DEAD AS A DODO

by:  H.O. Remembers


“Don’t touch it, Hannah!” shouted Peter.  “It might be dangerous.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic,” she snorted.  “It’s only a dodo beetle.”

Hannah’s friends hadn’t understood why a petite, toned twenty-two year old girl fresh out of med-school
wanted to date a forty-year-old man.  Sometimes she wished she’d listened to them.  The placid three-foot
high insect stood at least twenty feet away from where they were sitting on their rented silver jetflys.  They
were hardly in any danger.

Peter glared at her.  “That’s exactly the attitude the first settlers of New Eden had…before they contracted
the Fall Plague and condemned half the galaxy to a lingering, painful death.”

Hannah craved an exciting life exploring the galaxy.  She had found a tall, broad-shouldered exobiologist who
would surely whisk her away from her dull life in the Sol System.  But once the honeymoon period of their
relationship passed, Hannah found Peter behaved more like her father than a boyfriend.

The animal on the dusty ground looked like a typical dodo beetle to Hannah.  It waved huge, vicious-looking,
red mandibles at them, but Hannah knew it only used them to crush and eat plant material.  Maybe Peter
would be happier if one of those hololabels followed it around, like those used to identify animals for visitors in
zoos.  A tag with a flashing arrow pointed at the beetle’s face proclaiming, “Dodo beetle, pseudo-insect,
native to New Mauritius, edible, benign.”

Holofilm documentaries about the fauna of New Mauritius always featured these giant beetles.  She and Peter
had enjoyed the dodo beetle steaks they ate at the hotel.  At least, she would have enjoyed hers if they hadn’
t argued during the meal.  The hotel restaurant menu waxed lyrical about the nutritious and culinary virtues of
this new meat product.  Dodo beetle tasted of chicken.  Didn’t everything in the galaxy?  But Hannah liked
chicken.

Their argument in the restaurant resembled a dozen similar confrontations over the past few months.  Peter
had proven to be controlling, calculating and manipulative.  When things didn’t go as he planned, he became
aggressive, and occasionally even violent.

The beetle started to edge away from them, making high pitched clicking noises.  Hannah didn’t want it to
escape.  She hadn’t encountered a wild dodo beetle before.  The only beetles in the Green Zone lived on
farms.  Those not in captivity had been trapped by settlers and eaten.  Actually, they didn’t take much
trapping.  When hunters found them, they simply picked them up and carried them to the camp fire.  They
were notoriously easy to catch.

Hannah carefully lowered the stand of her jetfly, and powered down the sky-drive engine.  She dismounted,
and stretched her tanned, muscular arms and legs.  The heat of the sand burnt through her sandals.  If the
desert became so hot in the early morning, what would it be like at midday?

As soon as she stepped out from the air-conditioned, electrostatic influence zone of her jetfly, the dry heat
hit her and the armpit area of her light green T-shirt darkened.  Before coming to New Mauritius, they had
shaved off all body hair, even their scalps.  But it didn’t stop the sweat.

Apparently Hannah’s thought controlled biochip processor didn’t like the desert.

* Warning!  Hostile environment.
* Warning!  Unsafe high solar radiation level.
* Warning!  Unsafe high temperature regime.

If it hadn’t been compulsory for travelers leaving the Sol System, she would never have had that annoying
biochip implanted into her brain.  It sounded like a nagging Peter clone inside her head: “It’s cold, so wrap up
warm,” or “It’s hot, so stay in the shade,” and worst of all, “Hey there, Little Lady!  That’s way too much
beer.  Your blood alcohol level is through the roof.”

Approaching the dodo beetle, Hannah found it smelled much like a sweaty dog emerging from a dirty stream.

“Peter, let’s take it back to our hotel.  I bet the chef would cook it for us.”

“Hannah, this is the Red Zone.”  Peter took on a lecturing tone.  “We’re not supposed to touch anything.  This
area hasn’t been cleared for human habitation.  We shouldn’t even be here.”

She scowled at him.  “Don’t be such a wuss.  This is a Grade E Planet.  There’s nothing dangerous here.”

Peter jumped off his jetfly, leaving it rocking, and stormed over.  He towered above Hannah.  “This is a
PROVISIONAL Grade E Planet.  The preliminary one-year survey found no evidence of malignant life forms.  
That doesn’t mean there are none.”

Hannah pointed at the dodo beetle.  “Does she look dangerous?”

Five feet away, the placid dodo beetle raised one orange antenna curiously in their direction.  Hannah walked
closer.  Six pairs of purple eyes followed her movement.

