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Chapter 13: Dunna CityEdit

Alternatedel

The black dressed beings, at least two of them appeared to be human made us stand up and we now could see a boxy looking troop carrier ship hovering over the tavern. I could see two towering battle walkers standing by the entrance and men in battle suits surrounding the tavern. The boxy looking ship was painted purple, yellow and green and there was a logo on its side, the artistic rendering of a grinning clown. The man holding his gun to the Dragons head said. “Peel it off, very slowly, if I even think you activate something I shoot.”
The Dragon’s voice vibrated with anger. “Who are you and what is this all about?”
A man in a battle suit stepped into the circle with open helmet and said. “Let me introduce ourselves then Mr. Red Dragon. We are Nick Harlequin’s Jokers and a group of wealthy customers hired us to ease the pirate problem in these parts. We have this place under surveillance for month and lord and behold we were able to capture us twelve of the worst ones. The bounties on your heads are quite substantial; you pirates are a stupid unorganized bunch of amateurs. Real professional Mercs like us…”
Har-Hi completed the man’s sentence. “…talk too much.” A knife was sticking all the way to the hilt in the left eye socket of the armor suited man, while the one with the blaster to the Dragon’s head, gurgled. “No one can be that fast.” Still with an expression of astonishment on his face his head plopped with a sickening crack to the ground. I had reacted as well, spin kicked the one next to me across the face, while discharging my blaster point blank into the stomach of the black dressed being before me, I kept the trigger pressed and swept the torrent of accelerated plasma over two more. The woman pirate and the Red Dragon only now put up their weapons, but there was no one in our immediate vicinity to shoot.
He swallowed hard and said into a wrist communicator. “No mercy!”
From the field of hulls and ship wrecks, a large Kermac T cruiser suddenly lit up and rose fast several hundred feet into the air. Even here on the ground we could feel the withering heat and were lifted of our feet by the shockwave as two Kermac Cannons opened up and hammered into the comparable small drop ship, while other beams incinerated the two battle walkers. The noise was deafening and the Dragon screamed. “Professional Mercs, I was an Admiral in the Union fleet, compared to that you are nothing but bumbling amateurs. I never go anywhere without a backup plan!”
We watched as withering blaster fire erupted from the windows and doors of the Tavern.
The grass like vegetation was bone dry and caught on fire! Without wasting time on words we ran towards the vegetation free area of the junk yard. The fire roared and spread fast, and it was a close one as we reached the sandy grass free area. Most of what happened behind us was obscured by tall flames and a wall of smoke, but we saw the Drop ship losing its Arti-grav and falling from the sky. I had never ran faster in my life as I bolted towards the empty ceramic hull of a Velorian freighter and catapulted myself head first through the open freight bay doors. I noticed Har-Hi right next to me and the Dragon and Nocturna were still several lengths behind us, the Drop ship was small, half the size of a space bus, but it was still a mass of at least a thousand metric tons. If its Antimatter containment unit failed, there was no cover we could reach fast enough to prevent us from being completely annihilated.”
A thunderous sound followed immediately by a shockwave pushed both pirates through the opening followed by a searing wave of heat. The fact that I was covered from head to toe in skintight, micromesh reinforced leather saved me from serious injury. Har-Hi who wore his full Dai battle armor had his helmet folded up and was safe. Even though the Dragon’s suit was deactivated, it was still made of Seeinan materials, but the gaudy red uniform, his hat and the skull mask were in shreds. The woman however was in bad condition. She had severe burns all over her skin and was breathing shallow and with a rattling sound, she must have inhaled some of the hot air and burned her lungs. Har-Hi acted immediately as he took out his first aid pack, it was an advanced Battle field med kit, but still inadequate to really help the wounded woman.
I looked outside. The blast had extinguished most of the vegetation fire and we could see the burning hulk of the drop ship near the heavily damaged tavern building. From the city I could see emergency flyers appear.
The Dragon talked into his Wrist Comm and said triumphantly.” It looks as if all the Captains are still alive and the Harlequins are defeated. If that Merc boss is still alive, I will find him.”
I snapped at him. “Not all captains made it. That woman isn’t going to make it if she doesn’t get professional help fast. The next time I see that moronic Puup bear, I will teach him a lesson opening fire with main batteries on a planet surface!”
He got up., looked at the burned woman and shrugged. “She was quite good and has a first class ship, but that’s the end of her story.”
He got up and walked back outside. “ See you at the second planet in a few days, Black Velvet and thanks for saving my life back there, seeing you fight is makes me glad we are on the same site, at least for a while that is.”
