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by Lee Gimenez
Category: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: Azul 7 is a page-turning sci-fi thriller, set in the 22nd century in the Azul star system. During a homicide investigation, Jake Montoya, a hard-as-nails cop, uncovers several unexplained deaths. Soon after, the Kademi, a bizarre but highly intelligent extraterrestrial race, lands on Azul 7, and offer to trade Faster-Than-Light spacecraft fuel for use of the empty desert lands on the planet. The Governor of Azul agrees, and from then on Jake's world turns upside down as he finds the dreadful truth about the aliens and the death they bring. He becomes the leader of the Resistance movement, and with the help of his beautiful girlfriend Mei Le Tan, and a resourceful police captain, Erin Lewis, he fights the aliens and his own corrupt government in a bid to save the future of humanity.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
13 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [229 KB]
Reading time: 131-183 min.
?Azul 7 initially caught my attention, and then I became disillusioned for a bit. The first part of the book seemed to jump around, as though pieces were cut out and nothing was put in to replace it, and I lost a bit of my zeal. However about halfway through it picked back up the promise that it had shown in the very beginning and the main character came more alive to me. Jake is not your traditional hero. He is more of Rambo meets The Gigolo. And it is easy to both love and hate him and his easy ways. So if you are looking for romance with a science fiction/fantasy twist this is not it. This is more Science fiction with a bit of romance. I hope to see the promise that was shown shine through in the next book by Lee Gimenez!? Reviewed by Nicole Hicks, Howling Good Books
The planet's twin suns appeared over the horizon, the nighttime sky giving way to dusk, the heat of the day already building. Overhead, the slipstream highways whispered, traffic still light. Jake sat on the balcony and sipped red maki, the harsh liquor burning his throat. From here he could make out the faint outline of the city in the distance. He wiped sweat from his forehead and went inside his condocube, where the aircon was on full blast, cooling him off.
In the background, news blared, something about a space object detected forty light years away. Sipping the maki, he shut off the news and set the autochef for breakfast.
A minute later his corneal implant flashed. This can't be good, he thought. It was rare to get a signal this early in the morning.
It was Chief Stuart. "Get here right away."
Jake got a clear picture of Stuart on the implant, the small screen on the lower part of his eye. "Sure. What's up?"
"We've got a homicide. Meet me at the location," Stuart snapped, reading off the coordinates and slamming off the connection.
* * * *
Police detective Jake Montoya punched the coordinates into his flyer and joined the slipstream highway, traffic already getting heavy across the six lanes. Flying over the blue trees of the terra-formed countryside and then past the sleek skyscrapers of downtown, he went north. Azul's suns cast a harsh light over the planet's surface, the glare seeping into the vehicle. Soon he hovered over the crime scene, a park on the north side of AzulCity, where a crowd of onlookers had already gathered. Police groundcars and aircruisers swarmed the area. He landed and walked over to the site, now cordoned off with laser tape.
He saw the crumpled body lying by a small pond. The Chief squatted down beside it, his obese frame straining against his uniform. The vic was Terran, female, mid twenties, slender with dark blond hair. She was naked, a ripped tunic on the ground next to her. Blood covered her face and her forehead was smashed in. He noticed the victim's genetically-altered cells had tried to grow the skin back together, but the injuries were too severe. A bloody rock lay on the ground next to her.
"Any witnesses?" Jake asked.
"Nothing," Stuart said. "The ME puts the time of death sometime last night. Probably no one in the park at the time."
Jake knelt next to the body and touched her arm. The body was stiff, the skin turning pale gray. "We haven't had a homicide in a while..." He pulled a sheet over her.
"My money's on the Lenusians," Stuart said.
Jake's boss was predictable. The Lenus were the humanoid native inhabitants of Azul 7 and Stuart's usual suspects. Years ago, a Lenu's groundcar had accidently run over Stuart's son, breaking his leg.
"That's crap, Chief. They don't have a history of violence."
Stuart shook his head, his fat jowls shaking. "Quit standing up for them. Just do your job and see where it takes you. The Governor's going to be on my ass to solve this, and quick. We'll process the scene here--you head over to LenCity--talk to the police captain there. See if she can shed some light."
Jake nodded, then looked at the covered body again. He said a silent prayer for her.
