Snippets – From Dundee Orbital

Dundee Orbital is a collection of stories that all occur on the station. This is a snippet of the first story, The Face on the Barroom Floor.

Donal Harris, one of Dundee Orbital’s Chief Customs Inspectors, set his untouched coffee mug on his desk when his link received a message. <Dead Body Reported. Olsen’s Taproom and Grill, Torus One, Deck three, Segment A. Patrollers on scene. Apparent murder.> The last portion of the message surprised him. Patrollers did not usually make that determination. They let others do that.

Looking longingly at his mug, Harris debated whether he should have more. He was tired and decided he needed caffeine more than making an immediate response to the message. It was late in his shift and he about to leave for home. That was not going to happen now.

With a grimace. he took a sip and put his mug back down. It was luke-warm, apparently left over from the start of his shift. He acknowledged the message and walked out of his office looking for unoccupied agents.

Procedure demanded he take a partner. From the empty desks of the bullpen, no agents were available. The only person remaining in the room was Molly Quinn, a Clan McLean militiawoman and potential customs recruit. She was an intern on-station for familiarization with Customs policy, procedures and operations. This was her third day, Harris remembered, of her internship.

She and Harris were of the same clan and sept, Clan McLean, Sept Harris. She was also his niece.
“Molly!” Harris shouted across the room. When she looked up, he motioned for her to join him.

The expression on Molly’s face was proof that she welcomed the interruption. She had been reading closed case files and Harris knew there wasn’t a more tedious, boring task in the service. He watched her put the case files away in her temporary desk as required by Customs Service policy. After locking her desk, she walked over to answer Harris’ call.

Standing side-by-side, no one would think they were related. Harris was 1.8 meters tall, with reddish-brown hair and big-boned, as were many clansmen from Inverness with its 1.1g gravity.

Molly Quinn, formally Mary Elizabeth Quinn, was shorter than Donal Harris; more slender than was usual for women of Inverness, with a pale complexion. Harris noted her hair was red and cut short in militia fashion. She had been a strawberry blond, her natural color, when he saw her last.

“Sir?” She was careful to maintain the proper decorum of a subordinate to superior.

“I need a partner. There’s been a murder—apparent murder,” he corrected himself, “in a bar near the docks. Everyone else is busy. Are you up to it?”

Harris knew she had never been on a customs patrol or a criminal case.

“I think so…how can I know?,” she replied. “I’ve never seen a murder? However, I am…at least I think I am, ready.”

He took a long look at his niece. Her militia obligation was ending and she had expressed an interest in joining the Customs Service. This could be an opportunity for her, and himself, as her would-be superior, to see if she could handle the job. “Get your gear—arms, too.”

She met him near the Customs office entrance. He was now wearing a Customs Service shipsuit, light-tan in color, with two dark-blue, horizontal bars high on each sleeve. His equipment harness included a knife, pistol, shock-stick, laser pistol in a leg holster and a small backpack. He held a helmet in one hand.

She, on the other hand, wore a militia field uniform with the Clan McLean tartan patch on her right shoulder sleeve, a small backpack like his and a militia equipment harness with her sidearm and knife. In addition to her regular equipment, she carried a Customs helmet and a patroller’s shock-stick hanging from her harness belt.

“Set your link to your helmet. Use it if you want privacy.” He said as he placed his helmet on his head and secured it.

Molly did the same. Harris watched her check the settings of the helmet. It was not much different from the ones used by Inverness militias. When her link established a secure connection with her helmet, they headed for the murder scene.
Harris and Quinn stopped just inside the barroom’s entrance and examined the scene. Olsen’s Taproom and Grill was one of many places that catered to freighter crews, dockworkers and warehousemen. What made Olsen’s different from the others was its Old American West theme—a pseudo-wooden floor, a long mirror with a line of bottles at its base and a polished wooden bar with a brass foot rail. The ceiling was black; hiding the necessary plumbing and conduits for the bar. The owner had not bothered to conceal them behind a false ceiling.

Scattered around the barroom were round four-place tables, half of them occupied. The dining room was visible through a doorway where tablecloth covered tables could be seen.

At the far end of the bar, two patrollers in gray shipsuits with dark-blue horizontal bars on their sleeves, stood next to a body lying in a broad pool of blood.

The bar was quiet—subdued. Harris sniffed. The only smell was that of stale beer and alcohol overlaying a faint whiff of…something unpleasant.


Watch for the announcement of Dundee Orbital arriving on Amazon.