55. TROUBLE ON JADTI 6*

Two young robbers are terrorising the peaceful people of Jadti 6.
Tony and Bea are sent to catch them.

Length : 5 900 words.

1

“WE’RE THE TEAM.”

“Open.” The transporter door slid aside, and we saw Jadti 6 for the first time. Not much of it – the inside of a gloomy hut with walls like wooden planks.

One man was waiting to meet us. He was old and skinny, with skin the colour of milky coffee. He was small: the top of his head was level with my chin. He was wearing a welcoming smile, and a buff-coloured ankle-length gown, tied at the waist by a dark brown sash. He spoke into a wrist unit, and the translation came through ours. “Greetings. Welcome to Jadti 6. My name is Plop. I am the mayor of this city.”

“Greetings,” I said. “My name’s Tony.” I turned to the Bean. I’d get a snippy telling-off if I didn’t let her give her own name.

She said, “Greetings. I’m Bea.”

“And this?” Plop looked at the robot, like a small grey flying saucer, hovering above my left shoulder.

“This is Ching,” I said. “He has a special gadget for tracking people.”

Ching said, “Greetings, Plop sir.”

Plop tried to hide his surprise. “Greetings, er… Ching.” He asked me, “Where is the rest of your team?”

“There’s no rest. We’re the team.”

“But… you’re children.”

“I’m 13. Our leaders said I’m older than your robbers. And Bea’s brainier.”

“But… they are much bigger.”

“People from Naxi 17 are big. But our leader sent us because we know about young Naxians. He said these ones have been robbing you. Can you tell us about it?”

“There are two of them. As we walk along to the Hall of Justice, I’ll tell you what I can.”

I had to duck, to get out, into the wide street. Both sides had one-storey buildings with overhanging roofs. Most of them were shops, with their owners standing beside tables of bright-coloured goods under the overhangs.

The ground, grey slabs, had no separate pavements. Pedestrians mixed with people on carts and carriages, pulled by pony-sized horses. It was a busy scene, and colourful, under a sunny sky. The Bean wasn’t much bigger than the people, but I felt like a giant, with everybody staring at me.

Plop explained, “Our trouble started about twenty days ago. The two Naxians came through the transporter. They went into a jeweller’s shop, and took the best jewels. When the jeweller protested, they hit him. Since then, they have robbed four more shops. They carry guns. They sometimes fire them, but only to frighten people. They are much bigger and more powerful than we are.”

The Bean asked, “Where do they go?”

“They hide in a plantation outside the city. While they are in the city for a robbery, they also take food.”

I asked, “Haven’t you tried to find them?”

“We don’t want to find them,” said Plop. “We are peaceful people. We have no weapons. When we joined the Galactic Federation, we were promised that agents would protect us.”

“We’re agents,” I said. “We’ve come to help you.”

“I expected the Federation to send proper agents. Adults.”

“D’you want us to go?” I was getting annoyed. “If you send us away, our leaders won’t send anybody else for a while.”

“Then I suppose you had better try.”

“Thanks. If you can give us something belonging to one of the robbers, or something he’s touched, Ching can get his scent off it. Then he can track him to their hiding place.”

“Then?”

“Then we’ll use a stun-gun on them, and take them away.” I spoke with more confidence than I felt. That was the bit that worried me.

I hope….” Plop stopped, at the sound of a loud bang, not far away. Everybody in the street looked around in alarm.

About twenty metres behind us, a big black figure came out of a side street, waving a bullet-gun. One of the Naxians! He ran down the main street, in the other direction, scattering the natives.

I called, “Ching, get him!” As Ching shot away, I grabbed my stun-gun from its clip at my waist. I ran after the Naxian, but I hadn’t much hope of catching him. The natives were in my way, and they were gaping at him, so they didn’t see me coming.

The second Naxian ran out of the side street, after his mate. He paused at the junction, looking round. I aimed my stun-gun at him, and pulled the trigger. He was out of range, but I kept running forward.

He couldn’t help seeing me, with my head and shoulders above everybody else. The muzzle of his bullet-gun swung round to point at me.