Chapter 126

East Tower Offices, Hale Akela Palace on Mahana October 26, 2511

It was late, and Maika was tired. Since her last consultation with Armaros, sleep had been hard to come by. The moment her head hit the pillow her brain would race, expectant and alert for any sign, any signal of what was to come.

She stared at the console screen, her attorney waiting in silence. Maybe this is just a dead-end, thought the Queen. There didn't seem to be anywhere further to go. "You have no other possibilities, Mackenzie?"

"No, Your Majesty, and yet there must be – it makes no sense, Ma'am," she said. "We're missing something, somewhere, but after this long..." She shook her head.

"Have you verified the DNA records from Eda Ibarra's birth? Was she actually a daughter of that house?" Her Majesty's voice was calm, unemotional, as if she were inquiring about the score from a TriVect game.

"That occurred to us, Your Majesty," said Tarovic. "We have acquired samples from her nearest living relatives, of which there are very few, and back-checked against the records for Prince Tadashi. The body in the grave is definitely not related to any of them."

Maika scrolled again through the list of seventeen names on her console. Akiro, Eda, and Tadashi – the Royal family headed the list. Below that, nine women and five men; aides, nannies, bodyguards, friends. Each grave, over the last five years, carefully and discreetly located, opened, and sampled. Each grave was occupied by the remains of the person expected to be there.

"We have reviewed all of the available news reports from the accident, Your Majesty. If there was an eighteenth person on board, we have been unable to discover a name. And without a name, we cannot locate a grave. Queen Eda must be buried in this other person's grave, and yet…"

Maika continued to stare at the screen. Walk the pathways abandoned twenty years ago, for lack of strength to follow them...

Twenty years ago, on the day she returned from her honeymoon, she had been summoned before the King - to this very room. So much you should never have told me, she thought. So much that should have gone with you to your grave.

Maika ran her finger down the list, to the name on the report tag at the bottom of the screen. "This is your tag, Mackenzie. Who filed the original report?" she asked. "The response team – who was in charge? Who identified the bodies?"

"It was a Royal Guard team stationed at the nearest Patagonian Airbase during the visit," she said, tapping her pocket con. "Here it is – Captain Fiore O-Tawa."

"Really." Maika tapped her fingers against the base of her desk console. "Fiore O-Tawa. How interesting... Perhaps she has some light to shed on the matter."

Maika tapped her console. "Teia, get me the Special Prosecutor's office, and have the Sergeant-at-Arms standing by."

END OF BOOK ONE

Copyright E. K. Zoole 2013

Author's Note: Congratulations, and thank you! United is the first book in a planned series of three - the 2nd book, Divided, is currently in process. Once I have a complete first draft, I'll start posting. If you have an interest in reading while in process, I have a small group of old friends who have access through Google Drive to the various files so that they can read and comment. Let me know if you want to volunteer to be part of that. I appreciate very much any feedback I can get. - TanteLiz