(or The Case of the Smashed Pondu)

By Margaret Karamazin

Mureek whacked his head into the donbi as he descended into his house. Abane, his mate, insisted on hanging the herb packed donbis in the doorways to "drive out lower vibrations and open the pathway to creative energies" ever since she had been seeing that hive-brained moron, Healer Daq. Mureek had had an exasperating day and the last thing he needed was this ridiculous blob smashing into his face when he arrived home from work.

Besides, he suspected the real reason she was seeing the "healer" was that she wanted his help in getting Mureek to fertilize her eggs so she could lay them in his pouch. And then force him to a half year of carrying them until he is dragging himself about like a sick old wama. Probably she was hoping Daq would conjure up some ridiculous spell. Mureek might be in his thirty-second year, but he'd been quite clear with Abane from the start about his not wanting offspring. Now he recalled the expression in her widely spaced, green eyes after he told her and how he had misinterpreted it. It was the look females got when they were yessing you while nodding to themselves inwardly. He would eventually come around, her eyes were secretly saying. Now that he was older and understood females better, he knew that look.

Well, four years had passed and he had not changed his mind. He did not have time for offspring. Detecting took up most of what he had, along with his intellectual energy, and what was left of either he wished to spend with Abane. By themselves.

Abane was curled into Position Ga, practicing her Banne as, Mureek assumed, taught to her by Healer Daq. Mureek admired his mate; she was indeed a beauty. One and a fourth times his own size, sleek and tiny of waist and shiny of exoskeleton. Indeed, she kept her exoplates well polished and their variegated dark greens were the envy of their friends. Her head was long at the back and her nose smooth with only the narrowest of ridges, elegant under her tilted eyes. He was lucky to have her, he knew. A stab of guilt hit him in the thorax. She had every right to reproduce; was perfectly justified in her desire. He himself was the idiot perhaps.

As soon as she scented his greeting, she dropped the pose and uncurled, then gracefully stood up, waving one hand across her cheek in her characteristic gesture. Her pale green eyes flicked to gold then back as she released from her jaw glands five stories at once — a wild but sortable melange of taste and scent that shot across the room to land in the back of Mureek's throat, where his Wano receptors isolated each of the thousands of chemicals. The results were then passed on to his brain, which in turn interpreted the onslaught into a report of ideas, happenings and emotion. The language of Noorians everywhere.

Abane told him, "Krone and Juno passed their examinations and Juno has been accepted into Celmay Academy; Krone does not know yet what she wants. Lawfene has allowed me to take on more responsibility, which really means she wishes me to spy on her son. We will discuss this after our repast. I want to dig out another room to use for my Banne exercises. It doesn't feel proper to do them in here." Then, with eyes glancing casually off into the distance, she emitted one last little puff of scent. "Lamoon just laid eggs. Barm was overjoyed, she told me."

Mureek ignored this and emitted his own little cloud. "Why does Lawfene want you to spy on her son and which son?" He had a bad feeling about this. The truth was, he had never been happy with Abane working in the compound of Kater Lawfene, the District Administrator of Food Distribution. He knew that politics and anyone connected with them were tainted. As a friend from infanthood, Chan, so often said, "Anyone who climbs to a high position in that world, does so by stomping on heads."

His mate lowered herself to perch on a cushion, bringing her face more in line with his. The cushion was designed to balance the rather pointy behind of the Noor body, although many preferred to squat while relaxing. Abane enjoyed the sophistication of the sitting position, though it was less comfortable. "Kato Geffno is her second son. Lawfene believes that he is part of a group that supports an opposing candidate in the coming elections. A rather ruthless bunch."

"But it is a free world, is it not?" exhaled Mureek. "Does her son not have the right to his opinion?" His mate tilted her head back a little to receive his questions.

"Well, you see," said Abane, "This group that Geffno supports has been known to 'accidentally' eliminate their opponents. Things falling on their heads, machines suddenly going haywire and cutting off limbs. You understand. I believe that Kater Lawfene is aware that Geffno has kissed the back legs of several 'right' people who can elevate him to a position of power if they take over. Besides, they know that living in the same house as his mama-sa that he would know the details of her working, very inside information. They could anticipate her every move. They might even use him as their figurehead because of his already established name."

"Ah," said Mureek, "they would have their hands up his gadzel and be moving him about like an infant's toy. His mouth would be emitting, but the party's scent pictures would be coming out."

"Yes, my mate, you have it." She stood up, towering above him. Her sweet, soft, green skin between the exoskeleton plates tantalized him. He suspected she knew this.

He reached for her, but she suddenly turned. "It is my night to bring out the food. We are having Sucba. Not the kind with duranges but the Clyniman recipe."

"So how are you expected to watch this Kato Geffno? Surely, you cannot follow him everywhere. He must leave the compound off and on all day."

"She has given me free reign," said Abane. "And my own steamcar."

Mureek felt as if someone had whipkicked him in the thorax. His sweet Abane involved in this pile of waste. How he hated that she had to work for Lawfene in the first place, but a Noor female only stayed in the home once her mate had brought eggs to term. Because of his stubbornness, the light of his soul was endangering her very life! Of course, there were other roads she could take, but the income and the special foods she got her hands on were a wonderful and addictive addition to their household. She herself would be loathe to give up such privilege.

That night, Mureek could not enjoy curling into the arms of his mate but climbed up out of their underground home to stand in the light of Noor's moons. Three were up; and so, it was silvery bright. They said that there was no such thing as a seventh sense, but Mureek begged to differ. He felt in his very lymph that something unfortunate was about to occur. He had not come to be one of the finest detectives in the District of Celmay for nothing.

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