David never suspected anything unusual about his father’s job as a space miner. Then he received the gruesome ransom note…
When David is led to believe his father has been abducted while on a trip off-planet, he jumps into action—and right into a trap set by a mysterious enemy. Now David is the one in trouble, being used as bait to draw out his father and a secret that the old man has gone to significant effort to keep. But what is the secret? Who is this mysterious enemy, and what do they want with his father?
In this science fiction adventure story, David will uncover the answers to those and other questions…if he and his father can survive long enough!
You can read the first paragraphs of the story below, then order your copy.
by Karl El-Koura
Until he got the gruesome note, David had never had reason to believe that his father was anything more than an honest, hardworking, successful miner. Butler brought him the opaque plastic envelope very early on a Monday morning. His father had been away for three weeks now, leaving the running of the planet-side of the business, as he often did, in David’s young but capable hands.
David groaned, pulled himself up along the headboard, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He opened the envelope and pulled out the note.
All of what you think of as yours is rightfully mine. Your father is a thief and a murderer and he will pay for his crimes. How much of him you save is up to you. Enclosed please find the pinkie finger of his right hand. I have kept the ring, as first payment. Transfer thirty billion credits to the account below. One way or another, your father will be returned to you. In how many pieces depends on your promptness.
Breathing hard, David looked inside the envelope. There it was, a tiny piece of flesh.
He jumped out of bed. “Who gave this to you? Have him arrested!”
Butler’s eyes fluttered quickly for a second. “I’m sorry, Sir, he just left.”
David cursed, jumped across the bed, and grabbed Butler by his perfectly pressed suit jacket. “How could you let him go?”
“We had no reason to detain him, Sir.”
“Here’s your reason,” David said, shoving the envelope into Butler’s hands. “I want a DNA scan on that finger. See if it belongs to my father. And try to trace that bank account.”
Butler glanced down at the note, then back up at David. “He is heading for the spaceport. Shall we notify—”
“How do you know that?” Without waiting for an answer, he said, impressed, “You put a tracker on him. I thought you had no reason to detain him?”
“No, Sir, not to detain him.”
David smiled. “Get the car ready.”
“Shall we notify the authorities?”
“Not until I tell you to. Is the car ready?”
It was waiting for him at the front entrance.
“Fast as you can,” David said. Then he asked for a description of the man who gave Butler the note; Butler’s voice answered through the car’s speakers.
“Where is he now?” David said.
“His ship is requesting clearance for departure. Are you certain we shouldn’t alert the authorities, Sir?”
“Let him take off, just keep tracking his ship.” You think you’re safer up there, do you? he thought. Just wait until I get you into open space. Visions played in his mind…his father imprisoned, his bruised face (the old man wouldn’t just let himself be detained) shoved in the slit between two bars, screaming to be set free or for another chance to fight his way out…his captor approaching, telling him to back away, opening his cell door, pinning him to the ground, lifting his arm (and giving it a hard tug just for fun), slicing the pinkie from his hand….
David clenched his fists and felt his whole body shake with tension. Even though they were floating through the streets at over two hundred kilometers an hour, he felt idle and impotent and in a crazy moment wanted to jump out and run the rest of the way to the spaceport.
He tried unsuccessfully to not think about the note. What did it mean by calling his dad a thief and a murderer? It couldn’t be literally true. Did it mean someone had died in an accident in a mining cave and his father was being blamed? Did he outbid another contractor for mining rights to some asteroid, and the other guy felt he’d been robbed? But surely no one would slice off someone’s finger for a business decision, or threaten to kill a person one piece at a time because of a freak accident?
“Sir!” Butler’s voice was loud and insistent. “The finger—”
“It’s not my father’s?”
“It isn’t human, Sir; it’s fake.” Butler’s tone changed again. “Sir, we think it’s best if you return to the palace immediately.”
David was about to tell Butler to forget about it, that this person had showed up at his home, insulted his family, and led David to believe that his father was in danger. Why would he stop chasing him just because it turned out he was a liar too?
But he was self-aware enough to know those were his emotions guiding him. The more rational course of action was to return home where it was safe and plan his father’s rescue, if he needed rescuing, from there. “Okay,” he said, “let’s—”
He never got to finish the sentence. The car in front of theirs braked to a stop, and to avoid running into it his own car swerved out of the way and onto the road’s shoulder. As they passed the other car, it sped up and rammed into them, pushing them off the road, off the shoulder, tumbling down into the ditch far below.
Find out what happens next: buy your copy of “Stevenson’s Planet”!