With these worlds he started walking.
I watched him and waited till he was a good distance and then called the ship and asked Narth to come and he was there moments later saying. “This is about the maximum distance I can teleport while taking someone else, so who is first?”
I said. “Take that woman directly to sickbay. Don’t worry about us we are fine.”
He didn’t say anything else but disappeared along with the burned woman. Mentally he contacted me and telling me that the woman was under Cateria’s care.
Har-Hi used his helmets visual sensors looking outside and said. “Looks like the local authorities have the AM Core contained before it could blow after all, our borrowed shuttle however is not going to get us back. It was right there were the Drop ship crashed.”
He then said. “You know the shadows that ran from the ship didn’t belong to those Mercs. Those Mercs had state of the art equipment and even shimmer-suits.”
I also looked out through the ceramic ships busted loading door and said.” No the tracks didn’t belong to those Mercs and I don’t think the mercy story is over either. There is a lot that doesn’t add up. As I said that I paid more attention to where we were. It was a gutted ceramic hull of a Velorian, any metal parts had been stripped and it looked as if this once had been the engine room. There was a thick layer of dust on the floor and there were lots of tracks, some appeared to be made by animals and most of the tracks appeared old and but there were the marks of big Togar paw prints, the same I had noticed earlier, leading to the dark open elevator shaft in the back and I said to Har-Hi in a low voice. “I don’t think we are alone.” I pointed the tracks out to him. He whispered back. “I never learned to pay attention to tracks, at least not this kind. You know we could just leave and have Mao send us one of our shuttles or a landing tank.” While he said that he went towards the left and I moved to the right.
Hugged to the curved walls of the tough ceramic I circled towards the elevator shaft while he did the same on the other side. We both had our weapons drawn and edged closer to the black hole door frame. I picked up a piece of chipped ceramic from the floor and tossed it inside the shaft. It didn’t drop far as we were at the ships lowest deck and made a rattling noise as it hit a hard surface. We heard something move, the characteristic sounds of someone climbing up a ladder. Har-His smirked and said. “I think that talent of yours getting in the middle of things is rubbing off on me.”
I grinned back. “Whoever it is didn’t shoot. I want to know what this is all about.”
“Climbing after a big Togar warrior in a Velorian ship wreck, what could be more fun?” He held his blaster in the in the hole and used the guns optics to check, he said. “That shaft goes far, at least 300 meters and there is a ladder on the side. There is no one in the shaft.”
I rolled in pointing my blaster upward and whispered. “Where is Krabbel when you need him? Remind me of packing a flight belt the next time we go out.”
“No next time I take a leash so I can reel you in the next time you jump and run after something.”
I reached the ladder and said. “I bet you would like that.”
Then I pointed at droplets of a dark liquid on the first rungs of the ladder. “Whoever we are after is bleeding.”
“Wonderful, we are chasing a wounded aggravated Togar, things are looking up and we make great targets while climbing.”
“Keep an eye on the shaft and give me cover till I reach the first deck, then I can do the watching while you come up.”
I almost slipped as I found out heeled boots were not the best footwear to climb ladders, but got the hang of it and made it to the first deck. The blood trail went through the access door, so whoever we followed had not gone any higher.
I glanced around the door frame while Har-Hi scaled the ladders like greased lightning.
In the corridor behind I noticed a brief movement of someone or something sliding inside a room. I said out loud. “I know you are wounded and we are not here to cause you any harm. I just want to talk and get a few answers.”
At first there was no reaction and I added. “I won’t go away until I have some answers and I am not particularly fond of being shot at, I know it was you who took that first pot shot at us.”
A growling voice responded. “Then come! I will fight to the end.”
“Well at least we are talking and not shooting. I like to go back to my ship and take a bath and I am sure you rather find a medic than bleeding all over this Velorian hull. I doubt its med facilities are up to par at the moment.”
“Then go to your ship servant of the Hull makers. All you find here is death.”
“First of all I am not a Hull maker and then I wonder what a Togar cares about them, isn’t that a Kartanian thing?”
He didn’t answer this time.
Har-Hi produced a little black pellet from one of his pouches and said. “We could use that.”
I glanced at it and said. “I want to hear what he has to say. I don’t want to blow him up.”
He grinned. “It’s a flash bang Immobilize, nothing lethal, if you don’t swallow it or so.”
“You actually got non-lethal stuff?”
“Not very much.”
“How about my ears?”
