If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link. To help your imagination, my idea of First Officer Nathaniel Parks is a blond Vigo Mortensen.
Late that night, Tanu tossed in his sleep as the sedation wore off. Once again he was faced with the hostility of a universe unused to his powers. The low rumble of the engines and the hum of the machines in sick bay intruded and woke him.
The sick bay door opened and a figure slipped into the room. Machines on standby gave enough light to see, but not enough to identify who it was. Tanu kept still and watched with half-closed eyes as he worked his way silently around the room to the drawer where the scalpels were kept. Although lasers were most often used, scalpels were still needed on occasion. He opened the drawer and removed one.
The figure came to the side of the bed with the scalpel raised.
Tanu instinctively tried to stop him mentally, which didn't work, so he only managed to turn over as the blade came down, and the scalpel entered his arm instead of his chest. He cried out and the assailant ran. Nefar didn't hear him, and slept on. The attack was so unexpected that Tanu lay for a minute, gasping with the pain. He was groggy with sleep and couldn't think straight. Was his attacker still about?
His arm was bleeding badly. He struggled to his feet and staggered. Reaching the door of Nefar's cabin, he banged on it with his good arm. As Nefar opened the door, Tanu fainted.
* * *
Nefar’s urgent message left Parks wide awake and uncertain what he was going to walk into. By the time he ran into sick bay Nefar was calmly standing over Tanu bandaging his arm.
'What happened? Are you all right?' He took in the scene. 'Is Tanu all right?'
'Someone stabbed him. In the arm,' Nefar indicated the scalpel in a dish. 'I think it was meant for his chest, but he must have moved. Check the crew for bloodstains: blue bloodstains.'
Parks stepped out and contacted the bridge.
'Parks here, has anyone left the bridge in the last few minutes?'
'Hoy here, sir: no one has left. What's happened?'
'Later, Hoy. Lock down all doors, they open to my command only.'
Parks heard the buzz of the nearby doors being locked. He contacted Darrow, and confirmed his authorisation to investigate.
Parks began to make a systematic search of the cabins. He headed first for Engineering, since Blackwell was the only other senior officer, Parks thought he should be informed first. Blackwell was not pleased to be woken and, when Parks shook him it was obvious he had been sound asleep. Parks explained the situation and Blackwell insisted on proving his innocence, on being checked. Having cleared him, Parks left, locking the door behind him.
Next Parks went to Chambers' cabin. Since Chambers was on duty and they were one crewman short, the cabin was empty, but he wanted to check no one was hiding there.
In the cabin he shared with Stubbs, Tomos was awake. When Parks came into his room, Tomos sat up in the bottom bunk.
'What do you want? What's happening, sir?'
'I want to know why you're awake,' Parks said. 'What have you been doing?'
'W-what do you mean? I've been in bed. I just can't sleep.'
'Let me see your hands.' Parks approached the bed.
'My hands? Why?' Tomos put his hands under the covers. Parks grabbed them. There was blood on Tomos' hands. No, his fingertips were bleeding. Red blood.
'What is this?' Parks couldn't believe it. This wasn't the blood he was looking for.
Tomos looked shame-faced. 'Please don't tell anyone I bite my fingers. Doctor Nefar patches them up every morning.'
Stubbs looked down sleepily from the top bunk. 'What's going on?' He caught sight of Parks. 'Oh, sorry sir.'
'Show me your hands,' Parks said.
'Your hands, Ensign. Show me your hands.'
Stubbs frowned and pulled his hands out of the bedclothes. Parks checked his hands and sleeves for blood spatter. They were clean and he had obviously been asleep. Stubbs couldn't have done it.
Parks sighed. 'Never mind, go back to sleep. The ship is on lock down, don't attempt to leave your cabin.'
Parks had one more cabin to check - the one shared by Balitoth and Reuel. He took a deep breath outside the door, and unlocked it. Both appeared to be sleeping. He woke Balitoth on the top bunk first, stepping back out of reach. Zoans tended to attack first, think after.
'It's all right, Lieutenant, it's Commander Parks. I need to confirm neither you nor Reuel have been out of your cabin in the last few minutes.'
'I was asleep, sir, as you could see. I do not know about Reuel.'
'Did you call me?' Reuel looked up from his bed.
'Were you sleeping?'
'Yes sir, of course, sir.'
Parks stood in the middle of the room.
'Let me see your hands, both of you.'
