a Serial in Seven Parts
By CJ Alexander
With the aid of surveillance cameras, I track Renata’s every move. She’s in the gym, or the astrophysics lab, or leaning against the railing of the observation deck. She doesn’t see me, I’m sure of it. She does nothing, not even bathe, that I don’t scrutinize. I suppose I ought to believe she’s innocent.
And yet, every morning, more bodies turn up dead. Who, then? Who’s to blame?
I summon her to my conference room.
“Sit down, Renata.” She complies, makes herself comfortable.
“Speculate for me.” I watch for some sign, some reaction, a twitch of an eyelash.
She shrugs. “It’s like everyone says, an alien blood-sucking insect we picked up on the ocean planet. We’re all doomed.” She studies me, as I struggle to control my emotions. Then she goes on the offensive. “You’ve been stalking me, Captain. I want to know why.”
“Renata, there’s a killer aboard. I have every reason to believe it’s a woman. Someone small, like yourself.”
“Surely you’re not accusing me of murder!”
Defensive now. And a temper….while I take a moment to gather my thoughts, she blurts: “You’re the killer, Captain. You’re a vampire.”
“I’ve been watching you, too. You never eat, so how do you live, hmm?… I plan to report your crimes to the Hierarchy, if I get out of this room alive.”
I can’t help it, I gape stupidly for a second, thinking, Here’s our killer. And she’s a plant! But why? “Tell me, Renata, why are you on this mission?”
She smirks. By all that’s unholy, are those the tips of tiny fangs? She slouches in the chair, grinning openly.
“The Hierarchy appointed me to conduct a secret investigation.”
“But you’re not a member of the Hier-”
“I’m a consultant.”
You mean, spy.
“I don’t understand. Why did the Hierarchy hire a ‘consultant’ instead of a bona-fide astronaut as second in command?”
My veins, cold and lifeless though they be, fill with frost.
To be continued