in his arms.

I stood in front of him. “What are you doing?”

Without bothering to answer, he pushed past me, but I grabbed his tunic. “Stop! Where are you going with that girl?”

One of the others – he must’ve been their leader – stopped him with a sharp order, then frowned down at me, and spoke into his wrist unit – a gadget like a watch with a computer screen. My wrist unit copied his harsh voice, in English. “Who are you?”

“I’m a Federation agent, and I want to know what you’ve done to that girl.”

He looked around. Passers-by were staring at us, and some had stopped to watch. He said, “She was taken ill.”

“Yeah!” The girl was wearing a short-sleeved white tunic. A thin arm, almost as white as the tunic, was hanging down. I took the wrist, and was relieved to find a pulse. “Where are you taking her?”

“That is no concern of yours.”

“If she’s not well, she should go to the hospital.”

“She does not need the hospital.”

“She doesn’t belong to your race. Take her to the hospital.” I let my hand rest on the stun-gun, on its clip at my waist.

He glared at me. “We shall deal with her.”

I had my own flash of panic. I couldn’t let them take the girl away. But how could I stop them? They could overpower me before I could use my stun-gun on all three of them. Could the Bean…?

“What’s this?” A large man pushed through the crowd. He was wearing the usual Federation gear – like a tracksuit – with a cloak on top, but it was all in a dazzling zigzag pattern of red and yellow.

“Columbus!” I said.

He beamed. “Tony! My friend!” Friend? Columbus is a brilliant scientist and inventor. We’d met him during our job as Troubleshooters for the Galactic Federation. We knew he was a crook: we’d caught him cheating natives, but he’d slimed out. He was so cheeky that I kind-of liked him, and I was glad when he asked me now, “Can I help?”

“These three knocked out the girl. They’re trying to take her away.”

The leader of the three began, “We didn’t….”

“Now, now,” said Columbus. Not loud, but it made the guy stop. “Tony, what do you want to do?”

“Take the girl to hospital.”

“That seems an excellent idea.” He beamed at the black guys.

The leader growled, “We don’t know where to find the hospital.”

“We’ll show you,” I said. “Bean, would you lead?”

With a nod, she moved off. The black leader hesitated, staring at Columbus. Then he waved the others to follow the Bean. I said, “Thanks, Columbus.”

He bowed. “I am always happy to help keen young agents in their duties.”

I kept my stun-gun in my hand as I followed the others through the corridors. The leader turned once to glare at me, but he didn’t speak.

At the hospital, the doctor ordered, “Put her on that trolley, under the light. What’s wrong with her?”

I answered, “These three frightened her. I think they knocked her out.”

The leader said, “She collapsed.”

The doctor frowned at him. “Hmm. Go to the waiting room. I’ll examine her, then see you there.”

As we left the room, the leader spoke to his mates without using his wrist unit. They didn’t come into the waiting room with us.

As we sat down, the Bean said, “I’m glad they’ve gone. They’re… horrible.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I hope the girl will tell us what they were up to.”

“If she recovers.” She glanced at her wrist unit. “We’re due to report to Martin in about 1%.” (That’s about a quarter of an hour.)

I said, “I’d rather wait.” I faced the terminal of Victor, the Federation computer. “Wake, Victor. Tony here. I request direct talk with Martin.”

In a few seconds, Martin’s voice came through. “Hi, Tony. Where are you?”

“The Bean and I are at the hospital. We rescued a girl from three men, and brought her here. She’s unconscious. The doctor’s with her now. Can we wait, and speak to her when she revives?”

“That should be OK. I thought I had a job for you. Theft, on a planet called Naxi 17. Their ruler was due to see me about half an hour ago, but he hasn’t appeared. Come through when you can.”

“Thanks. Victor, end direct talk.”

The Bean’s my cousin. She’s 11½, about 1½ years younger than me. A few months ago, we accidentally discovered the Earth base of the Galactic Federation. We were asked to become agents because, like all young people from Earth, we can sense the minds of other races. The girl’s signal had been strong, but the men’s were weak – big-headed and cruel.

The Bean and I chatted for about fifteen minutes before the doctor appeared in the doorway. “Where are your friends?”

“They didn’t wait,” I said. “How’s the girl?”

“She was knocked out by a blow to the back of the head. When she revives, she’ll have a sore head, but that’s all.”

“Can you use a reanimator on her? We’d like to ask her how it happened.”

“How urgent is it?”

“Important, but not desperate.”

He frowned. “I’d rather let her recover naturally. Can you wait for 8%?”

“No problem,” I said. “We’ll report to our boss, and come back.”

Ten minutes took us to Martin’s office. Like all Federation offices, it has a U of seats facing Victor’s terminal. Martin was in his command chair, the bottom of the U. And, sitting on the settee at his right, was the leader of the black men.