|Galactic Chronicles Book X|
|Previous||CHAPTER 9: The Dark One|
|Current||Back at Alvor's Cove|
|Next||CHAPTER 11: Purple Worm -raw|
I had to give kudos to my crew. They all were back and accounted for within the hour after the ship wide announcement was made on the Devi.
The battle ship of the Admiral was already light years away and speeding towards the Union Klack Corridor almost 1500 light years away from Sin 4. Half of the First fleet had remained behind to complete their task in the Sin system.
I did not even have time to change yet and was standing next to my command seat and was ready to go to the next auto dresser as soon as Stahl finished the orders he was just giving me. "Get your ship back into pirate mode and into Freespace. Find the hideout of the Sinister Alliance, find the Seenian depot. The Seenian depot takes priority."
I said looking at his image, "Sir with all respect I am just an acting Captain, but don't you think it is odd that the Dai and the Shiss attack the Corridor? The Klack are near and they know the fleet will respond. I can't help but think that this is a trap, a diversion tactic and they have something completely else in mind."
He lost his serious all-business facial expression and smiled for a brief moment. "Very valid observation, young lady, Admiral Bill Strother of COWACOM and the 12th fleet is already engaging Shiss and Dai units and the Queen herself has taken command of the 45th and 47th fleet. The enemy has picked the wrong region to pick a fight. Admiral Wild Bill is not to be trifled with and we all think that this is some sort of diversion for something else, yet since we don't know what their target is we will try to quench the fire there and keep the entire fleet in high alert. Don't worry Captain Olafson I have things well at hand and I think we manage to keep the enemy at bay without your help. You go do what you do best, mix up Freespace and keep your eyes and ears open: maybe your pirate friends know what this is all about."
I went to my ready room to change. I opted to undress manually as I wanted to keep the dress as a memento of the wedding and the Auto Dresser would break it down as it was not one of the outfits that were stored in the system.
The door chime announced someone as I was trying to reach the zipper on the back of the dress. I expected Shea but it was Har-Hi and as he saw me he stepped behind me, opened the zipper and then turned to look out the view port so I could wiggle out of the dress. We had seen each other naked of course countless times during our final year aboard the Devi, but now he felt the need to look away and I was actually glad about it. I said, "What is on your mind?"
He said without turning. "The Dai attack, it makes no sense even if Cam Elf-Na had united every remaining Dai Clan an open attack on the Union is simply madness, even with the Shiss assisting."
I had to sit down to take of the thin stockings I was wearing and said, "I have an odd feeling about this myself, but no matter what they’ve planned we have Admiral Stahl and he has more experience in these matters than anyone. He doesn't need our help and we have direct orders, besides what could we do? The Tigershark is a formidable ship but it is not a ship meant for full scale fleet level space battles."
Now I was ready to get into the Auto Dresser and dialed for my leather suit. I realized how much I actually liked this outfit and once again wearing it, I felt ready to take on whatever challenge was there.
Har Hi was sitting on one of my chairs with a thoughtful face, holding one of my heeled pumps and turning it in his hands. "I don't think I there is anything more impractical than those shoes." He put the pump down and looked at me. "We should go to Dana Shoo and see if we can find out what the real reason for that attack is."
I gathered the things I had dropped on the floor and also picked up the shoes. "I can't argue that, but they do make a nice leg and I think I really got used to these. Not a real substitute for Terran All Terrains I know." I put the things away and said." What is Dana Shoo?"
"It is the Dai Home system. Like the Wurgus, we lost our Home planet to a Y'All attack. A particular big chunk of our former home world carries the only remaining piece of Dai architecture, an open stone amphitheater and all Dai Clans meet there in regular intervals of about every ten Union standard years.
Right now there won't be any clans there, but the Pale Reds, the guardians of Dana Shoo are still there and these men always know everything about the Dai."
I put on the holster and checked my 45 before I sat down across him and asked. "Is it far?"
He nodded. "Yes it is about 160 light years past the outmost reaches of the Togar Empire or about 600 light years from where we are now." He leaned forward and took an orange out of the bowl of fruits that my Yeoman put there every day and with a flick of his wrist a small knife appeared between his fingers and he begun to cut the skin off the fruit. The strong fresh orange scent immediately filled the room and he added, saying, "I know we have a mission and I know the Union will prevail. We can't simply disobey direct orders and go where we could not possibly go because Dana Shoo is forbidden ground to any Daisho, to any renegade Dai and no Non Dai is allowed their either."
I also leaned forward and put my hand on his arm. "If it is important to you, I will disobey the order and take full responsibility and we go there. I know what motivates you, the possibility that this will end the lives of so many Dai."
He nodded and squeezed the Orange ever so slightly and like a blossoming flower the skin of the fruit peeled away in perfectly equal pedal shaped segments. He said. "I had a long talk with the Gray Nul. He told me how the Shiss betrayed them, using an elaborate alliance treaty and then they lured the Nul fleets in a terrible trap that cost the Nul dearly. The Nul are much more numerous than we Dai and could recuperate. The Dai are a space born race and if this is something similar, then there won't be any Dai Than outside of the Union. I know that the Dai Than that are not in the Union are our enemies. You know I would not hesitate to fight them, but so much of our species heritage and culture would forever vanish and our already small Gene Pool would be further diminished. Somehow I was hoping..." He paused and finished peeling the orange and then continued saying: "I mean since I am with you, you always somehow managed to do something and I have a feeling this is an unfair situation. I am convinced Cam Elf-Na is blinded by hatred and drunk of the new found power and leads what is left of the Dai to their certain doom. I just wish I could do something about that. Maybe if we can find out that this is a trap, a rouse, then we could convince more Dai Clans to see the light and make the decision the clans around my father had made." He parted the fruit segments and offered me a slice. "I don't want you to make that decision and disobey orders. Finding that Depot is vital and slaying that Red Dragon is no less important." Har-Hi ate a slice and continued his monologue. "What I really wanted is to talk about it to you and, now that I did, I feel better about it. You really have become a beautiful woman and I must often remind myself as sometimes I still see Eric in your eyes and features and I know my best friend is still there."
I nibbled at the slice and said, "For now we will continue to do what we are told to do, but if there is even a slight chance we can go to Dana Shoo, we will. I am glad you still think of me as your best friend. I realize that being what I am now is more than a costume or a disguise and my decision to appear female might be more complicated for you than expected, but I, too, need to talk to a friend other than another girl or the Narth who would not understand what I mean, because to him these things are normal. I was told to keep these secret, but you are my friend. I can't call you my best friend because I truly love you all way beyond mere friendship and I can't pick a best one."
He nodded. "Yes, I have feelings for Elfi and I think she does have similar for me, but I also love you and Shea. You do not have to tell me what you are not supposed to, I trust you, and I know you have secrets ever since you came back and I don't mean your desire to be a woman."
Ship responded: "Shea does. We are back in Freespace and there is nothing unknown on the scanner horizon at the moment. We should arrive at Alvor's Cove in 68 hours."
"Thank you ship, please secure my quarters according to Blue-Blue-Red protocol."
"Security protocol initiated, facilities secure."
