Jun 29th 2011, 08:23 by E O Hatterpol | 1228 AU FROM SUN
"WE HAVE to report this to the Help & Welcome department," Nixie said, still cradling the dead girl in her arms. "They need to know something's wrong on Starbase Octopus."
"Are you kidding me?" I said incredulously. "Are you actively trying to get caught up in this mess?
Nixie stared at me sternly. I think that meant "yes."
"You can't be serious, Nixie! Did you hear what that - that THING said to us? She said she got whipped. In the night. That's terrifying!"
"She deserves justice."
I looked away from Nixie & up into the suction cup windows of the Deep Space Observation Deck. Outside, the steady gazes of a hundred billion stars pierced straight through their modest black veil into my weary heart.
Hadn't these first 114 billion miles into outer space given me enough trouble? I was supposed to be relaxing on Starbase Octopus and recovering from the traumatic showdown with Captain Makemake in the Kuiper Belt while the Starship Flybrary underwent repairs, maintenance & upgrades.
And yet here I was, seriously contemplating the thought of investigating an outer space murder mystery just to have an excuse to spend more time with the girl I liked.
Dudes just don't change, do they?
A mechanical chatter above my head brought me back to the present.
"Nixie, I-- what the shell is that?"
I pointed up to something crawling on the edge of the suction cup window on the ceiling. The way it skittered around nervously made me think it was some kind of bug. But were there bugs on interstellar starbases?
I didn't have time to think because the bug dropped from the ceiling right onto my shoulder. I screamed like a man having his chest waxed, trying desperately to bat the creature off my shoulder and away from my face. I sent it flying into the darkness of the DSOD where I couldn't see it anymore; it felt cold & hard on my hand, like an icky exoskeleton.
"Call me Tony the Tiger, because that was Grrrrrrrrrrr-oss! Did you get a good look at what that was?"
"Focus, E O! I've got a dead girl in my arms & I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. Are you coming to the Help & Welcome Department with me or do I have to do it alone?"
The light of a heroine shone in her kiwi brown eyes. I tried to return her gaze just as steadily as she looked at me, but I swear my eyes dropped of their own accord to the giant locket on her chest. What was she hiding in there?
She must have thought I was checking her out like when they photoshop lasers from the dude's eyes straight to the girl's chest in Blind Date to show how dirty he is, because she tsked loudly and stood up.
"Fine! I thought you were different, but now I see you're just a coward & a pervert. I'm going to report this tragedy right now, and don't even think about catching me up even if you DO change your mind!"
And then Nixie turned and stormed out, leaving me with nothing but the dead girl and the silent stars outside.