Colors of Power by Callie Bourde
Book Four in the AIR Series by Callie Bourde
A serial killer is operating in the Galaxia Alia. Senior Investigator Baath Drid is determined to prevent more deaths.
Artist Jaimi Tarnii has left crime scene work behind. Will she agree to help him?
A Year Earlier
Gentle Winds Commerce Court, Jump Station Delta, Delta Sector, Galaxia Alia
Jaimi paused at the door, foot traffic moving behind her. The Gentle Winds Commerce Court on Jump Station Delta was busy – she saw many civilians and even more tourists. Happily, the restaurants and stores looked like they provided an interesting mix, good news for her workshop and retail business. She should do well here.
Her shop was on the first of five levels of stores, restaurants, and businesses that were arranged on mezzanines open to the central fountain. The “gentle winds” actually referred to small ornamental trees from a little known planetary system in Gamma Sector, whose dramatic turquoise and coral blooms, shaped like small birds in flight, provided the color cues for the whole commerce court.
She still could not believe that this was happening. She smiled at herself in the heavy blastglas of the door and set her palm to the lock. There was a snick and she pulled the door open.
Leaving it ajar, she glanced around. This area, roughly a square, was separated from the rest of the larger space by a half wall which formed a display counter. It was planned as a combination gallery and retail shop and would be perfect for her.
The workshop extended behind the low wall. It was twice the size of the gallery, forming an ell, with the retail space as the short leg. The area directly behind the counter was in full view, while the rest of it was around the corner and out of sight. There were two large loading doors in the back.
The high ceiling provided plenty of height to display her large wallhangings and plenty of room back in the workshop to create them.
Lost in her thoughts, she started when a tentacle passed in front of her eyes and a mechanically produced but pleasant voice spoke in her ear. “Sustenance!”
Eagerly, she grabbed the proffered mug of caf’eene, and the tentacle whipped away. Still looking at the workroom, she said, “Thanks. I needed that, but I’ll never understand how you can be so quiet.”
The large land based cephalopod behind her snickered. “Just part of the skill set for any apex predator.”
It was a running joke, and keeping to the script, Jaimi said, “Well, just remember, eating your employer can be a strategic mistake… if you want to be paid.”
They had met on the first day of school. Two of the smallest students, they’d been mercilessly bullied. Their friendship had endured through university and beyond. It was the two of them against the world…
Now, a tentacle wrapped around Jaimi’s shoulders and she was pulled close. She relaxed against her best friend as Alig asked quietly, “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, but I will admit, part of me never believed this dream would actually come true.”
“I always knew it would. This is by far the best use for someone with your talent.” Alig wrapped a second and third tentacle around Jaimi, giving a more thorough hug, before releasing her. “It’s safer, too.”
When Jaimi ignored the last comment, Alig delicately swiped her tablet screen. “According to this, the first grav-sled of equipment should be arriving right about… now!” A fourth tentacle pointed at the loading doors, just as the security buzzer sounded.
Moving swiftly on her rear tentacles, Alig headed to the door. At the second buzz, she called, “I’m coming. I’m coming. Settle down already!” Over her shoulder, she said to Jaimi, “Now remember, let me handle this. This is the time to let people know that you’re the Artist and too important to deal with the day to day. You have a shop manager for all that.”