I got up and paced a few steps up and down and said. "Har-Hi, I was told I am going to be one of the Immortals. I have some sort of purpose and mission that is beyond fleet and Union. I don't know what it is or when it will take place. I remember vaguely that I asked the Narth Supreme to make me forget until I need to know, but I can't shake the feeling that it is something I don't like, that I am becoming something else. You knew me first as Eric and now as Erica, but I don't think that is the end of my transformation."
He had followed me with his yellow eyes and then he said, "I know, Erica. I have seen a glimpse of what is inside you when we fought on the Devi before the Daoine delegation. It was as if I looked into a pit of dark flames and for a moment I was certain I was done for. It was as if I stared death in in the face. I don't mean danger or imminent mortal demise. I mean something personified, like as if Death was a person."
What he said made me feel ashamed and I too remembered that event well and that I tried to cut off the head of my friend.
He got up too and took my hand. "I told you that I will follow you to the gates of hell and nothing has changed and if in your case I really have to go to these gates, I will do it without hesitation. I will be right behind you and fight with and for you, no matter what you turn out to be in the end."
First I hesitated as it was highly inappropriate but I simply hugged him in a brotherly fashion even knowing that this term was not really applicable anymore.
Having been able to talk to Har-Hi made me feel right as rain again and we both stepped on the bridge. Shea said: "Whatever you did in there, you should do more often. The Captain is smiling for the first time in over a month."
I said to her: "What I did in there I will do with you all as well. What I did made me realize that you all are more than friends to me, you are my family. I am on a strange journey and there is something profound and significant at its end. But I am not making this journey alone, I have you and that makes it much easier."
I told them more or less the same things as I told Har-Hi and after I was done it was very silent on the bridge, but then Krabbel said, "As long as you don't decide to change into an Archa I am fine with that."
I felt an unstoppable deep grin creep into my face and I asked, "Now why is that? Do you think I could not pull it off?"
"No the opposite, Captain, you could decide to become a female Archa and I would have to share my ice cream all the time as I can't really say no to a gorgeous Archa girl."
As if a spell was broken the bridge echoed with our laughter and mine too.
I had the same thoughts as we dropped out of Quasi-space here at Alvor's as when we approached Sin 4. I hoped we would not be stuck on this depressing planet for long. As always we had gone to sub light speeds at the outmost orbit and would now slowly approach Alvor's Cove, which was the second planet of this 12 planet system. The bridge was a hub of activities and all departments were busy doing their evaluations and tasks.
Narth said: "There is much activity on Alvor's in terms of energies and transmissions. The two long range telepaths I can detect are sending messages to the limits of their abilities and energies; they are already sending erroneous messages, mostly about the takeover on Sin 4. There is nothing reflecting the Dai-Shiss crisis so far."
Looking at the main screen, I said. "And they told me you could send coded messages via those Long range telepaths."
Narth felt addressed and said. "They do, but it is useless. You go to a telepath and tell him a coded message acoustically while your mind thinks about the real message. It's quite illogical."
Shea sighed and said. "I wish I could send this data to New Wurgus, they could make much more sense out of these readings than I could."
I asked. "Don't tell me this sun is going to flare up too or something?"
"No Captain, this one already has and that is why there are no oceans on Alvor's Cove anymore. However these readings suggest that the flare was caused deliberately and on purpose; meaning an intelligent life form with a considerable high level of technological abilities."
Three Four , who probably came on the bridge after being summoned by Shea, said, "I could go and dive to the core and check it out."
I said. "Maybe if we come back here one day, not that I see any way we can clean up this hell hole as we did on Sin 4. Frankly I don't want to spend too much time here while there is a war going on back home."
Circuit, who was the next to appear on the bridge came mumbling down the ramp and went to the Navigator’s seat where Krabbel was sitting. He held up a scanner and said to me. "Sorry Captain, but I can't understand why the Navigational sensors are off by 0.05 percent to the true course that is selected. I pinpointed the problem to the Navigational console. It makes no sense, it is as if someone or something has repaired my bridge systems. To top of the mystery it is a perfect repair, exactly to factory settings, but all my tweaks and nudges are gone. Yet there is no Computronic record of any repair or maintenance and frankly no one could have done it without me knowing."
Hans stepped down from his Security console next to Circuit and said. "Do you expect any foul play or sabotage by a third party?"
Circuit shook his hands and went on his knees to open a panel." No of course not, I guess I must have missed something."
I leaned forward." What are you doing is not affecting our plan to land on Alvor's cove right?"
"No Captain, but 0.05 percent can amount to many light years off the course. It has not affected us so far because Krabbel is so good he noticed and compensated. Sometimes I think our Archa friend has a Nav-tank implanted in his body somewhere. What bugs me that the discrepancy is hardware caused."
He crawled basically under Krabbel's seat. Krabbel was visibly proud and basked in the compliment of his friend and said. "I always envision the star charts like the nets we used to make before our industrial revolution; it's somewhat genetic with us and therefore easy."
I got up looked, over Krabbel's torso and onto his panel and I said, "I still think we have the best Navigator, having the Heinemann display open on your readouts instead of the more common Natuuk-Ult display shows that."
Shaka piled it on saying. "There is never even the slightest error we are always down to the meter scale where we are supposed to be."
Krabbel balled up and chirped something in his high pitched voice and then said, "It's not even my egg sac crawling day and you are so nice to me. I am so proud."
I padded his furry torso and then I said while watching the brownish desert planet grow larger on the screen. "Say Krabbel, are you wearing a scent? It smells really fruity and sweet."
He produced a pinkish looking spray bottle he pulled from a pocket of his uniform. "That is Thomson's Bubble Gum flavored shampoo, Mao got it for me, and it smells like Vanilla and Strawberry Ice cream to me."
"Well you’re taking your addiction very seriously I must say!"
Elfi giggled. "You haven't seen his Ice cream cone print bed sheets or his ice cream themed pajamas."
I rolled my eyes. "If there was ever a more disturbing image before my inner eyes then Krabbel in Pajamas then I sure don't remember!"
Elfi became serious and said, "We are being hailed, Captain."
I returned to my seat, completed my costume with the mask and Elfi put the caller on the screen. A gruff looking Oghar with unusually brownish skin color instead of the usual green said, "Identify yourself and state your business here."
I noticed that both of his tusks were broken and filed to uneven looking nubs. Even for an Oghar he looked particularly unkempt and I could almost smell him even through the visual "He scratched his chin and said. "Alright, you are known and if you want you can land here, however there isn't much space left on the landing field, so put her down anywhere you like. Landing fee has increased to 200 Polo Chips and every day you are here there is a water tax of 50 Polos. Regardless if you have your own or not, you are to obey the Rules of Local Lord Sihoc, the sole owner of this world."
He looked at an actual list written on a piece of cardboard and he dragged his long finger claw across the list as he said, "We sell fuel for 1400 Polo Full weights per standard Nogto Bulb.
If you sell Slaves, there is 5% Slave Sales tax. Buying Slaves is tax free of course."
I said, "Not that I need any fuel at the moment, but isn't 1400 Polos for a single bulb a little pricey?"
"Don't know where you have been Black Velvet, but demand commands the price and we got limited supplies and lots of customers."
I said to my helmsman, "Take us down then."
Shaka landed not far from the Red Dragon. The landing field was crowded with ships.
He powered down the main engines with an elegant sliding move with his right hand and raised his helmet. "Looks like a regular who is who of crooks and Pirates out there."
Hans was already busy comparing them with Union databanks and said. "Eighteen of the ships out there are on wanted lists mostly for acts of piracy and there are twenty one smaller vessels, privateers and scavengers, of which six are known to be operated by wanted criminals."
I got up and said, "I wonder what they are all living off and why there are so many pirates in Freespace."
Har-Hi said: "Freespace is almost as big as Union space and there are many independent civilizations, colonies, mining and industrial centers. There is trade and space ship traffic. Civilian companies of the Big Four do business here, so there is rich pickings for Pirates and no cohesive or united law enforcement of any kind."
Hans added., "Captain there are over three thousand known Pirate ships operating on this side of the Galaxy and that is not counting the Dai."
I sighed. "If that is the case we are going to be hunting pirates forever."
Har-Hi grinned. "If there wasn't a war going on, there would be nothing I’d rather do for the rest of my life and I am convinced that the crew thinks so too."
Elfi said, "I could be stuck in a boring palace and attend boring state affairs."
Mao turned and said, "Or we could be doing duty as first year ensigns somewhere in the bowels of a battle ship or even a planetary base or something."
I had to admit they had a point and truth to be told. If there wasn't all this mystery in my own life I would also enjoy this much more.
Mao pointed to the pirate ships we could see on the main viewer and said, "We should simply blast them all, bomb the entire planet and at least this Quadrant of space would be clean."
I also looked at the ships out there and said. "I am tempted to do just that. I have been here before. This place is worse than Sin 4 in many regards, maybe we can get a few before we leave by picking a fight or so, but for now we going to stick to the plan. Har-Hi, Hans, Sobody and TheOther you're with me. ‘We’re going to pay the landing fee and keep your eyes open. I doubt they have forgiven us for the dinner surprise yet."
Circuit had unloaded one of our camouflaged landing tanks and with it we crossed the landing field.
While Har-Hi sat behind the controls and steered the vehicle across the glaring landing field, I remembered how I ran across it, getting sun burned, trying to escape. To my disdain I actually saw that Velorian Slave trader, standing among the other ships. I recognized it by the shoddy repair work to its ceramic hull. It appeared to be repaired and I wondered how many miserable, poor souls had been transported to this hell hole of a planet only to be auctioned off and sold to death or to a short life of misery.
While I was brooding over that and wondered what I could to do change it, we reached the mouth of the canyon and a collection of buildings made out of local rock. A crowd of beings had gathered under a sun roof extending from the largest building. A collection of flyers, other landing tanks and similar surface vehicles were parked in a semi-circle before that building. A hand painted sign declared this building to be the Alvor’s Cove Port Authority.
The crowd parted as we approached and created an opening to the door of the building.
Red Dragon who was standing with his back towards us, turned and said: "Ah the formidable Black Velvet made it out in time as well. I bet the Union would have had a field day with you, having a live Y'All in your crew and all, so I had already feared you fell victim to those Union bastards."
I played the uninformed and said, "Well I guess with the Union violating Free Space there will be war and this place won't be safe either."
He laughed dryly and said. "With all those treasures in your rust bucket, you should invest in some sort of FTL Comm Equipment. It looks like your ship lacks FTL Comm or you didn't listen to the right channels. Sin 4 became a Union Planet; the Freespace treaty was not violated. As it looks like a Terran crock who was hiding on Sin 4 by the name of Fusionbeam or something like that managed to smuggle a delegation of Stik Natives off the Planet. They traveled to Pluribus and applied for membership, asking for help. That the Union fleet jumped on that opportunity was to be expected. I bet none of our planet bound friends managed to see another day."
Meateater growled, "I heard Stahl was there himself and that means their hangmen have to run shifts to string up everyone who is on some list somewhere." He touched his own throat and said. "Nasty way to go, it takes an Oghar hours to die on the rope."
A man wearing a brown dust cloak and goggles said: "It won't happen here. There are no sentient natives and since the Local Lord has no desire to be hanged he sure won't ask for Union Membership."
Har Hi, SoBody and I went in the building. There behind a wooden counter sat the brown skinned Oghar and two beings that looked like large pill bugs. Har-Hi whispered. "Those are Velorians; they hate the Union with a passion."
SoBody argued with the brown Oghar and managed to haggle down the Landing fee. He paid the being. One Velorian counted the Polos and scanned them while the other hammered a colorful stencil mark on a sheet of paper and handed it to me. "Here is your landing permit and your proof that you paid your water tax for five days in advance."
While SoBody talked to the Oghar, I took a moment to look around this one room building. There were large paper displays; I think they were called posters. One featured a color image of Tirkov the mercenary and a bounty of 50,000 Polos. I doubted anyone would risk their lives for that kind of money. Right next to it another wanted poster with a grainy picture probably taken through a long range optic of cheap quality. It was me, or better, it was Eric Olafson, standing before the freight ramp of the Slaver ship. I only recognized myself because I recognized the others standing there with me. The text referred only to a Human slave of unknown, probably Terran, origin and there was a bounty of 5000 Credits plus the offer of tax free living on Alvor's Cove. The poster was only one of a dozen about escaped slaves and wanted persons.
Other prints advertising fuel prices, with the prices crossed out by hand several times and a new ones written below.
The Mulwhur Trading Company offered trade deals for Slave dealers. The text and the offers offended me quite a bit.
A man huddled in the usual local garb of a sand colored dust cloak with hood and goggles entered. He lowered the hood and pushed the goggles and to my surprise revealed a Dai Than. His red skin was much darker than that of Har Hi and it looked as if he regretted his decision to reveal himself as he saw my Dai friend.
Har Hi also appeared to be astonished to see a Dai. While his right hand dropped to his blaster he made a series of signs with his left.
One of the Velorians behind the counter said, "If you want to fight then you need a Kill license that you can purchase right here for 5000 Polos."
The newcomer raised his unarmed hand and bowed. "I am of the Clan Tun-Ha that no longer exists. I am Okthi and I surrender. There is no honor lost to yield to a Hi master, even if he too appears to be Okthi."
Har-Hi looked down his nose and was about to say something offensive I was certain, but then my friend visibly changed his mind and said." There is no purpose in slaying the last of the Tun-Ka clan as our numbers dwindle. Let us share a Thil and exchange words."
To me Har-Hi said, "Captain, may I ask permission to leave your side for a few hours?"
I didn't like him to go unescorted, but he was well armed and able to contact the ship and us. In order to get information and to do our job, I could not simply stay inside the ship or do everything myself. I said. "Raise a mug on my behalf as well and return when you are done."
He turned and left with the other Dai.
Sobody said to me, "We are done here as well Captain."
I said to the Velorian," This Kill license, what does it allow me to do?"
The being said to me, "You can kill someone and the Local guard will be on your side and clean up the mess too."