Put your hands over them, you know what’s coming, he doesn’t!”
Aloud I said. “Hey gruff voice, I am still here. Are you going to explain that or not?”
“You and your kind will eventually pay for what you did. We are not going back to the Smelters.”
I gave Har-Hi the sign to use his flash bang as I had the feeling the Togar was about to commit suicide. My Dai friend threw the little thing masterful against the opposite wall and it bounced off and right into the open door where the Togar was and it went off.
Even though my ears where covered with leather and I had my palms pressed over them as well, the bang was still intense and the corridor was bathed in brilliant white light. We both rushed forward and into the room. It was just something like an equipment locker or similar, not very big. On the floor sat a big Togar with singed fur and burn wounds. He was holding a Kartanian who was quite small and also was injured and bleeding from a leg wound. He held a Kermac line blaster but his eyes were still blinded and Har Hi kicked the weapon out of his paw like hand and once again opened his first aid kit and sprayed Sooth-N-Heal accelerator over the burn wounds of both beings while I glued the gash of the Kartanian and applied a field bandage. Har-Hi had also sprayed some in the Togar's eyes and I could see his pupils slowly dilating and he was able to see. He glanced at the blaster I was holding and pointing at him and growled. “Go ahead use it; you won’t get us alive back to the smelters, Scum!”
“You know I got a thick skin, Togar and I pretend I haven’t heard that insult for now. I am not taking you to any smelters, I don’t have any smelters and since I don’t know where you have been I can’t take you back there either. I want a few answers, as why you were there at that meeting and why you ran and took shoots at us. I want to know what a Togar is doing with a Kartanian, I thought you species are enemies and I want to know if you had anything to do with those Mercenaries. After you answered all that, I let you be or try to get you some better medical help.”
Har-Hi said. “We just call Narth and have him probe his mind, no chance of lying.”
The Kartanian stirred and said. “What species you are makes no difference when you are at the Smelters, Kartanian, Human, Oghar or Togar your race or your place of origin means nothing. We are all just numbers. Slaves, getting burned by metal splatter, getting beaten and tortured and we work day in and day out till all energy is gone and then we are slaughtered for food or simply tossed in the furnaces.“
The Togar said. “Don’t waste your breath on them Ninety. They are pirates belonging to the Sinister Alliance.” To me he said.” You are no better than the Overseers and Guild masters. You do business with the worst of them and you bring other beings even your own kind so they can be used as slaves.”
I snapped at him. “You should talk, Togar. How many humans did you eat before you were captured?”
“I never saw Togr or any of our worlds. I was born on a smelter moon, if there was human in the food, it was not my choice.”
Har-Hi said. “This isn’t a Smelter Moon. How did you end up in the Tavern’s basement and what did you do there?”
The Togar spat on the floor and said. “We waited there for many months, hoping to capture that human demon calling himself the Red Dragon. He has a connection to the High master of the Hull makers guild. His ship is the only non Kartanian ship that can freely move and land on the Smelter Moons. Tonight we had high hopes, but then we saw these soldiers move in and we tried to flee. We were nine, I don’t know how many escaped the fire inferno, we barely made it.”
Har-Hi said.” Mao just signaled they are here with another shuttle in about eight minutes.”
I got up and said to the Togar. “Well that explains a lot, not everything of course.”
The Kartanian said. “If it is of interest to you, it was a human named Captain Sandovahl who arranged for the Soldiers to come. We overheard him talking to a man named Sam Harelquin.”
Har-Hi sighed and said. “And the plot thickens. I think we need to find out more about that Sandovahl. “
I asked. “Out of curiosity, you guys obviously escaped the Smelter Moons, so why would you want to go back there?”
The Togar gave me a fiery look.” It’s not just us, there are hundreds of us right here on Itheamh and every one of us will gladly for the cause and getting back there, to free our brothers and sisters. Once there it would be easy to sweep away the Gang chiefs and the few Overlords. There are 17 Smelter Moons and every moon has a slave population of several hundred thousand and only 500 Overseers and 2000 Gang chiefs on each. Can you imagine what would happen if those slaves had weapons?”
I nodded. “Yes orbital bombardment, which is what, will happen. What good is a slave revolt if you can’t take it to the source?”
The Kartanian said. “Since each moon belongs to a different guild they would squabble and fight each other before they could mount such an attack and there are hundreds of transport ships we could use to evacuate and carry our fight to Arkalon, storm the Chambers and wake the first Engineer.”
I said. “Well seems you got it figured out and eventually get there, but you two are wounded. I can offer you medical aid or transport to the nearby city.”