“This beauty must be four feet long,” she said.  “Look at its pretty, bright-blue thorax.  It’s huge!”

Peter squinted.  “She’s carrying eggs, and probably headed north to the cool, forested region in search of a
good place to lay them.”

“I never gave a thought to their reproduction.  Do they sit on their eggs like a hen?”

“No.  They find a suitable Mauritian giant-sequoia trunk and inject the eggs inside.  They have evolved an
effective boring tool to drill through the tough bark and into the wood.  Within two days the eggs hatch and
dodo beetle larvae eat the tree from inside.”

Hannah circled the insect until she found a long, sharp, black rod sticking out of its tail suited to such a task.  
She shuddered.  It reminded her of a torture implement she once saw in a medieval history museum on Earth.  
“Two days sounds quick.”

Peter nodded, moving around the beetle to join her.  “It’s very different to the lifecycle of beetles on Earth.  
The larval stage is much shorter, and the beetle stage longer.”

Hannah bent to touch it.

“Hey, hold on,” said Peter, grabbing her arm.  His green eyes took on a familiar hard appearance and she
flinched.  “I told you.  It could be dangerous.”

“Don’t be silly.”  She shook off his grip.  “Everyone knows dodo beetles are harmless.”

“At least let me scan it.”

“Okay, if it’ll make you feel better.”

Peter stomped to his jetfly, pushing past some exotic-looking short red bushes.  He drew the portoscan from
its holster.  Pointing the nozzle of the white, pistol-shaped device at the beetle, his eyes took on a dream-like
look as his optic nerves interfaced with his biochip processor.

The beetle turned around slowly so it faced him, and then pointed its own two antennae at him in a parody of
his scan.  It didn’t surprise Hannah these insects had become extinct within the Green Zone.  Not only were
they slow, but they didn’t exhibit the caution and fear you’d expect from an animal which tasted so good.

“There must be some mistake,” Peter mumbled.

“What is it?”

Peter walked closer to Hannah allowing their biochip processors to interface.  On a developed planet, one
could send messages across the globe with a single thought using the powerful net uplink.  Here in the Red
Zone of New Mauritius, they had to be less than six feet from each other.  In her mind’s view, Hannah saw a
connection request superimposed over the beetle’s blue form.

* Connection request.
* User: Peter Smithson - Add Friend/Accept/Ignore?

As usual, she chose not to add him as a friend.  That would allow him too many access rights.  Instead she
merely accepted the temporary connection, opening a new window.

Now Hannah saw what Peter already knew.  According to the multisensory scanner, this wasn’t a dodo beetle.  
This insect belonged to an unknown species.  She snatched the scanner from his hands and shook it.  “Alien
shit!”

“Hold on,” said Peter, recovering his scanner.  “The portoscan might not be broken.  This may really be a
different but closely related species: one which has adapted different survival techniques.  This insect may be
the key to the New Mauritius Enigma.”

Hannah frowned.  “Enigma?”

“Yeah, it’s a huge debate in exobiology.”

She sighed.  “And you’re going to tell me about it.”

“It’s interesting, listen.”  Peter used the portoscan like a baton to emphasize his points.  “On New Mauritius
there’s one dominant predator.”

“The buffalo spider,” Hannah supplied and trembled.  Although she knew they were harmless, no rational
person could face a ten-foot-high arachnid without fear.  A freak of evolution had created this vicious
carnivore which couldn’t stand the scent of human kind.  Anywhere humans settled, the spiders evacuated.  
The planetary government talked about establishing human-free conservation areas to prevent their extinction.

Peter smirked.  “The interesting question is: how does the dodo beetle survive?  They’re slow and flightless,
like their extinct namesake on Earth.  In a closed ecosystem, one would expect the spider to prey upon the
beetle until it either evolved or became extinct.”

Hannah shrugged.  “Maybe buffalo spiders don’t like the taste of beetles.”

Peter shook his head.  “In the wild, elderly or sick buffalo spiders catch and eat dodo beetles.  In captivity, all
spiders prefer beetle steaks to any other food.  The enigma is: why don’t healthy spiders prey upon beetles in
the wild?”

She yawned.  “Let’s just pick this baby up, throw it on the back of my jetfly, and then conduct our own taste
experiments.”

Peter shook his head, an expression of shock on his face.  “Don’t you understand?  This could be a completely
new species.  It could harbor important clues about why spiders don’t hunt beetles.”

“Well,” said Hannah, “if it is a new species, I’m sure any exobiologists working on the enigma will be grateful for
us bringing it to their attention.”

Peter’s eyes narrowed.  “You don’t listen, do you?  This is the Red Zone.  If we get caught smuggling any life
form into the Green Zone, we’ll go to prison.  It’s a serious crime on frontier planets.”

Hannah grinned.  “We’ll eat the evidence.”

Peter clenched his fists and shook his head.  “I’m sick of you and your constant refusal to follow alien contact
protocol.  I’ve had enough.  I’m going to wipe my biochip memory crystal to hide all evidence of our illegal visit
to the Red Zone and this alien contact.”

He turned and stomped back to his jetfly.  After slamming the portoscan back into its holster, he clambered
on.  He turned his head to Hannah.  “I’m returning to the Green Zone.  Are you coming or not?”

“Not without my dinner.”  She dipped her head and gazed at him through where her eyebrows had been,
fluttering her eyelids.  “Aren’t you going to help me lift it?  I won’t be able to move it by myself.”

He snorted.  Flipping the switches in sequence, he brought the sky-drive online and powered up.  The jetfly
hummed, ready for action.  He glowered at her one last time, then squeezed the throttle and shot up into the
sky, banking until he headed in the direction of the Green Zone.  What a jerk!  Hannah knew she’d lost this
argument.  She thought it unlikely she’d be able to lift the heavy beetle on her own.

She stared at the dodo beetle.  Clearly the portoscan was defective.  This beetle was no different to the one
they ate three days ago.  Hannah stroked its back and felt it tremble under her fingertips.  The metallic-blue,
chitinous shell felt smooth and surprisingly cool.  It backed away from her, bringing both orange antennae and
all twelve eyes to focus on her.  She wondered if perhaps she might be strong enough to lift it without Peter’s
assistance.

New Mauritius had a gravity field of approximately seventy percent Earth standard, so although this beetle
would probably weigh a hundred pounds on Earth, here it would only be seventy.  Hannah prided herself on her
strength, but doubted she would be able to move a seventy pound beetle single-handed.  She decided to
attempt it anyhow.

The beetle began to scamper away.  Hannah easily caught up and blocked its path.  She moved around it until
she found a good position to lift from, to one side of its thorax.  She bent her legs and kept her back straight
as she attempted a dead lift.  The beetle shook free of her grip and spun quicker than she thought possible to
face her.

Something punched Hannah hard in the stomach, winding her.  Electrifying shock waves shot from her
abdomen to her brain.  She stepped back and doubled over.  Falling to her knees, she attempted to catch her
breath.  The intense pain in her midriff made her retch.  Her breakfast splattered onto the dusty ground.  The
beetle turned and scurried away as fast as its ten legs could carry it.

* Warning!  Foreign chemical contamination detected in bloodstream.  Organic compound.  Nature unidentified.
* Warning!  Minor blood loss.
* Warning!  Minor skin punctures detected in lower abdominal region.  Quantity: two.  Application of antiseptic
cream and Band Aid recommended.
* Warning!  Hostile environment.
* Warning!  Unsafe high solar radiation level.
* Warning!  Unsafe high temperature regime.

Hannah looked at her stomach.  Her heart raced when she saw her own blood splattered across it.  She held
her breath as she lifted her blood-stained T-shirt.  Two tiny red punctures pierced her skin three inches apart
on her lower abdomen.  The surrounding flesh had begun to swell up.  That beetle had bitten her!  But she
knew dodo beetles didn’t bite people.  Could it have been rabid?

She felt queasy and wanted this bite examined by a planetary doctor.  The last thing she needed was some
exotic alien infection.  Hannah struggled up onto her feet and took two steps toward the jetfly.  Her legs
buckled and she saw the ground approaching.  Pain shot through her skull.  The world turned black.

********************************************************************************

The sun blazed down.  Inside her skull an invisible monster played with a hammer.  Sand stung her eyes.  An
alarm bleeped urgently inside Hannah’s head.

* Warning!  Immediate medical attention required.  It is recommended Hannah Jones immediately visits the
nearest medical centre.
* Warning!  Hannah Jones has suffered trauma induced unconsciousness.  Time lapse: twenty eight minutes,
fourteen seconds.
* Warning!  Foreign chemical contamination detected in bloodstream.  Organic compound.  Nature unidentified.
* Warning!  Minor blood loss detected.
* Warning!  Minor skin punctures detected in lower abdominal region.  Quantity: two.  Application of antiseptic
cream and Band Aid recommended.
* Warning!  Hostile environment.
* Warning!  Unsafe high solar radiation level.
* Warning!  Unsafe high temperature regime.

Hannah wondered why she was now laid on her back, since she knew she’d fallen forward.  The ground under
her acted like the surface of a griddle, and Hannah was a burger ready to be flipped.  Fortunately she’d
smeared on plenty of sun block before setting off that morning.  

She started to get up, but found her muscles wouldn’t respond.  Hannah couldn’t move.  Feeling helpless and
trapped, she screamed.  If she were truly paralyzed, escape would be impossible.  Hyperventilating, she lost
control of both her bladder and bowels.

A few minutes passed, and nothing happened.  She began to rationalize her situation.  Peter would be back at
the hotel, expecting her to follow with her tail between her legs.  After a short while, he’d worry.  He’d fly
back here.  Of course…she’d almost forgotten.  Hannah flicked through her biochip processor emergency
options.

* Warning!  Hannah Jones has activated the emergency biochip beacon.  This signal will send a priority
message to any person with biochip processor compatible systems within five thousand feet.  It is a federal
offense to activate an emergency beacon except in a genuine emergency.  A useful list of qualifying events
may be found in the Emergencies Directory of the users guide.

Intense pain shot up Hannah’s left leg.  Something had grabbed hold of her foot, and it felt like someone
gripping her with a giant nutcracker.  She attempted once more to rise and see what caused her blinding
agony, but her head only cleared the ground by an inch.

* Warning!  Urgent emergency medical treatment required.  Hannah Jones must visit the nearest emergency
hospital.
* Warning!  Multiple lacerations detected, left foot region.
* Warning!  Tarsal ligament damage detected, left foot region.
* Warning!  Tarsal muscle damage detected, left foot region.
* Warning!  Tarsal and metatarsal bone fractures detected, left foot region.

Hannah screamed again.  Her heart threatened to burst out from her rib cage.

The torture increased as whatever gripped her foot began to move, swinging her foot from side to side like a
dog worrying at a bone.  Hannah felt the sandy earth under her move and soon her bare head bumped over
small, sharp rocks as something strong dragged her along the ground.  The throbbing in her head rose to a
crescendo.  She cried, but the salty tears evaporated before travelling half-an-inch from her eyes.  The
savage pain became too intense and her world turned dark once more.

********************************************************************************

Sheer agony woke her.  Her stomach burned.  The hot air stank of human feces and wet dog.  The biochip
sounded in her mind.

* Warning!  Urgent medical treatment required.  Hannah Jones must visit nearest emergency hospital.
* Warning!  Critical blood loss detected.  Blood pressure at sixty percent of optimum.
* Warning!  Six abdominal lacerations detected.
* Warning!  Foreign chemical contamination detected.  Organic compound.  Nature unidentified.

Her eyelids had become glued together.  She forced them to open.  Above her stretched a rough rock ceiling
peppered with tiny stalactites.  Light poured in from outside.  She queried her biochip.

* Warning!  Hannah Jones has suffered trauma induced unconsciousness.  Time lapse: two hours, eight
minutes, forty-two seconds.

Surely Peter was searching for Hannah by now.  She pushed herself onto her elbows and found she was now
able to struggle into a sitting position.  Her T-shirt had been shredded away and her shorts tugged down to
reveal sickly, gray skin.  Deep holes violated her stomach, each about three inches across.  Blood oozed out of
them.

* Warning!  Urgent medical treatment required.  Hannah Jones must visit nearest emergency hospital.
* Warning!  Critical blood loss detected.  Blood pressure at forty-five percent of optimum.
* Analysis of lacerations indicates no major organ damage.

A warm, dry breeze brushed against her back.  Hannah suspected a short crawl would lead to the desert and
freedom.  She scanned around the cavern, but saw no sign of the monster.  Her left foot was useless.  She
folded up her right leg, and pushed back.  Her muscles complained, but using her hands to balance, she soon
edged a foot closer to the light.  Shuffling on her bottom, she wriggled backward.  Hannah panted at the
unusual exertion.  She believed if she could get outside, Peter would find her.  Hannah turned her head toward
the light.  She could see a huge cave mouth leading to an open space.  The clear, blue sky never looked so
inviting.

From the dark recesses of the cave, a clicking noise drew Hannah’s attention.  The creature which resembled
a harmless dodo beetle emerged from the dark shadows.  It scurried toward her.  She panicked and attempted
to shuffle quicker, but instead lost the support of her elbows.  Her head plummeted and dashed against the
rock floor, exploding into agony.