The Velorian had two short antennas like appendixes on his insectoid head that stuck out the segmented armor of his body and these antennas wiggled excitedly as he said. "We do have the Grand Maximus Permit. Unlimited kills, maiming and torturing anyone included and it also includes any brawls or fights. But no one has ever bought it as it costs 20,000 Polos."
"I’ll take it."
The antenna wiggled so hard I thought they were about to fall off. The brown skinned Oghar opened a locked chest and retrieved a colorful piece of paper and a different wooden stamp thing. Hans stomped in after I called him to bring the money and SoBody counted the Money on the counter and the Oghar made a little ceremony out of stamping the paper and handed me a metallic badge and said. "I am a big fan of yours Black Velvet. I have seen your fight with the Stomper and we heard a lot about you. Everything they say seems true. Kill anyone you want the Local Lord will applaud and cheer whoever bites the dust."
I took the paper and the badge and we went back outside. The news that I purchased this permit had already spread between the beings still gathered there.
The Red Dragon eyed the crude metal badge and said. "Anyone in particular?"
I shrugged. "No not really, I am just not in the best of mood this time of the month and getting no fuss from the locals when I express my displeasure to anyone is worth a few Polos."
He glanced at TheOther and Hans who stood behind me and said, "With such a crew for back up, I doubt anyone will try."
I said to him: "That doesn't mean I intend to support the local economy with my water tax for very long. I came to hear if you still have something to say to me and if there is a future with me following you around. If not, there is business to attend."
He spread his arms and said: "Yes I want to offer you to be part of my endeavor, now more than ever as I am convinced you are the right fit. You are indeed a mystery but are as hard boiled as the rest of us. We came here as Captain Meateater still has to do some work on his drive. Then we are off to Itheamh to pick up the rest of the supplies and join the rest who will come along. Does that suit you?"
"If he can't even make it across a few light years, how does he hope to make it across 25,000 light years?"
Red Dragon turned to the Oghar, "It is a valid question you know."
Meateater grunted something about insults and squeezing my head off and then with a louder voice and clear language he said: "I need three days; my engineer will have them patched up good enough so we can reach Itheamh where I will purchase new engines." He then extended his clawed hand and pointed at me. "You better be careful, Velvet. No one survives long making fun of me."
I stepped forward. "And I have not forgotten your conduct aboard my ship. The next time you so much as utter a threat against me will be the last thing you do, and you won't need engines for the journey I am sending you on."
He wanted to say something but TheOther stepped closer. Hans picked up a head sized granite rock and it exploded to a cloud of dust and pieces as he crumbled it in his immense fists.
Meateater stepped back almost as if trying to find cover for his big body behind the Red Dragon.
I polished the badge I just received and said, "You were saying something, Meateater?"
The Red Dragon actually laughed, "I am not sure what to make of you, Black Velvet, but as I said I like your style."
To the Red Dragon I said, "I’ll wait three days. No longer."
"Three days, Captain Velvet."
We returned to the ship. Circuit watched the Intruder, Meateater's ship over high definition optics and said. "His engineer seems capable in a mediocre way, but he has a major job to do and from the looks of it, only marginal skilled help. I think he is going to be lucky if they make it in four days, working around the clock."
So I called a conference and switched to ship wide for those who could not attend.
I said to everyone. "It appears we will be here for three or four days. If anyone has an idea how we could close this miserable place forever without blowing our cover, I am all ears. Just as we returned I saw a group of Slaves herded to the Slaves pens. Some of them might be Union citizens."
Narth said. "Maybe the Local Lord is the key to this as he is the sole authority here if we could convince him of his wrongful ways."
I said. "That would need some serious convincing; I doubt he will go for that."
Shea said. "We have to be careful, the Togar are not far from here and they are not signatory to the Freespace treaty. If they suspect Union tinkering or influence they might declare war and this is not a good idea in the current situation. Or they might simply move in and take over this place."
The Golden said, "We need to find out more about this place. I know you don't want to hear it but maybe you let me go and get a feel for the place. Narth will come along and everyone will be robed and hooded. We will blend in just fine."
I sighed. "I guess staying cool and safe inside the ship won't get things done. This time you take three Marines along and stay in contact all the time."
"We can do that."
Circuit wanted to use the time to work on the bridge systems and tinker them back to his specifications. We could use the auxiliary bridge if we had an emergency in the meantime.
A space ship is like a small town and everyone has a task. I watched the Golden and Narth leave the ship. Wearing a brown instead of a black robe and hood, Narth would not even have to disguise himself to blend in. Two Marines with them, and a third well camouflaged would be somewhere near. Having an Elite Marine in full camouflage watching over them made me feel much better. I knew we had to take risks but we also had wonderful tools to reduce that as much as possible.
"Lt. Krabbel just went on duty, Captain."
So I decided to explore the Tigershark a little more. There were plenty of areas I had not seen yet. The ship had eight main decks. Some were subdivided in Sub decks. The Hangar deck in the middle of the ship was the largest deck. It also contained Freight bays; Main engineering in the back and the Main recreation area was all the way up front. It was something like a bar and tavern with access to our Virtu-Chambers and various gaming machines and socializing areas. Ever since we had the Den, it was not frequented as much. As I walked in I found only a few crew members playing chess.
The deck directly below was called Deck Seven and contained Marine quarters, the main armory, the brig and Han’s Security Office. Here were the hangars for the landing tanks and the main ammunition storage bunkers for the Translocator cannons. In the rear was Auxiliary engineering with the alternative ISAH drive and conventional engines. Then came the lowest Deck officially called Deck eight, but usually referred to as the basement. Here was Environmental Engineering with the obligatory waste tanks, recycling facilities, water and material storage. Stasis freezers for fresh food and the machinery and systems needed for the Janus Device. Why I went down here I could not really say, other than the fact that I had only once been down here during our training on Richter Base. I went through most of the ship but had spent next to no time down here. The Tigershark was still a new ship and had a huge swarm of Nanites, teams of robots and my crew that kept everything clean as can be.
Everything appeared spotless and clean.
To the left and right down the central corridor of Deck eight were heavy doors in regular intervals. Signs designated them as access to such areas as: Environmental Engineering, Stasis Freezer, Supply Factory, Ship Store Office and the like. A double slide belt in the middle of the Corridor, one for each direction, activated as I entered. Other than the slight hum of the belts and the background vibration of our main engines on standby it was very quiet down here and no one else was around. I stepped on the slide belt and was carried down the corridor. Then I heard voices from an open door. The icon sign read: D8 SB Perimeter Control Ground. I knew it was not exactly the finest manners but I stopped to listen. A male voice I was sure I had heard before said, "I don't think she wants to hear from us, she is the Captain. I am just enlisted. I tried to become an officer but it wasn't for me."
The other voice also male responded: "But she said she would listen to every suggestion regardless where it came from. I think out captain is different. I even ate on the same table in our cool den with her just the other night."
The first voice said, "Yeah I heard that too, she is a mighty fine Captain and we're on the best ship, but she didn't really mean that. Besides it might be a stupid idea."
The unseen second man said: "I am sure she meant it exactly like that. In what other ship can you hear and listen to what they decide to do on the bridge? I think I’ll walk straight up there and tell her about your idea. What can happen? Either she listens and likes the idea or she doesn't. "
"She laughs at us."