The Togar said. “You are not taking us back to the Kartanian enclave?”
“I don’t even know where that is.”
The Kartanian tried to get up. “You are different from the others of the Sinister Alliance.”
Krabbel appeared from the elevator shaft and chirped. “Archa taxi service, you called a Cab Ma’am?”
The Kartanian recoiled as he saw the big spider and even the Togar was visibly shaken as TheOther appeared next, almost completely filling the corridor. “Narth thought you might need some heavy back up, so I volunteered to come.”
I smiled at that and said to the two aliens. “So what have you decided, the offer for a ride is still good and I promise I won’t sell you or take you where you do not want to go.”
The Togar grunted. “I think I will heal, but my brother here is more fragile and if you can get him medical help and us to the city that would be greatly appreciated.”
“Give me one moment, my friends is getting a Medic.”
Narth arrived and with him came the white Togar girl wearing a Med Tech uniform. She said. “Cateria is still busy working on that woman, but she sends me and wants me to tell you that she has confidence in my skills.”
I padded her small shoulder and said. “No need to explain, if Cateria trust you can do it, then so do I.”
I watched Jolaj as she scanned the two wounded and begun to treat the Kartanian first. She had changed, she was no longer that meek wounded looking princess, but radiated confidence, and talked to her patient and quite obviously knew how to treat a Kartanian. The big Togar had not spoken a word since she had arrived but he looked at her the same way as If I would stare if Thor or Odin suddenly appeared. He then whispered. ”Jolaj, the White Goddess, my mother told me about her while I grew up in the slave pens.”
She turned to him and said something in a guttural language and he lowered his head saying. “I don’t speak Togr. It is forbidden to speak ones language on the Smelter Moons and only Squawk is allowed.”
She looked at me and I explained it to her in a few words. To the Togar she said.” I am Jolaj, I am not a Goddess, but I am here to help you. Please allow me to examine you.”
The Kartanian got up and looked at his patched wounds. “Such fine medical assistance could not even be found in Dunna the City. I feel much better already.”
I said. “I think we are done here.”
Har-Hi sounded relieved as he said. “Yes, the faster the better.”
The Kartanian said. “You are a Dai Than and acts of mercy might not come as easy to you as to your female friend, but there are many thousand Dai slaving and dying on the Smelter Moons as well. There are species that adjust to slave labor better than others. I can tell you, your kind is not one of them; they suffer greatly as their pride is hard to crush. We still call them brothers.”
Har-Hi turned and said. “You misjudge me, Kartanian. Dai are as honorable and able to feel compassion just as humans do, but I am the first officer of our ship first and foremost.” He then said. “You are correct, Dai than do not do well in captivity, but I doubt there are thousands of Dai slaves. Where would they come from? The Kartanian and the Togar are formidable but they are not capable of overcoming Dai Clans and capture thousands.”
“Not if they are sold by their own peer.”
Har-Hi pulled his swords, both of them and almost killed the Kartanian. “Do not insult my people, Boneface. We are not Kartanians, no Dai-Than would ever enslave another Dai. No Dai has ever sold another Dai!”
The Kartanian presented his throat and said. “Then strike and kill me, it does not change the fact that it is done, you can talk to two of your kind right here on Itheamh.”
I did not interfere as Har-Hi’s swords hovered less than a hairs width from the thin rigid throat of the Kartanian and he said. “Tell me all!”
“For over a year now a the High Clan leader Cam Elf Nah has made a deal with the Guild masters of the Chamber and exchanges what they call Okthi Dai for raw materials and ship components. This Cam Elf Nah of yours has taken a page out of the book of the Guild masters.”
Har-Hi lowered his blades. He knew the Kartanian was not lying. He slowly put his blades away and then clenched his fists. “What has become of my race? Is this the true legacy of my father’s decision?”
I put my hand on his shoulder and said. “The history of your people has just begun; the Dai will emerge from this even stronger than they are now.”
He just looked at me and I said to the Kartanian. ”You said there are two Dai on this world, can we meet them?”
The face of the Kartanian was truly alien and so were his eyes but he said. “I don’t know who or what you are, but somehow I trust you and so I say yes. I will arrange a meeting so you can hear from their mouths that I have spoken the truth. You and the Dai come along with us, our group lives in the shadows and we cannot afford exposure, two of you we can explain. All of you and we will never see anyone of the others.”

--

We had watched our shuttle lift off and climb into the sky.
