The Vastalimi Gambit

The Vastalimi Gambit by Steve Perry

Book: The Vastalimi Gambit by Steve Perry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steve Perry
seemed like a promising lead. Zoodozoa were a pseudolife-form discovered eighty years ago in a methane sea on some godforsaken moon somewhere. Not exactly flora or fauna, they had viral-like qualities, were as small as medium-sized varieties of viruses, and they had been implicated in some esoteric illnesses among humans. The zoodozoa tended to hide inside cell nuclei, where they were hard to spot even if you knew to look for them, and while they caused problems, they didn’t replicate with any kind of predictable regularity, nor in numbers enough to jump out at somebody trying to find anomalies. Sneaky little bastards.
    “Some of my colleagues are beginning to invoke notions of religion or magic,” Droc said. “We are cursed by the gods for our hubris and the like.”
    “Yeah, well, if that’s the case, we are shit-out-of-luck,” Wink said. “But excuse me if I don’t buy that one.”
    “Not religious?”
    “Actually, I don’t have a problem with the idea of something beyond the physical. Lot of strange stuff out there in the galaxy. But I don’t believe in a deity who manifests as a giant white-haired old man in the sky setting up roadblocks, hurling lightning bolts, or striking us down with assorted plagues. That seems awful petty for any kind of being capable of building or destroying universes with the wave of its appendage. Why bother?”
    “Who can know the mind of a god?” Droc said. “And it would be a white-furred old Vastalimi and not a human around here. Our deities are territorial.”
    Wink looked at him. Funny guy, Kay’s brother.
    “However, I agree with your assessment of God,” Droc continued. “I see Him as a twirler. He sets the galaxies in spin, then moves off to other serious business. Whether He or She will be on the Other Side when our spirits arrive there, if indeed they do? Who can say? I also doubt that an omnipotent being needs to poke a finger into the doings of Vastalimi or humans or any other species on an individual level.”
    “On the other hand,” Kay said, “if that were the case, we could importune God to lift this particular affliction and perhaps Zhe would see fit to do so, if we asked properly.”
    “You believe that?”
    Kay smiled. “Not for a human second.”
    “Which leaves us where we were before.”
    “Well, it eliminates another possible cause,” Droc said.
    There was a pause. Then: “Epidemiological inquiries have come up empty, other than the illness has occurred in families or in close associates. I am positing some kind of intentional introduction of an unnatural causative agent by unknown parties,” Kay said.
    “Based on?”
    “Based on the theory that somebody wanted to kill Vastalimi deliberately using a method that wouldn’t likely be traced back to them. Either a particular target, without regard to sequelae regarding others; or with mass murder in mind, for whatever reasons.”
    Wink nodded. That made as much sense as a natural, completely undetectable disease, more so, actually. More diabolical creations had come from labs proportionately than from nature. Why somebody would go to this much effort, were that the case, might be beyond easy measure, but that it was possible? People had been coming up with ways to kill each other since people became such, and they had gotten better and better at it . . .
    “We have studied the patients with this affliction from various standpoints,” Kay said. “Primarily medical, then geographical, genetically, environmentally, looking for links that would isolate a natural cause. If the illness is artificial, then we won’t find those particular links. So we need to examine other factors, based on that notion.”
    Wink nodded. “What might they have in common regarding their sociology rather than biology. Who are their friends and enemies? Who might they have pissed off?”
    “Exactly,” Kay said. “If there is something that links them together worth murdering them for, and we can find it, we

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