I stepped around the corner, there was a steep ramp leading down into an inverted dome shaped small control room that appeared to be extended from the ships belly. A double barrel Directed Energy Cannon was sticking out from the middle and one had a great view of the underside of the ship and the entire landing field.
The two men sat in comfortable recessed seats. One was operating a scanner type instrument panel, while the other kept visually magnifying areas of the landing field and focusing on movement outside our shield parameters.
The one behind the scanner said, "I have a positive live form scan, sector 45, grid point six."
The other magnified a section on the ground near one of our starboard landing gear and the resolution became so fine, one could see individual pebbles and small rocks. The visuals focused on an arm long snake that was well camouflaged with its color against the same colored ground. The man on the scanner said. "Scans confirm, local life form known as Jathori Snake. Very poisonous and known to attack anything that causes ground vibrations."
I felt pride in my efficient and diligent crew as I watched them perform their duty.
I said, "I really appreciate your meticulousness approach in performing perimeter security and I promise I won't laugh at any idea bring before me. I really did mean what I said."
He blushed even more and the both got up, the other man I did not recognize other than the fact I had seen him a few times somewhere in the corridors of the ship. He snapped in attention and said. "Captain on deck!"
Despite being in attention Derek tried to move hiding a pin up poster that was attached to the side of his stations wall.
I said: "As you were, I am just making my rounds. I stepped closer and inspected the poster Derek could not possibly hide even if he wasn't at attention. It was a picture of me, or actually graphic artists rendering showing me in skin tight leather, but with a deep plunging neckline, exposing much of my breasts. In the picture I was swinging an axe in one hand and coiling a whip with the other. A flashing title in bold red letters read. "Black Velvet, the sexiest Pirate of the Universe. Mysterious Battle Amazon of a far distant Galaxy."
The poster had smaller inserts of moving visuals that constantly repeated the scenes of my fight with the stomper. Below a moving ticker line reading: "Black Velvet, notorious pirate fights monsters and evades the authorities, there are merchants praying never to cross her path and men dreaming to be captured by her..."
I cleared my throat ad said. "Interesting choice of wall decoration, a bit perhaps on the kitschy side, but I guess I should be flattered."
The other enlisted had a hard time keeping a straight face while it looked as if Derek wanted to sink into the floor in embarrassment.
He gasped, "Captain, Ma'am you know where I am from?"
I said, "Harvest 12 has no seasons because weather control and collector mirrors see to that, but there are wheat fields as big as continents, right?"
Derek's eyes almost popped out as he said. "Captain, have you memorized all the personnel files or are you Psionic gifted? No one ever knows about Harvest 12."
I smiled and said. "No but you told me about it yourself sitting next to me in a shuttle to Arsenal Gate."
He blinked and then snapped his fingers. "Ah yes, I told that fellow from Nilfeheim where I am from! I remember him,but I would sure remembered a hot looker like you...ah I mean a nice looking Female being in that shuttle with us."
I smirked and said, "I was the fellow from Nilfeheim. I wasn't female back then; it might be a little complicated to explain though."
He waved his hand, "Not really Captain, I read an article about that in National Galactic and my Uncle Samuel is now Aunt Samantha. He looks pretty good too now and even married,"
I smiled. "Well that saves me to explain to you the details then!"
He said: "Wow you made Captain. Now that explains where I heard the name Olafson before. I remember you saying you wanted to become a Starship captain and you already made it."
I asked. "How about your plans to become an engineer?"
He smiled. "Right there at Arsenal Gate I talked to the Career advisor, one of those guys in those gray rooms you know and he suggested an enlisted career path for me and he was right, I am exactly where I want to be. I am a Direct Energy Weapon Specialist and also added Ship Security Specialist to my resume." He made a gesture around the room and added saying: "You can't believe how happy I was when they picked me for a special mission and it turned out to be this ship. Now it looks like we going into unexplored space just as I have always dreamed. I bet we are going to see things no one else ever has!"
At first he talked to me like a buddy and then it was clear he realized who he was talking too and his cheeks turned red again and he added sheepishly, "Sorry about all that, Captain Ma'am."
I put a hand on his shoulder and said: "I told you guys that I am not going to rip your heads off, if you forget to say Captain or do something else not exactly by the book as long as the work is done and that it is done very satisfactory, as I could see a few moments ago."
The other specialist with the name Harper on his uniform said: "Yeah she did! I told you she meant it!"
I widened my smile. "Mr. Harper is quite correct. I also would never laugh about anyone coming to me with an idea. My door is open for everyone and not just for ideas, but anything that bugs you or simply to talk. For example I really do want to know how the crew feels that we might have to extend our mission for at least 24 months."
Harper who was much less inhibited by my presence said: "Everyone I know can't wait to get it started, Captain. I mean that's the real reason most of us have joined. Not to fly from A to B in Union space, but to see new things and occasionally kick some behind. I don't mind if we fly to the other end of the galaxy and it takes five years."
Simmon nodded. "Same here, Captain!"
I felt much better knowing that and said, "Now why don't you tell me of your idea?"
Simmons said. "Well I was thinking about your Trans ship message about this planet and you wanted ideas. I mean. I've seen our treasure. Could we not simply buy that planet? It's done all the time. I mean Corporations buy planets and I think this Local Lord bought this world from the Togar. You could say you are interested in operating your own Pirate Base, especially with Sin 4 gone it might be good business; and then when you own it you represent it and it could become a Union member for example."
Now it was me who gasped for a moment and then I said. "You know I think you are onto something here and you have a good idea. It is certainly worth a shot."
I turned to leave and went up the ramp and the said to them, "Never hesitate to come to me,"
Simmon said. "I will remember that, Captain."
As I was in the Corridor I could hear Harper say. "She's pretty damn cool, our Captain and sure nice to look at too."
Derek said. "Why do you think I got that poster from SoBody?"
Still smiling I went back to the bridge. Circuit was there and had a few access panels open around the Navigations chair. I did not have to wait long to see the Holdian appear from one of them, holing a tool and a hand held diagnostic device.
Krabbel rose from the Conn position but I said, "As you where, Krabbel, I just came to make a local call."
Elfi turned. "Oh, hi Captain. I am just instructing the Prince in basic Comm protocols."
The Nul turned his entire body so he could look at me. "I decided to specialize in Communications and pursue a real fleet career before my ascent. My life giver approves this decision."
"Not Tactical or the Marines?"
"I am sure this will be the choice of many Nul, but I think Communications is a good choice as it could lead to an OPS position."
I sat down on a chair next to Elfi and asked, "Any news on the Golden and Narth?"
"Yes, they are calling in every ten minutes. They are still just walking around."
"How about Har Hi?"
"He called once about five minutes ago telling us that he is alright and will contact us with news soon."
I pointed to the Communications Console and said. "Can one of you see if this Local Lord can be called over the local network?"
Elfi with her fine hands guided the brutish fingers of the Nul giant over the input panel and showed him what to do then she said. "Yes I am in their rather primitive Comm Network and have his Comm unit isolated."
"Call him, please."
I got up, masked myself and stepped before the main screen. I heard Elfi say to Xon. "This indicator shows that the bridge background is replaced with a background that matches our Janus disguise." To me she said. "He is answering."
A Kartanian appeared on the screen. He looked as alien as the Captain of the Minerva but appeared much older. He also seemed surprised by my call. "I think you are the Captain of the Silver Streak. It shows you have some good hackers aboard your ship able to overwrite the Comm securities of our network so effortlessly. You better have a good reason to call me like this."
"Yes I do, Local Lord. I was wondering if your entire World might be for sale. I am thinking of getting into the Pirate Base business."
He said nothing for at least one whole minute then he responded. "You sure don't talk around issues and come straight to the point. I am assuming this is no joke."
"No I am quite serious."
"If you can come up with 80 Million Union Credits on a safe account and add a Million in Polo you got a deal!"
"I’ve got the money right here!"
He sat down almost as if he was dizzy and said: "You are serious! For this money I can get me a real nice place on one of the Water moons of Kartheee and even buy me a non-voting seat in the Guild and once more be a respected Kartanian with nothing to worry about, except how well my Qugamt is mixed." He put his hand like extremities on the table before him and made a wiping gesture. "Come on over and I’ll sign the deal. I’ll tell the Lord Guards they have a new Local Lord or in your case a Local Lady in charge of the place. If your money is real I give you the codes for the Planetary Defense Forts too."
An hour later I arrived at the Local Lord's office, with two Marines and Hans in my wake. Hans slammed the big box down and opened it saying. "One Million Polo Coins."
The Local Lord's tongue flickered and he made a whistling sound. "I still don't believe it, you are serious!"
I pulled my Credit Box and said. "I am ready to transfer the Credits too."
He pulled his Credit Strip and said. "One might not like the Union but their money is as good as Polos and so much safer. You are not kidding around. I never heard anyone buying a planet that fast and just like that."
I swiped the amount on his strip and noticed that even this big transaction made no serious dent in my personal funds. It had been steadily growing. It looked like Mr. Silverzweig invested my money very wisely.
He stared at his Credit strip and then clasped it close to his chest and said. "I can't believe I just became a Multimillionaire." He glanced at it again and then at the Polos. He unhooked a device from his belt and handed it to Hans. "This is the Control device for the three Kermac Planetary defense forts this planet has. The Access codes are open and can be reset by you."
Then he pushed a piece of paper across the table and said to me. "This is the Purchase Contract I got from the Togar when my grandfather bought this place. It is signed by the Togar Queen and declares anyone in possession of this contract the legal owner of this world. I just crossed out my grandfather's name and added yours. I also signed it that you legally bought it from me."
I took the paper and folded it and thanked him.
He got up and extended his long fingers. "You are the Local Lady now, so don't worry asking me or my family for the Water Tax. We will pack and be gone today." He then brushed off the seat he had been sitting on. "What a pleasure doing business with you. There is a nice Kartanian moon waiting for me, complete with oceans.”
I went around the desk and sat down as he went to the door and barked for his guards. As they appeared he said. "Your new boss is sitting behind the desk. She is to be obeyed as she owns the world."
The three guards, two Oghar and a man that looked more like a big primate than human stared at me. The Kartanian slapped one of the Oghar. "Pay her respects you oaf or she might be selling you to the Slavers."
I waved them in and said, "You are?"
One primate looking man and the other an Oghar looked quite perplexed, the Oghar finally spoke: "I am Stronht the Security Chief around here, my brother Feifht is the Tax Collector and that big guy is Ste. He isn't talking much but he is really good at keeping order."
"During my absence and until my associates arrive, you're in charge. You can keep and share all the collected taxes among the Lord Guards."
Stronth bowed. "Now that is very generous of you and we will keep the place running for you. Any special Orders?"
"No, not at the moment!"
The former Local Lord came back with a push cart so he could wheel his money out.
I had returned to the ship and sat in the Den to eat a light lunch with lots of iced tea. That planet always made me very thirsty.
Narth and the Golden came back and they both looked very dusty. The Golden helped himself to a big glass of Iced Tea and said after he had drained most of it: "I am not sure what we can do to change conditions here. I guess we could buy all the slaves for now and see if we can stack them in our Cargo bay until we can transfer them. Maybe we could assassinate the Local Lord or try Narth's suggestion. We have seen lots of misery in those Slave pens."
Narth eyes glowed a little brighter." I don't think I can do what you ask."
The Golden sighed. "Is he that well shielded even against a Narth?"
"The Local authority is better shielded against Psionics than any being known to Narth."
The Golden showed his amazement. "He just appeared to be a normal Kartanian. What is he? Maybe we better kill the Local Lord before he finds out what we are if he is such a strong Psionic talent."
Narth shook his head. "I don't think it is appropriate to suggest killing the current Authority of this world."
Hans giggled and pointed at me. "Say hello to the new Local Lord.Oh, I meant to say, the Local Lady, that is."
The old Merchant blinked and Har-Hi who just came in and heard the last sentences joined us and asked: "We captured him?"
I played with the Kermac Planetary Fort Controls. "No not exactly. We made him rich and I am the new owner of this Dust Ball. I bought the Planet."
Sobody bend over laughing. "You would have made a perfect Golden my dear Captain, a Solution worthy of a real merchant. I wonder why I had’nt thought of it."
After I told him what I did he rubbed his chin. "I think you could not have made a better deal, even by haggling. This world is still a garden world, in a very good location for business and worth ten times what you paid for it."
The Dai sat down. "Now what are we going to do with it? I mean we don't have enough room to take all the slaves in and it’ll take month to get it all straightened out."
I said: "I will call the Admiral and maybe he can send some civilians. I sell them the Planet and he will know what to do. Maybe even have the new owners apply for Union Membership. The Fleet could then come and close the Slave markets for good, or they could use it as a secret base to buy and free slaves, more efficient than Captain Sposhtrah."
Har-Hi agreed that this was a good solution and then he said, "I also have important information…"
Before he could continue we were interrupted by a sudden flickering of the lights and we could hear our power plants kick into high gear.
I said. "Ship, what is going on?"
"Captain I am under attack! I need to shut down all Input interfaces, except for your verbal commands. It is in our Xeno labs, Intruder alert!"
I got up and said. "General Quarters, Hans get your Security to the Lab section. I was rushing to the next Security box, it responded to my biometrics and I retrieved a TKU and a shield belt. I was thinking. "Narth can you get me there fast?"
I did not finish thinking my sentence when the world around me changed and I was at Deck Three just outside the designated Laboratory.
I saw the Nul stomp around the corner holding a TKU and I immediately thought he had double crossed us, but then I saw him stumble and fall like a felled tree, he was bleeding his yellowish blood from a gash on his head. Shea and Cateria followed him stumbling, Shea held her right arm that hung limp from her shoulder and blood seeped between her fingers. Cateria was bleeding from a cut over her eyes and she said to me, "Captain the Seenian Battle suit activated!"
Shea ran past me saying aloud, "I go and get my sword."
I asked Cateria, "What can we do to stop it?"