Something brushed across her legs out of sight.  A stabbing pain in her thigh forced her to twist.  After that
agony subsided, once again something beyond her vision grabbed her foot and dragged her into the darkness.  
Blistering pain flooded her entire body and Hannah’s eyes rolled up into her skull.

********************************************************************************


* Warning!  Hannah Jones has suffered trauma induced unconsciousness.  Time lapse: eleven minutes,
seventeen seconds.
* Warning!  Significant increase in foreign chemical contamination in bloodstream detected.  Organic
compound.  Nature unidentified.
* Warning!  Minor skin punctures detected in upper right thigh region.  Quantity: two.  Application of
antiseptic cream and Band Aid recommended.

Hannah forced her eyes open.  It wasn’t easy, since her eyelids didn’t want to respond.  Her eyes rolled
around.  She couldn’t keep them straight.  Her view was blurred.  The beetle’s thorax passed overhead.  On
the underside of its body were attached six white, faintly luminous, golf ball-sized eggs.  She tried to open her
mouth and scream, but nothing happened.  She could feel everything, but not move a muscle.  The pain
intensified to a point where she could take no more.  The cave darkened.

* Critical Medical Emergency Warning!  Urgent medical treatment required.  Failure to immediately visit nearest
emergency hospital will result in termination of Hannah Jones’ life.
* Warning!  Hannah Jones has suffered trauma induced unconsciousness.  Time lapse: twenty-two minutes,
nine seconds.
* Warning!  Foreign biomass detected.  Quantity: six.  Organic.  Unidentified.  Initial analysis: malignant.  
Urgent removal recommended.

Hannah didn’t want to wake, but the biochip’s incessant warnings wouldn’t allow her to remain unconscious.  
Hannah found she could now move her eyes a little better.

Somewhere nearby, rock scraped against rock.  The sound came from the same direction as the light.  The
beetle moved into her line of sight.  Its giant mandibles bore a large rock.  It dropped the stone, spat foamy
material onto it, and then turned.  After a few seconds it reappeared with another stone.  Understanding
dawned.  Hannah hated the dark.  She hated confined spaces.  She didn’t want to be walled in.

* Warning!  Emergency biochip beacon failure.  Impenetrable barrier detected.  Immediately relocate to
external, open ground or tall building.

Searing pain dominated Hannah’s universe.  It forced her to remain conscious as she lay in the dark and
suffered indescribable torture.  Twenty-two critical warning alarms now sounded in her mind, all vying for
immediate attention.  But the discomfort of the constant tearing, twisting motions inside her abdomen
dominated her consciousness, leaving no room for other sensations.  Her central nervous system
comprehended only one synaptic signal: stabbing pain as her ruined internal organs were ripped apart and
consumed by all too real nightmarish creatures.

* Critical Medical Emergency Warning! Urgent medical treatment mandatory.  Failure to comply will result in
termination of Hannah Jones’ life.
* Warn…


Lieutenant Oliver Yang of the New Mauritius Police Department smiled across the interview table at Peter
Smithson.  Yang took a sip of coffee, and cringed.  While he asked his questions, it had turned cold.

Smithson shivered because he only wore the prison-supplied, thin, orange boiler suit.  He deserved to suffer.  
Yang slid yet another textview slide over to Smithson.  It contained his final statement.  Peter Smithson glared
at him, but still allowed the slide to scan his eye and confirm his identity.  Smithson’s biochip processor
transmitted the necessary authorization codes which converted the draft statement into an official legal
document for use in the courtroom.

Yang decided to give it one more go.  “Mr. Smithson.  The trial begins tomorrow.  If you admit guilt now, the
judge may go easy on you.”

Smithson’s shackles jangled as he banged his fists on the table and leaned forward.  The prison guard in the
corner stepped forward, raising his pulsebaton.  Yang waved the guard back.

The most famous crime suspect on New Mauritius snarled at Yang.  “I’ve told you.  I didn’t kill her.”

Yang grinned.  “Don’t forget, Mr. Smithson, we know the police on New Gaia cautioned you twice for
threatening behavior toward your ex-partner.”

Smithson shook his head.  “That was nothing.  Some arguments got out of hand.  I never killed anyone.”

The Lieutenant sighed.  “Then, pray tell me…after you abandoned Hannah Jones in the Red Zone, why did you
wipe your biochip processor memory of the whole event?”

“I’ve told you a hundred times.  Because of the beetle.”

