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Friday, May 31, 2013

A Quick View of The Lazaretto (An Excerpt from Book One of The Lazaretto Trilogy)

The Lazaretto is a sci-fi noir novel set on a quarantine moon.  The novel consists of multiple story lines:
Gregor Lepov is a private investigator who arrives in the Lazaretto to search for a woman’s missing son and quickly meets the enigmatic Lilly Stewart, an antiquities dealer, a remarkable woman who may be friend or foe.
Lieutenant Ed MacNally, a homicide detective, along with his partner Arturo Fenelli, begin investigating a string of brutal murders that are similar in their violence but otherwise seem unrelated.
Maria Duvalls, a volunteer nurse in a world where the sick are left untreated, cares for a dying crime boss with a mysterious illness, even as a disturbing young man follows her throughout the city.
The Collector—an unseen yet prominent figure in the city obsessed with contagions and power—wields a dangerous influence through his ruthless Agent.
Helen Segal, a secretary at the Interplanetary Health Service, become embroiled in an internal affairs investigation in which she and her best friend try to decide if the cold, calculating German Doctor Haupt is merely conducting a simple audit or something deeper that will ultimately threaten more than just their jobs.

  In the following excerpt, Helen Segal has been reassigned to work for the newly arrived auditor from Earth.

  Helen Segal hesitated in front of a plain office door.  If she hadn’t been so unsettled at the coming encounter she would have laughed at herself.  Of what was she afraid?  If anything, she told herself, she ought to look forward to this.  It was a chance to break away from the boredom of her daily routine.
  A chill ran through her.  If only the German had not been so cold. 
  She knocked.
  “Come.”  The command carried easily through the door.
  Helen obeyed.  She stepped into the office and closed the door with a precision she rarely used.  She even felt she was standing more erect than usual.  The German’s disciplined demeanor was contagious.
  The small room had only a desk and chair. 
  “You are a few minutes late,” Dr. Haupt stated.  “That is acceptable.  I only ask that it not become a habit.  Follow me.”
  Turning on his heel, he disappeared through a second doorway.  Helen followed.
  “Sit down.”
  She did.  This room was only slightly bigger.  He took a seat behind a desk, looked up at Helen, and spoke without preamble.
  “I have been sent here to conduct a review of IHS in the Lazaretto.  I requested that you be assigned to assist me in this review.  I will not allow this review to become entangled in politics.  Nor will I allow personal feelings to become a factor.  This investigation is about the ability of the IHS to fulfill its purpose here at the Lazaretto.  If it is efficiently doing so, then I will report as much and leave as quickly as possible.  If it is not, then I will report as much, give my recommendations to Earth, and await further instructions.  Do you understand?”
  Helen understood too well.  The German was not there to cut anyone slack.  And she was now caught in the middle.  How had this happened?
  “Yes,” she nodded.  She’d fought the urge to add yes sir.
 “Excellent.  We will begin immediately.  I have already listed the documentation that I require.  You will find the list here.”  He pulled a data tag from his breast pocket and handed it to her.  “Forward this to the appropriate departments.  See that I have the required system passes so that I can view all documentation at their original electronic storage sites, as well as any required passes necessary to print out hard copies.”
  Helen took the data tag and left the room.  Outside his office, she sat at what was now her desk.  Spartan as the room was, the desk contained everything she would need.  At least all the components were installed.  It was even more outdated than normal.
  The deskscreen actually had a keypad for data input.  She spoke a few simple commands and confirmed what she had suspected: the system had no vocal input.  Even the data tag was not picked up by a proximity reader.  She had to set it in a data port before the desk could read it.
  This office was no accident.  Dr. Fisher had assigned this office to the German to obstruct the review.  If they had given Dr. Haupt an obsolete office system to hinder him, what did that say about her role as his assistant?  It clarified her situation.  She had been baffled that she had been asked to help in the review.  She was, after all, only a secretary.  Now she understood.  She was also an outdated secretary that was expected to slow things down.
  “I’m not only going to be caught in the middle of a bureaucratic battle,” she murmured, “but I’m going to be used as a shield as well.  Tough luck, old girl.”
  Of course, she might be reading too much into her situation.  It was possible that Dr. Fisher had merely assigned this particular office because there were no others available.  And hadn’t Dr. Haupt requested her?  Didn’t that negate her theory that she had been assigned for nefarious reasons?
  “Stop fussing,” she ordered herself.
The list from the data tag displayed on her deskscreen and Helen scanned its contents for anything out of the ordinary.
  Archived Annual Reports and Audits were near the top of the list.  She had expected those.  The same went for his request of daily reports, fiscal reviews and many other documents that would present him with an overall view of the IHS facility.  All of those were administrative records that would require little authorization.
  As she had also expected, he requested lab data relating to the numbers of healthy travelers and contaminated travelers.  Such numbers were not as straightforward as they might seem.  Few records were kept on healthy travelers.  Assumptions were made on the number of travelers leaving the planet as opposed to those same travelers arriving.  This was an educated guess that suggested travelers who entered the Lazaretto and left it were predominantly healthy and in no way contaminated.  According to one study from many years ago, it was determined that ten to fifteen per cent of these travelers had in fact arrived with some sort of contaminant that had run its course during the forty-day quarantine.  She would have to explain that if he were not already aware of the fact.
  The list also contained requests for more specific lab data: types of contaminants, treatments, outbreaks and containments.  She also saw documentation requests from areas with which she was unfamiliar.  She would have to get someone to help on determining what authorizations she would need for those.
  Helen was surprised to realize she had personally seen many of these reports over the last year.  Working for Dr. Fisher, she received and annotated all types of reports and reviews she then passed on to Dr. Fisher as the IHS Administrator.  Was that why Dr. Haupt had requested her?  How could that be to his advantage?  Surely he wanted someone who had no personal involvement in the life cycle of these documents.  An opportunity to interfere—to protect herself and those she knew—would be too tempting, at least from Dr. Haupt’s point of view.  It was hard to imagine he would not realize this.  Why take the risk?
  She was fussing again.  She decided she didn’t want to know what the German was thinking.  She knew she had better tread carefully.

For more information on The Lazaretto, got to Rocket Fire Books, where you can order a signed print copy.  You may also purchase a print or eBook copy below:

And watch for book two of the Lazaretto Trilogy: Lady in the Lazaretto.

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