Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The last words my Pa said to me were: “Down where the rocks run free, and the colours run like blood.”
Not the traditional deathbed wisdom for the young buck, but certainly something to stay with one. After seventeen years of prospecting, I still think about it. When Kristin and I transitioned from lust to romance, I knew I’d share the words eventually. That time is tonight, in one of those quiet interludes before dropping off to sleep.
She sits up and replies: “Melting in magma.”
That makes me sit up.
Dondas Kieller, my Pa, had been a crystal hunter, a seeker of the impossible gemstones that can be found in the rubble that drifts through space. His business partner for twenty years, Alois Johnston, had quit barely six months before Dondas found the motherlode.
Not that there was any mining involved. He found an ancient spaceship tethered within an isolated asteroid. How long it had been there was a question with a staggering answer: it had been abandoned before humanity first ventured into space.
The discovery caused a sensation. Johnsten’s attempts to claim some of the bounty likewise. Then the second expedition translated the alien language on the walls and discovered the reason why the ship had been hidden: it was a doomsday device, a planet destroyer, concealed out here in case of dire need, along with all the secrets of its creation.
Secrets that our militaries wanted. Secrets that were missing: data platters and focussing arrays, both made of artificial gemstone, had been recently removed. The military came after Pa, but he didn’t budge. Claimed he’d never explored that far into the vessel. Alois accused him of stealing for profit, but burying after the translations were made public. The media attention didn’t help defuse the situation.
At the height of the outcry, Pa made up with Ma and brought us here, the family lodge on Big Island. It was here that Alois and three like-minded ‘friends’ came visiting one evening a few weeks later. I heard them arrive, then Ma took me with her to overnight with friends.
What happened that night has several versions. The accepted one is that after an argument, Alois departed with his friends. Angry and probably drunk, he lost control of his hired flyer and plunged into the sea. The flyer was recovered, the bodies weren’t.
All Pa told me was that: “Alois knows where the alien gems are.”
I pestered him for months. It came a bit of a thing between us. I’d ask in a variety of ways, he’d always give the same reply. But, as time passed, I got bored with it. I’d still toss the question occasionally, because it made him smile, but the fun was gone.
Until tonight.
At the end of our property, about two kilometres away, is a big lava flow. Kristin’s interpretation has me putting Pa’s last words together with his stock reply.
I whisper: “Alois knows where the alien gems are: down where the rocks run free, and the colours run like blood.”
Looking at her, I smile: “He destroyed the information and core components of the weapon.”
She tilts her head, not understanding.
I look up at the ceiling, eyes watering: “On his deathbed, he confessed to it. By inference, quite likely four murders as well.”
Kristin looks puzzled: “Tell me the story.”
I do.
She sits for a few minutes after I finish, then points at the half-bottle of wine on the table.
“We should drink a toast to him. Then never mention this again.”
I fetch the bottle and two glasses.