Har-Hi asked the Togar. “So how are we going to get wherever you are going?”
He pointed to the city in the distance. We will walk until we reach the Croi district, there we will find you suitable disguises and take the Underground train.”
We started walking over the burned ground. Every step kicked up ashes and every once in a while a still glowing amber. The raging fire inferno had also caught local animals. We did see several armadillo like about one meter long blackened carcasses.
We also found the body of a man, from what I could gather he was human. I knelt down and used my PDD in scanner mode and the device chirped as it found an active CITI chip and with it a name and the citizen’s public record.
The Kartanian said. “We knew him only as Blisters as he was covered with them the first day he had to work the furnace blast door, he was a good friend.”
I got up and recorded the location of the body. I planned to collect the remains and if I could return them to whatever family he had.
After waking about six or seven kilometers an unpaved road had stopped the fire from spreading any further and the Togar said. “I think it is safe now to us it, to reach the main road.”
I asked. “What is it with this clandestine behavior? I was under the impression this is an independent planet. Are you wanted by the local law or something?”
The Kartanian said. “ Yes Itheamh is a free world and its people are a former colony of this star system’s second planet, but they barley reached Techlevel 4 on their own and Arkalon and the Kartanian Cooperation is only nine light years from here. The Ith of this world do not want to make the Guild masters angry, while the Ith are openly claim not to be associated to anyone, it is the Guild masters who hold the strings. The events at the Tavern back there have every Ith soldier and policeman there by now to investigate and we do not want to draw to much attention to ourselves. The Ith allow anyone who works and obeys the rules to settle and live here, but they do send escaped slaves back to Arkalon.”
We soon reached the paved road and I for one was glad, silently cursing my impractical heels. The next time I would wear All Terrains, fashionable or not. Walking over uneven and unpaved ground in those boots was anything but pleasurable.
Har-Hi kept an eye on his suit sensors and said. “I might not get an answer, but I have the impression it is not impossible to escape these Smelter Moons.”
The Kartanian again answered. “No it is not impossible, there are scrap and ore transporters and too many slaves and not enough overseer, but it is dangerous and if they suspect any slaves aboard they expose their freight to space and that has ended the lives of many, as long as they have plentiful bodies to replace the ones that die and the few that manage to get away, they don’t even care much. Of course their punishment is death if they catch an escaped slave.”
The Togar said. “I am still getting used to walk without restrictor cables; I am still amazed about open sky or eating food that is not mud like soup with ground up bits of brothers and friends floating in it.”
We had reached an industrial warehouse area and the towering buildings of the city were close. The Kartanian said. “One time long ago, my name was Duntremo, but now I am Ninety. Part of the number they branded on my back. My Togar listens to the name Little Runt, even though he is big and strong now, everyone called him Little Runt as he grew up around us. He was one of the children that were born into slavery.”
The Togar looked away and his growling deep voice sounded even rougher. “Many children never make it past their tenth birthday. There are mothers who kill their children to spare them a short life of misery.”
Ninety said. “We have told you much about us already, yet we know very little about you. You are not members of the Sinister Alliance I am sure, you know too little about this place and you do not act like the ones we have seen and observed.”
“I am called Black Velvet and we had some business with the Red Dragon, but no we are not part of the Sinister Alliance. My companion is also my First Officer. His name is Har-Hi.”
He pointed at a simple looking one story building with a few large windows and a cheap looking sign, reading ‘Scraper Gear’. He said. “There we will buy you workers coveralls, the Underground trains are filled with thousands of beings wearing work coveralls working on one of the many scrap yards and dismantling companies. Once we all wear blue coveralls and work boots, we will disappear and become as good as invisible, without it leather clad masked woman and a Dai in Battle gear would be remembered by everyone.”
We purchased and put on primitive, simple one piece suits of a drab, somewhat stiff fabric. Har-Hi found one big enough to put over his battle suit. The Kartanian handed us thick leather hoods out of tan colored leather and said. “These are Torcher hoods, many wear them when they use torches too cut the scrap, and it will obscure your identities and the fact that you are a Dai.”
The hoods left the eyes open and to complete our look we bought torcher goggles, gloves and a large Tool bag for Har-Hi’s swords. The shop owner accepted my Union Credit strip without hesitation or signs of surprise. Our two guides had dressed themselves similar hiding their mostly shredded and burnt clothing. Outside the Kartanian tossed dust and sand all over us and was satisfied after we all looked dusty and dirty.
We didn’t have to go far and followed them and dozens of other beings of all sizes down a flight of stairs that was right there on the sidewalk.
In an underground tunnel dimly lit, by a few light elements were hundreds more waiting at a ledge. They all were dressed like us, carried tool and lunch boxes. There was an invisible cloud of sweat, oil and rusty metal smell over it all. It was also quiet, not many talked and those who did kept their voices down, Ninety said. “Most of them are very tired of a long day of physical labor. They are not slaves and get paid but very little.”
Har-Hi said. “Could that scrap not be processed by robots and Nanite factories? I wager a gang of S-55’s could do the same as all the beings here, and around the clock too.”
Ninety made a nodding motion with his head. “I suspected it and now I am almost certain you are or were from the shiny paradise shores of the mystical Union. It is the same question almost every Union slave I ever met asked the first time they see the Smelters. There are not many robots on this world and very few are used by my people even building space ships. No one could ever really explain to me what a Nanite Factory is, but I am certain it is technology beyond Kartanian capabilities.”
A long segmented vehicle squealed to a stop and sliding doors opened all along its side. Our guides went in and we followed. We found seats and the Togar grunted in a low voice as the train started moving. “I can’t understand why you are pirates and turn your backs on that Union of yours, if you come from such a wonderful place?”
The train passed into a dark long tunnel and made lots of noise while doing it. It was somewhat akin to a Trans-planet mover, but it was neither very fast nor smooth. While I observed our surroundings I wondered what to answer to that and then said. “We all have our reasons I guess.”

--

We had traveled a good hour on that train, as the thing stopped frequently but finally we were back on the surface and in what the Kartanian called the workers amusement section of town. They had taken us to a bar that was filled with blue dressed workers and found us a table at the end. The Kartanian said. “Wait here and we will talk to the others and see if we can arrange a meeting with our Dai friends. So just keep a low profile and have a drink or two and we will be back shortly.”
I said to him. “We wait an hour. If you don’t show up by then, I will assume you rather do not want any further contact and we will leave.”
The Kartanian agreed to that and the two left.
We just had ordered something that looked like beer, when a fight started at a neighboring table. An Oghar and a strong looking Togar male started exchanging blows and kicks. The situation escalated to other tables fast.
It was all fine until a strong looking Oghar insulted Har-Hi and sloshed the content of a beer mug all over my friends face and calling him a coward and other names.”
My friend tried to stay calm and out of it, but after he had to block a fist aimed at his temple he got up and of course I had to keep his back.
About five or ten minutes later Har-Hi held the dazed Oghar kneeling before my friend , by the throat and poured a glass of beer slowly over the greenish skull of his opponent.
I looked around but no one was left standing. Except for the painful groaning of a human worker who hung over a support beam above the tables, it was very quiet.
The frightened bar keeper slowly appeared behind the bar counter and made big eyes. Har Hi pushed the Oghar away and the big being slumped to the ground, twitched a few times and then lay silent.
I approached the shaking bar keeper. He had humanoid features and I wondered if he was an Oghar-human hybrid of sorts as he had features of both species. He was at least two heads taller than me and yet he was clearly frightened and as I begun to speak he twitched, I said. “Sorry about the damage. I think this got a little out of hand. How much would I owe you for the cleanup?”
He blinked with his reddish colored eyes and then said in a meek voice that didn’t really fit the tall muscular body. “You didn’t start the fight, saw it. I don’t want to…”
“I am not going to hurt you; I really want to pay for the damage.”
He looked around and said. “I guess 25,000 Huthkarta or 2,000 Union Credits would do the trick. I can’t process Togrs.”
I handed him the credit box. “Unions okay?”
He became all busy and friendly and deducted the sum into an ancient looking Union Bank Transferomat, but the thing pinged and he now appeared really happy. “They tear up the place almost every week; it’s the first time someone pays. I get the place cleaned and throw the dead into the Composter and no worries the Law never comes here.”
I looked around and said. “I don’t think we killed anyone.”
Har-Hi grunted and motioned me to follow him outside and he pointed at a Togar worker sticking head first in a hole in the wall and said. “He doesn’t look to fresh and the one you threw over the rafters isn’t moving either. Maybe this isn’t what he meant by keeping a low profile.”
I looked at him with guilt in my eyes and said. “I think they live and you should not talk. What you did to those Oghar and that Jooltar wasn’t exactly pulling punches either.”
He grunted something and then said. “We better get out of here before they call the local law enforcement and we have to explain who we are. “
We left through the front door, where we were intercepted by the Kartanian. Quick come and follow me.”