They both put their hands over their covers. Both their hands and sleeves were clean.
'Stay in your room until notified.'
Parks went back to sick bay. Tanu was back in bed, asleep.
'How is he?' Parks asked.
'Shocked, but his arm will be fine. I've sedated him to calm him down. Did you catch his attacker?'
'Everyone accounted for and no sign of blood. You're going to have to test them all.'
'I was hoping that would not be necessary. I like my sleep.' Nefar sighed. 'Come, I will have to test for cleansers too.'
There was uproar among the crew when they were disturbed again and their hands tested. Parks supervised, but only told them Tanu had been attacked. He couldn't tell them why, because he didn't know. When he caught the culprit, he would find out.
Unfortunately, there was no trace of blood or cleanser on anyone. He and Nefar reported to Darrow in his cabin. Darrow insisted Nefar test the three of them too.
‘I hate to think one of our own did this,’ Darrow said.
‘It can’t be anyone else,’ Parks observed. ‘There are only the crew and Tanu on board.’
'He must have worn gloves. Obviously the action was planned,' Nefar said. 'No use searching for the gloves, of course. Probably destroyed straight away.'
'I've always felt the Kestrel was a close ship - most of the crew get on well,' Darrow said softly. 'What does this mean? How can someone do this? Why didn't they come to me if they had a problem with Tanu?'
'You are not their father,' Nefar said. 'They are different species, with varying lengths of service, so there are bound to be clashes. You cannot know everything.' He looked up from his equipment. 'I have been impressed with how you run this ship, Captain, and am glad to serve with you all. Some things you just have to wait for them to work through in their own time.'
Nefar left, but Parks waited. He knew this would have affected his old friend.
'What is it with this Tanu?' Parks said. 'First the Bokans, then the Casparans, and now there's someone on board trying to kill him!'
Darrow ran his hand through his hair. 'Well, he'll have to be kept under guard until we get to the bottom of it. The problem is, who do I put to guard him? I could assign the very one who wants to kill him.'
'Well, I'm still on light duties,' Parks said, 'I'll do it. Move him into my cabin tomorrow, and I'll keep the door locked. For tonight, I'll sleep in sick bay, and we'll lock that too. We all need to get what sleep we can. That includes you too.' He got up to leave. 'I'll tell Hoy to unlock the cabin doors and tell everyone to settle down on my way.'
* * *
With the scalpel in his hands, Reuel had felt rage rise within him. How dare this man use him so! Befriend him, get rescued by him - twice! - bring him to safety aboard his ship. Now he had transport anywhere he wanted to go and a crew to do his bidding. He must be stopped. Reuel had felt like the hero from legend who had shielded his mind from the Rayt and blown them all up.
If only Tanu had not moved at the moment of the strike. Curse him! The adrenaline rush propelled Reuel out of sick bay and down the stairs to his cabin on the lower deck. He disposed of the gloves in the recycler and climbed quickly into bed. He tried to calm his breathing and his spines.
When Parks came in a second time, Reuel wasn't scared, he was annoyed. How dare he come and disturb them and enforce a scan of their hands! How could Reuel be suspect? He had rescued the man twice, why would he want to kill him? He forced himself to appear calm and confused, but he felt sick. What was the matter with him?
After Parks had left and the lights were out, Balitoth spoke softly in the darkness.
'I was not asleep, you know.'
Reuel gave a sharp intake of breath, but said nothing.
'What has changed you so suddenly? We have shared this cabin for a long time, and you have always been gentle. What has happened?'
'I do not know what you mean.'
'I saw you leave, and return in haste. And I saw the look on your face. What did you do?'
'It is none of your business. Kindly do not jump to conclusions before you have the facts.'
Balitoth frowned. 'What is the matter, my friend? You have never spoken so harshly before.'
Reuel took a deep breath and controlled himself. 'I am sorry. I was merely using the facilities when you saw me out of bed. It has been a stressful time and I think it has affected me. Let us try to go back to sleep.'
They laid down, but Reuel couldn't sleep. He had failed! As long as Tanu lived, no one would be safe, but killing him would be harder now. The crew were not allowed to carry weapons on board, since most of their missions were peaceful. The armoury was kept locked.
Reuel racked his brains for ways to get to Tanu and kill him. He had hoped to remain undiscovered, but he now faced the possibility that he would have to kill him in front of witnesses, ending his own career and liberty. Surely it was worth it to protect people against the Rayt?
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz