In Retrospect Spotlight!

Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.
The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders.
Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.
Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion  means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history.
As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity? Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane.
In Retrospect is a good old-fashioned whodunit set in a compelling post-apocalyptic future.
Three Days Later
Monday, 17 April 3324, 1:10 PM
          A stately room. Black-lacquered cabinets flank a massive desk. Maps and oil paintings hang on pale green walls.
Burgundy woodwork. Globe, grandfather clock, and fireplace with brass andirons cast in the shape of lions, teeth bared. A room steeped in the past. Except in the sunny east bay, where a closet-sized polyhedron floats a handsbreadth above the carpet.
          Three men in sage-green uniforms will stare at the Vessel. One, a sneering rat of a man, will peer through the open hatch and see the sole of a boot.
          “Is she dead?” he will ask, hopping closer to get a better look.
          “Back off, snitch!” The man with the sentry’s insignia on sleeve of his beefy arm will step in front of the hatch
and shove him back.
          The snitch will stagger against the clock, but he has seen enough. He will grin as he straightens the curved blue
half-shield that covers his forehead and eyes. “I knew she’d botch it. I told her—I warned her! Skank. Who’s a heap of dung now?”
          A choking sound will escape the throat of the red-head at the comm. His mouth will work as he looks pleadingly at the sentry.
          The sentry will shake his head and glance at the thing on the floor of the Vessel. “She’s gone. Torrified.” He
will take a deep breath, hold it, then exhale explosively through clenched teeth. “Get the Marshall. Now!”
          Blinking away his tears, the red-head will remove his comm-set with shaking hands and stumble away.
          “Hey!” the snitch will cry. “That’s my job! I get to tell the Marshall, not you! Hey!” He will follow the red-head
through the door and down the stairs beyond.
          The sentry will wait for the tap of footsteps to fade, then squeeze through the hatch.
          Above the console, the mission chronometer will show all zeros. The lower panel will be mangled, as if someone
has bashed it in with a heavy object. He will glance at the pilot’s chair, unclamped and upside down.
          He will kneel beside what is left of the body.
          Except for the black pendant on its silver chain, pillowed in the ash that had been her neck, there will be nothing
there to remind him of the woman he had known. He will ease the plasma gun from her holster and note that two bolts have been fired. His brow will furrow and his gaze will dart from the canted walls to the crumpled sage uniform. Then he will grunt and replace the gun.
          “Thanks, Reb,” he will whisper.
          The sound of running feet will remind him he has no business being in the Vessel.
          He will clap the ashes from his hands as he rises. “I guess you got your wish.”
Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. She is editor of the Poisoned Pencil, the YA mystery imprint. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.