We rushed across the street and followed him into a small alley between two masonry buildings. There he stopped and said. “Who are you really? How can a human female and one single Dai fight twenty seven brawlers and knock them out like it was nothing?”
I noticed two shadows peeling from the drop shadow of the walls and one of them said in Dai language. ”Because he is a Dai Prince, twenty seven or twice as much would have made no difference, Ninety. I watched his style. “He bowed before Har Hi
Both Har-Hi and I had our hands on our weapons the second the shadows had moved, but the Kartanian said. “These are the Dai you wanted to meet. Let us go inside and you can talk.”

-“”—

The room was in a basement of a four level building not far from the bar. There were boxes and wrapped things stacked and piled I the corners, stored by whoever owned this place. There was a work bench with tools hanging on a board behind it. Ten crude wooden stools were set in a circle in the middle around a shipping crate that served as a table.
Both Day had the characteristic red skin, but I noticed they had their hair cropped very short, unlike the black long hair Har-Hi wore always carefully oiled and combed back. They wore the same boiler suits as it appeared everyone did in this city, at least in the areas we had seen.
The Togar was there as well as another Kartanian. One of the Dai bowed in the Urst-Thana fashion, which was rarely done and a gesture of total devotion, accepting the superiority of another warrior. I was actually quite proud of my increasing understanding of Dai language and customs. After he completed his gesture he said to Har-Hi. “I am Mar-Ta of the Tan-Tri Clan and this is my brother Nor-Ta. The last time we have seen a real Dai Than Warrior prince was over fourteen years ago. “
Har-Hi took of the top of the Boiler suit and uncovered his Clan glyph and said with pride in his voice. “I am Har-Hi of the Tar-Kar-Dai.”
The other Dai said. “You are the Son of Tar Kar-Hi. The one declared Dotho- Okthi Dai!”
Har-Hi right hand went for his honor knife and said. “I stand and deal death to anyone dishonoring my father and my tribe. As it appears that blinded fool Cam-Elf Na is doing more damage to the Dai Than and covers all you with shame. Crawling and taking orders from the Shiss and selling Dai into bondage. No such crimes have been committed since the Evil Ortha Okthi was defeated by the Sentient Sprit warriors in the time before time!”
Mar-Tar said.”We have been sold to the Smelter moons, as we were very young and long before your father decided to go to the Union. We only know of these events from the Dai that now come in many numbers to the Smelter Moons.”
Har-Hi kept the hand on the knife but said. “This is why I am here. I could not believe the Kartanian as he told me many Dai are sold to the Smelter Moons. How can that be?”
The other Dai Nor-Ta spoke for the first time. “We don’t know many details, mighty prince. I was eight and Mar-Tar was ten as our Dai Mother was destroyed and we were sold into Slavery along with the women, the old and a few young warriors, but there are those on Olx who just have arrived recently. It is from them we know of the events.”
Har-Hi’s face fell even more and he said. “What enemy did your tribe face, back then? Surely it must have been a formidable enemy, was it Union Battle ships?”
Nor-Ta shook his head and said. “No High Prince, it was not. It was Cam Elf Na who ambushed us and destroyed our Clan. We were not prepared for battle as we did not even think another tribe would suddenly open fire.”
My friend could not hide his surprise as he heard this and he said. “Tribe wars do happen but they are declared and it is at Thana Shoo such wars are fought in the arena warriors against warriors, not ships against ships.”
Mar-Ta spoke and answered. “We were very young, High Prince. We were not told many details and all happened very fast. But our Nursery Mother said that our Clan Leader bested Cam Elf Na in the fights for the honor to be Champion of Thana Shoo and swore revenge. After he destroyed our defenses and killed anyone who resisted. He could not leave anyone alive to tell of his deed and so he sold all survivors to the Kartanians and to the death fight arenas of Sin 4.”
Har-Hi clenched his fists. “Your story must be heard by the Pale Elders of Thana Shoo, it will end the reign of this demon! How many Dai-Than are on these moons?”
Mar-To raised his shoulders and said. “We know only of Olx, the moon we escaped from, as there are seventeen or eighteen such places called Smelter moons. On Olx we think there are many times the number hundred.”
Nor-Ta held all fingers of his hands and said. “We are not very good with numbers and such but for each finger you can count hundred for sure maybe a little more.”
Har-Hi whispered. “A thousand Dai Slaves?”
Nor-Ta said. “These numbers may be less, only the women and the young ones survive. The warriors usually die very fast as the Overseers kill them for disobedience or for trying to fight.”