* * * *
LenCity, the area of Azul where the Lenusians lived, was ten kilometers east. It was a massive complex of run-down buildings and compared to the towers where the Terrans lived, it was a slum. Jake took his flyer and within minutes neared the police building, located at the entrance to the city. He landed on the roof parking lot and took the tube down to the office of Captain Erin Lewis. The place had that worn, industrial look of police offices everywhere--peeling gray paint on the walls and worn ferro-crete for the floors.
He'd worked with Lewis on a case last year--she was a smart and tough cop. Today she was dressed in a gray police tunic with a black jacket. Her blue eyes were penetrating--some would say cold. With shoulder-length auburn hair and high cheekbones, she looked more like a vid star than a cop.
"Morning, Captain," Jake said. "You've probably heard about it by now."
She grimaced. "It's all over the com-net. And I'm sure the Chief's blaming the Lenus..."
"You know Stuart..."
"Too well," she said. "You agree with him?"
"No. There's no history of violence. But, then, we haven't had a homicide in months."
Erin nodded. "We're holding one Lenusian right now. His name's Talik 378 and he's a maintenance worker at the park where the woman was killed. I'll uplink you his file." She tapped the comp-pad on her wrist.
The small screen in his eye lit up, and he scrolled the file.
"We questioned him this morning," she said. "He said he didn't do anything, didn't see anything. Could be--it's a big park."
"I want to talk to him."
* * * *
Talik 378 was a typical-looking Lenu, two meters tall, broad-shouldered, with a narrow forehead and blue, scaly skin. Dressed in the standard brown tunic of the Lenus, he squirmed as he sat in the interrogation room. The room was stark--two chairs separated by a metal table, and bare walls, with one wall covered by what looked like a mirror, but was really a viewing window.
Erin led the detective to the room and closed the door behind him, staying outside the room to watch.
Jake sat down and slid a bottle across the table. "Want some water?"
Talik shook his head, his gaze darting about.
"You were at the park last night," Jake said.
"I do nothing bad," Talik said with his kind's distinctive guttural accent.
"I'm not saying you did. What were you doing there?"
"I work. I clean park."
"Did you see anything out of the ordinary? Did you see the woman in the park?"
Suddenly, Talik jumped out of his chair, grabbed Jake by the shoulders and slammed him against the wall. "I say no! I do no wrong!"
Jake punched him in the gut and the Lenu staggered back. Terran cops rushed in the room, beat Talik with batons and then shackled him to the floor.
Surprised by the outburst, Jake joined Erin outside the room.
"That was strange," he said.
Erin folded her arms across her chest. "I'll say. They're usually docile."
* * * *
That night, Jake's implant flashed, waking him from a deep sleep. "What the hell..." he mumbled. He sat up on the bed and turned on a light. The Chief was on the small screen.
"Montoya, get over here. We got another one. I'll uplink you the coordinates."
Jake got up and threw on his police uniform. He was a tall man, ruggedly built, mid-thirties, with close-cropped brown hair. Looking in the mirror, he saw his eyes were tired and red-rimmed. Got to cut down on the booze. He washed his face, shaved quickly and rinsed his mouth to get rid of the liquor smell. Then he slipped the comp-pad on his wrist, grabbed his weapon and headed out.
* * * *
This time they found the body in an office tower on the south side of the city. The vic was a middle-aged Terran woman. One of her co-workers on the early shift had found her. Same MO--someone had smashed her head with a comp-pad, found next to the body and, like the other homicide, her clothes had been ripped off. A torn dress lay on the floor and blood pooled around the body.
"The Governor called me twice yesterday," Stuart said. "Wait till he hears about this one."
Jake shook his head in disgust. "I'm more concerned about the victim here--"
"Montoya, don't be an idiot. We've got to come up with some answers."
"So far we've got two murders in two days. Same pattern, approximately the same time of night. There may be a connection."
"How about that Lenu you saw yesterday," Stuart said. "You said he turned violent."
"Still in custody, so he couldn't have done this one."
"Too bad. I want to close this out fast."
"Chief, the trace evidence from the rock yesterday shows Lenu DNA--"
"Like I told you, those bastards are good for it."
"Maybe you're right. I'll head back to LenCity. That's our best bet so far."
* * * *
Erin paced her office, hands on her hips. "It doesn't make sense. The Lenusians are good workers. They don't give us much trouble. Hard to believe they're involved in these homicides."
Jake nodded. "I agree, it doesn't make sense. But we can't deny the evidence. Talik's DNA was on that rock. And there's Lenu DNA on the computer used in today's murder."
"We're cross-referencing that with the workers from the office tower. We'll have the results in a few minutes."
Just then, a cop came in her office and gave her a data chip.
She plugged the chip into her comp-pad and scrolled the report. "We got a match. A Lenu named Amik 936 works the night shift at that tower--he's on the cleaning crew. They've arrested him and are bringing him in."
* * * *
Amik was big and burly, his skin a darker shade of blue than most. The cops took no chances this time--his feet and hands were e-cuffed to the chair. He sat in the interrogation room, his small eyes staring around.
"Why'd you do it?" Jake asked.
Amik stared at him. "I not kill ... I not kill her."
"We've got you cold, Amik. Your DNA was all over that computer."
"I not kill..."
"You guys killed two women already. Who else is in on it? Tell me, damn it!"
Amik slammed his head down on the metal table. "I not do it. I not do it!" he yelled, while slamming his head down over and over. One of other officers grabbed Amik and strapped his head against the chair. Then the humanoid stopped talking and wouldn't say another word.
* * * *
A week later, Jake waited in Erin's office while she finished a meeting. The Wallscreen was on, the latest news blaring--the homicides were the number one story. Details of the murders had somehow leaked to the press, including the Lenusian connection. Terrans were outraged at the killings and public opinion against the Lenus was vocal and wide-spreading. Demonstrations calling for the banning of the humanoids from Azul cities were held in front of government buildings. He listened idly, while writing notes on his comp-pad. The only other news of the day was scientific. Satellite telescopes had photographed the mysterious space object, which was now only twenty light years away. The images were faint and scientists were analyzing them, trying to figure out what it could be. A recent recon flight by the Space Force hadn't located anything. Then commercials interrupted the news, the first one for a new drug on the market called Pacifica, an antidepressant. Next, an ad for Governor Marshall appeared on the wall-size screen. No surprise there--the man was behind in the polls and the election was coming up next month.
Just then, Erin came back into her office. Today she was wearing her tunic with no jacket. She looks great, he thought.
"Morning, Jake," she said with a wry smile. "Anything new?"
"Not really. Looks like we have a solid case on the two Lenus in custody. One thing bothers me, though."
"Both murder weapons were next to the bodies."
Erin grinned. "You know, the Lenus aren't that bright..."
"They're not that dumb either."
"Maybe they're tired of being our servants. After all, that's what they've been all these years ... you can't blame them for being sick of it. And anyway, why argue with the evidence--you've got a solid case against each Lenu. Don't screw it up."
Suddenly, the news came back on the Wallscreen. The reporter spoke, his voice tense. "We have breaking news. We've just learned that a dead body has been found at the art museum downtown ... our sources tell us the death is suspicious..."
"Damn," Erin said. "That makes three."
His implant lit up. Here we go again.
* * * *
Jake stared at the body. A Terran woman, naked, skull crushed, a lot of blood. A bloody bronze sculpture lay on the marble floor next to her.
Chief Stuart's face was flush red. "My ass is grass now. We've got a rash of killings, and no way to stop it."
"Chief, we'll figure it out ... it's just going to take some time."
"I don't have time--I've got to fix this now."
Jake nodded. "We'll check the DNA on the sculpture. I'm pretty sure it's going to be Lenu."
"You get on with that, but we have to make a move. I'm going to ask the Governor to impose martial law on the humanoids right now."
Stuart scowled. "Shut up, Montoya. I'm not listening to your crap anymore. Those things are guilty as hell."
* * * *
The Medical Examiner's lab was large, with multiple autopsy tables and state-of-the-art equipment. Computer monitors covered one wall of the room, showing the in-progress details of each of the autopsies. The ME was hunched over a corpse now, holding a scanner over the dead woman's arms. Dr. Patel was a tall, thin man with a slight stoop. Patel had told Jake years ago the stoop came from bending over too many vics.
