As I look back, I wonder if things could have happened any other way. If somehow the universal plan had meant for things to turn out the way they have.
After I left Jinny, I quickly made my way through the starship. The bodies would be found soon and I wanted to be off this ship and off the high starport before then. Jinny had the foresight not to keep the Grimola with her. Unfortunately, that hadn’t been enough to save her.
I located the recycle center. On a ship of this size, trash is vaporized. Chutes from all over the ship merged in a spider shaped pattern of pipes, all feeding into a central unit. No one was in the area when I entered. I spotted the access panel to the vaporizer. I climbed a metal grate catwalk fifteen feet up, and then I removed the hatch door.
The heat of the reactor poured out and I was coated with sweat almost immediately. Inside and below me the vaporizer continued to flair as trash drop from the chutes above me, past this hatchway and into the reactor. I reach in and felt around.
In a magnetically sealed bag stuck to the inside wall of the vaporizer I felt the Grimola. I carefully extracted it.
Once I had it out of the vaporizer, I opened the bag and removed the Grimola. This was the first time I’d ever looked upon the object that had brought so much trouble and was directly related to the deaths of so many people.
The book was heavy with a cover of worn leather and inlaid, but scratched, gems. The pages were thick paper, yellowed with age and use. I flipped through the pages. It had been written in an ancient language, not a code as Jinny had said.
I must have been focus so much on the Grimola and distracted by the heat, that I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t alone.
The flash of a low powered laser scorching past, mere inches away from my face, certainly got my attention.
“I knew you’d lead me to it,” said the man aiming my own a laser pistol at me. “Just toss it down here and I’ll let you leave.”
He wore a bandage on his arm, and I recognized him as the one I stabbed in the dining area a few days ago. Somehow, I didn’t think he was going to be so generous as to allow me to leave unharmed.
I held up the Grimola. “This is a fake. Trash.”
I held out the Grimola toward the open vaporizer hatch.
“Of course,” I continued, “You don’t know that. So you might want to put down your weapon so I don’t get nervous and drop it in.”
“There is no reason to be this way.” He offered a smile, but not friendly one. “What do you want for it? One hundred thousand? A million? I can be reasonable… If you can be.”
“Come up here and get it.”
He walked around to the stairs, all the while keeping me in his sites.
I said, “That’s my pistol, you know”
“Really? Now I wish I had used it instead when I burned down your friends.”
I stepped back so that I was as nearly pressed against the vaporizer as I could be without getting burnt. I held the Grimola out beside me, only inches from the mouth of the vaporizer.
He kept the pistol aimed in my direction, but his eyes were fastened to the book. I kept it still even until he reached out to grab it.
Then I tossed it into the vaporizer.
He lunged for it and I sidestepped him, and using his own momentum, I shoved in after it. The heat flared and the man who killed Jinny and the Grimola were both gone.
I hurried down the catwalk and out of the vaporizer room. I joined the throngs of other passengers leaving the ship and I was soon breathing the ‘fresh air’ of the high port. I found a transport down to the low port on the planet surface, a trip of only a few minutes.
I stopped by Starship Services and left a message for Jack or Herlioni letting them know where to find me and I took a room at the crew hostile to wait for them.
I feel a sense of calm, knowing the Grimola is gone. It has haunted my footsteps since I first ventured into space. So many lives were lost to it, and strangely enough, I feel my life would have been claimed by it one day if it continued to exist. I am certain of one thing though, if the Grimola had come into the hands of the Harlequin nobles war would have raged between them and the Basadan Subsector.
I’m sure Gray will be furious with me to know end, but I owned him one anyway. I know Jack will shrug it off as he has so many other disasters. I am worried about Herlioni, though. I think he and Jinny had something and I think her death will come as a blow.
But for now, I am going to lay back and wait. A new adventure will be starting soon and there is no need to worry about looking for it. They always seem to find me.