Neither I nor the others had said a word since the Dai talked.
The Kartanians looked identical, except I recognized Ninety by the bandages he still wore and he said. “If you are the son of a renegade Tribal leader would you not be glad that all these die and kill themselves? Why are you here? Why did you want to see these Dai?”
Har-Hi drew his knife and pointed it at the Kartanian. “I am honor bound to my Captain and to my commission, otherwise I would slice you to pieces right now and not stop killing until the last Kartanian died for what they did to my people. What would you understand of Dai and Okthi? I am Okthi yes; I am the son of my father yes. I am also Dai and the blood in their veins is the same. I cannot stand idle to see a megalomaniac destroy what is left of our culture and our heritage. With every Dai that dies the gene pool of my species shrinks. What do you know of the cultural treasures every Dai Mother carries, of the things rescued from our doomed planet.”
Har-Hi was talking himself into a rage, like I had never seen before.
Nor-Ta said.” You speak with fire and honor, High Prince, but is your clan and many other Clans not members of that Union? Why are you traveling with a weak human female and take orders from her and not on the side of your father with a Dai Fleet in Orbit?”
Har-Hi grabbed the throat of the Dai. ”I am Lieutenant Har-Hi of the United Stars Navy. It was my father’s wish that I become the first Dai Than who serves this Fleet and set an example. I am honored beyond your grasp of understanding to serve with this Captain.”
He turned to me and said. “Sorry Captain, but I must resign my commission, I will remain here with these and find a way to free the Dai-Than from Bondage and lead them to Thana Shoo so Cam Elf Na will be called before the Pale elders to answer for his crimes.” He looked to the floor. “I know it is going AWOL and I am going to answer to a Court Martial but I must do this; even if it means to go against the will of my father and become a true outcast.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “I am not leaving you behind and I am not leaving you alone in this. It would be a very bad thing if the first Dai who became a Union Officer quits like that and your father would be very disappointed. All this are plenty of reasons not to abandon you, but chief among them is that you are my friend.”
Har-Hi’s eyes shimmered and I know he was close to tears and he said. ”Captain that will end your career; that is if they don’t hang you in the first place.”
“You said you follow me to the gates of hell. Sounds like these moons are the next best thing.”
Ninety said. ”You are from the United Stars of the Galaxies! “
I sighed. “Yes we are and we might as well put signs around our necks. It seems we aren’t too good in keeping that secret, but we are going to Olx and see what we can do to free those Dai. I think I even have an idea how we going to do that.”
The Kartanian said. “Name whatever you need and we try to get it. This is why we are still alive and what we are willing to die for, but could you not try to free all Slaves?”

--“”—

We sat in the Den and everyone was there, I had asked every one of the crew to be present and I told them what we had found out and said. “I could order you all to simply follow my orders but not this time. I will take full responsibility for all of this but I still want to give anyone the chance to put their objection on record should it ever come to an investigation or a court martial. What I am going to do is against our orders.”
There was total silence and after a full minute, I said. “I assure you I won’t hold it against anyone.”
The little Holdien jumped on the big table and said. “I think you don’t know your crew as well as you should, Captain. There was silence because no one objected; I think I speak for everyone when I say that there isn’t anyone here who would not follow you to whatever end, Captain.”
A Starman first class I didn’t really know raised his fist. “I object that you even ask, Captain. We are proud Union citizens and we have moral obligations as well. The only way Evil wins is if good men say and do nothing. I heard the XO say he follows you to the Gates of Hell, Ma’am give me the chance to do the same.”
The crew roared, raising their fists and similar appendixes and roared. “To the Gates of Hell!”
Starman Suit had real emotion in his artificial voice. “I am the newest crewmember, Captain and perhaps one of the more unusual. I was just a thing and now I have friends. I gladly disintegrate for any one aboard this ship and especially for you.”
Shea said. “Technically we are following orders you know. Part of our mission is to trace, suppress any Union Mil tech trading. As we heard from the Kartanian, it was the Red Dragon who sold Union Mil Tech secrets to the Hull builders and that makes it our business.”
She had a point there and I said. “I intend to pack our loading bay full of hand weapons, fly to that moon and arm those Slaves, since the Red Dragon can fly there; I thought we use our Janus device to do exactly that. Well that are the outlines of my idea, there are still lots of details to be worked out and if possible we can do all this and still be back in time to follow the Red Dragon.”
Har Hi scratched his chin and said. “That is actually a brilliant idea!!”

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