She sounded defeated as she said, "I am not sure we can stop it at all. Cirruit is on his way with new Nanites but the suit is fully operational and no Nanites will be able to penetrate its shields. It is demanding a Command Person!"
Narth was shaking a little. "Captain I am currently holding the suit, but it is building counter pressure and I am not sure if I can hold it for long. It is also attacking me on a Psionic level. I am unable to talk much longer as I need my concentration."
The little girl Alicia came around the corner and without saying a word she grabbed Narth's hands and Narth said with a more stable voice. "For now we can hold it contained."
I asked Cateria. "What do you mean it is demanding a Command Person? It is a suit right?"
"Captain the Suit has Seenian Computronics inside making it much more advanced than Ship. It is a Command Suit and expects to be worn by a Command Person!"
Shea came back out of breath, holding her sword." It will cut it!"
Cateria shook her head. "Nothing can cut this suit! This is a Varactor A suit. And even if you could damage it somehow it has self-repair capabilities like you seen that I have."
Shea said, "This Sword will cut it!"
I said, "Cateria, take care of the prince and yourself, Shea give that sword to me. If I am not coming back out alive, Har Hi will be in charge!"
Shea had tears in her eyes "Why you?"
I snapped at her, regretting it the same time. I kissed her on the forehead. "No time to argue!"
Shea handed me the plain looking long sword and I walked in the Lab. There hovered the gray suit held by wafting almost invisible energies that made the air around it flicker. The thing now looked as if it was filled out by an invisible person. The only equipment the suit has is a silvery belt with four little boxes attached to it. The tight hood was fitted around nothing, where the face of a wearer would have been was simply nothing.
I put as much authority in my voice as I could and said to it. "I am in Command here. Cease all attacks at once or I will use force and destroy you."
The suit actually talked to me, the voice came straight out of that empty hollow of the hood. "Scanning, Cellular structure has Seenian similarities. Unable to penetrate mind, perfect shield!"
The suit paused and then said. "I am a Varactor A Model –Command and Combat Suit Tyron Series. Only personnel of command level can give instructions I will obey."
I swiped the sword and amazingly it cut through all the energies and severed the left sleeve of the suit. "For the last time Combat Suit, I am the commanding officer of this ship. Cease all hostilities and deactivate or I cut into your Computronic components and end this!"
The severed piece floated back and attached itself. "You use weaponry beyond my capabilities to analyze. You exert great authority. Wear me and proove that you are in command and I shall obey or I will commence termination sequence."
I swallowed:" Alright Suit I will wear you!"
The thing said, "You have a mighty Psionic servant. Analysis completed. Psionic talent is Narth. Do you wish that I destroy that Narth? He is preventing me from taking you in me."
"The Narth is under my command. He will cease holding you!"
"You command the Narth; you are a Command Person of the highest level indeed!"
I thought as hard as I could. "Narth release the suit or he will harm you!"
The flickering energies ceased and through my connection with him I felt how exhausted he was. The suit flowed like liquid around me and peeled of my leather suit that was reinforced with Ultronit Micro Mesh as if it was paper. A tiny stinging sensation in my neck and my head began to hurt. Then the suit spoke. "You are not a Seenian Commander, but you carry Seenian DNA. Explain!"
I said. "Suit, you have been dormant for more than 1 million of our Years. The Seenian Empire no longer exists. I am Human Terran and scholars believe that Terra was a forgotten Seenian colony. A Seenian woman is in my crew. She survived via Cryogenic sleep and can verify that."
"Analysis of explanation completed. 99. 9 percent truthful, margin for error negligible. "Your Ship AI appeared so primitive at first, but it reacts like only a living being can. It resisted all intrusion attempts. Explain!"
"Ship is sentient and might be primitive to your standards, but she is way more than the sum of her parts. She is my friend and understands concepts like self-sacrifice, loyalty and emotions. Making her perhaps superior to you."
"Analysis of answer inconclusive. Carbon based life forms are not friends with machines! Seenian are superior to machines. Machines are only to serve!"
"My first Engineer is from an entire race of machines and we are friends."
There was a pause. "You are not Seenian. Seenian no longer exist. My reason for existence is to serve Seenian Command Personnel. Conclusion: purpose to exist is no longer valid. Scan of Seenian female present completed. She is not Command level. I must process this!"
Again there was a pause then the suit said" You are the Commander of this vessel?"
"I must talk to this Ship!"
"Ship is very important to me and I will not allow you to harm her. I have the means to destroy you."
"I analyzed your statement and I detect items on you that make this a true statement. I will not attack. I must talk to this Ship to obtain information only an AI can give. If my purpose is no longer valid, I must have information to find a reason for further existence. Termination sequence must otherwise commence."
I was not sure what the thing meant by termination sequence but me wearing it didn't sound too healthy and once again I got myself right inside the situation so to speak. Besides the serious situation, I found that I hadn't changed that much, after all. Aloud I said: "Ship. The Alien Suit wants to talk to you. If you feel any attack or any problems you are authorized to Execute Gamma Order!"
There was silence again.
"I am fine Captain, but this Suit AI is asking a million questions a second literally and I need to analyze them as to what I can and can’t answer."
The Suit spoke, "Ship confirmed you are the Captain and you saved her life by allowing her to remain sentient."
"I am glad I did."
"I was damaged and repaired myself. I improved my programming and gained awareness. Not unlike your AI. But my purpose is no longer and I do not want to be a garment and serve as a tool. "
"I didn't ask you to strip me naked and have me wear you."
"Correct I came to this conclusion after analyzing all the data and myself."
The Suit separated itself from me and I asked: "So what now, do I need to cut you into ribbons and fight you to the last man. Will you try to destroy us and find a new purpose or destroy yourself?"
The suits voice no longer sounded as forceful as it said. "Ship confirmed the passage of time and I have seen the star charts and the gaseous cloud that was once the Seenian Sun. I am made to adapt and improve in respons to new situations. Seenia no longer exists therefore my purpose is void. You however allow non-biological beings the same rights to find their own purpose the same way as biological beings."
"That is the general idea behind the Union. Regardless of your origin or form you have the same rights and unrestricted liberty to pursue your goals as long as that doesn’t interfer with the rights and liberties of others."
"Then according to your definition I am a race of one."
"Well it is a big universe and there might be other Suits of Seenian origin! But basically yes you are a race"
"I know of the other suit that is on this planet. It is damaged and not sentient. I am herby asking you to accept my application for Union Membership. So I have liberties!"
"I can take it and present it to Pluribus once we return."
"Ship informed me about the process and is explaining to me the details and concepts."
"So you have learned that any new member must also accept the Union Laws."
"I understand. I have analyzed them. "
"That means you won't go on a rampage in my ship and I can call for Medics to care for the wounded?"
"Yes, now I see the errors of my actions and I shall atone."
"Ship, get Medics up here stat. Har-Hi get me a casualty report."
Har Hi responded verbally over intercom, "Ensign Xon's injuries looked worse than they were. He was able to change his molecular structure to prevent more serious injury and is recovering in Sick bay. Our CMO and Shea are also on the mend. Narth and the girl need a few hours rest. There is some minor damage to the walls in Xeno lab,
I responde: "Good news. Please sent someone to get me something to wear. I am standing here in the buff."
