ASTON DERVISH, SPACE DETECTIVE
CHAPTER ONE: Horatio 9
As the descent rockets spat curls of retro-flame against the dusty surface of the Moon station's landing pad, Aston Dervish, Space Detective extraordinaire, took a sip of tea and dabbed at his moustache with a foil-backed napkin. He was not impressed by the landing; it had been rough by any space traveller's standards. It had made finishing his yoghurt irksome. Dervish ignored the vaguely patronising drone of the stewardess and unclipped himself from his gel-seat. She turned to order him back to his chair, but then unglazed harshly into focus as she realised just who she was dealing with - Aston Dervish the prince of super-orbital detectives, a legend in his own lifetime. She brought her fist to her mouth in childish glee at meeting The Man, a hero to billions back on Earth, standing before her now, close enough to smell.
Dervish reached into the store box above his seat and removed his shoulder case and long tan jacket. He threaded his lean arms through the sleeves of the coat and whipped the bag over his head in one fluid movement. Then he stalked down the wide aisle of the cabin and through the doors to the main decks, which opened silently before him. The passenger craft was vibrating as it exerted itself on landing. It was a pleasing contrast to the time spent gliding through the void between the Earth and the Moon. He stared up inside the egg-shaped shuttle's cavernous central chamber, and wondered at the multi-tiered decking. On longer journeys the passengers would be free to move around the ship and enjoy the facilities; shops, restaurants, a library. Space travel had certainly improved over the last thirty years, he thought. When he was a boy it was a matter of being strapped into a cramped tube of a vehicle, filled with stale air and the acrid scent of strangers' anxiety spiking at nostrils and eyes.
Aston Dervish's father had been a detective before him, one of the first of his kind, and had taken his son on trips to outer space as soon as he could walk. As a toddler he had despised the confines of the craft; but over the years, success in space ventures had brought the beady eye of tourism to bear on the heavens. Massive investment followed, and thus standards had improved dramatically. Horatio 9 was British Rose's flagship passenger vessel. The opulence of the craft was staggering; a brilliant white exterior, set-off with a simple golden rose logo, lent the company’s fleet a rare elegance. The inside was no less lush. Gleaming white walls and floors, silver and gold edging and ornamentation, sparkling window plastics reflecting the general effect. Many of the passengers chose to wear shade-specs to shield their eyes against the full magnitude of the brilliance - which suited many of the glamorous monied just fine - as they sauntered arm-in-arm about the arcades of the ship, purchasing logo-stamped trinkets for those back home.
Dervish stalked over to the departure tube, and was nodded through into the lounge of the station. He flicked a glance at the security cams, which intruded into his retina automatically before chiming their positive ID check affirmation and ushered him into the concourse of the station with a series of bright green, blinking, wall-mounted arrows. The ambient volume picked up, increased ten-fold, as he stepped into the hubbub of transport decks. He glanced left and then right, acclimatising within moments to his environment, in strict accordance with his training, and then stalked off towards the restaurant area where he intended to eat a decent meal before meeting the agents at New Portugal proper, they who were to supply him with the intelligence reports of which he was so sorely in need. There was a grand mystery waiting to be solved, and perhaps the lives of millions depended upon his investigation.
Only a handful of people passed him in the tunnel leading away from the food decks, nodding their way past as they went about their business. Other passengers mostly, and the odd Port employee striding proudly about in their simple red uniforms. Dervish weaved left and right into other brightly lit lounges, across walkways, and down tubes until he reached the main entrance to a mono-station from which all pods to New Portugal departed. He raised his chin just slightly and allowed the scans to breach the lens of his eye. Somewhere back on Earth a vast computer calculated the fare of his imminent ride and an account was debited to that effect. He accelerated slightly as he sensed the doors of the mono-pod were about to close. He stepped off the platform, over onto the floor of the pod, just as the doors chimed brazenly and green lights flashed to red. The doors closed silently behind him. The pod moved from stationary to maximum speed within a few heart beats. The small platform flashed past him, and the lights on the walls of the tunnel seemed to spit away from the pod like a trace of bullets into the night sky.
Dervish was alone on the pod; he had made the additional effort of finding one of the less obvious mono-platforms that ran out of the transport station. He swung his shoulder bag away from him and onto a seat; he sat down opposite it and leant back, enjoying the solitude and the silence. Then the walls of the tunnel blinked away, and the pod was exposed over the surface of the moon, coursing at speed towards the thin glittering towers of New Portugal, a minute silver bead led by a string of wire to its destination.
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