If Yang possessed hair on his head, he would have been tearing it out by now.  Smithson persisted with his
ridiculous story of a dodo beetle that was not a dodo beetle.  The N.M.P.D. had commissioned an expert team
of exobiologists to check out this possibility.  Scientists scanned two thousand dodo beetles in the desert area
without one abnormal result.  Even if there were a new species of beetle, it wouldn’t explain Hannah Jones’
disappearance.

The Lieutenant leaned forward.  “Five members of staff witnessed you striking Miss Jones at the Grand Hotel.”

Smithson tensed.  “I only pushed her because we were arguing.”

“The day before you reported Miss Jones missing in the Red Zone, the two of you argued violently at dinner.”

Smithson slumped in his chair, his eyes focused on the ground between his feet.

Yang stood up and loomed over Smithson.  “It’s quite clear you murdered Hannah Jones in cold blood.”

The Lieutenant wished his ground team had located the corpse.  Unfortunately the desert sands shifted
constantly, so it was unlikely it would ever be recovered.

A hand touched Yang’s shoulder.  Turning, he saw Prison Governor Shu standing behind him.  “Time to go meet
the press, again.”  They left the guard to deal with Smithson and walked out into the corridor.

As they walked, Shu looked him up and down.  “You’re looking good, Oliver.  Is that suit from Earth?”

Yang smirked, and adjusted his tie.  “Yeah, who would have thought it?  Me, wearing expensive Earth clothes.  
Thanks, Ed.  I suppose every gray cloud has a silver lining.”

They paused at the end of the corridor while the door security system scanned them and confirmed their
identity through biochip verification.  “This cloud has a gold lining for you, my old friend.  Every journalist on
New Mauritius wants to meet the police officer in charge of the Smithson case.”

The narrow door opened, and Shu waved Yang through first.  The administration area outside bustled with
activity.  Shu directed Yang with his hand.  Yang admired the efficient organization his friend had established
at the prison.

“I have struck one or two deals,” said Yang.  “Obviously I can’t say anything until the court case is wound
up.  Even afterward, I won’t be able to hand over any official files or data from Smithson’s memory.  But once
the dust has settled, my memories will entertain the population of New Mauritius.”

Shu patted him on the back.  “And what will N.M.P.D.’s star Lieutenant do next?”

“Have you heard about the Dodoville farmers?”

Shu led Yang through the maze of desks.  “Oh, the three settlers who’ve gone missing on the very edge of the
Green Zone near the desert.  Wow, that’s another high profile case.  So…what do you think happened to
them?”

Yang shrugged.  “You know settlers.  They probably decided farming was too much like hard work.”

Shu shook his head.  “There’s prime land near Dodoville, and fantastic hunting.  What could be so difficult
about farming there?  My cousin has caught some fat dodo beetles near the desert.”

Yang nodded.  “Yeah, I’ve seen them.  They’re huge near the desert.  I’m thinking about taking a hunting trip
out there myself.”

The two old friends arrived at the door to the press room.  Inside they saw a huge crowd of journalists.  Shu
chuckled.  “Smithson must be the most famous man on the planet; the first murderer in the history of New
Mauritius.”

Yang shook his head.  “Do you realize in a hundred years we’ll be forgotten, while Smithson’s name will be
known to every school kid on New Mauritius.  If we are remembered at all, it will be because of our association
with him.”

Shu laughed.  “Speaking of our famous guest, any progress with him today?”

“He’s sticking to the same bullshit story.”

Shu frowned.  “Doesn’t he realize he’ll fry for this?”

Yang looked away for a second.  “I think I’ve made my feelings about that perfectly clear.”

Shu placed a hand on Yang’s shoulder.  “I’m sorry.”

“Well, my philosophy has always been, ‘Shi shang zhi you ma ma hao.’”

Shu laughed.  “I wish I could remember my classical Mandarin so well.  I haven’t attempted a single character
since we graduated high school.”

“It means, ‘in this world…only your mom is good.’”

Yang didn’t remember any classical Mandarin either.  He only remembered that one line from an ancient Earth
nursery rhyme.  The song his mom sang to him every night when she put him to bed…every night until the
night of his fourth birthday.  That night his violent, alcoholic father struck her one time too many.

Yang’s father had been charged with murder.  An expert psychologist testified in his defense, declaring him
insane.  Instead of facing the chair, he spent the rest of his days in a comfortable mental hospital.  This time,
Yang would see justice done.  He wasn’t going to let any shrink near this woman beater.  Lieutenant Oliver
Yang would make damn sure Smithson fried.