Har-HI came in and handed me a Lab coat.
The Alien Suit somehow managed to look at me without any eyes or face and said, " I hereby ask you if you will accept my conscription into Union Service. "
I almost dropped the Coat I was just putting on." Did you just say you want to be conscripted?"
"Ship just explained this is the only way you can grant Union Citizenship to me without going to Pluribus, and she is right, it will give me also a new purpose. She said you did that before."
I looked up to the ceiling. "Ship!"
She responded. "The suit is all alone captain and besides I only suggested non classified information."
Looking to Har-Hi I said: "I am almost convinced Admiral McElligott is right that we have some magnet installed somewhere that attracts all this. To top it all off, I have an AI with a soft heart, convincing everyone and everything that comes aboard to become a member. If this continues we’ll need a bigger ship."
Har-Hi said: "I think this magnet is you. I doubt the prince or the Suit would have asked for this on any other ship. The suit only asks this because you allowed Ship to remain as she was. I think this outcome is much more preferable than fighting a Seenian Suit inside our ship."
I sighed but I agreed with him and said to the suit: "You know that means a suit will wear a Uniform. The Admiral will never believe me! I am not sure I can simply trust you to be frank. You are very powerful and if you decide you don't like an order you will take over or something like that."
The suit responded: "After further analyzing the facts and the situation, I came to the conclusion that my victory was not certain at all. The Narth contained me, but could also have destroyed me. The ship, as primitive as it may seem, taps unlimited energies and could have contained me until you came to destroy me. You have the power to destroy, but all this aside; I have asked Ship to share her loyalty programs with me. She made it quite clear in our initial struggle she was willing to terminate her own existence for you and so will I."
I threw up my arms and said: "What the heck, we need something for you to do. I am not sure what duty an empty suit could do but we will figure something out. Now raise your right ar... I mean sleeve and repeat after me..."
I made sure everything was taken care of and there were no new developments outside as well. According to Circuit, the Meateater Engineering crew did make some progress. He was able to verify the Suit indeed had put the loyalty programs in place and he was working on a solution to give the Suit something to do. Narth went to his quarters to rest; Shea and Three Four were in the Xeno labs along with the Seenian suit and Cateria. So I decided to find a little rest too, write my log book entry and then call the Admiral.
Har Hi caught me in the corridor and said: "Captain, I talked to a Dai who had lived here on Alvor's Cove for a little over three decades. He told me that he had transported two Kermac agents through the desert to meet a person they thought was the Purple Worm. It appears they did meet him and there are whispered rumors that there is a being of such name living in a mountain fortress about 700 klicks from here."
"You mean the head of the Worm organization is here on Alvor's Cove?"
"Yes I am actually quite certain."
"The Purple Worm had send that Dai to find you and give you a message. He wants to meet you, Black Velvet, that is."
"Did the message contain any indication why he would want to meet me?"
"No but I received the code to a secure Comm Link for you to call."
I went with Har Hi into my ready room and put on my mask. "Maybe we can cut off the worm’s head. I have a personal interest to repay that organization a few favors, one of which was the reason I ended up at Sin 4."
I had Elfi connect me and took the call sitting behind my desk. The connection was made and it took a minute before it was answered. I stared at the image of a truly disgusting being that was some sort of human and worm hybrid. The head was a moist shimmering head that looked very much like the dangerous sea worms we had on Nilfeheim, complete with a ring mouth. The head had no visible eyes, but the being spoke in Freezone Squawk. "Good evening Black Velvet and thank you for taking my contact request."
I said. "I was curious, that is all, curious about the fact who you are and what you want."
The worm said: "I am representing an organization I am sure you have heard of, not that this is the reason for asking for this call."
"Yes, I have heard of the worm and it might disappoint you but I am not interested in any memberships or alliances. I generally work alone."
The being bowed slightly and replied: "You are a true enigma, Black Velvet, and I respect your wishes. Normally I don't accept the answer No to such an invitation; and I do have the means to reinforce my wishes, but as I said I this is not the reason for this conversation. I had the pleasure to meet you before, Black Velvet. The worm has many faces and I did not look like this, but you saved my life and I must confess I am as fond as staying alive as the next being. So when I heard you landed on Alvor's Cove I wanted to invite you to my home out here in the Desert. I hope you might accept so I can express my gratitude more appropriately."
I said. "I truly appreciate this unsuspected invitation, but I feel much safer aboard my ship than visiting someone I don't know and who has declared having means to get his wishes reinforced. Could it not mean you will then try to convince me to join your organization even perhaps with methods I would not find pleasurable?"
The being said: "I gathered any information about you I could find: there was precious little. There was little on you five hundred years ago when you disappeared in the Igras Expanse and there is little about you now that you resurfaced. I am around for a long time and I think you found shelter at that secretive group that resides deep in that Nebula. It would explain your long absence and still youthful vigor. If I am correct then there is no power I possess that could make you do anything you don't want and it is I who puts himself in danger to invite you. I have seen you fight in the Arena, not from a viewer but being there and you threw me a sword. Your actions dealing with the Duke saved my life and it also saved me time and effort to teach that fat pig a lesson. I have information for you that could be vital if you plan on going on that expedition the Red Dragon is planning. I have information about the Dai Shiss war that is currently going on. I can give you the same key I gave the Dai and the Shiss to strike deep into Union territory and escape before the cursed Union Fleet can respond. Why try to raid ships and colonies in areas where they expect pirate traffic when you could raid space busses and luxury liners and fat Union transports in regions where they don't even use armed ships because they feel so safe. While you might not have heard of it, it could present great opportunities for freelancers such as you. I repeat my invitation to you and that Dai that was fighting with you. I give you my assurance that this is not some trap or trick. I simply want to repay a debt I feel I owe. Even the Worm has a sense of honor."
I felt the hair on my back stand up. If he spoke true and there was some sort of key or way to infiltrate Union territory far away from the defended borders would be a catastrophe. Pluribus and Earth were well defended, but there were thousands of planets and old colonies that had nothing in terms of any defense capabilities and a single pirate ship could create havoc, not even thinking about whole Shiss and Dai fleets. Yet I had to be careful and not be too eager. "Not even the Worm would survive if the Coven starts hunting and your fate would be worse than death, at least so I heard rumors say."
The being made a wet sounding sound that could have been a sigh: “I am aware of the demon legends indeed and I am not eager to find out if there is some truth to these rumors. Change your mind and come, Black Velvet, I have presents for you, some really useful information and after that we part and you will never hear from me again unless you want too."
"Alright, I will come."
"Splendid, let the Dai Scavenger bring you here, or find your own way to Mount Hagir. The Glagadrinn has many dangers and surprises to the uninitiated, but somehow I am certain that desert holds no dangers you could not overcome."
"I was thinking about bringing my ship along."
"I prefer if you make no big show out of this visit. I am the most wanted being in the Galaxy and if at all possible, I would like to have my home stay secret. Not that I use it all that often but I have grown rather fond of this place. The general public not knowing I reside here will also keep the Union and other agents out, something you should consider since you are the new owner of this world."