"How's it going, doc," Jake said, as he slowly walked up to the metal table.
The ME looked up. "Jake. Good to see you." He put down the scanner. "Here about the homicides?"
"What else? Anything unexpected show up?"
Patel stripped off his bloody gloves and wiped his hands with a towel. "No. Cause of death in all of them was blunt force trauma to the head. The GA cells tried to repair the damage, but the wounds were too large. No sign of drugs or alcohol. The trace evidence is all Lenusian. I'll uplink you the full reports."
"Any sign of sexual molestation?"
Patel shook his head. "None."
Jake pointed to another Terran corpse, a male lying on another of the autopsy tables. "What do you have there?"
"Nothing special--heart attack."
He turned back to the ME. "Ok, thanks doc. I'll go over the reports and let you know if I've got more questions."
* * * *
By the next day, martial law was imposed on the LenCity residents--they could only leave their city to work. Terran police went on high alert, stopping and searching the humanoids at will. Although the DNA on all the homicides had been Lenusian, Jake still had a nagging feeling they weren't responsible. Someone else--or something else, was suddenly generating violence where there was usually next to none.
On a hunch, he decided to do some digging on the drug company marketing the new Pacifica drug. He programmed his flyer for the company's headquarters and joined the slipstream highway--the place was located on the east side of the city in a nondescript tower.
The company director, a middle-aged, scientist-looking type, met Jake in his office.
"We're investigating the recent murders," the detective said. "I'm following up on a couple of things."
The scientist looked puzzled. "I'm not sure how I can be of help."
"I noticed you're promoting a new antidepressant. Tell me about that."
The man smiled. "Yes, yes, of course. Pacifica is a very effective treatment. We've had a lot of success with it. We see this as a great growth opportunity for us."
"Any side effects of the drug--like unexpected violent behavior in certain people?"
"None at all."
"I'm sure you're right. But I'll need to see your product testing data and any internal reports relating to its launch."
The man's faced turned white. "I ... we couldn't do that ... that's all proprietary information ... I'm sure you understand--"
"I'll be back with a warrant," Jake said.
* * * *
That evening, Jake was finishing up dinner at home when he turned on the Wallscreen. He watched the news, which was mostly about the killings. The martial law issued for the Lenus was popular with Terrans--a poll taken today showed the approval rating of Governor Marshall had skyrocketed. What was previously thought to be a close election was now considered a possible landslide for the Governor. The only other news of the day concerned the space object recently spotted by the satellite telescopes. The object was now closer to Azul 7 and the image was becoming less faint. Scientists now speculated it could be a meteor heading for their star system.
Jake turned off the news and started to sift through the mountain of data chips he'd gotten earlier today from the drug company. Five hours later, bleary-eyed from reading his comp-pad, he fell into bed.
* * * *
A week later, he decided to follow up on a different lead he was working on. Taking his flyer, he went to the government's Executive Building downtown. It was an impressive building, made of white marble and taking up almost a block of the downtown area.
"I'm Detective Jake Montoya, with the APD," he said to the female receptionist, while flashing his badge.
The blonde Terran flashed a perfect smile. "Yes, Detective. How can I help you?"
"I need to speak with the Governor, please."
"Do you have an appointment?"
"No. I know he's a busy man, but if you tell him it has to do with the homicide investigations, he'll have a few minutes for me."
"Of course, Detective. I'll check with him. If you'll just please have a seat."
He waited in the opulent foyer, idly watching the news on the Wallscreen. After a long wait, he was shown to the Governor's immense office.
The Governor was a large, heavy-set man, with white hair and a patrician nose. He sat behind an ornate, real-wood desk, and behind him were a row of identical Azul flags.
"Detective Montoya, please come in and have a seat. Would you like a drink or something to eat?"
"Thank you, Governor, but I'm fine. Thanks for taking the time to see me."
The Governor smiled broadly. "Anything to help the police, especially on such an important case ... but usually I deal with the Chief. Is there some reason you came to see me instead?"
"Actually, yes. I'm the lead investigator, and ... I just had a couple of questions..."
The Governor got up from his desk and poured himself a large scotch from a side table. "Of course, of course."
"Sir, I wanted to get your opinion on the case."
The Governor looked puzzled. "Opinion? You mean, what do I think happened?"
