10. TROUBLE ON WOTZIT 4*

On Wotzit 4, Naian makes a signal for help, then disappears.
Tony and Bea go secretly to Wotzit 4.  Their mission: find Naian.

Someone killed Naian’s father, the leader of a tribe on Wotzit 4.  Naian suspects the Seeker, who is now the leader.  When a Federation agent comes to visit the planet, Naian takes risks to make a signal to her, then goes into hiding.  The Seeker tells the agent that Naian is mad, but the agent is suspicious.  She asks for an investigation.  Bea and Tony get the job.

Length : 34 600 words.
INTRO

“WE’RE TROUBLESHOOTERS.”

“Hold still, Tony.  Remember – your leg is broken.”  The Bean tied the last knot.  “There.  How does that feel?”

“It feels like two branches tied to my leg with a bit of string.”

“Don’t be silly.  Does it stop your leg from moving?”

“I doubt if my leg’ll ever move again.”  I showed her my own bit of string.  “What d’you think of that?”

“What is it?”

“It’s a reef knot – isn’t it?”

The Bean’s my cousin.  She’s 11½, nearly 1½ years younger than me.  A few months ago, she and I accidentally found the secret Earth base of the Galactic Federation.  We became agents of the Federation.  During our missions on remote planets, somebody always seems to get hurt, so we decided to learn First Aid.  The Bean was doing her best, as the tangled splint on my leg showed.

She said,  “Come on, Tony.  I’ll untie it, and you can try.”

“I suppose so.  But… we’re Troubleshooters.  I’m sick of this hanging around.  Surely there must be trouble somewhere in this part of the Galaxy.”

PROLOGUE

“SEEKER, HAVE YOU SEEN DAD?”

THE PALACE ON WOTZIT 4

My name is Naian.  I knew there was trouble when I heard Dad shouting at the Seeker.  That wasn’t like Dad: he never shouts.  Afterwards, I followed him through the palace to the shrine.  We knelt in front of the picture of Foofoffo.  When I saw Foofoffo’s confident smile, I didn’t feel so anxious.

When we left the shrine, Dad said,  “Naian, come with me.”  He took me to his private room, above the balcony that overlooks the town square.

“Naian,”  he said.  “The Seeker and I quarrelled.  Perhaps you heard.”

“Yes.”

“The Seeker wants our people to invade our neighbours’ lands, to conquer them, and force them to worship Foofoffo.”

“But, Dad, Foofoffo teaches us to live in peace.  He would never want us to spread his message by fighting.”

“That’s what I have been trying to tell the Seeker.  I agree that our neighbours could use some of Foofoffo’s friendly spirit.  But not by conquering them.”

“Of course not, Dad.  But you’re the leader.  The people won’t do anything unless you approve.”

“The Seeker knows that.”  He moved closer, and whispered,  “Naian, the Seeker is my assistant, and the people like him.  If anything happens to me, he will undoubtedly be elected leader.  Then he would have his way.”

“But, Dad, nothing’s going to happen to you.”

“I hope not, Naian, but….  Look here.”  He pressed a panel, low on the outside wall, and slid it aside.  “This is a secret compartment, known only to the leader and his second-in-command.  I have told the Seeker of it.”

He stretched his arm into the opening.  “If you put your finger in this little hollow at the back, it will open an inner compartment.  I have not told the Seeker of that.  It contains instructions for finding Foofoffo.”

“Finding Foofoffo?”

“Yes.  Many years ago, when Foofoffo completed his teaching, and left our people, he promised he would return if we really need him.”

“Dad, that’s the answer!  Let’s find him.  He’ll help us to stop the Seeker.”

“No, Naian.  I don’t want to trouble Foofoffo.  He ordered us to seek him only in an emergency, when no other way is possible.  In two days, the Administrator from the Galactic Federation will pay her regular visit.  I shall speak to her.  Then I can hint to the Seeker that, if anything happens to me, the Federation will investigate.”

“Oh, Dad, don’t say that!”  I hugged Dad.  My mother died when I was a baby, so Dad was the only family I had.

Dad stood, and put on a cheerful face.  “I don’t want to worry you, Naian, but I wanted you to know.”  He put his hand on my shoulder.  “The Seeker is a follower of Foofoffo.  It is hard to believe that he would do anything to harm me.  Let’s not worry about it.”

That was the last time I saw Dad.  When I went for our evening meal, the dining room was empty.  With worry rising in my heart, I rushed around the palace without finding him.

I did see the Seeker, in the town square, in front of the palace.  “Seeker, have you seen Dad?”

The Seeker smiled.  “Have you lost him?”

“Yes.  He hasn’t come for his evening meal, and I can’t find him anywhere.”

“Don’t worry, Naian.  No doubt he has been delayed.”

“But… something may have happened to him.”

The Seeker’s smile vanished.  “Why do you suggest that?”

“I’m sorry.”  I had to hide my suspicions.  “I’m worried.  He always tells me if he expects to be late for a meal.”

The Seeker’s smile returned.  “He may have gone to meditate in a quiet spot in the garden, and fallen asleep.  If it will ease your mind, I’ll ask Stobo to order soldiers to search for him.”  The garden, behind the palace, was like a jungle.

I forced a smile.  “Thank you.”

But I wasn’t surprised when Stobo reported no success.

I spent the next day in my room alone.  I was sure the Seeker had taken Dad away.

During that day, my sadness turned to determination.  The Seeker’s scheme had to be stopped – and I was the only one who could do it.  Dad would want me to do it – and so would Foofoffo.  The thought made me feel braver.

What could I do?  Find Foofoffo?  My heart leapt at the thought.  But… no.  Dad had told me what must be done.  I had to ask the Federation.  They had brought my people to this planet, and promised to help us if we needed it.

I would tell the Federation Administrator.  She was a kind old lady.  She would listen to me.

But the more I thought about it, the harder it seemed.  The Federation visitor didn’t know our language.  She always used wrist units to speak to us.

I didn’t have a wrist unit, and if I tried to go near her, the Seeker would hustle me away.  He would tell her I was upset by Dad’s disappearance.

There had to be a way.  I mustn’t fail.