Star of wonder, p.22
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       Star of Wonder, p.22

  * * * * *

  “This,” said K.D. Kolesar, tapping her finger against the obituary for one Dafydd Ankur Isha Evans, shuttle pilot for the Yankee Clipper starship line, “is a forgery.”

  The opinion so bluntly stated stole Amanda’s breath as thoroughly as though she’d been punched in the gut, her heart pounding wildly to match it. An-jing caught her hand and guided her backwards to one of the seats which folded out of the silvery wall of the ship’s cabin. “Well, that’s that,” she said with satisfaction. “Aunt K.D. doesn’t say things like that unless she’s sure.”

  “Be very sure, little sister,” warned Kenneth Xiao, An-jing’s father, leaning against the opposite wall of the cabin. “These are deep waters to be swimming if we’re not entirely certain of our footing.”

  “Mixing metaphors much, brother mine?” K.D. grinned at Kenneth’s eye roll and tapped a complicated command into her keyboard, bringing up dense lines of text which filled her screen. “Come have a look at the origination time if you’re not sure. It’s months too late to be true. And there’s been a decent attempt made to replicate a standard news header code, but it’s not quite good enough…”

  Amanda shut her eyes, letting the technological talk pass by her ears without entering in. The alternating waves of relief and terror washing over her were too overwhelming to be ignored any longer. It’s true, exulted one part of her. I’m not mad. Dai did come back for me, we were married, I truly did get what I wanted, Grandmother and Grandfather couldn’t stop me—

  Oh really? asked another part of her, sharply. What do you think they’ve done now? Just because you know it’s a lie, doesn’t mean anyone else will. And how do you think you’re going to find him, wherever they’ve sent him, whatever they’ve done with him? Without him, alive or dead, it’s only one person’s word against another that the records were altered or they weren’t…

  “…need to find him,” Kenneth was saying as Amanda opened her eyes again. “That’s the only way we’re going to make this stick, whether legally or practically.” He thrust his fingers impatiently through his white-blond hair, shoving it back from his face, then glanced towards the far corner of the room, where another man was peering intently into a screen, muttering commands into a microphone. “Anything from your end, Lo?” he inquired.

  “As a matter of fact, I think I might have something here.” Lonan Doyle swiped his fingers across a touchpad, and Amanda jumped as the painting on the wall across from her, a landscape showing a small settlement of thatch-roofed houses among tall and ancient trees, disappeared in favor of a star map. “How big was your ship again, Mrs. Evans? Standard tau-class small cargo vessel, I think you said?”

  “Yes, that’s right.” Amanda watched as a dotted yellow line formed on the map, indicating a trajectory outbound from the orbit of Curie Alpha Mu to the far side of the outermost planet of the Camembert solar system (no one was quite sure by now if system or station had been named first). “Is that—”

  “Something about the mass of a tau-class vessel traveled this route less than a week ago, according to our onboard sensors.” Lonan glanced over at K.D. “And I’d be willing to bet money that if you wiggled your clever way into the official traffic logs from the station, they wouldn’t say a thing about that transit.”

  K.D. shook her head. “We’ve been married for how many years now and you still can’t learn I don’t take sucker bets? But he’s right,” she said to Amanda. “No permission requested for that outbound route, no official log of any ship leaving the station at that time. If your Dai is anywhere, that’s where he is.”

  Lonan glanced back at his screen and made a small, unhappy noise in his throat. “Except for one problem,” he said reluctantly. “We got a good scan on that ship, and there’s no record of a human heat signature onboard. So if he is there, either he’s in cold sleep, or he’s dead…”
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