The man took a sip from his drink, turned and sat down in his well-padded desk chair.
"Well, it seems pretty obvious to me. The Lenus are angry at being errand boys and some of them are striking back."
Jake nodded again. "That's what I thought at first too, but now I'm not so sure."
The Governor took another pull at his drink. "I see. So what do you think?"
"Governor, your poll ratings have been in the tank all year. In fact, many people were predicting you were going to lose the next election--"
The Governor stood up abruptly and slapped his drink down on the desk, spilling some of the scotch. "I can't believe you're implying I had anything to do with these murders ... are you insane?"
Jake looked around the vast office, at the expensive paintings on the walls. "You've been in office twelve years--I'm sure it'd be hard to give all this up."
"Get out, you bastard," the man screamed. "Get out of my office right now!"
Jake stood up. "This isn't over yet, Governor. By the way, I did some checking on your bodyguards. One of them, Zarcoff, did five years in prison a while back. Seems he did time for manslaughter, although the DA wanted to press murder charges. From what I read, it looked like you intervened on his behalf back then. I questioned Zarcoff earlier--he clammed up when I started asking him about these new murders. And he has no alibi for when they were committed. I've arrested him on suspicion of murder. He's not talking yet, but I know he'll break. You paid Zarcoff to commit these new murders, didn't you?"
The Governor slumped in his chair and he gulped down his drink. His face turned bright red and he yelled, "Get the hell out of here!"
* * * *
As soon as he left the building, Jake's implant flashed. The Chief's image appeared on the screen.
"Montoya," Stuart screamed. "I can't believe you accused the Governor of murder! You're crazy! You're also fired! Get your sorry ass here pronto." The connection was immediately turned off.
Jake headed back toward the station. He'd hoped his boss would back him up, but that had been wishful thinking. He'd thought about going to the Chief first, telling him his suspicions, but had sensed that wouldn't have worked either. His boss would have never let him go see the Governor in person. The Chief was just another political animal.
* * * *
When he got home, he poured himself a drink and programmed the autochef for dinner. Manudo over rice and beans. Then his implant flashed again--it was Erin.
"I just heard what happened," she said. "The Chief signaled me. I'm sorry. So you think the Governor's behind the whole thing?"
"Yeah. He paid off one of his bodyguards to commit the murders and plant the evidence. Since the Lenus had a regular work schedule at the murder sites, it wouldn't be hard to get DNA residue from their equipment or food containers. The Governor did it to get re-elected. It's a hell of a way to boost poll ratings."
"Blaming the Lenus and imposing martial law really changed the polls," she said. "What are you going to do now?"
"Start looking for a new job. But before that, I've got one last thing to do."
"It's better if you don't know. You're still on the force."
Erin gave him a warm smile. "Call me if I can help, okay?"
"Sure. I'll do that," he said, returning her smile.
He closed the connection and signaled a couple of numbers. Maybe, just maybe, he could fix this whole mess.
* * * *
The news hit the screens a few hours later. Jake had stayed up, surfing the news channels to see if his reporter friend and the District Attorney had been successful.
"And in breaking news," the Global News Network anchor said in a deep baritone, "our sources tell us the police investigation now points to Governor Marshall as the person behind the murders of the three women. Although hard to believe, our update is based on a report from the lead police investigator. We know that same detective has been fired from the police force." The GNN anchor stopped talking and looked down at his comp-pad. "And in related news, one of the Governor's bodyguards has confessed to the murders and is negotiating with the District Attorney's office. As we get additional info on this developing story, we will bring it to you." The anchor paused, then continued. "And in other news, scientists tracking the mysterious space object heading toward Azul now say it is only five light years away. They have asked the Space Force to again send a starship to investigate. Now, turning to sports..."
Jake turned off the news and went to bed. There was nothing else he could do tonight.
* * * *
The next morning he woke up and turned on the news. A female anchor was on.
"...development from yesterday, we've just learned Governor Marshall has fled Azul. According to reliable sources at the space port, Marshall bribed the captain of a transport ship and headed out of this star system." She looked down at her comp-pad. "Authorities are now investigating the matter."
Jake breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe now he could get his job back. Besides his five years in the military, being a cop was the only thing he had ever done.
* * * *