Murder on the Alpha Centauri Express
By Steve Downes
Thomas Wozinak is a Lower, one of tens of billions of humans who have been designated as unfit to live among the Highers of planet Earth, now a planet reserved for the upper class of society. Thomas is one of the lucky Lowers, he has become a police detective and can live on the surface of the Earth, but, after a failed case against a high ranking family, he has found himself sent on a meaningless babysitting job with an alien ambassador. His career is in tatters and his bitterness against the Highers is eating away at him.
The Alpha Centauri Express is Earth’s oldest False Time Drive ship, allowing it to instantly travel across the known galaxy while passengers experience a set amount of perceived time, its expense and luxury is legendary. Thomas finds, that like the passengers he is about to travel with, the ship itself is built on reputation and deceptions. Thomas meets the ambassador, a representative of the Galaxy’s most powerful and mysterious Race, Ketteridge was once the head of an interplanetary homicide force. The two of them have an immediate bond, both outsiders looking in on a stratified and stagnant culture.
Their fellow passengers on the Express are a strange mix; two Higher women travelling alone, a powerful colonial politician with a suspect past, a roving alien reporter on the trail of a con-artist, a rock superstar who was murdered and reanimated as a cyborg and his slimy agent. Also on-board is Milford Steadway (aka Gos Feen) secretly a half-alien assassin known for his violence. When Steadway is found by a crewman in his staterooms bludgeoned to death, Thomas and Ketteridge take it upon themselves to try and solve the murder. Their investigation is complicated by the web of previous relationships between fellow passengers, including the pervious murder of Jos J. Jones, the galaxy’s most famous rockstar. They only have limited time to find the killer(s) before they arrive at Alpha Centauri and the killer(s) can walk away free, having committed the crime outside of any planetary jurisdiction.
Thomas and Ketteridge find plots within plots. They must unravel: revenge, blackmail, greed and a crime of passion to find not one, but two killers. Add to that, a dangerous and armed crewman on-board, hell-bent on murdering an old enemy and these two very different detectives are in a race against time for the truth, in a Galaxy where justice appears to be only for the rich and powerful.